Saturday, January 13, 2018

Do Your Gifts Really Matter?

Hyper gifted people are fun to be around. Some are well known or famous because of their gifts. Google was started because of giftedness in math. Swimming Gold medals were won because of unique body type & mechanics. Arenas listen to signers who can fill the air with big, powerful and wonderful tones. Some see in pictures, some in numbers and some in both. People all around us are gifted, some hyper gifted.  

Can you think of someone at work or in your community who is just that guy or girl? 

I think of specific co-workers, friends from high school and church staff who I have known for a while. It seems, when God was handing out gifts, he grabbed an extra handful and slipped them into these few folks. 

We love them. They inspire us in some way. But, what about the rest of us, what about the guy who is a B quality leader, not A? What about the lady who is a C quality singer and not an A?  What about the guy and girl who just works at an average job, with average pay, average relationships and average online followings? 

Lately I have been watching the world around me through very fresh lenses. There has been a calm that has settled into my soul, at a very deep level. I can't explain it yet, so I won't try. But, I can tell you it has something to do with realizing what really matters. Realize is the wrong word, because I have realized this for a while, but I guess I have recently processed it differently. 

What do I mean? 

Well, in my Florida/Southern upbringing there were cultural norms that indicated potential success in the future, things that set us apart from the non-gifted, normal and average. I was aware of those as a child and fell on the side of average, for sure. All cultures do this, they have the "us/them" comparisons with privilege & opportunity being given to "them" way more often than "us". Or at least that is how we saw it, right. 

In the faith-based culture I transferred into when I was 20 years old, there became a new set of standards by which we measured who might be the most successful. One such factoid we used was the ancient scripture about how our "gifts will make room for us." Prob. 18:16.   Even if that scripture was not there, I have observed we look for the potential leaders, the platform people, those we want out front, based on a certain gifting that makes them seem fit for the job.  And, in my best observation over nearly 3 decades since I joined this new culture, this system has not worked. Actually, it has desperately failed more often than not. So, what to do, why care. 

I care because I am a father of five, I lead a team at work, teams in ministry and am responsible to figure out how to complete the work we are so passionate about. I often have a front row to the selection process for leaders and often watch failed experiments blow up right in front of us. It's not pretty and it costs us dearly. 

I'm trying to learn to be better at discerning who should lead and who should be exalted as those we point to as examples. 


Does it matter that I want to watch a gifted signer use her gifts at a concert, only to be forced to listen to her talk for over an hour off and on about her vulgar and offensive perspective on the world. Her gifts shine when she sings, but her dark heart is on display when she talks. So, which do I care about. 





My conclusion is this >>

First. The scripture in Proverbs refers to "giving a gift" not having a gift of talent, personality, etc... So, we take that out of context and really mess people up when we tell them to have faith in God because their gift will make room for them, meaning on the job or in the world. It's an improper use of the scripture to say that. 

Second. I prefer to assume we all have deep deposits of gifts to share with the world. 

Third. I understand we gravitate toward people who have gifts that are outwardly on display or who can use their gifts to generate something spectacular. On the movie "The Greatest Showman", we see an outstanding showman who really got is start as an accused con artist. Which was he? I don't know for sure, but one thing is for sure, he could use his gifts to attract a crowd and to entertain. People are willing to watch and celebrate many kids of entertainment and in his case, he hit sweet spot in the mid 1800's and the rest is history. We are inspired and motivated by outward demonstrations of gifts and talents, and rightfully so, I believe. So what's the problem. 

Forth. I believe we have wrongly understood the value of a human and the amount of praise and attention we should give to those who have various types of gifts. My main warning is to treat outward or hyper gifted individuals like normal humans and to pay more attention to those who really make the world go around everyday, but without the fan fair. By creating a level playing field based on character, generosity, love, wisdom, discernment and teachability, everyone gifts a better picture of what healthy society looks like. In the population of all people who must walk through the learning cycles of life to develop character and to be trusted, there will still be great football players, singers, mathmaticians and artits. We want them, we need them. But, truth is, there is a very, very warped and sideways, mind bending reality we are forces to live in when a hyper-gifted football coach makes $5 million a year, while a fireman, school teacher or even police officer will likely never make above $80k a year. We could give thousands of examples where the outward gifts are rewarded instead of the intrinsic value we bring to society or proven character by which we deliver it. 


Of course they matter. But, they don't make room for us in the mystical way we imagine and sometimes in ways we should not even accept. I know of a youth pastor who gave up a baseball carreer but who has impacted thousands of young people now, in ways his baseball career would never have. I know another actor who gave up millions to share a different message with the world and now has an amazing family and impact on the world for love and grace. These guys didn't miss out. They chose to follow the calling upon their heart, to address the real needs of society, to develop as a person of character before following the cheers of the world. And I personally know, they don't regret it for one minute. 

How about us? Do I feel less than because I don't the gifts others do? Am I super gifted but in need of some time to develop character and gain wisdom? Do I sit back and adore those who are in the lime light and ignore those who are in the trenches? 

Let's figure this out and raise our families differently, lead our teams differently and put different expectations on our self. 


So, let's express ourselves and grow in our gifts but don't get it upside down!!  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Shared from City Pastor Greg Rogers: Hope 4 My City

I have an old wooden handled one wheeled plow.  It doesn’t’ need an ox or donkey to pull it.  There is no engine to turn a set of blades, it only has one curved blade.  It’s designed to be pushed, pushed back and forth to move the earth of dirt below.  The first year we planted a garden at this home, I tilled the plot with this plow.  I removed weeds, grass, and lots of rocks with a lot of back and forth effort. Now the ground was reading to receive the seed.

Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
    for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes
    and showers his righteousness on you.  Hosea 10:12

Breaking up the fallow, unplowed ground of your heart is not about working for your salvation.  It is not trying to make a better you.  It is preparing a suitable place for God to work and produce fruit in your life.  It is about recognizing that the normal flow of our lives is toward a self-centered complacency that hardens our heart by the comfortableness of unconfessed sin and a slow building resistance to the Holy Spirit’s nurturing.
So what may the breaking up the fallow ground look like?

1.       It requires tangible effort.  Just knowing the terminology does not mean that you have done the work.  Looking at my plot of untilled soil and thinking about the work that needs to be done, did not make it happen.  I had to put my hand to the plow and exert energy.  I sweated a lot and my hands blistered.  Many are familiar with the verse and think they have fulfilled it by “being open”.  It’s not your brother, or sister, but it is me o Lord, standing in the need of prayer.  When do you give God time to search your heart to see what does not belong?
2.      Expect resistance.  There are weeds that have taken root.  There will be a pattern of living that you may be unwilling to part.  Don’t settle for the “this is just the way I am”.  The ground must be broken in order for the new fruit of the Spirit to be prosperous in your life.  If you are comfortable with little white lies, STOP, because God is NOT.  He can give you the ability to speak the truth.  Deceitfulness flows in the direction of Satan, remove it from your heart.
3.      Expect a harvest….in time.  We are such a quick fix, gotta have it now, and see immediate results culture.  But God’s principles of harvesting and nature require order and time.  The ground is plowed so that the earth is ready for the seed.  But fertile soil produces an abundant harvest.  So also, give the Holy Spirit time to help you identify and remove sin and its effects in your life.  One right decision leads to another right decision.  Walk in step with the Holy Spirit and you will not carry out (bear the fruit) the desires of the flesh.

The end result is a more intimate relationship with the Father.  Our verse says that you will reap the fruit of unfailing love.  You will know that even though God does not approve of any sin, He is deeply committed to you.  There is pain to know that we have chosen so many times to reject God’s way.  But a restored relationship has great joy when the offensive obstacles are removed.  

David confessed  and asked that God would restore the joy of his salvation and take not the Holy spirit from him.  Tenderness toward our savior is one benefit from breaking up the fallow ground.

Jesus said the one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.  Your fruitful life is before you.  God has great plans today, and the next days for your life.  O that we could see how He plans to use us each day for His glory.

Adapted and Shared from the writings of Pastor Greg Rogers, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Monday, March 13, 2017

[P]ainful Reality: Making Extraordinary Ordinary (leaders of all kinds)




Recently my wife and I surrendered to a deeply personal and insightful assessment of our life, leadership, marriage, ministry and preparedness for church planting. You may not care about ministry or church planting, but all of us care about personal and professional development, about family of whatever nature we live family, and about leadership. So, this applies to everyone. 

After 3 days of deep-dive-interviews and assessments, we came out with more information than we can process in a week. So, we are taking time to process together and decide what the information tells us. In general, however, we came away with one huge glaring reality. The reality was not a surprise, but a confirmation and reminder, both to us, and in regards to most people around us. The reality is...




This is not low self esteem. This is not overly critical. This is possibly one of the most important realities we can have in a society that magnifies and celebrates fame over familiar. See, you may connect with this conclusion when I say, I don't sing or dance great, I don't dunk a basketball or make blockbuster movies. I don't get invited to speak to nations or create life changing medical solutions. I can't cook very well and I only type 40 wpm. Truth is, my knees hurt most days and my hair is falling out, my kids don't always like me and I'm pretty sure my computer is about to crash. 



Before sharing the point, let me share this leadership lesson from a recent book I reviewed. Then, I will share my punch line at the end. 

In reading leadership books, which I do somewhat regularly, I have fallen in love with most everything by Patrick Lencioni. 

I largely love his work because of how he presents his conclusions, through story. He tells what he calls "leadership fables", where most of us who have been part of a team, can find ourselves somewhere in the story. Even if we have not been part of a corporate team, we can imagine the teams he tells us about, and find application in what he teaches. 

That being said, I also want to learn to apply the proven ideas he shares, to my everyday life, even if I'm not the high caliber leader he seems to write about. 

In one book I reviewed recently titled "The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive", he shares about four simple but proven and profound practices that could transform our life. However, I want to learn to apply them even if I'm not the Extraordinary Executive. 

The Four Obsessions are.....disciplines...

1. Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team. 

2. Create Organizational Clarity.

3. Over-Communicate Organizational Clarity.

4. Reinforce Organizational Clarity Through Human Systems.

The Four Obsessions are....disciplines...

Be Cohesive
Be Clear

There are tons of details inside the four obsessions, the four disciplines, and we will only understand and apply them if we study and be honest about where we can improve. But, believe me, this material is worth it, and very helpful. 

THE be the best ordinary we can be, the best normal we can be, the best me I can be, without the intimidation and pressure of being extraordinary, according to the mystical and famous definitions the world tens to feed us. 

Remove the pressure of becoming an extraordinary fitness model with perfect abs, arms and butt. Insert a powerful goal of being the best "healthy person" you can be with disciplines of exercise, healthy diet, reasonable sleep and friends to live healthy with. That sounds very different now doesn't it. So, why don't the magazines sell us that second version of life? 

Remove the pressure of becoming an extraordinary father, mother, pastor, manager, artist, teacher or factory worker. What about the goal of being the absolute best YOU and what about growing and changing and improving with a never-ending diet of learning. That sounds doable. 

Remove the pressure of becoming something you are not made to become, but raise the bar on our daily disciplines that can produce the greatest YOU possible. 

BACK TO ME AND SHANNA: We are indeed, extraordinarily normal and ordinary. However, we serve a truly extraordinary God, with a call for us to aim our heart, home, life and career toward transformation and growth, to the Glory of God, In Christ. So, we look into the Word of God and the History of the Church and find challenges to grow and to serve this extraordinary vision of an extraordinary God. But, we have to be real about where we are and where we need to grow, not hold up the perfect template of what Extraordinary might look like and make that our idol. 

I pray and hope we all can challenge ourselves without the voice of a false god and enemy telling us to spend our days becoming something we are not and probably will never be.

We are not taking the low road, actually, we are setting the bar higher and higher, however, we are just setting the right bar for us, not the bar the rest of the world tells us we have to reach.