Browse Category: Everyday Lessons

Stop and Smell the Roses

Atlanta sunrise.

I took this picture on my phone last week from my office in Atlanta. The view was stunning; I had to stop and capture the moment.

Most days follow the same routine: make the commute in, park in the deck, take the elevator up, and walk to my desk. I do all this with my eyes down, focused on what is immediately ahead of me.

Last Friday, however, I was reminded of one thing: I forget to stop and smell the roses.

With work especially I can get so single-minded; so zeroed-in on one goal.

I see what’s ahead of me (a task, an ambition, an objective) and blur out the things around me that I can experience along the way.

I noticed this same trend as I was hiking in Morocco earlier this month. I became so fixed on my steps that I failed to reflect on my surroundings. I soon realized there was a measure of intentionality that I needed to realize in those situations. When I stopped and looked around, it was refreshing.

God wants to show us His beauty everyday. Where are we setting our sights?

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In what area do you need to just “stop” and look around?

The Art of Talking Without Talking

While I’m out this week, I’ve lined up some serious ‘guest posters’ this week. Hope you enjoy! I’ve gotten to know Tony Alicea over the last year via blogging and social media. One thing’s for certain: Tony is passionate about helping others discover their identity in life. He lives in south Florida and is engaged to the woman of his dreams. You can find him on Twitter and his blog

Enter The Dragon is one of my favorite martial arts movies of all time. Most people remember the classic fight scene in the room of mirrors with Han. But I’m more a movie quote fanatic so I always find lines that stick out to me and use them in my every day conversations.

In one scene, Bruce Lee is on a boat with another guy who is being a bully. He gets in Lee’s face and says “What’s your style?” Lee replies, “My style? You can call it the art of fighting without fighting.” He then proceeds to trick the guy into getting in a dinghy and doesn’t get in with him. The guy has to float behind the boat holding on to a rope for the rest of the trip.

Fighting without fighting. I love that line. I love that style. So much so that I incorporate it into my communication style.

Photo credit: John/mtsofan (Creative Commons)

Historically I have not been a very good communicator. I always had trouble expressing myself in words. From a young age, I always deferred to the written page as my outlet. Passing notes in school was always better than face to face conversations. If you ever got any kind of greeting card from me, you would feel special. Words just always flowed freely on the page. Out of my mouth? Not so much.

In recent years, I’ve grown tremendously in my ability to communicate. I talk much more than I used to. So much so that I began to feel like I was becoming a really good communicator.

I can talk about my day, I can talk about my job, I can talk about God (sometimes you have to shut me up on that subject). I don’t have a problem communicating the what. My problem is and always has been the why.

I’m not even married yet and I’m already learning a lot about myself. My fiancé is, in fact, a great communicator. She’s also a great teacher.

The other day as we were talking, she was expressing how important it is for her to get to know me. Through our discussion, I began to realize that you can know a lot about someone without really knowing them at all.

She helped me understand why it was important to share the why. The what isn’t who I am. The why is who I am.

Even if I could tell her that something made me happy or sad, if I didn’t tell her why, the situation was simply a symptom.

After digging a little deeper, I realized that I internalize my emotions because I have never felt that I’ve been given permission to express them. I was always afraid that if people really knew how I felt, I would upset or disappoint them. And then they would leave.

So everything becomes “fine”.

How was your day? Fine
How do you feel about this? It’s fine.
Are you upset? No, it’s fine.
I’m so sorry that I did. It’s fine, don’t worry about it.

Everything is fine. Just don’t get upset. Just don’t leave me.

And there it is.

It was a difficult thing to discover about myself. Especially just as I started to feel good about being a good communicator. But it was important because she told me something that was key. This is a bit of a paraphrase but she said, “I can handle you not being fine.”

Without even knowing it, that was exactly what I needed to hear. I needed permission to share not only the what but the why. I realized that effective communication isn’t just sharing what you think someone wants to hear, but sharing your heart fully.

I’ll end with another quote from Enter The Dragon, courtesy of Roper:

“Would you look at that? A woman like that could teach you a lot about yourself.”

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How well do you communicate the “why” in your relationships?

The Lowest of Lows

Yesterday, I resorted to the lowest of lows. Well, pretty low. Let me explain.

I wasn’t paying attention and I got a speeding ticket on Sunday afternoon. 50 in a 35 zone. Busted. No excuse.

It was just me an Harper in the car. She was hungry and I was trying to meet up with Jen down the road so we could stop and feed her.

The officer walked to my window, asked for my cards, and strolled back to his vehicle. Meanwhile, Harper was crying hysterically in the backseat. I was devestated. Not only did I “get caught”, but my baby was starving and she had to wait.

Photo credit: Kipp Baker (Creative Commons)

A minute later, Harper calmed down and appeared to fall back asleep.

At that moment however, I peered in my rearview mirror to see the officer getting out of his car.

What did I do?

I reached back behind my seat and gently nudged Harper so that she started crying again.

I was in desperation mode. At the minumum, I wanted the officer to at least feel bad for giving me a ticket because of my bawling infant in the backseat–not to mention the screaming might provide an extra sympathy point or two.

No luck.

Mr. Po-Po gave me the spiel and wrote me up.

I resorted to the lowest of lows. I made my baby cry in order to make a police officer feel bad. Not my finest moment, for sure.

Looking back, in that moment I elevated myself over something much more important: the well being of my daughter. Yes, it’s a funny example, but such an important one. Even in the simple and small, God calls us to value others above ourselves. He wants a humble heart that is eager to prefer others.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

This rather embarrassing example reminded me to prefer and serve other people… and pay more attention to road.

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Confession time: tell us about a traffic violation you’ve received?
What is one thing you can do today to prefer someone else?

The Minivan vs. The Mustang

For those of you who don’t know, we are official now. We are proud owners of a silver Honda Odyssey. Straight stylin’, baby.

To help break the vehicle in the other week, my wife and I decided to take a leisurely cruise down the road.

We pulled up to a stop light. With one hand at ’12’ and the other stretched across the headrest of my wife’s seat, I turn to my left and notice a bright lime colored Ford Mustang pull up next to us.

Photo credit: Kim Trout (Creative Commons)

I chuckled to myself, thinking about how preposterous it was to drive a lime-colored Mustang, and turned to my wife…

“Who in their mind would want to drive a car like that?! He must think he’s too cool for school.”

I revved my van’s engine a little and prepped myself for a little suburban drag racing (okay, maybe not–but I thought about it) in order to show him who was truly the king of the road.

But then something hit me. I turned to my wife and whispered, “Oh wait…. he is probably thinking the same about me: Who on earth would want to drive a minivan!?”

My big head was deflated right then and there. We laugh about the ‘altercation’ now, but in reality my ego and pride took a little hit that afternoon. In a lighthearted way, I judged this dude.

Believe me, I now believe that van owners are an elite posse: a company of selected individuals to usher in the next generation of productive citizens. But, in that moment, I thought I was bigger, more important, and way cooler than this guy could ever be. Thank you, Lord for the small gut check. Humility received.

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When was the last time God ‘deflated your big head’?
If you could drive any vehicle in the world, what would you chose and why?

 

Don’t Tape It Up

While driving to Texas last week, I ran over a tire scrap in the middle of the lane somewhere in southern Alabama. It was at 4:00 in the morning and I didn’t want to think about anything like that at the time! So, out of sight/out of mind.

After we got home from the trip, I noticed the splash guard under the front end of the van hanging down. It was after I got home from a late night trip to the grocery store, so I immediately grabbed some duct tape and did what anyone would do: I taped it up.

Photo credit: Marc Tarlock (Creative Commons)

Truthfully, I tend to do that in my personal life as well sometimes. Rather than address the root cause and fully communicate through the issue, I’ll briefly touch it up with some duct tape and assume everything is back to normal. That is, until the tape’s adhesion wears off.

That process, in my own life, is a way of coping. Rather than addressing the deeper issue, I’d rather brush it aside and chalk it up to “not wanting to cause any conflict”.  Ultimately, I’ve realized that when this happens in my own heart, bitterness settles in and true restoration doesn’t take place.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

He told me to “Don’t tape it up yourself”.

Through this simple illustration, He reminded me that my efforts will always be that: my efforts.

Today, I am thankful that I can rely on my God to restore my heart. He, alone, will do that for me.

(Side note: I paid $40 to get it fixed at the dealership this morning. My wife was happy.)

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What do you tend to “tape up” from time to time?

A Warm Meal and Follow Through

Today I have the honor of guest posting over at Ryan Tate’s blog: The Compelling Parade. Ryan husband, father, writer, and engineer who is living a Story-Formed Life (check his blog for more). Him and his wife have two children, with another on the way in October. I encourage you to check out his other posts–he consistently speaks of compelling encounters with our Father.

I am sharing a brief story on his blog today. Here is an excerpt:

A couple years back, my wife and I came across a homeless man near the mall where we live. He was peddling for money to those in front of a store we were about to go into.

As we walked to the storefront, we noticed customers passing him by without not even a second glance.

As we approached where he was standing, we were compelled to speak to him. While we didn’t give him money, we offered to buy him some food. He was thrilled.

So we got back in the car, drove to the nearby Wendy’s and picked up a value meal.

We thought that this simple act would bless him.

What unfolded next was something we didn’t expect.

Continue reading here.

Click on over to Ryan’s site and give him some comment-love!

High/My Infidelity

Today I have the honor of having Mark Thielbar guest post on Abraham Chronicles. I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with him via the interwebs over the last couple months. He is the master of awesome comments (encouraging and challenging at the same time). He is admitted wine/coffee snob (I’m okay with that). Mark blogs at 3-Fold Cord and tweets @3foldcordcom. Be sure to show him some love in the comments!

My first taste of the bitter fruit of infidelity occurred at the tender age of thirteen. At that time I was “dating” a girl named Buffy; and by dating I mean we met at the local roller rink every Friday night to hold hands, couples skate, and share cheesy nachos. On our three-week anniversary, which is a real milestone for 7th graders, Buffy had to leave the rink early because she was going out of town with her parents. Now I was disappointed of course, but I was there with a couple of my boys and we were known for skating hard and closing down roller rinks. We were pretty intense!

On the last couples skate of the night, some random girl, sporting a scrunchy and multiple glow sticks, asked me to skate. My friends were egging me on and I eventually succumbed to the peer pressure as well as her glowing feminine wiles. All I remember was the girl was a lousy skater, because I had to skate backwards, and the last song was “Open Arms” by Journey (good stuff!) As soon as I exited the floor I was confronted by one of Buffy’s mousy little friends that I had only met once before. She informed me I was a “cheater” and then proceeded to rattle off a string of obscenities where she called me everything but a white boy going through puberty! During her tirade I barley noticed the hulk-like girl standing beside her. After her verbal assault ended, but before I could retort, I felt a powerful blunt force trauma to the left side of my face. You know how they say that the punch that does the most damage is the one you don’t see coming…Well, that was it! Apparently that she-hulk (another friend of Buffy’s) sucker punched me so hard that, according to witnesses, my skates literally went over my head as I was on my way to the floor! When I came to, I was lying on my back next to the Foosball ball table- and the front wheels of my skates were still spinning (along with my head!) Yes, I was knocked the “****-out” by a girl.

Over the past year I have engaged in a more serious infidelity: one that involves trying to rely solely on commonsense and my own abilities. I have come to learn that if a Holy Spirit filled believer puts anyone or anything before God, utter confusion and worry rears its ugly head! Folks, I have to admit, I have spent a good portion of the last year worried and confused. I have put commonsense first and I have treated Jesus like a spiritual appendage to it. Oh what a fool I have been! Have you ever noticed what Jesus said would choke the Word? It was not Satan or his minions…it was the “cares of this world.”

Infidelity begins when we do not believe that God can take care of our needs. Infidelity is magnified when we enthrone commonsense and try to use Jesus Christ like a spiritual Swiss Army knife.

My brothers and sisters- if you are currently experiencing worry and confusion in your life, I can guarantee that you are not putting Jesus Christ on the throne where HE belongs. The cure for infidelity is steadfast obedience to the Spirit of God.

So just remember to put Jesus first; keep your skates on the ground; and don’t let the cares of this world sucker punch you!

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Have you ever been guilty of spiritual infidelity?
Did you go roller skating when you were younger?

The Weight of Significance

My youngest daughter laughed for the first time yesterday.

It was beautiful.

She has given us 12 weeks worth of gaseous smirks and mini-grins…

…but this was her first genuine, unprovoked giggle.

As a family, we cheered and celebrated this mini-milestone. She is growing up right before our eyes!

She is my daughter and I want to be right beside her as she landmarks these seemingly insignificant markers.

As her father, I will do whatever I can to make sure I am there with her.

As a son to a loving Father, I am certain that my life is viewed the same.

There are no insignificant moments.

This means that every decision, road-traveled, relationship, reaction, and inaction are used for His glory.

Each milestone needs to be celebrated and recognized.

Not just recognized for Dustin’s sake, but celebrated for Christ’s sake. He is good and faithful, indeed!

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How can this simple moment in an infant’s life point us to our Father?
What “insignificant” moment(s) in your life do you need to celebrate?

A Red Light District Story

Michael wrote about something yesterday that brought up a memory of mine. In fact, him and Donald tag-teamed the topic “Knowing What To Say”. Be sure to check both posts. Good stuff.

In Michael’s post he writes about the feeling of not being able to relate to someone based on past experiences. For example, how can I relate to the murderer and drug addict when I have never experienced anything like that in my own life?

Let me share with you a story…

In 2003, as I’ve mentioned before, while in college I went with my campus ministry to Amsterdam on missions. We served the local church, did music and drama outdoors in the squares, and talked and built relationships with many people from all over the world.

One night during our time there, the guys and girls split up. Us guys went to a youth hostel to perform a concert and hang out with some younger kids. The girls in our group went to the local flower market, purchased roses, and hand delivered them to the prostitutes in the Red Light District (RLD). RLD is a general term, but the one in Amsterdam is widely considered to be the most well known. This urban area contains a network of alleyways and streets that have single-room cabins where prostitutes offer sexual services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated by a red light.

Photo credit: MarcelGermain (Creative Commons)

They came back that night with many stories, but one in particular stood out.

As three girls on our team were talking with a lady, they started sharing their individual stories of how they came to know the Lord. One girl talked about past drug and alcohol abuse, and another shared childhood relational abuse that has haunted her for years. Lastly, the third girl, unaware how her story would even relate, started sharing. She talked about how she went to church her whole life. Her parents raised her to love and fear Jesus. All of her family grew up in the same, loving situation. Nothing ‘out of the ordinary’.

…then God did His work.

I’m sure you can guess which story resonated most with the prositute. It wasn’t one of the ones you’d expect. (Hint: it was the third girl’s story.)

I am reminded, and encouraged, through this simple example that God can, and will, use my story as a conduit for His glory.

Despite my insecurities, fears, and “lack of an exciting story”… His glory will be made famous. His name will be magnified.

It will be unmistakable. It will be unshakable. It will be undeniable.

He will make Himself know.

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How has God used your story to speak into someone else’s life?
If you’ve been on a mission trip before, where did you travel to?