Fact #4: I Owe A Lot

Not money.  Let’s get that clear right off the bat.  What I’m talking about is the fact that Jesus says in the last part of Luke 12:48, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”

dark-country-road

Stranded

A few weeks ago, I was stranded on a stretch of road out in the “sho-nuf” country between two towns.  It was dark.  There was nothing but woods and one cell tower all around me.  It was 10:30 at night, and I was returning home from preaching a youth service when the truck I was driving just quit on me.

Fortunately, the truck was equipped with that system where you can punch a button on the mirror and call for help.  So I did.  And they responded.  And they tried to get a tow truck to bring me, along with the truck back into town.  But they failed.

So they escalated their service to the next level customer service agent who had access to more towing companies.  And I waited.  And waited.

Sadly, the service was unable to get anyone to come tow the truck into town.  So, I called a friend who drove 30 minutes to where I was, nearly an hour to my house, and 30 minutes back home.  That’s a good friend.  That’s a really good friend.  Especially considering he had to go out of town early the next morning.

broken-down-car

You too?

Fast forward to this morning when my phone rang and a different friend had their vehicle strand them on their way to work.  Do you think I hesitated to go help?  Do you think I put them off?  Not a bit!  And not because I’m such a stellar friend or such a great disciple of Jesus, but because much had been given to me and I believe that much is required of me, I leapt at the opportunity to help someone else.  I knew what it felt like to the one making that phone call… knew what it felt like to wait for someone to come to my rescue.

LOTS & LOTS!

But this truth grabs my heart much beyond broken down vehicles.  In my life, I’ve been shown a lot of love, encouragement, grace and hope.  So is it any surprise the Lord has given me the life purpose of loving and encouraging others, offering them grace and hope?  It’s not a struggle for me at all.  I know what it feels like to need those and receive them.  So I gladly give them and don’t feel like it’s a big deal.

What is it in your life which you have received a lot of that you might be required to offer to others?  Is it kindness?  Is it generosity?  Is it forgiveness?  Will you feel like it is too big a deal to give it after having received so much?

Fact #3:  I Like To Keep It Simple

I like strong coffee, crushed peanuts and honest communication.  I like to keep it simple.

coffee

Let’s start with coffee, for instance.

When I say, “I like coffee,” I actually mean that I like coffee.  It may be an understatement.  I mean, I typically consume 3-6 cups per day (depending on how tough the day is, ha!).  And I drink it black as midnight.  You can’t make it strong enough or black enough for me.  If the spoon stands up straight in it, it’s almost strong enough.

When traveling in countries like Romania or Israel, the locals try to explain to me that I might not like the typical Turkish-style espresso coffee and that I might want to add a significant amount of milk to offset the strength of it.  My response?  Tip up the cup and drink it down to the fine grounds which finish it off.

I like coffee.

I don’t need a lot of flavors added to it because I actually like the flavor of coffee.  It tastes good to me.  And no slurping or sipping.  I want to drink it.

I also like peanut butter.

peanutbutter

Well, actually I should say crushed peanuts.  About a year and a half ago, our family began eating more whole foods and I discovered how many extras were added into my typical name-brand peanut butter of choice.

So I was to delighted to discover that our local Kroger grocery store has a machine where you can grind your own dry roasted peanuts into peanut butter.  No added sugar or fillers.  No preservatives.  No extra oils or anything.  Just… crushed… peanuts.

I can eat it by the spoonfuls.  I eat it on bananas.  I eat it on bread.  I eat it mixed with honey.  I eat it at breakfast.  I eat it at lunch.  I eat it at supper.  I eat it as a snack.  I don’t think there is a wrong way or time to eat that luscious golden food.

Again, I like it just like it is.  It doesn’t have to be transformed by a seasoned chef into some fabulous Food Network creation.  Crushed peanuts.  That’s all.  Plain and simple.  YUM!

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

And you know what, that’s how I go at interacting with others.  I believe in saying what I mean and meaning what I say.  No need to complicate things.  I find that when I’m simply honest, sincere and genuine in what I say when communicating with others, our relationship generally ends up working out better.  It’s the times when one or the other dances around the topic or doesn’t state things clearly that relationships get strained or tensions rise.

If I’m going to have to eat my words, I’d like for them to at least be yummy.  And at least this way, I never have to back-track and remember whether I told someone the exact truth.

I just keep it simple.  Black coffee, crushed peanuts and honest, genuine communication.  Tastes good to me!

What’s your favorite food or beverage?  And how does honest communication make you feel… awkward or awesome?

Fact #2:  I May Go Slow, But I Don’t Give Up

snails-pace

Slow Reader

I’m a slow reader.  I understand perfectly well most books that I read.  It just takes me a long time to read one.  Your basic 200-page Christian living type book could take me between one to three months to read.  Mostly it’s because I process while I read each part rather than simply skimming through the whole thing & trying to grasp the overall point.

And I’ve been mocked.  I’ve been challenged.  Some people have told me I just need to work harder at it.  Others have told me I need to set goals.  And I’ve done those things.  They haven’t produced any difference other than putting me under more pressure and guilt.

But I don’t give up.  I figure that if I’m reading, I’m growing and learning all along the way.  So what if I tackle things in smaller chunks?  The old adage says the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  (I’ve never tasted elephant and don’t wish to do so. But I do keep reading in little, bite-sized chunks.)

Sometimes, I just have to set a book down that isn’t really hitting me where I’m at in life right now.  I can always come back to it later.  And lots of times when I do that, it is so much more enjoyable and enlightening to me the second chance I give it.

headphones

Auditory Learner

Additionally, in the process of discovering that I want to take in as much information as possible to grow as a leader and can’t seem to do more in the area of reading, I discovered that I am more of an auditory learner.  And guess what technology provides for us these days?  Audiobooks!  And on top of that, there are a ton of great podcasts out there with amazing information to be taken in. (Maybe I’ll write a post listing some of the terrific podcasts I subscribe to.)

I say all that to say that I’ve learned I don’t always have to pick up a book to learn or develop or expand my imagination.  There are other methods of learning and growing as a person and as a leader.

Easy Does It

So, since we are going to be friends, I figure that today you should know pretty early on that I typically go at relationships like I do books… slowly… in bite-sized chunks.  And you also need to know that I don’t give up on people.  Ask the students we have ministered to over the years, some of whom are now adults with their own families and just trying to live life well.  Ask the adults we have led who don’t always get everything right.

Even if we hit it off right away, it may take us a little while… like years… to develop a deep relationship.  But you can rest assured, if I won’t give up on a book, I won’t give up on you.

Friendships are not always simple and easy.  They take time, effort and commitment.  They are like one of those books I trudge through.  I enjoy them.  I want to make progress.  But everything doesn’t have to be finished tomorrow for me to feel like we are friends and our friendship is successful.

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Name That Book

So let me ask you, what book would you recommend to me that you have you read… or you are reading (even if you’re reading it slowly)?

And do you think there’s a point when we should give up on a friendship with someone?

I’d love to hear from you. So please comment on this post with your replies.

Fact #1:  I believe we can be friends.

And here’s why I think we can… I have a very eclectic musical taste.  It’s true, quite varied.

friends

The fact is, I believe that you can make significantly more friends to some extent by simply widening your musical preferences.  Music can bridge lots of gaps, bring unlikely folks together and give them something to talk about as they get to know each other and develop a friendship.

And I like to have lots of friends.  (Of course, I can’t hang out with most of them simultaneously because they don’t always appreciate each other’s musical preferences. ha!)

But I believe in stretching myself and in making new friends.  So I keep trying to stretch myself to enjoy more styles… like opera or hip hop. (That one somehow eludes me as I keep coming back to DC Talk, ETW & Mike-E… Not really today’s hip hop.)  I suppose I’m a work in progress. 😉

And so today I share with you my top 8 musical genre (style) preferences in hopes that you and I can be friends.  Here they are in order from least to greatest:

#8: Classical

classical-music

Basically, just the old, well-known stuff.  I’m not an aficionado, just a guy who is classy enough to appreciate a little Beethoven, Chopin, Handel and Mozart.

To quote Uncle Si of Duck Dynasty fame, “Hey, Jack, I’m a renaissance man.”  And my appreciation for a wonderful orchestra led by a skilled conductor is just proof that I like to “Bach out”.  (See what I did there?)

#7: Jazz / Classic / Big Band

jazz-music

Give me some music from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.  That era produced some phenomenal vocals and spectacular instrumentation.  It’s fun and emotionally moving music.  It just makes me feel good and you know I like to feel good.

#6:  Christian Adult Contemporary / Inspirational

adult-contemporary-christian-music

Who doesn’t love a great radio single?  I have plenty of individual songs and albums both on my phone and on CD from AC/inspirational artists who range from Carman to Mercy Me to Newsboys.  Some of those songs are timeless and have helped me give words to thoughts, prayers and feelings.

#5: Bluegrass

bluegrass-music

Yep, I said it.  I think it must have something to do with all those vacations in the Smokies.  But I just can’t help myself.

I know that part of it is the incredible instrumentation involved in making it.  I love me some good ol’ dulcimer, steel guitar and stand-up bass.  And I even enjoy those twangy, nasaly vocals.  Probably because that is the genre in which my voice would sound best… in the background… turned wayyyyyyyy down low.

#4: Southern Gospel

I know that some of you will think I just covered that genre in the previous one, but trust me when I say that I speak of two completely different styles of music.

Many of you may only be able to think of one major name synonymous with Southern Gospel in these recent years… None other than Bill Gaither himself.  But there are definitely others…

When I think Southern Gospel, I think of incredible quartets like The Cathedrals, Gold City or The Kingsmen.  I think of trios like The Greenes or Karen Peck and New River.  I think of family groups like The Hoppers or The Perrys.

For some reason, it seems like this style has a knack for connecting Biblical stories and current life situations in a way that just resonates with me.

#3: Worship Music

worship-music

I remember as a teenager hearing U2 for the first time and thinking to myself, “This is what worship music should sound like in the church.”  So, it’s a pretty cool moment for me nowadays when, on any given Sunday, the guitarist rips off a lick with some distortion that reflects that sound and I feel like I’m about to be raptured.

Quite honestly, I can appreciate and worship to almost everything from old campmeeting hymns of the church to the most modern song by the biggest names out there.  There is just something unique and special about a song that can unite people around & focus our attention on the creative God who loved us enough to give His own Son to be executed for our crimes against Himself.

#2: 1980’s Christian Glam Rock / Arena Rock

80s-christian-rock

Didn’t see that one coming after some of the others, did you?  But it’s true.  I can’t recall the speaker- I think it was either James Dobson or Josh McDowell- but I heard them say at a conference once that our musical preferences are set between the ages of 15-21 years old, and that whatever music we prefer during that period of our lives becomes our default when we just want to relax and enjoy some music throughout the rest of our lives.

Hello, 1980’s Christian rock!  You’re my default.  Most people only know of Stryper & Petra, but my appreciation is much deeper than that… Maybe a post for another time. Right now, I need to go put a cassette tape in the walkman and jam.

#1: Christmas Music

christmas-music

It was a toss-up between this and the 1980’s Christian Glam Rock / Arena Rock genre.  But I think I could listen to Christmas music almost all day, every day of the year.

And I don’t just mean those great anthems like “O Holy Night” or “Away In A Manger.”  I equally enjoy “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas,” the Chipmunks version of “Christmas Don’t Be Late”  and “Jingle Bells”.

Then there are “Winter Wonderland”, “Ave Maria”, “The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.. to help out those who are not avid/rabid Christmas music fans) and “Here Comes Santa Claus.”  I love all those classic Christmas tunes, along with a few newer ones I’ve picked up along the way.

It’s just that Christmas is my favorite time of year.  How could it not be?  It’s the most positive, uplifting, inspiring time of each circle around the sun.  It’s when life seems to be more like what an idealistic optimist like myself wants life to be… believes life should be all the time.  And every year, it seems like one Christmas song becomes the one that really makes the season all it should be for me.  And so Christmas music gets top billing this blog.

Are We Friends Yet?

There you have it…  Surely, I named at least one musical genre that you enjoy.  That means we can strike up a friendship.  Which one of these 8 do you enjoy most and why?

In his latest book, “Chase The Lion”, Mark Batterson writes, “One word of encouragement has to potential to change a person’s perspective on life, a person’s plot line for all eternity.”

I couldn’t agree more!  And that’s what you can expect to find in every post on this blog… encouragement, motivation, inspiration.

There is more than enough gloom and doom in this world:

  • Watch the news… “If it bleeds, it leads.”
  • Listen to the side effects on medicine commercials… some of them sound worse than the condition they are designed to correct or cure.
  • Ask the clerk at the local big box store how their day is going… “I get off in ??-minutes and maybe then things will be better.”

By the end of the day, you could be nearly depressed if you took in all that negativity with no remedy.  But I have a worldview that I believe offers hope and joy in the midst of chaos and confusion.  Therefore, on this blog I plan to offer it to you in daily doses.

half-full

Half-Empty or Half-Full?

You need to know that I am an eternal optimist.  And I’m an idealist.  As far as I am concerned, the glass is most certainly not half-empty.  And it is better than half-full. I’m just happy to have a glass.  And I am overjoyed that my glass has enough liquid in it to soothe my parched throat.

lemons-or-lemonade

Lemons or Lemonade?

What kind of liquid does my glass have in it?  Lemonade, of course!  (I’m from the South, so I suppose it could be sweet tea. But for the purpose of this post, we’ll go with lemonade.)  Hey listen, life has surely dealt me a few lemons along the way.  And yet somehow, instead of seeing lemons, the Lord has helped me see myself being handed the primary ingredient for that delicious, refreshing southern drink which, with a little sugar and a lot of water, can be sipped with a smile while sitting on the front porch watching the sunset.

fall-leaves

Sunglasses And The Smokies

Several years ago, my wife and I took a terrific fall vacation to the Smokies with my amazing in-laws.  I kept seeing all the beautiful colors of leaves that were undergoing their annual change from green to gorgeous.  Everything was so  vibrant.  And yet, the other three folks in the vehicle didn’t seem to be that impressed.

At one point, I took off my sunglasses and noticed things didn’t seem so brilliant and majestic to me.  That’s when it hit us all that the reason I was seeing the same sites so differently was because my sunglasses were tinted a certain way that caused all those leaves to look more beautiful to me than the naked eye.

So, you know what I did?  Instead of being discouraged that the views weren’t actually as stunning as I had envisioned, I simply put my sunglasses back on and enjoyed the rest of the trip immensely.

Blame It On My Mom

I mean, really, it’s all her fault.  She is the one who put me onto the likes of Robert H. Shuller, Chuck Swindoll and Max Lucado as a young person.  And while I was inspired by those early investors in my optimism, I’ve since discovered my own supply of positive input, but what my mom tried to point out to me early on is that we really can choose to have a positive outlook on life’s situations.

Could It Really Be A Choice?

I used to think that maybe it’s just because I’m a positive person… that maybe some of us are just blessed enough to be born with an “optimism gene.” But I’m pretty sure that assumption went out the door about a year ago after reading “The 4:8 Principle” by Tommy Newberry. (Side Note: I also recommend his online, video-driven 40-Day Joy Challenge.)  Apparently, it seems that God actually gives us the ability to choose how we view what happens to us in life and how we will respond.

Each day, we get to choose how we will think about our life.  I choose faith, joy, hope and encouragement.  It’s my desire through this blog to share some uplifting story, some inspiring thought, some crazy joke one of my kids told me, some ridiculously funny happening in my life or maybe just an encouraging quote to remind us that there are better days ahead…. that life is good and getting better.

conversation

Are You With Me?

So, here it is… the birth of my upbeat, uplifting, encouraging, motivational, inspiring, faith-building conversation with you.  Would you celebrate the birth of this blossoming blog by sharing your favorite positive, faith-filled, optimistic quote, or your quick story of how you are choosing to look at life through rose-colored glasses?

Thanks.  And I hope you’ll go on this journey with me… because we’re only going “Up” from here!