what’s your temperature?

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Has anyone ever asked you, “How are you doing” and then upon responding “Good,” they then ask again, “OK, how are you really doing?”  Don’t you hate that?  Now, not only do I feel bad for answering in a perfunctory way but I have to show my true feelings and ‘fess up to my imperfections once again.  Darn those people who really care about me!  All sarcasm aside, there are people who know me and can read me like a book.  You know the kind…one good stare and suddenly the room feels a lot smaller.  Some of them even enjoy the freedom to share what their “reading” without giving me a chance to think up some good excuses.  I could stay stubborn and insist that “Yes, all is truly well and good.”  I’ve even perfected those actions and behaviors that fail to betray my true feelings or thoughts.  However, over time I’ve also learned that there are some things I cannot fake and if truth be told, I do not want to fake.  In fact, I’ve begun to explore a place of security where I actually want those invested in my eternal good to ask the hard questions.  It’s from that place of security that I offer you a brief analogy for how I’m really doing…

The point of a thermometer is to read our temperature.  If we have a fever, the thermometer will show it and to what degree.  If it is too far above or too far below our normal range of homeostasis then action is needed and rapidly so.  Either we need to cool off or we need to warm up.  It is a useful tool that has been around for a long time and has even saved lives.  My analogy is this: Is there a thermometer for more than just my physical body?  How can one take the temperature of someone’s emotional or spiritual well-being?  If you didn’t really know me but wanted to take those respective “temperatures” what would you look for?

Recently, our pastor preached on Revelation 4-5 and the role of worship in revelation.  This powerful sermon illustrated several important facets of worship including how worship reveals the heart of the Father to us and vice versa.  It was after pondering this point in our small group that I came to this conclusion: if you really wanted to know how I am doing and if you really wanted to gauge my temperature as a leader then all you have to do is ask me, “How is your worship?”  Let me break it down this way – I can fake a lot of things and make it seem like everything is hunky dory but one thing I can’t and won’t fake is worship.  Worship in this context, building upon Romans 12:1-2, is no-holds-barred passionate love-making from a humbled creation to his Holy Creator.  If tears are shed or hands are raised then so be it or if I have to sit in quiet reflection without an uttered word then so be it.

This worship thermometer doesn’t gauge my temperature on what you see on the outside but it does have a read on my unabashed exuberance for Christ.  Let me say it this way: the classic way to define sin is “missing the mark” but I think another way to define sin is “anything that interferes with my worship.”  I may be able to look you in the eye and I may be able to say everything is alright but if I’m not chasing after God with my whole being then something is wrong.  Before you begin to cry “legalism” here, understand first what I’m saying: God’s worthiness of worship has nothing to do with my ‘performance’.  In fact, the very rocks will cry out His praise if necessary.  My point is simply this: that if you truly wanted to take my spiritual temperature, if you wanted to get a read on me and if you wanted to take my pulse as a leader then all you would have to do is ask, “How’s your worship?”  By the way, how is your worship?

sharing a congressman’s scandal.

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Anthony Weiner is not alone.  He is joined by the ranks of millions who too suffer from some form of displaced passion.  His passion was supposed to be for his wife and his job as a legislator.  The public good was his professed vocation.  Somewhere in the mire of all the politics I believe in his true and good intentions.  He started on the right foot and toward the right goal.  Even now, those same intentions have led him somewhere for rehabilitation.  He is on a long, hard road but he doesn’t walk by himself.  I share his scandal.  I know what it’s like to stand before strangers, confessing my deepest and darkest behaviors, thoughts and misdeeds.  I also know what it’s like to be granted unmerited mercy and grace.  For these reasons and these reasons alone, I mourn for the congressman.

Anthony Weiner is a sick man…and he’s not the only one.  I don’t chalk our sickness up to mere sexual perversion either.  To pervert something is to lead astray, misdirect, replace inappropriately, falsely misconstrue.  It is to lead something or someone to a less, excellent state.  The congressman traded his calling for momentary pleasure.  Anthony Weiner is sick because he’s not healthy, well or whole.  His wholeness won’t come from a program or even escaping to the wilderness for a season.  There are doctors he could meet: psychological, physical and sexual in practice.  These doctors study in palliative methods for the good congressman.  Their medical degrees are greatly beneficial but in the case of this congressman (and my case) they fall shy.  “There [never] was even an allegation that Weiner had a physical relationship with any of the women with whom he maintained virtual relationships. That made his case a departure from the norm, a sex scandal without sex, a phenomenon of the age of Facebook, Twitter and other social media.”  His scandal is our scandal.  The battle for our fidelity now rages in a new digital frontier.  Battle lines are drawn.

If Anthony Weiner needs help, then we all do.  There is another Physician who declares profound truth and I share His words here: It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  Perhaps in this wilderness that Anthony Weiner finds himself in, a voice will be more clarion than ever before.  A voice of healing extending from a seat of mercy.  May our prayer for this congressman and surely ourselves be that of healing, mercy and hope.  What would be more scandalous than the best TMZ has to offer?  The scandal of the Cross, which says you and I are more than the sum of our failures and fears.  Whether Congressman Weiner chooses to resign his seat or not, then so be it.  I pray his wilderness experience will yield two things.  One, is fresh insight into how he wandered in the first place.  The second, that he (and we) will hear the voice of our Lord calling out, not for the righteous but for the sinner, the sick and the lost.

the greatest challenge to your leadership.

Ever-challenging decisions are the hallmark of your upward mobility in leadership.  Know two things: (1) Leadership is influence and (2) you have influence.  In fact, its greater and more important than you could gather.  If you would see your influence grow (and more positively at that) then you would choose to make some hard decisions.  So, imagine with me, we are in the landscape of your life and there is desert in the distance, some mountains and streams, rainy days and snowy nights.  I smell the dank aroma of mud but also the sweet nectar of honeysuckle.  This variety in climate is an image of good days and bad days, easy times and hard times and the greatest challenges to your influence.

Upon climbing that mountain, swimming upstream or trekking through the dry, dangerous desert something becomes glaringly apparent.  This is no longer about your ability or inability, it’s about your guts, your instincts and your resolute tenacity.  You see, the greatest challenge to your leadership isn’t on the horizon and it will not be waiting for you in the bad days more than the good.  It isn’t about social demographics, personality tests, race, education or hierarchies.  Taking a step beyond that, the greatest challenge to your influence has nothing to do with opportunity granted or lost.

So let’s now rephrase the question to get at the heart of the matter.  The greatest challenge to your leadership is not a “what” it’s a “who” and that ‘who’…is you.  I don’t know if Dr. Seuss himself could have said that better.  When trudging through the mud, battling the loneliness or when climbing the mountain top amidst its breathtaking views it’s still…you.  You see, it’s always been you.  It’s been the sum of your attitude, your hopes, dreams and fears.  It’s been the good, the bad and the ugly all rolled into that person you love the most.  Heeding or not heeding the calling on your life could lead to a presidential podium, an opulent office or digging through greasy garbage.  This is unfair sometimes, unreal sometimes yet it’s life and it’s your life and you have a calling.  There is the echo of the voice within as deep calls to deep.

The Creator of the universe is issuing that call whether you know it or like it.  Barack Obama, Charlie Sheen and Ellen DeGeneres all have a call on their life.  God loves them and would see their influence “re-created” for and after His heart.  Listen well: God has a “chosen people” who are also a “sent people” and you are one of them.  Where would you find the greatest challenge to your influence in this ebb and flow of life?  This isn’t a how to list or a 20-question quiz to discover yourself.  It’s ownership time.  Look in the mirror, perhaps darkly at first but look long and hard enough for why your influence isn’t turning this world on its ear.  The greatest challenge to your leadership is yourself.  What are going to do about it?

I just wish that…

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How often these words precede some form of self-revelation or observation of the world at large.  These words, “I just wish that…” can open someone’s thoughts or ideas about the most banal of everyday life to the most profound of the human experience.  Example: I just wish that Lindsay Lohan would enter a mental health facility until she’s 30 OR I just wish that Muammar Gaddafi would give up his despotic reign of Libya OR I just wish that McDonalds would offer a low-fat Big Mac.  Obviously, you could keep this ball rolling with all the details of your life that everyone on Facebook may or may not know about.  Maybe you used these words this morning on your way to work.  It is, after all, easy to narrate the solutions to life’s problems as you see them.

Let me try one…I just wish that we would become the solutions for the problems as we see them.  Maybe then wishes would come true.

how to quit well.

Motivational theory often revolves around incentives, either intrinsic, extrinsic or some of both. In other words, what reward or punishment will follow specific behaviors? I don’t think that quitting and giving up are necessarily the same thing. Some would surely argue semantics here but I see a key difference between the two. Quitting is a normal part of life. It’s taking stock of our circumstances and responding appropriately. Giving up speaks more to my interpretation or outlook on life in general. Giving up moves beyond circumstances and declares one’s belief about oneself. Quitting says “this is where I’m at right now” while giving up “says this is where I’m heading.” I don’t know if this is making any sense to you but I think there are times in life where one has to be allowed to quit gracefully, exit with dignity and emerge on the other side with a more positive, healthy perspective on life.

So quitting lets check me check that whole motivation thing. Am I leading/serving/helping/loving/living with an explicit or implicit motivation? What is that motivation and why is it there? Why am I even here in the first place? Good grief, to try and dig all that up in one’s life would take, well…a lifetime. But for my purposes here I want to first say that quitting can be normal and handled in a way that let’s you press the reset button on those motivations. In fact, I want to give you permission to quit. Quitting is human but quitting well is divine. I know the adage, “Winner’s never quit and quitters never win.” Well, I typically take issue with blanket statements that employ the word “never”. That makes me think of another adage, [insert irony] “never say never”. As a matter of fact, winners not only quit, they quit well.

Do you want to know what the real crux of the matter is? One word: timing. With quitting, timing is everything. You see, knowing why to quit is only half the equation. Knowing WHEN to quit…now that’s the meat of it. That’s where the aforementioned saying gets off track. Winners never quit cause they don’t know when. Now I’m really going to blow your mind with a paradox. The absolute worst time to quit, to pack it up and go home, is when the going get’s tough. Maybe that’s where quitting crosses over into giving up. If there could ever be a disastrous moment to tell yourself that it’s no use going on, that no one cares, or to believe that your gifts are invalid, it would be when your at your lowest. It is there in that moment, in the dark night of your soul and when all hope seems lost that you come face to face with who you really truly are. Truthfully, if you’re like me and probably most people, you’re not going to like what you see.

Now contrary to what you might be thinking about this blogger, I’m not even remotely close to a season of quitting or giving up. I am, however, in a season of transitional leadership and I have watched some friends quit in a way that caused concern. Please hear my heart: You can quit a job or even a ministry as long as you don’t give up on the hope of the Kingdom. So in the spirit of past posts here are some keys to quitting well:

  • Be patient. Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Don’t make any rash decisions or rush to any conclusions. Discern what God might be saying through your circumstances and your community of faith.
  • Be wise. James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. What about just plain asking God for His help and direction? Wisdom will paint some lines on the road of life. Wisdom will be your green light, yellow light and red light. Wisdom will tell you when to go, when to slow down and when to stop.
  • Be merciful. James 2:13 …because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. “Mercy-full” is perhaps the hardest ‘state of being’ in all of this, especially, when you feel like quitting because of others. In scripture, we see a direct correlation between the Lord’s help and His mercy. Mercy toward others might divulge the keenest insight you’ve ever had into making a decision. In fact, showing mercy on others could potentially be the key to breaking through this quitting season in all.

Bathsheba’s child by David was struck with illness and died as a direct result of their sin (2 Samuel 11). When did David quit mourning his child and pitying himself? Upon the death of his child, David confessed death’s imminence for all, washed himself and went on with life without giving up on his faith. In fact, the very first thing David writes in the 51st Psalm is “Have mercy on me, O God…”. It’s possible your life holds something as painful as personal loss or the decision of staying on in ministry…whatever it is, you will find fresh perspective in patience, wisdom and mercy. Perhaps by quitting well, with grace and hope, you will not only find perspective, you will find yourself. Never give up but when the time comes to quit something, someone or somewhere, quit well.

25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9 – Parenting on Shine

25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9 – Parenting on Shine.

Manner #1

When asking for something, say “Please.”

Manner #2

When receiving something, say “Thank you.”

Related: Kid-Made Thank You Notes

Manner #3

Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.

Manner #4

If you do need to get somebody’s attention right away, the phrase “excuse me” is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation.

Manner #5

When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later.

Manner #6

The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.

Manner #7

Do not comment on other people’s physical characteristics unless, of course, it’s to compliment them, which is always welcome.

Related: Raise Polite Kids

Manner #8

When people ask you how you are, tell them and then ask them how they are.

Manner #9

When you have spent time at your friend’s house, remember to thank his or her parents for having you over and for the good time you had.

Manner #10

Knock on closed doors — and wait to see if there’s a response — before entering.

Manner #11

When you make a phone call, introduce yourself first and then ask if you can speak with the person you are calling.

Manner #12

Be appreciative and say “thank you” for any gift you receive. In the age of e-mail, a handwritten thank-you note can have a powerful effect.

Related: Print and Color Cards for Birthdays, Thank-Yous and More!

Manner #13

Never use foul language in front of adults. Grown-ups already know all those words, and they find them boring and unpleasant.

Manner #14

Don’t call people mean names.

Manner #15

Do not make fun of anyone for any reason. Teasing shows others you are weak, and ganging up on someone else is cruel.

Related: Raise a Compassionate Kid

Manner #16

Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best.

Manner #17

If you bump into somebody, immediately say “Excuse me.”

Related: Quiz: What’s Your Parenting Style?

Manner #18

Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and don’t pick your nose in public.

Related: How to Handle Inappropriate Behavior

Manner #19

As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.

Manner #20

If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor working on something, ask if you can help. If they say “yes,” do so — you may learn something new.

Manner #21

When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile.

Related: Use this Table-Setting Map as a Guide

Manner #22

When someone helps you, say “thank you.” That person will likely want to help you again. This is especially true with teachers!

Manner #23

Use eating utensils properly. If you are unsure how to do so, ask your parents to teach you or watch what adults do.

Related: Mrs. McVeigh Weighs in on Proper Utensil Use and More!

Manner #24

Keep a napkin on your lap; use it to wipe your mouth when necessary.

Manner #25

Don’t reach for things at the table; ask to have them passed.

See more on teaching manners to your toddlers and preschoolers. 

Originally published in the March 2011 issue of Parents magazine.