CHARACTER: Achieve Meaning!

Are you God, or not? I have sat with people who answer that question in the affirmative. Those people are typically diagnosed with mental illness. However, I have also sat with people who live out an affirmative response to that question. They “bow the knee” to no one and they live as if they are God! To me, that is scary!

A man of character achieves meaning by knowing that there is Someone who is larger than he is. He has learned that what he submits to, gives evidence to what he worships and believes is larger than him. This is the way life works and the way you were meant to live.

Narcissism is what therapists call the personality disorder that has someone pre-occupied with himself or that thinks too highly of himself. A narcissist is marked by such traits as grandiosity, omnipotence, extreme selfishness, exploitiveness, an overestimation of your talent’s or importance, feelings of entitlement, and egocentricity. He feels that he is “special.” This is narcissism – it is immaturity at best – arrogant, selfish, and prideful at worst. A narcissist bows his knee to no one. He asks that others bow the knee to themselves.

The opposite is called “transcendence.” You get above ordinary human selfishness and self-centeredness. You realize life does not revolve around you. There are things much bigger than YOU! Life is about joining, serving, obeying, and finding a role in the Big Picture.

I believe our culture is in a crisis! The crisis is a “character crisis.” Too many people do not bow the knee to anyone. They live their life without regard for others or awareness to serving others. I hope you will take a moment to assess your life. Have you achieved meaning by bowing your knee to the God of the universe?

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CHRISTMAS: The Dance of God

Christmas is a great time of year. I love so many things about the season – times with family and friends, great food, gifts given and received – just a few of my favorites. Christmas especially inspires me to consider who God is and what He has done to bring life to me. Christmas is the dance of God. Lee Ann Womack’s song I Hope You Dance is an inspirational picture of the dance.

God dances! God – the Father, God – the Son, and God – the Spirit are one and three at the same time. The relational nature of the Trinity is not self-centeredness, but mutual self-giving love. When you delight and serve someone else, you enter into a dynamic orbit around him or her, you center on the interests and desires of the other. That creates a dance as each moves around the other two. Early leaders of the Greek Church had a word for this – perichoresis. It means literally to “dance or flow around.”

God created man to share in the dance. In full delight and pleasure, God brought man into the world. He offered him everything man needed to enjoy life. God had one limitation to not eat of the tree of “good and evil.” As long as man honored the boundary God had set, all would go well and he would be included in the dance.

To enjoy the dance of God requires that a focus be on the dance partner. The moment that self-centeredness enters the dance, the music stops! And that’s exactly what happened. Adam chose to hear the lie and allow himself to lose sight of the dance partner and focus on what he did not have and pursue it. He ate of the tree and ushered to the dance floor chaos, pain, and death. That truly was “the day the music died.”

Christmas is the story of how God – the Son – left the dance of the Trinity (which had to be an amazing grief for the Trinity to experience). Jesus entered a foreign world to rescue mankind and restore the dance. He gave His life even when man was responsible and in rebellion. God gave up His beloved to restore life to man.

I love what Christmas means! I am inspired to remember that I have been rescued. John 1:12 says that God has given those who receive Jesus the right to be called His children. I hope this Christmas you know you’re a child of God by placing your trust in Jesus. Only His provision for your sin allows you to re-enter the dance.

I hope you Dance!

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DAD: Does He Bring You Peace?

How peaceful are you right NOW? What is it like to be in your skin? Are you relaxed, secure, and safe? Do you feel supported or do you feel alone?

Recently, my peace was disrupted by a robbery. My office was broken into and personal items stolen. I felt violated, unsafe, and shocked. I have a home office, separate from the main part of the house. I was home, had left my office at the end of the previous day, all was good. When I opened the door early the next morning, I discovered my laptop missing and flat screen TV was gone.

The greatest loss was my peace. I felt shaken and unsafe. My home could not protect me from someone who did not care about me. They had entered my office as I slept and robbed me of internal security. The laptop and TV could be replaced, but could I regain the internal peace that was so shaken.

Peace is a relational issue. Peace does not come from things, but from someone who cares about you. Things don’t make you feel safe, RELATIONSHIPS DO. The more care you internalize, the more secure and able to adapt to whatever comes your way. Primary relationships, like your Dad’s, are key to a solid foundation for life. Peace surrounds you through the love and support of those who love you.

Jehovah-shalom is the God of peace. As my heavenly Father, He offers peace in whatever circumstance I find myself. He is always present and continually inviting me to trust Him through any challenge that comes my way. He is the one who brings peace. When my peace is disrupted, I can turn to Him, trust Him to restore my peace. I am growing in my trust of Him. He is bringing the safety and security I need to handle whatever comes my way.

I hope you are at peace NOW. I invite you to listen to my podcast of July 12 at I share my own journey of moving from a place of “stolen peace” to a place of “peace restored.” Shalom!

DAD: Who’s Your Daddy?

After I gave the weekly presentation at Men’s RoundTable this past week, I had breakfast with a good friend. He asked me: “Why haven’t you forgiven your Dad?” His question shocked and sobered me because at this time in my life I don’t want to communicate that I have any unfinished or unsolved feelings about my Dad. He’s 84 year old!

I said to my friend, “I think I have forgiven him, but I try to be very transparent and open about the issues I have faced in my relationship with my Dad. I know how so many men struggle due to unresolved experiences with their fathers. I try to be open about my own journey in order to offer understanding and hope to men who need to do the work that will free them from anger and hurt due to their desire for more from their Dads. I know how that hurt feels and robs too many men of their life.”

I love my friend. He is a great encouragement to me. His question alerted me to how my own attempt to be transparent could be interrupted as a still present struggle. Or, maybe I still do have issues and I need to search my heart as to how free I am to love my Dad and others. I am still in the process of making that assessment. My friend’s question has moved me to a deeper search of my heart for anything that hinders me of life in all its fullness.

What I do know is that hurt that has been caused by relationship can only be healed in relationship. I want to be forgiving as I have been forgiven. I know too, that my relationship with my Dad is a kind of model as to how I relate to God, my heavenly Father. Normal growth and development requires that at some point in my spiritual journey that I be able to transfer my trust for love, relationship, and care from my earthly Dad to the one true Father God. I continue my journey to acknowledge my love for my 84-year-old Dad and to fully trust God, the Father with my whole heart. Hope you will listen to this week’s podcast to hear more of how this journey works.

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CHARACTER: Cause Growth – Make it Better!

My daughter is living the Adventure! She is 26 years old and works in Birmingham. She has a good job, is grateful for her employer, and is loved by all those she works with and for. But, she announced to her boss that she is leaving. She believes she is being called to a greater purpose, a significant mission … an Adventure! So, she let her boss know that she is moving to Dallas, Texas to explore new possibilities – her calling.

My daughter believes, as I believe, that life is an Adventure and that each person has a purpose to fulfill. I also believe in order to live such an Adventure, you must be committed to growth and be willing to make whatever situation you are in better. You must be determined to face your fears and move toward change. That can be scary, but that is what an Adventure is – an experience that can be both exhilarating and scary.

Remember – you will grow when you are committed to becoming more of who you are as a person in life, in business, and in relationships. You have the curiosity and drive to develop into more ability, more knowledge, more completeness, and ultimately, more experience. Growth is critical to you. You cannot NOT grow. You want to be all you were designed to be. I believe that is what my daughter has in mind and knows she cannot be happy without growing, facing her fears, and pursuing the Adventure of life.

She is taking a big risk. Risk means that you do something that has the possibility of a bad outcome and that you embrace that possibility and are OK with it. Risk is putting yourself in the position of responsibility. Risk is taking a step away from structured security where someone else has to worry about the results.

Life is about growth … making the world a better place … living the Adventure. Hope you will grow today!

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CHARACTER – What is it?

When was the last time you heard someone esteemed or honored for his character? I do believe that happens on occasion, but I am bothered by the apparent lack of honor given to personal character. So what am I talking about when I even bring up the topic? I believe personal character involves six qualities:

  1. The ability to create trust.
  2. The courage to face reality.
  3. The work ethic to produce results.
  4. The willingness to embrace negative realities.
  5. The perseverance to cause growth.
  6. The depth to achieve meaning and transcendence.

The ability to create trusts requires humility, honesty, and availability. The person with character is present. You can count on him.

The courage to face reality involves looking at what truly “is.” This person is not in denial, nor does he avoid the hard things. You know he will deal with problems as they truly are.

The work ethic to produce results comes from having the resources to stay with the objectives of any project. This person has a done the preparation to produce, has a clear focus to produce, and is willing to risk in order to execute the plan.

The willingness to embrace negative realities is a person who is not afraid to face problems. Denial and avoidance do not rule him. He is able to recover from difficult times and move toward resolution.

The perseverance to cause growth requires the discipline to stay with the goal. This person will not quit. He will find the resources – mentor or skill to bring the project to an end.

The depth to achieve meaning and transcendence is the character quality to understand that life has a bigger purpose. This quality leads a man to understand that God is in control of life. The man of character understands and embraces his own mortality and the sovereign care of God over his life.

Where are you?

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Freedom: What does it mean?

Your freedom cost someone else their life. If you are free, then someone had to die to give you that experience. Freedom comes at a great cost. God has set you free. His abundant grace has accomplished that which you could never have done without His sacrifice. However, many men have refused such freedom and chosen to live a life without joy and void of celebration of what God has given in Christ.

To be an American citizen is certainly  to be comforted with that reality. Many brave men and women have given their life for the freedom you and I celebrate each time we enjoy any aspect of living in this country. Freedom is the great jewel of life.

Jesus came to bring freedom. That was the purpose of His mission in coming to earth. Yes…  He died for your sins, but the “why” of His coming was to “set the captives free.” Freedom is intended by God to be your identity as a follower of Jesus. The freedom God offers in Jesus is the liberation from bondage. However, many Christians continue to be enslaved even after coming to faith in Jesus.

Christians often do not live as free people. They stay in bondage by rule keeping, being religious or being “nice.” The initial experience of being forgiven and offered a life of peace through simple trust in God’s provision through Christ is traded for a life of trying to gain approval all over again by their own efforts that fall short. They fall out of freedom back to a life of bondage, being enslaved to all sorts of inadequate objects of false promises.

As a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, I see men and women bound by addictions, worry, guilt, shame, false ambitions and broken relationships. Their lives have become chaotic even though many call themselves Christian. God’s promises have not changed. He really does offer freedom. I hope you will experience such. FREEDOM!!!

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Happy: The Person Who Brings Life

I want to bring life to every environment or person I come in contact with. I believe that my presence is a source of energy. The question becomes – Is the energy that my presence evokes positive energy or negative energy? Do my family and friends feel life-giving energy coming from me or do they feel some sort of toxic sickness coming from my presence? I want to be a source of life.

In the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus offers two metaphors to help us understand what makes life work. Jesus invites us to be salt and light to the world. Salt preserves, seasons and is necessary for survival. It will also melt ice. I believe that a salty life will help any cold heart to melt the ice of self-defense so that life can be fully enjoyed. Light is a guide, exposes danger and can bring warmth to any environment. I want my life to be salt and light.

David Benner, in his book Soulful Spirituality, offers six spiritual practices that make life work. I see these six practices as a way to understand the practical living out what Jesus meant by our lives being salt and light. The six practices are awareness, wonder, otherness, reality, presence and surrender.

Awareness is the paying attention to anything around you. It is the foundation of living spiritually. For example, how aware are you as to what is happening inside your skin when you encounter various people or circumstances. I know for me, some people help me feel relaxed and at peace. Other people make my chest tight and tenseness to my whole being. Awareness is noticing what you are thinking and feeling.

Wonder is about WOW! It is the radical capacity for amazement and awe. I recently sat in a deer stand on a beautiful, crisp morning. Please understand, I am not a real hunter, but I do have good friends who are patient enough with me as to coach me as to how to have fun in the woods observing and listening to God’s magnificent artistry. As I sat in the deer stand, two small deer came running through the woods behind where I sat. They were playing like two children. WOW!

Otherness is about being open to the other who addresses you, makes claims on you, and enables you to come out of yourself. People are often our most direct encounter with God. Your fears are most often awakened by the way you interact with others. Otherness will force you to grow and learn – to live.

I want to fully alive. I want to be Happy. I believe I am! (I’ll cover the last 3 spiritual practices next week.)

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HAPPY: The Person Who is Not Afraid to Take a Stand for God!

What are you willing to fight for? What makes you come alive? What is your purpose? Where is your passion? These are the questions that tell the story of who you are and how you live your life. Your answers reveal what you stand for.

Jesus spoke to a life of purpose, passion, and calling in Matthew 5:10-12. He challenged us to take a stand. Some are asked to even be willing to die for being a God-follower. But most of us will never face such a test. However, the meaning of life is more than about your comfort. We need more than a vacation or the latest material purchase to bring us happiness. We need to live with conviction and a sense of urgency.

I will fight for my family – my wife and two daughters. Offering my gifts to men and women who are hurting and need help makes me come alive. I am honored that something that I can offer those in need can help them find peace and road. I know my purpose is to serve a world in need of knowing the road that leads to life. The passion of my life is to see healing come to those who are broken, aimless, and grieving.

I am a Happy Man. I have been hurt and I have caused hurt. I am very broken and lack in many skills. And yet, I am a well-trained counselor – thanks to many gifted mentors who have built into my life. I have the privilege of being involved in many lives. I am happy because I want to honor God above all else and the people that God brings my way and the abilities I have been given to help are ALL part of His plan for my life.

I seek to live my life by pursuing peace with all men, but I am not afraid to take a stand for God even when I might be rejected. I try to live a life that reflects a commitment to courageous truth telling. I am happy, even though I am broken, feel empty at times, and know that I have a deep need for God. I attempt to live by embracing vulnerability – sharing openly my own failures, practicing humility – asking for help from others often, and setting boundaries – not afraid to say “no” when I need to protect my family or myself.

How about you? What does your life stand for? Are you truly HAPPY?

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Happy: The Person Who Cares!

Who has hurt you that you still feel the pain from the injury? Who have you hurt that you have been unable to make it right? Do you care about either?

Happy people care! People who care understand that care is about forgiveness. They care enough to acknowledge what they have done to harm another person. They also care about confronting the hurt they feel from a relationship. Happy people are engaged with life enough that they embrace the misery and consequences caused by broken people. They offer the acceptance of grace, plus the action of forgiving the wrong. Happiness is the result of life lived with skill and courage.

The Bible and research, both, position forgiveness as one of the most valuable gifts you can possess. Jesus stated in Matthew 5:7 – “You are blessed [Happy] when you care. At the moment of being care-full, you find yourselves cared for.” Jesus is talking about being rich in mercy, quick to forgive, and aware of the forgiveness God has offered freely. Research affirms that when you forgive others, you are the biggest beneficiary. Forgiveness is defined as “canceling a debt.” In other words, “YOU OWE ME.” Therefore, to forgive someone means “you no longer owe me anything.” Forgiveness frees you from the hurtful event and breaks the cord that binds you to the other person.

Most people desiring to be happy by learning how to care well, i.e. learn how to forgive, typically ask two questions. The first, “Should I deny what they did to me?” The answer is “NO!” Forgiveness requires a debt. If you deny the offense, you can’t forgive it. You must fully acknowledge the debt, the offense, in order to forgive it.

The second question, “Should I continue the relationship with that person? Forgiveness is process that requires the offended person to name the offense, feel the feelings involved, talk about the pain and the anger, and then grieve it. Embrace the full reality of the debt. You do not need the other person to do anything to forgive. But, if you are going to continue the relationship, reconciliation is in play. This takes two people who own their part, will get real about what they have done, and make it right. And then trust is developed over time as consistent caring behavior is demonstrated. This means that entrusting your heart and possessions to someone who has proven him or her “trustworthy.” Trust is earned over time.

Happy people know how to live. How happy are you? To be happy requires maturity and skill.

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