Life Lesson Series – Listening

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I originally posted this back in December but thought it was worth a re-post for this series. 

This is one life lesson that is very much a learned skill and discipline. Ask yourself, How often do you truly listen to the world around you? When in conversation how often do you truly engage the person and listen to what they are telling you? More times than not, I catch myself thinking of my response more than I am actually listening to what is being said.

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say”. Bryant H. McGill

I love the quote above and think it’s absolutely true. It’s amazing how much more we get out of a conversation when we truly listen to what is being said instead of just hearing them speak. Another aspect of listening and respect is to have eye contact with the person you are conversing with instead of looking at our phones or fidgeting with this or that.

As a kid I had to go to speech therapy 2 times a week for a couple of years so that I could learn how to speak properly. Being born with a cleft pallet caused this process to take longer for me than it did other kids but looking back on it now I realize what a blessing that was, as it taught me how to listen. Time after time, my therapist would say a word or a sentence and then I would have to repeat it back to her. Another benefit of this is that with time I learned how to read lips proficiently. This ability has proven very beneficial over the years.

One of the things I had to overcome and still struggle with to this day is that I have a tendency to look at people’s lips when talking with them instead of making eye contact. As I said earlier, eye contact, is another key component of showing someone respect and something that I made sure to teach my children how to do. When you keep eye contact with someone as their speaking to you, you will also notice that it allows you to see more. Maybe not into their souls but it allows you to see more deeply into the person.

The life lesson of listening is one that is typically overlooked but over the years, at least for me, as become one of the most critical for me. Listening is one discipline I am constantly having to work at, as it is easy for me to be distracted but is also one of the most needed. Another component of listening, especially to God, is to simply be still. In  Psalm 46:10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

In order to truly hear God, we must learn to be still and allow Him the opportunity to speak to us. To often I find myself going through the motions with God – my prayers become one-sided and I don’t take time to pause and let Him speak to me or during my study time, I may find myself trying to understand a particular passage of scripture and I simply breeze through it without actually taking the time to study or meditate on it, giving Him the opportunity to speak to me.

Again – Listening, to me, is one of those skills that we can never master but by being diligent to try, we can greatly improve the relationships around us.

Would love to hear your thoughts! Really, I would love hear your thoughts. Honestly, ………….I will listen.

Peace and thanks for reading!!

All about Me

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An incredible game took place Monday night between the Auburn Tigers and Florida State Seminoles has they battled for the BCS National Championship. By and large, last night’s game was a perfect picture of everything that is right with college football and why we as a nation, love it so much. Yet, even in the midst of this spectacular game, I was struck by how often, certain players took the opportunity to say “hey, look at me, yes, I am all that!!”.  I won’t call the individuals out by name but there were several of them.

I understand that in the heat of the moment or in the exuberance of making a play, a player will be excited, jump to his feet and pound his chest a couple of times and then celebrate with his team. Today’s athletes however, seem more likely to run to the cameras (they know exactly where they are), and make Madonna proud by striking a pose or turning their backs to the camera and pointing to their name on the back of the jersey. as Vernon Davis illustrates above. At one point last night, one individual thought so highly of himself that he took it upon himself to taunt the entire opposing team.

There are some players who still understand that it’s about the team first, individual accomplishments second and oh how refreshing it is to here an athlete these days, being genuinely humble. Obviously, it’s football season and especially with all the bowl games, we have been witness to an overwhelming amount of grandstanding these past two weeks. Lest you think this only takes place in football, I will remind you that 80% of the truly great grand standers play in a local NBA arena near you. It’s rare these days that you will ever catch me watching an NBA game for that reason.

I know some out there are probably going to try and make the argument that these kids/young men are just having fun and some have suggested that it is just the culture these days or it’s just this generation. Label it, justify it, excuse it all you want but it is nothing more than being selfish. And shame on my generation for allowing this to become acceptable behavior in sports and really, across all venues of our lives today.

My generation has done nothing to address the trend of – “it’s all about me” and truth be told, we have helped perpetuate the antics of these individual. I know there have been plenty that came before him – Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, O.J. Simpson, Joe DiMaggio, Dizzy Dean, Satchel Paige and Babe Ruth just to name a few but Deion Sanders was the first that I can remember that truly understood and developed his own brand – Prime Time. In my opinion, he was and still is the most talented athlete to ever play the game and although you may disagree with that I believe you would be hard pressed to find anybody that was better than he was at promoting himself!!

I bring Sanders up because I used to be the guy that would excuse some of his antics by saying he was just a showman that happened to play football, or that he was simply being entertaining and that was true. He was all of those things and I had no problem with it….until he moved on from the Falcons and Braves. I was there when he picked off the pass and danced all the way down the sidelines in front of the Falcons bench. In that instance, he disrespected the Falcons, his team and the game of football. He made himself bigger than the game.

Unfortunately, he was just helping to refine the art of self-promotion that we see is so rampant in today’s sports and society. As I watched last night I realized that I and we need to own up to the fact that we have helped create this “it’s all about me” culture and unless we start addressing it now, it’s only going to get worse and truth is, it may already be too late.

There is a word that is associated with everything I have written and I have referred to it a couple of times already but I will clarify it now. This generation has very little respect for others and I’m not just talking about sports now but rather our entire culture. Anytime an individual places themselves above, in front of  and at the expense of others or without regard to others, that is called selfishness.

*NOTE – there are additional reasons as to why we have this culture today and perhaps I will try and address those in a later post.

Peace and thanks for reading!!

Life Lesson 3 – Listening

ears

This is one life lesson that is very much a learned skill and discipline. Ask yourself, How often do you truly listen to the world around you? When in conversation how often do you truly engage the person and listen to what they are telling you? More times than not, I catch myself thinking of my response more than I am actually listening to what is being said.

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say”. Bryant H. McGill

I love the quote above and think it’s absolutely true. It’s amazing how much more we get out of a conversation when we truly listen to what is being said instead of just hearing them speak. Another aspect of listening and respect is to have eye contact with the person you are conversing with instead of looking at our phones or fidgeting with this or that.

As a kid I had to go to speech therapy 2 times a week for a couple of years so that I could learn how to speak properly. Being born with a cleft pallet caused this process to take longer for me than it did other kids but looking back on it now I realize what a blessing that was, as it taught me how to listen. Time after time, my therapist would say a word or a sentence and then I would have to repeat it back to her. Another benefit of this is that with time I learned how to read lips proficiently. This ability has proven very beneficial over the years.

One of the things I had to overcome and still struggle with to this day is that I have a tendency to look at people’s lips when talking with them instead of making eye contact. Eye contact to me is another key component of showing someone respect and something that I made sure to teach my children how to do. When you keep eye contact with someone as their speaking to you, you will also notice that it allows you to see more. Maybe not into their souls but it allows you to see more deeply into the person.

I think this life lesson is one that is typically overlooked but over the years, at least for me, as become one of the most critical for me. Listening is one discipline I am constantly having to work at, as it is easy for me to be distracted but is also one of the most needed. Another component of listening, especially to God, is to simply be still. In  Psalm 46:10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

In order to truly hear God, we must learn to be still and allow Him the opportunity to speak to us. To often I find myself going through the motions with God – my prayers become one-sided and I don’t take time to pause and let Him speak to me or during my study time, I may find myself trying to understand a particular passage of scripture and I simply breeze through it without actually taking the time to study or meditate on it, giving Him the opportunity to speak to me.

Again – Listening, to me, is one of those skills that we can never master but by being diligent to try, we can greatly improve the relationships around us.

Would love to hear your thoughts! Really, I would love hear your thoughts. Honestly, ………….I will listen.

Peace and thanks for reading!!

Life Lesson 1 – Share the Journey

Life Lesson 2 – Serving

Life Lesson 1 – Share the Journey

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Ed Dorsey, Richard Hilton,Truman Bryant, Bob Cannon, Mickey Redfern, Pete Carter, Tommy McMillan, Dixie Glisson, Scott Willis, Chuck Allen, Craig Schmidle, Dr. Ron Davidson and Bobby McGraw. Some of these names you may recognize but most of them you probably don’t. If you know me however, then you know each of them, if only a little bit. Each of these men, at various points in my life, helped to form the man  I am today at 47.

There are some other men who were friends of mine back in the day or are friends of mine today that I have enjoyed doing life with or am enjoying life with now.

Today I found myself reflecting back on each of these men and the parts that each of them have played in my life. I have written several posts about my dad and Coach Hilton. I have mentioned my Grandfather, Truman in passing but it’s amazing to me how all of these men have played such a critical part in my life at some of the most critical times in my journey of life.

Bob and Mickey came along side myself and several other young men shortly after Lisa and I had gotten married and started raising our family. Both men, freely gave of themselves, pouring their wisdom into us – much of which, I didn’t realize or understand at the time. They talked about their relationship with Christ, their wives, their kids – the things they did right, did wrong and always shared with a heart that let you know they genuinely cared about us.

Pete and his wife Sheila, simply adopted me as their younger brother and just loved me. I don’t know how else to describe it. They were and always have been there for me when I needed them to be. They have seen the good, the bad and the ugly; graciously loving me through all of it. I could never repay them for all that they have done for me. I don’t get the opportunity to see or to talk them as much today but I know they are one phone call away!

Tommy and his wife Bonnie have been great friends to Lisa and I for many years now. Their girls and ours have grown up together and through it all, they have always been there to support, encourage and challenge Lisa and I to be better parents. I have learned from Tommy to keep a positive attitude no matter the situation or circumstance. To be steady and consistent, knowing that if you do all that you can do, that is, all you can do.

Dixie was the first “Real” pastor I ever had!! From him I learned a multitude of biblical truths that helped me to become the husband and father I am today. He helped me to understand that the burden I carried of trying to be perfect, was simply an unattainable goal and that God was not asking me to be perfect – but to allow the “One” who was, to guide my life. He is one of the nicest, gentle men you will ever meet but also one who will lovingly challenge you to be the best you can be.

For the rest of the men I mentioned on the list, all of them have or continue to play an important role in my and my family’s life. There is really no adequate way to convey what all of these men have meant to me personally  and/or to my family. I am forever indebted to each of them. As I think about all of these men, what stands out to me most is the sincerity and honesty in which they have always conducted themselves.

So, what’s the point to all of this? All of these men were willing to share themselves with me, to do life with me, brothers trying to help me become a better man. We were never meant to do life alone and men especially, get this wrong. One of the great lies we (men) fall prey to is that we should not need help. As men, we should be able to do everything on our own. I am scared to think where I and my family would be today if I had followed the path of Lone Wolf. Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. 

My prayer and hope for all who read this is that you have people around you that you can do life with.

For those of us who have a little more life experience than others, it is our responsibility to seek those people that might benefit from our experiences in life so that we may help them avoid some of the shortfalls we encountered along the way. To encourage the next generation, challenging them in love to hold fast to the truths that will sustain them for a life-time. That’s how I feel about the gentlemen above and I hope to do the same for those that follow me.

Our lives, our journey was never meant to be a one man operation

Peace and Thanks for Reading!

Life Pause

I am experiencing what I am calling a “Life Pause”. Within the last month or so, my life has been filled with some incredible highs and not incredible lows but some lows none the less. If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you know that last month I had the incredible opportunity to go to South Africa on a mission trip. And I won’t revisit that here other than to say that it’s been a month and almost daily, I am still experiencing revelations from that trip.

Returning home was great and the first weekend back, the kids, Lisa, and I were all able to meet in Thomasville, GA for a truly spectacular wedding and reception for the daughter of one of our dearest and closest friends. Getting together with old friends to celebrate such a joyous time naturally leads to good times! Being able to reminisce and share all the stories again, just served as a great reminder of what life is truly about, the journey. At some point, regardless of our past, we all have the opportunity to choose what kind of journey we take – the relationships we invest in and how we respond to the unexpected ups, downs, trials, tribulations, joys, sorrow and happiness that happens within the fabric of each of our lives.

The following week was thanksgiving and again, we all had the opportunity to gather with our extended families on both my mom and dad’s sides of the family. And although entirely different types of families, both are grounded in love for each other. As we drove home that night from a day filled with great food, laughter, good stories and a couple of games of corn hole, I was most thankful for the love that serves as the foundation for both sides of my extended family. It is not lost on me how rare that seems to be these days and I feel greatly blessed anytime I think of my family!!

The downside was that this was our first thanksgiving without my father-in-law, Jim and for all of us, there were moments where that realization would kind of stop you cold, a solemn reminder of how truly short our life here can be. Yet, even in the midst of the loss; we are able to ease the pain a little because of the memories we hold onto of brighter days gone by. And for me, it helps as I go through the day, spending time with family, to remember those who have all left us too soon. Each of them playing some part in my own journey on this earth, obviously some had bigger parts but all contributed to the memories in my life thus far.

Now it’s the 18th of December and this time next week, we will be celebrating the birth of our savior. Again, it will be a joyous time as we are able to gather together with loved ones. And yet again there will be some sadness, as we realize that not everybody is with us any longer but as we go about the tasks of creating new memories, there is no doubt they will be influenced by the memories already stored away.

In the midst of the anticipation for this joyous time of year, I received word that my old coach, Richard Hilton, was being put into a Hospice care facility to hopefully give him some rest and peace. In my journey thus far, he is one of the two most influential men in my life – the other is my father, Ed. It is not ironic, that these two men are more like brothers than friends and although not as close these last couple of years as I know both would of liked, brothers none the less. Coach was my little league coach back in 77 and 78. I was just one kid this man loved through his coaching of baseball. He loved kids through coaching baseball for 38 years. Quick math for you, that’s about 456 kids he directly poured his life into and multiply that by an average of 6 other teams per year and that number jumps to 2,736 kids. This doesn’t even begin to count all of the siblings and parents that were influenced by his time on the diamond.

As I visited him yesterday, I found myself oddly at peace as I looked into the face of a man who had such a profound influence on my life! I learned one thing from him and my dad both, that is at the heart of who I am. It is this thought – Anything worth doing, is worth doing right!! I am not always successful in this approach but it is the approach I always take. I was fortunate to not only play for Coach but I had the opportunity to coach with him as well, not only in baseball but basketball also.

Yes, a life pause, is what I am calling this. Taking time to reminisce and reflect on my life thus far and to remember all of those who have impacted my life, whether great or small. But life is to be lived moving forward, creating new memories, setting new goals and experiencing life to the fullest. This pause has caused me to reexamine the relationships I have in my life – what type of memories am I helping to create for those that I share this life’s journey with?

My prayer this Christmas season is that each of us would examine our lives and pause to consider the relationships we have and ask ourselves if we our having a positive impact on those that we are sharing this journey of life.

I wish you all a wonderful and merry Christmas!! Peace and thanks for Reading!!

Behind the Glasses (cover up)

So, my Monday started out less than stellar this morning as I awoke to my left eyelid swollen so bad that I couldn’t open my eye. It started swelling yesterday and consensus of those not in the medical field is that I have a sty. I am now patiently waiting on my eye appointment which is at 3:30 this afternoon.

As I was leaving the house this morning I decided to check the mirror one more time just to see how bad my eye really looked. It looks really bad, as it is really red, puffy and looks a lot like I went 3 rounds with Sugar Ray Leonard. I grabbed my sunglasses and put them on and presto, problem was solved, as with my glasses on, no one can tell that anything is amiss with my eye. It really is amazing at the difference the sunglasses make in my appearance. As long as I keep my glasses on no one will know how bad my eye really is.

As I was looking in the mirror, sliding the glasses up and down on my nose the thought hit me of how often we go through this life trying to find the “right sunglasses” to cover up our imperfections. All of us have things in our lives that we try and hide from others. It’s one thing for us to know where our shortfalls are but we don’t need to let everyone else know about them, so we work hard to cover them up…so that no one will really know how bad our imperfections really are.

Here’s the thing and what I have been thinking about this morning. All of us have our own inadequacies, whether it’s in our appearance, our attitudes or our sins. And we seem to spend an awful lot of time in trying to cover, hide, disguise, ignore, pretend, or deflect these from others and more importantly from ourselves. The truth is this: God knows all our inadequacies whether we admit to them or not. It’s easy to look at someone else and see all of their faults, recognize their shortcomings and unfortunately Christians, seem to be the best at doing this.

It’s time each of us addressed our own inadequacies as they are and seek God’s direction in how best to go about correcting them. And then, as we look upon others, wearing the glasses, we might show a little more compassion and mercy toward them…….and simply love them as Christ loves us!!

Peace and thanks for reading!!

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A Study of Joseph – Rebuilding Trust

Have you ever been hurt by someone you trusted? That maybe the hardest hurt to overcome for any of us. It was no different for Joseph. Although he had forgiven his brothers, he still needed to know if he could ever, fully trust them again. So he had decided to hold onto Simeon and send the other brothers back to Canaan to face their father once again with one less brother. Oh the irony that they were now faced with! They would be telling Jacob the truth but how in the world could they ever explain what has now happened to Simeon.

And especially, after telling Jacob what had happened, they empty their sacks where it is revealed to all of them that the money they had been given to pay for the grain was still in their possession. So they are now telling Jacob the truth but he will not have any of it. Genesis 42:36 – Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!” Don’t you kind of feel for Jacob here? He has no one to trust and is adamant that Benjamin will not make the trip to Egypt. And this after Reuben offers up his two sons has ransom if he doesn’t return with Benjamin. For now, Jacob is done with all of it.

As time passes though and they use up all of the grain, they are faced once again with the prospect of not having food. This time however, Judah, makes the plea to return to Egypt with Benjamin to get the grain that they will need. Interesting comparison here between Reuben’s initial plea and that made by Judah. Reuben did not put himself on the line with his plea but rather, his two sons. Judah puts himself on the line; Genesis 43:9 – 9 I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. It is now cemented for sure that Judah is the true leader among the brothers.

As they present themselves again to Joseph, we now see that he knows they are at least being honest with him as they have indeed, returned with Benjamin. Notice how he greets them; he first asks about their well being but then gets right to the point and ask them about their father. Is he still alive? Then he turns his attention to Benjamin and blesses him. Joseph then excuses himself and leaves their company to regain his composure. Upon returning they all sit down to take part in a meal that Joseph had prepared for them.

Joseph still had one more test for the brothers. He needed to know if the brothers had truly changed or not by finding out what was truly important to them. At this point, I would challenge you to read the whole chapter of Genesis 44. Joseph had arranged it so that Benjamin would be forced to stay with him while the brothers would have to return back to Jacob, once again, without their brother. And throughout the chapter we see that the heart of these 10 brothers have been truly changed. And especially, where Judah is concerned, as he makes a desperate plea to Joseph to keep him instead and let Benjamin return to his father.

Truly Judah’s main concern is that of protecting both his brother and his father’s well being. Offering up himself in order to save his brother from slavery and therefore avoiding sure heartache for his father. Joseph finally knew that he could trust his brothers!

Trust is something that I think all of us can sometimes take for granted. And we shouldn’t! Our word, integrity is something we should guard and protect at all costs!! If we ever lose it, there is no guarantee that we will ever recover it. Notice, that at no time through all of this, has Joseph pointed out to his brothers their faults, misjudgements, lying and deceitful acts. They realize for themselves all that they have done and our forced to deal with it. The fact that it was Judah who makes the final plea to Joseph is fitting since he was the one who initiated the idea of selling Joseph into slavery some 22 years earlier.

One more segment of our study to go and that is the Reunion between Jacob and Joseph. Additionally, I will have one last look at the parallels between Jesus and Joseph.

Peace and thanks for reading.