Bank It

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The enemy of your soul cannot stop you.

“Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

“No weapons formed against you…” (Isaiah 54:17)

Etc.

But that DOES NOT mean you will succeed.

The one who cannot stop you will seek to stymie you.

The one who cannot defeat you will seek to demoralize you.

The one who cannot destroy you will attempt to drain you.

The one who cannot keep you will seek to distract you.

Until you quit.

The one who tempts you knows your temperature.

So, what will it take?

For you to abandon your mission?

Forget the calling?

Leave the dream in the middle of the desert you’re in and go home?

Just check out?

What will it take to take you out?

What straw will be the last one for your ego?

It’s fun to launch things.

It’s tough to lead things.

It’s really tough to finish things.

So what does the enemy need to whisper in your ear to get you to quit?

Do not be deceived.

A God-given dream never lies. (Habakkuk 2:1-3)

Reality will lie to you.

She begins with the truth; the way things are.

But then she draws her dismal conclusions in falsity;

“And this way they will always be.”

“This is the end of the story.”

But know this

It may take longer.

It may cost more.

It may look different.

But a God-given vision never lies.

Bank it.

Beware: The Word on the Street

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Have confidants. Have mentors watching you. Listen to sound advice. Question your motives. Do the work of self-awareness. But be wary of the word on the street. It’s a common phrase when someone wants to summarize what they and a few people around them think about your situation. If you let the word on the street, positive or negative, become your narrative, you are no longer the author of your story.

Jason Redman is a retired Navy Seal. His book: The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy Seal Officer, has hit me hard.

Even though a Seal Officer, for 13 years Redman had the gifts but not the graces to be a leader. By his own account he was arrogant and proud. After a couple of missteps that should have cost him his career, the word on the street was he was finished. A few key leaders, however, believed differently.

While picking up cigarette butts on an army base as part of his reforging, Redman had an awakening that changed his life.

Principle #1: Redemption is possible regardless of who you are, but you better wake up before it’s too late.

What follows is an amazing story of exactly that; redemption. As a result of the awakening, his attitude, his habits, and ultimately his life changed. Over time he earned the trust of his superiors and the soldiers entrusted to him. The story could end there and be a movie, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t because life seems to always have another ambush waiting around the corner.

In early September of 2007, Redmen led a team ambushed in a firefight. From less than 50 feet away a machine gun opened up. Three operators were stuck and he was one of them. One bullet shattered his left arm. Another entered his face just in front of his ear and exited his nose, essentially blowing out his face. All in all, he was hit with seven bullets; yet he survived. Word on the street was he wouldn’t, but he did. Survive, I mean, and much more.

His courageous story of comeback and victory is one every leader should read.

One of the keys to the life he enjoys now is a decision he made just days into his recovery and that decision is the point of this blog. His recovery included 37 surgeries, 1,500 stitches, 200 staples, 15 skin grafts, a tracheotomy, and probably still continues in one form or another to this very day.

He made the life-altering decision after hearing guests to his room talk about him when they didn’t know he could hear them. What he heard lit a fuse that ignited a new life. What he heard was pity. Pity, he knew, had one companion always at its side; self. Self-pity was not going to narrate Redman’s show. So he found some card-stock paper, a marker, and made a sign. Here’s the sign:

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To be clear, the phrase the word on the street are not, as much as I can remember, included in his book, but the concept is referenced over and over nonetheless. As I listened to Mr. Redman tell his story on the Jocko Willink podcast, I was moved. That podcast, linked below, will likely inspire you as it did me to read the book.

Do it.

Here’s why:

Principle #2: Every leader will face an ambush and their destiny will ultimately be decided by their response to it.

Whether it’s your own pride and ego, or a well hidden enemy determined to take you down, ambushes happen. Don’t give up.

Thank you, Jason for your service to our country and for sharing your story.

Peace.

(2 Corinthians 4:7-9) “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAo0wz91lt8

Weary of Drama?

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My granddaughter and I were playing in the basement. Her games and mine are vastly different. Chloe plays games that model life, so she likes playing life. I like playing fiction. In her games, we do stuff she watches adults actually do like go to the store, clean the house, play a board game, etc. In my games we fight dragons and bad guys. Don’t judge me, I’m a guy. And I’m old.

On this day Chloe wanted to play store. I was the cashier. She had a play shopping cart and browsed the toys in the basement before making her purchases. Then she came to my counter. I pretended to scan the items and accept her credit card for payment. She got in her plastic car and drove fifteen feet away where she lived. Afterward I said, “Now what do you want to play?” She said, “Let’s play store again.”

I was bored.

Me: “Okay, but this time, let’s add something.”

Chloe: “Like what?”

Me: “Like, let’s have a robber come in the store…”

Chloe: “No!” (She interrupted.) “No robbers.”

Me: “Okay, then let me add some potential purchases to your shopping list.”

Chloe: “Like what?”

Me: “Well, like these guns or these handcuffs.” (Lifting plastic toys left over from a violent era gone-by.)

Chloe: “Nope. No guns or handcuffs, Papa.” (Firm and with a bit of attitude.)

Me: “But Chloe, something exciting needs to happen!”

Chloe: “No Papa, we’re shopping. That’s exciting enough.”

(And with that she pretended to continue shopping our basement. A few moments later…)

Chloe: “Oh, look, some Play-Doh. That will be exciting.”

Me: “Whatever.”

(She came to check-out.)

Me: “Did you find everything okay?”

Chloe: “Yes, thank you.”

Me: “Would you like to buy some guns or handcuffs in case bad guys try to carjack you?”

Chloe: (Smiling and rolling her eyes.) “No Papa, we’re in your basement. No one is going to carjack me. I don’t even know what that is.” (Handing me her pretend payment card.)

Me: (Frowning and sighing) “Hmmmmmmmmm…”

Chloe: “What’s wrong?”

Me: “I’m sorry, but I’m going to need to see some ID.”

Chloe: “What’s ID?”

Me: “ID stands for ‘identification.’ Like a Driver’s License.”

Chloe: “I don’t have one.”

Me: “Well then, I guess you’ll have to pay cash.”

Chloe: “I don’t have any cash.”

Me: “Sorry missy, no cash, no groceries.” (Pure satisfaction. Shaking my head and removing her items from the counter.)

Chloe: “Wait a minute.” (She ran over to her little desk and began to scribble on paper with a crayon and then returned proudly laying the papers in front of me.)

Me: “What’s this?”

Chloe: (With pride.) “It’s cash.”

Me: (Standing and holding the paper up to the light.) “Wait a minute!” (Pulling my plastic squirt gun from behind my back.) “Freeze, lady, you’re under arrest. Put your hands behind your back.”

Chloe: (Rolling her eyes again. Note: I get that a lot!!!) “What for?”

Me: (Snapping the plastic handcuffs in place) “Forgery, Ma’am. It’s a felony.”

Chloe: (Matter of factly, as I lead her off to jail with her hands behind her back.) “I am never shopping in this store again.”

Boy, do I love my granddaughter. #goodruleforlifechloe #andalittlechildshallleadthem

Moral of the Story: If people are looking for drama they will dig until they find it or create their own. It might be time to shop in a new store.

Life without Mom?

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On February 21, 2018, a moment I dreaded since I was old enough to dread and had any idea how the world worked, arrived. My mother died.

Hilda Imogene Wangler was ninety-one years old. Even though this photograph was taken 16 years before I was born, this is how I remember mom. The prettiest Mom in the neighborhood, and always beside Dad. He passed in 2009.

I was pondering on New Year’s Eve what it means to enter 2019 without Mom.

Like a rock she held things down in a storm. She was a foundation of faith her children built their lives on, and her husband knew he could depend upon. In difficult times we always knew there was a place to go, a listening ear, and a human being on the planet who loved us deeply and unconditionally. I for one, tested the unconditional part, and the ice never cracked.

Even as her body weakened her mind remained sharp. She endured what might have been her greatest tests of faith in the final years, but never wavered in Whose or who she was. She gave thanks before every meal including her final one. There is a hole in the Wangler family.

Strangely though, as I mulled the issue of continuing life without her, I realized something I’ve been wrestling with: I wasn’t.

She’s gone. Then again she isn’t.

I hear her voice at every crossroad and feel her love at every question. There is a calm that comes when fear falls I cannot explain. I can see her listening eyes when I think about a problem. I can hear her praying voice when I pause in my own prayers. She’s definitely present even though she isn’t.

In these moments, she is not coming to me as a spirit or a ghost. Not once. Doesn’t happen. She doesn’t appear to me as a butterfly floating near at just the right moment or a rainbow appearing in the sky on rainy days. It’s much more real than that.

I don’t pray to her for she cannot answer and she does not intercede for me before the Father. Jesus does that. I don’t pray for her, she’s crossed the finish line and doesn’t need my prayers.

And yet, she comes and I am strangely comforted. This New Year’s Eve, I wondered where this comfort comes from, and I think I know.

It comes from the place of a million memories, countless conversations, and boundless love. The seeds she planted over 57 years have sprouted. I am amazed.

“And by faith Able still speaks even though dead.”

(Hebrews11:4)

There you go. Now I know what that verse means.

Someday, when my physical voice is silent and my kids come to life’s thresholds without me, I want them to hear my voice, but I’m concerned about what they will hear?

Will they hear cynicism? Will they hear criticism? Will they hear my opinions about how wrong the world is? Will they hear me whine about the times life didn’t go my way? Will they remember listening eyes or condescending glares? Will they hear, “I told you so,” or “I love you so?” Will they hear a voice that directs them to the Father? Will they hear a voice of gratitude and humility, or pride and arrogance? What will they hear? Don’t get me wrong, I hear my Mother’s voice of correction and pause also, but I remember it as it was, full of grace and love. What will my children and grandchildren hear?

The truth is they will hear then what I say most now.

So, I’m asking God to help me do some serious planting in 2019. I think I need to pull up weeds and plant faith. My prayer is someday, hopefully a long time from now, one of my children will stand at a crossroad of faith or threshold of trial and hear my voice. In that moment, hopefully, by God’s grace, they will say to themselves, “That’s Dad’s faith talking.”

Though she is physically absent from this world, I do not enter 2019 without my Mother.

Hilda Wangler planted well. God give me grace to do the same.

Peace.

It Was "Daddy-Daughter Day."

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According to the Netflix documentary, “Walt,” it was a Saturday.

Saturday was “Daddy-Daughter Day” in the Disney household.  Walt Disney drew solid borders protecting the most important relationships in his life, his family.

On this particular morning Walt sat on a park bench relaxing, eating peanuts and watching his kids ride a merry-go-round. As he marveled at the joy of his children and peace he was experiencing, an idea knocked on his door.  He dreamt a theme park designed with the excellence of the Disney brand and the scope of Disney imagination. The result was Disneyland.

Often, the greatest ideas come that way. When not focusing on work, a dream drops by. While watching and connecting with your children, a vision comes into view. It’s why so many great ideas and speeches find their first light of day on a napkin or scrap of paper.

Early in leadership, I tended to withdraw when facing a difficult season. I searched for answers in the data, or in my own experiences, or in the experiences of others. I worried, fretted, and looked over my children to the horizon where I believed the solution would appear. The result was often a failure of imagination. Children have a way of keeping that from happening if we’re present in simple moments.

As I look back, I have learned more from and through time spent with my children, and now grandchildren than anywhere else.

Today, if you’re up against it. Today, if the haze is blurring your vision and doubt is crowding your spirit, get away. Carve out time. Sit on a bench, maybe even eat some peanuts, look at and be with your children. Enjoy. Breathe. Linger. Relax. Really watch them. Inhale the moment if for no other reason than you’ll need it someday, and they need it now.

Do not, please do not, go there looking for ideas. Don’t press. Go there being. If nothing comes, who cares? You’ve just experienced life the way the Creator designed it, but I promise you… if you keep going there…the dreams will drop by.

CAVU

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Sometimes a thought grabs you by the heart. While listening to Vice-President Pence speak at the opening service of what will be week long memorials for George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, it happened to me. Pence repeated what has been a mantra in the Bush home and office for decades; “CAVU.” It is a Naval acronym meaning “Ceiling and visibility unlimited.” Bush had it inscribed on a simple piece of wood and hung it in their home. It has obvious meanings for Naval Aviators, but is more than that. When I think of the difference Jesus makes in a life, it tells it all. There is no height inaccessible to the follower of Jesus and because of His leadership, we can have vision to see what hasn’t arrived yet. That’s faith. This Christmas I’ve added a thought to how Jesus changes everything; “CAVU.” With the birth of Jesus, God has boots on the ground and we can have eyes on the sky. Leaders, lead on.

Bill Barker And Me

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What if your life were summarized with one phrase?

Years ago I regularly ran through a very old cemetery in Ottawa, Illinois. One day I noticed one particular marker that brought me back later to see what I could learn. The stone simply bore a name and two-word phrase. I contacted the people who supervised the cemetery and no further information was available. All we know is that, probably more than one-hundred years ago, when Bill Barker’s loved ones gathered to remember him they found one two-word phrase important to summarize his life: “Life Saver.”

What would your phrase be?

Remember, this isn’t what Bill Barker said about himself, but what others said about him. That’s the tricky part.

There are a lot of words that could go on my stone if it were chosen today. While some I’d like to think would make me smile, there are far to many that wouldn’t. The truth is, I can be impatient, anxious, selfish, and occasionally even rude. Ouch. They wouldn’t actually put that on a stone, right? I’d like to choose better phrases.

As I have thought about this over the years I’ve come to a conclusion. For a long time I chose words, noble words, and made them a target of my life. While there’s nothing wrong with attempting to live up to high standards, I often felt like I was missing the mark. Endeavoring to be something or someone you’re actually not is a heavy load to bear and may create a description of your life you don’t want. In addition, this kind of process can leave you constantly wondering what others are thinking which creates a whole new level of anxiety and trying to hard. Still, thinking about how your life will ultimately be defined is a worthy subject.

So, I have a new plan.

I’d like for God to do a work in me that will allow Him to choose the phrase.  Yup, I’m giving the pen to Him. I’m no longer trying to be something or someone, but instead I am trying to become the person God intended me to become when he knit me together.  After all, He knows me, right? Inside and out, He knows me. Strengths and weaknesses, victories and failures, ugly and not so ugly, He knows me.

He knows me, and according to the Bible, He loves me. I want to listen, learn, and allow Him to lead me and form me. This process is every bit as intentional, but a whole lot more peaceful.

If these thoughts find you afraid to consider what might be written if your stone were chosen today, relax and take a deep breath. It’ isn’t. Your life is not over. Let God write the ending. He loves you. He really does. He knows you inside and out, strong and weak, victor and failure, beautiful and ugly, He knows it all, and He loves you. Instead of weighing the positives and negatives and reaching a decision about the relationship God feels comfortable having with you based upon the outcome, He just loves you. Today, right now, ask Him to take over the phrase writing process in your life! Give Him the outcomes by giving Him yourself right now.

Focus on becoming who He designed and destined you to become, and let a life lived for Him create the description of you others will remember. He’s a really good writer!

Be at peace with that.

The Man With The Bat

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Much of what you are about to read is quoted from Mark Batterson’s book, “Chase the Lion.”   This is the most impactful book I've read in quite a while. I hope this story inspires you to read it. Thank you, Mr. Batterson!

In his book, “Chase the Lion,” Mark Batterson tells the story of the picture above. The man touching home plate is Jackie Robinson. The man holding the bat is George Shuba. The date is April 18, 1946. The first African American to play baseball is competing in his first game and has just hit his first home run. The response from the crowd is varied, and so is the response from players on both sides. It was a tough time. Here’s how Batterson describes it.

    An Associated Press photographer captured that decisive moment. It was              one small handshake, one giant leap for racial equity in professional sports.

    George 'Shotgun' Shuba went on to play seven seasons for the Brooklyn                Dodgers and was on the 1955 World Series championship team.

    In his celebrated baseball book, The Boys of Summer, Roger Kahn said                    Shuba’s swing was “as natural as a smile.”  Shuba laughed at Kahn’s                      description. During an interview with Kahn, Shuba walked over to a filing                cabinet and pulled out a chart marked with lots of Xs. During the off-season,          Shuba would swing a weighted bat six hundred times a day. And that was after      working his off-season job all day! Every night he’d take sixty swings and then        mark an X on his chart.

     After ten Xs, he’d give himself permission to go to bed. Shuba practiced that          daily ritual for fifteen years!

    “You call that natural?” Shuba asked Kahn. “I swung a 44-ounce bat 600 times      a 4,200 times a week, 47,200 swings every winter.”

     In my humble opinion, no one is a natural. Sure, some people are more                  naturally gifted than others. But unless that giftedness is coupled with a                  complementary work ethic, it’ll only result in wasted potential. You can’t just            pray as if it depends solely on God; you also have to work as if it depends on        you. It’s your work ethic plus your prayer ethic that will inch you closer to your        dream. And it happens one practice, one day at a time.                                              (Batterson, Mark. Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn't Scare You, It's Too              Small (pp. 65-66). The Crown Publishing Group.         

There you have it. If you want to know who changes the world, it's the man/women with the bat. But not just on game day. Relentlessly throughout the week, when no one else is swinging the bat, trying to get better, determined to improve their own God-given skills, the George Shuba's of the world are working.

A few questions.  

     1.  Am I relentlessly focused on improving the God-given gifts I have?                       2. Do I work more on changing the environment and the people around me                 than I do on changing myself?                                                                                     3. What am I doing "every day" to get better?                                                               4. When is the last time I wore out a practice tool?

The final question is my favorite. What's the "bat" in your business? Figure it out, make some "x's" and start swinging!

Peace. 

The Gong Principle

One of my favorite television shows growing up was, “The Gong Show.” For thirty-minutes once a week Chuck Barris would host amateur contestants performing in front of three judges who only had to listen as long as they wanted. If the performance was not to their liking, they reached for the mallet and struck a huge gong on stage. When the gong sounded, the performance was over. (By the way, if you haven't ever experienced the talents of "Gene, Gene, the Dancing Machine," or "Larry and His Magic Trombone," Google it on Youtube... and you're welcome.) 

The Apostle Paul teaches what I refer to as “The Gong Principle” in a letter he wrote to people he loved. There is no more lived-out Biblical principle in the world than this one. Whether in business or at a family meal, whether the words are eloquently delivered from a podium or quietly whispered into someone’s ear, “The Gong Principle” applies. Get it right and your words are heard, even if they are not always initially accepted. Get it wrong and you may as well take a seat.

Here it is: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)

The most powerful attention getter and communication pathway in the world is love; the most formidable dead end in communication is the lack of it.

Ears may comprehend the sound of your message, but the heart will not open if you don’t love who your talking to, or what you're talking about. If people identify your love, your words may take root. If not, they reach for the gong.

People can tell when you love what you’re speaking about. Civil rights were more than a speech topic to Dr. King, and Winston Churchill’s “Never Give In” address isn’t remembered for it’s literary depth.

People can tell when you love whom your speaking about. Fallen soldiers were far more than a talking point for President Lincoln at Gettysburg that day. There is no sweeter sound than hearing a spouse talk with respect and love about their mate.

People can tell when you love whom you’re speaking to, especially if you’re talking to them. It’s true: the eyes communicate long before the words arrive. The platform, built by actions before the moment of words, is love or it doesn’t exist.

Don’t be deceived. This is not a speech problem.  It’s a heart problem. The heart can be filled with a lot of different emotions: fear, pride, jealousy, hate, shame, bitterness, anxiety, or regret to name a few. Any of the above may contaminate the message we seek to deliver even to those we love. (Luke 6:45) 

As a husband, father, son, brother, and leader, I wish I’d never been gonged, but I have been. Far too often my opinions overrode my love and my message was deleted on arrival.

The ultimate example and source of love is Jesus so I’m leaning in closer these days asking God to renew my heart and fill it with His unconditional, un-ignorable, irresistible, pure, powerful, new every morning, love.

Shakespeare was right; “All the world’s a stage.” You and I are just players. The story is God's story, the act is our lives, but it’s not about us. We have been assigned a part to play in the lives of others. We have lines to deliver. We may be on their stage a long time or short time. Our lines may be many or few, delivered to a large audience or a small child, but they are important to the person whose stage we’re on.

I want to get my lines right.

Peace