Archive | April, 2012

Surprise! We think you’re great!

30 Apr

I have this chronic need to be liked. Maybe it’s normal; maybe it isn’t. Maybe I should change; maybe it’s OK. At any rate, you would think that someone like me would be a huge fan of being the center of attention. That I would look for ways to be the center of attention at all costs is—in fact—an assumption that many, who meet me, make. Yet, there is something that prohibits me from wanting to celebrate trivial things, like say, my birthday.

I cannot give a precise reason as to why, but I think it has something to do with not wanting to force people to give me dap. If they are going to praise me, I want it to not be because I tell them a simple fact about me, like today is the anniversary of my birth or I just made a sale or I have a pretty wife or any of another of a myriad of good things about my life that I could say. Now before I talk too much about my own neurosis, let me get down to the real subject.

The Surprise Birthday party. To me, it is the best of any potential party. It allows people to celebrate me, where I had absolutely nothing to do with the encouragement to do so. If they are giving mad props for the reason that it is my birthday and I had absolutely nothing to do with their desire to do it, then it makes me feel that the love is genuine. And genuine love can never be shortchanged, nor should it be discounted. It is an awesome gift!

Lest you think this is a (wink, wink) appeal for my readers to throw me a surprise party, I can assure you that my birthday is nowhere near this time. I am safely in the catregory of 35 (and I haven’t even earned the “half” my kids are always trying to claim). And if you want to throw me a surprise anniversary party, you had better include my wife in the planning, as she is not a fan of being the recipient of a surprise party. And including the subject of a surprise party is just kinda lame.;)

I am thinking about this, because this weekend was one of surprise parties. My friend was judging the Sunshine State Association of Christian Schools, music and speech contest. I was giving a ride back and had to speak with the whole family, as they were planning a surprise gathering. I hope it went well and wasn’t rescheduled to tonight!

On the other hand, I spent Friday evening with Paige Cousins, who was turning 40 and having a surprise party. I think she was truly surprised, but the thing that really struck me is that she didn’t need to be. She had a husband (by the way, Jeff, I’m not sure I like you setting the bar so high for the rest of us human husbands) who planned an evening to honor her. There were forty or so guests there to pay tribute to her wonderful life (not to mention the forty or so more who joined by video).

That is the beauty of the surprise party. I read today that the idea stems from cultures where people were killed after a party in their honor, but I think that is just an untrue rumor, based on the fact that people are usually only honored in such a way at their funeral. The reality is that when honored appropriately, people are more alive after such a party. And, in this particular case, I felt honored to have played a very small role in such a noteworthy life.

When a group of people come together to say, “This is Your Life” and we want to be proud of you, it is an incredible thing. To me, the crying shame is that so often we wait until someone has passed away to gather in their honor to say wonderful things about them. The surprise party is the first fix of such a travestical system, and I am glad that it was brought to my attention again this weekend!


Tough Providence

28 Apr

Being a theological sort of person, I like to talk with others about this thing I call, “Tough Providence.” For those of you less inclined to talk about such things, it is our way of recognizing God is in control of everything that happens and yet saying that we would not have chosen the same path He did for us to arrive where we did. The whole thing gets me to thinking, “Doesn’t everything that happens in our lives fall under the category of Tough Providence?”

Those things that tend to go the way we want, we rarely focus on the providential factor anyway. Surely, we believe that God is Sovereign over all creation and that our lives cannot be excluded from this formula. While we accept this on a theological front, we are often functionally not in concert with that. We feel that we create our own good fortune.

I was having a discussion with someone just today about how the unsaved man believes that God occasionally helps him along in all the greatness he does. Now, to be sure, God does allow our inputs to have a bearing, and thankfully, He does use us to accomplish His purposes. However, I feel that much of the time even we who are spiritual think things are all working out well, because of us.

The reality is that I am often thankful when He decides to show me my own incapability. This is ultimately for our benefit, as it allows us to refocus on Him and give the proper credit and live a submissive life. God is around the world accomplishing things, and I am just glad that the things in my little corner of the globe, over which he has given me accountability, sometimes turn out well, despite my shortcomings.

While that is definitely true, it is also true that knowing this concept theoretically does not make it easier when things we don’t like, happen. This brings me back to my original point. All of these things that God does for and through us that are not what we would choose are “Tough Providence.”

If Joseph and Daniel in the Bible had difficult things, despite never committing any big wrongdoing, I am certain that there is no way I can avoid it. Now I can rest in the fact that my God has never failed me before and will never fail me. I know that things will work out according to the good of me, when I am loved of God. Nevertheless, it would be nice to have knowledge of the end of the running commentary of my life, so I can see HOW.

I guess when things like my church finally getting a Certificate of Occupancy doesn’t seem to be happening as quickly as I hope or plan, I somehow think God is failing us. What I would like to say is that God, in His Sovereignty, knew that this time would be better for His church. I don’t know why this delay is necessary, but I do know that God has known, and I will rejoice in the fact that God is continuing to build us toward the great things He has for us to accomplish in the building. I just really want to know what exactly we need to learn to make it happen!:)

Never Give Up!

26 Apr

I think Peyton Manning is the best quarterback ever, and the fact that Bill Polian picked him when most of the people I read, at the time, were plugging Ryan Leaf makes Polian a tremendous visionary. Polian has won three NFL Executive of the Year awards and his legacy is pretty much cemented as a great football man. Nevertheless, his job was to build a good team and after years of speculation, it became clear when Manning sat out the 2011 season that he did a poor job at building that team around Manning.

If asked who the greatest NBA coach ever is, I think I’d have to say Phil Jackson, despite the fact I never really liked him. Nevertheless, at the end of the Shaq-Kobe era, when they had picked up Payton and Malone and looked unstoppable in the early playoffs, he was significantly outcoached by Larry Brown. The same Larry Brown who senselessly refuses to use rookies.

I believe my father is perhaps the best Bible Quiz coach ever, yet I can remember a specific quiz where he got out-coached. I think even the best preachers ever have a sermon or two that lacks the normal quality. I think the best radio host will have an occasional show that is not listenable, and the best band ever didn’t hit gold on 100% of their songs. In short, even the best are not perfect.

This is simultaneously encouraging and discouraging to me. It is discouraging to know that try as I might, I will fall short. I will never achieve perfection (some of you are thinking that I shouldn’t worry, as I’m not even remotely close). I guess in my depraved nature it encourages me to know that everyone else is feeling the same sting of failure that I so often feel. Not sure if that should encourage me, but in some small way, it does.

What it really says to me, however, is not that I need to be encouraged, but that I can never stop striving. If even those who have achieved (and are so recognized for) greatness fall short, I need to not settle. If I am striving for something and appear to achieve it, I need to strive harder or for something greater. Life is full of small challenges, and I cannot rest.

So, I am now committed to persistently strive to be a better husband, father, and friend. I likewise committed to persistently strive for better at memorizing, studying, and applying Scripture. I am going to persistently strive for being a better steward of the time, money, and business opportunities God gives me. And most of all, I want to commit to persistently strive to be the best man of God I can be!

Anyone Want Some Advice?

24 Apr

I am in a situation right now, where I am giving incredible advice. I have told the person exactly what the repercussions will be of a variety of decisions, and told them which decision would be the best course of action for them to take. While I know my wisdom in this area of expertise is amazingly thorough, I still cannot make these people believe that my 17 years of experience as a real estate agent, including seven as a real estate instructor and ten as an attorney, really allow me to speak with expertise.

On the other hand, they are listening to the advice of another counselor, who probably knows a fair amount also. Although from my vantage point, I can see they are clearly excited about the fact that they can receive money from their advice. It isn’t that they are giving necessarily bad advice, so much as that it is advice that is motivated by extra factors.

While I am on the outside, I can see this so clearly. Similarly, when I see my children doing things, I can often see that they are making the incorrect decision. The deal is, though, that as they start to age, my requirement that they follow my advice cuts off their ability to grow into learning the correct decisions themselves. I’m sure this is my something my parents struggled with also (although, I was the perfect decision-maker at the earliest of ages).

So the balancing act of when to allow them to start making decisions is a difficult one, but when you are dealing with people whom you are only working with, that ability was never present. So, how do we stand on our advice without trampling their individuality, yet let them know that we are knowledgeable on a subject and what should happen?

That is the predicament in which I find myself. I need to give advice and then just rest in the fact that I am not responsible for whether or not they take it. Allowing God to work in their lives through the wisdom I give without understanding whether or not they listened to me is tough. As Baz Luhrman says, “Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it!

It is also difficult to understand that there is someone out there giving advice completely contrary to mine and knowing that it is not as sound. Nevertheless, I can let my character and knowledge speak for themselves and take comfort in the fact that I am a legend in my own mind with my penchant for absolute correct-ness.:)

Can a Blogger Get a Little Love?

22 Apr

How do we judge our worth in modern society? Tonight, I was at the bachelor party of my good friend, Dr. Know, and there were a few embarrassing videos that people wanted to post. They were going around the table asking how many FaceBook friends everyone had, so they could determine whom they should tag to maximize the embarrassment for the people in question before they got home and could tag us all. Amazing that we were judging value by FaceBook friends!

On the other hand, I feel that many of us determine our self worth from the numbers. I have another friend, Marc Ryan, whose very contract includes clauses based on the number of twitter followers he has. (Therefore, you should follow him on twitter if you can). The fact that it isn’t just a group of guys with an embarrassing tea-pot video judging by that, but big and profitable corporations.

I further believe that we tend to judge our own worth based on the social media feedback of others. For example, if I write two wall posts on FaceBook and one gets 13 likes and another gets 5 likes, I am bound to think that my thought that received 13 likes was far superior and bound to influence my thinking for any and all later statuses. I had this discussion with a friend once, but it is almost impossible to not recognize that much of our feeling of quality work is influenced by the feedback of others, often in environments where the options for feedback are limited to a couple of weird options.

That leads me to blogging. The question of how bloggers determine how good their blogs are is probably mostly driven by the number of people who read the blog or the number of people who comment. I mean the number of reasons people blog is probably as varied as the gross number of bloggers out there, but just about anyone would like to think that others like their work, at least to some degree.

People pour themselves into a blog post, and often people’s reaction to it is nondescript. Yet, I believe that even a quick note stating the mediocre reaction to the post would be appreciated by the writer. So, consider this a plea that when you read a blog, leave a comment. Even if it is merely a score on a 1-10 scale, that would be cool. And definitely feel free to give this blog a bad grade, so I can continue to feel bad about myself!

Worried in a Wanton World

20 Apr

Every man’s life is impacted by a wide variety of things. Some of those things that impact us are things of which we are absolutely aware right away. On the other hand, there are things that God works together, through His Sovereignty, that have a huge impact on our life and yet, we are largely unaware of them.

When I was young, I felt everything was always perfect. My parents never made any mistakes, and there were never issues that had “gray area” to them. Right was right and wrong was wrong, and the answer was always easy to find—just ask the adult closest to you.

Of course, then I grew up (a little) and realized that decisions are not always easy. determining the correct thing to do often took asking SEVERAL grown ups, who then give you conflicting advice, praying about it over and over again, and then finally settling on something that you just didn’t quite 100% feel was the right move, but you needed to take some action.

While I think as adults we realize that it is sometimes possible for opposing sides to both be correct, I think more often than not, it is merely a sign of the curse. We live in, are surrounded by, and are completely affected by sin. This means that we are often left with a distorted view of what should be.

For example, my wife and I have been happily married for a few years now (3 out of 14 ain’t bad, I guess). In this time, our disagreements have been mostly small, but one revolves around the existence of light in our room, especially as the hour for sleep comes around. I am like a little child who is afraid of the dark, while she is like a mature person who likes it pitch black.

Then, I leave town for a week and upon my return, mysteriously, the light in our room had been “broken” by one of the children. They didn’t just turn it off, take out the bulb, or break something a fat man with a small handyman skill-set could fix, but rather the entire chain that one must pull to make the light come on is jammed.

Now, the truth is that I’ve been fortunate enough to never question whether I received a heaping helping of God’s grace in my marriage covenant relationship, but the curse distorts my view. I am unable to see the truth of the light because I want to blame my absence or my children’s lack of concern over my fear of the dark, when what I should see is that my wife and children love and care for me, and they want me to see clearly, but things on this earth are not perfect.

The reality is that this is the same plight we have in our every day lives with those we work, live, and play. We may want them to see the truth of the light, but the fact is the curse is distorting their view. The sin in which they are inundated and surrounded is collapsing around them, and they are unable to see clearly what is correct. While we long for the day when we shall see perfectly, we must continue for now in this cursed world.

The best way around this is to show those, around whom we live, work, and play, the love of God whenever we can. And perhaps this means to occasionally let them know that our outlook, too, was distorted by sin’s curse and we just couldn’t see clearly. Now, if you were expecting me to write about the things about which we are unaware, you allocate much more knowledge to me than I actually possess. As I do not know those things that are unknown, I just wrote about how we try to live rightly in a cursed world, where there are those things for which we must trust God’s Sovereignty.

Truth is Stranger than Fiction?

18 Apr

If you are approximately my age, odds are you don’t have the time to read this. Assuming you actually make that time, you probably grew up with Star Wars as a part of your consciousness. Of course, if you didn’t like learning about “The Force,” there are countless other alternative realities with which you may be familiar. The great thing about this is we can have a whole different world in which you can imagine you live (and our friends know that same world).

It’s nice to be able to take our minimal imagination and still have an entirely fictional world in which we can live or think. Yet the fact that we all know the rules of our new world, does not mean that these worlds are really normal. Just because Lucasfilm is able to make it look good on the big screen does not mean it would either look good (or even happen) in real life. Fiction is created for the express purpose of putting us in a world where the impossible is possible.

The greatness of that escape is, in my opinion, one of the primary reasons that we love escaping reality for a while. The great part about parachuting into a world in which we do not really exist is that we can see when something that is about to happen and either warn the potential victim or just not feel permanent repercussions. In the real world, we occasionally see impending doom and just can’t stop it. Sometimes we fret over what might happen for weeks on end.

Good fiction will keep the person captivated for a while, but at the end of the day, only people with mental problems invest as much in fiction as they do in reality. The fact is that we have grown so used to fiction that we can often predict what will happen, whereas real life is usually unpredictable. Some try to predict. Some are good at it. When real people are trying to adjust outcomes in different ways, life is unpredictable.

I guess that unpredictability is why we actually say and think that the truth is stranger that what we see, read about, or hear in the fictional realm. Nevertheless, fiction is created to be strange. We have determined a world where we think mere unpredictability is strange, and I think that is bad. We should relish the unpredictability. We should be excited by the fact that as we go through our world, we do not know what will happen.

I believe that the world in which we exist is strange, largely because we think it is weirder than these sub-real worlds we create. We create “reality” TV that has writers. At any rate, I think the world is filled with capricious people and we never know what might happen. Relish and enjoy it, because if you ever attempt to entertain yourself with fiction, eventually you’ll get to the point where it all seems redundant!