Saturday, August 12, 2023

Ready for Change?

 We are preparing to send our oldest son off to college.  People keep asking us if we are ready.  I am not sure.  We have the gear.  My wife deals with the emotion of the upcoming transition by adding more things to the virtual cart.  Our home has morphed into an ancillary warehouse for Amazon.  In terms of having enough things, we're certainly ready.  

My son is ready.  Like an athlete waiting at the tunnel ready for the coach to release them onto the field, he's antsy, prepared, and pumped.  There must be some butterflies, but he has a way of twisting the fear into motivation.  As legendary trainer Cus D'Mato said, "The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, ... fear, but it's what you do with it that matters." 

 As parents, are we ready?  Has anyone, ever, really been ready?  God gifts you with a precious soul to raise up and love.  God, how you love them.  From the edge of the race car bed until today, we say it over and again; "Son, there is nothing you could ever do to make us love you less."  Those early years are foggy.  The days go slow.  There is so much to do.  Places to be and people to see.  Car shows on the carpet.  Books at bedtime.  Wiffle ball in the yard.  Chores.  Life to be done.  Yet, there is always something undone.  The years, though, they go so fast.  And here they are 18 and in a week you'll drive them hours away to send them off and the University tells you to make it a quick goodbye and they say everyone will be ok.  Can we be ready for that?  

Dr. Seuss said, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."  It must be both/and.  I'll cry at the letting go.  I'll cry because that's my boy and he's off into this crazy world - naive, excited, and uniquely equipped by God to do good works He's prepared in advance.  I'll cry because I know there are hurts coming that seem like they'll never end and mistakes to learn from.  I'll cry because I don't want to see him get knocked down.  But, when he does, and we all do, I'll be in his corner, urging him to get up for one more round.  And, I'll cry because there are so many great things and so much life on the horizon and I don't want to miss a moment.  I haven't known sharing joy from afar.  It's a learned skill, I suppose.  So, sure, I'll cry a bit at the endings. 

And I'll smile bursting, busting, exploding smiles because it all happened.  I'm living my dream by fathering two amazing sons alongside a stunning wife and living the life that's truly life immersed in the Spirit of God and all.  is.  grace.  I'll smile because I know he's ready.  He's got that dawg in him - he's a fighter, like his mother.  He's determined, focused, and confident balanced with humility, empathy, and an understanding that if God is with us who can be against us.  He's a world-changer, God writing his story.  I'll smile because I know most of what I worry about, and what he worries about, will never happen and that what does happen will be beyond what we can even think or imagine.  God always does more.  

In a week, I'll help him move into his new space.  And I'll put together shelves and hook up TVs.  And way too soon we'll say goodbye with a hug that I'll hold a little longer and a little tighter, crying a bit and smiling a lot.  It's all good.  It's all grace.  And I'll tell him one more time that there is nothing he could ever do to make me love him less.  Me, just mirroring God's posture to us, His arm over our shoulder looking ahead, saying you've got this - the best is yet to come. 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Choosing Life

 I noticed the sporadic laughter throughout the funeral and considered it a good sign of life.  The gathering was to grieve loss, yet the tone was hopeful and inspirational with joy breaking through the sadness.

Motivational speaker Mel Robbins said, "...hear this loud and clear.  No one is coming.  It is up to you."  Elevating the idea that we are not a victim of our circumstances, rather our story is much more driven by our choices.  Robbins reminds, "You can't control how you feel.  But, you can always choose how you act."  Laughing, loving, and living a life that's truly life aren't hidden paths.  They're for the selecting, ours to choose.

The grandson produced film.  After the diagnosis they recorded an interview, gathering the patriarchs' reflections on life.  Simple with muted tones, the conversation between grandfather and grandson carried the powerful film.  Upon receiving terminal news, he went to the gym.  He chose strength, until the cancer stole the choosing.  He said the Lord was either going to take him now or he wasn't, an outcome worry wouldn't change.  The peace he chose calmed the room as he talked posthumously. He chose gratitude.  He chose family.  He chose contentment.  He chose hard work.  He chose life as a gift to be shared.  He said "...if we have 100 people over to the house, I'm fine with that.  I like that."  Life is a choice.   

In the book of Deuteronomy, God says, "This day... I have set before you life and death...  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him."  Often, I believe we are waiting on God to do something while He's already laid before us life and death, the choice ours.  Choosing life shapes perspective and action and our ability to see everything differently.  The good life lies in the seeing. 

The grandfather had a wooden bowl filled with slips of paper noting specific prayers.  Every day, in the midst of cancer ravaging his body, he chose to pray for others.  He chose to go outside and soak up the sun.  He chose to go to the gym.  He chose Penn State football games and family.  Cancer was not going to write the ending of his story.  Trusting the ultimate Author, he chose to continue to show up every day with a profound purpose - love God, work hard, enjoy the blessings of family and friends.  It need not be more complex or layered.  "It's good.  It's all good,"  he said.  Indeed it is. 

Want to be healthier?  Choose to eat better.  Want to have more energy?  Choose to get more sleep.  Want to feel stronger?  Choose exercise.  Want to have a better relationship?  Choose to listen to understand.  Want an easy life?  Such a life doesn't exist, but we can choose to show up in ours - content, confident, and with hope.  Our days shaped by the choosing.    

Friday, March 24, 2023

Believing in Others

Increasingly, leaders, often in hushed tones, tell me that they are wearied, altogether dazed and confused.  They offer desperate vulnerability, with embers of fight still within them.  I listen with empathy, having been there, still there some days.  

I'm intrigued by those who are professionally trained to help people get off the mat.  one. more. time.  COVID, divisiveness, war, and recession fan the flames of dissension, humanity spiraling in discord, our collective mental health sickening.  I asked a Psychotherapist (we'll call her Dr. Ann) how she remains in the fight.  "Dr. Ann, how do you avoid becoming overwhelmed?"  She leaned forward, her eyes strong with conviction.  "Because I believe in my patients."  

Theodore Roosevelt said, "...The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat...; who strives valiantly;  ...who knows... the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...”  Dr. Ann found a worthy cause, her patients.  She believes in their ability to do the work. 

I wonder if my seasons of exhaustion run parallel to my belief in others.  I wonder if many struggling leaders do so as they perceive the world increasingly depends on them and their ability to perform.  And while we perform exhausted those closest to us have aspirations of purpose, quietly meandering.

The Kansas State Men's Basketball team is making a commendable run in the NCAA Tournament.  Their coach Jerome Tang said, "You know, they've all played this game for a really long time...  My job is not to make them see it the way I want it played.  My job is to figure out how they play best and then put them in an environment where they can do that.  So, they know I have confidence in them.  I know they want to win."  Coaching is a worthy cause.  He stays in the arena because he believes in his team.  

Have we done the work to develop a depth of confidence in others at home, at work?  If so, do they know that?  Have we told them we believe in them?  

I believe God looks upon us with such confidence, believing in his children.  I don't think God sits arms-crossed in the heavenly realms disgruntled because it all depends on Him.  Rather, I believe He peers through the calamity, seeding grace.  Angels may say, "God, why not just call it now.  Humanity has made a mess of itself."  He smiles, "Not just yet.  I believe in my people.  I've called them by name.  They'll do great things in love.  They're strong and courageous.  I have confidence in them."  And it's in those moments that we know we're called to a worthy cause and it doesn't all depend on us.  It can't.  God's given us others.  And when we believe in God and each other, hope glimmers on the horizon.  And things feel Lighter.  #you'vegotthis    


Sunday, September 25, 2022

Things I Learned This Summer

I spend most of the year waiting for summer and then measuring the season by the cornfields.  When the corn sprouts I'm alive with possibility.  My bucket lists overflow.  By early July when the corn is knee-high, anxiety begins to remind me of the time passing, my bucket of lists still untouched.  By September the corn towers over my head and I sense summer has almost passed like sand through my fingers. 

This year has been different.  Life has taught me to slow, see, and be where my feet are.  I've soaked in the sun and worked hard – noticing less the passing time, looking forward to what's next.  I've learned to learn in all things.  This summer has provided many moments to draw life lessons. 

Take risks, be safe.  This summer we considered cliff jumping.  We boated to the spot and my boys jumped first.  Not wanting to carry any regret, I scampered to highest spot. I was scared, but I jumped.  Our friend with more experience in this endeavor mandated that we wear Personal Flotation Devices on the jumps.  Most others weren't.  It was a good reminder to assess the risk, take appropriate precautions, feel the fear, and do it anyway. 

Live your days.  As parents, we're facing our last summer before we send one off to college.  I've learned to stop counting the days passing and instead count the blessings raining.  There was a time when I'd pull up to the house after work and he would run to the car with excitement.  Now, the conversations are shorter.  Time together is spotty. Many chapters are past, already written, and I can be sad about that. But I don't stay there.  I live into the now moments. Today, we'll watch football together a bit.  He might ask me to help him write his paper for school.  He'll probably leave early to go with friends.   And I'm so thankful I get to be his Dad.

Give your input and then your support.  This oldest son made some a decision this year.  I'm proud of him for his courage.  I would not have made the same decision.  When he chose a path, a friend gave me valuable advice.  "When he's in the [muck] of it all, it will be very difficult not to say or project 'I told you so.' [Don't do that.]"  We need to give those closest to us our input and honest feedback.  And when they choose a direction, we need to give them our unconditional support. I used to tell my kids, "there is nothing you could ever do to make me love you less."  They need to know that's unchanged.  We need to know.

Author Bob Goff says, "It's not a billion-dollar check any of us need, but a nickel's worth of grace."  I want to lean into the next season with hands open to receive God's gifts, give grace to the person in front of me, always hopeful and confident the best is yet to come.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Left of Bang

Our world careens around the bend, society swaying and swerving as we brace for impact.  It feels as though somewhere out there the road will straighten.  It's reality bumper cars.  Each way we turn are collisions.  We yell and drive raged for revenge.  We don't even know where we are driving anymore. We are bumped about with COVID shaping our context, Republicans or Democrats writing our narrative, and cable news providing the voice-over, seeding conspiracy and blunting hope.     

We are made for more.  In a letter to the early church, the Apostle Paul wrote "you are all children of the light...  we do not belong to... the darkness" (1 Thessalonians 5).  He calls us to encourage one another and build each other up, offering simple disciplines:  work hard, live in peace, pray continually, and be thankful. When our days are done, how will our lives echo into eternity? 

Recently, a friend in law enforcement used the term, "left of bang."  It's a phrase that comes from the U.S. Marines and refers to action prior to a traumatic incident.  Think of a storyline moving from left to right.  The "bang" is the incident.  The aftermath is right of the bang.  To the left of bang are all the incidents leading up to the event.  Could we become world-changers by paying more attention to what's left of bang? 

I wonder what's left of bang to a 15-year-old girl being abducted from a Dallas Mavericks game she was attending with her father and dumped into a sex-trafficking nightmare [(Parents of Texas teenager who left Dallas Mavericks game speak out on human trafficking case (].  Perhaps it's the insidious way sex is casually treated in our society, the line of what's morally and socially acceptable barely apprehensible.  Maybe it's something else.  But, we should look left of bang.

I wonder what is left of bang of too many marriages crumbling.  If an affair is the traumatic event, there's likely a slow whittling away of trust in the preceding frames. Author Andy Stanley says that marriage should be a race to the end of the line.  Perhaps that humbler approach can be inserted to the left of bang.  

When I've shared struggles with a counselor, he's asked what's happened in the weeks leading up to the tipping point (left of bang).  It's what's been occurring (or not occurring) that's set the stage.  Gradually, I can better see what's left of bang and change the story. 

Are you stuck or burnt out?  What's left of bang?  Often, we cannot see this ourselves.  We have blind spots.  Turn to a trusted friend, therapist, or counselor.  Have them help you look at what's left of bang.  As we become more self-aware, we can turn this exercise outward, looking into the world with gracious assumptions and trying to help others divert to a better way, finding life that's truly life (1 Timothy 6:19). 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Living a Life that Matters

My grandfather passed away last year.  I haven't published an article since.  He was a fan of my writing and would tell me how my grandmother would cut out each article and hang it on the refrigerator.  She is waiting for the next one. 

Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence received criticism for his comments recorded in Sports Illustrated (May 2021).  The article suggested he lacks the "youthful desire to conquer the world."  Lawrence stated, "It's hard to explain that because I want people to know that, like, I'm passionate about what I do and it's really important to me, but... I don't have this huge chip on my shoulder, that everyone's out to get me and I'm trying to prove everybody wrong."  he says.  "I just don't have that.  I can't manufacture that.  I don't want to."  Marissa (Lawrence's fiance) added, "There's also more in life than playing football."  

My grandfather's obituary read, "Denver was retired from the Tuckey Companies..." casually mentioning his career.  The obituary highlighted his family, community involvement, and faith in God.  There was more in life than his career. 

Sport pundits said that Lawrence's statements showed a passivity that wouldn't play in the NFL. Lawrence said, "... I think that's unhealthy to a certain extent, just always thinking that you've got to prove somebody wrong, you've got to do more, you've got to do better."  Marissa:  "That usually only leads to sadness as well - always, like, striving for something new or better."  

My grandfather received awards for his business achievements, the details of which I do not recall.  I do remember as a kid he took me to Virginia for an adventure.  He told stories.  He drove his red Jeep that I wanted to be mine someday.  He called restaurants in advance to see if they served mashed potatoes because they were my favorite.  He made moments memories.  I remember as a young adult uprooting to Nevada, he drove with me across the country to relocate.  We took turns driving my blue Jeep.  He journaled the details of our trip.  When he left Nevada to fly home, he sent me off into the world.  Yet he never really left.  

I miss my grandfather.  I am tired of the pandemic.  I want to be a kid on a trip with my grandfather when it was all adventure and surprise.  I am tired of climbing ladders.  

Trevor Lawrence is right.  You can be passionate about your work, compete at the highest level, and realize there is more in life than your career.   

My grandfather had it right.  Your legacy is left in the lives you touched.  The impact on those lives may ripple for eternity from your work, your family, or the daily interactions with your circles.  

May our lives be about what matters most, even when that is found in the smallest acts of kindness.  And sometimes that's just calling ahead to see if a restaurant serves mashed potatoes because they are your grandson's favorite.  

Sunday, November 8, 2020

What Does Advent Require of Me?


Advent carries an inherent stillness, whispering hope, calm and breezy.   

Yet quiet anticipation is not void of action.  Advent brings energy, channeled and purposeful.  A focus on what lies ahead.  

Micah 6:8 reads, "What does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."  This passage seemingly offers the same gentleness of advent - a sort of waiting and walking.  Digging deeper, it suggests so much more - a call to boldness; a ferocity to  pursue mercy and humility, requiring both great risk and vulnerability.  Like advent, it's a call to action.    

Author Ann Voskamp writes, "God’s not asking me to produce — He’s asking me to pray. God’s not asking me to climb ladders — He’s asking me to kneel and let go."  Weaving faithful prayer with fervent hope requires letting go of our illusions of control and trusting the Creator to create new realities in the midst of despair.  It's deliberately focused. 

Advent isn't a Hallmark movie wrought with syrupy decadence; us self-indulgent of the sweet shimmery and shallow.  Rather, advent is a season of discipline to deepening our senses and desires into what matters most.  Advent is a call to action.  To believe when believing seems trite.  To lead when defeat snarls loud.  To drop to our knees, not out of desperation but out of expectant hope in preparation for what's been and what's becoming.  Advent is boldly seeking Jesus in a world crying out for Light.