Thursday, January 28, 2010


I’m in control. Or so I think. I take great pride in being in self-sufficient. Or should I? Admitting I’m not in control can be self-denigrating if not downright dangerous.

How often have you watched television or heard people around you say, “I did it all by myself?” Really? Did you? When you were born, how much control did you have in that? Did you feed yourself as an infant? Did you have your own apartment at 18 months? Who taught you to read? Who gave you life’s very breath? Did you not attend school where teachers invested in you?

I think what is meant is that you did a lot by yourself and that more adults and peers should have cared for you or done a better job. That is a tragedy and a subject for another day. I want to talk control.

The sooner we admit we aren’t fully self-sufficient the better. That way we can more often look out for others and concurrently accept more help. We found that out this week.

At a conference in Denver I got a call from Jana stating that she wasn’t feeling well. Without me, how could we ensure the safety of our kids? After summing up the situation I realized I had to come home. But it couldn’t be done quickly. And we couldn’t do it very quietly. We needed help. We have multiple college degrees and serve people in our respective professions. We can drive cars, cook for five, preach to hundreds, save patients’ lives, and balance checkbooks (ok, not really). So we consider ourselves pretty self-sufficient. But this moment revealed again that nobody is. We all depend on the help of others, maybe even government intervention sometimes. And for those who share my view – God’s grace.

Because I could not do it on my own, I asked for help. Fortunately a taxi was available (because I didn’t have a car), an airplane was leaving at the right time (because I’m not a pilot), Diane and Brian sacrificed 10-12 hours of their Tuesday (because I wasn’t in town), and a few dozen people prayed (because they consider us worthy to be prayed for).

Within seven hours of deciding to return I arrived, indebted to many and glad to be at the best place on earth – home. Though now again the protector of my castle, I sat in silence as my four people slept. It is with every breath that I must be grateful and acknowledge I don’t control my existence any more than a sailboat captain controls the weather. My response is to ask for God’s grace and to continually respond in kind to those who aid me in my storms. It’s humbling, but it’s pretty cool too.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Third Person Kiera

Do you know anyone who speaks in the third person? I’ve talked with a few people recently that have wondered at the self-confidence and joy of little children. “Why don’t we stay like that?” we all bemoaned. What if a young mom was caught jumping on her kids’ trampoline yelling “yahoo” when her kids were inside eating a snack? What do you think when you walk by somebody who’s having a conversation by himself…to himself? Have you ever found yourself singing at the top of your lungs like an opera singer, not in the shower but at Old Navy? Could you imagine an adult who thinks that a burp is the funniest thing ever (okay, besides most men)?

Where does this zest for life go? Why do we coach our children not to sing in public by the time they’re ___ years old? I think it’s so they’ll fit in to their peer group. We don’t want them to be ostracized or made fun of. Yet isn’t it funny how it can simultaneously crush their spirits? Not to mention how many of our successful icons are quirky and march to the beat of their own drum.

Last year I was talking with Jana when I heard Meris try to interrupt our conversation. She sternly rebuked me, “I was talking to myself!” Yep – a one on none conversation. Too funny. And our most recent chuckle at childhood: Kiera is exclusively using the third person.

Dad: “What would you like for breakfast?”
Kiera: “Kiera wants raisin bran!”

Why correct her? It’s too cute. She is so confident and care free. She sobs deeply when she needs a band-aid for a mystery laceration (on pre-school days when she’s extra tired) and she rejoices exuberantly when she gets a cookie. As I watch her 1st grade sister occasionally bring up self-conscious comments revealing the inception of peer pressure, I am saddened. I know that she’s beginning to experience the sin of cruelty. I feel partially responsible for my part – unnecessary criticism and setting the example of doing things just to fit in. I pray that I will have an unequaled enthusiasm for life and that I can pass THAT on to my kids.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Conflict is a Good Thing?

Conflict. Confrontation. Disagreement.

How to you respond to these words? Have you already hid behind the couch or are you standing on the chair ready to fight? I’m a recovering conflict-avoider, toting a bag of newfound courage over my shoulder.

Through time, thousands of mistakes, a few leadership classes, and several books I have learned that being a natural peacemaker isn’t always a healthy personality type. There are benefits to ignoring the elephant in the room (such as less arguing around the holidays), but I’ve learned that acknowledging differences and asserting myself is healthier in the long run.

Take a recent example. After my first 100 days on the job, the honeymoon is over. I’ve been at work long enough to learn that my peers aren’t without faults…and that I (long pause) am not perfect (audience gasps). I know, I know. My mother will probably disagree, but I do fall short of perfection (Thanks, Mom, for believing otherwise.). This past weekend it became obviously clear to me that my program goals, my methods to arrive there, and my competence to lead people are being questioned by a few people.

Whenever you are the new kid on the block you’re given instant respect in some ways and asked to prove yourself in other ways. I have also learned through various jobs that it takes time to create a new culture for your workplace. Despite knowing the inevitability of such hurdles, I never looked forward to the impending conflict.

Despite a meeting months ago, I realized I hadn’t communicated clearly enough. A group of people wanted to reach point “A” via point “B”. I wanted to get to point “A” through point “C”. An email interaction didn’t work (as it often doesn’t) so I arranged a meeting between the groups. I looked the group in the eyes (inhale, exhale), expressed my point (inhale, exhale), listened to my friends (nod, mmhmm), asked for clarification (yes, ok), pointed to the goal (breaaaathe), celebrated our shared excitement and convictions (exhale), and concluded with a new plan of action – getting to point “A” via point “D” (EXHALE). Nobody left in tears. Everyone affirmed each other’s value. And the next time I speak with my friends/colleagues I can look at them in the eyes and enjoy easy conversation (SLEEP!).

I had lost sleep over it, but don’t have to anymore. Having studied leadership and watched a few great leaders in action, I know that many more disagreements await me. As a seminary professor said, “If there isn’t disagreement/conflict, you’re probably doing something wrong.” So assuming I continue making baby steps in leadership and refuse to roll in a ball when conflict arises, I’ll be able to maintain some semblance of respect. Since the peacemaker inside me “just wants to be loved”, I have to work at the more important task of leading. My current favorite quote regarding leadership comes from ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd: “Tell the truth. You’d be surprised how much trouble it gets you in.” I hope to get in more “trouble”, but through respectful confrontation.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Very Cliche Entry

Two weeks of sloth. That's why I haven't entered a new entry since mid-December. Okay, so it hasn't been sloth but after a busy Christmas and prioritizing vacation time with family (including sis, mom, and dad) I'm back in the swing of things.
I'll be cliche and talk resolutions. How are yours coming? Do you have any. It's a big year for New Year resolutions, the new decade and all.
Easy resolutions for me? More coffee, more ice cream, watch more tv. I've done very well with those.
Tough resolutions? Keep a budget, run everyday, wake up earlier. (Did you know in the PNW, sunrise is like at 8 something and sunset at 4 something. Your body says it's early. The alarm clock says 7:15 - yikes, get up!)
I've run 6 days in a row and I'm guessing this streak won't last. If it doesn't, no worries. At least I'll try to work off as much of that ice cream as possible. There are people highlighted in Runner's World every so often who talk about running everyday for years. Wow, once a week often seems like an accomplishment - with 4 hours of dishes, laundry, vacuuming, cooking, and cleaning each day.
My take on resolutions? I like 'em mostly. It seems like we're just trying to be the best people we possibly can be! Or in biblical terms, "honoring our body as a temple of God" Though I typically set resolutions and eventually succumb to busyness or lazyness, I have to remind myself that there's only so much I can do by myself.
If you're not a person who follows Christ intentionally and passionately everyday, let me try to explain what the Bible communicates. Christians believe that though we are held to a high standard and can "do all things through Christ's strength", we also acknowledge that we battle sin and "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (if this is confusing to you, it may take a bit of study to further comprehend). Anyway, the gist is not quite "the devil made me do it" or "I couldn't help it", but more like it's very difficult to live the way we want to all the time. So yeah, we are hypocrites - not always doing what we say. We believe it is necessary to allow God to do a lot of the driving (you know, like that country song?).
I guess in summary, may your resolutions be successful, but don't take it too hard if you don't fully live up to those goals. Of course, if your resolutions include things like "evade your taxes" or "annoy your neighbors," then that's a different conversation.