Perseverance

Ship TurningQuick question:  If you’re going 30 miles per hour and wanted to make a 180-degree turn, how fast could you do it and how much ground would you lose heading the other way?

Quick answer: It all depends on the vehicle.

And that matters more than you may realize.

If you’re on a motorcycle doing 30, a good rider can execute a 180 pretty quickly and only lose a few feet before he darts back in the opposite direction.

On the other hand, if you’re at the con of an aircraft carrier traveling 30 knots per hour, it would take about 72 seconds. And in the process, you’ve lost about half a nautical mile.

Changing direction takes time.  And momentum isn’t always on your side. And because of that your resolve will be tested.

Changing Direction Takes Time

I’ve never seen a hummingbird or bumblebee make a U-turn.  [click to continue…]

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Road through the Palouse Region.

The Dream

Somewhere in the deepest places of your heart, however old and tired or fresh and alive it may seem, there lurks The Dream. Rooted in who or what you believe to be true, grounded in what you are most passionate about, The Dream is your ideal sense of beauty, happiness, and ultimate contentment.

For many people, The Dream is so patently obvious or so magically impossible, they hardly think about it, much less discuss it. For others, The Dream is tantamount to heaven, so they assume that the only joy here is preparing for life there, after death.

Let me be clear.  “God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being” (1 Corinthians 2:9, CEB). But in setting your heart toward home, He has given you a sense of life as it ought to be… as it can be. It may seem impossible this side of heaven…

Nevertheless, The Dream is there.

And you are here.

And in between are the Distance and the Spaces.

The Spaces are those markers and milestones that speak of the progress you have made in the direction of The Dream.

The Distance is the ruthless, unyielding set of facts, measurements and rules that, apart from God’s grace, show us just how far we have to go. [click to continue…]

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list 3Recently I was on the campus of a school where I teach as an adjunct professor. I was walking through the student center and saw this – a massive list of that university’s graduates for this year.

It was really gratifying to see the names of people I recognized.  To a random stranger these were just 470 some-odd names on a really big page. To me they were much more.

The List wasn’t able to capture the sleepless hours, the frustrations and insecurities, and the enormous energy invested.  And that’s just the professors! (Just kidding.)

It couldn’t detail the hours of work, the sacrifices and support of families, or the poignant life stories behind each of those names. Behind every name is a story worth telling and a future worth finding. (That, friends, is why they call it “commencement” when people graduate.)

My joy was in knowing I had planted some things in some of those students and they had nourished it to a point of fruitfulness.  And what was I doing when they were celebrating this big accomplishment?

Planting some more in a future crop of leaders. And grateful for the privilege.

There are lessons in The List. For you. For me… [click to continue…]

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obstacle courseSecond period was blue.  Dark blue.  That was the color of our gym shorts in seventh grade.  Well, at least for those who sailed down the steps at Azalea Road Junior High to greet the red shorts brigade who was returning from Coach Crenshaw and Coach Perkins’ gym class.

Always anxious for coming attractions, we’d ask the boys from first period, “What are we doing?”  Sometimes it was something awesome like battle ball or football.  Sometimes it was something exotic like gymnastics.  But one thing was sure to send a chill up my adolescent spine:

The Obstacle Course.

I should probably mention here that my athletic ability was legendary.  In my own mind.  But running headlong into a class of 60 or so peers left little doubt that my gateway to glory wasn’t through athletics.

And if there was any doubt – if there was any shred of athletic dignity left in me – the Obstacle Course loomed as a reminder of the inglories that awaited. [click to continue…]

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Child Heart

We all were born with the capacity to dream.  To envision a life that could be… that will be… and the pathways to get there.  To imagine a tomorrow that’s better…

Safer…

Happier…

Stronger…

Lovelier.

“Be fruitful and multiply,” He said.  That’s the stuff that dreams are made of.  We dream of fruitfulness.  We dream of abundance.

But life on this side of the Garden sometimes aims our dreams toward the mirror.  Nighttime comes to the soul, and our imagination gets lost in what once was.  Of those we once dreamed with or about, but now for whatever reason are lost to us.  And it hurts like hell. [click to continue…]

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It’s a small, weary feeling you carry day and night
Against a vast expanse of time, trouble, and exhaustion.
You’re at the mercy of circumstances that somebody else controls.
You feel jerked and tossed back and forth like a rudderless boat.
Lost for direction or answers,
You’re still moving, but you don’t quite know where…
You’re still seeking,
But sometimes you forget what the questions were in the first place.

Yet something keeps you hanging on –
A voice that says, “I’m here, be strong,”
A prayer of faith, a nighttime song
Of hope that says, “This won’t be long.”
Someone keeps you hanging on. [click to continue…]

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(Giveaway alert:  Keep reading to learn how you can win a free copy of John Smoltz’s new book, Starting and Closing.)

When I was in Virginia Beach a couple of weeks ago, I had a happy surprise.  That Sunday afternoon I watched the Braves finish off a sweep of the Cardinals in St. Louis in what may be their last win of the season.  I especially enjoyed having a chance to hear John Smoltz as one of the broadcasters.  I told my son later how impressed I was that this man, who our whole family has enjoyed as a professional athlete, had brought that same professionalism (and humor) to the broadcast booth.

Imagine my surprise when I’m roaming the hotel at midnight in search of something not made by Pepsi, and there, 928 miles from St. Louis, is John Smoltz, having a midnight burger and fries.

“Andy!”  he said.  “How long has it been?”

“Forever, dude!” I replied.  “I just saw you on TBS this afternoon!  What are you doing here?”

“I’m here for an interview in the morning.  Hey, I heard you spoke at the Servant Leadership Roundtable.  How’d it go?”

“It went well, I think.”

“That’s awesome.  Hey, I’ve been keeping up with the LifeVesting blog.  I read it every chance I get.”

“Seriously?  Man, that’s awesome.  Did you tell Tommy we named our cat after him?”

“Yeah, he thinks that’s hilarious.  Says you ought to name your next dog after Maddux and call him Mad Dog.”

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Okay, so… um… it didn’t exactly go like that.  [click to continue…]

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Robin and Gift

It was a fairly eclectic group gathered around the dining room table Saturday night.  A combination of old friends and acquaintances, family, and a special friend who had literally traveled around the world to be here.

All eyes were on our Thai friend Gift, who had come from Bangkok with her son Dift to stay with us for four weeks.  She was sharing with those who came to her “welcoming party” about the dream she had to establish an export business.

The goal:  to support her husband Dui’s ministry among the three distinct congregations, Bible study groups and the additional pastor training ministry he has established.  Also to give Thai women an opportunity to earn a living in keeping with their considerable work ethic and skill.

Gift designs exquisite jewelry and has a growing team of Thai women who are able to make her designs by hand using certified-authentic gemstones from China and other places.

After sharing her brief story and dream, Gift’s focus changed to address my father-in-law, who was seated at the table with us. He had left Thailand with his family when Dui was just two years old and Gift was one.  Though he hasn’t lived there since 1974, because of his frequent returns and ongoing relationships, he remains a hero there to this day.  And that was the word – hero – that Gift used to describe how she and her husband saw Dr. Willis.

“We pray that we can have the same…” Gift was saying, and she paused, looking to no avail for the right English word.  Finally, all she could do is say it in Thai.

“How do you say, gam-lang jai?” [click to continue…]

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(Seven More Half-Baked Ideas I’m Still Working On)

If you sing a song and no one seems to hear it, is it still music? (A variation on the tree-in-the-woods question)

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It’s not the silence of God that bothers me so much as the times when I know He’s speaking, but only in a whisper.

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What you fear is not the thing you dread, but your inability – or God’s unwillingness – to stop or resist it.

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I once read that among those who run in marathon races, somewhere around the 18th mile to the 22nd mile of that 26-mile run, the runner hits “The Wall.”

(That’s about as close as I’ll ever get to a marathon, other than the three days I just hiked through the Disney jungle, but I digress…)

The Wall is a place so hard that the runner thinks he or she can’t possibly continue the race.  It’s a little uncertain whether The Wall is physical or psychological, but it’s real.  And the temptation to drop out of the race is greater at this point than at any time in the race.  The runner feels he can’t make it.  The lungs burn, the heart pounds, and the runner fights dizziness and nausea.  A little voice begins to whisper (or scream), “Why torture yourself?”

You may not run 26-mile marathons, but if you are a follower of Christ, that fact alone means you are in an endurance race.  And you can expect at times to encounter “The Wall.”

You will find The Wall when you have tried time after time to pray consistently, and have failed. [click to continue…]

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