I Went to See Old Faithful. I Never Expected This!

old-faithful-1Saturday we were able to spend the first of two days in Yellowstone National Park. As we drove and walked through the area we were struck over and over again at how beautiful it was. Everywhere we looked we saw nature is its purest state. We saw wild buffalo, deer, antelope, lots of birds, a couple dead raccoons on the road (it can’t all be pretty!) and amazing rock formations poking through the trees.

The thing I had wanted to see more than anything on this trip was Old Faithful. Ever since I was a little kid I have been fascinated with the idea of a geyser – especially one that had such a huge and timely explosion! When we drove into the park yesterday I thought the trip would be worth it just to see that thing go off.

Well, it was neat, but it was not what I had expected. I was looking forward to hearing a large roar as it spewed water and steam hundreds of feet into the air. I saw steam, and it did throw it quite a ways up, but at the end of it I felt a bit of disappointment. It just wasn’t what I had expected. I built it up bigger in my mind than I should have.

Expectations can be dangerous things or good things. It all depends on how we look at them.

Expectations as a Standard of Behavior

As a manager, I set expectations for my employees. These expectations are very result-oriented and at the end of a given day, they are very quantifiable. I can look at the work that was accomplished and say “pass” or “fail”. There is not a lot of wiggle room in these expectations because they are based on standards of behavior, conduct, and processes. Basically, the phrase “Work Rules” has been replaced with “Expectations”.

These expectations can be written out, education can take place, training can be given and evaluated, and then the result should be that what you want is what you get. If it isn’t what you get then repeat the cycle until you either get it or get rid of the person that doesn’t! Overall it is not a hard concept to understand and the results are pass/fail. They can be disappointing or encouraging, but can almost always be changed for the future.

Expectations of the Heart and Mind

These are the tricky ones. You can do everything right. All your prep work, all your training, and all of your in the moment work can be done correctly, but when it all shakes out – calamity. Why? When you do the work required, and are eagerly anticipating an expected result, why is it that we face disappointment?

1. We don’t understand as much of the picture as we think we do. – I thought I would hear a thundering roar and see water and steam shoot hundreds of feet in the air. I didn’t realize just how much change has taken place in Old Faithful over the course of my lifetime. Old Faithful would now be more aptly named Mostly Reliable. My expectation was based on my understanding rather than fact.

2. We aren’t in control of the situation. – In reality, we are rarely in control of a situation, but we like to pretend that we are. It gives us a sense of power and comfort when we feel like we have hold of the wheel. The truth is, even on the greatest ships on the ocean the captain can call for a direction change, but somebody else has their hands on the wheel. He just has to trust that his directions will take place. Sometimes they don’t.

3. We are unrealistic in our expectations. – We know what we want, and we work to get to that point, but we allow our desires to cloud our view of reality. We think that if we try hard enough and believe enough, we can shape the reality to fit what we want.

4. We forget to talk to God about things. – I want to break things down here a bit. I don’t think that God would have made Old Faithful roar like a freight train and spew multi-color water just because I asked Him to do it to make me happy. I do believe that God does things for His children to make them happy, but I think He probably would have taken a different approach with me on this.

If I had really talked to Him about my happiness and how it would have been tied to a spitting geyser, He might have caused me to think about the situation and ask myself if it really mattered that much to my joy in Him and His creation. He might have asked me to think about how my family might feel if I showed more delight in a steam plume than my time with them. He might have shown me all of that and more until I realized that I didn’t need a geyser to make my vacation grand. I just needed to be amazed at His creation!

I’m glad that I had been thinking over and over how amazing His handiwork was as I had been driving through it. When the geyser gave it’s last spit, I was able to shift gears pretty quickly to another amazing thing I saw that day. Thinking about that saved my attitude, and allowed my family to experience a much nicer me than the pouting one that could have shown up.

Relentless Growth requires us to look at our situations and our expectations through God’s filter rather than our own. That is where we will see how He is working in our lives and bringing us closer to Him.

By the way, yes. I used one of those Facebook article titles to try and increase readership. Did you get what you expected?

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Why I Don’t Celebrate Father’s Day

no-happy-fathersdayTo most Americans, today is Father’s Day.  I’m not sure what the origin is other than another day for Hallmark to  make a few bucks, the clothing industry to unload some hideous neckwear, and for us to have a cookout.  Honestly I see the most value in the last one, but that is another story.

We hear a lot on the news today about how kids need to have the presence of a father in their lives.  That male presence is supposed to be the defining thing between a well-adjusted kid and a complete degenerate.  I’m not sure if having a male figure in the house makes a better kid anymore than having a Chevy in the driveway is going to make me be able to drive like Earnhardt.  There is more to the picture, in my humble opinion, than just being a father.

You see, I didn’t have a “father”.  I had a male presence in my life, and he did “father” me, but he was not a “father”.  (Sorry kids, go ask your parents to explain that last sentence to you.)  I had something better than a “father.”  I had a Dad.  I had a man’s man who was not just punching the time card and going through the motions that would allow him to meet some minimum criteria of “fatherhood.”  I had a guy that put in the long hours at work and then came home to put in more hours with his family.  That’s not a “father”.  That’s a Dad.

I don’t think you need to be a father to be a Dad.  I have met some great men who never had kids of their own, but they either through adoption, re-marriage, or even deep mentorship have taken up the role of Dad in the lives of kids and made a huge difference in their lives by committing themselves to those kids through unconditional love and care.  Those men aren’t fathers.  They are Dads!

You may have noticed that I am not a big fan of the word  “father”.  It’s not because of a problem in my childhood.  I have just watched that word used over the last twenty years or so in a context that almost makes me see it as the weakest, most minimal standard of parenting.  Men father children and leave.  Men father children and don’t grow up.  Men father children, but just ignore them.  I sad that “men” do these things, but again, a better word might just be “males.”

In the 2nd chapter of Judges, there is an account of how the people of Israel conducted themselves after taking the Promised Land.  It says that after Joshua and all of the men of Joshua’s generation died, the people of Israel forgot about God.  Judges 2:10 even goes so far as to say that the generation that came up not only did not know God (have a relationship with Him), but they didn’t even know about the things He had done for them!  According to the account, this happened in a generation!

The men that entered the Promised Land to conquer it were the children of those who had refused to enter it.  These people had been forced to walk the desert for 40 years watching their adults die before they had an opportunity to go into the land and take it for themselves.  During that time they saw God do miracles in the wilderness and even more as they took the land.  How did their kids not know the things God did for them?  How did they not know?

My opinion is that there were a lot of male figures that just didn’t put focus on that kind of thing.  They might have been too busy talking about their conquests, busy putting together new homes, building cities, or ordering around servants.  Who really knows?  I think it is safe to say that they didn’t put a high priority on things that matter long-term.

I celebrate Dad’s Day instead of Father’s Day.  To me, it is more about the relationship between a Dad and his children than a biological certification of progeny.  Dad’s Day is a time to really focus on praising the Dads that give their kids the things that really matter.  I want to think about the things that I need to accomplish to make sure that I am leaving my kids in better shape than I am.   I want to be a Relentless Dad that will not end up with kids that are going to forget the important work of God in our lives.

Here are a few things thatI have been trying to focus on.  Feel free to steal them and use them for yourself.  It’s all free information!

1. Be in the moment – It really doesn’t matter if it is a good moment or a bad moment, as long as you are in the moment with your kids.  In the moment is where life happens.  In the moment is where failures are evident and grace can be delivered.  In the moment is the place where you praise God for the great things He has done for you, and where you lean on Him for strength when things are hard.  Your kids need to see and hear both of them.  They need to see that God is in EVERY moment, not just the fun moments.

2. Be intentional – Proper parenting doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes a willingness to get intentional in the lives of your kids.  A real Dad has an agenda for the development of his kids.  He looks for opportunities to advance that agenda through the daily ebb and flow of life.  He will be relentless in that pursuit.

3. Be real – If you are going to be an effective Dad, you need to be willing to show who you really are.  Share your failures, your embarassments, and your pains just as you would show you victories and strengths.  Kids can spot a fake a mile away, and it is really hard to get them to believe you when they pick up on that. When you are real, you give them hope! They can see that their failures are no longer a reason to stop trying.

Please don’t consider this a comprehensive list.  There’s more to being a Dad than this.  Consider this a place to start!  Relentless living as a Dad has got to start somewhere!

To all you Dads out there, Happy Dad’s Day!  You’re doing a great job!  To you fathers…well… enjoy the recognition.

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The Road to Hell…

Pasture with lots an' lots of daisies
Pasture with lots an’ lots of daisies

About fifteen years ago, Tammi and I decided to put in a nice little flower bed behind the house.  The plan was a “natural” looking bed that would be in the middle of our mowed yard. We pulled together some field stone we had collected and set it in a little circle, planted a Rose of Sharon shrub, and then we sat down to decide what we needed to add to finish off the bed.  The final decision was to purchase and plant a wildflower mix.  Sounded like a great idea.

That summer the flowers all came up, and it was really pretty.  I believe the botanical terms for the flower mix was something like, “little yellow weed-like flower”, “little pretty blue flower that grows for one year and is never seen again”, “little purple flower that puts out a vine that chokes little yellow weed-like flower,” and daisies.  That first summer was great, but the next couple years it just turned into a bed of daisies as they choked out everything else there.

Now I have daisies all over the place.  They are in the pasture, in the hayfield, and in the yard.  It’s not that they are not a pretty flower.  They are a happy little flower, but let’s face it, folks, they are a weed.  Yep. I said it.  They are right up there on the list with dandelions.  A happy little flower that runs rampant if you turn your back for even a second.

We never intended for this to happen.  Our hearts were in the right place.  We had good intentions…  Yeah.  How does that old saying go?

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

When the Israelites went into the Promised Land, a buzz began to go through the region.  The cities and people had heard about Jericho and Ai and how the God of the Israelites was basically handing cities to them.  This news made some cities band together to fight the Israelites, but for the people of Gibeon, a different plan was formed.

The leaders of Gibeon hatched plan to put on old clothes, take a bunch of rotten food, and go out to meet Joshua and the Israelites in hopes of tricking them.  When they met the army of Israel, they told them all about how they had travelled such a great distance just to make a covenant with the Israelites.  The Israelites asked, “How can we know for sure about that?  After all, you could be trying to trick us!”  The Gibeonites were ready with their defense.  “Look!  We are wearing old clothes and have old food!”  I guess that was enough to satisfy their curiosity, because they went ahead and made a covenant with them.

Later on, the secret came out and the Gibeonites didn’t waste a second showing off that covenant.  Israel was stuck, because they had made the covenant not only with the Gibeonites, but had made it by swearing to the Lord that they would honor it.  If they broke their promise, they would be in violation of a covenant not only to the Gibeonites, but also to God.  They had to honor it, so they put these people on the indentured servant list from that point on.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of it.

A few things stick out to me here:

1. People who want to do wrong things, can present themselves in a way that not only looks right, but can get you to do wrong.  – The Gibeonites were well aware that they were messing with God and His people.  They knew they were going to fall just like Jericho and Ai, but they looked for a way to survive that did not require them to give in to God.  Instead, they coerced God’s people and tricked them into doing the wrong thing in a binding way.

I’ve been a coercer and a coercee.  Not proud of either one.  At this point in my life I am much more aware of how my actions might pull someone else down with me.  Just thinking about the other guy has gotten me to turn away from some decisions that were definitely not good.  Not because I didn’t want to do them, but because I didn’t want someone else to suffer for my stupidity. I’m not calling that a victory, but at least I can call it progress!

2. When something smells fishy, take minute and look for the tuna! – The Bible says that the men of Israel did not seek the counsel of the Lord.  They did ask couple questions about the Gibeonites, but then just looked at each other, nodded their heads and said, “Seems legit.”  If they had taken a little more time and, I don’t know, said something like, “Hey!  Why don’t we take minute here and ask God about this?  It seems like He said something about driving everyone out, and these guys might just be trying to pull a fast one on us!”

Big, binding decisions NEED to be bathed in prayer and wise counsel MUST be sought.  That’s not to say that you cannot live a life of abandonment to God, but I am seeing that most people who “impulsively” follow God are living a pretty close life with Him. So even though it might not make sense to you or me, it is painfully obvious to them that it is time to jump Overboard. (Shameless plug for my friends Joe and Traci.)

3. Bad decisions don’t always feel painful right away. – The Gibeonites knuckled under and went to work, but this was not the end of their story.  They were a pain in the behind of the Israelites for many years, and their idols and way of worship were a part of what drove a wedge between the Israelites and God and eventually led to the kingdom of Israel being ransacked and the people exiled.

Those “wildflowers” we planted were pretty for a couple of years.  Now, I look out across the pasture and I see a ton of work that is necessary to pull them so they won’t eventually just choke out the grass the horses eat.  It’s ridiculous, and I’m pretty sure that a lawsuit is in order, but I threw the wrapper away so I got nothing to go on… No.  If I had just asked some questions, read that label a little more closely, and thought about it for a few minutes I might have realized that the word “wild” has more than one meaning.  It grows in the wild on its own, AND it is a voracious plant that will decimate anything around it!

Jessica came in the house with a nice little bouquet of daisies yesterday morning and said, “I thought I should pick some of these before you mow them all over.”  I should have picked them all several years ago.  If I had I would not be shaking my head about them now.

Relentless Living requires us to look at the things we are going to do and think about them.  We might have the best of intentions, but if we are not in-line with God’s intentions, well…. Let’s just say that there is a better road to follow.

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Your Turn

This morning I sat down to write, but I realized that I don’t really have topic that is hitting me particularly hard right now.  I have some thoughts on some of the big issues going on in the world, but I am not quite ready to take a swing at some of those yet.  So, I am going to offer a challenge to you, faithful reader.

This morning as I read my Bible I looked at the destruction of the city of Ai in Joshua 8.  One verse stood out to me, an dI am interested in how it might impact someone else.  So, here is my challenge.  Read Joshua 8:17 and tell me your thoughts on it.  You might want to back up a couple chapters and get the proper context.  Here is the verse:

17 “Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. They left the city open and pursued Israel.” – Joshua 8:17

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.  Please feel free to comment here on the blog page rather than on any of the other pages this gets posted to.  I will read them and will probably come back and share my thoughts on it next week.  Unless something else comes to mind!

Have a great week!

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