Category Archives: faith

The Naked Lobster for Leaders


Naked LobsterEver thought about how a lobster grows?  Because of its rigid shell, the larger it gets, the more uncomfortable the lobster becomes.  Eventually, it has to shed its old shell in order to grow a new, roomier model.  This process is repeated multiple times (as many as 25 times over the first 5-7 years of its life) until it reaches its maximum size.

During the 48 hours or so that the lobster is shell-less, it’s in grave danger.  (You could walk up at any time with a cup of melted butter, and it would be all over!)  For the lobster, there is no growth without risk.

I see two lessons for us in the example of the naked lobster:

  • You won’t grow without taking some risks.
  • You won’t grow without leaving something familiar behind.

God is calling us to walk with Him, but He doesn’t guarantee that the journey will be “safe.”  The Christian walk can be incredibly scary…if you are doing it right.  That is, if you are taking risks that God asks you to take so that you have to put your faith in Him.  These risks will require that you get out of our comfort zone.  That “comfort zone,” that “familiar thing” you are leaving behind is often something related to your old sin nature.  Like the lobster’s old shell, it should be more and more uncomfortable to you as you grow in your relationship with Christ.  When you realize that it’s dead, it’s time to shuck it off.

As a leader, your “comfort zone” or “familiar thing” could be your leadership position.  How long have you been in your current role?  Long enough to grow a shell?  Are you still growing in your role, or has your shell begun to define your limits?  If you are holding onto your position because it’s comfortable and safe, because you’re afraid of challenging yourself and taking some risk, because you are trying to save face or hold on tightly to something you “earned” years ago through your hard work, you are stuck in an old, rigid shell.  It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for your organization.

The lobster operates on instinct to shed his shell, but unless someone with authority forces you out of your shell, you have to have courage to get rid of it.  You don’t have to take the risk if you really don’t want to.  If you are too afraid to leave the familiar for something better, you can continue to stay in your cramped, little shell convincing yourself that it isn’t so uncomfortable after all.

But let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment….it is starting to pinch, isn’t it?  Do the things that used to motivate you seem boring and burdensome now? Do you find yourself spending more energy holding onto what you have than investing in yourself to grow?  Accept my testimony as someone who has left his shell multiple times (a few times by choice and several times against my will as I tried desperately to hold onto what I had).  God is waiting outside your shell.  He’s calling to you from just outside your comfort zone, and He’ll lead you through the next stage of your growth as you faithfully and courageously walk with Him.

Leave a comment

Filed under Change, comfort zone, Courage, faith, Fear, growth, leadership, trust

Possibility Thinking


During World War I, a Colonel was notified that his troops were surrounded by the enemy, who was demanding that they surrender.  The Colonel took this message to his troops, “Gentlemen, we have a situation that armies dream of.  We are surrounded on all sides, so we can attack in any direction we want.  All we have to do is pick one and go.  Our danger is if we sit here.”

Now, that’s possibility thinking!  Leadership sometimes requires that we reframe an impossible goal so that our team’s can see their potential for success.

Leave a comment

Filed under Abundance, Attitude, Challenges, Change, coaching, conflict, Denial, determination, faith, Fear, Goals, Hardship, leadership, learned helplessness, management, motivation, overcoming obstacles, paradigm, paradigm shift, Persistence, Problem Solving, Scarcity, success, Suffering, Trials

Prime Your Pump


There’s an old story about a thirsty traveler who came across a pump in the desert. An attached note explained that there was a jar of water buried nearby to prime the pump.

“You’ve got to give before you get,” the note said.

The traveler was faced with a dilemma.  If he poured the water into the pump, he couldn’t get it back.  Worse, he was going to have to work hard to pump out the water from the well with no guarantee of success.  However, if he drank the stale water in the jar, he would never get to taste the sweet, cool water from the well.  He would also ruin any chance for other travelers to get any water from the well, since there would be no way to prime it.

So, with a sigh, the traveler poured the water into the pump to prime it.  Then he began pumping the lever as fast as he could.  He pumped, and he pumped, but no water came out.  There wasn’t even the sound of water coming up the pipes.  But he pumped and pumped some more….and then some more….and then some more.  Even though he was becoming increasingly frustrated, he knew he couldn’t stop.  As soon as he stopped pumping, the water would go back down into the well.

Just when he didn’t think he could pump even one more time, he heard a gurgle of water….then another….and then, to his joy and amazement, out poured a flood of cool, clear water!!  Everything changed at that point. He no longer had to pump and pump to get the water out.  The slightest pressure sent water gushing from the spout. Slow, easy strokes were all he needed to keep the water flowing.

So it is with success in just about any worthwhile endeavor you undertake.  You’ve got to give before you get.   You’ve got to work hard, and you’ll have no guarantee of success.  If you stop working hard, your success will slip away from you, but if you persist even beyond what you think you can do, your reward will often come.

Don’t drink the stale waters of instant gratification; put in the work to prime your pump!

3 Comments

Filed under Challenges, Change, Convenience, delayed gratification, determination, discipline, faith, growth, habits, Inconvenience, Instant Gratification, Preparation, sacrifice, Sowing and reaping, Spiritual Growth, stewardship, temptation, waiting on the Lord

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)

 

1 Comment

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

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway


Once, when General George Patton was praised for his bravery in battle, he said, “Sir, I am not a brave man — the truth is, I am an utter craven coward.  I have never been within the sound of gunshot or in sight of battle in my whole life that I wasn’t so scared that I had sweat in the palms of my hands, but I have learned early in my life never to take counsel of my fears.”

Patton didn’t somehow turn off his fear.  He stopped listening to it, and he learned to push through it.  I’ve found that successful people consistently do this.  They feel the fear and do it anyway.

Two years ago, my oldest son and I went to the Royal Gorge with the express purpose of riding the Royal Rush Skycoaster.  Named the “scariest skycoaster in the world,” the Royal Rush Skycoaster pulls you up 100 feet in the air by cable and then drops you.  You swing out over the Royal Gorge at a speed of 50 mph and hang over the Arkansas River 1,200 feet below.

I was so scared that it made me sick to think about doing it.  This wasn’t our first time to the park, you understand.  We had been there months before, and the kids wanted to ride “the swing.”  Dad chickened out.

This time, however, I was determined.  Chandler had just turned thirteen, and this was an important part of an elaborate series of challenges that Dad was calling “Chandler’s induction into manhood.”  I could hardly ask him to do it if I wasn’t going to participate.  I’m not ready to have him take over the title of “man of the house” just yet.

So I screwed my courage to the sticking point, and I laid my credit card down on the counter.  (“What am I doing?  I’m going to pay for this?”) A few minutes later, we were strapping into our harnesses.  (“Hey! Watch the hands, buddy!”) Then we were watching other victims as we waited in line for our turn.  (“She’s screaming.  Why’s she screaming?”) Then we were getting clipped to the cable.  (“Stop talking to your co-worker, and FOCUS!  These are our lives you’re dealing with.”) Then we were being towed into the air.  (“I made a mistake!  I made a mistake!  I want down now…Mommy!”) Then the tiny, tiny, little man on the ground was yelling, “3…2…1…PULL!” and my son was yanking the ripcord.  (–Censored–)

But then, an amazing thing happened.  All that fear – the stomach-churning, knee-knocking, panic-inducing fear – was gone!  Where it had been, there was now exhilaration!  I was overwhelmed with feelings of excitement, gratitude (“Thank you, God!  Thank you, God!”), awe, peace and freedom.  They let us swing out over the gorge six or seven times, and I thoroughly enjoyed staring into 1,200 feet of abyss.  Two minutes after we got off the ride, my son looked at me with a spark in his eye and said, “Let’s do it again!”  And we did.

I learned some important things about fear that day:

•    Fear (spelled F.E.A.R.) is usually based on False Expectations Appearing Real. (It was highly unlikely that we were going to be the first people to be flung into the gorge, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.)
•    Taking a realistic look at the worst-case scenario often puts F.E.A.R. in its proper perspective. (Death wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to us.  Both of us already have an exit strategy.)
•    Having a partner in scary situations gives us courage. (As Chandler and I debriefed the event, we both said that having the other one with us calmed the nerves.)
•    Making a first investment in doing something scary makes it harder to back out. (Once I had put $50 into the experience, there was no way I was getting out of line.)
•    Humor kills F.E.A.R. (As we stood in line, we made lame jokes and laughed nervously with the people in front of us.  As long as we were laughing, we forgot how much we wanted to get away.)
•    F.E.A.R. has a thin skin. (It took very little action to push through the membrane of F.E.A.R.  The worst part of the ride was my active imagination.  Once I did something, the F.E.A.R. was gone.)

•    Facing your F.E.A.R.s resets your courage border. (After the ride, some of the F.E.A.R.s I’ve been dealing with lately seemed silly in comparison to what I had just been through.  I’mactually excited about applying what I learned about F.E.A.R. in those situations, too.  My courage border gained some real estate that day.)

While there are times when fear is an important defense mechanism that keeps us from winning a Darwin Award, most of the time, it interferes with us becoming all we were created to be.  Stop taking counsel of your fears.  What would you do if you were not afraid?

Then, go and do it!  Do it! Do it now!  Feel the F.E.A.R. and do it anyway!

Leave a comment

Filed under Challenges, comfort zone, faith, Fear, trust

Right-Hand Man


Everyone wants to have a right-hand man (or woman), right?  Someone you trust implicitly.  Someone who will cover for you in a pinch and make decisions just as you would have made them.  Someone you can groom to be your successor when the inevitable promotion opportunities come rolling in.

The expression “right-hand man” (as well as the tradition of seating the guest of honor at the right hand of the host) originated from times when leaders had to worry about assassination on a daily basis.  Before the days of explosives and automatic weapons, the easiest way to assassinate a leader was to have the person sitting to his right grab his sword arm and hang on, rendering him relatively helpless so that others in the room could then kill him.  If you were a leader, it was in your best interest to put the person you most trusted next to your sword arm. Since most people are right-handed, the “right-hand man” came to be synonymous for someone you could trust with your life.

Leadership can be a lonely role.  Having a right-hand man (person) will encourage you when things get rough.  A trusted “second-in-command” can keep an eye on your blind spots and warn you when you’re stepping into dangerous territory.  If you don’t have one, start developing one (or to look for someone with the right qualities to fill your next open position.)

Incidentally, the best “right-hand man” you can have is Jesus.  He’s not seated at your right hand; He’s at the right hand of God, the Father, but he will keep an eye on your blind spots for you.  He will intercede in prayer for you and come to your rescue when you need Him.  He might not make decisions just as you would have made them, but He will make them better.  And He’ll never be your successor, but you won’t experience success in your Christian walk without His power and authority.  Best of all, you can trust Him with your life – both here and in eternity.

1 Comment

Filed under belief, christianity, Covering, faith, leadership, Protection, trust

IF…


My favorite verse in the Bible for the past few years has been Mark 9:24. A father has brought his only son so that Jesus could cast out a demon from him. But when He arrives, He learns that Jesus has gone up the mountain, leaving the disciples in charge. They try over and over to cast out the demon with no success.

.

By the time Jesus returns from the mountain, it’s a circus. A huge crowd has gathered, and the disciples are in a fight with the legal experts of the day about the boy’s condition and what to do about it.

.

The boy’s father cries out from the crowd and explains the situation. Jesus rebukes the disciples (they failed to have faith that God could or would cast out the demon) and asks that the boy be brought to Him. When the boy sees Jesus, the demon throws the boy to the ground, foaming at the mouth. All eyes are on Jesus to see what He will do.

.

Jesus, diagnosing the problem, asks the father for some background information, and the father tells him that the boy has been afflicted since he was young. Often the demon would throw him into the fire or into the water to try and kill the boy. In the next statement, the father’s heart is revealed:

.

“But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

.

“If.” It’s the biggest two-letter word in the dictionary. It often communicates more than we intended to say, showing our doubts and our fears. It might be appropriate when we are talking about the capacity of a friend or a boss or a loved one, but it’s misplaced when talking about the capacity of God. With God, it’s never “if He can;” it’s only “if He will.”

.

Jesus’ reply might have included emphasis on His first word:

.

If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

.

“It’s not about My capacity,” Jesus seems to be saying. “It’s about yours. Can you believe? Can you have enough faith? Can you have more faith than these apostles who have been with me these several years?”

.

And then, my favorite verse:

.

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears,

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

.

It’s so full of love for his son. It’s so desperate. It’s so….honest! I’ve been there. I want so badly to put my total and complete trust in God to help me with problems, to watch over my kids, to provide for my needs… but I just don’t have enough faith. With the child’s father, I cry out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

.

God always has to meet us more than halfway. He doesn’t require that we have 100% faith before He will go to work, but He does want us to want to believe at the very least. Beyond that, I think the official measurement is “as small as a mustard seed.” And if we can muster up that much faith, all things are possible.

Leave a comment

Filed under belief, faith, prayer, trust