Dear Mr. President – We are their only hope [Kurds]

Dear Mr. President – We are their only hope [Kurds]

Below is a letter that I sent to President Donald Trump today regarding the recall of US troops from Syria. There is trouble in Syria, Turkey and Northern Iraq.  This is the home of the Kurdish people.  I’m calling for this administration to take immediate action to protect this region from those groups and nations that would cause them harm.  ISIS 2.0 is ramping up in the region and Turkey (while in NATO) is no friend to the US or the Kurds.

The Kurds stood for us. Let’s stand for them.

Politics must be set aside in order to unite to do good. I encourage you to engage as well.  We live in a country where citizens are free and safe to voice their dissent and opinions against actions or policies of our government.  You have a voice, use it. Be wise and respectful when you do.

Letter Text:

President Donald Trump
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing you in regard to your announcement to recall U.S. troops from Syria.

I am a pastor in Fort Worth, Texas. In 2018, I visited Northern Iraq (Kurdistan) with an NGO assisting the rescue and recovery of Yazidi women and children from ISIS terrorists in the region. They are also providing trauma care for those victims in the refugee camps around Duhok. I have seen first hand what ISIS has done to families and communities. It is impossible to describe the horrors they have experienced.

While in Kurdistan, I had the privilege of meeting Kurdish people from all over the region. Many of whom had fought ISIS and lost family members. Every Kurd I met was warm, kind and loving toward our great nation, the United States. The hospitality extended me while in-country can only be credited to the hard work of Americans over the last several years. I could not have been more proud to be an American.

The Kurdish region is the hidden gem of the Middle East. The Kurdish people are an international treasure – made up of Christians, Yazidi and Muslims. With vision and U.S. partnership, the region can become the epicenter of human flourishing, freedom and economic growth. No other nation on the face of the earth has the foresight and fortitude to stand for the Kurdish people like we do. ISIS or other terror groups will fill the security vacuum. We must protect the vulnerable and stand in the gap for our friends. We are their only hope.

In conclusion, Kurdish children have hopes and dreams – just like my children and your children. I’m humbly asking leadership to consider the unintended consequences of our actions. Please stand for the Kurdish people. We have an opportunity to make history and save lives. I hope to visit my Kurdish friends again one day and know that my nation stood in the gap for them. I ask myself the haunting questions, “What if that was my family? Who would help us?”

May God continue to grant you favor, vision and wisdom in your service to our nation. Thank you for giving me a hearing.

Serving you,

Lance A. Cashion

What is Good, True and Beautiful

What is Good, True and Beautiful

In times of cynicism, banality, negativity and outrage there are two kinds of people. There are those who race to the bottom and make things worse. Then, there are those who elevate the cultural conversation and take action.

A few bad actors don’t make an entire group of people bad.

Don’t judge a philosophy by its misuse.

What is meant for good can be used for evil and vice versa.

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.

Worldview matters. A vital key to understanding reality is to know what is good, what is true and what is beautiful. Only when we know those core essentials can we create a vision of restoration and act on it.  C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

Engage reality – create solutions, combat evil, restore people and relationships.

Ask these four questions

1. What is good you can celebrate?

2. What is missing you can contribute or create?

3. What is evil you can stop?

4. What is broken you can restore?

Develop these three life skills

  • Wisdom (the art of living well in light of objective truth – in community, in our cultural moment)
  • Discernment (identifying the nature of things – good or evil)
  • Moral Courage (the will to stand for what is good, true and beautiful)

Goodness, truth and beauty find their source in God. When you look at a world in crisis, ask yourself; What is Good, True and Beautiful?  When you experience brokenness,  understand that it’s not supposed to be this way.  Ask the four questions before racing to the bottom.

Elevate the conversation and respond with your heart set on restoration.

Practice – Training 

Next time you sit with your family for dinner, ask each person to share something good, true and beautiful they’ve experienced today.  Challenge them to focus on these things over the next week – to see their reality differently.  When we know what is good, true and beautiful – we can frame solutions to all the bad stuff and negativity in our world. Our ministry is based on a good, true and beautiful God.  Its from that foundation that we deal with sin, brokenness, evil and pain.  Our mission is reconciliation and restoration.

*Note: The ideas in this post flow from Colson Fellows course study and talks given by John Stonestreet (Colson Center).  I am thankful for those who stir the hearts and minds of men to think carefully in our culture.


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Essay: Letter to the Emperor – The Rise of the Failed State

Essay: Letter to the Emperor – The Rise of the Failed State

Dear Emperor of the East,

You have a choice in this moment. Choose wisely.

Your dynasty will perish by self-inflicted wounds of unlearned lessons from the past. You sit upon the limb of a great tree, yet you saw the branch on which you perch.

Do not make the mistakes of your predecessors. They demolished the foundation on which their empires stood. Understand, you will die a failure, in a failed state leaving a legacy of failure.

The ‘strong men’ of broken empires past and empires falling today are nothing but ‘foolish men’. The fool is marked by pride. His hubris crushes him in shame. Are you such a fool? Does wisdom not call to you from the streets of your empire? Ah, but you think it wise to suppress the voice of truth and ignore the cries of the helpless.

Look to the great north! There is a ‘strong man’ where an empire once stood. It’s economy is in shambles. The Czar’s castles crumble in self-delusion and a philosophy tried and left wanting. He is an autocrat cornered by his own pride. He is food for jackals and ravens.

The parable says, the foolish prince’s pride is his folly. He is deficient in wisdom and humility. He’s defiant of truth – even when empirical evidence points to the coming failed state. History is replete with examples of this futility of the mind and disjointed governance of peoples.

In 50 years, your empire has risen on the tide of the Christian worldview and ethic. The freedom and virtue of that ethic undergirds the very economic foundation on which you rest and enrich yourself. The entrepreneurial spirit does not arise from atheistic materialism, Confucianism or totalitarianism. In fact, the worldview you vainly espouse is rooted in envy.

Envy destroys everything.

Envy says, “If I can’t have what you have, I will destroy what you have and neither of us will have it!” Envy is therefore folly and leads to mass misery. Your worldview was born of envy and the will to power. All are folly and futility.

Your system is bifurcated. You benefit from economic flourishing and freedom but you attempt to crush the very spirit that brings them about. Are you so short-sighted? You can’t have it both ways. Your economic engine is stalling and falling. Your people and the heritage you claim to cherish are fading into the darkness (again). Your future is a failed state in the ashes of human history.

When you are alone, you indulge in the proclivities of your heart. Your thoughts are dark and you must crush the hope you cannot possess for yourself. Your will to power leaves you empty and power-less. You enslave others because you yourself are in bondage to darkness. Therefore, you attempt to snuff out the light to ensure ALL are forced to live in darkness.

Wisdom stands at the gates of your empire and mocks you. Folly is there too. Folly beckons you to follow the crooked path of darkness not knowing over that which you stumble. To see the world through your eyes is to see utter darkness.

“One child for one family” was your empire’s evil decree. Murder was rampant in your midst as little girls were sacrificed on the altar of your materialistic god. Today, your “god” has blessed you with too many males and too few females to replenish your land. You are a dying nation – a dying culture.

You lay siege on the church as you foolishly ignore history. Don’t you know the gates of your hell will not prevail against her? History proves that persecuting the church fuels the fire of its own growth. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” The old emperor of your land once proclaimed, “I have rid this empire of Christ and His church.” It begs the question; Who is dead? Is the church dead? Is it not your old emperor who is dead? The old dead emperor is rotting in his grave as the church is mighty in your empire. He was a fool thinking himself to be wise.

Don’t be so foolhardy to follow such empty ideas and crooked paths. They all lead to death. One day you will meet death. It will come upon you like thief in the night. Your body will cease functioning, you will soil yourself, draw your last and be heaped into a hole in the ground to rot and feed worms. You will have lived and died a fool. Is that what you want, sir?

If you heed the voice of wisdom, a new day will dawn for your empire – prosperous new day when the emperor understood that he is but a mist.

Don’t be deceived. Humility, not hubris is the mark of a true leader. The choice is yours. Choose wisely, for he who enables your heart to beat will not be mocked. There is a more dangerous emperor and judge waiting in your path. He can fell you with a word. Or he can redeem you and bring peace to your land.

An ancient king was struck down on his throne 2000 years ago “because he did not give God glory.” There is a more powerful and dangerous emperor who hears the cries of the poor. He has whetted his sword of justice and waiting for you. There is no escape. Will you meet him as friend or foe? The choice is yours.

Listen to wisdom this day while it remains today. There may not be a tomorrow for you. Early morning rains are the sweetest and most refreshing. A messenger has been sent to you with good news that you may not perish. Behold, even now, there is a knock at your door…


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The one who states his case first seems right, UNTIL …

The one who states his case first seems right, UNTIL …

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

(Proverbs 18:17)

Anyone with children over the age of 4 can attest to the proverb above. The first story isn’t always the right story.

Foolishness loves being first;
and Rashness is remiss,
But, Wisdom waits;
and Prudence is patient.

Everyday at 8:55am a little reminder pops up on my iPhone. It reminds me that I will probably be doing a lot of talking today and I should be mindful of what I say.  It reads;

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3)

Hundreds of words will be uttered from my mouth. As a leader, my words carry influence and authority. They have consequences. Therefore, I need a reminder to watch what I say.

I prefer wisdom over foolishness and prudence over rashness.

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Proverbs 17:27-28)

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain

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Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Last weekend, I took my 9 year old son (Nelson) for an overnight camping adventure at our ranch.

I had three objectives. First, to invest time into my son’s life. Second, teach him practical outdoor skills while feeding his sense of adventure. Third, each activity was designed to point him toward authentic manhood. All the while, pushing him outside his comfort zone surrounded by God’s amazing creation.

Upon arrival, I gave him a gift. It was a small field med-pack with a headlamp (red light), a striker, one chem-light (aka: glow-stick for all you ravers), a multi-tool, a small LED light to illuminate the inside the bag at night, a zip-lock with several cotton balls soaked in Vasaline petroleum jelly, a small first aid kit, a wrist compass and a two-way radio. I instructed him to keep the pack with him at all times.

Before sunset, our first lesson was to learn how to start a fire without conventional ignition, like matches or lighters. We gathered rocks, tinder and wood. Then I demonstrated how to ignite a tinder ball using a striker and a cotton ball covered in Vasaline.  Nelson practiced a few times before dinner.

Night came and temperatures fell. Stars filled the clear sky. Nighttime noises in the country surrounded us – crickets, frogs, locusts, owls and coyotes

We dawned our packs and made our way down to the pasture gate in the darkness. I instructed him to turn on his red-light head-lamp and close the pasture gate behind him. I prayed and read Bible passages about loyalty, leadership and humility over him. We turned on our two-way radios and tested our comms. Loud and clear.

“What are we going to do, dad?” he asked with a great deal of uncertainty.

As I put the compass on his wrist, I said, “Son, I am going to walk 250 yards down the path. You will stay here until I call on the radio. When I call, you will begin walking on a southwest heading, keeping on the path. Do not wonder off the path. As you know, there are cactus, snakes and trip hazards out here.” I continued, “Down the hill, there is a tree with a green chem-light hanging in it. I will meet you there.”

Coyotes were howling all around and the moon was not quite high enough to give much light. The red headlamp only emits enough light to illuminate the ground a few feet in front of you.

With his voice a little shaky, he uttered the words I expected, “Dad, I’m a little scared.”

I replied, “Son, there is nothing to be afraid of – this is just a new environment for you.”

I continued, “You have your radio and red light. You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you. Stay on the path, use your radio and your compass. I’ll meet you in a few minutes at the tree. I love you.” I shut off my headlamp and made my way into the darkness.

You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you.

When I arrived at the tree, I made the radio call to Nelson. I could see his red light up the hill begin to move toward my position. He radioed that he was still afraid. I encouraged him to keep walking down the hill. “I can see you. You are doing a great job son. Keep going!”

As he approached our meeting point under the tree, he couldn’t see me in the darkness. So, I called out to him without the radio. Nelson trotted over to me. He was so excited, I was too. Hive-fives and hugs around the board. I congratulated him and read Bible passages on purity, honesty and self-discipline to him.

After a drink of water and another radio check, I told him we had a second objective – further into the pasture. The terrain is rocky with a little creek running through it. There would be another tree with a chem-light hanging in it. I walked ahead into the dark to the meeting place and called him over the radio to begin walking. He could hear my voice but couldn’t see me. But, I could see him.

He arrived at the tree excited and confident. I instructed him to take off his pack, get out his striker and fuel. “Are we going to start a fire here?” he asked. I replied laughing, “YOU are going to start a fire!” We cleared a small space and he gathered tinder. With minimal guidance from me, he assembled a small bundle and put the petroleum jelly soaked cotton ball in the center. After several minutes of failed attempts, he produced a giant spark that landed in the center of the bundle. We had fire!  The boy had built his first fire.  I could see his self-confidence and satisfaction on his face.

As we hovered over the tiny flames, I read scripture about excellence, integrity and perseverance over him and I prayed. He was so excited. We put out the tiny fire, put on our packs and headed back to the pasture gate where we had begun.

This time Nelson would lead the way and I would follow. We talked and laughed as we walked in the darkness. Looking forward to building a camp fire and roasting some marshmallows. We would sleep beneath a blanked of stars.  Nelson had conquered fear, learned something about listening to the father’s voice in the darkness and learned perseverance through fear and adversity.

 

Further consideration…

Maybe you are in the darkness right now. The darkness can be a dreadful place. However, our heavenly father can see us and we can hear his voice in darkest night. You can call out to him. He will answer.

Special Note: The ideas for this activity with my son originated with a book called “Raising a Modern-Day Knight” by Robert Lewis and operations with Ironcenturion. Thanks guys for your creativity and leadership.


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Goal Setting – a proven system

Goal Setting – a proven system

I’m often asked how I go about setting goals.

So, I decided to share my goal setting system. You may not be a goal-setter.  On the other hand, you could be goal guru.  Wherever you find yourself, I hope you find value here.

First, I have not always been a goal-setter. I was aimless for many years until someone (Dave Ramsey) taught me how to set goals. More importantly, I was taught ‘why’ I needed to set goals.

Second, I am not claiming that my process is the only way to set goals. Nor is it completely original. I am drawing from great leaders from whom I’ve learned over the years.

Thirdly, I’m not going to get into the ‘why’ of goal setting here. This article is for the individual who knows ‘why’ goal setting is important but needs a fresh look or wants to go a little deeper. I ask the men I mentor and leaders I work with to set goals using this method (or a variation). If we are setting goals using similar methods – we are speaking the same language.

FYI – I set my annual personal goals in March (as not to get mired by the ‘New Years Resolutions’ of others.)

I. Goal Setting Basics

Your goals must:

  • Be SPECIFIC
  • Be MEASURABLE (achievable)
  • Be YOUR OWN (don’t let someone else set your personal goals)
  • Have a TIME LIMIT
  • Be in WRITING (keep where you can see them every day)

Example: “I want to complete the XYZ half-marathon (13.1 miles) on October 1, 2018.”

 

II. Undergird your goals (the ‘whats’)

For each goal ask the following questions (write down the answers)

1. What are the benefits of reaching this goal?
2. What are the obstacles?
3. What help is needed?
4. What is my plan of action?
5. What is my time-budget?

Using the example: “I want to complete the XYZ half-marathon (13.1 miles) on October 1, 2018.”

1. Benefits: I will be healthier, stronger and gain a sense of accomplishment
2. Obstacles: Procrastination and busy schedule (work and family)
3. Help needed: Accountability and encouragement – perhaps a training coach or partner
4. Plan of Action: Training plan – weekly running and conditioning schedule, diet changes, journal results
5. Time Budget: Weekly time set aside for training leading up to the half-marathon

III. Balance your personal goals

I recommend setting goals in 7 areas of life (Zig Ziglar’s ‘wheel’). This will keep you from becoming lopsided. Unbalanced goals will cause problems in other areas of life. Think of driving a car with a flat tire.

Set goals in these seven areas:

1. Personal (relational)
2. Spiritual
3. Family
4. Financial
5. Career
6. Intellectual
7. Physical

IV. Share your Goals

My biggest obstacle in reaching my goals is me. I must admit I need help (and I consider myself a self-starter). However, life gets busy and I know I’m a magician at creating busyness that pushes goals aside. Its a form of procrastination. Therefore, I share my goals with folks who will hold me accountable. I give them permission to press into me and ask me how I’m doing. They are my cheerleaders as well.  I need someone to speak into my life and tell me to get moving or be there if I need help. (Great book on this is ‘Power of the Other’ by Dr. Henry Cloud)

I can’t say it enough, share your goals!

V. Going deeper with goals

Personal Mission Statement: If you want to live a life that matters and makes a difference in the world, create a personal mission statement. It is your ‘why’. It tells the world who you are and what you are about. Here is my mission statement.

Prayer: As a Christ-follower, I am intentional about prayer. I need wisdom, vision and strength to set and achieve goals. In addition, I want my goals to be in line with God’s will and purpose for my life. Pray in each of the seven areas of your life and ask God to provide direction.

Bible Verses: It is vital to me to have a bible verse as the foundation of my goals. I usually have one for the entire year. This verse undergirds all of my goals and acts as a theme for the year. When times get tough, I can fall back on God’s Word for strength. This reminds me whose ultimately in charge.

Reflection and Reporting: At the end of the year, I reflect and report on my goals. I share this with the team and invite feedback.

VI. When you FAIL – and you will FAIL

Every week I try to experience three things:

1. Accomplish something difficult
2. Learn something new
3. FAIL at something

Failure is a good thing. I do not hit all of my goals every year. If I did, my goals are not challenging enough. We need failure. We learn more from failure than success. When I look back over goals I’ve failed to achieve, I learn where I failed and why. I learn and also see PROGRESS! We may have failed to reach our goals but we make progress.

 

Encouragement for you

In conclusion, below are some quotes I keep in mind when it comes to goals:

“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” – Zig Ziglar

On being SPECIFIC: “Aim small, miss small” – Chris Kyle (US Navy SEAL Sniper)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint (or perish)…” – Proverbs 29:18

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

I hope this is helpful.

Now, get after it!


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