Brilliance Lost

6 Feb

Honestly, I haven’t been sleeping well this week.  And I don’t know why.  But that is another conversation for another day.  Two nights ago, I woke up around three with a BRILLIANT thought on my mind.  And, I mean, I recognized the “brilliance” of it so much that I almost grabbed my iPhone to post it on Twitter or Facebook so I would have a record of it.

The key word in that last sentence is ALMOST…..

Since then I have racked my brain trying to remember it, exactly how it phrased itself in my mind.  I can’t remember the exact words, but it revolves around the truth that EACH OF US is responsible for our level of satisfaction and happiness in life.  Modern society makes it too easy to blame others for our circumstances or our failures.  Granted, no one will ever succeed in every endeavor.  We will all fail and we will all fall short at times.  There will also be moments in our lives where we have absolutely no control of the circumstances around us.  And herein lies a worthy truth:  We cannot control the world around us, but we CAN control how we respond to it.  And we can control WHERE we place our faith for navigation!  Think about that.

It is way too easy to blame someone else when the going gets rough or the going never gets off of the ground.  Blaming someone else or finding an excuse alleviates our feeling of responsibility and allows us to escape “adulting.”  Too many people fall into that trap.

YOU are able to control how you respond to everything you face.  The wise man and woman will “trust in the Lord with all (of their) heart” and He will guide you through even the toughest paths.  Place your faith in Jesus Christ and just WATCH how God will work through it all!!!

Don’t be fooled!!

5 Feb

In the days before modern banking technology, how did a teller or bank employee spot a counterfeit bill??  Have you ever thought about that?  TODAY, there is all kinds of technology on that new, crisp $100 bill that enables businesses and banks to KNOW that bill is the real deal.  But how did they spot things like this 100 years ago??

Some of my long-time banking friends remind me that the human brain is the most complex computer on the planet!!  Spotting a counterfeit was something bank employees were trained to do, not only by learning the methods of those who produced false bills, but also (and mostly) by STUDYING THE REAL THING.  When they studied and KNEW the real thing, they could easily spot the counterfeit.

So … How can we keep ourselves from being fooled today by counterfeit theology?  By counterfeit holiness?

I have been at Ebenezer Baptist Church for almost 25 years now.  First as the Minister of Youth and Recreation (for 4 years), then as the Interim Pastor (for 18 months), and since then as the Pastor.  Honestly, I have struggled in the past few months for God’s vision in my life and ministry.  And then He gave me an assignment that has consumed me!!  My job is to make sure Ebenezer is ready to pass the baton to the next generation….  For years now, I have studied and received training on the next generation and how to reach them.  I have nudged Ebenezer towards a position to be ready to do this.  I have encountered resistance, but truthfully NO ONE likes change (so that is to be expected).

But I have uncovered another fact with which to struggle.  Something I believe will plague the American church more than others around the world.  We are too quick to judge a book by its cover.  We accept outward appearances as gospel truth and do not work to see what is on the inside.  In other words, we could easily fall into the world’s trap of judging others based on the outward instead of the inward.  If we cannot overcome this, the North American church will suffer terribly in the next few decades.  We MUST see past the outward and look at the inward.

Why are we in this place?

  • Because media has conditioned us to look for the appealing, sleek options rather than diamonds in the rough.
  • Because it takes more work to get to know someone.  Quite frankly, it is easier to accept an outward appearance or a social media image than it is to actually invest in a person and get to know them.  Investing in another person will take time, energy, and we might have to get our hands dirty.
  • Because we DO NOT like change, and if we accept those who do not think exactly like us, or act exactly like us, or dress exactly like us, it might just change our environment and we do not like that in the least little bit.  Changing will move us into the future, and we like the past.  It is comfortable and nostalgic.
  • Finally, sometimes we equate our programs, traditions, and habits with holiness.  We forget that holiness is found in the state of someone’s heart, not in their hair color or their choice of clothing.

How do we overcome this??  Simply by LOVING GOD with all of our heart, mind, body, soul, and strength and by LOVING EACH OTHER with Christ’s kind of love.  If we will just concentrate on doing those two things well, God will fill in the blanks on the rest.

Don’t be fooled!!  Look past the outer package!!!

Credibility makes or breaks a leader

10 Jan

I was reading the Blackaby Spiritual Leadership devo, and today’s entry hits a nail on the head for me.  The devo is taken from Exodus 4:1

“Then Moses answered and said, ‘But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice . . .”    Exodus 4:1

The devo states that “Credibility is one of the greatest challenges for leaders.”  It continues to explore the idea that it doesn’t matter what you say or to where you might want to lead if no one will listen to you.  Awesome thought…. Ominous thought …. It is powerful when you stop and think about it.

These words will certainly ring true for a pastor.  Everyone expects their pastors to be credible, and they should.  But it doesn’t stop there.  It branches out to deacons….  Sunday School teachers and small group leaders … Mentors … Really, it touches ANYONE who is a person of influence.  And you do not have to hold an official office or title to be a person of influence.  In fact, most of the people who will read this (who follow Christ) fit in this category of “LEADER.”

I guess that is why I get so frustrated when I see men and women casting their pearls before swine, sacrificing their credibilities and reputations on the altars of social media and personal interaction.  Who are selling themselves out for a laugh or a like or an argument… In the past few weeks I have been reminded there are people who thrive on the opportunity to start a fight with others just for the sake and entertainment of fighting!!!!  I have seen others fall right into their snare, too.  It greatly frustrates me when I see leaders, people of influence, who say things that absolutely burn their credibilities in the eyes of others.  They might not realize it.  Or, they might not care.

But the last time I checked, we who follow Christ were put on this world to reach those who do not know Him.  Regardless of who they are, what they do, etc.

We, the church, need to protect our individual credibilities above all else.  Because, collectively, our credibilities compile and impact the credibility of THE CHURCH.

Don’t cast your pearls before swine.

The Beware-itudes

25 Nov

Yeah, okay, I kind of made a word up for the title.

Doing the role in which I currently serve, I have many opportunities to observe.  To watch people.  To watch how they treat each other.  To watch how they accomplish their goals and how they do life.  I have come to the conclusion that, all around us, there are some pretty awesome people!!  There are also some for whom we need to BEWARE.  So … This is dedicated to them in all of their glory!!

BEWARE OF THOSE WHO PROJECT THEIR MISERY INTO YOUR LIFE.  That old saying, “Misery loves company,” is ABSOLUTELY TRUE!!!  And, all around us, there are some people walking in misery who want us to walk in misery, too!!  If their marriage isn’t so great, they find problems in YOUR marriage.  If they are lonely and afraid, they will give you 500 reasons to be the same.  If they cannot have happiness and peace, no one else deserves to have it, either (at least, in their minds)!!!!  You deserve better:  Surround yourselves with people who are positive and watch THAT spill over into your life.

BEWARE OF THOSE WHO PUSH YOUR BUTTONS.  Sometimes, they are just doing that for their own entertainment purposes.  I once had a friend who would do that.  He was so predictable.  He would tell Sally what Susie said about her, and then he would run to Susie and tell her what Sally was saying.  (AND HE WAS AN ADULT!!!!)  Then, when it would all hit the fan, he would stand off on the side and grin.  And laugh.  And enjoy.  If you have a “friend” who is constantly pushing buttons and stirring the pot, stand back and watch.  That “friend” might just be using you for entertainment value.  You deserve better:  When you discover someone in your life who is doing this, some separation might be good.

BEWARE OF THOSE WHO CONSTANTLY SHOUT YOU DOWN.  No matter what your ideas or practices might be, they constantly criticize and discredit.  Perhaps they haven’t DIRECTLY told you not to do something in life, but they say things like “I hate people who meet with other people at Starbucks …”  (NOT that I have ever heard that, but just an example.  By the way, some of the best ministry things I have done lately have been in the walls of a coffee shop.)  You deserve better:  While I agree that sometimes friends have a better perspective on our ideas and can lead us away from a mess, surely if you are listening to God and praying about life, surely at SOME POINT you will have a great idea.  If you have friends who are doing nothing but shouting you down, take note and after they shut down your 50th idea, ask them why???!

BEWARE OF THOSE WHO SEPARATE YOU FROM GOD AND/OR THE ONES YOU LOVE.  Yes, there are people IN YOUR LIFE who will attempt to separate you from God.  Or, perhaps they want to separate you from your family or friends.  BEWARE OF THESE PEOPLE!!  A proven abuse strategy is to separate someone from those they trust to make them easier to manipulate and control.  If you have someone in your life that is trying to pry you away from all of the positives in your life, BEWARE!!  You deserve better!!!!  Open your eyes and SEE what is happening!!!!

I am sure there will be more BEWARE-itudes to come!!!

We’ve lost it

8 Nov

Hello, blog, my old friend.  It’s been a long time.  And I’ve been thinking about some things.

I am becoming more and more convinced that we’ve lost it.   I have no idea if we will be able to find it again.  And, the world has changed forever.  It might never be restored.

From where I sit, I see a world that increasingly cares about ITSELF.  And that is all.  And, to be more specific, most people only care about THEIR world.  Their needs.  Their agendas.  There is very little empathy for others.  Very little consideration of what might be going on in the world of another.  Just their world.

Not all people are falling into this trap.  But, in 2019, most people are.  It seems they are believing that old idea of LOOKING OUT FOR NUMBER ONE.  “If you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will.”  Wisdom from the world.  Contrary to the Word of God.  Yet I see it in the church more and more.  It is discouraging.  Disheartening.  The kind of thing that could encourage a guy to walk away from it all.

It is completely contrary to the words of Jesus in Matthew 22 when He was asked “What is the Greatest Commandment?”  He answered, “Love the Lord your God with EVERYTHING that you are.  And, love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  We get the “Love the Lord your God” part (or, at least, we will say that we get it).  But the idea of loving my neighbor as much as I love myself???  Too many people choose the world’s version of life and are, quite frankly, unwilling.

In my humble opinion, this is why people are so vicious to each other.  This is why churches struggle to accomplish the mission that God Himself has given to them.  This is why there are so many hurting people in our world today.  Because we are so focused on ourselves that we do not take the time to look around and see those we might be able to help, who are all around us.

And, the answer to how to solve all of this, is YOU.  And me.

Welcome to Church! (We shoot our wounded)

18 Jun

Near the beginning of the movie “The Patriot”, there is a scene where British soldiers win a battle near Benjamin Martin’s farm.  They as they are clearing the farm, they find a number of wounded patriots who sought refuge at the farm house.  Martin (himself a war veteran of days gone by) and his family provide comfort and limited medical care.  As the brutal British commander rides through, he orders his men to shoot the wounded and burn the house (to teach Martin a lesson).  It is heart-breaking and infuriating at the same time.  It was a cruel act.

And, yet, we in the North American church are not so different.  Yes, we shoot our wounded.  All of my Christian life, I’ve been taught to live by God’s Word as best I can.  To love God.  To love each other.  These are the words of Christ.  But there is also an undercurrent … A hidden language.  The unwritten rules by which most churches function.

We, the Church, have some really bad habits.  We claim and freely embrace the mercy and grace of Christ.  We fully accept the fact that God Himself send His Only Son to die on a cross for our sins when we did not deserve it.  But, when one of our number stumbles, too often we push them to the side and keep moving.  We get caught in this idea of not wanting to justify the sin of others, so we ignore it.  We ignore them.  We ignore grace.

We don’t do this so quickly when a brother or sister among us makes a “little mistake.”  But woe be unto anyone who makes a BIG MISTAKE.  Instead of reserving judgment for God Himself, we put them on trial in the court of popular opinion.  In that court, one is guilty until proven innocent.  And even if they might be exonerated, once the damage is done to their reputation, they are done…. Untouchable …  Shot while wounded and left to die.

And those who judge don’t even realize they are caught in a self-made trap of judgmentalism and legalism.  Each and every day, they look at little more like Pharisees and a little less like Christ.  And they don’t even know it.

One of the things I will always love about my mom and dad is the fact that, no matter how bad I messed up, I would always be their son.  They would always love me.  They might be disappointed, but they would always love me.  They raised me this way, and this is what being a family means to me!  And, the last time I checked, we (the Church) are supposed to be FAMILY.

In Matthew 7:2, Jesus said “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Read that a few times and allow it to sink in…  And, for goodness sake, please STOP shooting your wounded.

How do you fix Compassion Fatigue??

17 Apr

Anyone who really knows me knows that I thrive on “fixing it.”  I got that from my dad …  My dad made a career out of fixing things.  He was an industrial HVAC tech, but his drive to fix things started WAY BEFORE he began that career.  He was the son of a plumber.  His dad taught him all kinds of things, and most of all to not give up on fixing something.  When he was twelve, he took the engine out of an old truck, rebuilt it, and got it running.  When he was TWELVE.  He could fix almost anything.  And, he taught me.

Then, sadly, I landed in a profession that has many things that are conventionally “unfixable.”  But, we Wikes don’t give up.

How do you fix Compassion Fatigue??

The easy answer is STOP CARING.  Working with my dad for years, I quickly learned what callouses were.  And how they got on your hands.  If you work with tools, if you work hard, you WILL have callouses.  You will have these tender spots on the palms of your hands (especially near the tops) that will eventually harden and allow you to work without pain.

One temptation for someone who works in an industry that requires care for others is to allow the callouses to develop and stay there:  In other words, allowing your heart to harden and making it easier for you to function without feeling it.  Without caring (or without caring so deeply).  Some are able to compartmentalize their feelings and function at a high level doing this.  Most are not.  If you naturally care, you will be terribly unsatisfied in your job if you do this.

This is not so easy for many people, especially medical providers, teachers, administrators, people who work in service industries, and people who work in ministry.  If you stop caring, you will have a difficult time getting your job done.

The answer to “how can I fix it??”  might be that YOU CAN’T.  If you want to feel empathy, you will feel the hurt that comes with it.  But there are things you can do to maintain your health!!

The ancient Hebrews believed in a model of the WHOLE PERSON as being a compilation of three parts:  MIND, BODY, and SOUL.  You can make it through Compassion Fatigue, but you MUST address health in ALL THREE AREAS of your life.

Take care of your MIND!  Give your mind a BREAK!  Read things that are NOT job related.  Go see a movie!!  Do crossword puzzles or other activities that occupy your mind and allow it to exercise.  Start a blog or write in a journal!!  (And when people call you a narcissist for writing a blog, just bless their hearts!!!!)  Find what it is that will give your mind a break and DO IT!!

Take care of your BODY!   You don’t have to start by running a marathon, but running is a great activity!!  Gives you a chance to think, too!  (This morning as I ran under a full moon, all I could think about is how the high temperature today would be almost DOUBLE what the current temp was when I ran at 5:15!  But, that is another story)  ANOTHER great, therapeutic activity that I love is 9Round!!  (9Round Florence)  There is just something about being able to go into the gym and PUNCH STUFF!!!  It is a great workout, always supervised by a trainer, and they adjust to whatever fitness level you are at!!!  FIND SOMETHING to do to burn calories and expend energy.  WALK!!  Join a gym!!  Start slow, and do SOMETHING for your body!!

Take care of your SOUL!!  Now, honestly, I could come up with some generic mumbo-jumbo about this, but I’ll tell you the truth:  YOU NEED A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.  You were BORN for a relationship with God.  The need to know Him is built into you, even if you deny it.  And the only way to accomplish this is a relationship with Jesus Christ.  If you want to know more about that, click on this link:  How can I be saved?  Find a local church in which you can get involved!!  (And, if you are near Florence, come see me at Ebenezer Baptist Church!!!)

For those who KNOW Christ and find themselves in this spot, DIG DEEPER INTO YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM!! Make sure you are spending time with God.  He cares and He knows better than anyone about the things you face.  Spend time with Him.  IT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!

If you are here … Close to the edge … Close to a breakdown because of Compassion Fatigue … DO SOMETHING.  Talk to someone.  Find someone you can trust and allow them to help you.  And you will probably help them!!  Burdens are lighter when they are carried by two (or more) sets of shoulders.  The most important thing you can do is RECOGNIZE WHERE YOU ARE in this and DO SOMETHING TO HELP YOURSELF!!!  Because, YOU CAN DO THIS!!  You can take steps to be healthy AND care!!  If I can help you in any way, please let me know!!!!

The Price of Caring

15 Apr

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation or two with a friend who is a psychologist.  We were talking about how helping people is a great calling, but it takes a chunk out of you.  Especially if you are an introvert.  While extroverts actually gain energy being around others, introverts  expend energy to keep up with the social gymnastics of relating to others.  That is NOT a judgement against people, just a fact of introvert-ness (if that is really a word).

The price is higher when you care about others and watch them suffer.  When you sympathize with others, you relate to their pain and their struggles.  You can take on their challenges, and it takes a toll on you.  This is a fact of any and every profession that provides care for others.

I must stop right here and remind you that, while this is a distant cousin of the PTSD-related problems faced by soldiers and law enforcers, it is not quite the same.  The stakes are so much higher for those men and women that face danger and death every day for our safety.  Theirs is a more brutal reality.  The nature of life-and-death is much more near.  “Life and Death” is their reality EVERY DAY.

But, caring for others does its damage in other ways.  In small ways.  You hurt when they hurt.  When they face tragedy and heartbreak, you face it.  You feel it.  And when you multiply each small impact by the number of people in your world, the number about which you care, it takes small chunks out of your heart, your mind, and perhaps your soul.

Then, when you think you have managed the steady flow of tragedy, along comes a betrayal.  Or a tidbit of gossip.  Maybe it comes from someone on the fringe.  Maybe it comes from someone close to you.  And it takes another chunk out of you.

When you love big, you trust.  When the trust is broken, you cannot love “so big” anymore.  And you find it harder to trust.

Last week, I was talking to another friend who is a teacher.  A friend I have known for 20 years or more.  A teacher who is greatly loved and admired by her students.  And she was on the edge…  Her peers tell her she cares too much.  She doesn’t know how to do her job any other way, but it hurts.  The small chunks have become one big hole.  She and her colleagues are praying for Thursday to come quickly, so they can have a time to gather their thoughts, catch their breath, and heal a little before the push to the end of the school year.

A nurse introduced me to the name for this real syndrome:  Compassion Fatigue.  This nurse, who has worked in Hospice, managed cases, and done several other things in her career, told me Compassion Fatigue is unfortunately alive and well in her profession, in my profession, in teaching, in counseling…  Anyone who cares about others will pay a price.

So … if YOU are in a spot where you know this makes an impact on YOU, how do YOU cope??   How will YOU deal with Compassion Fatigue?

I hope and pray that you will find someone trustworthy and TALK TO THEM.  Not saying necessarily that you need to be in “counseling,” but find someone you can trust.  Someone who faces or has faced the same situations you face.  Talk to them.  Drink  coffee with them.  Trust them.  They can probably help.  You might be able to help them.

You and I, we can beat Compassion Fatigue.  But we must be intentional.  Take the first step.

Praying for you today!!!!

A Giant

8 Mar

I don’t know how many years ago it was …  Had to be 2002 or 2003.  My friend Olin Bullock had this friend from Wellman.  A leadership guru.  Olin wanted so badly for his friend to spend time with me and our church staff and he (Olin) funded it and made it happen.

And, into our lives walked a ball of fire, a box of dynamite, and a hurricane all rolled up into a man named Tommy Dowling.

You didn’t have to spend much time around Tommy to realize that he LOVED God with all of his heart.  And he loved The Church!  (The Big C church … the Body of Christ)

Tommy spent a great deal of time with me, a young pastor.  With our staff.  He got to know us.  He gave us the Myers-Briggs.  He broke it down and taught us so much about how we related to each other and how we could identify and relate to others.  And, 99,999 out of 100,000 times, he was DEAD-ON!!!  He had a gift, a knack for reading people and helping to bring the best out in them.

He pushed me to READ.  Gave me books, made me read them, and came back to drink coffee and make ME talk about them.  I will never forget him for this, because he re-ignited my passion for learning and knowing more about leadership.  He reminded me that I will NEVER have it all licked, and I can always continue to learn.  When I stop learning, I start dying.  He was so right!!

One of those times he came to meet with me, he came early and walked through the Ebenezer cemetery.  He was shocked and a little “caught off guard”  (WHICH WAS A RARE THING) when he came across a headstone of a man named Thomas Dowling who had died around 140 years ago.  He told me that drained the blood out of his face for just a moment.  But, I will never forget what he said next:

(It was something like this:)

“When the day comes for y’all to lay me in a grave, DO NOT CRY FOR ME.  I KNOW where I am going, and I will be most glad to be there!!!!

He told me that probably 100 times over the years.

Tomorrow, as his family gathers to honor his life, that is EXACTLY what I will be hearing.  I will never forget it.  And I will never forget him.

THANK YOU TOMMY, for all that you did for a young-un like me, and a TON of other pastors across this nation!!!!  You are a TRUE GIANT in the Kingdom of God!!!

TRUST

1 Jan

Can you really live without TRUST?  From an early age, we live and make decisions based on what we think we know to be true.  TRUTH.  What we TRUST to be the REALITY around us.  Sometimes life does throw us a curveball, and we cannot even explain it.  And sometimes our fellow men and women do the same.  We cannot control LIFE and all of it’s circumstances, but we can control whom we TRUST.

Many years ago, a professor likened TRUST between people to a bank account.  For example:  When I first met you (if I know you), I began to keep a mental account of you and you did the same of me.  Every time I tell you something that is TRUE or do something reliable, I make a deposit in your account and vice versa.  Every time I tell you something that is NOT true or do something that is untrustworthy, I make a withdrawal.

Whether you realize it or not, most of us view relationships that way.  When a person repeatedly tells you untruths or does things that are untrustworthy, they deplete their account and eventually you have no trust left for them.  If and when this happens, they must build that trust back up before the relationship with be healthy.

In other words, if a person is genuine, true, and seems to care, you will naturally trust them more.  If they continue to abuse your relationship and do things that make you think they don’t care, your relationship will run out of gas.

MAKE SENSE???

SO … A great thing to do to start 2019 would be to take stock of the people around you and the way YOU impact those relationships.  I cannot control those around me, but I can control how I respond to them.  And I can choose to bring my best to the relationship!!!

And, so can you!!!