Month: November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

It snowed a little today.

The first true sign of winter and the perfect beginning to the holiday season.

I really enjoy the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Happy-ThanksgivingWhen I was a kid, I loved it because my Mom would make every single thing I loved to eat all at one time. But the older I get, the more I appreciate the exercise of deliberately slowing myself down enough to consider how truly incredible life is – and to give thanks for it all.

I have a great job.  I’m so grateful for it. My bills are paid and there’s a little left over…thank you.

My wife and I are healthy and so are our kids and our grandchildren. May we never take that for granted.

I find it easy to say thank you to my Savior Jesus Christ.  There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t thank Him for the salvation He provided on the Cross of Calvary. 

However, I sometimes lose focus on all the people who are part of my life. I think about work friends and people who have contributed to my life. At times, I find myself taking them all for granted.

So this Thanksgiving I want to turn my head and heart to the people who fill my life.  I want to thank those that have walked this road of life with me. I want to thank those that have shared these days with me.

Mentors and protégés. Old friends and new.

So, with a heart that’s full of thanks, I didn’t want to let the holiday pass by without thanking you, my friends, for all that you’ve contributed into my life.

If you’ve ever made me laugh so hard you made me forget for a moment that I’m an adult or the problems in this life…Thank you.

If you’ve held my feet to the fire, kept me accountable, reminding me that I am not perfect and sometimes I am wrong… Thank you.

If I’ve ever forgotten my problems in your presence because you have taken them on as your own in prayer… Thank you.

If you’ve trusted me with your secrets and made me feel safe enough to share mine… Thank you.

If you could make a list of my weaknesses and failures, but don’t… Thank you.

If you tell me the truth, even when I don’t want to hear it… Thank you.

If you encourage me even though I shouldn’t need it… Thank you.

If you’ve forgiven me at least once… Thank you.

If you’ve ever taught me what I didn’t know, given me a shot when I hadn’t earned it, or guided me when I felt lost… Thank you.

If you’ve shared with me the benefit of your hard work or challenged me to think beyond myself or this day… Thank you.

If you say nice things about me behind my back… Thank you.

If you see something good in me that I can’t quite make out for myself just yet…Thank you.

I’m grateful for you. Not just the regular “let’s hurry up and eat” kind of grateful. I’m profoundly thankful for you.

As I consider my many blessings, I count you all among the greatest of them all.

For old friends who’ve left an indelible mark that can’t be erased by time or distance, and new ones that carry a key to a door that’s been locked to me.

For friends who feel like family, and family I’d choose as friends, I’m grateful and keenly aware of how different life would be – and I would be – without you in it.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!!!

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Foundations

I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life staring into a pit of red Virginia clay.

I was in between my junior and senior year in college and I’d stayed the summer to take some summer classes so BluePrintsI could graduate in December.

I was living in an apartment in Lynchburg and I was having dinner at a friend’s house.  He was a local contractor and was heading up the construction of a large building in the area.  

After dinner he was still talking about the huge project he was responsible for and was showing me prints and artist renditions of what the finished building would look like upon completion. It was obvious that he was so proud of the project and even though they were only three weeks into the project he asked me if I would take a ride with him to see the construction site.

Of course I said yes and soon we were on our way to see the progress of the project.

As soon as I stepped out of the car, I could tell something was wrong. There was nothing to see. No frame, no walls. No bricks, or shops. Nothing at all.

What had they been doing for three weeks?

“Unimpressed?” he asked.  (I must not have been hiding my feelings very well.)

“Aren’t you?”

“Looks good to me…What did you expect to see?”

“I don’t know…At least some framing. It seems like a long time to not have anything done.”

He looked back at me over his shoulder and smiled, but kept walking.

Basement Dug inHe led me over to a big hole in the ground in the center of the site. It didn’t look like anything, but he saw something different. He stopped and bent down, waving me over with his clipboard.

I was about to learn something that had led him for years.

I knelt beside him and looked into the hole. It must have been at least fifteen feet deep. And as I looked closer, I began to see it was part of an elaborate series of trenches forming a perimeter around where the building would soon sit.

He took a few minutes to explain how it all worked together and why this hole was different from the next. He told me they’d fill them with concrete and metal stakes that would secure the building in place.

When he was finished, he looked me in the eyes and said,

“You always have to build down before you can build up. You’ve gotta dig deep if you want to build high. Your most important work is the work you do before anyone notices or cares…It’s what makes everything else stand in the end.”

“I hear you, but isn’t this a bit overboard? Seems like you could have done less and be halfway done by now.”

“Maybe…but someday a storm’s going to come. They always do. And you gotta decide up front how big a storm are you going to be ready for. The time to prepare is way before it shows up.” 

Even in that moment, I realized he wasn’t just talking about the building. He was talking about what we build with our lives.  He was talking about how God can use us in this life to further His Kingdom.

I may not have fully understood at the time, but the years since have certainly made his point clearer.

The bigger your dream, the more you want to be used of God, the deeper you have to dig to make it happen. And it doesn’t matter how impressive things might seem above the surface. If the foundation isn’t solid, your beautiful building, or career, or life will end up crooked, sinking and failing in time.

It’s all about the foundation.  It’s about what’s underneath it all. It’s about how you’ll hold up in the storm.

The same is to said of your walk with the Lord.  Do you want to be used of God? Do you want to make a difference in this liFoundations1fe? Your walk must be formed with a firm foundation and the most important work is the work on your foundation you do before anyone notices or cares. Your foundation must be built on Jesus Christ. It is only that which has a strong and firm foundation on Him that lasts.

If I am completely honest, this is a very difficult lesson in life for me to write about. I am aware of the cracks in my foundation.  I am acutely aware of the failure in my life that can be traced back to the foundational weakness I had in my Christian walk all those years ago.

I have spent the last fifteen years of my life repairing those cracks in my foundation. There’s still so much work for me in the coming years. Even after all this time, God still shows me where He wants me to repair the foundation in my life.

Because a storm is coming. They always do, you know. And the ground beneath you must be able to support the weight of the hope inside you. Your life must be firmly set upon the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ.

But understand this… The bigger your calling, the deeper you’ll have to dig – the longer you’ll spend in quiet preparation before anyone seems to notice or care about what you’re building. 

Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. 

I Timothy 6:19

If your foundation is sure, pay no attention to what things look like today. Keep going – keep building. Brick by brick. Stone by stone.  And in time, you’ll find that what you once thought was impossible is now reality…it will stand against the storms of life.

And someday… you will be just what God intended you to be.

A Non-Negotiable Of Life

Over the course of the past week, I have been engaged in the preparation for employee evaluations. And in that process, I have to fill out my own personal evaluation to turn into my boss.  It is a self-evaluator tool where you have to write out where you think you are in relation tojob your job goals and performance.  My boss then takes that information and we meet to see if we are on the same page as far as these goals are concerned.

As I made my way through the questions, one question caused me to pause and stare at the blinking cursor for quite a while. I started to second guess myself… Do I be honest and say what I should or do I say what I think they want me to say? What to do? If I’m true to my word, I gotta own it. It’s a hill I’m going to die on. So I had to go with the honesty.

I might be strange, but if you know me, you know I don’t care about titles. I never have. I’m not in this game to get as high as I can on some corporate ladder. As I told my boss, people won’t discuss that at my funeral. They WILL remember how I treated people, how I loved my family and my wife. Was I man that was true to his beliefs and to his faith? That is forever. Titles are not. They fade.

That being said, have you ever established the hills that you would die on?  Do you know where the line is where you won’t cross?

Do you know your non-negotiables in life?nonnegotiable

That is why my family and my wife is a hill I will die on… EVERY… SINGLE… TIME. I will always choose my family and my wife over my job each and everyday.  That being said, I am thankful that up to this point in my life, my employer has not made me choose.

My professional goals at this point in life have changed over the past few years. My professional goal at work is to ensure that my wife is taken care of.  It is my sole purpose as far as my job goes. This may sound like an odd professional goal, but I believe I am a failure at any professional position if I am failing as a husband and my responsibility to make sure she is taken care of.

My children are adults now. They are 28, 27, 22 and 20 respectively and they are all moving on in their own lives.  They have to own their own destinations in life and to how they get there. While I understand that I will always be “Dad” but my job to raise them is over. All I can do now is give advice… I cannot make them do anything.    I also have two grandsons, Indy and Brody. The job to raise them is also not mine… it is that of my daughter and my son-in-law.  I get to enjoy the benefits of just being “Grandpa”. 

Family is a non-negotiable in my core beliefs.  So to work a job and a position that fits my professional goal is something I am very thankful for. The job to raise my children is over.  My job is now focused on my wife.  I accepted that responsibility to take care of her when I said,”I do” and it is now primary for me until I take my last breath.

Filling out that evaluation for my boss, I was reminded that sometimes, when you know your non-negotiables in life, you won’t always have to die on that hill.

But sometimes you will, and it will always be worth the fight.