Getting quieter and more boring

shushI’ve noticed something about my personality lately. I’m getting a little quieter and a little more boring. At other times in my life this realization would have garnered some consternation and some possible insecurity. I might have tried to push back or compensate in some different ways.

But not this time. This time it’s different. It’s by design.

Over the past few months I’ve been trying to do a much better job of guarding my speech. I can relate to the words of Arsenius (Roman educator turned monk) who said, “I have often repented of having spoken, but never of having remained silent.”

In the past my humor or engaging conversations sometimes came with a price. I pushed the lines of sarcasm, or I said things that I regretted afterwards. I hate that feeling. I hate the cringing regret of saying too much, or speaking out of turn, or being mildly critical in my humor.

So I’m working on it. I’m biting my tongue. I’m passing up some really good jokes. Sometimes I feel awkwardly quiet, but I don’t feel regret.

I want my speech to be life giving. I want to heal and empower and speak to the destiny and potential of the people around me.

Some day I’ll be funny again. 🙂 But the jokes will never sting other people or cross lines of dignity or honor.

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6)


Knight’s Code of Honor

knight in armor

In our recent men’s retreat there was much talk of honor, gallantry, and living as noble, courageous men of God. It got me thinking of the literal knights’ code of honor from the Middle Ages. This code continues to stir my own soul so I wanted to pass it on to all of you. Enjoy!

  • To never do outrage or murder
  • Always to flee treason
  • To by no means be cruel but to give mercy unto him who asks for mercy
  • To always do ladies, gentlewomen, and widows succor
  • To never force ladies, gentlewomen, or widows
  • Not to take up battles in wrongful quarrels or for love of worldly goods
  • To never lay down arms
  • To seek after wonders
  • When called upon, to defend the rights of the weak with all of one’s strength
  • To injure no one
  • Not to attack on another
  • To fight for the safety of one’s country
  • To give one’s life for one’s country
  • To seek nothing before honor
  • Never to lose faith for any reason
  • To practice religion most diligently
  • To grant hospitality to anyone, each according to his ability

Not the conquering warlord

warrior on a horseA donkey, a red carpet made of cast aside robes, palm branches waved in the air, and little children shouting, “Hosanna!”

That was the extent of the pomp and circumstance with which Jesus commenced His Passion Week. It was hardly the entrance of a conquering hero. Indeed, the Roman warlords of that day would have scorned such a humble entrance.

He was only days away from defeating sin, death, hell, and the grave, and yet Jesus entered Jerusalem in simplicity and “approachability.”

It was vintage Jesus.

From the moment of His birth when common shepherds helped Joseph and Mary count His fingers and toes, to dinners with both preachers and prostitutes, to this innocuous entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus made Himself “reachable” by the average Joe.

In fact after this ignoble entrance into the city He removed His robe and washed the sweaty feet of His followers. It was hardly the action of a Caesar or a Greek god, and yet it embodied the actions of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Ours is a backwards kingdom. We push the down button to go up, we serve to be great, we give our lives away to find them, and our King approaches Palm Sunday amid the laughter and delight of little children.

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

fortune cookieWhat do you get when you combine steamed rice, greasy Mongolian beef, high MSG content, and a very out-of-date fortune cookie (I mean something besides violent stomach cramps)?

Last week, the answer was a Word from the Lord.

I was at a new Chinese joint, hoping to discover the perfect rice bowl (you know how rice bowls are–they’re either exquisitely divine or tragically destructive), when I got the word through my fortune cookie.

I was reviewing my sermon notes for “Ziklag” while I ate (Ziklag is my church’s monthly men’s gathering), and after finishing my meal and stowing my notes, I cracked open the cookie and dusted off the ancient wisdom inside. Before I tell you what I read, I should mention that the content of my Ziklag talk revolved around the importance of protecting and preserving our integrity as men.

As I unfurled the little, white fortune scroll, I expected to read something like, “Happiness will follow you” or “Be ready for new opportunities,” however, it was something else entirely that confronted me. The message read: “Take no risks with your reputation.”

I could have scrapped my entire sermon and simply passed around the cookie.

Take no risks with your reputation.” 

That’s some of the best New Year’s advice we could receive, and if we follow that advice, guarding our integrity at all costs in this upcoming year, we will enjoy the priceless treasure of a clear conscience and a guilt-free heart. We’ll sleep well, knowing that the character we’ve built through our lifetime won’t be jeopardized by a careless, fleeting moment.

Our reputation will be safe.


An Olympics Post Script

London 2012 banner at The Monument.

Of all people, LeBron James most accurately articulated the essence of the Olympic spirit at the close of our recent 2012 Olympics Games (I’m still a sworn Miami Heat hater though because of my loyalties to our beloved Los Angeles Lakers).

After the Dream Team’s gold medal basketball victory over Team Spain, the interviewer said to a beaming LeBron, “Wow, it’s been quite a year for you with your NBA Finals victory and now a gold medal. What does this past year mean for you personally?”

LeBron responded with the poise of a true Olympian. He said, “This moment isn’t about me. It’s about the 3 letters on the front of my jersey: U.S.A.” And then he proceeded to sidestep the question and simply express how proud he was to represent his nation before the rest of the world.

A few minutes later all of the Dream Team members mounted the victors’ podium as their nation’s anthem filled the stadium, and their nation’s flag ascended above the flags of every other contending nation. That final moment from the London 2012 Olympics beautifully expressed a sentiment from Jesus in John 15:8. He said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit.”

Just as the victories and achievements of Olympic athletes bring glory to their respective nations, so too our spiritual fruitfulness and accomplishments are for the glory of God’s kingdom.

Lord, help us to excel, not for personal ambition, recognition, or acclaim, but for the reputation, exaltation, and advancement of Your Kingdom. We want to see the banner of Your Kingdom exalted above all others. Amen.”

Courting disqualification

Atlanta Olympic Rings.
Atlanta Olympic Rings. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This summer is the Games of the XXX Olympiad, and Jessica and I have already cleared our schedules so we can watch Michael Phelps, Brian Clay, and our other favorite athletes make Olympic history. They’ve worked, trained, and agonized for their moments of Olympic glory, and I can’t wait to cheer them on.

I just hope they don’t disqualify themselves between now and then.

We all know that the Olympic games are about far more than a race or an event—they’re about a lifetime of preparation for that event. Phelps and Clay won’t win repeat gold in England this summer unless they’re careful with how they live today.

The Apostle Paul understood this, and he used explicitly Olympic language in        1 Corinthians 9:24-27 when he said, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

My heart resonates with Paul’s desire to avoid disqualification (I’m sure yours does too). And I keep thinking about the fact that there are multiple forms of disqualification. A false start from the starting blocks can disqualify a sprinter from their big event, but so can a positive drug test in the weeks leading up to the event. And so can a failure to diligently pay the price every single day in practice.

Sometimes we can court disqualification through inattention and inactivity just as much as through more overt areas of compromise. Let’s do a little pre-Olympic soul-searching to make sure we aren’t guilty of courting disqualification in any significant area of our lives.

A barefoot Moses in Sinai

Moses before the Burning Bush
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve discovered the answer for how to succeed in life, relationships, leadership, and ministry.

However, before you write me off as either delusional or presumptuous, let me quickly say that I didn’t originate the answer—I just heard it and wrote it down. I was in a pastors’ training seminar with Pastor Jack Hayford (an esteemed author, teacher, and pastor to pastors) when I heard it. Jack was coaching a roomful of pastors on how to succeed in life and ministry, when he made a statement that has forever lodged in my heart. He said, “Leadership that succeeds walks softly, like a barefoot Moses in Sinai.”

I loved that statement!  And it resonated with me on multiple levels. As a student of the Bible, I’ve always loved the imagery of Moses slipping off his sandals and kneeling on holy ground, and it’s always inspired me to pursue my own moments of barefooted worship and surrender. As a church leader, that statement reminded me that the safest place in the world is the place of reverential devotion and the fear of the Lord.

I think Pastor Jack nailed the essence of successful leadership. Leaders who succeed for the long haul never lose their dependence on the power and presence of God. They never walk in self-sufficient arrogance, and they are quick to discern when common ground turns holy.

A barefoot Moses in Sinai—I hope that’s descriptive of you and me. And I hope it always continues to be.