Swimming into your Future

Swimming into your Future

After 5 months away from writing here … I’m back!

My alarm goes off at 4:45am. I get up and get moving toward the coffee source. I gather my gear and head to swim practice with the local US Masters team that kicks off at 5:30am. I do this two to three times per week. It keeps me in shape and typically brings me a good deal of pleasure.

The swim team is a great group of folks of various ages, ethnicities and skill levels. There are some very talented swimmers in the pool every day.

Over the last year, I have been struggling with my swim and a cloud of frustration seemed to lay over me. I didn’t notice how bad it had gotten until a couple days ago. I mean, swimming is my favorite sport. I really enjoy it. Or do I? The thought of ‘hanging it up’ had crossed my mind a couple times over the last couple months. That has never happened before.

Every morning when I show up to practice, this hotshot college swimmer jumps into my lane. He seems to only show up to practice when I’m there. Sometimes, I’m warming up in a lane alone and he jumps into my lane. He is way faster than me and he lets me know it.

Boy does this cocky punk get under my skin. Everyday I’m in the pool, he’s there talking smack to me. I get pissed off and begin swimming harder and harder – not concentrating on my stroke. I’m just pounding the water and feel like I’m treading water or (worse) swimming backwards! He just laughs and blazes right passed me, leaving me in his wake. He steals my enjoyment with every lap.

After Tuesday’s practice, I had a conversation with a guy who’s about my age and swims on the team as well. He’s a solid swimmer and continues to swim competitively. I was complaining about my swimming and shared my frustration. You see, I swam competitively in high school and college. I wasn’t always the fastest swimmer but I was a good and I could hold my own. I was sprinter. Short races were my specialty.  However, at 44 years old, I was frustrated and I expressed that to my teammate.

He said, “I’m not as fast as I was when I was younger. But that’s okay – I focus on the future.”  We parted ways and I went home not thinking much of it.

A couple hours later it hit me! I admitted to myself that the hotshot college punk swimmer in my lane everyday was ME. I was trying to compete with a 20 year old me. There is no way I can do that at 44 years old. Do you know what? That is just fine. There are a ton of things I can do at 44 that I could not even dream of doing at 20.

When I jumped into my lane this morning, the college punk didn’t show up. I focused on swimming into the future. It was one of the most enjoyable swims I’ve had in a long time.  I stopped my teammate after practice and thanked him for his encouraging words.  He said, “We just need to keep reminding each other to focus on the future.”

It’s interesting how we let our self-talk influence our mindset.  How past experiences, both positive and negative affect our lives today.  Sometimes it takes a few words from someone else to open our eyes and change our outlook.

Do not let the younger you criticize you today. Past mistakes, failings, triumphs and victories do not define you today.  Focus on the future. As your physical strength quotient declines, your wisdom and experience quotient increases. There is more joy to be had in the future than in the past.

Focus on the future, Encourage someone else today and NEVER EVER QUIT!


“Your own performance is either improved or diminished by the other people in your scenario.”

Dr. Henry Cloud


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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 Little Boy and The Little Lady

The Little Boy and The Little Lady

The following was adapted from a talk delivered on January 20, 2019 at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Ft. Worth, TX. Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

Imagine a baby in the womb – warm and safe. It’s a little boy. He’s not aware of the outside world. He just knows he’s safe.

Meanwhile, his parent’s marriage is falling apart as brokenness and selfishness drive a wedge between his mother and father. The fighting intensifies into a crisis.

With the little boy in her womb, the mother goes to her doctor filled with hurt and fear. She asks physician to get rid of the little boy she is carrying. The doctor replies, “I will not do that.” He sends her away. The little boy doesn’t know how close he came to death that day.

As the fearful young mother leaves the doctor’s office alone, Something inside her changes…

She chooses to keep the child regardless of what happens with her marriage. She whispers to herself, “He is mine! He is my little boy. Come what may.”

And so the little boy is born into chaos and brokenness. His parents divorce but the fighting and turmoil will continue for years to come.

A few years pass by and the little boy begins first grade. The first weeks are a struggle because he gets out of school hours before his mother gets off work. She juggles work and picking him up from school. It’s not working out.

One day when the mom picks up the little boy at the church where the school bus drops off the children, she sees a little lady looking after the children on the playground. She is older, kindly and not quite 5 feet tall. The mother introduces herself and points out her little boy on the playground with the other children. She says to the little lady, “Do you see that little boy playing over there? He is mine.” The mother tells the little lady of her struggles picking up her little boy after school.

The mother asks, “Would you be willing to look after my little boy until I get off work?”

“Of course, I will look after him.” responds the little lady with a warm smile.

And God quietly sends a missionary into the lives of the little boy and his mother.

The little lady cares for him, prays for him and loves him. She shares Jesus with the little boy. In the midst of the chaos and struggles going on around him, the little boy has an anchor.

Years pass and the little lady encourages the little boy to make a decision about Christ and be baptized. He does and there is great joy – at least for a little while…

The little boy gets a little older and leaves home for boarding school far away. The little lady continues to pray and intercede for him. She sends him letters encouraging him and reminding him he is loved by God. He visits when he’s home sometimes.

However, time and distance grow between the boy and the little lady. She is growing old but she never ceases praying for him day and night.

The boy begins to wonder into the shadows and valleys becoming enchanted with darkness. Now, he is at college far from home. He becomes entangled in snares and brambles of sin. The boy meets a girl on his dark path. They have a relationship and she becomes pregnant with their own child.

BUT, THE BOY HAS CHANGED
He has grown selfish and filled with fear, shame and anger. He persuades the girl to kill the child in her womb. With the death of his child at his own hand – something inside of the boy dies too.

The little lady senses trouble. She launches salvos of prayer into the very halls of heaven. But, no answers come into the life of the boy.

Time passes as the void left in the boy’s life is flooded with more darkness, shame and destruction. The boy attempts to remain afloat pursuing worldly pleasures to sedate the pain, as he tumbles into the abyss.

And one day, the little lady who had prayed and prayed for the boy dies and goes to the Father in Heaven. Still, no answers in the boy’s life… Did the sustaining prayers die with the little lady?

Many years later, the boy has fallen into a deep pit in the valley of shadows – exhausted, ashamed and lost. He believes the only way out is to die by his own hand. After all, it is what he deserves.

THEN, SOMETHING CHANGES
In the boy’s darkest moment, mighty God shuts the mouth of the roaring lion. He stays the hand of the enemy and declares, “This one is mine!”

Into this dark valley of shadows, the good shepherd seeks and searches for the one that wondered off. Over the mountains and through the valleys and brambles he finds the one he is searching for. He stoops down and lifts up the lost sheep. And he returns it to the fold with the others.

Do you see that sheep laying torn, bloodied and exhausted so very close to the shepherd’s feet?
Do you see him resting there?

The good shepherd with wounded hands binds the wounds of this sheep. The shepherd looks into the tired and tearing eyes of the trembling sheep and whispers, “I have a plan and purpose for you. From the time you were in your mother’s womb, I watched over you and protected you. I love you more than you will ever know.”

A light dawns on the horizon of the boy’s life. And so the boy stumbles down a path toward God.

Now imagine a magnificent morning in heaven. Absolutely glorious. The little lady goes up to worship and praise the Father with the multitudes. The halls of heaven fill with God’s glory. An angel steps forward to announce that the little lady’s prayer for the little boy has come up for memorial before the Father – a prayer from decades ago – that God would bless, protect and use the little boy.

And so the Father in Heaven listens and sends forth a gentle rain of answered prayer into the life of the boy.

I am that boy.

I STAND before you today under that gentle rain of answered prayer – to bear witness to what God has done and proclaim the Gospel to the nations.

John 3:16

(Feel free to comment and share below)

Images of the Little Boy and the Little Lady

Note: I must note the imagry captured about the lost sheep was inspired by FW. Borhham’s “The Pasture Green a Journey Through Palsm 23”. The imagery of answered prayer as a “gentle rain” was inspired by O. Halesby’s book, “Prayer”.  I highly recommend Boreham and O. Halesby to fellow pilgrims. They will enrich your life beyond measure.

Read previous post: The one who states his case first seems right, UNTIL …
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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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It’s always an inside job

It’s always an inside job

I used to think that Facebook was my problem. 

Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine.  It felt great in the moment.  

Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later.  At present, I rarely check the platform.  Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline.  Not much has changed.  I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon.  Addiction defeated, problem solved right?

Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty.  So, I was stuck inside the house.   I had some choices to make.  I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash.  All decent options.

I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem.  I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day.  No need to do that.  Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end.  Simple enough.  Let’s read!  I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.

At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news. 

The battle was on! 

I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book.  Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down.  Problem solved!

I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book.  Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?”  My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call.  I’d better keep it with me while I read.  I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout.  In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again.  After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight.  A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel.  I had been ambushed!  It was an inside job!

It’s always an inside job!

My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News.  My problem is my heart.  If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly.  Yes, I have a few Godly desires.  But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God.  There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news.  However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.

Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives.  A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.

As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness).  I read the passage and something changed.  A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.

Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection.  We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…”  I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises.  In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!” 

Is that what James 4 is about?  We don’t have because we don’t ask? 

You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.” 

James 4:2b-3 ESV

We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions.  Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages.  God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.

Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God?  Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.

How worldly is your prayer life?


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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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