Monthly Archives: January 2010

Five Rules for Being a Hero

I have certain weird fascinations that no normal guy should have. I like going to the hospital and eating in the cafeteria, I look forward to watching romcoms with my wife, I’ve watched a show on the CW and liked it, and going to the library makes it a good day.

Today is a good day. Several checked out books and an hour later, I arrived home from the library pumped over the new material to read. It did not disappoint. The first book I started reading was Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki. It’s well worth the time spent already, but my favorite part of it so far was just him quoting another author. He quotes these guys who wrote a book on heroism. Zeno Franco and Philip Zimbardo give five rules of heroism. Very cool stuff and here they are with my commentary attached. Think about these within a Becoming Last/Christian context.

  1. Maintain constant vigilance for situations that require heroic action – I love this one. Christians typically live very placid lives. For the most part, we just go about living until something comes up or until something offends us. What if we lived lives of constant vigilance? What if we diligently sought after ways to love, serve, and help people? We don’t need to develop a hero complex, but Christ came healing, serving, and sacrificing. If we’re to be Christ-like, I think this is a point to consider.
  2. Learn not to fear conflict because you took a stand – I hate conflict so I avoid it as much as possible. But there comes a time when one must make a stand or your beliefs aren’t worth much. We should not seek out conflict, but there may come times when we must not afraid to stand for something. Whether this be in a friendship, an ethical dilemma at work, or a political/religious issue, know there will inevitably be conflict. However, please be wary that our conflicts are not due to the way we act rather than the issue itself.
  3. Imagine alternative future scenarios beyond the present moment – Think eternally. We get so caught up in the now that we lose sight of proper perspective. This goes back to rule number one. We have so many things consuming our lives that it makes it impossible to maintain vigilance. As you make decisions about how you spend your time and your money, how you deal with conflict, or any other dilemma, remember to keep an eternal perspective.
  4. Resist the urge to rationalize and justify inaction – Think of any New Year’s Resolution you’ve made. Maybe it’s eating better. You start off strong. Then, you hit a week where you are struggling. You begin making excuses. “Well, I’ll just break it tonight.” “I had one last night. I’ll just start back next week.” “Yikes. I gained some weight. Maybe I’m not good at this. I’ll wait until a better time.” Instead of looking for reasons not to take action, make an effort to look for reasons to take action. Take some risks. Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid of failure. Let’s stop being chained by our excuses and experience the freedom in serving and giving love to people unconditionally.
  5. Trust that people will appreciate heroic (and frequently unpopular) actions – This one I have a little harder time with. In the context of a business, this book is a business book, it makes sense. In Becoming Last, I’m not sure. We definitely don’t need to be bound by people’s opinions. However, some folks thrive on that. They think their heroic simply because the majority disagrees with them. My thought is: Live for an audience of One. That one being God, not yourself.  It’s such an easy thing to say, “Oh yeah, I live for God.” But, do we really? Spend some time in serious thought/prayer, read Scripture, and see if your life matches what God calls us to. I’m not saying it won’t. Just don’t assume it does.

I found these guys to be extremely insightful. They may not have spoken in a Christian context, but we could certainly learn from them.

So what do you think? Like their five rules? Would you add others?

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Filed under Books, christian, Excuses, purpose, Realizations

Is Peace Overrated?

Any speaker worth his salt knows that first impressions are everything. You only have but a few moments to establish a rapport with your audience or they are lost. Knowing this, speakers will use “never fail” material to soften up those listening. Examples of this range from pictures of their baby (everyone loves babies), pets (ditto), self-deprecating humor, etc. Nothing is 100% fail proof, but they are  pretty close.

I feel like the word peace carries with it the same tendency. It’s the “never fail” word. If you want to be liked, feel righteous, or win an argument you just throw out the peace card. It’s fail safe because no one wants to argue against peace. It’s not a popular position to say “No” to peace. No one wants war, strife, or disharmony and so peace has this altruistic ring to it.

But I wonder if peace has begun to lose its meaning in our world today. It’s so easy to want peace, but what do we really mean by that? In most cases, it just means we want everyone to leave everyone else alone. Peace has been diminished to the point where it just means let everyone do what they want to or avoid conflict.

The point I’m trying to make is not that peace is bad. Genuine peace is great. However, we should be careful how we use the word and it should never become the sole goal. Let me explain before you think I’m crazy!

Let’s start on an individual level. People crave peace. We long for peace in our lives. Inner peace is highly sought after. It’s the ultimate goal for many people. But what if peace comes at a cost? Should I feel good about sitting on my couch at peace with myself while there are those who suffer daily? Should we not be a little disturbed that people go hungry or that children go without clean water? Should we not weep with those who weep? Maybe we can have peace while we serve and love people, but I would argue peace without compassion is akin to throwing your life away. It may feel good, but it’s not accomplishing anything. It’s not that we can never feel good about ourselves. I just think we sometimes feel at peace because we’re numb or calloused to what goes on around us. That’s not peace.

Now, interpersonal peace. I hate conflict. I’m one of the first to shy away from it. I don’t like arguing. I don’t like awkward conversations. Maybe you’re like me in that regard. However, I think we miss something important if we define peace as the absence of conflict. Perhaps your friend is cheating on his wife. Do you preserve the peace in the relationship or do you have a tough conversation? Maybe someone in your family has a habitual, destructive behavior. Will you see them through to the other side? People’s lives are messy. We’re going to get messy if we take the time to listen, to care, and to be there for them. We should strive to love and value our neighbors, but there are times when we must sacrifice peace.

Finally, international peace. War is terrible. No doubt about it. I hate that I’m almost numb to the fact that soldiers die every month. Ultimately, I wish there was no need for war. But is peace our sole objective? Setting aside our wars today (I don’t want to debate those), if we knew of a country who tortured its citizens, who left them homeless, who stole their children, would we be obligated to act in some way? Maybe not militarily at first, but would our efforts for peace trump standing up for injustice?

We have become a bumper sticker culture. Develop a pithy saying, slap it on the back of a car, and you create a movement. But our culture has denigrated peace into being little more than isolationism in our personal lives, in our relationships, and in our foreign affairs. To answer the title of this post, “No, peace is not overrated.” True peace is certainly a worthy aspiration, but finding true peace is altogether different than avoiding conflict and pain.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

So what do you think? What defines peace in your mind? Do you agree peace has become too watered down?

This post was part of a blog carnival on peace hosted by Bridget Chumbley’s blog. You can read the rest of the posts here.

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Would You Vacation in Haiti?

They have now confirmed over 150,000 deaths in Haiti. The massive earthquake injured and/or displaced thousands more. Families are still looking for lost loved ones, food and water are scarce, and many people sleep without shelter. The situation in Haiti is heartbreaking.

It’s hard to believe that less than 100 miles away is a tropical paradise. Labadee, Haiti is one port of call for the Royal Caribbean International cruise line. Kayaking, scuba diving, lounging on the beach, endless buffets, etc. Truly, a remarkable place. My question is:

In light of the devastating earthquake, would you continue on your vacation to Labadee? Or, pretend your Royal Caribbean, do you still use that port?

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Does proximity matter? Many argue that it’s wrong for vacationers to be partying only miles from the devastation. That seems valid. We wouldn’t go have a party near a funeral. On the other hand, what’s the difference between someone sipping champagne in Labadee than in Michigan? Life has “gone on” in other places so at what point is it viable to use Labadee? How far do you have to be away to begin normal life? 100 miles? 200 miles?
  • Is tourism helpful? Royal Caribbean is donating $1 million in aid plus the revenue generated from Labadee. Each ship is also packed with relief supplies. Vacationers are also encouraged to buy from the local shops. That seems helpful. On the other hand, could the money just be donated aside from vacationing?
  • How much time? Some argue the port should not be reopened until the country is out of rescue mode and into recovery. But the question here is: What about those in other parts of the country who are still trying to run their businesses to keep Haiti afloat? Is Labadee and the money it provides crucial to holding the country together? If the ship doesn’t go to Labadee it will go elsewhere. Is it better to just go to Labadee?
  • Does the size of the disaster matter? Haiti has been devastated. No question. But what about other parts of the world? People are hungry, thirsty, sick, and without shelter everyday. Yet, we vacation as normal. Where’s the line?

The issue is more in depth than is possible to cover. There is no easy answer to any of these questions. I’ve read several stories where people have decided to go on the cruise. They said when the boat stops in Labadee they’ll just get off and spend some money and get back on the ship. I’m not sure what I would do.

Is it right to vacation in Haiti right now? Does it help more than hurt?

What are your thoughts? Would you go? Should Royal Caribbean still be offering trips to Labadee? Are there other questions to think about? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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Filed under In the News, poverty

We Are All Tiger Woods

Take a deep breath. Relax. And say it with me now: “My name is _____ and I am Tiger Woods.”

In no way do I want to condone or legitimize what Tiger did. I’m not his apologist. He failed his wife. Big time.

But, I’m more concerned about our reactions to events like this. Sure, there is disappointment. I bet there are many kids who looked up to him. There may even be some anger. No one likes cheaters or repeat offenders (and he was both).

At some point though, shouldn’t we eventually get to a place where we say, “I am Tiger Woods.”

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Jesus (Matthew 5:27-29)

I’m sure many of us have read those verses. We probably felt good about reading them and said, “Yup, Jesus is right. He’s so smart.” But when a situation like the one with Tiger Woods becomes news, our hearts rage against verses like these.

We think, “Jesus didn’t really mean that!” But He did. I figure He probably even chose His words carefully considering He knew they would be recorded for all time. The principle is there:

Looking lustfully = Committing Adultery

Tiger Woods is an adulterer and unless one of us claims to have never, ever looked lustfully at someone, we are adulterers too. But that grates at our pride. It’s one thing to admit we’re flawed. It’s another thing altogether to admit we’ve screwed up just as much as Tiger. We want to weigh all our sin/junk/screw ups and come out lighter and holier than him. We want to pretend we’re better. But we’re not…unless Jesus was joking.

Shortly after the scandal broke, a buddy of mine sent an email to a bunch of folks. I can’t remember his exact words, but essentially he said, “Without the Holy Spirit and God’s grace, we are all Tiger Woods.”

His point is not to justify what Tiger did. He’s saying, given the right circumstances, we could find ourselves in Tiger’s shoes. Most likely, he made small decisions over time that steamrolled into larger, more destructive decisions. If we just count on ourselves being really good, we could very well end up in his situation.

Maybe it’s not adultery, but maybe it’s gluttony. Maybe it’s gossiping. Maybe it’s pride. Again, we want to have this hierarchy of sin where we can say ours isn’t as bad, but it all comes from the same place: a defiant heart.

Would it be unchristian of us to love the guy? He doesn’t “deserve” it, but again, do we really deserve God’s love? Who are we to have been given unmerited, unlimited grace and mercy to deny extending the same?

There are consequences to actions and rightly so, but as I said, I’m more concerned with our response as Christians than what he did. Did Christ not befriend prostitutes? Did he not dine with “sinners”?

There is a Tiger Woods in all of our lives: someone who has messed up big time in a public way. I believe it’s our job to help them through it. Not condone it, but be there unconditionally to help them make the right decisions. It’s easy to love people when they are perfect. It’s Christlike to love people when they aren’t.

And when we hear news of someone failing that we’re not closed to…shouldn’t we be the place where the gossip stops? No matter who we hear about that screwed up, shouldn’t we be the wall that puts out the wildfire of “news”? I once heard that “Christians don’t gossip, they share prayer requests.” How true.

When we hear the latest failure of _____(fill in anyone’s name), it’s right to pray for them. We should. But we don’t have to tell everyone, “Did you hear what so and so did? Imagine that. Terrible. Oh, we should pray for them.” I know there is a way to share a request legitimately, but where’s the line between gossip and sharing? It’s probably more prudent to leave it anonymous unless you really trust the person and you will actually pray for the “offender” right then.

It’s the times when someone screws up the most that they need prayer and a rock-solid friend. If someone at your church was making destructive decisions, would they feel good about confessing and receiving help, support, and prayer or would they be afraid they’d be kicked out, shunned, or slandered behind their back? Again, I’m not saying there is no time for discipline or consequences, but those should never be done without a healthy portion of grace, love, faith, and mercy.

Remember, we are all Tiger Woods.

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Filed under Challenges, christian, Prayer, Realizations, Scripture, Uncategorized

What Gives?

My mom is getting ready to sell her house. Honestly, that comes with mixed emotions. It’s my home. It’s where I grew up. I tore holes in the front yard playing baseball. It’ll be tough to see it go. But, I’ve slowly come to grips with the idea. After all, it will save my mom money, time, and stress. Plus, she’ll be able to move closer to us (I hope!).

As she prepares to sell the house, the kids (that’s me) are having to sort through all their junk they’ve piled up through the years. I’ve admitted this before, but I tend to be a pack rat. I can find just about any reason to keep something and before you know it, the Mt. Everest of Miscellaneous Things has been created in my room.

Well, today, I went through a few boxes. Among the wreckage were a few trillion pencils, game pieces to who knows what, baseball cards, old magazines, and two random Santa Clause candle holders that I can’t figure out why I would have ever had them.

While I’m doing this, my son is finding all my “junk” rather entertaining. Within seconds, he lasers in on one item in particular: a 1955 Chevy 3100 Cameo or at least the model of it. It’s a pretty sweet looking truck and somewhere along the way this model truck came into my possession. It’s never been open. It’s still in a box – inside of another box – at the bottom of another box.

It was unused, un-thought-of, uncared for, and abandoned. Yet today, it was the treasure in my son’s eyes. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on it. In the last 24 hours, he has loved that truck to pieces…literally. It’s just a model so it’s not made to be played with and he’s a two year old (bad combination!). But it’s value has never been greater. Sure, inside a box, untouched, it probably cost a few dollars, but the excitement it brought to a little boy is worth far more.

All of this got me thinking:

I wonder what other treasures we’ve left buried?

  • Maybe it’s the coat you always swear you are going to wear and it lays neglected in your closet.
  • Maybe it’s the tools you have three or four and your drawers are getting crowded.
  • Maybe it’s margin in your life for relationships. We often get so busy, our friends and family get buried in the chaos of our lives.

Whatever it may be, we all have something buried. It may seem insignificant, small, or cheap to us, but it could lighten up someone’s eyes like a small Chevy truck did for my little guy.

So what is it? What lies unused, unwanted in your life? What can you give away?

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Filed under Chances to Serve, Realizations, Uncategorized

Making Music

I thought I’d start the week off with a little inspiration. Enter Andy Mackie. At 71 years young, he’s chosen to spend the remainder of his life inspiring kids with music. CBS News recently did a story on him. Here are the highlights:

After his ninth heart surgery, Mackie’s doctors had him on 15 different medicines. But the side effects made his life miserable. So one day he quit taking all 15 and decided to spend his final days doing something he always wanted to do. He used the money he would have spent on prescriptions to give away 300 harmonicas, with lessons. When he didn’t die the next month, he bought a few hundred more.

Forget a wickedly awesome vacation. Nope. Just spending the remaining days of his life giving away hope in the form of harmonicas and music lessons. For all he knew, he might have lived a few more weeks, but…

It is now 11 years and 16,000 harmonicas later.

To keep the kids interested in music as they get older, Mackie now spends the bulk of his social security check making what he calls “strumsticks.” He’s given away thousands of these, too. He also buys store made instruments for the kids that show special interest and provides free lessons to everyone by getting the older kids to teach the younger ones.

What a selfless man. It’s people like him that humble me completely. The fact that he even thought of doing what he did is amazing, let alone actually doing it! I hope his story encourages you as it did me.

Got a story of someone putting themselves last? Think it would make a great “in the news” post? Leave a comment or email me at becominglast@hotmail.com.

Andy gave up his medicines. What can you give up to use the money for someone else?


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Filed under Examples of Sacrifice, In the News, making a difference, purpose, selflessness, Serving Others, Uncategorized

Loving with Less

In the comments section on Tuesday’s post, I mentioned a blogger friend who had listed 100 ways to love people without spending a penny. Turns out it was only 5o (still a lot!), but I wanted to give you the link to it for those interested.

A couple of my favorites:

16. Turn in those Box Tops for Education – found on Pillsbury items. I’ll be honest. I don’t have a kid in school so I normally throw these away. Not that I don’t care, I just don’t think. But it’s free money for our school system and such a simple thing! I’m going to make a box top jar tonight!

27. Donate gently used magazines to a nursing home. What a neat idea. Never would have thought of that in a million years. Better than going in the trash right?!

51. (a bonus!) Host a game night with your family – eat dessert first! Turn off cell phones (ok – kids, you can leave yours on….) but spend time laughing together playing games! I love this one. Loving others starts in the home. Great way to have fun with your family and give them the quality time that shows them you love them.

Here’s the link: 50 Ways to Make a Difference…

Also check out the cool way Texas Football Coach Mack Brown goes the extra mile to love his wife: Click me!

Got any other ideas? What are ways you love people that aren’t on this list?

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Filed under General Update, making a difference, Serving Others, volunteer