Fatherhood

In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to take a moment and express my heart about the most important leadership role a man can hold. Father’s are a critical component to the mental, emotional, and spiritual health of their children. Fatherhood is not a title or a position that should be taken lightly. It is a serious job and should be considered one of the most important roles a man can hold. Fatherhood is more than a title in the family. It is a way of life. It is a responsibility that should be taken very seriously. 

As a father of four, I will tell you that I do not always get it right. In fact, I feel I make more mistakes as a father than I do getting things right. Fatherhood is not easy, but it is extremely worth it. My children are a blessing in my life, and they help me grow as a man, husband, and father on a daily basis. They hold me accountable to my choices and words. Even though my children may frustrate me with their choices and actions at times, my love for them and my gratefulness for them will never cease. But let me go back to my first statement; I don’t always do fatherhood right. I make numerous mistakes, and at times, I make numerous mistakes throughout the day.

I have learned to be aware of what I say, how I act, how I respond, and much more. Being a father takes a lot of reflecting. I find myself reflecting on my actions as a father almost everyday. I also tend to get down on myself knowing that what I have done or said could have been avoided if I had better self control. I have seen defeat in my children’s eyes due to the ways I have responded to them or addressed them when they didn’t make the most stellar choices. I have seen disappointment in my children’s eyes after certain choices I have made as a father. But I have seen the joy and pride in my children’s eyes when I do right by them. 

I have learned that my actions have consequences, and the older my children get, the fewer chances I have at keeping the wall between myself and my children from being built. Children want to be loved. They want to be heard and accepted. They want to be encouraged and accepted. But most importantly, they want time. My children ask me on a weekly basis when we get to have a “special date”. They don’t want to spend time with me and their siblings, rather they want to spend time with just me. They want my undivided attention. They want to know that they can have me all to themselves. They need to know that no matter how busy life may get for “Dad”, he will always make time for them. I have grown to love my “special dates” with each of my “babies”. It is during these times I have the opportunity to know and understand each of my children on a more personal level. It also gives me time to speak truth and life into my children. 

A father’s job is not just to be seen, but to be present. It is a conscious act of being present for their children. Fatherhood is not about a title or position, but how we fathers treat our children. It is our job to show them what true love and respect looks like. It is our job to teach them what it means to take ownership and responsibility for actions and choices. It is our job as fathers to show our sons how to lovingly and respectfully treat a woman; their mother. It is our job as fathers to show our daughters how a real man should treat them with honor, respect, and dignity. It is our job as fathers to instill in our children the importance and value of hard work and discipline. It is our job as fathers to lead our children in the ways that are right. It is our job as fathers to be the example of what is right, honorable, respectful, and loving for our children.

We will not always get it right, and there will be days that we will mess up more than we get it right. However, that is not an excuse to lower the expectations of fatherhood. Rather, we must rise to expectations of what a father really should be. We must humble ourselves before God and our children and try again. We must show our children that failing is part of life and is meant to teach us how to become better. We must uphold the responsibility of being a father by being present for our children, investing in them wholeheartedly, and showing them their value and importance in this world. It doesn’t matter how many times we fail, we must rise again, learn from our mistakes, and try again. 

If you are a father, I implore you to take your job as a father seriously. I implore you to invest into your children’s lives and give them an example worth following. Show them how valuable they are and love them unconditionally. Speak life into them and teach them to do what is right. Learn from them and do whatever it takes to become the best father you can be. Some of you may not have had a good example of what a father should be, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to fail as a father. Hold yourself accountable and don’t lower the bar of expectations, rather do everything in your power to reach that bar. When you make a mistake, humble yourself, learn, forgive yourself, and try again. Be a father that leads with compassion, integrity, and self discipline. And never forget how important your role as a father truly is.

Happy Father’s Day!

Service and Humility Are Not Weak Leadership Qualities

I believe that leadership is about serving others while staying humble. Some may think this type of leadership is weak leadership. To that I say, if you consider humility and service a form of weakness, YOU are the problem. It takes more strength and self control to lead with humility and acts of service than it does to bark orders and demand obedience from others. Do not be fooled. Humility and service have been proven to be effective leadership qualities.

Leadership through service empowers others to take ownership of their actions and choices and provides a positive example to follow. Leaders who serve their team show that they are no better nor are they more important than their team. It means your title and position will not keep you from treating your people with respect and dignity. Service is about encouraging your team to perform better as you work alongside them. When leaders serve their team, their team is taken care of, communication is open and encouraged, and transparency and integrity lead the way for leadership. 

Humility means you are willing to admit mistakes and be human around your team. Humility tells your team that you recognize that you will not always get it right, and when you don’t get it right, you will own it, make corrections and changes, and do your best to become better for the team and yourself. Humility encourages transparency and shows a willingness to lead with integrity. Pride comes before the fall. Humility takes pride out of the equation to ensure successful, effective leadership. When leadership leads with humility, the whole team benefits. 

Service and humility are not a sign of weakness, but rather characteristics of strength. Servant leadership is the highest form of leadership one can attain. As I have stated in previous posts, leadership is not a title or position, but how one person treats another. The act of service says that the person you are leading is more important than yourself. Leaders who serve their team ensure their team is taken care of in all aspects. Their team has plenty of quality training, opportunities for growth, confidence to ask questions and raise concerns, the ability to have difficult conversations without the fear of retaliation or humiliation, and most importantly, the encouragement to take on leadership roles within the organization with supportive guidance. Servant leadership takes the leader out of the limelight and places each team member at the forefront.  

We are called to lead courageously. Service and humility in leadership take tremendous courage. I implore you as a leader to consider how you lead, and if you are lacking service and/or humility, make a conscious effort to incorporate these characteristics into your leadership. Your job as a leader is to build up your team and train future leaders. To do this effectively, you must lead through humility and service. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Don’t Lead With Your Ego

There are many things that can make a leader fail at being a leader, but the worst of them all is when a leader leads with their ego. The ego is a catalyst for many problems, and when we choose to lead with our ego, we choose to miss the purpose and meaning of true leadership. A leader who leads with their ego is insecure and obnoxious. They care little about their people and more about themselves and their position. A leader who leads with their ego is a danger to their company/organization, as well as the people they should be leading. Finally, a leader who leads with their ego is one whose character should be questioned.

Ego is the architect of pride, and when we allow pride to take hold, we lose our ability to stay humble and lead with purpose. Pride has a way of blinding us from our own faults. If we are never reflecting on our actions, choices, and, most importantly, our motives, we begin to erode the foundation on which we lead. Leadership should be conducted with integrity and respect no matter the cost. Ego keeps leadership from leading with integrity, as the focus is less on what is right and more on what is right for leadership. No matter how high your position, or how many initials are in your title, you will never be better than the people you lead. NEVER FORGET THAT! 

How you treat others says a lot about your character. When ego gets in the way, respect seems to disappear. When leadership loses respect for others, their worth and value as a leader quickly diminishes. Respect is key to progress in any company or organization. If leadership can’t keep their ego in check, their reputation and character should be questioned. The moment leadership starts treating people inside and outside of their organization with disrespect, it’s time to question if that leader should continue in their position. If you want to have a credible and respected company/organization, then leadership should be expected to give respect to all people. A leader who leads with an ego is a disgrace to any company/organization.

Ego is the deviser of false hope. Your ego will lie to you and make you believe that you are more than you really are. Your ego will create a selfish character that cares more about position and self gain than self sacrifice and humility. Your ego is what just made you argue with that last statement and claim that self sacrifice and humility is weakness. Your ego is what tells you that success is only gained through cutthroat actions and selfish ambition. Your ego will ultimately be your demise both professionally and personally. If you are not careful and take your ego captive, you will find yourself living a life filled with broken relationships, character issues, and loneliness.

To those of you in leadership, pay attention. Your title and position does not make you special. Just because you are in a leadership position doesn’t make you special. Your soul purpose should be to stay humble and serve others. The act of selflessness and humility is what makes leadership special. If you want respect, you must give it. If you want to feel important, serve your team. If you want to leave a legacy, lead with integrity and do what is right. Check your ego at the door. Better yet, get rid of your ego all together or stop leading. 

Takeaways:

  1. No matter your position or title, you will NEVER be more important than the people you lead!
  2. Leading with your ego destroys your ability to actually lead.
  3. Ego is the architect of pride, and pride comes before the fall. So check yourself.
  4. Ego is the deviser of false hope. Don’t buy into the lies that your ego is trying to sell you.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Patience

Today, I want to talk about something I am absolutely horrible at. I have struggled with patience my entire life. Whether it’s in traffic, dealing with incompetent people, or waiting for something in a drive thru, I have always struggled with being patient. I know that impatience is a horrible character trait, and I have been working on it for what feels like forever. I know that patience is vital to my success as a father, husband, colleague, and leader. I know that without patience there is a good chance that I will burn bridges and hurt those closest to me. This is why I have been working hard to become more patient.

I have to be honest, I have never met someone who is 100% patient in life. Patience is not something that comes naturally to humans; especially in the instant gratification world that we live in. With everything at our fingertips, we don’t have to wait for much. We can order what we want on Amazon and get it nearly the next day. With new technologies in restaurants, we don’t have to wait in line to order, but instead go to a touch screen and put in our order. Our way of life does not teach us, or encourage us, to be patient.

Why is patience so important? Patience provides clarity of mind. When we are consumed with instant gratification or wanting something done immediately, we get lost in the end product rather than the process. It is through the process that we become better people. When our minds are clouded with instant change or instant gratification, we lose sight of the value found in the process. Here’s a personal example: Sitting in the line at the coffee shop, 4 cars deep and a truck full of children, I have two options. I can either get mad, angry, and frustrated that the line isn’t moving, and I’m not getting on the road sooner, or I can enjoy the time I get with my family. We can play games, talk, and spend time getting closer as a family. You see, the process of getting the coffee is more important than the coffee itself. My mindset shouldn’t be on having coffee and getting on the road. My mindset should be on family and wanting to be closer to them.

Patience provides time for reflection. I have written in previous posts the value and importance of reflection. When we become impatient we miss the opportunity to reflect on our actions, choices, and decisions. Again, in a world that pushes instant gratification, it is critical that we take time to pause and reflect before doing something or saying something. There have been many times that I have had a purchase in the Amazon cart and chose not to purchase it because I reflected on whether or not I really needed it or could afford it at the time. Patience provides an opportunity to consider our thoughts, actions, and choices.

Patience helps us live out our lives with love for others. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2)  He also says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (I Corinthians 13:4). And finally, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Patience gives us the right mindset to live with each other in unity and love. In a world that forces ideology and opinions on others, we need to learn the importance and value of being patient; especially with people. Don’t get me wrong, being patient does mean being tolerant (a word I have come to despise), but rather being accepting of others choices and opinions. We don’t have to agree with them, but we should be accepting of them. When we get fired up over differing opinions, we lose sight of what’s most important. People are more important than opinions. We need to learn to be patient with each other.

If you are like me and struggle with being patient, I want you to know that you are not alone and encourage you to keep working to better yourself. I also want to make myself available to anyone who needs someone to talk to and might need positive encouragement. Together we can overcome the perils of being impatient and become better human beings for those around us.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Our Job Is To Listen

“Are you listening to anything I’m saying?” Have you ever had this question asked to you? Better yet, have you ever asked this question in your head to the person you went to for help, advice, or to resolve an issue? There have been many times I have asked myself this question about people I am talking to, but I also know there are times where people have asked the same thing about me. There is a reason we were given two ears and one mouth. We should strive to listen more than we talk.

I am what you might call a “fixer” (no, not a mafia type of fixer). Whenever someone comes to me with a problem or an issue, my knee jerk reaction is to give a solution to the problem. I want to tell the people who come to me how to fix the issue. This isn’t a bad thing, but if not done properly, it could create discord between myself and the individual who came to me. There is nothing wrong with wanting to help and give solutions to problems, but we need to make sure we listen before we speak. I have found that some people just need to be heard, and if I give them ideas or solutions, they leave more defeated for not feeling heard. 

However, people can walk away not feeling heard even if the person they are talking to says absolutely nothing. The person being talked to makes eye contact, nods their head, and might show they are listening by giving verbal cues, but when the person is done talking, they acknowledge what they had to say and do nothing with it. I call this false listening. People might give cues that they are listening, but in reality, it is going in one ear and out the other. False listening gives the impression that the person that came to you with a problem or issue isn’t worth the time or energy to listen to. I have known quite a few people who have perfected this art of listening. There are many people in political power who have perfected the art of false listening. Either way, false listening is a character issue more than anything.

Listening is not always easy and is a skill many are sorely lacking. However, it is a skill that is needed in every position we hold in life. Everyone from employees, employers, parents, husbands, wives, and so on need to learn the art of listening. It’s more than ear service. Real listening is a genuine interest in what someone is saying and waiting to talk when the time is right. We must engage in the conversation and let the person who is talking know they are important and worth the time. Real and engaging listening should be a part of our character and leadership. After all, leadership is not a title or position, but how one person treats another. 

Takeaways:

  1. We need to learn the art of listening. We don’t always have to have something to say, and if we do, we need to wait for the right time to share it.
  2. Be cautious of False Listening. Don’t just give ear service. Engage fully.
  3. Listening is a character trait. We will either build a strong character or a weak one.
  4. Our job is to listen. Be engaged and show that the person you are listening to is worth your time. There is a reason we were given two ears and one mouth. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Finish Well

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” (Will Durant). I have used this quote before in previous posts. I agree wholeheartedly with Durant’s summation of Aristotle’s work, and I also  believe his quote embodies the very essence of who we are. When we are getting closer and closer to the end of something, especially something that has been happening over a long period of time, we tend to want to just finish rather than finish well. We find ourselves focused on the pain, exhaustion, and tired that running a long race brings. We would rather just finish and be done with whatever we are working on than finish the same way we started; head up, mentally strong, and focused.

Finishing is not enough. We must finish well. I am coming to the end of what feels like a grueling school year. We started in a hybrid model, which forced multiple changes in how we ran school. We eventually came back to full day classes with students to finish the year. The amount of changes and learning to make this year work, from a teacher’s perspective, was astronomical. The unconventionality of this year has increased the struggle of finishing the year well. It’s easy to look at the calendar and start counting down the days till summer, but what matters most is how I finish the few days we have left.   

This mentality can be applied beyond the ending of a school year. Whether it’s a project on a job site, the end of the sports season, a marathon, or even the end of the day with your kids, how we finish is more important than just finishing. We must purpose within ourselves to finish well no matter what we are doing. Our character should be built on ideals that raise the bar and expectations for ourselves. An individual with a strong character doesn’t just finish something, but instead finds every ounce of strength to finish well.

Some of the most inspirational videos to watch are of the marathon runners who are so exhausted and are falling and collapsing just before the finish line. The race has depleted every ounce of their strength, and they can barely take another step. They can see the finish line only a few meters away, and instead of laying down and stopping just short of the finish line, they muster everything they have left and cross it. They don’t quit before the finish line. They don’t stop and make excuses for not finishing. Rather, they see the finish line, stumble, fall, crawl, and inch their way over the finish line. To these runners, finishing is everything, and they won’t let anything stop them from finishing well.

In my last post, I discussed the importance and value of Kavana. It’s the inward passion and desire to do all things to the best of our ability for the glory of God and the good will of others. Finishing well means we are finishing with Kavana. It doesn’t matter how tired we are, how worn out we are, how annoyed we may be, or how burned out we may have become, it’s not enough to just finish; we MUST finish well. The more we choose to finish for the sake of finishing, the more we damage our character and set ourselves back. We must keep the bar high for ourselves and be the example for those around us. 

I want to encourage you in the race that you are running. When you see the finish line, don’t let off the gas. Keep pushing. Keep striving. Keep your head up and your character strong. Don’t finish for the sake of finishing. Instead, finish well. Cross the finish line knowing you gave your everything; your very best. Make excellence a habit.

Takeaways:

  1. Don’t finish for the sake of finishing. Push beyond the tired, beyond the exhaustion, and finish with your head held high knowing you gave nothing but your best.
  2. We become what we repeatedly do. Make excellence a habit in your life. Break the chains and the cycles that are holding you back from becoming more.
  3. Build a character worth having. Don’t become lazy in your expectations for yourself. Keep the bar high and do everything in your power to reach it.
  4. Finish well. It doesn’t matter what it is, don’t just finish, finish WELL.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Kavana

Kavana is a Jewish term that has multiple meanings, but for the purpose of this post, I want to focus on only one: “Duties of the heart alone. To be humble and reverence respect to God and to love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. To keep your heart, your mind, your thought to regard humility, reverence, and respect. To have good wills, loving kindness, morality and virtues towards God and towards others” (Chovot HaLevavot, Bahya ben Joseph ibn Paquda). 

As we progress through this life, we are afforded multiple choices. Who we are has very little to do with who we say we are, but rather how we act. Thus the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” We get to choose who we gradually become throughout life. Ultimately, our choices determine who we become. How we act, react, and respond all have a role in who we become. We can say we are loyal, but unless our actions prove loyalty, we are not loyal. We can say we care, but if we walk by someone in need and do nothing, do we really care? What we do expresses who we are. 

John Mark Comer, a pastor at Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon states:

Kavana is the barista at your local coffee shop that doesn’t just put on a lid and tells you to have a good day, but takes time to put a heart in the foam, puts the lid on securely, faces the logo toward you, makes purposeful eye contact, and says something to bless your day. It’s the construction worker that doesn’t just throw a bathroom remodel together as cheaply as possible and ignore the stuff he found behind the wall, but does every step with skill and attention to detail with the passion of an artist. It’s the preschool teacher that doesn’t just babysit children and throw fishy crackers at them, but gets down at eye level and communicates, if without words, that “you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and you have a destiny in God’s great universe.” It’s the parent who doesn’t just hand their children a device and go and try to survive the day, but is there to unfold children to their full potential. Any task, no matter how mundane, no matter how unglamorous, can be a form of Kavana

What if we lived a life where our focus was Kavana? Imagine what our life would be like if we lived and breathed Kavana on a daily basis. What if our life was lived with such humility and devotion that our heart, mind, and thoughts were centered on good will, loving kindness, morality and virtue toward others? What if we realized that how we treat others is more important than expecting to be treated a certain way? What if we realized that the people we work with, live with, and come into contact with are more important than our virtue signaling and pride? 

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” This means we shouldn’t be expecting others to change, but rather ourselves. However, there are a few things that keep us from doing this. 1) We focus more on the problems of others rather than on our own issues. 2) We would rather be right than be humble. 3) We would rather have the last word than know when to stop talking. 4) We would rather feel safe than be vulnerable. To be honest, the list could continue, but I feel you get the point. Change must come from within if change is ever to happen without. This is where Kavana comes in.

Whether we are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, employees, employers, public officials, etc., we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. We must focus on the duties of the heart. We must purpose within ourselves to be better for each other. We must choose Kavana in all that we do. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and if we are to be a better people, we must discipline ourselves to work from the inside out. My hope and prayer is that we become a people, a society, a culture that embraces Kavana.  

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Critical Responsibility Theory

(An In Your Face Satire)

It is my observation that today’s culture lacks many key qualities that promote personal success. There is a group of people in our society that would rather blame, point fingers, and push for nonsensical rhetoric to fit an agenda than to work at actually becoming successful in life. What’s worse is people buy into this rhetoric and become more of the problem rather than the solution. The most impactful issue that we have in our society and culture right now is the lack of responsibility. This has been a growing problem for many years, and we are starting to see the significant repercussion of not holding others or ourselves accountable for choices that are made. In other words, taking responsibility is a foreign idea.

Our society wants to blame race, history, sexuality, and other nonsense on the lack of personal success. People in our society say that they are hindered from being more successful because of the “oppression” they feel on a daily basis. What’s really being communicated is people are getting their feelings hurt because the expectations that they must meet to be successful is too difficult. Instead of realizing that everyone has the same choices in their life, these people want to blame the system for their failures. Again, they don’t want to take responsibility for their life, their choices, or their actions.

Since people want to start throwing out the idea that the system is keeping them from becoming successful, I want to throw out my own theory as to why people are not as successful as they could be. Let me introduce you to the Critical Responsibility Theory. 

There is a common misconception floating around society that says there is some outside force that keeps us from obtaining success or living a better life. These outside forces oppress people and force them to live less fulfilling lives. Again, this is a common misconception that is being pushed in our culture and society. Here is the truth, if you live in the United States of America, and the current year is 2021, the only oppression that is happening is whatever you put on yourself. Success is dependent upon three things (I recommend grabbing a pen and paper and writing down these novel ideas):

  1. Hard Work
  2. Discipline
  3. Responsibility

I know, sounds like common sense, but these are novel ideas that seem to have been forgotten. What’s more is these three concepts are dependent upon one thing and one thing only…YOU! People get so upset when their lazy way of life is threatened by people who have work ethic, are disciplined, and take responsibility. Why can’t life be lazy and easy? Cause that’s now how life works. Your success in this life depends on YOU. If you want more money, take responsibility for your life and work for it. If you want to be taken seriously and be respected, take responsibility for your actions and be respectful. If you want to be treated fairly, take responsibility for your words, actions, and choices and do the right thing. You see, our success is not determined by the “system”. Our success is determined by our actions and choices. 

If I drew a picture to represent this concept, it would look like a mountain with a person at the bottom. The mountain would be somewhat steep, but definitely not a sheer cliff. The side of the mountain would be difficult to traverse, cause the mountain represents life, and life is difficult to traverse, and the person at the bottom would be YOU, ME, EVERYONE! As we progress in life, the higher up the mountain we get. Along the way we have little plateaus of success; like taking our first steps, riding a bike, getting our first job, earning our first paycheck, buying our first home, getting married, I mean the list goes on and on, but all of these represent little successes in our lives. Oh, and just so we’re clear, the mountain is an endless climb. There is no peak in life. That means success is whatever we want it to be, but like everyone else, we must climb the mountain to reach the next plateau of success.

Want to know what doesn’t work? Whining and complaining that a system is keeping you from climbing the mountain. In fact, if people in society put as much effort in climbing the mountain, taking responsibility, being disciplined, and working hard as they do complaining that the system is against them, they would be a lot farther along than they currently are. 

Responsibility is accepting that you are the cause and solution of the matter. As Allanah Hunt states, “It is only when you take responsibility for your life that you discover how powerful you truly are.” But let’s not kid ourselves, whining, complaining, and playing the victim is so much easier, and people get a lot more attention that way; cause deep down, that’s really all these people want…attention. My friend, this attention is not the kind of attention you should be seeking. Take responsibility for your life and do something with it.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Stay Focused or Sink Fast

As I grow in my personal, professional, and most importantly, my spiritual life, I have found that I have a lot to learn; especially when it comes to my faith, my understanding of who Christ is, and what it means to be a leader. Leadership is not something we should take lightly. It is more than a position. Leadership is a way of life and should come from the heart. Leadership is service; love in action. However, if we are not careful where we put our focus, we will sink, and our leadership will mean nothing. 

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:22-31)

Not only is this a powerful story for personal and spiritual growth, it is also a good reminder for leaders. There are many times, as leaders, that we are called out of the boat and onto the water. We are called into chaos, and many of us do so with fearlessness and determination. We make a decision that risks our comfort, our serenity, and our self made peace. We take a risk, believing in what we were called to do. But the further away we walk from the comfort we left, the more we begin to focus on the doubts, fears, worries, and “What If’s” of our decision.

Jesus calls Peter out into chaos. Peter doesn’t hesitate for a second. He steps out with confidence and fervor. His eyes are fixed on the only peace amongst the chaos. He boldly swings his legs over the side of the boat and stands firm on the surface of the water. His hands gently leave the side of the boat, as he begins to take one step after another. With his gaze still fixed on the Everlasting Peace, he begins to move away from the comfort and security he once had. With each and every step he begins to get closer and closer to Jehovah Shalom. 

Out of the corner of his eye, Peter sees a giant wave crash around him. His gaze quickly moves the swirling chaos all about him. He is many steps away from the comfort he left, and many more steps away from True comfort. His mind begins to race. His fears begin to swirl all around him. His anxiety is through the roof. He loses sight of Jesus for a split second and becomes consumed with turbulent chaos all around him. The more he focuses on the waves, the quicker he begins to sink. 

I imagine Peter struggling to walk. I see him beginning to sink as if he were in quicksand. The more he struggles and focuses on his fears, the quicker he sinks. I see the water quickly rising up, slowly overtaking his body. As the water reaches his neck, he looks at Jesus and cries out, “SAVE ME, LORD!” And just as the water reaches his eyes, Jesus reaches down and pulls him from the suffocating chaos and into the arms of Peace. 

This is one of my most favorite stories in the Bible. Something inside of me stirs, like a child on Christmas day, when I think about Peter stepping out onto the water, among the wind and chaos, and starts walking toward Christ. There is something about Peter being completely uninhibited in his faith. The fearless abandon that Peter shows in his faith is something I want more than anything. However, there is a great lesson to be learned in this story: Unless our focus stays on the One who keeps us walking on water, the distractions, stresses, and worries in life will cause us to sink. 

Our fears and worries become giant waves crashing all around us. We lose sight of the One who called us out of the boat. We lose sight of the “Why?”. We become consumed with the fear and chaos swirling all around us. And unless we put our focus back on the One who originally called us from the boat, we will sink and lose it all. The moment we put our focus back on Him, the one who gave us our purpose and our meaning, and call out to Him, is the moment we will find our confidence and peace. 

Jesus’ s response to His disciples when they are back in the boat is not one of rebuke, but is more like a father questioning their child. It’s as if Jesus is asking, “Don’t you trust me? I would never let anything happen to you.” It’s amazing how quickly we allow our fears and worries to consume our thoughts, taking our eyes off of the only One who can bring us real peace and safety. 

We are called to be strong and courageous. In fact, Jesus even told the disciples in the boat to “take courage!” As Jesus commanded:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:26-27, 33-34)

Be bold. Be brave. Be strong and courageous. But most importantly, keep your eyes focused on the One who holds all things together. Do not be consumed with the doubt, fear, and chaos the swirls around you. Live fearlessly and uninhibited for the One who loves and cares for you with complete abandon. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Be Strong and Courageous (Part 2)

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors’” (Joshua 1:6). Last time I discussed that strong and courageous leadership starts with submission to God. This time, I want to discuss how strong and courageous leadership means standing strong and being courageous in the face of adversity. 

To recap, God forbade an entire generation of Israelites from entering the promised land due to their lack of faith and unbelief. They wandered the desert for forty years as the last of that generation died off. At the end of that time, the Lord calls on Joshua to lead the next generation of Israelites into the land that was promised to their ancestors (I went into more detail in my last post, and I encourage you to go back and read Part 1 if you haven’t yet). 

You need to keep in mind the type of people Joshua “inherited” as a leader. Their parents were whiners, complainers, unfaithful, doubtful; I mean the list could go on and on. After forty years of wandering around listening to the previous generation bicker and complain, their attitude had to have worn off on their kids, right? After the Lord told Joshua to lead with strength and courage, to keep the law Moses had given the nation of Israel always on his lips, meditating on it day and night, he convened the whole assembly of Israelites together. He told them what the Lord had told him, and this is how the Israelites responded:

Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as He was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous. (Joshua 1:16-18).

Only be strong and courageous. Jericho was the first city the Lord told Joshua to conquer. However, there were specific rules that needed to be followed. For example, Joshua commanded: 

The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred  to the Lord and must go into His treasury. (Joshua 6:17-19)

However, greed filled the heart of Achan, and he took some of the devoted items. And just as Joshua warned, the Lord’s anger burned against Israel. As Joshua and Israel approached Ai, Joshua sent scouts to observe the inhabitants of the land. When the scouts returned, they told Joshua that not all of the army had to go, “for only a few people lived there” (Joshua 7:3). Joshua orders only a couple thousand men to go to battle. However, their army was decimated. The book of Joshua says, “At this, the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.” Not very strong or courageous.

Joshua finds himself face down at the ark of the Lord complaining to the Lord saying: 

Why did you ever bring these people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this, and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What, then, will you do for Your great name?” (Joshua 7:7-9)

What happened to “be strong and courageous”? What happened to trust in the Lord? The Lord’s response is priceless. “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies” (Joshua 7:10-11a, 12). The Israelites created the problem, but more importantly, one man caused the problem; Achan. Ultimately, Achan’s sin is found out and he and his family are destroyed. (Side note: Listen and obey what the Lord says, or our destruction is ever before us). 

It took one battle loss for Joshua to lose his courage and strength. He started to whine and complain, just as the previous generation did. He thought it would have been better to stay on the other side of the Jordan than to listen and follow the Lord. In the face of adversity, Joshua lost his composure, his strength, and his courage. Instead of humbly seeking the Lord, he complained to the Lord about his situation. And what does the Lord say? “STAND UP!”

Anyone in leadership will tell you that adversity comes with the position. However, we have two choices when adversity comes our way: Fall on our face and complain, or stand up and humbly seek the Lord’s guidance. Joshua is called to lead with strength and courage. As stated in my last post, we know that starts with submission to God. It is then followed by standing firm against adversity and humbly seeking the Lord. It is important to always remember the command the Lord gave to Joshua:  

Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips, meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. THEN you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:7-8)

Leadership is not for the faint of heart. It is a position that takes strength and courage. Adversity will come, and when it does, don’t fall down in a pitty party, or start thinking the grass was greener on the other side. Stand up, humble yourself, seek the Lord, and be STRONG and COURAGEOUS!

As always, stay humble and serve well!