Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tempted to Hide Under the Covers?

Have you ever just wanted to stay in bed all day?  Have you wished that you didn't have to face whatever is ahead of you?  Are you tempted to pull the covers over your head and hide?

I love the way that the Message translate this portion of Scripture from Isaiah 53:
The Master, God, has given me    a well-taught tongue,So I know how to encourage tired people.    He wakes me up in the morning,Wakes me up, opens my ears    to listen as one ready to take orders.The Master, God, opened my ears,    and I didn’t go back to sleep,    didn’t pull the covers back over my head.
God calls us each day to encourage tired people.  He is the one who wakes up every morning (even if it is with the assistance of an alarm clock, a screaming toddler, or a teenager or young adult who is just getting home :-)  

I used to attend a church decades ago and over and over again people in that church would thank God for waking them up in the morning and giving them one more day to live.  I loved (and still love) the idea that if God woke me up today and gave me another day of life that I need to be grateful for simply the gift of one more day and give that day back to him.

So God wakes us up, opens our years and wants us to listen and be ready to take orders.  And here is the choice we have each day…. we can listen carefully and get up and obey or we can go back to sleep and put the covers over our heads.

Literally that might not be possible.  Nobody can spend their entire day in bed (although I have three adult children right now who are testing that theory, but I digress).  But certainly metaphorically we have two choices:

We can wake up, listen to what God is calling us to do, take orders and get busy, or we can pull the covers back over our heads and go back to sleep.

The choice is yours today and every day.  

Keith Green wrote a powerful song that I memorized back in my teens.  He always wrote and sang with such conviction…. 

Oh, can't you see such sin?!
The world is sleeping in the dark, 
That the church just can't fight,
'cause it's asleep in the light!
How can you be so dead?!
When you've been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave,
And you!
You can't even get out of bed!

You can hear Keith himself sing it here.   If this doesn’t wake you up, I’m not sure what will.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

You've Got the POWER!

Feeling powerful today?  I guess some days we feel it and some days we don't.  But have you ever asked yourself how much power you really do have?

If you have been a parent, you watch the "power" that you have over your children fade by the day from their birth to adulthood.   Sometimes that influence is allowed back in when they become adults, but often not, and if it has always been about power when they are growing up, that probably will never happen.

If you have been a boss, you realize after a while that if you are trying to yield "power" over your employees, you will quickly lose their respect and loyalty.

If you have tried to change a bad habit, you may have quickly realized that you really don't even have power over yourself.

BUT when it comes to fighting the enemy and doing big things that God has called us to do, we do have the power.  We have the power over the enemy.

I memorized this in the King James as a child:
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
This is what it says in the Message:
See what I’ve given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing.” 
So as you can see, you have the power!  The enemy is not going to win whatever battle you are facing whether it be the battle for the hearts and minds of your children or grandchildren, the battle to destroy a team that is about to do great things, or the battle that rages inside of you.  

In fact, Jesus even said that we could speak to mountains and they would move.  Now that's POWER!

You have the power!

I have loved this song for decades.  I still have it completely memorized.  I hope it runs through your mind all day

Monday, August 14, 2017

Getting God's Attention

Have you wondered if there is a way to get God to respond?    Have you ever tried everything you could think of .... prayed, fasted, denied yourself ... and heard nothing?

The people during Isaiah's time had the same problem.   They asked God about it in Isaiah 58.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it?  Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’
And God answers:
“...on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  
And then God tells them what gets His attention:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelterwhen you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 
And He tells them what happens if they participate in the kind of activities that matter to Him:
Your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then righteousness  will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;  you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here am I."

So we have our answer.  If we want to do something that God will notice, it's not about self-denial and fasting, though those are good things.  But God says  that the kind of "fast" that matters to him isn't what we don't do, but what we do.  It is about losing the chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free, breaking yokes, sharing food, providing shelter, clothing the naked.... that's the point.

We often sing and talk about letting our lights shine ... like we read in Matthew 5:16... so that others may see our good works and glorify God in heaven.  But shining bright through how we treat those lest fortunate is not only so that others will see us -- it is the way that God Himself taught us to get His attention.  

I encourage you to try it.... shine brightly in the ways He describes above and you might be surprised at how quickly He pays attention.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

What Are You Afraid Of?

Are you dreading something this week?  A conversation with an employee or a boss?  A presentation or a speech you have to give that you feel ill equipped for?

Or maybe it's something more serious.  Maybe you have a doctor's appointment that might bring bad news, or a funeral of a loved one.

I have several things this week that are making me anxious.  Or maybe I should say they WERE making me anxious until a couple of things happened.

The first is that I attended the Global Leadership Summit last week and heard several speakers.  One talked of going to a prison to offer forgiveness to the people who killed nearly every member of her family in the Rwandan genocide.    Another spoke of losing members of his staff who were killed by corrupt police officers while defending a poor taxi driver on the streets of Kenya.    A third discussed his work in defending the mentally ill, children and prisoners on death row.

Suddenly the things I was dreading become really really small in comparison.

The second thing that happened was singing a couple of hymns in church yesterday.  The first is very familiar and the second verse struck me.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

I suddenly realized that God prospers my work and He will defend me.  And that He will give me the courage to face whatever I'm dreading this week....

Life takes courage.  Courage for the big things, and courage for the little things.   And God is calling those of us who are willing to stand and say "I'll go" .... regardless of where we must go or how anxious the situation makes me. 

And then we finished our worship yesterday with this song -- which if you have never heard you should listen to more than once.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday Summary August 12, 2017

It was quite a week .... busy, productive and a good week for the Fletchers!

I always like to start with my work report, because I love my job.  It's a combination of an amazing team to work with, a missions that fits perfectly with my life's mission, and big ideas flowing all the time.   This week I had back to back meetings Monday and Tuesday, created and worked through a portion of a 4 page to do list on Wednesday and then headed to the Global Leadership Summit being simulcast at a church in Roanoke.  Our whole leadership team, all nine of us, got to go together and it was phenomenal.   I have been several years now, and I always leave with more ideas and knowledge than I thought was possible to accumulate in two days.

As a family, we started last week with Bart and I going to worship with my coworker, Crystal.  We were by far the minority (as in the only white people) in a congregation of welcoming, warm people who truly blessed us by their hospitality.  And I got to hear Crystal sing and that girl can SING.   It was a great time.  We had lunch together alone afterwards (the kids had decided to go to Mt. Vernon) and by the time we got home it was late afternoon.  My choice to have a long nap messed up my sleep schedule for a day or two, but the nap itself was glorious.  Sunday was completed with a game night at church where I lost repeatedly to a certain unnamed person who insisted on bragging.

Wednesday was the first day of school for Wilson and Gabby.  It was Wilson's last first day of school -- the end of an era.   And Gabby started 2nd grade with great enthusiasm.  In a letter that day reminding Salinda that Gabby would not be around to help keep Carlos safe, I encouraged her to be more vigilant so that nothing happened to him.   That afternoon she feel asleep and he chopped off his hair -- all the way down to the scalp.   So it was Carlos' first day of short hair in his life.... she had been nurturing that hair for almost 3 years.   Good lesson for all of us.... and he is still REALLY cute.

So I returned last night to have dinner out with Bart and tell him everything I learned at the summit.... and watch the best innings of a Reds game.... We won, but it wasn't because they didn't almost lose it at the end.... must have been because I had already gone to bed.

So here we are at the weekend and I'm behind on almost everything there is to be behind on, but that, as you know, is the story of my life.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Being a Brave and Hopeful Leader

Ever attended a Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit?  If not you are missing out on a whole lot of really good stuff.   I am here for I believe the fifth time .... started in 2013 ... and I walk away blessed and challenged.

The day started with song that is nowhere to be found on the internet, which is tragic because I loved it!   Hopefully eventually it will be available to the world.  ((If you can find it, let me know!).   I'm not going to try to sing it, for which you should be grateful :-), but the chorus went something like this, 
We call on the rebels, the fighters, the champions of change... come be leaders, unites, we call on the brave.
The song has not stopped going through my mind ... it was powerful.

In the afternoon, we heard a presentation called "Being a Brave and Hopeful Leader. It was articulately delivered by Brian Stevenson, who Wikipedia will tell you is " an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law.   He wrote a book called, "Just Mercy" that I have already ordered.   He made four main points which I will explain from my context and my own filters.

1)  Leadership involves proximity.   You can't be effective from a distance.  You have to know the people you are serving because problems can't be solved from a  distance.  There is power in proximity. 
Leading from a distance can often result in leading by fear or anger, and that will lead to dangerous places.

2)  We have to understand and change the narratives we believe and when we do that we can be liberated.   Questions like "what are the narratives that I believe about myself... about the poor ... about a particular race ... about the place I work ...." are significant.  

3)  Leaders can never give up hope.  You've heard me say this in this blog countless times, but it is really the key to leadership.  Leaders hold out hope.   Hopelessness is the enemy of justice, the enemy of leadership.  

4)  Leadership means willing to do uncomfortable things.  Walking into situations and and embracing  those who are broken and surrounded by brokenness is the only way to lead.   The first step to this is recognize our own brokenness.

The work that Brian Stevenson does leads him to death row.  It has him defending the mentally ill, children who are tried as adults when they shouldn't be, people who have been wrongly accused. So when he talks about the four principles above, he lives them out every day. 

So I'm starting my day with these words running through my head -- I hope they will run through yours as well:

We call on the rebels, the fighters, the champions of change... come be leaders, unites, we call on the brave. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I Never Said No to Myself

Self-discipline is absolutely not fun.   I used to think that people who were great athletes were people who loved to work out.   But the more I hear podcasts interviewing them the more I realize they don't love all the hard work they do.   They love the pay off, but the hard work, not so much.   In fact, one of the golfers I heard recently said he has never had one time since a back injury that he has wanted to do his night-time routine of exercise.  Not one time in years.

But the opposite doesn't work out so well.  Listen to what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes (The Message) about how it went for him when he abandoned self-discipline.
Everything I wanted I took—I never said no to myself. I gave in to every impulse, held back nothing. I sucked the marrow of pleasure out of every task—my reward to myself for a hard day’s work!  Then I took a good look at everything I’d done, looked at all the sweat and hard work. But when I looked, I saw nothing but smoke. Smoke and spitting into the wind. There was nothing to any of it. Nothing.
Most of us will probably end up somewhere in the middle between people who become olympic gold medalists and people who never say no to themselves.   But it appears that the payoff comes to those who practice self-discipline.

After the writer of the Hebrews listed all of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, the Message paraphrases Hebrews 12 like this:
 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
So there you have it.  Time to say no to ourselves for the sake of the goal ahead of us.. and keeping our eyes on Jesus is what will take us there!