Category Archives: commitment

Building to Code


When deadly Hurricane Andrew hit Florida  years ago, it destroyed most everything in its path.  But when the winds and rain died down, TV networks used their cameras to capture the image of a lone house standing firmly in place amidst an entire neighborhood of debris.  When asked why his house was the only one in the neighborhood still standing, the owner replied:

“I built this house myself.  I built it according to the Florida state building code. When the code called for 2″ x 6″ roof trusses, I used 2″ x 6″ roof trusses. When it called for screws, I used screws. I was told that a house built according to code could withstand a hurricane. I did, and it did. I suppose no one else around here followed the code.”

Now, this man might have said to himself at the time he built his house, “Gee, I sure feel silly spending all this extra time, money and effort on precautions that might never be needed.  Everyone else in the neighborhood is cutting corners.  I think I even heard them laughing at me for adhering to all these unnecessary requirements.  I wonder if it’s really worth it.”  But in the end, he followed the code and was rewarded with the last house standing after the storm.

Of course, this story reminds me of the story Jesus told about the wise and foolish builders.  You can find it in Matthew 7:24-27. Two builders built – one on sand and one on rock.  When the storms came, the house on the rock withstood the wind and the rains.  Jesus said that the builders represented two types of people – those who build their lives on Jesus (the Rock, the solid foundation) and those who build their lives on anything else (the wisdom of this world, other religions, etc.)

Taking the metaphor a little further, “building to code” means living our life based on what we read in our Bible.  It may not always make sense to us at the time what God asks us to do, but if we will follow Him obediently, we will find that we can weather the storms of this life.  So, build on the Rock and follow the Code.  It will keep you out of the rain.

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Filed under Challenges, commitment, Compromise, Convenience, delayed gratification, determination, God's Will, Hardship, Instant Gratification, obedience, submission

Taking a Stand


I’m an expat living in Thailand, and I believe that this requires me to change certain behaviors that are normal and comfortable to me in order to be culturally sensitive.  When the Thai national anthem or the king’s song plays, everyone is supposed to stand (including foreigners) out of respect.  If I hear either song, I stand.  It’s a sign of respect to the country that is allowing my family to live on its soil.

In the mornings when I’m in town, I walk the kids to school, and my habit has become that I sit for half an hour or so doing my quiet time in the school’s courtyard.  At 8:00a, the large Thai school across the street from our school plays the national anthem.  I always stand, but many times, I’m the only one.  The other foreigners typically continue their conversations, and even the Thais working at our school only stop what they are doing occasionally.

Standing is a simple gesture, but when you are the only one doing it, it’s easy to feel foolish.  I look around at everyone doing their own thing, and I wonder, “Am I over-doing this respect thing?”  “If no one else is doing it, maybe it’s not really expected.”  “I wonder if they are laughing at me.”  “Maybe they are thinking that I’m being pretentious.” “Does it really even matter if I stand or not?”

After all, there are plenty of excuses for not standing.  The music is a little hard to hear.  It’s not  playing at our school.  We aren’t Thai.  The Thais don’t even stand sometimes.  No one seems to care.  I’m having a conversation.  I’m tired.  My leg hurts…

I had an experience like this today, and I spent some time thinking afterward.  Being a Christian is a little like standing for the Thai national anthem.  When you take a stand for God, you will often look foolish to the world around you.  You are standing for music they may not even be able to hear and for reasons that they don’t particularly understand.  Even some of the Christians around you aren’t taking a stand for God.

It’s easy to second-guess yourself. “Am I being too strict about the movies my kids watch and the music they listen to?”  “Am I naive to think my kids could possibly make it to marriage without having sex?”  “Am I throwing my money away when I tithe to the church?”  “Am I being pretentious by claiming that there is only one Way into heaven, and His name is Jesus Christ?”

These doubts and questions are part of the cost of taking a stand for God.  If it were easy, everyone would do it, right?  Of course, God could strike down anyone who didn’t take a stand, but He doesn’t.  He doesn’t, because then EVERYONE would stand.  They wouldn’t be standing because they loved the Lord; they would be standing out of fear and compliance.  Those aren’t the types of followers God is looking for.  He loves us too much to force us to “love” Him back.

When you take a stand for something, you have to be willing to pay the price.  Without cost, there is no sacrifice.  As King David said when Araunah offered him his threshing floor, oxen, wood and wheat for free in order to make an offering, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24)  The value of the sacrifice is tied to how much it costs you.

The foolishness you sometimes feel when taking a stand for God is part of your sacrifice.  But you can take comfort in this Scripture:

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

(1 Corinthians 1:25)

One day, every stand you took for the Lord will be seen for what it was –  wisdom, love, honor, respect, readiness, strength, adoration, devotion, courage, faith…  Insist on paying the full price.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.

(1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

 

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Filed under Authenticity, christianity, comfort zone, commitment, Compromise, culture, faith, obedience, parenting, priorities, sacrifice

Find Your Cadence


I once met a friend at a park for a lesson on how to get into cycling as a way of keeping healthy.  It was my one and only lesson (because exercise is a synonym for pain in my dictionary), but I learned something important that I have totally failed to apply during the many years since.  Seeing my lack of experience right off, he gave me a piece of advice:

“Find your cadence.”

He went on to explain that I was jerking the pedals in a very inconsistent pattern.  They key to burning calories efficiently and without injury is having a smooth, consistent motion at a relatively swift pace (more than 50-60 revolutions per minute).

Honestly, I haven’t thought about his advice much since then.  I rarely get on a bike.  (Who has the time?)  But I thought about it this morning as I was walking back from taking the kids to school.

My life is often an off-balance, inconsistent, jerking-the-pedals kind of mess.  I’ve always prided myself in being a spontaneous, hands-off-the-handlebars kind of person (INFP for those of you who are familiar with Myers-Briggs).  I hate to be scheduled; I hate routine; I like to stay up to all hours of the night…I just love the enormous possibility of a day free from obligations.

But as the years have gone by (I’m 39), living la vida loca is starting to take its toll in repetitive stress injuries.  My body now pays triple what it used to cost me to stay up past midnight.  I never feel like exercising.  I’m always tired.  I’m hopelessly behind on my to-do list, and my spiritual disciplines are somewhat undisciplined.

I find that I’m always trying to play catch-up….in my finances, in my relationships, in my work, in my spiritual life…so I take the turns of life at breakneck speeds and load my bicycle down with all kinds of good intentions.  Then every once in a while, I crash with an illness that lays me out until my body can repair the damage I’ve done.  This is no way for a mature, father of three and husband of one to live.

So, what occurred to me as I walked home this morning is that I need to find my cadence.  In other words, I need to find the rhythm and the pace that I can sustain long-term, and I need to stick to it.  I’ve been making half-hearted efforts at this for years, but I’ve lacked the discipline to keep it up and I’m pretty sure that Satan has been doing his best to interrupt my cadence whenever possible by throwing hazards on the road right before I get there.

The key to this working, I’ve realized, is that I need to select a lower gear.  I’m wearing myself out trying to pedal at top speed in a gear that’s too hard for me.  I need to stop trying to do so much that I’m always behind.  I need to forgive myself for what I didn’t accomplish yesterday.  I need to stop trying to catch up and just start fresh wherever I’m at.  Most of all, I need to listen to the messages my body is sending me and get more sleep so that I’ll have the energy to handle whatever challenges the day brings.  Rhythm and rest.

This is more journal than blog.  My apologies.  Hope that maybe it helps you find your own cadence.

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Filed under commitment, Daily walk, discipline, habits, health, Sharpening the Saw, spiritual disciplines

The Power of a Shared Vision


A few weeks ago, I participated in my favorite annual activity: attending summer camp.  The camp is for abused children and is part of a national effort organized through Royal Family Kids’ Camps, Inc. (www.rfkc.org).  I have two main passions in life.  One is teaching, and the other is helping children.  The camp scratches that itch for me every year.  But the reason I’m writing about it has less to do with the children than with the adult volunteers who organize and conduct the camp.

Camp is a tough commitment for many of the volunteers.  It requires a six-day trip, which usually requires the volunteer to use vacation time.  Our camp is located in the middle of Texas during a week of July, when temperatures are scorching.  Each camp guide takes responsibility for two campers between the ages of 7-11 and spends 22.5 hours a day with them.

Every day of the week starts at 7:30a (earlier if the adult wants to get a shower in) and runs until 9:30p, when the camp guide is allowed to take a 90-minute break before stumbling into his/her comfy camp bunk.  Camp guides follow a tightly-packed schedule and do their best to make camp the ultimate experience for each of their campers.

I’m not doing it justice, because many volunteers spend hours and hours in preparation for camp – submitting to an invasive interview process, participating in two days of on-site training, attending meetings, shopping for cabin decorations, loading trucks, inventorying supplies, attending fund raisers, etc…  Suffice it to say, this camp requires a unique and demanding type of commitment.

Each year, it takes over 60-70 adults to host the one-week camp for approximately 60-70 abused children.  That’s a one-to-one ratio of adults to children – almost unheard of at a summer camp but absolutely essential for preserving the safety and creating the experience for the kids.  Sixty adults is a tough number to muster for a volunteer opportunity, but this camp has done it successfully for the past twelve years.  This year, most of our 70+ adults were returning volunteers.  Twenty-two have been with us for five years or more, and seven of those have been with the camp for all twelve years.

I have never seen a team operate as smoothly and effectively as the one that comes together each year to put on RFKC #47.  Personal differences are set aside.  Egos are checked at the camp gates.  Individual agendas are abandoned…all in an attempt to serve the kids.  All this while volunteers are being tested to their physical, mental and emotional limits.

How do the camp directors generate such loyalty, commitment and sacrifice from the volunteers?  Simple.  The power of a shared vision.  The camp directors don’t have to cajole these contributions from their volunteers, because the volunteers give them freely.  They don’t have to offer incentives, because the volunteers believe that the work is reward enough in itself.  They can elicit extraordinary effort from their volunteers just by asking, because the volunteers are passionate about the goals of the camp.

Can this power be put to work on your team?  YES!  To do it, you will need to create a vision that all your team members can get excited about.  Even if the work your team does isn’t viewed as intrinsically rewarding in and of itself, you can create incredible synergy by identifying your team’s uniqueness.  What is it that your team wants to be known for?  What makes it different from all the other teams?  Why would anyone outside the team want to come be part of it?

Everyone wants to be part of something excellent and extraordinary.  They will work for less money, put up with inconvenience and hassle, step out of the spotlight…all to be part of something unique and worthwhile.  So, no more excuses!  Every team is capable of being excellent in some way.  Find out what your team values the most and then go to work creating that reputation for yourself!

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Filed under buy-in, commitment, motivation, ownership, sacrifice, Service

Three-Legged Race


Marriage is a three-legged race.  When we pledge ourselves to our partners for life, God sees us in many ways as one person.  We are bound to each other.

This can cause a number of problems.  It’s awkward to try to run with someone tied to us.  We have to re-learn how to move so that we don’t throw our spouse off-balance.  If our spouse runs at a different pace or with a different rhythm (which they almost always do), we have to make adjustments to find a happy medium.

Should our spouse fall, it doesn’t do us much good to try to drag them along.  We have to reach out and lift them up.  This can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially for those of us who are goal-oriented and competitive.  We can see all the other couples passing us by, and the further behind we get, the more irritated we become.

We might feel tempted to scold and blame our spouse.  At best, these might shame our spouse into getting back up, but they won’t ever help the relationship.  Nagging doesn’t help.  Making jokes at our spouse’s expense does not help.  The only thing that will get us back into the race with a committed and enthusiastic partner is to stop and go at his or her pace.

I didn’t come to know Christ until five years into my marriage.  My wife had been a Christian since she was a young girl, and my sudden enthusiasm for following the Lord was a welcome change but somewhat shocking for her.  I quickly committed to all kinds of Christian activities that we weren’t accustomed to.  Church, Bible studies, volunteering, tithing, teaching, conferences, service projects…you name it.

Before long, I realized that I had left my wife far behind me.  Her walk with the Lord had been moving at a much slower pace for many years.  Now, I was trying to force her to go from that walk to a sprint in just a few, short months.  I was disappointed that she wasn’t growing as quickly as I was, and I tried to push her along to catch up with me.  All this accomplished was getting her to dig in her heels and start resenting me for trying to make her go faster than she was ready to go.

Over time, I’ve learned to slow down.  God won’t allow me to cross the finish line without my wife.  We are a team, and the rules of the three-legged race are that you finish together.  When I relaxed and allowed my wife to find her own pace with the Lord, she began to grow faster and faster.

I’ve also learned that fast isn’t necessarily good.  Much of my early speed was about doing, doing, doing for the Lord, but not all of my doing was God’s will. I have a list of things I volunteered for that turned out to be disasters.  If I had slowed down and gone at the Lord’s pace for me, I might have grown more quickly.  Now, instead of doing, doing, doing for the Lord, I’m trying to learn about being, being, being with Him.

It doesn’t matter how super-spiritual you are or how much the world needs you, if you are married, you can’t go faster than your spouse and please God.  Your first ministry is to the one you’ve committed your life to.  Stop, go back to where you left him or her, and help your spouse get back on his or her feet.  Then, run (or walk) the race together at the pace of the slowest person.  You might find that there was much you were missing by going so fast – the first of which will be the joy of running the race together.

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Filed under agape love, christianity, commitment, Compromise, Daily walk, family, growth, love, marriage, Relationships, sacrifice, Serving Others, Spiritual Growth, submission

Rolling the Boulder


In Greek mythology, Sisyphus, the king of Corinth, saw Zeus steal away with a woman named Aegina and confessed what he saw to her father.  When Zeus realized what Sisyphus had done, he condemned him to Tartarus, where Sisyphus would spend eternity rolling a boulder to the top of a steep hill, only to have it roll back down again.  Zeus knew that the worst punishment he could render was a time without end of meaningless work.

When those you lead are given assignments without any explanation of why the task needs to be done, they sometimes feel like the miserable Sisyphus.    Each repetitive task that seems to accomplish nothing appears to be an eternal punishment.  Each goal that comes without a reason for its completion seems like one of Sisyphus’ boulders.  They may struggle to get it up the hill, but they do it without enthusiasm.  Their efforts lack commitment and creativity.  Meaningless work breaks the spirit.  (Remember how the guards finally got to Cool Hand Luke in the movie by the same name?)  It destroys your team member’s confidence in their leaders’ competence.

People are motivated by making a difference.  They need to know how what they do impacts the final result.  They want to know not only what buy why.  As you assign tasks, be sure to tell them why they roll the boulder.

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Filed under Challenges, Change, commitment, leadership, management, motivation, purpose, Service, Serving Others, Suffering

Sweat Equity


My family spent a Saturday the week before school began a few years ago helping furnish our kids’ new charter school.  It was a real start-up operation, and all the families had to contribute at least 40 hours of service time to get the school up and running.

We scraped and washed hundreds of hand-me-down desks and chairs and then carried them up to their classrooms.  I took the kids, part out of necessity and part as an object lesson.  None of them were particularly interested in the project to begin with, but four hours later, my oldest had undergone a change of heart.  Not only did he enjoy contributing to the set-up of his own school, but he also surprised me by talking about how excited he was for school to begin.

C14 had never liked school before, so what brought about the new attitude?  Two words: sweat equity.  The transformation took place during hours of hard work.  With each desk he washed, C14 was making an investment in the school.  At the end of the day, he had a level of ownership and the pride that went with it.  When he got to class the next week, he enjoyed pointing out the desks and chairs he had worked on and telling his friends, “I helped get that here.”

At other schools he had attended, the adults did all the work.  They got everything ready for him, and all he had to do was show up.  As a result, the adults had the sweat equity, but the children did not.

There’s a great lesson in this for us as leaders: if we want our team members to be committed to something, we shouldn’t take all the responsibility for getting it up and running.  Sometimes we do it all, because we don’t think our team members will do it just the way we want it done.  Sometimes it’s because we think they have too much on their plate already.  Sometimes it’s because we just enjoy doing it ourselves.  But whatever the reason, when we shoulder all the responsibility, our team’s commitment to the new direction lags, and we are often left wondering why they aren’t as excited as we are.

Allow your team members in from the very beginning.  Let them help you come up with the vision, the action steps, the marketing, the communication….everything!  Then, let them join you in the set-up work.  The more you involve them, the more sweat equity they will have.  When it becomes their project instead of your project, they will make sure that it succeeds.

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Filed under buy-in, commitment, ownership