Yesterday I discovered Ted Talks. I watched Simon Sinek describe the attributes of a great leader and something just struck a cord with me. Here is the link:

The concept of presenting to the world and the people around you from the inside out is the part of this talk that really resonated with me. This world is harsh and we get hurt. We all start off as vulnerable and through our years and our circumstances we begin to wrap layer after layer of protection until we are approaching the world from the outside while we desperately protect our inside. Hell, some of us even forget that we have an inside.

Simon closes this talk by saying that Martin Luther King Jr. gave the “I have a dream” speech not the “I have a plan” speech. Somewhere along the way we begin to lose sight of our dreams and operate solely on our plans. Great leaders stay in touch with their dreams, their why’s, their core. They know and share their plan based on something bigger – they sell what they stand for not what they plan for.

As I processed this information I came to the conclusion that great leaders have another trait that Simon didn’t mention – the trait of courage. It takes an amazing amount of courage to commune with others based on our core. This is not a method for the faint of heart. When we show others our “Why” we open ourselves up to criticism directed at the center of who we are. The only way to withstand that kind of vulnerability is an unshakeable belief that what you are at your core is worthy.

You can watch this video and apply it strictly to your business, company or professional life but I want to apply it to who I am every day. I gravitate toward strong folk who are in touch with who they are and most of them can articulate their “why”. They are stronger because they know the dream that fuels the plan. They live from the inside out.

Our plans are a joke. Things don’t work out the way we mapped. Divorces happen. Jobs fall through. Careers change. Death snatches. Accidents throw curve balls. Health is fleeting. When we live our lives based on the plans for the above we become cynical and reactionary but we don’t have to stay that way.

I have some dreams. A dream to raise amazing strong women who know their worth, are able to truly love, and have the courage to be vulnerable. A dream that I can show at least a sliver of Christ’s love to those who I am eyeball to eyeball with every day. A dream to inspire real life and true contentment by appreciating all the little blessings gifted to me everyday. These dreams are the “whys” of my behavior. I want to live from the inside out. To base my actions on who I am at the core of me.

Anybody can be a great leader – we just have to have the courage to share our dreams.


Do Not Grow Weary

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

This is a hard directive. Mean people exist. Stupid people exist. Ridiculous policies exist. Bureaucracy reigns. Evil does triumph…in this world.. but only in this world.

I am a CASA. Court Appointed Special Advocate for kids. I am a child’s voice in the legal system. My job is to tell the Judge what I see and to advocate for the child in every way possible. For those of you who don’t know it – our legal system is not perfect. I watch the players in this big game of life and I see the struggle. Every one has limitations. Every one has rules they have to play by and sometimes – just sometimes – what is right by all common sense cannot happen. Bureaucracy clogs the drain. Mean people take it to another level. Stupidity wins because the ramifications to correct it are prohibitive. Things happen and the consequences cannot be undone.

There have been many times in my life that the high road has been hard to travel. Returning tit for tat is the easier road. Giving up in the face of seemingly overwhelming and never-ending stupidity is easier. Walking away to my happy place is tempting. And then there is this directive…

not become weary in doing good

Well, damn. No tit for tat. No giving up. No happy place. I have to find my second wind, my reason, my focus.

Doing good is hard work in the face of evil, stupidity, mean people, and bureaucracy but it is who I am. Doing good for me is not about the results. Doing good is a part of my character. It is how I relate to Jesus. It is part of my soul. If I chose not to do good then I have been untrue to my God and to myself. My choice to do good is not dependent on outside circumstance but rather my ability to look myself in the eye when I come across a mirror. Lowering my behavior to the level of the mean people is demeaning to me. Giving up is not rewarding. People who do good know a lot of pain but we know less pain than those who compromise their humanity for their own benefit.

Doing good can be costly. Doing good makes me a target for the mean people. Doing good is exhausting. Doing good makes me cry. Doing good is just plain hard. Not doing good would destroy me. I am coming to terms with who I am – I am a rotten sinner who simply must chose good.

Life is hard. Circumstances can be crippling. Once in a while we are thrown curve balls that invade our being. These stories of brokenness surround me. Things like: Accidents, Hospitalizations, Sick Kids, Suicide, Miscarriages, Divorce,Cancer, Anxiety Attacks, Health Issues/Bills, etc. this list seems endless…

All these things are a part of life and sometimes they piggyback with each other making an impossible load. Too often we want those people going through those things to “handle it well”. As a species we hate to see the first tragedy compounded by a second tragedy of “Wow, they really lost it.”

We offer well meaning cliches, like: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” and “There is light at the end of the tunnel.” and “Don’t beat yourself up, you shouldn’t feel guilty.” and “You can do all things through Christ!” and “Just submit to God’s will and He will give you peace.” and “Pray for God’s comfort.” and and and and….

The truth of the matter is that these hard things can escort us directly into the state of “FUCK!”. In this state there is no right answer. There is no comfort in well meaning cliches. There is nothing that makes sense. There is: pain, confusion, sadness, guilt, shock, stress, obligation, anger, grief (the immobilizing of the mind kind of grief), hopelessness, an instinct to survive (one that you can resent), and bone deep exhaustion of the mind, soul and body. All of these things swirl around with no real order making confusion the only constant companion. This my friends is the state of FUCK!

We often aren’t very good at allowing people to stay in the state of FUCK!. We put unknowing pressure on them to “pull up their boot straps” and “put on their big girl panties”. We want to be surrounded by people who have it together – so we encourage those people to get back to a state of stable and happy as soon as possible. We are well meaning but at times misguided. The last thing a person in the state of FUCK! needs is more pressure to conform and to process fast enough to please society. They need space. They need time. They need distraction. They need obligation free friendships.

I wonder if maybe sometimes we need to take a trip to the state of FUCK!  to be with our companions. Not try to change their state but rather join them where they are. Acknowledge that there are no answers and no real words of comfort. There is no right way to get out of this blasted state. There is no easy path. Let each other process at the rate that God designed our souls to process. Truly let each other find the way out of the state of FUCK! and offer to help carry some baggage.

The older I get the more I understand that there is much brokenness I cannot fix. What I have learned to do instead is trust in the design of God. We are not designed to live in a constant state of FUCK!. He has given us a crazy amazing ability eventually sort through the circumstances of life and learn to live again. The state of FUCK! is not permanent but it is necessary and inevitable. Let’s get real with each other. Let’s carry some baggage. Let’s be gentle with our companions burdened by life circumstances. Let’s walk through the state of FUCK! together with a little patience and a great deal of understanding.

Sentimental Figment Anyone?

The Holiday season always puts me on a bit of a sentimental ferris wheel. My perspective seems higher and yet circular.

I am all but overwhelmed with a feeling of gratefulness to my Lord. I am not supposed to have this life. I was dealt a hand I did not see coming and did not expect. That being said – the Lord has not only taken care of me and my girls – He has blessed us beyond measure. Here are some God things that surround us:

My home: This little home sat empty for over a year before we needed it – the realtor said she couldn’t explain why, it was strange. I was newly divorced with ruined credit, 4 kids and 3 dogs. My kids’ lives had just been shaken to the core. It was a priority for me to find a home that would allow us to keep our pets. Most landlords will let you have 1 pet not 3.  The realtor knew of my situation and she spoke with the owners before showing me our home. They agreed to lease the home to me for 18 months – not only that they put $200 of my payment towards the down payment on the house each month. My home is a God thing.

My Job: I was not looking for a job when my current employers found me. I was working away at a very high stress job as a family law legal secretary. I thought I was doing okay – I had no idea God had much better plans for me. My neighbor (next to my God home) came to me and asked if I would interview for a position they had available. That was 2 1/2 years ago. I work for a great company. This last week I got to put 15 people to work in a call center. I enjoy what I do and I get paid very well to do it. Jobs like this require college degrees. I don’t have a college degree. My Job is a God thing.

My girlies: I didn’t do PG well. I have had 6 miscarriages and yet my God home is filled with my God given girlies. Not only did He gift me girlies, He gifted me amazing, smart, caring, beautiful girlies. I don’t believe it is possible to be any more proud of the young women they are and the way they chose to treat each other. Our time together is fulfilling because it is filled with love, laughter, and respect. Togetherness has become a safe place of refuge. My girlies are a God gift.

This was not the life I planned. The life I planned included a faithful, caring, protective husband. I was supposed to have a teammate. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. Alone is scary. Alone is overwhelming. Alone is hard. Alone is exhausting. Alone is lonely. Alone is…. a FIGMENT of my imagination.The Lord has been by my side the whole time. I have never been alone.

Every void created by human failure – He has filled. Every physical need – He has provided. Those soul deep wounds borne from a broken family – He has bound. He keeps His promises. He has become our protector, our shield, our provider.  All those things that I thought I needed a man to help me with the Lord has abundantly covered. I cry sometimes over the sheer number of blessings He has poured out on my head. I could not ask for a better “husband”. I could not ask for a better “protector”. I could not ask for a better “provider”.

“For my ways are not your ways, says the Lord” – I thank Him for that everyday. His way has healed the girls and I in ways I didn’t even realize were broken. The view from this ferris wheel is amazing. 🙂

A good youth pastor that I know from my childhood days posted an encouragement for the young men to treat their Mamas well and for the young ladies to observe how a young man treats his Mama. He stated that a young man who treats his Mama well is more likely to be good mate material. His post got me to thinking – and I am happy to report that he is addressing these issues with his youth.

I grew up without a father in my home. I was not taught much of anything about how to evaluate my future mate’s character. I was taught to look for certain activity markers:

  • Does he claim Christ as savior? Check
  • Does he go to church? Check
  • Does he abstain from drink? Check
  • Does he abstain from smoking? Check
  • Did he come from a Christian upbringing? Check
  • Does he treat his Mama well? Check

All activity based markers, none of which actually speak to the character of the individual. In our church/school growing up they told us that if a person has these fruits they must be connected to Jesus and be wonderful, spirit led individuals. Turns out this is not true – AT ALL. Some of the most deceptive, character deficient people I have ever known have all of these activities in their lives.

The girls and I talk a lot about watching actions not activity when discerning a persons character. The list should be more like this:

  • Does he keep his promises? Especially the little ones? Does he break promises for his own benefit and rationalize the action? Is there always an excuse for laziness?
    • This speaks to Responsibility
  • How does he treat those weaker than he? Does he speak ill of or joke about those with disabilities?
    • This speaks to Compassion
  • Do his words consistently belittle others?
    • This speaks to Insecurity
  • Is he the master fault finder?
    • This speaks to Arrogance
  • Can he admit wrong doing and ask for forgiveness?
    • This speaks to Humility
  • Is he a victim on a regular basis? Never his fault but the fault of circumstance?
    • This speaks to Ownership of Actions
  • Can he “see” the needs of others without it being pointed out to him? Is he perpetually oblivious?
    • This speaks to Awareness of Others
  • Does he seek to meet the needs of other without recognition for his efforts?
    • This speaks to a Heart of Service
  • Does he view things as more valuable than people? Love is tied to possession? He has to have that “toy” because he deserves it.
    • This speaks to Maturity
  • Does he share? His food? His jacket? His blanket?
    • This speaks to Selfishness
  • Does he get irritated or anger easily?
    • This speaks to Emotional Stability

Nobody is perfect and everybody has quirks but these things can be indicators of BIG cracks in character and Integrity. If you are looking at activities and not actions you are missing all the signs. Who cares that you go to church if you won’t share your hotdog? Who cares that treat your Mama like a queen if you squelch on your debts? Who cares if you claim Jesus as Savior and then you abuse with angry words designed to belittle? Who cares if you helped with the neighbor’s roof if you joke about the autistic kids? Who cares that know the bible inside and out if none of it affects the softness of your heart?

Activities are easy – they are a lifestyle. They don’t speak to character. We have to teach our kids to be smarter than that – to look past the activities and see the actions for what they really are.  I used the pro-noun “he” throughout because I have daughters looking for men but it is just as important that young men look for young women of quality.

Character is vital. It is who a person is at the very core of their being. A person with compromised Character cannot not even be true to themselves let alone be true to a partner. If you are not having these discussions with your kids you are doing them a great disservice. Give them the tools they need to be successful – that includes a lesson or two on discernment.

This week I got angry. This week I got depressed. This week my heart broke all over again. This week I wanted to resign from the human race.

I value honesty. It is preferable to me that a person tell me a stark hard truth rather than squish around ridiculous half truths. Deception is so disheartening – especially when the person KNOWS better. Several little things happened (unrelated to each other) that proved poor character choices in those I had SO hoped had better sense.Those in whom I wanted to see the very best. Lying. Cheating. Poor choices based in low self-worth. Deception. Drama. Lack of Integrity.

It took a beer and an hour and a half of whining to one of my stalwart companions for me to begin to release my frustration over these multiple unrelated events. As I sit here and contemplate my emotions surrounding these failings I began to wonder if this is a smidgen of what God feels as He intimately connects with us – His creation.

Does He get angry?

Does He get depressed over our dumb choices?

Does He shake His head when we compromise our integrity?

Do our poor choices break his heart?

I believe the answer is yes to all of the above. We are created in His image. Emotions come from Him. I know He cries for me, identifies with me, watches over me, roots for me, loves me unconditionally.

I am absolutely humbled that my God would know all of these things and still send His Son to pay for our lousy human race. If I was God I would have scrapped us and started over! Who needs cheating bastards? Lying ‘Christians’? Deceptive ‘friends’? I can only see a fraction and the fraction that I see disgusts me. He sees it all and loves us still. That my friends is true unconditional love.

So I have some choices here – I can continue to be depressed or I can turn it all over to the One who sees it all. He is big enough to deal with each of these situations. Once I have given it over to Him I have to go back to concentrating on my choices and my character. If I want the Character of Christ I have to learn to love THROUGH these disappointments. I am not allowed to resign from the human race. Healthy boundaries are acceptable. Genocide and/or disconnection is not. And so I will chose to keep on loving and forgiving and praying for those who I know are really struggling with the basics of being a good person.

This blog brought to you – from the heart of this failure – who is still learning to love better.

What is “Lukewarm”?

While I was meandering through the internet I came across a sermon about Lukewarm Christians. Once upon a time when I had all the answers I could have rattled off a definition for such a term. The qualities for a Non-lukewarm individual would have included things like regular and consistent: church attendance, bible studies, service to others, tithing, support to missionaries, prayer meetings. I would have assumed that I could “see” whether or not you were lukewarm by observing your “outside” actions. Now I am not so convinced that I would have been right.

After exiting my polished Christian bubble I can see a things a little more clearly. My relationship with Christ has never been about what I “do”. It has always been about what He “did” for me. My relationship with Christ is on the inside – in the deepest part of my soul. If I know that to be true of myself why would I assume that I can judge lukewarm by outside actions?

Unfortunately the church is full of people who have adopted the outside shell of “good Christian”; however, when push comes to shove they are incapable of purity and strength of character. It is possible to have all of the outside traits that make one look like they are “on fire” for the Lord without having a true heart that would model His behavior. These model “Christians” are shallow individuals whose true character has not been changed by Christ as evidenced by the choices they make when out of the public eye.

20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23

I started to wonder about these things. If a person practices sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly yet they are intimately involved in the church will their outside activities prevent them from the category “lukewarm”?  I don’t think so. In fact, I believe these people have fooled themselves into believing that their Christian Resume will see them through. I don’t believe Christ has ever been impressed with a good Christian resume. I firmly believe He considers your heart and your motive.

Lukewarm. I don’t think it has anything to do with the outside activities mentioned above. I believe that He will declare those lukewarm who have knowingly walked away from that which is good and right to further their own desires. Those who tithe every paycheck and practice words of malice meant to injure. Those who would lead worship and break promises. Those who would attend the prayer meeting and let their sexual appetite rein in secret. Those who will serve others in public and behind the walls of their own home treat their families with anger. Those who nurture a healthy Christian resume and yet seek legal loopholes to escape moral obligation. Those who profess Christ and yet live a life soaked in arrogance. Those who know better and over all consistently chose themselves.

God is not mocked. He alone knows your soul. It is not possible to fool Him. His definition of “lukewarm” will be true and right with all of His light shining in all the corners of the motives at hand. The only thing keeping me from lukewarm is my invitation to invite Him into my everyday life and my everyday relationships. I know now that it isn’t about “church”.

It is all about Him.