Comparison: The Thief of Joy

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This past weekend, our church had the pleasure of hearing stories and testimonies from a few of our students who recently returned from summer mission trips. We had over 300 students, ranging in ages from 6th grade to high school seniors, who committed to spend a part of their summer serving others. From inner city Houston service projects to caring for displaced Iraqis in Jordan, a common theme echoed throughout each testimony…..joy. Our students were continually in awe of how many of the people they served had joy even in the midst of their circumstances.

I believe one of the major reasons why these people could continue to be joyful is that they refused to compare themselves to others.

I have heard it said many times but it became even more real this weekend….”comparison is the thief of joy.”

comparision is the theif of joyThere is no win in comparison.  We either feel superior to others or we feel inferior to others. As Andy Stanley once mentioned, there is always someone with a bigger “er”… someone skinnier, someone richer, someone prettier. Their kids are smarter, better, nicer. Their house is bigger, their car is newer….the list can go on and on. A sad side-effect is that we are then truly unable to be happy for or celebrate with those around us who may have “more”.

In the parable of talents, Jesus, the master story-teller, describes three servants who were entrusted with a certain amount of money while their Master was away. They were each given a set amount based upon their abilities. Two of the servants used the money wisely while one of the guys simply buried it in his yard.

When the Master returned, he was extremely pleased with the actions and responsibility of the first two servants and rewarded them accordingly. Needless to say, the Master was not happy when he heard the report from the last servant. He had failed to use the gifts given to him. It is important to note – the last servant didn’t do anything bad…he just didn’t do anything!

What is even more interesting about the last servant is his response to the Master. He blamed the Master for his failures, for his unwillingness to leverage and multiply the gift he was given.

When we compare ourselves to others we are in essence saying God it is your fault. You did not give me enough….or….God you gave them too much. God you could have made me smarter, prettier, richer…and the list goes on. God, if you would have just given me more I could have done more.

We have all been entrusted with certain things, certain talents, certain circumstances and certain experiences that only we have. We must move from wanting more or wanting different and realize that what you have is less important than what you do with it!

The question is: “what are you going to do with what you have?”

Remember, there is no win in comparison.

Change of Direction

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In most all military boot camps, one of the first things a new recruit is taught is close order drill…or for the non-military type…marching. The drill instructors use drill to teach discipline by instilling habits of precision and instant obedience to orders, to build unit cohesion, and to provide simple formations from which combat formations may be readily assumed.

marines1First the first few weeks the recruits spend hours upon hours learning drill through continuous repetition.  Some movements are quickly grasped while others are quite painful.  I remember clearly the two most difficult drill movements for me and my unit to learn: “About Face” and “To the Rear”.

“About Face” is a standing individual movement while “To the Rear” is a marching movement used by the entire unit. Both drill movements serve the simple purpose of turning the individual or the unit 180 degrees in the other direction.

History provides us with great examples of men and women who have chosen to change the course of their life for the better.  I was sharing with my children recently the story of a man, living centuries before, who changed the negative direction his life was taking. His name was Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus. Known as a relentless persecutor of the early church, he was determined to stop the spread of Christianity. But after a dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul devoted the rest of his life to preaching the gospel and building the church. Today we remember him as a missionary, church planter, and author of thirteen New Testament epistles.

For my boot camp platoon, Platoon 1003, once we individually and collectively learned the difficult tasks of changing our direction we were able to move on to advanced training, graduate as Marines, and fulfill our purpose in serving others.  And as Paul clearly shows us, it doesn’t matter how far off course you’ve gotten; it isn’t too late to change your direction.

Leadership Minute: Resource Management

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This is the first in a continuation of what I am calling Leadership Minutes….basically a quick read to provide some food for thought on certain areas and aspects of leadership.  

“Time is at once the most valuable and the most perishable of all our possessions.”

When we think of all the resources we manage (money, facilities, staff, volunteers, etc….) how many of us realize OUR time is probably the most precious of them all.

Here are a few ideas to help you better manage your day.

timemgmtJust Say No. When is the last time you truly evaluated your schedule. What are you doing that you no longer need to do. In his book, Spiritual Leadership, Henry Blackaby states that many leaders are generally susceptible to the “messiah complex.” They can easily come to believe that their involvement is the only guarantee of success for an activity. On the other hand, healthy leaders graciously, yet regularly, say no to many opportunities presented to them.

Delegate.  The quantity of work you can accomplish is in direct proportion to your ability to delegate. When you refuse to delegate, you limit the success and productivity of your team to the level of your own physical stamina, your own creativity, and your own intelligence. (Remember the lesson from Moses: Exod 18:13-26).  Delegation not only helps you focus on your priorities it is a necessary tool for the leadership development of your team.

Set a routine.  Is your day to day practice set?  Has it devolved to a point where you are at the mercy of everything around you – everything but your goals and priorities?  As a newly promoted Captain, I remember one of my senior Sergeants telling me, “Sir, if you do not make a plan for your time, someone else will.”

As many of you may be enjoying a brief break during the summer, now is the time to take a hard look at your upcoming fall schedule…it will be here before you know it.  To quote Blackaby again:  “God does not give people more than they can handle, but people regularly assume responsibilities for things they should not be doing.”


Courage Under Fire

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July 1st 1863….

152 years ago today, the largest military conflict in North American history began when Union and Confederate forces collided at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The epic battle lasted three days and resulted in a retreat to Virginia by Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Throughout my military career, and even still today, I am an avid consumer of military history. When it comes to the Battle at Gettysburg I have continually been awed by the decisions and actions of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. I have read Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel “The Killer Angels” and watched Jeff Daniels remarkably play Chamberlain in the movie “Gettysburg.” However it was not until I had the privilege of taking a group of my Marines to the actual battlefield that I truly understood this tragic conflict.

gettysburgTogether we climbed the slope of Little Round top and walked the path of Pickett’s Charge. We studied the defensive positions on Cemetery Hill and continually discussed the decision making of opposing Generals Lee and Meade. From human factors to combined arms, we immersed ourselves in the significance of this three day battle.

During a moment of reflection on the hallowed ground of Little Round Top, I paused to think about the decisions Chamberlain had to make. Against all odds, he stubbornly and courageously rallied his forces. Many historians claim his actions saved the day and possibly turned the tide of the Civil War. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation simply stated: “For daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on Big Round Top.”

It has been five years since I was last at Gettysburg. I no longer view Chamberlain’s actions through the lens of a fighter leader. I now view his actions through the lens of a father leader. The battlefield I must now protect and hold is called my home. At stake is the hearts and minds of my wife and children.

The world will continually tell my wife and children lies about their identity.

They will be continually be presented with expectations that drown their worth.

They will continually be attacked….

But like Chamberlain I will not back down. I will continue to love, lead and serve well. I will continue to point them to the Father who created us for His glory.

I have always been amazed at how one man can change the course of a battle. Husbands and Fathers….more than ever before, I believe it is our duty to now do so.

Will you join me?

We All Have Super Powers: Part Two

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This is the second in a series of three posts on the different types of super powers we all have.  My definition of a super power:  the ability to shape the life of others….for better or worse.

Super Power #2:  The Power of Your Example

“Example is the school of mankind, we learn at no other.”

This picture was taken a little over 3 years ago. Like all pictures, this photo tells a story.

boys and tie_3 years agoWhat you see in this picture is two boys dressed up for church. You see two boys who paused long enough for mom to snap a picture. Their hair is still somewhat combed and they have yet to spill anything on themselves….or others.

What you don’t see in this photo is that they HAD to have those specific ties. They HAD to have a navy blue sports coat. They HAD to dress just like this…….why…..because that’s how daddy dressed for church on this day.

As I look at this picture (and many others like it) I am not only reminded of how fast they grow but I am reminded of something even more urgent…..the power of my example.

In his work, Lincoln on Leadership, Donald T. Phillips provides examples of leadership strategies used by one of our nation’s greatest presidents.  Of all the guidelines, ideas, and generalities on Lincoln’s leadership, I find the simple concept of “Honest Abe” to be the most profound.  President Lincoln was guided by his moral compass.  He understood the power of his example would speak volumes to a nation in need.

Whether in the ministry or the military a constant question emerges…how can I be a better leader, parent, spouse, or friend? My answer remains the same:  “Model the behavior that you wish to see.”

As a Father, Husband, Pastor, and Friend, I must remain aware that my personal example in speech, love, service, and faith will speak more to those in my life than any words written on a blog.  As you look at those in your life, are you providing the right example?  Does your example shape the life of others for better or for worse?

I’m not perfect.  Neither are my family or friends.  Mistakes will be made and sin will be encountered.  Even then, the offer of repentance and the gift of forgiveness will demonstrate the greatest example of all…..grace.

We All Have Super Powers: Part One

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This is the first in a series of three posts on the different types of super powers we all have.  My definition of a super power:  the ability to shape the life of others….for better or worse.

super power

This past Memorial Day weekend my family got to spend time with some of our best friends.  Between our 2 families we had 6 kids under the age of 10 running around our home.  A portion of our time together was spent creating new super hero names for each kid and identifying their corresponding super powers.  When I watched our children imagine different types of creative superpowers, I think about how we as adults fail to realize the powers we can actually yield….the powers to shape the life of others….for better or for worse.

Super Power #1:  The Power of Words

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”  – Mother Teresa

As children we all heard the rhetoric, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Really? Let’s not kid ourselves. Words are potent. They can build and they can destroy.   I once read that a word is like a living organism, capable of growing, changing, spreading, and influencing your family, team, or organization in many ways, directly and indirectly.

The phrase Words Have Power  on a BlackboardMany years ago as a young platoon commander, I worked with a Marine originally from India.  He and his family moved to the U.S. at an early age and he decided as a junior in high school to serve his country.  During one of our many conversations about his childhood in India, he shared with me a Hindu word, “Genshai” – his translation – never treat others in a way to make them feel small. 

Our discussion reminded me that the importance and power of one’s words is noticed across all cultures.  Coming from one’s parent, spouse, friend, or leader, a positive word provides inspiration.  It builds confidence, initiative, and trust.  Most importantly it builds courage. Courage to do what’s right.  Courage to try new ideas. Courage to make your family, team, or organization better!!

As a spouse, parent, or leader, how are you leveraging the power of your words?

I offer the following three daily challenges to you (think Public, Private, Protect):

(1) Public:  Publicly speak a work of encouragement / praise to one of your family or team members in front of others.

(2) Private:  Privately drop an email or note to one of your people thanking them for their hard work and encouraging them in their efforts.

(3) Protect:  Protect your family and your team from the damage that your words may cause…..hold your tongue when angry, frustrated, or tired….you’ll never regret it.

Like all super powers, the power in your words can build or destroy.  Use them wisely!