Category: Purpose

07 Aug 2017

Your Opinions Are Irrelevant, Your Actions Matter More

What do you believe?  What is your value system?  What drives your daily decisions and what are you most passionate about in your life?  Well, according to the Bible, when it comes to human interactions, as long as we approach one another with love and respect, it doesn’t matter what we believe.

My favorite disciple, from the Bible, is Paul.  He came late to the scene and was a harsh critic and persecutor of early Christians.  He converted after a supernatural encounter with Jesus Christ and became the catalyst for spreading the gospel beyond the Jewish people.  He was the “union representative” of the gentiles.

I love Paul’s insights and writings, especially in his letter to the Romans, about 30 years after Christ’s death.  In Romans 14:13-14, Paul writes, “Forget about deciding what’s right for each other.  Here’s what you need to be concerned about:  that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is.”

Life is difficult.  It’s hard and we struggle daily to balance our actions and beliefs.  We’re insecure, we’re fearful, and we’re hurting.  We develop our beliefs based on our experiences and relationships.  We struggle to understand one another as we view each other through a biased lens that is extremely narrow in scope and perspective.  I’ve dedicated my adult life trying to master human dynamics and to understand why people do and say the things they do.  So far, I’ve concluded that the common basic need for all humans is to be encouraged and loved.

Paul goes on to say in Romans 14:19-21, “So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other.  Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault.” It’s easy to find fault and criticize, but there is no power in it.  When we come together and relate with one another, why is it our focus to find fault in one another and to challenge another’s beliefs before we fully understanding the person’s journey?

What if we altered our approach and challenged less and accepted more?  What if we led our days with encouragement and ultimately love?  God commands it, Jesus Christ validated it, and Paul reminds us in his letter.

When you find yourself at odds with someone, is it important to be right or is it more important to build and strengthen the relationship?  Nobody wins when in perpetual conflict with others and no one has an endless supply of energy.  Why not focus your energy on building others up, instead of tearing others down?  Your opinion matters, but not as much as the relationship, for the strength of your relationships will determine your ultimate success.

If you want to be successful, then stop finding fault in others and encourage them instead.  With that said, I will be the first to say that I’m guilty of this.  It’s easy to find fault, especially when it justifies my own failures.  Blaming others is the easy road, but taking ownership is much harder.  I have strong opinions and I disagree with others on many occasions and it feels good to prove others wrong, but when I go that route, I ultimately lose and I damage the relationship.  I make conscious decisions to check myself every day and consider the relationship first, before I consider the argument.  It’s hard, but necessary if I want to ultimately achieve my goals and honor God along the way.

The next time you find yourself in conflict, consider the other person, consider the relationship, and consider keeping your opinions to yourself and you will find a greater joy and a stronger purpose along the way.  Who will you encourage today?

25 Jul 2017

Don’t Worry About God Showing Up, He’s Already There!

One of my first thoughts as I lie on a sterile bed in the cold and well-lit hospital room was a keynote presentation I was scheduled to give down in Memphis, Tennessee in five days.  I was determined to give this presentation and I mentioned it to my wife, Alia, several times.  I also mentioned it to the burn specialist that evaluated me later that night, after I was transferred to the burn unit up in Indianapolis.  She simply looked up at me and smiled, but never responded.  Neither did my wife.

It wasn’t until several hours later that the seriousness of my situation began to settle into my consciousness.  I was badly injured, and at this point I was lucky it wasn’t worse.  Instead of worrying about a keynote presentation, I should’ve worried about containing the damage of the burn I received after a small gasoline fire explosion that left me with 2nd degree burns on 7% of my body.

I went to bed Sunday evening, a day after my accident, exhausted, hurting, and depressed as I realized that I might not have ability to meet my speaking commitment down in Memphis.  I was scheduled to fly in three days and I was in no shape to travel.  My mind raced to figure out a way.  Do I fly and risk it?  Do I take my wife with me, so she can take care of me during the trip?  Do I find someone to speak in my place?  Or, do I simply notify the event planner, explain what happened and cancel the trip.  Everyone counseled me to cancel the trip.  They noted that I had a valid excuse, and that accidents happened, and the event planner would understand.  That didn’t sit well with me.  I gave the event planner my word and I wanted to keep my word.  I desired to speak at this event.

I woke up the next morning with a solution settled in my heart.  I would cancel my flight and drive to Memphis, or to be me more specific, Alia would drive me to Memphis.  I asked Alia if she would be willing to drive the 6 hours down to Memphis, with me laying in the back of the van.  It was a big ask, and Alia was understandably reluctant.  I couldn’t walk, and my wounds needed cleaned and redressed twice a day.  Alia was already stressed out from the entire ordeal and I wanted to add to her stress by asking her to drive down to Memphis, dressing me in nice clothes and standing me in front of a group of professional men and women and deliver a speech while still recovering on my charred feet and leg, only a few days removed from my accident.  It didn’t make sense, but I had faith.

What is faith?  Is it something you believe without seeing?  Is it something you feel?  I’m not sure if I can define it, I can simply say that I felt a strong desire to head to Memphis, and I just knew that God would take care of the rest.

Purpose is a funny thing.  I believe that with life, comes purpose.  I was still alive; therefore, I still had purpose.  God gave me the ability, the desire, and the talent to communicate.  I was meant to communicate and I was scheduled to communicate in Memphis on Thursday and it was now Monday.  I would honor God with my actions, and I knew He would honor me with His blessing.

I laid helplessly in the back of that van, while Alia white knuckled her way down the road and fought exhaustion while traversing the backroads and highways to beautiful Tennessee.  My son, Adrian, came along to help.  I dreaded every stop, because the pain was unbearable when I forced myself to stand up and allow my badly injured right leg to lower below my heart.  I could feel the blood rush to my leg with an incredible pain that felt like a cross between hot lava coursing my veins and a million sharp knives cutting through my flesh.  Sweat would drip down my back as I struggled to work my crutches and make my way to the bathroom.

“How are you going to do this? How are you going to get up and speak tomorrow?” Alia glared at me at one point during one of our stops.

“I don’t know, let’s just keep going.” I huffed back at her.

Once we finally arrived at the hotel and struggled up to our room, Alia bathed me and tended to my wounds.  I collapsed on the bed and stared at the ceiling while Alia applied medicated gel to my raw and open wounds.  I could feel the sterile gauze as she carefully placed them on my feet and leg and I could sense the security of the bandages as she meticulously wrapped them around my extremities.  The pain pulsated through my body, and my pain medication didn’t seem to help.  Alia laid her hands over my wounds and begin to cry out to God.  It was the most beautiful prayer, because I could hear her heart and soul through her words.  I joined her in prayer and I continued to pray as my eyelids became heavy and my world became dark as I slipped into a heavy sleep.

It’s hard to believe something, until you experience it yourself.  I’ve heard stories of supernatural healing and even experienced healing myself, but nothing compared to what I experienced later that night.  I woke to a dark hotel room and lying in a bed by myself, with Alia and Adrian quietly sleeping in the other bed a few feet away from me.  I felt a touch on my forehead and a rush of energy pulsate from my head to my toes.  I didn’t think much of it as it felt like a dream.  In that moment, my body felt strong and I fell back into a deep sleep.

I woke to the sound of my alarm a few hours later and found myself sliding out of bed and putting the full weight of my body onto my damaged limbs.  No pain.  Nothing.  I felt completely normal.  One would think that I would be filled with joy, but I wasn’t.  I had a job to do, and had to speak at the conference in about 90 minutes.  I just kept waiting for the pain to remerge at any moment, it didn’t.  I cleaned myself, brushed my teeth, dressed myself and went back into the room where Alia and Adrian starred at me.  “How are you feeling?”  Alia asked surprised at the turn of events.

“Fine, God healed me, let’s go.” I responded

“Oh?” Alia whispered with amazement in her voice as I plopped in the wheel chair that the hotel provided us the night before.

Alia pushed me down to the conference center where I linked up with the event planner.  By now I e-mailed ahead and explained my situation.  He arranged to have a chair situated up front so I could sit during my presentation.

I was introduced to a healthy applause.  I stood up from my wheel chair and paused.  I waited for the rush of pain that never came.  I could feel the heat around my wounds, but I felt no pain.  I walked gingerly to the chair and faced the crowd as I sat down.  I delivered the best presentation of my life over the next hour.  When I was done, I stood up to the loud and roaring applause from the audience and paused and waited for the pain.  Again, it never came.  I could feel the sweat collect around my lips and at several points on my body as I could sense my body was working overtime to maintain itself and heal at the same time.  I sat in the wheel chair and Alia proceeded to push me out the back of the room.  The event planner and several others followed and told me how appreciative they were of my presentation.  I shook their hands, thanked them for the opportunity, and then Alia took me back to the room.  As soon as we entered the room and I stood up from the chair, the pain came screaming back into my leg and I hobbled over to the bed for relief.  The pain was just as bad, if not worse, than the day before.

It was a long trip home that day as I laid in the back of the van and winced every time the van hit a bump and jostled my leg.  I could feel the pain, ever present, and taunting me the entire six-hour drive back home.  I again dreaded every pit stop and at one point screamed in pain so loud, in the McDonald’s parking lot, that Adrian walked away in embarrassment and my wife chastised me, “Are you done with your meltdown?  Because, I’m hungry.”

It wasn’t until later that I received the revelation to what God did for me and the miracle that occurred that morning.  God heard our prayers and shielded my pain so I could live in purpose and honor Him.  He also gave me a revelation that exploded in my heart a few days later.  God doesn’t show up in our lives, He’s already there.  Where ever you’re supposed to be, He’s there waiting for you.  He doesn’t show up, He waits for YOU to show up and when you do, he gladly pours his blessings all over you.

God blessed me in Memphis that day, I’m convinced of it.  There’s no other explanation.  I learned a powerful lesson, which forced me to reflect on my life.  How many blessings have I missed, because I failed to show up?  A voice spoke in my heart that told me to go to Memphis, and even though it didn’t make sense, I followed that voice.  I went to Memphis on faith and God was there waiting for me, in fact, He never left me.

I will continue to walk in faith, because I’m convinced wherever this path leads me, God is already waiting, and not only is He waiting, but He’s waiting with anticipation because of the abundance of blessings that comes with a simple act of faith.  What can you do today to step out in faith?  Don’t worry, God is already there.

18 Jul 2017

Pain = Life

The nurse probes my wound as I lie on the table wincing with pain every time she presses down on my raw and exposed flesh.  I become annoyed as she continues to press around the edges of the wound on my right foot and then again in the center of it.  “You know that hurts, right?”

“Yes, I know, and that’s a good thing.” The nurse turns and smiles at me, “When you feel pain, that means the skin on your foot is alive, that means you’re alive.”

A few days earlier, I was involved in a gasoline fire that sent me to the emergency room and then ultimately to the burn clinic, where burn specialists took every measure to contain the burns on my right arm, my right leg, and both of my feet.  They removed the dead skin, cleaned and dressed my wounds.  Over a period of several days, I experienced several occasions where my bandages were removed and my wounds exposed.  I closed my eyes and clinched my teeth as a nurse scrubbed my wounds and cleaned them repeatedly.  The common theme throughout my treatments was that pain was good.  Pain meant I was alive and that my limbs were functionally properly.  They wanted me to experience pain.

It’s counterintuitive to want to experience pain.  I’ve lived my whole life avoiding pain.  Pain is bad and I try to escape its clutches whenever possible.  I avoid doing things, because they might cause pain.  Sometimes I live conservatively and try not to push the limits, because to do so, might cause pain.  Pain; however, is inevitable and very much a part of life as breathing, sleeping, eating, and love.

Pain comes in many forms, whether it’s the heartache of a lost love, or the embarrassment of failing publicly, or the sharp fire that resonates through your body when you slip and fall on hard concrete.  Pain is always present and threatens to rear its ugly head at any moment.

It wasn’t until I spent several days in that burn clinic that I realized the significance of pain and the important role it plays in our lives.  Everything in that clinic revolves around pain.  Are you feeling pain?  How significant is the pain?  The most important part of my experience is that my doctors, nurses, and physical therapists expected me to push through the pain.  They wanted me to acknowledge the pain, embrace the pain, and push myself past the pain.  Ultimately, they wanted me to live and to live is to experience the pain and its bittersweet beauty.

I’m expected to move my ankles, even though it hurts me to do so.  They want me to put my bodyweight on my feet, even though the rush of pain is almost intolerable as the blood rushes to my toes like hot lava.  I sweat and curse as I work through the pain, but I’m beginning to realize that the pain is good, because with each surge of pain is a signal to my soul that my body is very much alive and that God blessed me with an opportunity to continue to have an impact on the world.

I will never look at pain the same as I slowly recover from my burns.  Yes, pain hurts, but with pain comes life and I want to live life to the fullest.  I realize that to live my life on purpose, I must live with the pain that comes with every act of living.  This morning I woke to the throbbing pain in my right foot where my burn continues to heal, but instead of cursing the pain, I smile and thank the Lord that I’m alive.

30 May 2017

I Cared Less When I Found Purpose

I’m a recovering control freak.  I used to control everything.  I damaged or ruined relationships, because of my attitude.  I recently viewed some family home videos with my wife, Alia.  I was embarrassed by how I controlled the environment around me.  I watched in horror and disgust as I proceeded to order and control everyone and everything.  As I reflect on my attitude back then, I wish I could go back in time and just slap myself and tell myself to “pull it together, man!”

Yes, I was truly controlling, and I’m so grateful that Alia tolerated me and waited patiently for me to grow up and get a grip on my life.  I’ve calmed down a lot the past 20 years.  I don’t get overly excited and I’m comfortable in my own skin.  In fact, I’m quite happy.  So, what changed in my life?  I found purpose.

Back when Alia and I were married, I had no purpose.  I was just a young, ambitious kid, trying to find my place in the world.  I was frustrated and searching for meaning, and until I found my way, I sought control.  Basically, I was generally unpleasant to be around for long periods.

We’re all born with an energy inside us that must be tamed with a purpose, a reason for living.  If you’re frustrated, irritable, and lack peace in your life, then most likely you lack purpose.  It’s quite common to live a life with no purpose.  We’re hard wired to pursue life. If we lack purpose then we seek pleasure, suffering, or some other vice that fills the space in our soul that is meant for purpose.  As soon as a person stops seeking purpose and pursuing something of value, they die.

Victor Frankl, survivor of four WWII Nazi death camps, describes a phenomenon with prisoners that gave up on life, in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”.  He described the prisoners who stopped pursuing life.  He notes that those prisoners just woke up one morning and refused to get up and face the day.  They would lay in their cots with a blank stare.  Frankl observed that they usually died within 48 hours.  They literally let go of life, because they lost a purpose for living.

When we can’t control our life because we have no purpose, then we control everything else around us.  That’s what happened to me.  I controlled my environment, which included my wife, kids, extended family, friends, and colleagues.  I was a miserable person until I found my purpose.  So, what changed?  How did I find purpose?  I followed these principles:

  1. I didn’t give up. I never stopped searching for my purpose.  I knew I had purpose, I just had to discover it.
  2. I read a lot. I filled my mind with good reading material until I began to connect with the words that made sense and began to speak to my soul.
  3. I pursued mentorship. I found people I respected, people that were successful, peaceful, and happy.  I asked questions, I evaluated their lives, and I learned from them.  Most important, I listened to them and took their advice.
  4. I pursued God. There simply is no peace without the Lord.  It’s a truth that cannot be denied.  I pursued God through reading, prayer, and humility.  I stopped trying so hard and allowed Him to influence my life.  I found that when I gave up control to God, that my life began to make sense and clarity found me.

Are you frustrated?  Miserable?  Are you controlling?  It’s not healthy to lead such a life and will eventually destroy you and your family.  We’re meant to pursue life, but most important, we’re meant to pursue a purpose.  If you have no purpose, acknowledge it and then go find it, you’ll eventually discover it, just don’t give up!

23 May 2017

Find Your Space

I do most of my writing on a plane, at 30,000 feet, flying across the U.S.  It’s the only time I can get 2-3 hours of uninterrupted, quiet time.  I’m at peace up here in the friendly skies and can allow myself to reflect, contemplate, and meditate on my life.  This is my space and we all must find our space, that place we can go to disconnect from life and allow ourselves to think.

The trap of life is to zone out and become task happy and too busy to appreciate it and reflect on what’s working and what’s not.  Have you ever experienced a busy season of life, only to be surprised that the time flew by and you had nothing to show for it?  Are you going through that time right now?  I am.  I’ve never been as busy as I am right now.  I’m away from home, more than ever and I find myself “facetiming” my family to catchup or on a shaky video on my iPhone in a random hotel room, watching my kids participate in various activities.  If I don’t watch myself, my youth and my special moments will leave me behind.  That’s why I force myself into my special space, my little world, at 30,000 feet to reflect and appreciate what I have and to also check myself to make sure I’m on the right path.

There are times when I’m not happy with how my life is going and the choices I’m making, so I make adjustments and get back on track.  There are times that I realize that take things for granted, so I count my blessings and alter my attitude.  It’s a cleansing experience and something I’ve come to cherish.

People often ask if I get tired of flying.  My answer is I look forward to it, because it allows me to get into a mindset that only flying in the clouds allows.  I cherish every moment in my personal space on some random plane, sitting next to a stranger.  It’s “my space” and I’ve created an environment that allows me to be fully human and to take an accounting of my life.

Do you have your space?  If not, here’s what I suggest you look for in your own space: 

  1. It must be a new environment, separate from the norm. It should be a place away from home or your work.  This space needs to be special and not something that you normally spend time in on a regular basis.  Your mindset will change as your environment changes.
  2. It should be peaceful and put you in a reflective mood. The humming and white noise inside the cabin of a plane is relaxing and puts me at ease.  It puts me in the mood to settle in and think about my life.  Your space should do the same.  If you cannot be at peace in your space, it won’t work.
  3. There should be no interruptions. It’s literally impossible for anyone to call, text, or e-mail me when I’m flying.  I don’t have cellular data and I often don’t allow myself access to the Wi-Fi.  I usually get at least one hour of uninterrupted time in the air.  Find a space that separates you from your hectic life and will allow you to think and not be interrupted.
  4. You should look forward to experiencing your space. I enjoy flying because it allows me to unplug.  I don’t mind boarding a plane for a long flight, for I know I will be at peace and in a better mood when I land.  If you don’t look forward to your space, then you need to reconsider your chosen spot.  Find a place that motivates you and inspires you.

Thinking is a skill that we’ve lost in a world of constant connection and interruption.  The danger is that we drift and find ourselves on the wrong path.  Don’t allow yourself to drift. Find your space and start reflecting and making the necessary changes to get your life back on track.  Do you have a special space?