Tag Archives: risk

Hustling Errors


In 1992, Jimmy Johnson, then coach of the Dallas Cowboys, cut running back “Swervin’” Curvin Richards after he fumbled in the last game of the regular season.  That in itself wasn’t so surprising.  Coach Johnson had a temper, and he didn’t suffer fumblers lightly.  But what was surprising was that Johnson would cut Richards but defend two other players who made similar mistakes in the same quarter of the same game.

Truth be told, all three mistakes were inconsequential.  Dallas would go on to win the game 27-14 over the Chicago Bears.  They had already secured a bye for the first weekend of the playoffs.  The game was nothing more than a notation in the record books as this particular Dallas team went on to win its third Super Bowl in dominating fashion.

The problem was not that mistakes had been made.  Richards’ fumble did result in a touchdown for the opposing team, but so did Steve Beuerlein’s interception.  Alvin Harper also turned the ball over…and all these happened in the fourth quarter.  So, why didn’t Johnson cut all three players?  Why did Richards alone incur Johnson’s wrath?

According to Johnson, it was because Beuerlein and Harper committed “hustling errors” while Richards simply showed the sloppiness that comes from a poor work ethic.  Beuerlein and Harper were forgiven because they were hustling; they were trying to make something happen.  They were taking risks and trying to get the momentum back for an offensive team that had started to focus their attention on the playoffs before the game had even ended.

Richards, on the other hand, failed to execute one of the fundamentals of his job.  Had he shown more diligence on the practice field, he might have been spared.  But Johnson was irritated with the running back for his lackluster approach to the game.  Johnson used this opportunity to teach his team an important lesson.  There are mistakes, and then there are mistakes.  Mistakes made while taking risks and trying new approaches will be forgiven.  Mistakes made because of poor preparation will not.

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Filed under coaching, failure, forgiveness, grace, justice, leadership, management, mentoring, mistakes

Naked Lobster


Ever 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.  One hungry tourist with a cup of melted butter….  Or…the lobster could be eaten by any of its other natural predators.  For the lobster, there is no growth without risk.

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

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

But where the lobster operates on instinct to shed his shell, we have to operate on courage.  Unfortunately, many of us struggle to face up to hard changes.  It’s difficult to leave our comfort zone for the scary unknown.  Success is not assured.  Failure is likely.  Why would we want to leave what’s been working for us for so long?

And the truth is, we don’t always have to.  Sometimes, business as usual (BAU) will get us by.  But that’s all it usually does.  If we want to grow…  If we want to do great things for God… We are going to have to leave the familiar for something better.  We can’t continue to stay in our cramped, little shell convincing ourselves that it isn’t so uncomfortable after all.  We’ve got to feel the pinch and make the move.

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Filed under Change, comfort zone, determination, Fear, growth, habits, motivation, 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!

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

Leaving the Cocoon


One day, a small opening appeared in a cocoon.  A man sat and watched as a butterfly struggled for several hours to force its body through the tiny hole.  But then, it seemed to stop making any  progress.

It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could not go any further.  So, in an attempt to help the butterfly, the man took a pair of scissors and opened the cocoon, allowing the butterfly to emerge easily.

Strangely, the butterfly exited the cocoon with a withered body and tiny and shriveled wings.  The man continued to watch, expecting that, at any moment, the wings would open, enlarge and expand.  But nothing happened.

In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its short life crawling around with a withered body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly.

What the man did not understand was that the restriction of the cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were part of God’s incredible and mysterious design.  Through the butterfly’s early efforts, fluid was forced from its body into its wings.  The fluid would have enabled the butterfly to fly once it was free from the cocoon.

It’s hard to appreciate our struggles while we are going through them.  Often, our prayers are for God to release us from them, but we lack His eternal perspective.  When He allows them to continue, we can be sure that the struggles are exactly what we need – that they are the most efficient and effective way of producing in us the strength and character necessary to do His work.  Take them away, and our faith is withered and shriveled.  We might walk, but we’ll never fly.

Think about your personal “cocoon” at this point in time.  It’s whatever it is that has been causing you stress, worry or anxiety.  It’s what you’ve been praying for God to take away.  It’s the prayer that seems to go unanswered.  Now, give God thanks for the struggle.  Acknowledge that He knows all and that His will is best.  Praise Him for allowing this difficulty in your life that is preparing you for something greater.  Because a caterpillar is a neat thing, but it’s nothing compared to a butterfly!

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Filed under Challenges, Change, christianity, comfort zone, delayed gratification, Fear, Hardship, helping, Instant Gratification, learning, overcoming obstacles, Serving Others, Suffering

The Elephant in the Room


elephant-in-room

Ever had the experience of having an “elephant in the room?”  It’s what happens when there is something big and disturbing that we all know about but won’t discuss.  We stress over it; we pretend it’s not there; we go to great lengths to maneuver around it… all because we don’t know how to deal with it.

It’s Christmas, and many families will be gathering together to celebrate the holiday while simultaneously trying to step around the elephants that have accumulated in their relationships. Hoping for peace on earth and goodwill toward each other, they will bite their tongues as they enjoy Christmas dinner.  And doing their best to ensure a silent night, they will stick to only the safest topics for conversation.

Isn’t it exhausting?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just be honest about the elephants?  And have we ever stopped to think about exactly how much elephant maintenance is costing us? The longer an elephant is allowed to stay, the more trust he eats.  The more trust he eats, the bigger he gets and the harder it is to get rid of him without doing some major damage to the relationships.

What if we sacrificed some of that peace and silence to do some important and needed work on our relationships this Christmas?  What if we prayed for God’s healing before our guests arrived or before we went over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house?  What if we humbled ourselves to be the first one to say, “I’m truly sorry,” to those who feel hurt?  What if we decided to put some forgiveness under the tree?

Maybe we could save our money this year, and purchase a gift that will only cost us our pride and the risk of stepping out of our comfort zone (and maybe a thrown plate or two).  Wouldn’t it be worth it?  Even if it ends in disaster (and I’m aware that it’s a good possibility with some of our families), the attempt would be precious to God, and there is no way to know how He will eventually use your sacrifice.

Blessings to you and yours!

Merry Christmas!

Michael


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Filed under accountability, agape love, Authenticity, Challenges, Christmas, comfort zone, communication, family, Interpersonal, love, overcoming obstacles, Relationships

They Walked on Water


I teach Bible lessons at a summer camp for abused children in Texas. This year, we were covering Jesus’ life and ministry, but as I wrote my lessons, they really became more about Peter and how God worked through his life.

Day three of the camp was the “Walk on Water” lesson. Peter gets out of the boat and walks on water to meet Jesus on the Sea of Galilee! Amazing! As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on water, but when he noticed the wind and the waves, he began to sink. There’s a good metaphor in that for helping us to deal with our problems in life.

Many of us give Peter a hard time, because he started to sink beneath the waves. He should have kept his eyes on Jesus. And even Jesus chided him for his “little faith.” But let’s not forget….Peter got out of the boat. He only had a little faith, but at least he had more than those eleven boat-huggers. No one else was even brave enough to get their feet wet.

I asked the kids how many of them wanted to be “water-walkers” for Jesus – to do the scary things He asks us to do sometimes – and they all said they did. Each child got a “Water-Walker” sticker…

…and some ice-cold water to remind them of their commitment, but that wasn’t the end of lesson.

This lesson came with a test. Would they really be willing to “step out of the boat?”

Their test really started out as a test for us as a teaching team. How could we give them a safe and fun object lesson that would simulate walking on water? Inspiration came from a YouTube video segment about Steve Spangler on the Ellen Degeneres show.

Corn Starch + Water + Hours and hours of manual labor = Walking on water!

Corn starch and water make a funny liquid-solid. Hard when you put pressure on it; soft when you don’t. The official term is “non-Newtonian,” and it’s plenty cool!

I knew we had to try! Through a friend, I made contact with a wholesale food distributor that sourced and procured 300 lbs of corn starch for us. To that I added all that I could clear off the shelves at Kroger, Wal-Mart, Super Target and Albertson’s. We ended up taking approximately 400 lbs to camp.

On Day 2 of the camp, we began mixing 200 lbs of the corn starch and 12 gallons of water in a 90 gallon swimming pool. That was a mistake. In that large an amount, it doesn’t mix easily. We did our best imitation of the “I Love Lucy” grape-squashing episode, but a day and a half later, we had made little progress. Someone suggested we try mixing smaller amounts and then pouring them in, and that made all the difference.

Within a few more hours, we mixed up 167 more pounds to the right consistency and added it to the top of our earlier mistake. Water sports day was almost over, so we invited the kids to come walk on water before we even tested the mixture.

While the teaching team mixed up the last batch, we allowed the first group of girls to get into the goo up to their elbows.

Then, we lined them up and had them get a running start. The first girl to go across hesitated before she reached the other side of the pool and stopped dead in her tracks. The goo at the bottom was like cement. It would pull a toe off your foot if you tried to extract yourself too quickly. Several times while mixing, I got so stuck that I couldn’t get out and ended up falling rear first into the mix.

With the help of several adult camp guides, we got our brave pioneer out of the mire, and I’m happy to say that the second tester actually did walk on water! Once they saw how it was done, the rest of the girls and then the boys had no problem following in Peter’s footsteps, though half of them would allow themselves to get stuck just for the fun of having their camp guides struggle to extricate them.

In the end, 56 campers and a few dozen adults were brave enough to “get out of the boat.” The most courageous danced in the middle of the pool or did cartwheels across it. We still had a few boat-huggers, but you’ll find them in any group of any size.

The experiment was fun, but it begs the question….how many pounds of corn starch did Jesus use when he let Peter walk on the Sea of Galilee?

Here’s our some video clips and pictures from the object lesson.  Because of the nature of this summer camp, I can’t show you any of the kids’ faces.

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Filed under belief, christianity, faith, Fear, Spirituality, Teaching, trust

The VIP Line


I got in line at the airport yesterday, resigned to endure the long, shuffling wait. It was an international flight, and there were several hundred people queued up waiting to check in. Most wore their boredom and/or irritation plainly on their faces, but they knew there was nothing they could do. This was how things went when you couldn’t pay premium for business or first class seats.

After some time shuffling along, I remembered my more-than-frequent flier card. It sometimes allows me to bypass the long lines and head straight for the VIP desk. But I hesitated to move for three reasons:

1. I wasn’t sure this card would work with this airline.

2. I was afraid to give up my time-earned place in line just in case I was wrong.

3. I was pretty sure I knew what all the other people would think about me if I went ahead of them by moving to the VIP line. (I’ve had a person yell at me on one occasion, but the passive-aggressive typically just make angry remarks under their breath for my benefit.)

I’m sure you would have made the switch immediately, but I had to weigh and reweigh the factors in the balance. This was a life-changing decision. “Stay – Go…..StayGoStaaayy…GO! Go now! Go! I mentally cattle-prodded my rear end and took a step. After that, the decision was made for me, as the line oozed in to fill the space where my foot had just been. There was no going back; I had forfeited my claim.

I could hear the murmurs and feel the stares as I made my way to the empty VIP line, but I kept my eyes forward and my head held high. When I reached the ticket agent, I apologetically asked, “I can’t come over here if I have one of these, can I?” But to my relief, I was in the right place! Stamp-stamp, bzzzzt-bzzzzt (the universal onomatopoeia for a ticket printer) and I was gone, shaking the cold stares off my shoulder as I headed for the gate. An hour of my life was lost but now was found! Bring the fatted calf!

With all that extra time on my hands, I began to think about how strangely familiar the event had felt. There was a time when I shuffled along in the spiritual economy line when I could have gone right to the VIP desk. It wasn’t that I had earned my VIP status. Jesus (“The” VIP) paid my membership for me. In fact, He paid it for everyone standing in economy, but most of us have learned to be helpless, and we’ve stopped looking for a better way.

We see a few people break away and head toward the VIP desk, but we doubt that it will work for us. Or we have so much invested in our “economy” lives and belief systems that we are too afraid to leave the comfort of the familiar.

What if we step away from the crowd, and we’re wrong? What if what we’ve heard about the VIP line is too good to be true? Won’t we look foolish? Won’t everyone laugh at us or get angry with us for thinking we are better than they are?

Satan knows how easy we are to keep in line. His creates the queue barriers with slender reasons for ropes, because he knows how compliant we are, how willing to follow the crowd. A little fear, a little uncertainty, and we decide “better safe than sorry” and “let’s see what everyone else does.” We take our cue (pun intended) from other people in the economy line as if they were qualified experts; “He looks smart, and he’s not moving” or “She said that she heard the VIP thing was a hoax.”

But as tragic as this deception is, it’s not nearly as bad as the deception Satan works on those who know they are VIPs but continue to walk in economy. I’m not talking about the ones who went back to convince the others to switch; I’m talking about those who are too afraid to trust what The VIP has said to be true.

Jesus has purchased first class tickets for them to lead lives of joy, promise, hope, and incredible, exciting service to Him. But because these riches are spiritual and less obvious than worldly riches, the VIPs in economy march on with the rest, hoping for an upgrade that they can see, touch and spend. They want to believe the promises of Scripture, but they lack the faith to walk in the VIP line.

If more of the VIPs were in the right line, the switch would be much less scary for those still in economy. They want to see that it’s real, that it works, before they step out. But so often they are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with VIPs whose lives are no better than their own. To them, it seems like a membership club with no benefits.

“Red Rover, Red Rover, let the VIPs come over.” Jesus paid a lot to get us our upgrade; Let’s walk in it and enjoy it enough that it looks worth having.

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Filed under Authenticity, Change, christianity, faith, Fear, leadership, overcoming obstacles, Religion, Salvation, Spiritual Growth, spiritual warfare, Spirituality