Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Give and Take of Creativity

If you have something of value to say, it will be repeated somewhere by someone who will fail to give you credit for being the original author of the thought. A few years ago, this began to happen to me on a regular basis. Someone would use a phrase I coined or a concept I had unpacked in a book or a blog article and then used it in the public square giving the impression they were the originator of the thought.

After authoring several books and posting hundreds of blog articles, I have come to a simple understanding. None of these downloads we get from God and publish under our name originate with us. They are God thoughts given to us as an act of grace. We freely give them because we freely received them. These heavenly downloads are the mind of Christ. They come to us to transform our thinking. When they arrive we process them and produce concepts in written or spoken form that reveal the heart of God. At some point, we need to give up our need to be seen as the original author of anything. It is really quite freeing to not carry the smoldering ember of this offense.

In some ways, we have allowed a business, copywriting and litigious mentality to seep into our way of doing Kingdom business. I understand the issues involved with copyrights and licensing, but in the end, we need to get free from thinking it all started with us when in fact anything of value we share comes from Heaven and entered our thinking process while we were still involved in the lifelong process of God renewing our minds.

A great peace comes when we choose to live with an open hand. Let God place things in your intellectual palm and allow people the opportunity to come and take whatever they want and do with it whatever they please. If they have a lack of character regarding what they took unrighteous credit for, a loving God will deal with them. This is a much better way to live because it will keep your heart free from offense and it will actually open up the way for the delivery of deeper revelations that only come when our hearts are not filled with offense or the need to demand recognition of authorship for something that was actually a gift to us, not our original creation.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Your Unfinished Letter

During World War II, my uncle Dan served in the Army. He carried a Thompson submachine gun and was on the front end of some of the major campaigns in the Pacific. I remember as a kid cutting weeds on his ranch in McArthur, California with a Japanese officer’s sword he picked up after he won out in a firefight with the officer. He never talked about the war. It was something painful in his past.

Uncle Dan had a twin sister, my aunt Beth. Once when visiting my aunt she showed me a letter written to her from my uncle during the war. The letter was brittle and brown from the passing of time.  Across the letter was streaked a stain of mud.  My aunt read the letter up to the point where the mud stain interrupted the writing. As my uncle began to write his letter their unit came under attack. A mortar exploded near my uncle streaking the letter with mud. My uncle had to stop writing to fight in yet another battle. Hours later, he returned to his writing apologizing for the interruption. He finished writing the letter from the point of the mud-stained interruption and sent the letter home to his sister.

As this memory came to mind, I thought immediately of some of you who were in the middle of a season of life when a personal war broke out. You may not have been in the middle of a world war, but it felt like it to you. It could have been a relationship that broke up, a ministry that fell apart or a business that went sideways. Before you is a promise mud-stained at the point of a painful interruption. The story of that chapter of your life is still unfinished. It is like my uncle’s wartime letter. After the battle, he returned and finished the letter. It is time to finish the letter of that painful season of your life. Don’t let it remained unfinished. Those of us back home need to hear that you made it through the conflict. Go back to the promise God gave you that was interrupted by the mud stain of personal conflict and finish your story.                                                                                

When the letter from my uncle finally arrived home it was held as a treasured possession of my aunt for many decades all the way up to her death at age 96. The mud stains on your life are part of your story. Write it and the rest of us will read your words with the honor and respect they deserve. Your finished letter will be to us a treasured possession.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Before You Speak

Six principles for private conversation and public discourse:                                                                

1. Discern the context before you speak.
2. Avoid words that dishonor individuals or sacred institutions.
3. Keep your humor above the beltline.
4. Treat each person with respect and honor.
5. Your adversary is a lie, not a person.
6. Undisciplined anger is your cue to remain silent.

Snake Oil Religion

There has been a productive tactic used by the purveyors of darkness ever since the first humans walked upon the face of the Earth. The tactic is really simple and continues to sell to this day. Lies are crafted using fear and doubt to create a product. Once the product is ready for market advertisers try to convince us why we need what is being offered as a remedy for our problem. These well-crafted lies are inserted into the hearts and minds of people using human logic to make the lie seem believable and rational. Once a product has a perceived value to the consumer it becomes a needed product in every household.

Fear-driven products sell. This was the tactic used by the snake oil dealers on the American frontier. When a snake oil dealer pulled his garish wagon into a naive small town, fear was hawked from the back of the wagon creating the consumer. “Good for what ails you!” was the promise. When the carnival-sounding words of fear finally took hold people begin to push through the captivated crowd with money in hand demanding their personal bottle of deception convinced it would ease the pain of their fear.

None of us move forward with fear, judgment or doubt. These things freeze our faith in a place of disbelief. This is why the voice of the Church must be one of hope and a better future. This way of thinking and living invites individuals and cultures to take the next steps needed to move us forward into the goodness of God and the hope of something better. Our other option is to dig deeper into our foxholes of disbelief swilling the potions of fear never finding true relief from what ails our soul. The enemy is always “out there” just beyond the no man's land of our fears. We continue to drink in the lies and toss our grenades at shadows.

Today, go to your spiritual medicine cabinet. Toss out your bottles of doomsday eschatology. Throw away the pills of separation that make you better than others. Flush the medicine of doubt about your future that crept in when you failed miserably. Sweep your hand across the shelves with the same intensity demonstrated by Jesus when He cleaned house that day in the Temple driving out the moneychangers.

This is a new day for you – a day created and intended to not have fear anywhere in your thinking or in the planning for your future. Anything that does not line up with faith, hope, and love needs to go.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Message From Your Future

In a couple of months, I will turn 68. I knew this time would eventually come, but it always seemed like it was a place in my distant future. Many times now, I am the older pastor in the room with other leaders. I have become a father in the faith. This future literally sneaks up on a person. It arrives in the middle of our assumptions of being forever young, at least in thought.
Jan and I realize this is the best time in our lives because we have brought with us our experience, our blessings, and a hope for more. None of this has been without the cost of struggling with our common humanity and our need to self-protect. We weathered these struggles with God and came out the other side still remaining useful for His purposes.
At this place in our lives, Jan and I are speaking most weekends in a different venue by invitation. We don’t advertise or make cold calls suggesting, “We have an open Sunday in June.” It simply happens through relationship. Jan and I continue to author books and mentor the willing. We are in that place leadership theorists describe as convergence. All our time and investment in life is coming together and moving with us as we step deeper into our calling. 
Your path may not resemble ours, but in your place of Kingdom assignment - whether a plumber, painter, policeman or whatever, you have learned valuable lessons others want to glean from your experience. All of these lessons and life-experiences will arrive with you in your future. They are to be shared with others as the fulfillment of your calling on Earth.
From the future, I want to speak to some of you who are behind me in chronological years. This can be a wonderful place when you get here, not because you arrive through any sense of personal perfection or thinking you have it all together. You arrive in this place of goodness having learned valuable lessons – all learned through the challenge of your own weaknesses and faulty assumptions.
Here are a few things I have learned and continue to learn:
Always choose to forgive.
Confront the lies that masquerade as truth.
Embrace your failures for in them is hidden your success.
Continue to expand your thinking – you know less than you realize.
God is good - always.
Rest is both a weapon and a refuge.
Believe the best.
I want to welcome you to your future. It is a place filled with more goodness than you could ever imagine. To see this goodness and taste its sweet fruit, you will need to continue trusting in God no matter what crosses your path. Trust is the vehicle God will use to deliver you into a happy and healthy future.
Those of us who have gone ahead of you are waiting in your future for your arrival to celebrate with you what you thought was impossible. With God, nothing is ever impossible if you continue to trust Him with each step on this journey called Life.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

9-1-1, What's Your Emergency?

Last week, I flew to Spokane, Washington and rented a car to drive to Libby, Montana where I was to minister for several days. The forecast was for snow during part of my stay so I was concerned with the three-hour drive I would have through the Rocky Mountains.

At the rental car desk, I asked if they had any all-wheel-drive vehicles. The desk clerk said they had one left. It was a hopped up Chrysler 300. The car was amazing. It had leather-heated seats, a big growly motor and a navigational system with a large screen display. It had way more bells and whistles than my 8-year-old Subaru Impreza. I felt I was sitting behind the command console of a Star Trek spacecraft.

Before I drove out of the rental lot, I took a few minutes to figure out the basic systems of the car just to be able to drive it. It had a push button start which seemed weird to me. Once I figured out how to move forward, I drove out of the rental lot into a slushy rain that was trying to become snow. The more I drove the car, the more I liked it. It had loads of power. I felt macho.

Somewhere between Sandpoint and Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, the bright headlights of a car behind me became annoying. I reached up to flip my rearview mirror like I do on my Subaru. What I did not realize was that a 9-1-1 emergency button was located on the mirror. When I hit the button a loud voice came on the speaker, “9-1-1, What's your emergency!” I yelled, “I don’t have an emergency. This is a rental car!” The screen on the navigational display started flashing an emergency message and making an alarm sound. I frantically started pushing every button on the dashboard and by the mercy of God, it somehow all stopped. My machismo drained out somewhere along the northbound lanes of Highway 95 just south of Bonner's Ferry. For the remaining two hours of my drive to Libby, I had time to think as I drove deeper into the mountains and as my heart rate and blood pressure slowly returned to normal.

Sometimes we create our own emergencies. Things happen that we did not intend to happen all because we pushed the wrong button. We can easily believe lies about the people we love and push the button of rejection. We can feel like the world is falling apart and end up pushing the button of hopelessness. We can push the button of assumption on all kinds of issues and create problems where no problem exists. Just like I did in the rental car, you need to find the button that set off all the alarms and disengage it to return your life back to a healthy place.

Have you hit the wrong emotional button lately? Just like it was when you hit the wrong button and set off the alarms of fear you can just as easily hit that same button and disengage yourself from the fruit of your mistake. It will make the remainder of the drive of your life a lot more enjoyable when all the alarms and false warnings finally go silent and you can return to the peaceful sound of God’s goodness.