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Monday, September 26, 2016

Outside the Zone

I’ve been a business owner for 36 years, so I understand how important “leadership” is to the success of a business. I take this role seriously and do my best to lead my team with strength, compassion and vision so that all of us can have a better future. But providing leadership isn’t just important at the office. As a husband, father and grandfather, it has to permeate my personal life as well, especially in terms of providing “spiritual leadership” for my family.

I have to laugh because my awesome Mother-In-Law sometimes refers to me as “Prayer Boy”. That’s because whenever we get our large family together for a meal I encourage everyone to stop and offer a blessing before we eat. I pray because I’m thankful for my family, I pray because I’m thankful for the food on the table, and I pray because it’s an opportunity to share my faith and set a good example for my family. That’s what leadership is all about, setting a good example not just in your words - but in your actions as well.

However, having the responsibility of spiritual leadership isn’t easy. I’m not a pastor by any means and I’m far from perfect (just ask the noisy neighbor that I yelled at mercilessly yesterday). Toughest of all is that it sometimes forces me to step outside my comfort zone. But I accept the role because it’s in my heart to do so and I can’t ignore it. And if I struggle or get scared I turn to the Bible or an inspirational book by amazing authors like Og Mandino or Max Lucado who remind me that all I need to do is look to Jesus for the best example of spiritual leadership that ever existed.

Several days ago I read a short story by Max Lucado about Jesus that truly touched me. It reenergized that feeling in my heart that I should always try to be a good spiritual leader. In fact, it moved me so much that I decided to share it with my wife. It was still very early in the morning and she was just waking up so I sat on the edge of the bed and read the story aloud to her. About three quarters the way through I got emotional and had to choke back tears. I struggled to keep reading and I’m not totally sure why that happened. It might have been because I have a lot going on in my life right now that is really stressful. But more likely, I think it was a combination of me relating to the powerful message in the story about the “stench of sin” because I, unfortunately, have been there…and yet being willing to share that message with someone I love so very much. Maybe that’s the essence of true leadership… caring enough about the comfort of others to step outside your own comfort zone! 

Date Night with my wonderful wife!
Nothing proves a man’s ability to lead others 
as what he does from day to day to lead himself. 
~ Thomas J. Watson

From “And the Angels Were Silent” by Max Lucado



I may be stepping out of line by saying this, but I need to tell you something.

Go ahead.

I don’t like this verse. “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?” It doesn’t sound like You, or sound like something You would say. Usually I love it when you speak. I imagine the power of Your voice and the thunder of Your commands. That’s what I like to hear. Like when You ordained the waves to splash and they roared, or when You declared that the stars be flung and they flew, or when You proclaimed that life be alive and it all began. When You whispered breath into the clay-caked Adam, that was You at Your best. That’s the voice I love to hear… and that’s why I don’t like this verse.
Look at the sentence. There is a “why” at the beginning and a question mark at the end. You don’t ask questions. And as long as I’m shooting straight with You… I don’t like to see the word “abandon” either. The Source of Life… abandoned? The Giver of love… alone? The Father of it all… isolated? Come on. Surely You don’t mean it. Could we change the sentence a bit? Not much, just the verb.

What would you suggest?

How about challenge? “My God, My God, why did you challenge me?” Isn’t that better? Now we can applaud. Now we can lift banners for Your dedication. Now we can explain it to our children. It makes sense now, You a hero. History is full of heroes. And who is a hero but someone who survives a challenge. Or if that’s not acceptable, how about “afflict?” “My God, My God, why did you afflict me?” Yes, that’s it. Now You are a martyr, taking a stand for truth. A patriot, pierced by evil. A noble soldier who took the sword all the way to the hilt, bloody and beaten, but victorious. Afflicted is much better than abandoned. You are a martyr. Right up there with Patrick Henry and Abe Lincoln.
You are God, Jesus! You couldn’t be abandoned. You couldn’t be left alone. You couldn’t be deserted in Your most painful moment. Abandonment is the punishment for a criminal. Abandonment is the suffering borne by the most evil. Abandonment is for the vile, not for You. Not You, the King of kings. After all, didn’t John call you “The Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world?”
Wait a minute! “To take away the sins… “I’d never thought about those words before. I’d read them but never truly thought about them. I thought You just, I don’t know, sent sin away. Banished it. I thought You just stood in front of the mountains of our sins and told them to be gone. Just like You did to the demons. Just like you did to the hypocrites in the temple. I just thought you commanded the evil out. I never noticed that You took it out. It never occurred to me that You actually touched it – or worse yet – that it touched You!
That must have been a horrible moment. I know what it’s like to be touched by sin. I know what it’s like to smell the stench of that stuff. Remember what I used to be like? Before I knew You, I wallowed in that mire. I didn’t just touch sin, I loved it. I drank it. I danced with it. I was in the middle of it. But why am I telling You? You remember. You were the one who saw me. You were the one who found me. I was lonely and afraid. Remember? “Why? Why me? Why has all this hurt happened to me?”
                I know it wasn’t much of a question. But it was all I knew to ask. You see, God, I felt so confused. So desolate. Sin will do that to you. Sin leaves you shipwrecked, orphaned, adrift., Sin leaves you aban …
                Oh. Oh, my goodness, God. Is that what happened? You mean sin did the same thing to You that it did to me? Oh, I’m sorry. I am so sorry. I didn’t know. I didn’t understand. You really were alone, weren’t You? Your question was real, wasn’t it Jesus? You really were afraid. You really were alone. Just like I was. Only, I deserved it. You didn’t!

                Forgive me, I spoke out of turn.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Behind Closed Doors

My wife and I were on vacation last week and traveled to several unique locations. Since we live in a very small house, whenever we go on vacation we like to rent really big houses and invite friends and family to join us. So our vacation last week included a large lake view home in Zephyr Cove at South Lake Tahoe and a mountain top home on an oak covered ridge in the wine country of Sonoma.

Both houses were totally awesome but part of the fun is finding out what lies behind that front door when you finally arrive at your vacation destination. Sure there are photos on line, but the exciting part for us is when we open the front door for the first time, step inside and explore our new (albeit temporary) home. You never really know what you are going to find and obviously you won’t know if you never open that door… and isn’t that a basic principal of life? If you’re afraid to open the next door, take the next step, start the next chapter in your life, you just might miss out on a really great adventure!

Thinking about opening a “closed door” reminds me of the story in the bible about the two Mary’s who went to visit Jesus’s tomb. When they got there the huge rock blocking the entrance was moved and the tomb was open. They didn’t know that the rock would be moved so I am not sure what they planned to do when they got there, but they still went anyway. Even more interesting is that the rock was moved at all. Jesus didn’t need the rock to be moved. Jesus could come and go as he pleased. So I think the reason the rock was moved was so that both Mary Magdalene and Mary (the mother of James) could see that Jesus was gone. It was moved so that through that “open door” they could see for the first time ever, that a true miracle had occurred, a truly everlasting resurrection. Had they not had the courage to go, despite there being a “closed door”, the world would not be the same today.

In our everyday lives we face a lot of “closed doors” and every time we do, we have to decide whether or not we have the courage to open them. So if you’re wondering whether you should open that new door in your life and worrying about it, stop worrying. The surest way to escape anxiety and defeat despair is action and when we commit to action, the stress becomes manageable, and even better… sometimes we get to see things we never thought possible!

The incredible beauty of Zephyr Cove at South Lake Tahoe
Action is the antidote to despair.
~ Joan Baez

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Labor of Love

I have a soft spot in my heart for the working class people in this world. People who get up every day and go off to their jobs like clockwork, doing their best all day long to support themselves and/or their families, truly impress me. It doesn’t matter what the job is, if you’re giving it your best effort and take pride in your work, you deserve respect. Hey, maybe that’s why they came up with a holiday called “Labor Day”!

Last Thursday I had to drive to a job site meeting in Huntington Beach. When I stopped at a red light on Brookhurst Street, I noticed a construction crew working on the street lights. (For some reason I’m always checking out the lighting, even in the daytime, I just can’t help it!) When I glanced out my window I noticed a construction worker putting the finishing touches on a new section of concrete curb. He was bent over in the hot sun at 3:00pm in the afternoon totally focused on his work. What caught my attention was that the rest of the curb, in both directions, looked terrible. The old curb was cracked and broken but this dedicated construction worker was doing his best to make sure this small new section looked great.

I spent about a half hour at my meeting and then headed back down Brookhurst towards the freeway. As I stopped again at the same red light, there was that same construction worker, still bent over using his trowel to make sure the smooth new concrete was absolutely finished to perfection. It made me stop and think, first about how some people are born with a strong work ethic and second that almost everyone is born with an innate sense of right and wrong. I’m not just talking about taking pride in our work, I’m talking about how even as little children we somehow knew it was wrong to hurt people and right to help them. Our parents may or may not have tried to teach us to do right, but somehow there seems to be an internal magnet that pulls the needles on the compass of our conscience towards right and repels us away from wrong.

It seems to me that common virtues connect us. Societies all over the world applaud sacrifice and honor courage, while punishing selfishness and dishonesty. Even people who have never heard of God sense His law within them. I guess it’s called having a “conscience” and maybe, just maybe… it’s one more proof of His existence!

God give me work, till my life shall end. And life, till my work is done.
Epitath of Winifred Holtby