Monday, February 26, 2007

The gym parking lot is fairly desolate when I arrive at 5:30 a.m. Yet, there is the faithful Mr. Back-In--an older, station wagon-like vehicle whose owner feels the need to back into the same parking spot nearly every weekday morning as most of the world slumbers.

Why, I ask you? What is the intrinsic value of leaving your parking spot three seconds sooner because you didn't have you worry about throwing the car into reverse and looking out for old ladies inching across the asphalt on their way to Pilates? I must know, I seek help to understand. Yet, the driver never is only the mysterious vehicle, eerily reminiscent of Stephen King's Christine...

These are things that puzzle me on the way to a good sweat.

Fast forward a couple of hours later this same Monday morning, and I'm in six lanes of traffic on U.S. 1. I'm unlucky enough to be behind the school bus that insists on stopping every quarter-mile on an incredibly busy road in order to gather children for FCAT-land. As I sit and glance about me at the sea of humanity--a lady gabbing on her cell phone, a dude eying his nose hairs in the rear view mirror--my radio is tuned to a local Christian station and Chris Tomlin is proclaiming,"How Great Is Our God," over and over.

Time sort of slowed down for a moment. Stuck in traffic, cell phones and nose hairs all around, somewhere across town Mr. Back-In with his car in drive, seeking to shave off a few seconds in order to add to a few goals, perhaps. How God Is Our God. Children on the way to school, a mixture of apathy, anticipation and nerves. How Great is our God.

I'm in my dry-cleaned shirt and dry-cleaned pants. My shoes, as usual, haven't had much of a shine in a while. The school bus finally begins to move. How Great Is Our God. I'm within striking distance of the office, where I'll mobilize whatever gifts and talents I have today for the sake of moving the needle in some positive direction. How Great Is Our God.

Why do we do the things we do? Do we think about where the things we do are taking us?

In the midst of all of it, the activity both intentional and routine, How Great Is Our God.

How do you recognize the voice of God in the seemingly inconsequential, everyday moments of mundane activity?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Encounters With God

"Each encounter is an encounter with God," said my good friend, Rick Roberts, tonight on the phone with me. "Jesus shows up unawares."

I needed to hear those type of words tonight. Whenever I call Rick I feel deeply moved by the Spirit. He's in his late 50s, and was a close friend of mine in seminary. We were in a small group with four or five other guys, and we met weekly for two years and poured our lives out before each other and before God. A two-time cancer survivor, he's seen and done it all at this point in his life and knows what matters the most.

On the phone, I was telling Rick how I am still trying to figure out how to be a "Christian" independent of an institutionalized religious role to play. My journey into faith and subsequent "professionalization" of that faith seemed to have blurred together in the early to mid 1990s. It's kept me in such a mode of doing rather than just being. Three years after taking a leave of absence from the pastorate, I'm still sorting out how to simply be still and know that he is God.

But Jesus shows up unawares. As Rick calmly pointed out, I probably haven't been paying attention as much as I could.

Rick always nails me. That's why he's a friend.

An Enduring Influence

Recently I had one of the gripping, so-close-to-reality dreams about my father, Frank, who died 19 months ago this Monday. He suddenly appeared next to me as I was listening to some worship music, and I instinctivley hugged him. In my dream it was a real embrace, similiar to dreams of months past where I have felt his razor stubble or cried real tears as I hugged him with the intent of not letting go. I always awake, and he is not there, of course.

But in many ways he remains with me. Among the priceless treasures found in his home office was a dusty, black folder that was slick to the touch. Opening it, I realized it was his appointment calendar—from 1980, when he was in his mid-50s and really just entering the prime of his sales and recruiting career.

The 12 months are sprinkled with countless appointments, to-do lists, phone numbers, minutia, etc. Things to get done, things crossed out that have been done, things to follow up on. Just the sight of his neat penmanship reminds me of his energy, of his focus, of his intentional way of living and working.

But the deeper sense of his deliberate way of motivating himself and others shone through in what he scribbled across the top of every single page. He jotted down platitudes, phrases, nuggets of wisdom—things he had picked up from others, ideas he had cultivated from books, philosophies he had put together himself. Combined, they read like a small gift book of inspirational thoughts, like the kind you would find set neatly on someone’s coffee table, like a volume you’d select as a present for someone’s graduation or another milestone kind of day.
Having soaked in many of my Dad’s positive, intentional statements during the 37 years I was blessed to be in his presence, I could picture his mind and pen at work as he poured through the days and weeks, planning and plodding.

I see him in January 1980, when I am just a month shy of my 12th birthday, writing in his calendar to, “Make it happen this year…Tune in to the right people…Tune in to the right frequencies…Think Big!”

I dream of him in springtime, in April, encouraging himself to “Keep up the good work…Keep on the ball…Picture the kind of week you want.” I imagine him in the throes of summer, jotting down in June, “STOP! Do not touch that phone...unless you have enrollments on your mind. Then go to it, man,” and “Nothing is too good to be true!!” I can almost feel him next to me in July as he tells himself, “Do not let anything discourage you…Keep you mind on your goal.”
As fall emerges, in October, he tells himself, “What man says of another will be said of him. And what he wishes for another he is wishing for himself,” and, “Now is the time to sell.” And as the holidays and the end of the year draw near, he reminds himself, “Good things are coming to those who are ready and deserving…Let's get the winning feeling.” He even admonishes himself, asking, “Where the hell is the spirit?”

It’s amazing how much of your parents can rub off on you. I spend a lot of time trying to motivate myself and others—I can’t get enough of a good book by a great thinker, I love the energy of positive people, of a great conference or workshop. I celebrate those who are intentional about living an inspired life that makes an impact. In more ways than one, I feel like I am carrying on my father’s life, continuing his work.

There’s certainly been a void in my life since he transcended this world. But yet there also is a deep comfort, a sense of peace, a knowledge that his endearing smile is still falling upon me in some way. I’ve realized I was incredibly fortunate to have the Dad I did, and now I want to ensure that I pass on the blessing. I have two little girls and, God willing, many calendars still to fill.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Work and Interests

I've been doing some deep thinking about my "vocational priorities" today. There are three of them that serve as the main streams for numerous tributaries, and they appear to be Writing, Teaching and Organizational Development type of work.

As I brainstormed the key tributaries that I want to flow out of these streams, I also realized the vitality of keeping my main interests in mind. Based on looking at what seems to make me tick, these are my main interests, not necessarily in order:

· Spirituality
. Family and friends
· Books
· Magazines and Journals
· Film
· Theater
· Health and fitness
· History
· Travel
· Good Food
· Interesting conversation

How much do your vocational pursuits intersect with your key interests?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

When to Blog?

How many of you regular bloggers have a system in place for the times of day when you blog? I'm a creature of routines, whether working out, writing my deeper stuff, food shopping, etc. What enables you to execute a steady blogproduction?? :-)

Monday, February 19, 2007


Recently I headed to the gym at 5:20 a.m., as I often do. Sometime near the end of my sweaty cardio and strength-training routine, I noticed a cotton seam along my right shoulder and realized my tank top had been inside-out the entire time.

Now, I care very little about the condition of my clothing at a gym before sunrise, providing that it is at least not in tatters or too smelly. Others might have recoiled in horror and rushed to the locker room. I shrugged it off, wondering if anyone could adequately attire themselves at such an early hour and continued my stretching.
But it got me thinking.

Inside-out. We tend not to present ourselves in such a manner, at least not in a dignified sense; talk-shows and trash TV are full of uncritical thinkers who display their internal malaise for all to absorb. But the truly substantive perspectives and vulnerabilities that traverse along the inside—these are hindered by peer-or-self-inflicted pressures, and an all-consuming image awareness made ubiquitous by a market-driven society.

In his new book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, Philip Yancey notes how the Japanese have two words that help describe this dynamic of being one person on the outside and someone else within: tatemae and hon ne, respectively. Our culture has various terms for each as well—such as “false and authentic,” “front and raw.” Sometimes, we just carelessly toss out the declaration “hypocrite” to dismiss the whole dualistic dynamic.

The application of this last word does more harm than good; the one who publicity utters it should pause and examine the length of his own delta between the tatemae and the hon ne. There are forces, both internal and external, that compel each of us to, at some degree, feel we must make a choice between the two.

I wonder if my freedom to wear a tank top inside-out could encourage others to do the same. Now, I’m not really trying to start a revolution in this niche; perhaps it is a simplistic or even silly metaphor. But sweaty athletic attire aside, I wonder about the correlation between my degree of “safety” in authenticity and the sense of safety experienced by the person in front of me.

What I am trying to say is that authenticity breeds authenticity, even if results in the other person take time to materialize. Your bold decision to “keep it real” creates a healthy space where someone else can let their hon ne hang out all over the place. The decision is chosen with each encounter, and as authenticity builds momentum will become more natural. Each person who enters into this conspiracy of authenticity infects someone else, eventually transforming entire groups of persons and entire organizations.

This blog in which I occasionally make actual entries (!) is titled "Toward Authenticity." I dare not lay audacious claim to having destroyed the delta between my tatemae and hon ne, but am hopeful that I am at least journeying toward the proper destination. We are nudged a little closer by each transparent person we encounter, and the delta shrinks like brand-new cotton workout attire.

Who do you know who helps you to be "inside-out?"