Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Words of a Mom

I experienced God's care for me this past weekend.

I called my Mom on the phone and we spoke for 30 minutes.  We shared in a life-giving conversation that ended with her encouraging me to continue being who God has called me to be.

God used the words of my Mom to refresh my vision for my life, faith and calling.

She finished by sharing that I needed to stay true to my faith in Jesus Christ and not give in to the pressures to do otherwise.   

I heard God's call through her voice.

We finished our conversation and I then drove to a local gas station.  I got out of the car and I heard the song "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack playing over the gas station speakers.

I stood still.


11 1/2 years ago, my Mom and I chose that song for the "mother-son dance" at my wedding.  The song has always reminded me of my Mom's voice of love and care.  In addition, the song has always reminded me of my Mom's words of encouragement to move forward by faith. 

As I stood still, I turned my glance to the sky and said, "Thank you God."  

Once again, God showed up, surprised me and shared his grace with me.

Here are the lyrics of the song that God used again to give me courage years ago and yesterday...

"I Hope You Dance"
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
GOD forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance....I hope you dance.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin' might mean takin' chances but they're worth takin',
Lovin' might be a mistake but it's worth makin',
Don't let some hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to sellin' out reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance....I hope you dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance.
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along,
Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone.)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

Dance....I hope you dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance..
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along
Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone)

I reread the lyrics after hearing the song at the gas station and they impacted my soul.  The words "When you come close to sellin' out reconsider" specifically caught my attention.

Are you facing a challenge that requires faith to step forward?

Who is building faith into your life?

Who speaks words of courage into your life when you face the pressure to sit it out or give up?

My Mom has always been a God-given source of courage (and truth-telling).

Life is too short to sit it out.
Selling out to the path of least resistance is not an option.
The call is to move forward by faith.

It is time to dance...  Are you with me?

Are you going to dance or sit it out?
Are you going to dance or sell out to the path least resistance?
Are you going to dance...?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Something happened... C'mon MAN(era)!

I don't know exactly what happened this past week but I know that SOMETHING happened...

I am sharing this story because I am still stunned and overwhelmed by what I experienced.  The story is long but I couldn't stop typing...  

 The Story:
Last weekend, I took an intentional moment to pray.  I asked God a question that I often ask him, "Is there something I should know? Am I missing something?"  I prayed this question and the answer came back in the form of a clear thought.  The thought was "100".  I did not know what it meant but the thought was clear.  I then asked, "What does this mean?" and the next thought that came to mind was "100 men at MANera.  Ask me boldly to bring 100 men to MANera this Thursday". The most men that had ever attended a MANera gathering was 55.

I did not know what to do with this response besides to humbly and boldly ask God to draw 100 men to MANera.  I consistently asked God for this and I invited some others to join me in what seemed like a crazy prayer.

On Monday morning, I gathered with 3 other guys from my discipleship group and I shared the prayer and idea.  One of the men shared, "You should buy their coffee. Remove the excuse."  I loved the idea and we put together a plan to make that happen.

I continued to pray.  I have often thought, "I don't pray prayers like this one.  I have been challenged in the past to lift up prayers to God that only God could answer but I have rarely followed through on it." I decided to keep praying and to invite others to do the same.

I began to see emails, text messages and conversations occur that normally would not occur.
I began to hear about individuals who had blown off MANera consider coming back.
I began to witness God's behind-the-scenes actions.

I then had another response to my "Am I missing something?" prayer.  My mind wandered to the thought of "Invite."  I knew right away that I was supposed to invite each person on the MANera roster (112 men) individually by email.  I decided to follow through.  I asked God to use the email messages to let the men know that they were important and that God noticed them.  I asked God to wake up the men to the need to be a part of something that would challenge and encourage them.

I sent the email messages.

One man at MANera told me that he received the message on the way to meet with someone.  He looked at the message on his phone and thought, "That is nice" and then went into the meeting.  The person then gave this man a shirt that said, "God has your back."  The man was stunned.  He knew that he had to go to MANera.

That is one example of how God used the email messages.  I don't know how he used the other 111 messages...

I continued to witness God's behind-the-scenes actions as more and more men threw down challenges to one another to show up.  I saw God raise up men to call out other men and invite them.

Back to the coffee idea...  I went to Panera on Wednesday to run the idea by the staff.  I told them that I wanted to buy the coffee for every man who said "MANera Coffee!"as part of his order.  The staff agreed.  As I was working, however, one of the staff members came over and said that she had spoken to the General Manager of that Panera.  He had told her, "The MANera guys have been supportive of us and I support what they are doing so much that I want to buy their coffee for them."

Once again, I was stunned...

I went outside and looked at the sky and prayed, "God, what are you doing?"  I then sat down and recorded an invitation (throw down) video (see it HERE).

By faith, I then contacted 4 more men and asked them to serve as group leaders.  All 4 agreed.  Their decision to join the group leaders increased the number of leaders to 20.  We seek to have 5 individuals per group at MANera.  As I ran the math, I realized that God had set up the capacity for 100 men (20 X 5 = 100).

I went to bed on Wednesday night with a holy sense of expectancy.  What was God going to do?  Was he really going to bring 100 men to MANera.  Would God really do something THAT crazy?

I woke up early and my adrenaline was flowing.  What was God going to do?

I prayed the prayer that I have been praying since November 2010 for this gathering of men - "Lord Jesus, may this morning be a blessing to you.  Wake us all up from our mediocrity and may no man who comes leave the same because you met him - for your glory."

I arrived in the Panera parking lot at 6:08 AM and there were already 5 guys standing in a circle.  We call this the tailgate party that meets before the doors open at 6:15 AM (they open early for us).

The cars began to pour into the parking lot.  We went inside around 6:15 AM and the line started to form.  By 6:42 AM, the entire Panera was full of men.

As I have said from the beginning - "At 9:30 AM, Panera is 95% women but at 6:30 AM Panera is 95% men because it is Man Time, it is the Man Era, Man-era at Panera!"

I barely remember what happened at that point.  I remember standing up in the corner to do the welcoming "throw down" but I was moved to the center in order for the guys to hear.  I remember looking around the Panera and seeing almost every seat occupied.  I remember asking, "Why do you show up here?  You can be doing anything else.  Why here? Why now?" and someone responding with "I'm here because I love my wife."  I remember one man thanking the Panera staff and then seeing 90 men stand up and clap for the staff.  I remember the General Manager (with tears welling up) saying how much he supported us.  I remember initiating a MAN UP award but then getting hit by 7-8 cinnamon rolls as a MAN UP award.  I remember breaking out into groups and seeing a sea of men in groups of 5 or 6 or 7 all around the Panera.  I remember thinking, "God is bigger than I could imagine and I should never limit him."

I remembered my prayer - "What am I missing?" and the answer "100".

I counted and saw that God had brought 90 men to MANera on Thursday 1/10/13 at the Panera near Virginia Center Commons Mall in Glen Allen, VA.

God has a sense of humor and I believe that he likes to surprise his children.  He surprised me.  He surprised the 90 men who showed up.  He surprised the Panera staff who take care of us every week.  He surprised everyone.

I think that he brought 90 men in order to keep us all willing to pray for the 100 (or more)...

This is not about numbers.  It is about impact - God's impact on real lives.

I share this story as a witness of what I saw and experienced.  I don't have any other reason for sharing this than to point to the God who does more than we ask or imagine, especially when we simply pay attention, listen, respond and walk by faith.

I don't know where this is all headed but I do know that God has a plan for it.

I look forward with expectancy...

How about you?

Matthew 19:26 - Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Focused Trajectory

Every decision we make impacts the trajectory of our lives.

Every decision that you made in 2012 added up to where you are today.

What about 2013?  What will inform your decisions?

What will set your trajectory?

I often hear people ask, "What is God's will for my life?  

I have heard this question echo from person after person in various forms.  "What does God want for my life?" "What is the right decision? "How do I know what I should do?"

Today, I saw one response that can point us in focused direction.  The You Version app Bible verse of the day is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

The apostle Paul gives one description of God's will - to be joyful, pray, give thanks...

We live in a world where we are surrounded marketing and advertisements. Recently, marketers have embraced simplicity thanks in good part to companies like Southwest Airlines.  One pattern that I have observed has been the use of the three-phrase description for a vision statement or company mission statement. "Go, Live, Win" and other examples abound.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 provides a focused trajectory or vision for your life - God's will or his loving intention and desire for you life.

Be joyful. Pray. Give thanks.

Be joyful always
Joy is deeper than fleeting & changing happiness.  Deep joy is oftentimes found in genuine relationships. To be always full of joy is a work of the Holy Spirit because joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Joy is something we can and should ask for. Joy is a gift that we can request.  We can request to be joyful always.

Pray continually
This too is a work of God because he invites us into prayer constantly.  God is always desiring to hear from us.  To pray continually means to be constantly open and listening for God's promptings and then responding to him in every situation - every conversion, every decision, every response to a person or situation.

Give thanks in all circumstances
If the first two are happening, then this one will flow from them. If God provides deep, soul-level joy and we constantly interact with God through prayer and know that he is there for us, then our automatic response will be to give thanks to God.  Gratitude is a marker of spiritual maturity and it flows from the first two actions here in relationship with God - the one to whom all thanksgiving is properly and wonderfully given!

Key Questions:
  • What informs the trajectory of your life?
  • What is God's will for your life?
  • How can you respond to the loving God through your moment-by-moment decisions?

Be joyful. Pray. Give thanks.
This is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  This provides a focused trajectory.

My Prayer: Almighty God, heavenly Father, may I follow your will as seen in these verses today. I ask for a focused trajectory in my life.  I need your grace to do this.  For your name's sake.  Amen

Monday, January 07, 2013

The Mystery of Relationships

Every relationship is unique.

Every relationship involves two unique individuals with unique life stories, experiences, struggles, frustrations and blessings.  These two persons come together and the interweaving of their life stories form a new story that is co-written together.

What contributes to a flourishing and deep relationship?

The depth of a relationship is dependent on the level of sharing and receiving by each person.  Every person is a mystery.  Knowing another person is an ongoing endeavor that requires paying attention and noticing what the other person reveals.  If both individuals commit to share and receive, then the connection can grow deeper as they hold one another's secrets and let those revelations inform and form their ways of relating.  

Sharing secrets requires a bold step of faith.  It can be scary.  

Listening to another person's secrets requires a bold step of faith.  It also can be scary.

If the two individuals, however, listen and hold each other's secrets and love one another nonetheless, then they can break through the surface and move forward together.

How do you relate to others?

Are you willing to share your secrets with another person?

Who knows you?

Are you willing listen to the secrets of another person?

What holds you back from taking the risk to enter into the mystery of relationships?

Friday, January 04, 2013

Leadership - Given or Earned?

I read an article last week regarding how the Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III earned the trust of his teammates, the organization and the fans (

I am not a Redskins fan. 
I am not a RG3 fan. 
I am, however, a fan of genuine leaders.

RG3 was drafted in the first round. He won the Heisman Trophy in college. He was set to take over arguably the most important position on the football field as the quarterback.  He did not show up, however, with an expectation that he would be anointed the leader. 

He slowly, organically, and respectfully earned the trust and respect of his teammates.  He built his leadership credibility one relationship, one conversation and one action at a time.  His story points to some questions regarding leadership and influence.

  • What makes a leader a genuine leader?
  • Why do some individuals garner the respect and trust of others?
  • What are the patterns of someone worth following?

In the 21st century, I see a clear pattern that leadership is not something that is automatically given to a person based on his/her position, title, set of degrees, initials before his/her name (Dr., Rev., etc).  In some circles, a person may still be given an initial set of leadership capital based on titles but the number of those circles is decreasing every day.

I believe that the ability to lead and influence comes from another set of considerations.

Action. Consistency. Humility. Genuine Care. Results. Problem Solving. Vision.

What leaders do you respect?

Is it because they have a title or a set of degrees or a specific position?
Or is it because they have built up trust and respect through demonstrated results over time?

I know who I respect as a leader and why?  Do you?