I Believe in Miracles

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In some respects, I guess not much has changed and I wonder if God grows weary of our chronic lapses in faith.

It’s not easy for us to look a giant in the eye, whether real or imagined. By their very definition, giants tower over us in intimidating fashion. Their reputations for destruction precede them and cause us to fear what may happen to us should we choose to stand and fight.

I think the thing I like best about David’s response to Goliath was his willingness to go on out into the field of battle. That is to say, I think David won the victory, not just with the slingshot and five smooth stone but mostly by showing up. David was armed with both a faith and a knowledge that God was with him.

David knew that he was not alone.

In the past few years, I have come to believe in the miracle of showing up. I’ve seen more than a few folks who facing seemingly insurmountable odds who overcame the enemy du jour by simply walking out onto the battlefield. Their showing up announces to the giant that the threat he poses does not have the upper hand.

Goliaths are defeated when regular people choose to believe that the God who created them will not desert them.

My advice to a person facing a giant: Go tell your giant that he’s no match for your God. You may not believe it at first, but that bold proclamation coupled with your “showing up” will either cause your giant to flee or risk his own demise.

The miracle of repeatedly showing up is as impressive as any I’ve ever seen. If you’re facing a giant – by whatever name it may be known – please know that you are not alone. Your miracle story is an inspiration to me and many others you may never know.

 

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Enjoy The Ride

Ride Em Cowboy

This was written in conjunction with an assignment in a doctoral class – Intrapersonal Leadership. The assignment was to write a letter to a younger version of myself and I chose 25 years ago. I was 33 and a few months into a brand new job. The intervening years between that time and now have been challenging and rich, and sometimes at the same time.

Dear Michael,

I know that you’re enjoying your relatively new role at Oklahoma City First Nazarene. No doubt the excitement of all the different experiences in the executive pastor role are fulfilling.

The church is doing great and you’re thinking life can’t get any better, but there will be challenging times ahead. You’ll be learning life lessons as a result, but you only have another couple of years before you’re going to be shopping your resume around in hopes of landing another job.

But, you know what, you’re going to be okay!

You’ll wonder sometimes if God forgot where you live, but you’ll also end up working on some incredible projects, not the least of which is restarting the baseball program after a 20-year absence at Southern Nazarene University. You won’t be there past the first season, but you’ll start something that will end up changing the trajectory of the lives of many young men, most of whom you’ll never meet.

You don’t know it now, but the tough times you’ll go through in the next four years will actually lead you and the family back home to Nashville and Trevecca. Sarah and the boys are loving Oklahoma City and it’s been great being back in the land of your birth, but Nashville’s lure is still strong and the opportunity to regain some financial stability while working in student development for 12 years will be among the best times of your life.

You’ll also end up back in coaching at Trevecca. The women’s softball team will need a shot in the arm for a season, the men’s golf team will need an assistant for a couple years and, before you know it, you’ll be the head coach of women’s golf at Trevecca for 12 1/2 years. Your team will win a lot of tournaments, go to a national championship in 2009, and see some terrific individual performances.  Mostly, you’ll experience life with some of the finest young ladies you would never have known otherwise.

Turns out 2009 is going to set the course for the next phase of your professional life as well. Moving from student development into a role in the president’s office and eventually external relations will lead you on a multi-faceted journey putting you in touch with two constituencies that are near to your heart: Trevecca alumni around the world and Nazarene churches throughout the southeastern US.

You’ll travel more than you can imagine and interact with more people than you can fathom. It will be exhilarating and exhausting all at once, and you’ll wish you had heard what I’m about to tell you.

First, study the impact of stress and exhaustion on quality of life and personal health. You simply cannot expect to work effectively if you’re at a low ebb physically, but I know you and you won’t listen when people tell you that finding balance between work and play is paramount for a guy like you. You think you’re different and that you can handle lots of travel and high-calorie, high-fat foods without it taking a toll.

And you won’t want to hear this, but there’s going to be a guy that writes a book called “Boundaries,” and you’re going to hear people talking about it and you’ll think it’s for other people. You’ll even make fun of it, but at some point, you’ll know you need it for yourself. Work hard but allow yourself to believe it’s okay to unplug every now and then.

If I could give you one piece of advice that will serve you well over the next 25 years, it would be this: Take a step back and let each day breathe on its own. You’ll continue to have some high highs and some low lows, but God will be with you.

You’ll stay in love with Sarah, it’ll just get deeper and stronger. Your boys will be such impressive young men who marry well and bring you grandchildren. Your parents and in-laws will still be around to bless you and you, them. And the friends you’ve made across the years will be faithful and true.

God is good and you’re going to be so grateful, especially when they call you Dr. Johnson in the spring of 2020!

Where I Come From

 

This is the fifth February in a row that I’ve been a part of the annual meetings of the General Board of the Church of the Nazarene. I’m grateful for the honor of working with other representatives from around the world to participate in hearing, and in some cases acting upon, the good work being done through our global church.

When I checked in Thursday night at the Downtown Marriott in Kansas City, I found out that my name was not on the reservation list. A glitch in the system had bumped me out and I had to be re-booked. Diane Miller, who has many years of great work on Nazarene meetings and conventions to her credit, came to the aid of the hotel and myself and soon I was off to Room 1042 in the recently renovated Muehlebach Tower that Marriott now owns.

Upon learning that I could stay in the Muehlebach, I immediately said yes. The photos you see are of the lobby of the venerable old edifice that served as a mainstay in the downtown hotel district of Kansas City for decades. It was also the last place I saw my paternal grandfather, Walker Talmadge (W.T.) Johnson, Sr., alive.

Shortly after the conclusion of the 1980 General Assembly closed in Kansas City, I found myself in Adrian, Georgia, for teen camp with the Trevedores from Trevecca Nazarene University. We had barely arrived when Lowell Clyburn, camp director and long time youth leader for Georgia Nazarenes, found me and broke the news.

“Michael, I have some sad news. Your dad called just a few minutes ago and told me that your Grandad Johnson has passed away,” Lowell said. “We’re working on a way to get you to the airport and back to Nashville. Your friend, Jim Emmert, is bringing his plane to pick you all up and will fly you to Oklahoma City for the funeral.”

My heart skipped a couple of beats, and much like the moment just a bit ago in that lobby, tears welled in my eyes and my throat got sore. And I thought about seeing Grandad in that lobby greeting friends from across the years that he knew because he was a Nazarene.

Grandad spent a lot more time in that lobby reminiscing with friends than he did in the services during that General Assembly. He loved to swap stories and share laughs. He served as a district superintendent in Oklahoma for 29 years prior to his retirement in 1976 so he had some stories! I still hear stories about him, too.

Alan Jackson’s classic “Where I Come From,” is pure country – the way country music ought to be, by the way. The chorus goes:

I said where I come from
It’s cornbread and chicken
Where I come from a lotta front porch sittin’
Where I come from, tryin’ to make a livin’
And workin’ hard to get to heaven
Where I come from

That part about tryin’ to make a livin’ and workin’ hard to get to heaven is more than a good country hook. It’s the way a lot of people used to live. It’s the way my Grandad Johnson lived.

Now, in saying that he worked hard, I don’t mean to suggest that he was worn out from doing a lot of running. He drove his Buicks pretty fast, but it would be fair to say that he never seemed in a huge hurry. He left that side of the marital equation to Memaw Helen.

They were quite a pair. They loved the Church of the Nazarene, especially pastors and missionaries, and the campground in Anadarko, Oklahoma.

I guess, because of the family I was born into, I was probably destined to love it, too. Some of my contemporaries didn’t then, and many have even less to do with it now, but I’ll always be glad that I stayed.

I love the Church of the Nazarene and I’m grateful to have found a place, maybe several places, to try and make a difference in it. Our colleges and universities and our emphasis on missions – equal pillars of ministry in the minds of our founders – are amazing when compared to our relative size as a denomination.

Our church has been through a lot in recent years. Sometimes when relationships go through a rough patch it becomes easy to think it’s no longer worth the investment. But I’m here with my colleagues on the General Board and I’ve never been more committed to doing what I can to support the global ministry of our church.

I believe that the best way to support a global effort is to start in a local church. It starts with reaching across the lobby or aisle or pew or chair in your local church. It picks up steam when we talk to our neighbors next door and our friends at work. It really goes somewhere when we treat strangers or people we think look like the enemy as if they were family.

That’s my church and that’s where I come from.

Grandad didn’t have many hobbies when he retired but he did love good food, particularly soups and chili. On a hot summer day in western Oklahoma City in 1980, Memaw fixed Grandad some cornbread and a bowl of beef stew. He got up from the table and said to Memaw, whose back was turned toward the kitchen, “You sure put a good scald on that soup, Helen.”

Before she could answer, Memaw heard a thud behind her and Grandad had fallen to the floor. They tried to revive him at Bethany Hospital but years of congestive heart failure had taken their toll and Grandad was gone.

It’s been almost 38 years since I last saw him, but I could see the image of Grandad greeting old friends in that lobby today. I hope I’m around long enough to see old friends at a Nazarene gathering one day and look back at a life full of meaningful work that maybe helped someone along the way.

That’s my church and that’s where I come from.

Wave on Wave

10123DB3-7F63-46D9-8C06-B9EE892CAF74Family members got a text yesterday from my Aunt Karen.  It read: “Robert is under hospice care and going down rapidly! Will stay in touch! I love you!!”

Karen is my dad’s younger sister and actually held me in her arms before my dad did.  Karen worked at Lindley Memorial Hospital in Duncan, Oklahoma, and was with my mom when I arrived, two weeks early, on February 18, 1960.  Daddy was in Springfield, Missouri, preaching in revival services and caught the first train available back home.  In addition to my parents, some of my earliest familial bonds were with Karen.

This morning I got a text from my brother, Jeffrey. It said: “Robert passed about an hour ago.  Funeral arrangements are pending.”

In 1965, I walked down the aisle at Bethany Calvary Church of the Nazarene with Nona Powers at Robert and Karen’s wedding.  It took a while for me to understand that being a “mini bride and groom” was purely symbolic, but for a few weeks I thought Nona and I had gotten married, too.

Karen had graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Bethany Nazarene College (now Southern Nazarene University) and was working for the phone company.  Robert had taken a few classes at BNC but was working at the Conoco station on 23rd and they lived in some tiny apartments on Asbury.  Jeffrey and I liked the apartment a lot, mainly because Robert and Karen had a TV and we didn’t and on Saturday mornings we could watch cartoons there!

It wasn’t too long after they got married that the lure of the Southern Pacific Railroad became strong enough that Robert and Karen moved back to his hometown of Houston.

The Thompsons were a railroad family.  Frank and Azalea, Robert’s parents, lived on Pineshade for decades and although Frank was a highly educated man, he loved the railroad and his sons followed in his footsteps.  Houston seemed a world away from Oklahoma City back then and I remember my Grandad and Memaw Johnson feeling a sense of loss when their daughter moved away from them.

For several years Jeffrey and I would take a summer trip on the train from OKC to Houston with Adaline, (Sweet Adaline) a lady who lived with my grandparents. We always looked forward to the new adventures those journeys brought us.  Our first trips to Astroworld, the Astrodome, Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico happened on those trips.  And Jeffrey and I learned to swim in the pool at their apartment complex in the summer of 1968.

I say we learned to swim, but actually it was I who learned to swim that summer.  Mostly, Jeffrey learned to hold on to the wall and pretend that he knew how to swim.  I wasn’t a great swimmer as an eight year old, but I had at least conquered my fear of the water, which came in handy that fall.

October of 1968 is significant in my mind for two reasons.  While on a family outing for a few days at Western Hills State Lodge in Oklahoma, I watched a couple of games of the World Series and decided that I liked the St. Louis Cardinals more than the Detroit Tigers, thus beginning an undying allegiance to the “Birds on the Bat.”

The other reason I remember that trip was that Jeffrey and I were in the pool and he lost his grip on the wall and started going under.

I’m not sure where Daddy was but Mother, who did not swim, was with us and took notice of Jeffrey’s sudden struggle to get back above water.  I heard her cries and instinctively grabbed a gulp of air and went down and pulled him back up and felt like a big boy hero for at least the rest of the day. But it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Robert was the hero, too.

Robert and Karen had three beautiful children and we cousins have drifted in and out of each other’s lives at different times.  They are each incredible people and I hope we get together more often in years to come. Distance may make the heart grow fonder but it can also make it hard to be together in the same room.

Life takes unexpected twists and turns and sometimes it’s hard to know how things will turn out.  For example, Robert and Karen loved their children without question, and I know they had love for each other, but sometimes even that isn’t enough to save a marriage.  And so, after 29 years, Robert and Karen went their separate ways to an extent.

Karen is one of the most amazingly energetic people I’ve ever known who still loves the fast lanes of Houston-area real estate.  Robert was content with the solitude of a engineer’s cab on a rail system that had only one lane.  Both found love in new life partners and our family circle grew even wider as a result.

Over these last couple of years I have been amazed at how Kristal, Shane, and Angel and their families have loved on Robert, even as he was slipping away.  Equally amazing to me is the way the Karen and Steve have, too.  Redemption is a God-given gift that is always appropriate and always available when we’re willing to be a part of it.

As a part of my work today, I find myself with some free time, sitting in a hotel room on the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach, Alabama.  I’m watching the gentle lapping of waves on the sandy white shore.  And I’m thinking about the day Robert and Karen and Jeffrey and I went to Galveston.  I remember how Robert could float on top of the water as easily as he would lie on the couch when he got home from a run on the rails.  He would float almost out of sight, enough so that I worried he might never come back.

Texan Pat Green had a great hit on country radio almost 15 years ago and I was always struck by the story line.  “You came upon me wave on wave, you’re the reason I’m still here…”  The song’s talking about a guy and girl, but I think maybe God speaks through words like that.

A railroad track determines where the train will go and maybe the engineer doesn’t have to pay a lot of attention, but I can see this lyric coming to life as Robert sat in that cab:

Mile on Mile [seems like] no direction
We’re all playing the same game
We’re all looking for redemption
Just afraid to say the name
So caught up now in pretending
What we’re seeking is the truth
I’m just looking for a happy ending
All I’m looking for is You

Robert rode the waves of the Gulf as easily as he rode the rails of the train.  And this morning, he relaxed and floated “wave on wave” all the way to shores of sweet deliverance from the bonds of this earth.  Maybe Jesus was there cooking breakfast when Robert showed up and that makes me smile!

 

Lord Help Us!

Orange Beach Sunrise

Lord, we thank you for another day that has been given to us by your grace.

I pray, Lord, that the grace which you have extended to us will encourage us to be further extensions of that grace to others.

Help us, as residents and leaders within this amazing place, to extend grace to persons who at times may seem ungrateful for, or unaware of, the privileges that so many of us have been given.

Help us to extend grace to persons who either by their own hand or, through no fault of their own, find themselves in a place of great hurt or great pain.

Help us to extend grace to people who seem different enough to us that they cause us to feel afraid of, or antagonistic toward, without even really knowing them.

Help us to extend grace to those with whom we disagree, even when we’re pretty sure we’re right about whatever it is we’re disagreeing.

Finally, Lord, give us grace to lend our human hands to whomever we can, whenever we can, by whatever means we can, and in so doing honor the grace we’ve been given by your almighty hand.

AMEN.

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Remembering

 

Anniversaries are interesting. For most, they are joyous. For many, they are painful. Regardless the emotions they evoke, anniversaries are reminders.

September 11, 2001, will always and forever be remembered, at least in most Americans’ minds, as a day when everything changed. Alan Jackson put it like this in his song, “Where were you when the world stopped turning?”

It changed us in a way that still causes us to often look at a particular group of people with suspicion, if not actual fear and hatred. Vicious attacks and our memory of them are a combination that breeds contempt and it takes a lot to overcome it.

For those who continue to grieve personal loss from that fateful day in 2001, my heart is filled with sympathy. I pray that God’s healing grace continues to flow to you in gentle and reassuring waves.

September 11, 2010, is a date we remember in our family for completely different reasons. In the late afternoon of an unusually warm and humid day in Alabama our middle son, Brian, married Ashley Foster. Suddenly and sweetly September 11 could also be remembered as a day when love, not hate, ruled the day.

Brian had asked his younger brother, Austin, to be his best man. In the history of best man speeches, Austin’s will go down as one of the best I ever heard.

Comedian that he is, Austin opened by saying (this is a paraphrase based on my memory), “When Brian told me they were getting married on September 11, I said ‘For real? You know what happened on September 11 a few years ago, right? Are you serious?’”

He said a couple of other funny things with a nod to his older brothers. And then he looked at Brian and Ashley and said, “We’ll always know about the attacks on September 11, 2001 and where we were as we watched buildings crumble and fall. But because of what’s happening here today, we can also remember this date for something else.”

Austin closed with something to the effect of, “Hate can bring buildings to rubble on the ground, but true love is different. True love like we see in Brian and Ashley tells us that nothing can tear love down no matter what comes its way!”

So, today’s a day of remembering.

For few million people in Florida, September 11, 2017, will be the day they woke up and knew that although things looked bad, they’ll know it could have been even worse.

For thousands of family members, they’ll remember this day in 2001 and the loved ones they lost and the first responders who lost their own lives trying to save others. They’ll remember that although time doesn’t actually heal all wounds, time does bring the perspective that life is still available to them and should be lived with purpose.

For our family, we’ll remember that Brian and Ashley stood before God and the rest of us and said they’d love each other with a “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, till death do us part,” kind of love that even terror cannot tear down.

Love is a curious thing. It’s more a choice than an emotion, but the choice to love brings a kind of sentiment that will stand the test of time.

Whatever you’re remembering today, choose to love those dearest to you with all your heart. If you’re feeling adventurous, choose to have a heart of love for others as well.

Finally, never forget that the God who created you is for you and with you and is deeply interested in redeeming all the days, whether filled with joy or pain, of your life. Remembering this is as important as anything you will ever remember.

 

What Makes Your Heart Sing?

Remember The Troggs’ 1966 hit song echoing, “Wild thing, you make my heart sing.  You make everything groovy?”

Of course, you’d either need to have been born no later than the early 60s or be a particularly involved oldies fan to know what I’m talking about.  I hadn’t even thought of the song in a long time until last Friday.

The Rev. Dr. Sandra Randleman, associate pastor at Nashville First Presbyterian, spoke at the weekly Kiwanis Club of Nashville luncheon and she encouraged members to ponder some personal questions.  Among them, I was particularly struck by these:

  • What makes your heart sing?
  • What makes you lose track of time?
  • How might your gifts intersect with the world’s needs?

I scribbled notes down on a sheet of paper I had stuck in my coat pocket.  I suspect I’ll be thinking about the things I heard for some time to come.

Funny thing about coat pockets, at least for me.  They become reservoirs of notes I take in the inspiration of a given moment.  I often forget that I put these handwritten reminders of things people say only to rediscover them months later.

For example, last Wednesday I threw on a jacket made of material generally appropriate only in warmer times of the year.  With temperatures approaching the 80s, I slipped it on as I left the house not knowing of the blessing I’d find later in the date.  On an offering envelope taken from the pew rack at Millbrook (AL) Church of the Nazarene last summer I found one of those reservoirs of refreshment in my pocket.

I heard two good messages that day at a funeral of one of the kindest ladies you could have known.  That offering envelope was covered in notes I had taken while listening to Phil Fuller eulogize his mother, Nina.  Later, Nina Fuller’s close friend, Nina Gunter, delivered a prior to beautiful message of comfort for family and friends.

I had known Roy and Nina Fuller for many years.  They had a sweet and encouraging presence about them in the few times we had personally interacted.  But Phil grew up in their house.  He knew them in a way only a son could and the things he said about his mother could serve as a blueprint for how we might achieve world peace, or at least enjoy better relationships.

Whether with bombs fired from ships and planes, from our own mouths, or from our computer and smart phone keyboards, the world in which we now find ourselves is full of pain and danger.  As much as I wish I could solve the geo-political issues of our day, most days I feel downright helpless.  The incessant human suffering displayed around the globe and sometimes across the street just seems to much to bear.

I think the reason the world stays so torn up is because we forget that maybe there’s something in our pocket we forgot was there.  It just might help us if we found it.

Maybe the blueprint for world peace illustrated by the life of people like Nina Fuller that I found in my notes on that offering envelope isn’t so complicated after all.

Here are the main points of the blueprint I took from Phil’s words about his mom:

  • Like it says in Proverbs 31:25-26, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (NASB)
  • She seemed to say only encouraging words.
  • It was just natural for her to see the good in people.
  • Her eyes twinkled and her smiled gleamed, giving evidence of real joy.
  • She loved God, loved people, loved the church, loved her family and loved life.

So, yeah I know it’s entirely too simplistic to think we could solve all the world’s problems by emulating a sweet southern lady’s path to peace in her own life, but I guarantee you we’d all be better off if we lived that way.

I’m not suggesting that everyone has to think just alike.  In fact, I know we won’t.  But the human condition pretty much begins and ends with a preoccupation with self.  It’s why we need the saving presence of the Son of God who showed us how to lay down our lives in the most brutally beautiful way.

I am suggesting we could do better, with God’s help.  Sometimes I think we stay so torn up about things going on around the world we don’t do what we can right here at home.

And, I am suggesting that even if you can’t solve the global refugee crisis you might say a kind word to your server at the restaurant or your checker at Walmart or your colleague at work who drives you crazy.

Kindness is not overrated.  A lady named Nina lived a “fuller” life than most because she knew that better than most and I think it made her heart sing.

What makes your heart sing?

When the Unexpected Confirms the Hoped For

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Last night on the plane back from Tampa I had the unusual experience of boarding pass A8 on Southwest. This meant that only a handful of others would have their choice of seat ahead of me. 

As I got on, I almost took a window seat on the front row, but as I started to settle in I thought about the fact that my computer bag would have to be placed in the overhead bin and I like to keep the essential equipment handy. So, I moved back another six rows, in the opposite side, and took my window seat to watch the sunset as we flew.

A nice couple sat down, having just visited their daughter in Ft. Myers and taken in a couple of Spring Training games. Eddie had gone to see the Yankees earlier in the day and still had his NY hat and golf shirt on.

We didn’t talk much until the last 40 minutes of the flight but we made up for lost time. Turns out they have five grandkids; we have four. Two of their grandkids are “surrogate” members of the family – literally!

Their daughter signed on with an agency and ended up carrying twins for a wealthy but heartbroken couple in New York who decided after multiple miscarriages to seek another alternative.  So, Bethany contracted with an agency who put her in touch with this couple and now she’s best friends with the woman who couldn’t carry in her womb the babies she now carries in her arms. 

Well, next thing you know I’m crying tears of joy over their story because our story is quite similar. Our oldest son and his wife were married for seven years and wanted to have a child but there were some difficulties involved.  

Chad and Amy looked into adoption but there were challenges and so they started investigating surrogacy. They also started working extra jobs and saving money.

Enter the younger of our two nieces, Jana, and her best friend, Lareigh. We had known Lareigh since she was 12 or 13. If you’re a friend of someone in the Johnson family, you might as well be part of the whole family, so we always loved Lareigh. 

I won’t take time to fill in all the details here, (for the full story click here A Love So Deep) but Lareigh ended up volunteering to carry a child for Chad and Amy. There were contracts drawn and some financial compensation was a part of the deal. But on that day, May 29, 2014, when Reston Adams Johnson arrived the only transactional exchanges that occurred were those sealed in love.

It was simple and profound that day and remains so almost three years later.

As I told my new friends on the airplane, “this world has a lot of messed up problems but, every now and then, God shows up in an unexpected way and says I’m still here. And people still crave good relationships with other people.”

I don’t know if they needed to hear it as much as I needed to, but it was a cool moment.  Oh, and I wasn’t supposed to fly back until this morning but an unexpected change of plans got me on the flight last night and God let me know He knew where I was!

Real Time

It's TimeThat I’ve been sort of dazzled by nice watches and cool sunglasses might not come as a surprise to many who have known me over the years.

But I’ve learned the hard way that the more I spend on such the more likely I am to lose or break them. Along the way I discovered that I can acquire a watch that looks a lot like timepieces that are much more expensive. The same can be said for sunglasses. I mean who hasn’t received an email, Twitter or Facebook link to cheap Ray Bans or Oakleys?

For most of the last 38 years, my life has been intertwined with the university (Trevecca Nazarene University) for which I work. In 1967, Trevecca’s alumni association president, Howard Wall, Jr., helped design a new college seal and incorporated the Latin phrase: Esse Quam Videri – To Be Rather Than To Seem.

I’ve used the phrase hundreds of times.  I’ve invoked it from time to time in talks to youth groups at retreats and summer camps.  I’ve even usurped its noble purpose to claim the high moral ground when comparing our university to others or why I think my church is doing things better than another.

To be rather than to seem.  It’s a brilliant and humble turn of a phrase.  Being is much more important that seeming. And this truth is speaking loudly into my life again.

So am I simply perpetuating a facade by wearing good looking watches that cost less than $20 or sunglasses that, if they were the real thing, would cost $150 or more rather than $24.99 plus shipping from somewhere in China?  Maybe so. Maybe not.

raybans-on-cards-hatFor me, things like watches and sunglasses are matters of taste and function.  I don’t hide from the fact that I’ve found a less expensive way to attain them. But when it comes to valuing others and certain institutions in which I am deeply invested, being real is a non-negotiable.

The work that I do at Trevecca with its students, alumni and church constituents, must be valued on a different level than watches and sunglasses.  My time with people and the lenses through which I view them must be real!

And I think you have the same need in your life regardless of where you live and work.

I’m not big on making New Years resolutions.  I am big on making commitments, on a daily basis, to treat people rightly and to confess that “God is God and I am not.”

However, in the spirit of a new calendar year, I will put myself on record as saying I’ve never had a greater desire to be real in my relationships with others and in my relationship with God.  To that end, I’m committing myself to more consistent prayer, Bible and devotional reading, and reflection on whether I’m being rather than seeming.

It’s time!