The car with the different wheel

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image credit: ParkerLineStriping.com

It was a balmy Saturday afternoon, bits of pavement sticking to the bottom of my flip flops as I picked up my 4 year old to carry him through the parking lot. Sweat beading across each of our foreheads instantly, he asked me to pick him up. This also gave me a better vantage point to hear what he was going to tell me amidst the throng of moving vehicles and people.

We were walking in to one of our favorite restaurants, Chuy’s, a Tex-Mex chain that’s opened up in Nashville. He always gets Mac-n-cheese, and he’d already started telling me how that’s what he wanted this time, too. It was hard for me to think about warm, gooey cheese, when that’s about what the black pavement beneath my feet felt like.

There were cars everywhere. Some with their blinkers on, waiting for a spot soon to be vacated. Some whipping through ready to leave. Others frustratedly circling the lot for a better vacancy closer to the air-conditioned indoors. I was glad I was holding Rex.

An old beater car pulled up beside us, turning left back towards the sea of parked, sun-baked cars. The paint was chipping a little. It made grinding noises when it stopped, and screeching noises when it began to turn. The cloth on the inside roof was sagging, held up by a few staples not part of the original design. Smoke billowed from the back end, blending in with the black of the pavement it was blanketing.

Rex noticed something. One of the wheels had evidently been damaged, replaced by a cheaper replacement that barely seemed to keep the axle from falling to the ground. Instead of a new polished, chrome rim with a deep black tire, it was just an old tire with a dusty, dirty rim. It served its purpose, but not well.

It stood out like a…dirty, dusty wheel.

“Ooh dad, did you see that? That car?”

“Which one?”

The one with the different wheel?”

“Yeah, buddy, I sure do. What about it?”

“We should get one like that.”

I chuckled. I told him that something was wrong with the car. That it was kinda broken. He responded:

“Dad. Did you see it?!? It was cool! That wheel!”

I reminded him, again, that this car was broken, and that we didn’t really want a car like this. We’re blessed to have a car that isn’t broken right now. But he was having none of that, as he continued to gush about the cool wheel that we needed to get.

What I saw was a broken-down car at the end of its vehicular rope, hanging on by a thread. It needed work, needed love, and more than anything else, it really just needed a junk yard.

What Rex saw was completely different. He saw something that was out of the ordinary. Something that was cool, and useful, and that we needed. He saw a car that wasn’t done, but that still had life and value.

I wish I saw the world like that.

I wish I saw people like that.

We see weaknesses. 

God says, “I can use that.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

We see crippling failures.

God says, “I’ve still got something for you.” (Judges 16:28-30)

We see an old washed up life.

God says, “Moses was 80 when he led my people out of Israel.”

We see insecurities.

God says, “Be courageous. I’ve got your back.” (Joshua 1:9)

We see someone so young they can’t do anything.

God says, “Don’t let ‘em look down on you because you’re young.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

We see pain.

God says, “I’ll rescue you. Then turn you into a rescuer.”(Galatians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

We see unloved and alone.

God says, “I’ll never leave you.”(Deuteronomy 31:6)

We see useless.

God says,“I am your hope.” (Psalm 62:5)

It’s time we stopped seeing the world for what it is. And started seeing it through the eyes of a God that longs to redeem.

We can start by learning from a 4 year old.

 

 

Fear & our crazy imagination

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image credit: CreationSwap user Dave Shrein

Our imaginations are powerful machines. They have a great way of spinning possible scenarios out of control. They play into the fears that have taken root in our hearts and minds, pouring gasoline and igniting them into a raging fire.

  • Your husband is running 5 minutes late on his way home from work…and your imagination thinks he’s abandoned your family.
  • Your meeting with your boss is unexpectedly cancelled…and your imagination thinks it’s because you’re being let go, and probably going to be thrown in jail.
  • You’ve been asked to speak publicly…and your imagination thinks you’ll be booed, or worse, laughed off stage.
  • You’ve got an interview coming up…and your imagination thinks they’ll not only not hire you, but they’ll fire you from your current job.
  • You’ve got a test coming up…and your imagination thinks you’ll fail it, and concurrently life will fall apart.
  • You slip up with your addiction…and your imagination thinks God hates you now.
  • You’re working on your dream…and your imagination thinks you’ll never finish it, but that it’ll be your demise.

Our imagination is great at exacerbating our fears, making them feel worse and worse, feeding what helps them grow: more fear.

But what if God had a different idea for our imaginations? What if there was a better way to use them?

Check this out:

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. – the Apostle Paul, Ephesians 3:19-20

This passage speaks directly to the heart of our fears and imaginations. How?

5 Truths about Fear and Imagination

1. The opposite of fear is love. It’s a love that’s “too great to understand fully.” Because when you’re loved, fear can make no nest. I remind my son of this all of the time when he’s afraid. He’ll call me from his room at night, when it’s dark and quiet. “Dad?? Can you come here??”

“Hey buddy. It’s okay. You’re safe. Daddy loves you so much, and I’m not going to let anything happen to you. And even more important than that, ‘God is bigger than the boogie man…'” (we sing a little Veggie Tales song together)

2. Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John reminds us that “perfect love expels all fear.” (1 John 4:18) Fear can’t make a roost where love has rooted.

3. With love comes power. Power from the loving God. Power to conquer our fears, because they don’t hold power over us anymore. Power to punch our fears right in the throat.

4. Through that power, God can accomplish more through us than we can even think. Try to think of how God could use your fear right now. Go ahead. Now ask God to do that. God’s already got something bigger planned. It’s going to blow your mind.

5. Your fear isn’t even about you. What God’s going to do isn’t even on your radar. God’s going to use it to change your future. He’s going to comfort you, and give you courage, and remind you how powerful He is…so that someone else can see and feel the love and power of God through you and your story.

God can use your fears to do amazing things, affecting your life and the lives of others. He can help you grow through them, and become all you were intended to be in Christ. But we’ve got to be creative, and use our imaginations not to constantly spin the worst-case scenario.

But to spin the best, most mind-blowing scenario possible.

And know that God can do more.

Trust God. Rebuke fear. Dream bigger.

 

How every dream dies…in 7 seconds

You’ve had a dream that flopped. An idea that didn’t get off the ground. A passion that didn’t come to fulfillment.

I know you have.

  • You wanted to write a book.
  • You wanted to go to work for a non-profit.
  • You wanted to start a non-profit.
  • You wanted to read through the Bible in a year.
  • You wanted to pray every day.
  • You wanted to save enough money to go on a mission trip.
  • You wanted to audition for a part in a play.
  • You wanted to open your own business.
  • You wanted to start, and maintain, a blog.
  • You wanted to launch a small group.
  • You wanted to learn a new language.

You started the process. And somewhere along the way, it lost its cool factor. Someone challenged you. Someone laughed at you. Something didn’t go exactly as you thought it would go. Things grew difficult, and hairy, and life happened.

Dinner still had to be served. Bills still had to be paid. Deadlines still had to be met. And dreaming took a back seat.

So you stopped. You walked away. And your dream, your idea, and that thing that God called you to do is disappearing in your rear-view mirror.

You tried. Got embarrassed. Then walked away.

What does that look like, in real life? Boiled down to 7 seconds? Something like this.

This is my son, Rex. He was dancing in front of the mirror. Dancing like nobody’s watchin. Then he realizes that someone is watching, and gets embarrassed. Then walks away, glancing back as he goes.

It’s funny to watch, but kinda sad, too.

Who cares what other people think? Who cares if they laugh? Who cares if you fall flat on your face? Who cares if things don’t go exactly as you hoped they’d go?

If God’s called you to do something, do it. Ignore the haters. Ignore the cameras. Ignore the failed attempts.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8

What’s God calling you to do? Be brave. Share it with us.

 

 

What should you do when fear creeps in?

When I got married, I trembled with fear. Like a shaky leaf that crunches when you step on it, I was weak and breakable and vulnerable.

I think this is common.

At least, that’s what I tell myself. It makes me feel better about my trepidation.

image credit: Creative Commons, Jones DePalma

My fear, though, wasn’t one of questioning my decision to get married. It wasn’t founded in questioning my bride-to-be. It wasn’t even in questioning the timing.

My “fear” found its way into my pocket because the step I was making was altering the trajectory of my life.

Ever had a decision like that?

Maybe it was in deciding which college to go to. Or a change in jobs. Or walking away from a relationship that you’ve treasured, but that was damaging to you personally. Maybe you felt that flutter in your gut when you bought a car. Or a house.

Maybe it was when you found out you were pregnant, and quickly realized you had no idea what it took to be a parent.

Fear

Fear is a natural emotion.

Let me quote a Scripture for you that you may have heard before:

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Reading this verse at face-value, you’re left thinking that any ounce of fear shows you to be anti-God. That it’s not something that is consistent with being called a child of the King. That if you experience fear, you show yourself weak and faithless and un-usable.

Let me throw a wrench in that thought process before you tread down that road much further.

The verse here says that God didn’t give us a “spirit” of fear. In other words, we aren’t dominated by fear. We’re not paralyzed by fear. And we don’t let fear hold us back. It won’t be our master. Instead, our spirit, our heart, is driven by power and love and self-control, rooted in an unchanging, unshakeable, courageous God who seeks after our heart even in the midst of the most difficult times in life.

The presence of fear doesn’t show you to be anti-God. It shows you to be human. Emotions aren’t inherently evil. How you respond to your emotions, though, reveals your heart.

And if your heart is driven by fear, you’ll never do anything that matters. On the precipice of doing significant work, fear will be present, trying desperately to course its way through your body.

Yielding to the Fear

In those moments, you can yield to the fear.

  • “I can’t do that. I’ll fail.”
  • “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
  • “I don’t have that skill set.”
  • “I’m not worthy of that.”
  • “I could never sustain that.”
  • “Me?”

Yield to that fear, step back off the precipice, and return to life as normal.

Or press through it, reminding yourself of who God has created you to be, and take the plunge. Remind yourself that God has given you a spirit of power and love and self-control. “Fear” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move forward. “Fear” may mean it’s time to trust God to do what He said He’d do.

Pressing through fear

Take a step of faith.

Fear didn’t keep me from making the decision to marry my wife. It lit a fire in my heart to do what I knew God was calling me to.

Fear is normal. It means you’re human.

Don’t let it hold you from what God wants you to do. Satan would love that.

Instead, press through with resolve.

I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, or I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:9-10

Question:

What’s the biggest decision you’ve ever had to make? Did you have any hint of fear?

* image credit: Creative Commons user Jones DePalma

 

 

Leading forward

image credit: University Archives Digital Image Collection

Joseph Reed, Pennsylvania lawyer, officer and statesman during the Revolutionary War, wrote this in a report to his wife when morale was low for Americans, and danger was high:

The justice of our cause, the hope of our success, and every other circumstance that can enliven us, must be put into the scale against those of a contrary kind, which I allow to be serious…My honor, duty, and every other tie held sacred among men, call upon me to proceed with firmness and resolution…My country will, I trust, yet be free, whatever may be our fate who are cooped up, or are in danger of being so, on this tongue of land, where we ought never to have been. (p. 201, 1776, David McCullough)

Though morale was low and danger was high, Reed was firmly planted on what he knew needed to be done. And he didn’t just continue to provide leadership to save his own hide. He had the future in mind.

“My country will, I trust, yet be free, whatever may be our fate who are cooped up…”

More often than not, though, I’m afraid most people lead with their own goodwill in mind. They lead to make sure they keep their job, move up in the ranks, and maintain the status quo. When danger rises, instead of courageously standing up and fighting, they slink back into their den, all to ready to maintain comfort. Instead of creating ripples that will extend on, they let the waves pass them by.

Leading Forward

The best leaders lead with the next generation in mind. They know that the decisions they’re making today will have great impacts on the next generation, paying their leadership forward. They realize that in the process, they’ll at times have to take the fall for what they know to be right. They know they’re sometimes just setting the stage for someone else to come behind them.

What you do will have impacts on the future. Even if what you do is cowardly.

It’s time to be resolute. Stand for what you believe in. Courageously take steps and help others to do the same. And when danger and failure arises, give them a swift Austin Powers Judo chop.

I’m thankful for men like Joseph Reed. Men whose bravery still resonates today.

* image credit: University Archives Digital Image Collection

 

How to write courageously

image credit: Sandara Lee

We write because we want to effect change.

So why are we not consistently effecting the change we want to see?

Because the words and phrases we use often convey a lack of conviction. When we communicate with a lack of conviction, it shows a level of fear and disbelief.

Often, our words hold the beauty and power of our message hostage.

If we have the most beautiful, life-changing, hope-inspiring message in the history of humanity, shouldn’t we desire it be communicated with courage and conviction?

If we’re convinced that Jesus really is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, shouldn’t our words reflect the courage and commitment we experience in our hearts?

I recently wrote a blog post expanding on this idea for Jeff Goins’ blog. You can read the whole thing HERE.

* Image credit: Creation Swap user Sandara Lee

 

Harnessing courage

My son is a running, jumping ball of courage right now.

  • He rides his 4-wheeler down our front steps.
  • He jumped down 3 stairs the other day…measuring at least his height.  He hit the floor, tumbled a little, and kept on running and laughing.
  • Yesterday, he rode down our driveway (a fairly steep hill) as fast as he could on his little plastic truck…which was definitely not intended to be ridden as fast or as hard as he was riding it.
  • He’s not afraid (usually) of talking with a complete stranger.
  • He jumped off of his bed.  It’s taller than he is.

He just has this courageous spirit in him.  And I fight my hardest to not discipline that out of him.

Because seeing my son do courageous things thrills my heart, and I know it’s a expression of his God-given spirit of adventure.  And it would be easy for me to discipline that out of him in the name of safety and order.  I could demand that he not run amuck, that he play it safe, that he walk (err…jump) a more careful path.

But I am convinced that that’s not best for him in the long run.  That’s simply what’s good for me and my sanity in the short-run.

I want to encourage my son to continue to take risks.  Stand up to challenges.  Do things nobody else is doing.  Blaze his own path.  Follow his dream.  And live out the calling God’s placed on his life.  I want to teach my son to live dangerously. It’s much easier to rein that courage in, and point it towards Christ, than to re-program a man to live dangerously. I want to encourage him to be courageous now, and reward those small feats.

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. – 1 Chronicles 28:20

Have you ever been encouraged to live dangerously?

Disagree with the idea that boys (and men) living dangerously is a good thing?  Feel free to push back!  Click HERE to jump in the comments!

 

George Washington on Courage

George Washington was a courageous man.

I knew this to be true…you can’t go through the United States public school system without studying about our country’s first President.  But I’ve recently been reminded of his heroism while reading 1776 by George McCullough.

In September of 1775, Boston was under siege by British troops.  Washington was the commander of the American military forces (which were a mishmash of untrained and largely unorganized farmers and other Yankees), and he was ready to make a bold move to recapture Boston, ending the siege.  However, there were two problems.

1. The British forces were powerful and abundant.

2. An attack on Boston, to remove the siege, could mean the destruction of the city.

But Washington wasn’t one to sit around and wait for something to happen.  So he began petitioning Congress to move troops, and begin attacking the British at Boston, because he knew how strategic and valuable the city would continue to be for the future success of the Revolutionary War.

In a letter to the governor of Rhode Island, Washington said this:

No danger is to be considered when put in competition with the magnitude of the cause.

Washington was facing lots of dangers.  Loss of significant lives.  Loss of his power and authority.  Loss of his reputation.  Loss of the city of Boston.  Loss of supplies.  Loss of time.  Loss of effort.  Loss of the colonies to the British.  But he was willing to not consider those dangers when he compared them to the magnitude of the cause…winning independence.

We could learn something from this, even today.  Because far too often, when we count the cost, we show by our actions that we believe the task is too dangerous for us.  We show fear when we don’t

  • Share our faith
  • Press in to know our own heart
  • Have a tough conversation with a friend
  • Take on that new project
  • Stop and build a relationship with someone new
  • Press in to know the heart of our children
  • Give financially until it hurts
  • Serve expecting nothing back
  • Do what God’s clearly calling us to do
  • Step out of our comfort zone

When we put the above in competition with the magnitude of the cause…they pale in comparison.  They are still dangerous…highly dangerous.  You could get burned, misunderstood, shamed, abandoned, discouraged, and broke.  But, like Washington said, these dangers aren’t to be considered when we compare them with the magnitude of the cause.  What is the cause that has such magnitude?

  • The health of our family.
  • The health of our heart. (living a life worthy of our call, Ephesians 4:1-2)
  • Serving our King faithfully.

There’s nothing else greater.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. – 1 Timothy 1:7

Have you ever felt yourself crippled by fear?

What was it that got you going again?