Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I'll never forget when I was a young man in 3rd Grade and received an ink pad.  I can't remember if I got it for Christmas or a birthday, or perhaps I simply found it in my dad's desk and claimed it as my own.  What I do remember is being enamored with my fingerprint.   I must have went through reams of paper making designs with my fingerprints from turkeys, to baby feet, to mouse ears.  Of course, my fingers were stained for the next week, and I had to explain how the black in got on my clothes.  Poor mom!

Everyone sees fingerprints in a different light.  For a detective, they are evidence.  For a person cleaning glass doors at a public building, they a reoccurring nuisance.  Truthfully, most of us go throughout our days not giving 1-thought about our fingerprints.
 However, we are all aware that our fingerprints hold our identity.  Not one fingerprint is the same.  Ultimately it is our identity that makes our mark on everything and everyone we touch. I've heard it expressed this way,
We Teach What We Know, 
But We Reproduce Who We Are.  

With this in mind, the source and formation of our identity is of utmost importance. Since our identities are formed from many different influences (family of origin, hobbies, interests, friends, weight, personality, chemical imbalances, etc...), it is beneficial to as ourselves the questions 1)  Who am I?   2)  How do I perceive myself?  3) How do others perceive me?  4) Is there a difference and why?  5) Who do I want to become in the future?

While we can do little about our fingerprints, our actually identity can be shaped and formed, and the "mark" we make on the lives around us can be intentional. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

When Mamaw Loses!

The other day we celebrated my father's birthday by having them over for dinner.  As an adult, I enjoyed the Roast, Potatoes, Salad and the warm-slightly underdone brownies (just the way I like them).  However, toward the close of dinner, our kindergartener's agenda surfaced.  She presented her proposal to my mom (her grandmother)... "Mamaw, I would play Ol' Maid with you if you wanted to!?!"  Well, what's a Mamaw to say?

As the night progressed and I eventually observed their game I realized why my daughter LOVED to play Old Maid with my mother.  She had never asked me, her mother, or brothers to play the game with her.  Were we not good enough or patient enough?  No, my daughter knows how we all play games in our home... we play to win! 

The reason she always wants to play with Mamaw is that Mamaw "somehow" always ends up with the Old Maid card and loses.  That means our daughter always wins.  Seriously, who wouldn't want to play a game in which you're always a winner. 

We all like to be in circumstances in which we win!  Winning makes us feel good about ourselves and helps us build a positive self-image.  Therefore we find what we're good at and we spend as much time in that environment.  For some it is working with their hands, others it is school, others sports, still others it is with people.  Not one of us like to be in environments in which we feel inadequate and inept.

As I thought about this scene with my daughter and her Mamaw, I couldn't help but to draw the parallel between our relationship with God.  While Scripture is clear that we are born into sin, and are in need a Savior from the consequences of that sin... There are many passages that speak of us WINNING and of being on the side of VICTORY: 
  • What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)  
  • But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:57)

However, just like in the game of Old Maid, in order for us to win, someone had to pay the price and "lose".  That person was Jesus.  He willing drew the "Old Maid Card" (the cross) so that we could win! 

And just like a Mamaw who isn't concerned about winning a card came, whose only goal was to spend time with her grand-daughter and give her a positive experience, GOD HAS PUT US FIRST!  Why?  Because of his Great Love for You and Me (John 3:16).  His Love Lets Us Win!!!

So as I think about my competitive-driven nature, I have to RE-evaluate.  Perhaps I should try to lose more, so that I and others around me can win!  I must admit, this is a new thought for me, but I'm willing to try.  What do you think?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rock-Paper-Scissors... SHOOT!

13 days ago we packed up house and home and moved from the Philadelphia region to pastor a great church in Shrewsbury, PA.  While everything has gone smoothly, the people have greeted us warmly, and our previous church sent us off with love... there is still a reason why psychologist and sociologists rank moving one of the top stressors in life.  Trust me, we've felt the strain, but we've also experience great peace through this transition.

When I was younger my friends and I use to play a game to make difficult decisions called "Rock, Paper, Scissors." We'd use this scientific method to determine important life decisions like, who gets the bigger piece of pie, who received the kick off in our epic back-yard football battles, and who would tell the elderly widow next store we broker her fence :). 

The older I've gotten, I've realized that decisions and specifically change doesn't get any easier, in fact, sometimes I think it gets harder.  We get comfortable in our ways.  Our decisions affect more people and hold seemingly more consequence.  Our response can be to refrain from making changes and key decisions in order to keep from experiencing the strain of change.  The only problem with that is, lack of decision is a decision in and of itself.  Life dictates we change with it.

While parenting my boys was much simpler when they were young, we've had to change how we parent at each new season.  I've had to change my perspective and practice of eating food in recent years.  My body isn't 18 years old any more.  Individuals, businesses, government, and even churches have had to face consequential changes or get left behind and become obsolete. 

As I've reflected on our recent change and the changes both our last & present church is experiencing, I've come to certain observations about what has help us navigate this life-altering transition.  Perhaps they'll help you in your changing circumstance:
  1. KNOW YOURSELF:  The more one's identity is wrapped up in one's roles (work, parent, pastor, athlete), the less we know of ourselves.  We take on a role (almost like an actor would) and we begin a life of performance.  Knowing how God has made you and designed you is vitally important to both making correct changes, but also surviving those changes.  I like what Doris Mortaman said, "Until you make peace with who you are, you'll never be content with what you have.” BTW, the only way to know yourself, is to know your Creator. 
  2. KNOW YOUR VALUES:  Our values are shaped by many sources, but clarifying one's values help you stay the course during times when change delivers discomfort.  Your values keeps your train from derailing (both personally and organizationally with church or business change). 
  3. KNOW THE NEEDS:  This has been difficult for me to personally discover, but through some personally coaching I received, it began to clarify for me the needs that were present in my life, my family, and ministry.  Those needs can be areas of significance, security, safety or many others.  Through the years, I've held onto the verse in Psalm 37:4, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires" (NLT).
  4. KNOW THE PATHWAYS:  As Rene and I considered the move to Shrewsbury, we asked our selves where this pathway would lead.  We realized that this decision would not just affect our lives, but would perhaps influence our children's future.  It could influence who they would marry, how to perceive God and His church, their college &career direction.  I like what Craig Groeschel said, Everyone ends up somewhere, few people end up somewhere on purpose." 
Being proactive in your decisions and in areas of change allows you to end up somewhere on purpose!   Making decisions that initiate change are rarely easy, but the pain of not making those decisions often far out-weigh the temporary discomfort of today! 

Dont' live with regrets and don't be afraid of something different.  Embrace each season of life with the excitement and vigor you did in Jr. High.  And Hey, if you need to, play a little Rock-Paper-Scissors and see where it leads!