As Luck Would Have It: What Ever Happened to Shame?

Luck

Many of you couldn’t care less about pro football. But you’ve probably heard about the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, retiring from the game because of ongoing injuries that have kept him out of action, undergoing surgery, in rehab and regularly wondering when the next injury will hit.

His injuries over his short career include:

» Torn cartilage in 2 ribs
» Partially torn abdomen
» A lacerated kidney that left him peeing blood
» At least 1 concussion
» A torn labrum in his throwing shoulder
» The most recent calf/high ankle injury

When fans got word during an exhibition game of his leaving many booed him as he left for halftime. Nice going, Indianapolis. Way to show the country how much class our fans have compared to those terrible Steelers, Patriots and 49ers fans (oh, wait, the 49ers don’t have any fans, do they?)

The bigger issue here for me isn’t the response to Luck, however. The boos weren’t coming from everyone anyway. More likely, it was a small sample, though small in many ways.

Andrew Luck is a classy guy, knows his priorities and the team will survive, perhaps even thrive under a new quarterback and a really good coach. My question is: when is our culture going to quit their shameless, arrogant dumping in public on anyone they disagree with? What happened to tolerance and diversity on both sides of politics, morality, science, religion, culture in general and even sports?

We constantly hear about people protesting things to begin conversations about certain issues but those conversations rarely happen because in most cases one of the sides believes they’re the only ones who are right. But they call themselves tolerant.

And for some reason their being right gives them liberty to disrespect the person or persons who don’t see things their way: walk out of their commencement speech, boo them as they leave the field, call them names, attack their character in a governmental hearing or slander them on a talk show.

Consequently, little of value is accomplished in the arena of ideas. There’s never a healthy, informed dialogue that gets us anywhere. And that doesn’t include the impressions these responses leave with the young kids in the audience. “Hey, did you catch my dad booing OUR quarterback because he has to retire from the game he loves and is giving up tens of millions of dollars in the process just to spend more time with his family and not go through all the pain of the injuries? I’m so proud.”

Too few seem ashamed by this constant assault on people’s character. No one’s going back to apologize. No writers are retracting their mean, uninformed statements and I don’t hear many saying they’re sorry for disrespecting a public official or leader.

Disagreement and conflicting ideas are healthy to future actions and decision making. Say what you want in private. Conflict in the right context can accomplish a lot. But disrespect is rarely productive and comes off as cheap which it is. Free speech that is disrespectful is never free.

It used to be that an older, experienced official, leader, pastor, quarterback, coach or President received respect because of their role and office. Not anymore. However, you don’t have to agree with someone to treat them respectfully. It’s time more people reject the strong voices with big platforms who misuse their freedom to hurt people rather than dialogue with them.

My sense is that when people don’t have a winning argument they tend to play the disrespect card out of frustration. Just the other day, I read a national journalist in a major newspaper who made statement after statement about a group of people’s responses to an issue. The problem is that every “fact” he claimed true about the group was false or a gross generalization.

It’s time that those of us in the general public take our own stand for kindness, honor and respect even for those who don’t see things the way we do. Model it first and demand it from at least those who lead us publicly. That’s a legacy that will change a lot more people in years to come, no matter what our football team does.

 

 

 

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The Problems With Public Baggage

person pulling travel luggage
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A very popular writer and pastor to teens and young adults has come out in the last few days to say that he has fallen away from his faith. He says, “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.” He is asking forgiveness from individuals and groups of people, including his readers, for his unwise, unfair, hurtful views and statements over the years.

Perhaps he needed to repent of all that as he has suggested. That is his deal, not mine or any of ours. And I really don’t want to talk about him in this blog. I don’t know him, his motives or whatever else he needs to work on. I’ll pray for him.

What is more central to my ponderings this morning is the problem with what I’ve called in the title of this piece public baggage. We all have issues from our distant or recent past. Some struggles are more complicated and larger in scope than others, but no one is devoid of stuff that adds to our dysfunction (assuming that some of our mess is caused by us alone).

There are several outcomes with sharing our struggles publicly that can put us in difficult places. It’s like getting up high on a mountain somewhere, only to realize that to go up or down at that point is dangerous, even deadly. Here are a few scenarios:

Some begin to think their issues and solutions are ones everyone should embrace. They preach about it, write books (as did my example above), hit the teaching circuit, are swept up in the media or church world and many resonate with their message. But often the reality and practicality of their solutions wear thin, no longer work and their market on having the answer is lost.

Second, getting the help they need from reliable, trusted sources gets pushed aside by their fame. I recently had some minor surgery on a finger. It was no big deal in the scheme of life, but I needed an expert doctor and surgeon to fix it. But what if I went around showing my unfixed finger to all my friends, told them about a way that I was going to get it taken care of that no one had really thought about and those friends and others told me how brilliant my idea was, I would probably never get to the surgeon I needed.

Until the day the finger became infected or worse.

Third, public baggage is addicting. Of course, we need other people in our lives to come alongside us during times of struggle. That’s what our faith, church and fellow believers help us with and should. But often we find those who give us more – they feel extra sorry, come see us more often, talk more deeply and make us feel so much better because they accept our baggage. They don’t necessarily help us get better but they make us feel better. They help dull the pain. And painkillers can be deadly.

So, if you know who I referred to at the beginning of this blog, pray for him. Let him work out his stuff and carry his luggage with the appropriate people, hopefully for the right reasons. In the meantime, remember that your baggage, your stuff, my baggage, my stuff is ours to manage. And in most cases, going public with it isn’t wise.

 

Chill . . . Take A Breath . . . Relax . . . Please!!

relax.mtn

The high temperatures in the Midwest have been in the 90’s for a while now with heat indices over 100 for much of this month. It’s hot here and in many places in the country. How hot is it?

It’s so hot that chickens are laying omelettes.

It’s so hot that cows are giving evaporated milk

It’s so hot that all the bread in the store is toast.

But in spite of the heat (and poor humor), I want to ask you and those you may know who you could pass this on to, to CHILL about a number of other things. People today seem more uptight than ever, more in a hurry, more worried, angrier about anything or anyone that gets in their way as they obsessively pursue what they believe to be the fruit of life in the fast lane. Maybe that includes you.

Chill about your need to get somewhere two minutes faster than you would if you slowed down. Stop driving so fast from traffic signal to traffic signal, getting angrier and angrier as the cars in front of you go five mph slower than you want them to go. It’s not worth major injury or death to gain that little bit of ground. And get off my bumper because I’m not getting out of your way. Sorry.

Chill about whether your preschooler or elementary student will get into Harvard someday, receive all the scholarships you want them to get and have perfect grades all the way to medical school. They can get a B or two, miss a class and not be perfect. Let’s face it, this quest may be just as much about you as it is them. Help them do their best and then enjoy watching them learn. If they get to Harvard or wherever, good for them.

In the same way, Chill about your child also playing for a professional sports team or getting into the Olympics. It’s okay for them to miss a practice, not play in a game and not have you as their parent in the stands every time they’re on the field. Don’t spend your school years with them watching them participate. Do some things WITH them, too.

Chill about the ignorance and silliness said by many public figures. What movie stars and athletes say about people and issues doesn’t matter. Who cares what their view on anything is? Foolish things that political leaders say that have no foundation will eventually lose out to the power of the truth. Don’t panic and while you’re at it, don’t listen to them. Chill. They’re the only ones who think their words matter.

Chill about your life being based on one event: your child messes up, you lose your job, you make a big mistake. Most of our challenges aren’t fatal. How we get through them isn’t based on how HOT we get, but how much we’re able to chill about something that didn’t work the way we’d hoped.

Try it. You may actually feel better outside, too!

 

Overcoming Won’t Always Look The Same

Over.mtnPeople who have followed NQC know that my story includes a mountain failure when I was eleven. At least I saw it that way. I tried to climb Long’s Peak with my mom, dad and their friends, believing that I would stand on top of all 14,255 feet of it. I was wrong. My climb ended at Boulder Field, somewhere in the thirteen thousand plus range, with me throwing up from altitude sickness.

Instead of celebrating on the summit, my dad (who was also ill) and I made our way back to the trailhead while the others headed to the top. In my mind, I was more of a loser than an overcomer. Why? Because I believed that to overcome there was only one good outcome, making it to the top.

I’ve learned since then that overcoming doesn’t always mean what we think it means. It’s not necessarily getting healed from our illness, obtaining the perfect job or becoming debt-free, as welcome as those would be to most.

Let me in fact suggest some other versions of overcoming.

Overcoming can include:

  • Breaking free of our fear of failure, at least most of the time.
  • Having changed our general lifestyle from that of an addict to a person who is in more control of their urges than before.
  • Trying something new just once or twice without saying it’s easy now. Perhaps we just experience what I call exhilarating terror.
  • Seeing our disease move from fatal to manageable.
  • Inviting a formerly estranged family member to have dinner with you – once.

Overcoming often simply means that we’ve moved significantly down the road we believe is important for us to travel. There is a freedom that we didn’t have before, a concern rather than panic, sadness more than despair, irritation more often than rage.

You don’t have to reach the summit to conquer your mountain. The question is, Did you conquer yourself, your fears, your imprisonment? Did  you win a small battle, even though the war isn’t won just yet? Have you moved in a new or varied direction, one that is healthier and more productive?

The key is to look for little victories and celebrate them. Sometimes it takes those baby wins to ultimately win the war. So start now. Overcome by taking the first step or two. And one day the whole mountain may be yours.

 

 

Being Thankful . . . The Missing Vitamin For Many Of Our Ailments

thankyou

I read recently that a majority of flight attendants wish for more of one thing, something beyond anything else in their work. It’s not more money, better conditions or more time off though those things may be on their overall wish list. Their number one wish is that more people would say thank you.

As we all know, they deal with rude, entitled, unhappy travelers much of the time and have to keep their cool and a positive, helpful attitude going through it all. I understand their request.

It seems to me that the thank you’s they seek are also missing much of the time in our general culture as well. And while we don’t technically need words of thanks or commendation nor should we make that our goal in doing anything well, it’s nice to have someone notice our kindness, extra efforts or long-term faithfulness, isn’t it?

Why?

Somehow the words thank you can help melt away our discouragement, weariness and the sense that we don’t matter that much. Those two little words are more welcomed than trophies, certificates or degrees. One of the books of wisdom in the Bible, Proverbs, says that death and life are in the power of our words (18:21). In other words, what we say matters and holds great weight regarding whether we have motivation and inspiration for the future. Words can kill, so to speak, or re-vitalize.

Let me be clear. I’m talking only about saying thank you. I’m not suggesting that we gush, flatter or falsely brag on someone. Expressing appreciation doesn’t mean that we think they’re perfect or have a  special relationship with them. Thank you in this context merely suggests that we noticed what another person did for us and we’re telling them about it.

In fact, being thankful can become an antidote for our own discouragement, depression and failing attitudes. When we’re thankful we remember more of what we have and think less about what’s missing. When we’re thankful we tend to ponder good things rather than all the bad stuff. When we’re thankful we re-visit how blessed we are.

Thankfulness also helps us focus more on HOW we will respond to our problems rather than the WHY of it all. Later in the New Testament we’re told to in everything give thanks. It doesn’t say have gratitude FOR everything, just IN everything. When we’re discouraged thanks will help, When we’re overwhelmed thanks can help shut down our unhealthy thinking so we can focus more on answers and next steps.

Who might you thank today with actual words? Try sending them a handwritten note or calling and telling them directly how much you appreciate them. What could you be thankful for in spite of your negative circumstances? Even a short prayer could make a difference.

I guarantee you’ll see more of life from a new perspective as you thank God, your family and others. Start now or keep at it. Don’t wait. Make thank you’s a habit. And who knows? Even some flight attendant might also enjoy a better day!

I Just Heard He’s Gone . . . But I’ll Never Forget Who He Was.

legacy

I woke early on this Sunday morning. I’m not sure why, though it seems like it’s happening more often as I get older. My mind immediately went to numerous ponderings like today being Easter Sunday for most of my friends in Russia where I just was for ten days. I was imagining how their services might have gone since they are seven hours ahead of us here and many of their gatherings are already over.

I stumbled into the kitchen to make my usual latte, wishing a barista had already done it for me, but I quickly realized this wasn’t Starbuck’s. All was quiet as my wife was still sleeping. I wished I was.

Nonetheless, I started my espresso routine while grabbing my phone to see what had occurred in the social media world overnight. Often, at this time of the morning, there is little of consequence to note since most of America is still in bed. Maybe one of my Russian friends had something to say about their holiday.

Instead, a post jumped out at me that I didn’t see coming. In fact, at first I wondered if I was reading it right. Maybe I don’t know all the family involved and what I was seeing wasn’t really what I thought it was. But another post from a friend closer to the situation confirmed the worst. A man I knew from another church had died. Way too early. With a wife and young kids. A really good guy. No, a great guy. A man who left a big wake that will never be forgotten and a legacy that will impact others for decades at least.

I’m not going to mention his name. His family, friends and other acquaintances will know who I’m talking about. He’ll receive many deserved tributes and shared memories from people who knew him far better than I do. They know him as a dad, husband, close friend and who knows what else. They should be the ones who specifically honor him most in upcoming days and they no doubt will.

I am simply reminded of a couple of things that made him special to me, qualities that are waning in our culture today. Maybe his life and memory will encourage a few others to be a little more like him during the years we have left.

He was an encourager. Even when he was facing his own personal challenges he found time and the words to help you with yours. He listened. He gave you a pat on the back. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I didn’t deserve one, but I got it anyway. He never complained, at least in my presence, though he had reason to.

He was a worshiper. We all come from various traditions regarding faith, style of service and all of that. I love it that this guy didn’t hold back worrying about what others thought. He might be working at church that morning, but he didn’t miss connecting with Jesus, with the God who sustained him. You couldn’t miss him standing in the back, hands raised while trying to adjust the sound that was a little off. He loved to serve the people, but he loved serving God more. Now he is in his presence and probably hasn’t missed a beat.

He went the extra mile. Some people serve doing the bare minimums or even less. Some just mail in their efforts, so to speak, many rarely prepare, others never grow their skills. For too short a time, I knew this man who never settled for okay, average or I’ll just do what I need to do and go home. He came in and did extra work during the week. He looked for needs and tried to meet them. He did his work well and helped others be better in the process.

He made the most of his years. I loved his free spirit. He wore these funky shirts a lot of the time, ones that probably made a few old timers frown. Jesus would have probably loved every one of them. He spent time with his family, went to car races, lived life on a big, but still focused scale. He wasn’t about to waste his time on things that didn’t matter. He crammed a lot of life into the years God gave him.

Of course there’s more that will be said and should be. I’ll leave that to others.

However, I don’t get why people like this leave us early. I’m going to ask God about that someday. But today I’m pretty sure that people like this are actually gifts to us from God, ones that we only get to keep for a while, presents that we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives. Some of these special people live their lives in such a way that others are different and better as a result. I’m glad I got to meet one who was exactly that and more.

But darn it, I sure wish he were here longer.

Things To Know About Missionaries You Know

planet earth close up photo
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I just returned from another trip overseas to serve with some friends doing missions work. There I spent wonderful time with committed leaders, spouses and other hard workers who have given their lives or at least a significant part of them to serving others. We often call them missionaries but whatever their title, their faith and love for people has challenged them to put their faith where their mouth is.

The problem is that many of us back home make assumptions about their role, circumstances and perceived advantages that are often misguided or even blatantly untrue. Just before I left on my trip someone I told about my upcoming departure made it sound as though I was going on an extended vacation to an exotic location.

So let me offer here a few reminders about what most of our friends go somewhere distant to care for, minister to and serve others really experience. I realize my perspective may not fit everyone but perhaps it can be a helpful guide:

Life for them is way harder than we know it. Just going out to buy food or make a minor purchase can involve hours of time, miles of travel and extreme weather conditions. Those who have cars may face horrendous traffic, awful roads and limited parking options. Rules and regulations for living each day may be extremely confusing or unfairly stringent. Many of them, though fluent in their new language, still find navigating the culture through new words and phrases tiring and demanding.

They likely see their family members in person no more than once or twice a year. I was only gone ten days and I missed my wife, kids and grand kids dearly. But those living where I visited count every Zoom or Face Time call as precious and can’t wait for the next personal visit.

Their perceived exotic vacation is more than deserved. Sometimes your friends special trip out of the country to some nice beach or special hotel sounds pretty opulent for someone raising funds for their support. Most of the time, however, their trip is the only time they will have time and space that is a little like home and without the demands they face every day. If you think someone you know or support doesn’t deserve that trip, go spend a week or two walking around with them.

They are often lonely. Sure their job is to meet new people, make new friends and develop special relationships. And those are usually a positive part of their experience. But the number of close relationships in another culture is usually spartan compared to the natural friendships that occur at home.

I could add more tough items but these are foundational. I hope you’ll pray for those you know serving others. Send them a word of thanks now and then. Better yet send them some extra money for a nice dinner out, better trip away or to meet a need for an item they couldn’t purchase otherwise. When appropriate consider spending some time in their shoes. Maybe you could call them now and then and be a comforting, listening ear from home.

Whatever you decide, remember that they’re still waiting for their exotic trip. They may get to visit some special locales around the world. But nothing substitutes for having people like us who understand, care and thank them often.

 

 

 

There’s Value In Periodically Stopping During Your Climb

simon-english-700793-unsplashIf you’re into or follow mountain climbing at all, you know that one of the challenges many climbers take on is seeing how fast they can get up a particular route. Super climber and star of the new documentary Free Solo, Alex Honnold, holds many of those records all around the world. He actually climbed El Capitan (a different route from the movie) and Half Dome in the same day!

But speed isn’t the best option on many climbs of granite or our personal ones. There are a couple of important reasons why it’s okay and actually important to stop now and then before making our way to the top.

One, our body and mind need rest and refilling. This is especially important for those of us who don’t live at altitude most of the time. Mountain air is often dry, so we can easily become dehydrated. Because there is less oxygen in the thinner air, we can also get dizzy and fall if we’re in a particularly precarious spot. The same will hold on a personal climb. We often won’t notice that we’re out of energy, our emotions become frazzled and we’ll be little good to anyone if we keep going at this pace.

Two, we need to sometimes turn around and see how far we’ve come. Mountains are usually hard and long. We can get overwhelmed by how much time and energy we’ve expended already and yet still aren’t seeing the summit. However, when we look back to see our progress we can gain new perspective, hope and confidence that if we’ve made it this far, we can make it.

A secondary, but just as important, reasons for turning around is to check out the views, the scenery around us. Beauty and majestic surroundings aren’t reserved for summits. Some of the most stunning scenes I’ve ever encountered in the mountains have been a long way from the top. In the same way, there are things you don’t want to miss along the way of your personal climb – special moments, people you meet, little miracles of sorts.

Beauty often comes in the middle of our pain and discouragement.

Three, we need to reward ourselves along the way as another incentive to keep going. Jackie and I use candy bars that we eat at periodic stops along the way. They become our reward for getting up the next so many switchbacks. Whatever works for you on your climb, use it and give yourself a little present for getting this far.

But during her cancer journey, we also needed little things for rewards. Sometimes it was just something to eat or a movie or a concert if she was up to it. You decide.

Get the idea? Running up your mountain will only cause you to miss some of the most important moments and benefits on your climb. Your chances  for success are far greater if you take your time. So never quit climbing. But don’t worry about taking a break now and then.

 

 

Anxiety Can Be A Tough Mountain

woman working girl sitting
Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

I recently came across an article entitled, Why Worry? Simple Steps To Prevent Anxiety.  But I have to say I get anxious when I see any title that starts with simple steps. While making tea and glass cleaner may involve simple steps, much of life isn’t so easy.

Anxiety may have complicated roots that require something deeper than merely telling yourself to feel better or taking medication to slow down the panic.

In fact, some people have lived with anxiety for so long, the thought of overcoming it seems like a huge mountain that they can never scale. It seems to me the word steps in the piece I cited may be the wrong word entirely.

Meaningful change is usually found through living life with new principles and ways of thinking and that process may take various turns depending upon the person.  What might be a helpful process for one may not work well for another.

However, if you do struggle with unusual, abnormal amounts of anxiety, there are some fundamental concepts, not steps, that you would be wise to consider and even embrace.

1. Medication is often helpful and necessary. Of course your physician is the expert here. But a drug well-chosen may help you get your struggle under control so that you can better deal with the underlying issues at the core of your panic.

2. Most non-physiological anxiety tends to come from wrong thoughts about oneself.  For example, if you believe that you must always impress your boss, then you can spend a lot of energy worrying about whether you will make a mistake, done enough or have a job next week.

If you think that you must always be right, you’ll might be overly anxious about what others think of your ideas or how to defend yourself to the people you care about most.

It will take some time to develop new ways of thinking, trying out new actions, thinking some more and experimenting again and again. It will usually be a slow process and that’s OK. This is not a three step easy program!  New thinking is typically developed by growing in your faith in yourself and God,  counseling with a qualified therapist or reading about where your true worth is found.

3. Overcoming anxiety will require facing some things you fear.  If you’re anxious about flying, then at some point you’re going to have to fly. If snakes make you nervous you will eventually have to get near some snakes if you think it best to like them.  While changing your thoughts are key, testing those new thoughts is essential.

If you’re anxious at work to the point of never taking a break you need to figure out when you’re going to take your first break and discover that you’re still OK. Then do it.

If you’re always anxious about speaking in front of others you need to find an opportunity to talk in public. Sure, start small, get some help, practice and all that. But you must go where you fear the most. That’s the only way you’ll find true success.

Facing fears is a powerful tool, life-changing much of the time.

So if your anxiety seems like a mountain, remember there are some ways to get over it. It will take time, you may need some help and you’ll probably face fears that you’d rather avoid. But never quit climbing. Remember, the view from the top is worth it!

Speeding Through Life Can Be Fatal. Slow Down.

asphalt blur cars commuting
Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Pexels.com

Ask any local member of law enforcement. Speed can kill. Talk to NASCAR great Jimmy Johnson or Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and they’ll say the same thing. Too many miles per hour can kill you quicker than taking your time. Sure, there’s a place for speed. It wins races, gets us online faster and helps us respond sooner when under pressure. But speed can still lead to death. Not necessarily physical death, but sometimes emotional, relational and even spiritual death.

When we speed through most days several bad things can happen: We miss special moments in the lives of others, including our family. We’re so focused on the next thing, the next business call, the upcoming meeting, getting to that evening’s rehearsal, practice or concert that we don’t even see the postcard, family album happening that we might have remembered forever. We were there but we weren’t there. Which leads to the second potential problem:

The people most important to us quit trying to connect. Sure, they may still talk to us, ask us for things and even go with us places now and then, but they’ve really given up on any kind of meaningful dialogue, conversation or interest shown in them. Though this isn’t the only problem with smartphones these days, but smartphones are a handy respite for young people and others who can’t connect with people who matter to them.
We don’t have time to serve others. We have no margin or space for that. It’s not that we don’t care or wouldn’t want to help but there simply isn’t any time. So we lose touch with family, neighbors, friends and coworkers and aren’t there even to them when they’re struggling. In a sense we’ve lost our connection to our soul and the souls of others.
So, while life will always be busy, the question is: Will we have more control over our schedule and time or will it life control us? Your answer to that question just might determine what kind of joy, thanks and fulfillment you enjoy for the next ten years or more.
Somehow, that seems like a big deal and something worth pondering long after you read this post.