Night Visitor

Shortly after midnight
soft footfalls
shatter silent slumberings…
shaking quickly awake,
cobwebs of dread
flow with every
thundering
heart beat.
groggily I peer through
sleep crusted eyes
as
her hair,
tangled and spilling
everywhere…
She pads to the
foot of our bed
shadows casting
long
and ominous…
bad dreams recounted,
replacing
sleep with
assurances of sunrise
and what
was two
in
a
bed
becomes two and a half,
with
one tossing
and turning
checking the closets
with continued
studied gaze…

some day soon
all of this
will end
and I will miss
her
footfalls
and the sweet
refrains of assurances
late at night
because the sunrise
is coming soon.


“The Art of Reconstruction”

There other day, while dropping off my children at school, I had an epiphany. It wasn’t some sort of vision from heaven like Isaiah did in chapter six of his book, but rather a visual lesson that I feel God shared with me. First of all, let me preface this with saying that I’m not the typical “God sent me a vision” sort of person…It’s not something that typically occurs, nor am I out there looking for signs from Heaven (although maybe I should start).

So I’m driving to my children’s school and out of the corner of my eye I see one of the many beautiful properties that surround the neighborhood where I live and it is currently under construction.

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You might be saying to yourself, “okay, that doesn’t really seem like an epiphany or even anything remotely resembling a vision.”
Bear with me…

As I view this sight in front of me, I have one of those “ah-ha moments”. The kind that occurs when something or everything just seems to fall into place and finally makes sense. Have you ever had one of those? This specific “ah-ha moment” happens in an instant but the scenario takes time marinate and unfold in my brain:

There were many workers all over that home and property. All of them doing their jobs, but out in front of the home there was this huge eye-sore. It was a very large mountain of rubble. It was all rubbish, old bricks, ruined mortar, dirt and anything else considered to be elements of the old, discarded pile that could not be salvaged or reused in the rebuild.

From an outsider’s perspective this pile of garbage was all that I could focus on. It was all that I could see. The old, yet beautiful home was in severe disrepair as the reconstruction was taking place. It did not look inviting nor habitable in that current state. From the untrained eye, such as I am, the entire structure and surrounding property looked to be now worthless and nonrecoverable. Was I right in thinking this? Well, in that specific moment – yes. It was not a place that was presently livable…and yet I was also completely and utterly wrong. I had a limited window of vision (pun intended). What limited understanding and concept of patience within this reconstruction was obvious. But the funny thing about reconstruction is, well, the RE… It is being REbuilt, REestablished, REmodeled, REnewed.

I imagine that is what Nehemiah’s vision for Jerusalem was all about. He saw the rubble, he wept over the condition of the exiles and their capital city and he determined to do something about it. He envisioned what the completed walls would once again look like. Then in chapter 6 verses 15 and 16 of Nehemiah he saw the fruition of the reconstruction process, “So on October 2nd the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. 16 When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.

This is vision.
This is what it takes to tear away the broken down, molded over, ruined pieces of what once was so that the present and the future might soon exist again.

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Having vision is risky. Having vision involves living with the eye-sore in the temporary so that the permanent might have a firm foundation that will last. Having vision means that there will be opposition with limited to no imagination of what the future should or could look like contrary to what has been already known. Having vision means there will be tears shed, there will be heartache, sleepless nights, passions expressed and sometimes disagreements shared. It is often the road less traveled because an easier route is present. That easier road is all about preserving the crumbling foundation for as long as possible. Protecting what was instead of investing in what can be. The easier road is the band-aid for a life and career preserved instead a life and career freely given. It is the bowing out of responsibility over that of image, reputation and prominence. If we are not prepared for the fall out and rubble then we ought not tread on property soon to be under construction, and instead take the easier route.

Reconstruction disturbs present in order to survive and to thrive in the future. (Sorry Catherine Booth, I took some liberties there)…

So where is the art within this reconstruction?
Let me just say that this metaphor of construction is being applied in principal to organizational structure and re-organizational structure…

3 Principals Within The Art of Reconstruction:

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1) Innovation from the first floor...
There is a tendency within organizations to only listen to the top tier leadership, while those on the ground, or first floor have just as much of a vested interest, if not more. After all, who will eventually replace the current leadership and cast the vision for a future generation? The answer? – those currently on the first floor.

In order to win at the reconstruction process (and by win I mean succeed) there needs to be an investment in innovation from the ground floors. Those companies that allow freedom of thought, creativity and innovation to be utilized see a far more harmonious and successful organization all around. When these characteristics are encouraged and cultivated there is a deepening of the foundations, a re fortification of the walls and a better chance at a lasting reconstruction to the organization.

The key is, though, not to placate or pretend to involve the first floor if their innovations and thoughts will not ultimately be considered or used. For if this is the case, then just stop the pretenses and plod on with your own self-designed vision. Chances are, you will already have lost members of your team and you will only discourage free-thinking innovators under the guise of first floor innovation. In other words, let your yes be yes and your no be no and stop pretending to include others if your organizational system doesn’t allow it…it is disingenuous and disparaging to pretend other voices matter.

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2) Sharing the labor and vision
The structures of successful companies and organizations stem from the group as a whole and not a messiah leader at the top. Let’s be frank, there was only one Jesus and we are not Him…although we ought to strive to live like Him. Therefore, perhaps this emulation of Jesus ought to also be present in the office, board room and beyond. Taking this one step further, what would it look like organizationally if we were to emulate the Acts 2 Church? Their purpose was to live in community with one another, help each other, share the good news and it says that many were added to their numbers daily. (Acts 2:47)

Today, we compete against each other, we compare our responsibilities and “privileges” with that of others and we vie for position of ever increasing responsibility and power. This is certainly a drab account of things, but it is fairly accurate by and large? So what is missing in the reconstruction and rebuilding? I believe it is the Cornerstone – Jesus and our pure Christ-like attitudes. If we are to experience a successful reconstruction and/or realignment of mission, we cannot move without this piece first being present. When we have a shared labor, and a committed unified vision, then and only then are we able to put that newly constructed wall up…because the footings and foundation is deeply rooted in the Cornerstone of Christ and Godly principals of observed and put into practice.

3) Include Opposing Views

Are we really looking intently at change or are we just looking for ideas that share our already decided conclusions? It can be challenging to include those with whom you do not always see eye to eye with, but this kind of tension and resistance is healthy to organizations. The mark of true leadership is the willingness to include and to listen to opposing thoughts, ideas and opinions.

To be fair, those views and opinions may not always be correct, and we may challenge notions that oppose our preconceived concepts and ideas…this friction and tension spurs on the creative juices of diversity and innovation in us all. We need this friction and we need to be challenged. This is a good thing to take place. If we are not willing to listen to opposing sides then our reconstruction could be in jeopardy, because dare I say, none of us are infallible.

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4) Celebrate Within the “Pardon Our Dust” Moments…
lastly, here’s a bonus principal in the art of reconstruction…it’s a freebie but very, very important nonetheless:
Celebrate within the “pardon our dust” moments. What do I mean by that? First this acknowledges that we do not currently have all of the answers or building pieces in place yet. AND THAT IS OKAY!!! Let’s not pretend to have it all worked out all of the time, because we are not fooling anyone with that facade. When we can celebrate the “baby steps” while actively engaged in these “pardon our dust” moments within the reconstruction, we are saying, “we aren’t where we use to be, and we aren’t where we want to be…but we are making process and we are heading in the right direction!” As a team, this means we have a desired completed project aim and while taking those steps it is important to see how far we’ve come, and to celebrate those micro-victories! This winning attitude brings confidence in the team around you, inspires others to keep moving forward and when we celebrate make it a point to honor and acknowledge those individual efforts that made it possible. When we celebrate the team and individuals who have helped spur the forward momentum, we are ensuring that momentum continues.

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Here’s another brick in the wall (sorry Pink Floyd)…something more for us to ponder together. Blessings on you!

Let me down.

Let me down
let my ashes
drift home
tried to love
you
the sun set
too soon.

bones too brittle
smile worn thin
it all comes down
all
broken in.

sun sets
darkness falls
eyelids flutter
broken walls
once so strong
built for years
turned on me
realized fears.

Let me down
let my ashes
drift home
been gone
too long
bones too brittle
hands too weak
heart grows
cold…
let me down.

Psalm 13 Revisited

O Lord, do not continue
this silent treatment for one more moment
for my heart can’t take it any longer.
My soul is a dried up husk of what it
used to be.
I cannot sleep, and when I do
my rest is filled with troubled dreams.

I have been looking,
ever searching for you…
why are you hiding?

I can not take
this hurt of abandonment
any more,
O Lord hear my
gasping,
lung-rattling cries.
I cannot shed anymore
tears, for the well
has dried up.

And my thoughts,
they are running circles
around my broken heart…

I keep second-guessing you,
I keep pleading for this horror to end
How long, O Lord, will you let it fester
and consume me?
I don’t think I can
make it much longer.

But even after all of this…

even if You never answer my cry…

even if I am left alone
on this hill to die on…

I will trust.

I will put all that I have
of my wilting
strength into
your Eternal hands.

But Lord,
wake me up,
Help me see even the
remotest chance
of victory.

Help me see the Light
at the end
of all of this…
even if it comes
in the last moments
in the final dying gasp
of these feeble lungs.

My enemies are already starting to jeer
And they are celebrating my demise
…and yours as well.
They cannot wait for me to fall flat
on my face
in disgrace
and embarrassment.

But even if that happens…
even if I walk this
cold, dark alley alone,
I will trust
in your unfailing,
immeasurable
eternal love…

I know that You will come
You have always
kept your promises
to me.

You have always
been good to me…
even in this dark place…
O Lord, please come.

(As I read this Psalm of David, I could feel the anticipation and fear, perhaps even a little bit of frustration. We have all been to this place, perhaps the circumstances are different than that of David’s, but within these phrases there flows an emotion that we can all relate to. It is within this vein, that I have placed my needle and poked us all…perhaps in the bleeding we might see not only the very real presence of pain and fear, but more importantly – God’s holy and eternal presence…He will never leave us or forsake us.).

-Something more to ponder today.

Living In Boxes

Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.
― Shel Silverstein

I fear we have often times fixated on the impossible and the improbable in our lives so much so that we have been conditioned to dream limited dreams.
We pay more attention to our limits while ignoring the unlimited creativity God has given to us. It is far easier to remain in the “what is known” which is a place of comfort and familiarity, as opposed to taking risks into the “what is unknown”, where our mettle will be truly tested and often times doubts reside.

But…

Isn’t that where God calls us to?

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We cannot always live on the mountain…
for when we stand within the shadows of the valleys – our true persistence, endurance, fortitude and self-realization is put to the test. Rubber – meets road. Theories are naked and vulnerable. Dreams, and half-baked ideas are born, kicking and screaming and we are met with the ‘doing’, the verbs of our adjectives, the dirt under half-bitten-out-of-stress finger nails, the tension of the borderland of what is known and the mystery of the untested, yet-to-be-unleashed, uncertainty of tomorrow “unknown”.

It is in the throws of conflict, labor, action after dream, tumult after tranquility that we find exhilaration in actual living.

Boxes are ripped open…
These four square walls of ruts and routines,
well worn trails of tradition, shoes worn thin in
the same hallways day after day…Is
turned upside down.
toss on its head.
Head-over-tea kettle.

And we breathe deeply fresh, unknown air.
God takes us onto these paths.
Breaks our traditions.
All the while constantly walking alongside us,
whispering His love, and encouragement.


Without the tension – faith is fat and lazy.
without the trials – persistence and endurance is sloth on the couch
eating potato chips.
without the fear of walking – the infant will never grow and develop
into its full potential as an adult.

God leads us out of our boxes…
for a purpose.
So we don’t don the robes of comfortable Pharisees;
content in passing judgement
but never truly risking anything.

God leads us out of our boxes…
so we can truly live.
so we learn to actually walk on our own.
so that we actually think for ourselves
so that this faith…
is our very own.

Are you in a box?
Perhaps it’s time to be served our eviction notices…
so that God, in all of His excellent glory
might lead us into Greater things.

A Hero’s Song (A Poem)

When the light
began
to wan and
the ember glow
of dusk,
casting shadows
Tall, deep
and foreboding…

When I
was a child
my father,
tall and
impossibly
strong,
towered over me
perhaps he wore
a cape
but his cape
were the stories
he would read
to Sherry and me.
perhaps he
could bend
steel
but the steel
he would bend
were the words
of the page
bringing Lazarus
or was it
Charlie,
Mr Wonka
Or Danny the
champion of the world
to life.
I lived there
among those pages
the light ignited
heroes to be grasp
Weaving in between my life
dreams.

now
when the
sun starts to wan
Glowing shadows
linger and groan
arms outstretched
as if to reach toward
those pages…

and I take up
my hero’s cape
crawl into my
children’s bed
and utter the sweet
song of fiction
in the hopes that heroes
will still be born
and ignited
in their hearts.

Talk. (a poem)

There are days that I can’t be lone.
Alone with my own thoughts.
Thoughts that bind.
blind.
rewind my mind
until I find that I am helplessly
reliving regrets from my past.

Like a chain around my throat
the thoughts haunt me.
Thoughts that chill.
See to kill.
Fulfill all my darkest fears
of “i’m not good enough”
and
“I’ll never measure up.”

Talk.


It’s like I’m lost in the darkest cave
no lights to light my way.
I can feel it breathing deep
creeping.
Sleep is a lost cause
until I find rest
But, empty and cold
I am attempting to deafen
its voice.

My choice?
I can’t divorce this
escape this
I confess
I don’t want to be alone
with my thoughts.
So…
Come talk to me.

Flying Like An Eagle…Afraid of Heights?

My Amazing Wife flew like an Eagle…I on the other hand flew like a stone.

I was at a youth conference recently and we had this required evening fellowship to attend. I had been forewarned it involved an element of skydiving and I certainly was not looking forward to it. In my mind why would someone jump out of a perfectly operational airplane in the first place? So we go to this indoor wind-tunnel facility and we have to sign a waiver basically releasing the organization from any deaths that could occur while getting thrown around in a wind tunnel with speeds as high as hurricanes (you can see how much of a fan I was). After the “life-signaway-waiver” we were taken into a training room and instructed on hand symbols and how basically our hands, feet and head are all rudders and that any slight movement on any of our appendages would cause you to spin or dip or ascend. The whole time the instructor is speaking you can hear the wind turbines above us whir and roar as others were getting tossed into the air.

Finally it was our turn to enter the hurricane. If I told you there wasn’t an army of butterflies in the pit of my stomach I would be lying to you – I was as nervous as I could be. I don’t do well with roller coasters, let alone the sensation of plummeting out of an airplane and falling to earth (thanks gravity!). I watch as others in our party fly with the help of the instructor, even my wife seems to fly with ease and she floats and somewhat flies assisted by the fly instructor. Then it is my dreaded turn…and on shaky legs I force myself through the entrance to the wind tunnel with a whispered prayer and a sentence that may have gone like this, “Lord if it’s my time to die, at least don’t let me make a fool out of myself!” Oh, the Lord has a great sense of humor, because make a fool out of myself is exactly what I did.

I followed the instructors directions. I got into “fly” formation with my legs at a near 90 degree angle and my arms slightly outstretched and I thought I was doing well except the instructor was working hard to keep me in the air. I thought I understood the position I needed to be in in order to fly, but try as I might I couldn’t sustain lift off. Eventually I got the dreaded “shut off the turbines” command by the instructor to the operator, and I was “grounded” and told with hand gestures to “relax”. The funny thing was I thought I WAS relaxed. I thought I had maintained the correct posture in order to sustain flight…and yet here I was with the instructor’s arms around me to keep me steady, but I was grounded and not even in the air anymore. Meanwhile, all of the other “flyers” managed to lift off and fly.


After our group completed its time in the wind tunnel, the instructor demonstrated to us what could be accomplished in that the hurricane tube. He soared, he dove, he spiraled and performed many amazing feats that we now knew were extremely difficult to do, but he performed them with the greatest of ease. Meanwhile, we noobies to the wind tunnel flight could barely gain lift off (and myself not even having accomplished lift off at all).
The instructor’s flight looked so graceful and easy, but we knew it was far from easy. We were all sore from the positions and movements, and to witness the instructor’s ease while in the hurricane tube made it all the more impressive.

You see, very similarly, in life the spiritual life can be a lot like that. When we were first starting out in the faith we would look at more mature “veteran” Christians and admire how firm they were in their relationship to Christ. They seemingly soared while we could barely achieve lift off at all. Perhaps some of us became frustrated or considered giving up altogether because the task seemed so daunting and insurmountable. But the interesting thing is the veteran Christian, the one with all the growth, soaring and maturity actually is there to help you take flight.

When I was in that wind tunnel that amazing flier of an instructor had his arms wrapped around me so that I wouldn’t get hurt. If he would have let go I would have been smashed against one of the walls or perhaps tossed into the air to hit the ceiling high above us. The mature, high flying instructor knew the dangers and the adversity of that hurricane tube and was preventing me from getting hurt.

I owe a number of fellow Christ-followers, who are more mature than I, a debt of thanks for their leadership in my life. These legends of the faith showed me how to walk (and soar) by faith. They also came along side me when I was still learning how to actually walk with Christ. They understood the trappings and the adversity I would face because they had journeyed the same path only many years prior.

2 Things To Consider:
1) Are we pliable to the instruction of mentors? These mentors and mature Christians know almost every trapping and danger along the way. They have walked this path before us, and they have an intimate knowledge of what it takes to soar. How flexible are we to the guidance of others? Or does pride well up and prevent us from acknowledging our immobility and shortcomings? The instruction and guidance isn’t there to point out all of our fears and failures, it is there to lead us to higher altitudes of faith, growing us closer in relationship to the Father.
2) Are we mentors to others? When we have accomplished flight, how do we convey what we have learned? Are there others who are still grounded and in need of encouragement and guidance? How can we lift them up? How can we offer them love and tangible hope of taking that next leap? We cannon forget how we felt when we were at the beginning of our faith journey. We need to journey beside these young believers and provide to them understanding and the leadership of flight. Never forget where we have come from and how far we have journeyed since then. When we call to mind that path, we are then able to provide that much needed guidance for others.

Are you ready to soar today?
Are there those around you who need help?
God has always journeyed along with us, and He desires a deeper relationship with you and me. Perhaps some of us are afraid of heights, afraid of failing, afraid of looking like a fool with others, afraid of the cost of discipleship and what will need to be sacrificed. God is here reminding us that we were meant to soar and He longs for us to take flight.

The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

-Isaiah 40:28b – 31

Something more to ponder today.

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