On With It, Then

path-in-woods-11284544214sV05At the advent of this blog, I asserted this was to be a “journey” of sorts – an opportunity to rediscover ourselves, and so forth.  Well, admittedly, I have been ducking this charge.  You see, rather than delving inside myself and following the path I set before us – somewhat presumptive, I suppose, that you will be joining me – I have been addressing (a.k.a. hiding behind) some of today’s issues.  Now, while I believe it is likely most reasonable people would excuse me, given how captivated the public and media are by the challenges we face here and abroad, it was never my intention to board the train steaming along the track that is a 24-hour news cycle.  Undoubtedly, were I a highly opinionated lad – I am – or, perhaps one who might be inclined to mount his high horse and pontificate debatable issues from time to time – I am – then I might occasionally weigh in on such matters.  But, that is most certainly not the direction this blog will take – not so long as I have anything to say about it!  Still, one must admit, there’s a lot to talk about. (Just sayin’)

Seriously!  I mean… Okay, for example, when was the last time an election provoked such palpable contention?  When, at any time since, say, the L.A. riots, have we seen such racial tension in our country?  There are so many “movements” spawning other “movements” and “counter-movements.”  Depending on who you are engaged in conversation with, what channel you are watching or listening to, black lives, blue lives, or all lives “matter.”  Well, this is where it all comes together.  This is where I get back on track, where I open up – peel back a layer or two.

Why now?  Having so successfully suppressed my inner-most feelings for so long, to what do I attribute this impending eruption of my inner volcano?  Well, there are a number of factors.  First, I have simply, and finally come to the realization I must step off sooner than later.  Second, I have recently befriended some very special people who, despite my having yet to actually meet them in person, have inspired me to “get off my duff.”  Their stories are sincere, deeply personal, and revealing, yet too powerful and informative to withhold.  I, however, will not be sharing their stories, for their stories are theirs to tell.  But you – and they – should know their disclosures have inspired me to follow suit – share the trials I have faced, so others may know they are not alone.

I commence with my story, not once upon a time, somewhere in the distant past, but a mere three or four days ago.  My story begins with a new beginning, prompted by recent events and newfound friendships.  I have given you two contributing factors which account for my sudden change of course – or should I say, course correction.  While it is true the aforementioned factors were key in nudging me out of my comfort zone, I would be remiss in failing to address another, major factor – the impetus, in fact, for Your Life Matters.

Earlier, I referenced the Black Lives Matter movement, among others.  While the activists behind these movements may feel justified in their own right, I find it deeply disturbing anyone finds justification in suggesting any one life holds greater value than another.  At a time when so many are being persecuted, killed, sleeping under bridges, starving, battling afflictions, mental and/or physical, emerging from broken relationships, agonizing over the loss of loved ones, struggling with addictions, depression, PTSD, etc. – when, the list of those feeling at least some degree of despair is seemingly endless – how anyone can have the audacity to set aside one life, any life, as having more value than the next, is beyond me.  I have been troubled by this for some time now, with it only recently coming to a head.  Truth be told, that bubble was about to burst, regardless.  Consequently, the perfect storm, comprised of these three key elements, developed rapidly and somewhat unexpectedly.  My friends, I am relieved, for it is time.

To be clear, my goal, my mission, is (1) to reach you – YOU – whomever and wherever you may be, (2) to prove to you that you matter, just as much as anyone else, and (3) point you to The One to Whom you matter most.  Please don’t recoil, fearing I am about to saddle up that high horse of mine and start preaching at you.  On the contrary, my wish is for us to venture, together, into our past – wherever the journey leads us, for that matter – in search of who we once were, who we have become and, ultimately, who we wish to be in the months and years ahead.  Hence, more than lead you, I wish to accompany you on this journey.

So, “On With It, Then!”  Shall we?

[This is an ongoing series, with the preceding text serving as an introduction.  The next installment will be Your Life Matters]

The following is an excerpt from a Charles Spurgeon devotional he wrote in summation of Matthew 15:21-28 – The Faith of the Canaanite Woman.  A dear friend of mine shared the quote (below) and I located and read the entire devotional piece at:

http://www.heartlight.mobi/view.php?resource=se&date=0327&dateformat=md

If you have a few moments, I would recommend you read the entire piece, as well as, Matthew 15:21-28, for context.

This is the royal road to comfort.  Great thoughts of your sin alone will drive you to despair;  but great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace.

These are wise words, spoken/written by a wise man.  Spurgeon reminds us Christ has unimaginable power in overcoming anything we might consider impossible.  After all, Christ overcame The Cross.  We often quote from scripture (i.e. Philippians 4:13) “I can do everything through (H)im who gives me strength,” but perhaps we sometimes forget, He can do all things!

Have faith, my friends, in Jesus.  At your lowest point, seek Him in the midst of your darkness, for He is nigh.  Think “great thoughts of Christ.”

The Ninth Hour

CrucifixionLast evening, and for the second consecutive year, my church observed Maundy Thursday in commemoration of the Last Supper and the Maundy (Washing of the Feet).  And, for the second consecutive year, I struggled to hold my feelings in check.  The confluence of emotions, the melancholy associated with grave loss, mixed with immense gratitude and a euphoric sense of triumph, is not only difficult to describe, but also to process.  That said, today, Good Friday, I find myself nearly as troubled as I was a night ago.

For many people, it’s just another Friday.  Many are thankful to be off work or out of school, but not particularly concerned – if at all – with the significance of the holiday many observe.  For many, the significance of Good Friday is the highly coveted 3-day weekend.  Many will cook out, go fishing or water skiing, play a round or two of golf, or break out the 4-wheelers.  Others will gather with friends and party late into night – starting early, of course.  Some, given the extra day, will take a road trip, maybe visit friends or family.  If it sounds like I’m ‘going all holier-than-thou on you’, please don’t misconstrue.  My intent is not to guilt anyone.  After all, I have partaken in many of the same, aforementioned activities in years past.

But, having really gotten to know my Lord and Savior in recent years, immersed myself in The Bible, and participated in rituals and celebrations commemorating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I have come to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of and for that which He did for me [us] nearly two millennia ago.  Thus, while I condemn no one who misses this point, it disturbs me nonetheless.  In particular, I was saddened by those who took to Twitter and other social media outlets today to once again, and without respite, disparage one another in the most revolting ways.

As I uploaded an image of Christ upon the cross with a somber reminder of His loving sacrifice, I couldn’t help but notice what was ‘trending’ at the time.  Even as I was writing this, #CruzSexScandal was fending off #GoodFriday as the most ‘tweeted’ topic.  Yes, that’s right, more than half-a-million ‘tweets’ wherein people were engaged in the most acrimonious of ‘debates’ over a likely spurious tabloid article indicting a reputable U.S. Senator.  I don’t care who you are, what you believe, who you intend to vote for, nor why.  What I do care about, is the utter disregard for civility and the fact so many, on a day on which Jesus of Nazareth lay down His life, a day after commanding His Disciples, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34),” millions are doing anything but.

Have we no decency?  On this day, just under 2,000 years ago, a sinless human being – whether you recognize Him as God’s only begotten son, or not – was mocked, brutalized, and crucified, for no other reason than He loved and forgave all sinners, all God’s creation.  In the “ninth hour (Matthew 27:46)” Jesus would breath His final breath.  Would you do that for anyone?  Would you endure such barbarism in place of a child, your child?  Who, in your life, do you love enough that you would sacrifice your life so they may be spared?  Well, Jesus did it for everyone, even those who nailed Him to that cross.  He loved and forgave, calling to The Almighty “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

When Jesus knelt before His Disciples and washed their feet, He was setting an example for not only them, but all of us to follow.  It was an example of humility and service.  He called us to be servants, and He demonstrated, Himself, for all to witness.  He called us to love one another and, again, He demonstrated, Himself, for all to witness.  Do we not owe Him obedience in following His lead?

Of course, I must leave that to you to decide for yourself, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

 

Project Perfection

[Note – This entry was inspired by my mother who has long exhorted me to be a “better” person, the best person I could possibly be.]

benjamin_franklin_portraitIn his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin acknowledged he set out at an early age to attain “moral Perfection,” only to ultimately conclude it was not something to be achieved.  That said, he also believed he was better off for having made the attempt.  I find Mr. Franklin’s pursuit highly commendable. To have been so profoundly concerned with an unequivocal morality, to have set so lofty a goal and held himself to such account, speaks volumes as to the merits he attributed to one’s character.

Mr. Franklin embarked on what he described as a “bold and arduous Project” to identify the standard for – and achieve – perfection.  He was, after all, an avid and accomplished scientist and inventor, was he not?  Hence he compiled a list of 13 Virtues and developed a report card of sorts, to annotate those times he failed to meet a standard for any given virtue.  He would literally record his daily missteps.

Imagine doing that today.  I, personally, don’t think I would be pleased with my results.  My scorecard would likely compare to a really bad day on the golf course.  Then, again, who’s keeping score?  Well, Mr. Franklin did, and he found he could not pass his own test.  Oh, he wanted to, and he tried really hard – probably harder than most – yet, ultimately, even inevitably, he fell short. Regardless, he believed he was a better person, a better member of society, for having set course and sailed.

What follows are the 13 Virtues Mr. Franklin identified and his corresponding definitions.  Some of mine are on his list; some are not.  I encourage you to create your own lists and endeavor to hold yourselves to account.  Mr. Franklin, by his own admission, was imperfect.  Not one of us has, nor ever will achieve perfection over the course of our lives; hence, we will always live in an imperfect world.  But, if we embrace a greater sense of purpose, aspire to be people of great character, and resolve to inspire others to do the same, our society will be “better” than it otherwise would.  Now, if that could be our legacy!

As Mr. Franklin said, “I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.”

  • Temperance.  Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  • Silence.  Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • Order.  Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • Resolution.  Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • Frugality.  Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing.
  • Industry.  Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • Sincerity.  Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • Justice.  Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • Moderation.  Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • Cleanliness.  Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloathes, or habitation.
  • Tranquility.  Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • Chastity.  Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  • Humility.  Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.  — Thomas Paine

Borneo

This morning, as I was “logging in” to my day, Bing afforded me [us] a bright start with a brilliant image of the Danum Valley Conservation Area.  Photographer Nick Garbutt’s image captures the misty canopy atop the forest in Sabah, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo – third largest island in the world.  I was struck by the serenity of the scene, though I couldn’t help but wonder what secrets lie beneath the treetops and whether the mist might be serving as the wool being pulled over my eyes.

With my curiosity peaked, I did a little searching, and I ran across my newest “Bucket List” addition – The Tree Top Canopy Walk.  This is an absolute must do!

canopy-walkway-1-479x359

I wonder if the lady with the binoculars has spotted one of the newest species of bird, dubbed the “Spectacled Flowerpecker.”

spectacled-flowerpecker-photo-2

Repercussions

o-knight-in-shining-armor-facebook
An apology, bounder, lest I run you through!

I think most of us, if being honest, would acknowledge we have “weak” moments. It seems no matter how hard we try, “temporary insanity” takes hold, and the next thing you know, we’re asking for forgiveness.  Yeah, well, I’ve certainly had more than my share.

For instance, just today, I made the regrettable decision to engage in a political discussion via Twitter.  I know.  I know. Hindsight = 20/20.  But it seemed harmless enough at the time.  I simply wanted to submit my invaluable two cents. What could possibly go wrong?  After all, my proffer was harmless, objective defense of a poor soul who was – as far as I could tell – being savagely and undeservedly excoriated.  So, of course, upon completion of my assignment, I would ride off into the sunset, the dashing, chivalrous rescuer.

Yeah… not so much.

The alternate ending, was me being attacked on all sides by merciless ruffians.  At least I “distracted” them so the distressed damsel could “escape.”  As for me, this was a good place to run and hide.  Right?  “The meek shall inherit the earth.  “The meek shall inherit the earth.”  “Run, Forrest…”  Well, if I’d done that, I wouldn’t be needin’ to ask for any forgiveness, now, would I?

I have been known to have a bit of a hair trigger where my “bully button” is concerned.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, here’s where things get “R” rated. No, no, I assure you, I didn’t use profanity, nor slurs… nothing.  All I said, to one who had attacked my character, no less, was “Mature.” That’s it.  One measly word. Goodness!  You would have thought I shot the guy’s dog.  I dare not tell you what he said to provoke my “tough” response.  Rest assured, I really cannot repeat it. But, now I’m the bad guy.

Isn’t that the way it works, though?  The one who retaliates “gets the flag.”  Well, they can take their “flag” and… never mind.  Deep breaths.  Deep breaths.

Bottom line, as you all know – and I am learning – we must not let our pride eclipse our judgment, for we are commanded:

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)

When we step outside God’s will, rarely do we avert consequences, or repercussions for our actions.  In this case, I will likely never know the full extent of the damage I did.  It very well may be minimal, but it all depends on who might have witnessed my lack of witness.  At the very least, I missed an opportunity – as futile as the effort might have been – to set an example of humility and forgiveness before my “attackers.”  Not only did I fail to deter anyone from future iniquity, I may have actually perpetuated theirs with my own.

What’s the expression?  Epic Fail?  Yeah…

 

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.  — George Washington

He With Whom I Dine

004-jesus-washes-feetRaise your hand if you think we expect too much of our so-called leaders?  For those of you who raised your hands – figuratively speaking, of course – ask yourselves, “How much is too much?”  Is expecting a leader to be perfect “too much” to ask?  How about honest?  Dependable?  Trustworthy?  Sincere?  Resolute?  Just?  Where do you draw the line, so to speak?  What will you not tolerate in a leader?  How much are you willing to tolerate, and why?  Can I tell you what I think – “Of course you can, Kevin, it’s your blog!”  Great!  Thanks!  Personally, I think we set the bar far too low these days and, if I’m correct, the obvious question is “Why would we do such a thing?”

I think the answer lies in our priorities – the things we value.  Are we talking about a set of standards?  I think we are.  Ask yourself this:  “If I was to offer my child care services to a stranger, how would I convince them to trust me with their loved one?” Perhaps the best way to answer that question is to reverse roles – put yourself in their shoes and view it from the customer’s perspective.

Before I would entrust my child to a stranger, I would want to get to know them.  You wouldn’t just say, “Oh, look, a daycare center.  See you later sweetheart!”  At least, I hope you wouldn’t.  So you vet the service provider.  I would want to know everything – and, I mean, everything.  “Okay,” you say, “well, what, exactly, do you want to know?” Hey, I’m asking the questions here, but I’ll play along (insert winking face emoji). Here are just a few questions I would want answered.  How long have they been in business (experience)?  How are they rated by the Better Business Bureau (credibility)? Who else has used and continues to use their services (endorsement)?  What are their policies, and what safety and security provisions do they have in place (plan)?  Do they guarantee their services – quality assurance (accountability)?  By now, I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.  We, as voters, are customers – potential clients – seeking a leader in whom we can trust.

As voters, we must apply no less scrutiny in identifying a suitable leader to serve at our nation’s highest post.  But, do we?  For me, the answer is a resounding “no” – relatively speaking.  Rather than expect the same standard – remember the high bar we set before the child care provider – we acquiesce when it comes to choosing leaders.  We won’t settle for a “lesser of two evils” when it comes to child care, but when electing a president…?  Well, you say, “What choice do we have?”  Really?  That again?  I’ll tell you what choice you have, raise the durn bar!  We cannot blame leaders for their failures, when we half-heartedly enter the booth, if at all, and cast our ballot, repeatedly electing questionable leaders to office.

Now, no one in their right mind expects a leader to be perfect, so can we honestly expect a child care provider to be perfect?  No, yet we demand it.  Well, I say, demand more from your leaders.  Why wouldn’t we?  It just doesn’t make sense, does it? Perhaps, it does.

My analogy above assumes you, the reader, ‘can relate’ because you, yourself, have children.  But, what about those of you who don’t.  Do you feel the same sense of urgency a parent does regarding who you might leave your child with one day? Maybe. Maybe not.  If not, it’s likely because you don’t feel you have a “stake in it,” or a “dog in the fight.”  Consequently, you might not care quite as much.  This is the same thing that causes voters to become disengaged.

Friends, you do have a stake in it.  You do have a vote, and your vote matters.  Your thoughtful, educated, even prayerful vote, that is – because it’s equally imperative you know who and what to vote for – or against.  Again, this goes back to vetting.

So, I imagine you are growing weary of reading and may be wondering, “What in the world does any of this have to do with ‘He With Whom I Dine.’”  Quite fair.

While, I have alluded to many of the attributes I look for in a leader, I’ve yet to tell you who I would have lead me.  Well, I will only be led by he or she who is worthy of my followership.  Yes, followership is a word – I just made it so.  All jokes aside, I boast not in arrogance, rather in jest.  But, I digress.

Actually, I strive, daily, to be a humble servant – that, which I consider the most essential prerequisite for any leader.  I sincerely believe no man, nor woman will ever truly measure up as a leader if he or she is unable to serve, humbly and unconditionally, those they seek to lead.  Quite frankly, no one of this earth is fully “worthy” of my followership, nor I, theirs.  (I’m certain that raised a brow or two.)  Oh sure, I have voted for many a candidate and have expected them, upon assuming office, to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  Yet, inevitably it seems, they ultimately disappoint.  Of course they disappoint, because they are incapable of achieving perfection.  So, should we just pick up our toys and go home?

No, it means we stop looking around for leaders and become one.  What a concept, right?  Why focus on searching for leaders when we can take steps to become the leaders we desire and encourage others to do the same, even mentor them?  You on board?  Okay, great.  So, now we need a model, right?  Well, I just so happen to have one.

Have you ever thought about who, if you had the chance to meet, you would most desire to have a cup of coffee with, or dine with?  I have, quite often.  When I was younger, I so wanted to meet Eddie Murray.  He was my favorite active baseball player at the time.  I would have given anything – at least, I said I would – to get to talk baseball with him over a fine meal.  Later, it was Kirk Gibson.  Then, Margaret Thatcher.  So many people I will never meet, but I sure wanted to.  Who would you choose?  Dr. Martin Luther King?  Amelia Earhart?  Abraham Lincoln?  Albert Einstein? The list is never-ending, and I’m sure you would have a difficult time choosing.  My choice, these days, is quite simple.  There’s only One I would like to dine with – my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Is there a finer model?  I know some, perhaps many of you do not yet know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, but even if you never do (and I very much pray you will) can anyone provide viable objection to my argument He set the highest example anyone man or woman could ever aspire to?

I would – will – follow Jesus wherever He leads.  He is the epitome of the servant leader – worthy, indeed, of my followership.  And, He is right outside your door.  Did you know that?  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”  (Revelation 3:20)

Yes, friends, I dine with Jesus.  I follow Jesus.  He leads me, and I follow.  He set the leadership standard – a gold standard, if you will – for each of us.  If we aspire to be like Christ, we will make for great leaders in our time and many will follow Him as we have.  Moreover, while it is true we must not judge others, we must hold ourselves and our leaders to account.  As Jesus instructed His Disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…”  (Matthew 20: 25-26)

Follow Jesus.  Invite Him in and dine with Him.  Lead by example.