Giving the Stiff-Arm

Yes, I realize we are in the midst of March Madness. Even so, I have been thinking about a football move recently–the stiff-arm. My 9-year-old daughter has a love language of physical touch. She loves to give hugs, to cuddle, and to hang on you. My 13 year old’s love language is acts of service. She is not at all into the touchy-feely stuff. My younger daughter knows this about my older daughter and loves to torment her by trying to give hugs. My older daughter’s response is the stiff-arm–to not allow the younger daughter to get close enough for the mushy lovey stuff. I have been thinking about how this is like God pursuing us and our response is to keep Him at bay.
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More or Less?

In the first eight years of our marriage, my wife and I lived in eight different locations. For the last eight years, we have had one address. When we moved from Indiana to North Carolina, all our possessions fit into a 12 foot box truck. Five years later (and one kid), it took a 30 foot truck to move to Ohio. Today, it may take two of those trucks to move our family of four, but I have no plans to find out for fear it would.


Table-Saw (Photo credit: Jóvan Jules ρнσтσgяαρну)

I often walk to our basement, attic, and garage and see tools and other items I have not used for a very long time, if ever. Many of the tools were from my dad after he passed away. I thought I was going to make a lot of items of wood. There are also workbenches, storage boxes, and extra wood from my father-in-law, all waiting around for me to do something with them. Most of it has been sitting around for at least three years, some as long as five or six years. Add to that the kites we flew four Easters ago that have not moved since, a child’s dresser we moved out of her room two years ago, and several items sitting in corners of the attic that have been there since we moved in.

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March: Lion or Lamb?

You know the idiom–March will come in as a lion and go out as a lamb. It refers to the weather. At the beginning of the month, the weather is cold, brutal and powerful. In four short weeks, it will be calm, warming, and peaceful (hopefully).

Today, I was enlightened to learn about a different lamb that many expected to be a lion. As he was born, people were looking for a lion, for someone to overthrow the current regime that had oppressed them and ruled harshly. But they got a lamb–a little baby, meek and mild, born in a barn.

Fast forward 30 or so years. This man comes into town for a national celebration. The people are waving palm branches–the symbol of their national pride. They shouted a slogan that means “give us freedom.” In the background, there is an increased presence of the military as this time of year commemorates their freedom from slavery under previous captors. As this man watches the goings on, he cries. He realizes that the citizens are seeking a lion to deliver their nation through peace and rebellion. In a few days, they will ask for the famous jailed insurgent to be freed

This man comes as a peaceful lamb. At a time where their national heritage has them choose a lamb to represent their family, this man comes to town in peace. He comes with a great love to deliver the people from those things oppressing them. Those things are personal and inward. They are not what other people and powers are doing to them, but what they are doing to themselves. This man comes to liberate their hearts. He cries because the people do not see that they are lost themselves. His time is nearly done yet there is more to accomplish.

Picture of a Servant Leader

Being a leader is about putting others first. Throughout my life, I have had the privilege to have an amazing role model of a leader who puts others first. This is known as servant-leadership. Robert Greenleaf in his essay “The Servant as Leader” wrote this:

It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first… The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types…The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.

Photo by Pam Denlinger

Photo by Pam Denlinger

Let me tell you about a guy who lived his life putting others’ needs above his own. As the twelfth of 13 children, Buck was Uncle Buck to nearly 40 nieces and nephews. Throughout high school, Buck was a friend to all. Fifty years later, many of his classmates will still tell you stories of Buck—all grounded in the love that they knew Buck had for them. At age 17, Buck’s father died. As the only son still at home, Buck spent the next couple years serving his mother and greater family by caring for the family farm until it was sold at auction.

Buck next enlisted in the US Army and served his country for two years in Europe. After returning home, he joined the local volunteer fire department where he served his community for over 35 years, retiring as chief. He responded to emergencies facing his friends and neighbors. One night, Buck had to tell some of those neighbors that their two young boys perished in the house fire. Even though it was the most difficult night of his life and the lives of those neighbors, Buck was able to do it with love and compassion, because that’s the kind of guy he was.

Buck also served his neighbors as a policeman in his small town and as a member of the county road crew. On many snowy nights while folks were home warming by the fire, Buck would work through the night to clear roads allowing his neighbors to get to work and school safely the next morning. In the summer, Buck would literally dig the best ditches in Miami County, just so that they looked good to everyone who drove by and served their purpose to clear the farmers’ fields of rain water. While Buck was protecting his neighbors or digging those ditches, he would always take time to teach the young guys on the crew how to do their job better, smarter, or with more enthusiasm.

Buck loved his neighbors and it showed through his service to his country, his community, and his family. Sure, his family had to eat many cold Thanksgiving meals because a neighbor would inevitably cook their’s too long and require a visit from the fire department. And his son had many cancelled birthday parties because Mother Nature decided to have a snow day. But his family would have it no other way because they knew their father loved them and loved their neighbors.

Three years ago today, Dad passed away after battling cancer. At his viewing and funeral, nearly 500 friends and neighbors waited hours, many in the freezing cold, to honor my family by sharing memories of how Dad served them with laughter, protection, or his time. During those few days, I heard the impact of dad’s service to his neighbors. As I look back on the life of my father, I can see what a great leader he was because he always put others first.

I Believe…

This past week, I, along with a colleague, began a leadership program for a group of nurses from the local hospital system. The first class is an introduction to leadership and what makes a great leader. We incorporated a heavy dose of self-reflection into this day, including time to write a personal credo.

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Unexpected #oneword365

“Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you will get.” Things happen. Thing you are not expecting. How do you respond when the unexpected occurs? Usually with unexpected things, I tend to grumble at  them. You see, I am a planner. I like to look ahead at what may come down the road. Perhaps it is my scouting background– always needing to “Be Prepared.” Perhaps it is a felt need to always be in control. Whatever it is, I know that I miss a lot because I am not expecting. Read the rest of this entry »

My Birthday Wish List

My birthday falls just shy of a month after Christmas. When I was young, it was great–I would take my Christmas wish list, cross out what I received, and resubmit the updated list for my birthday. As I have grown older, that has changed. I have a hard enough time coming up with a list for Christmas let alone my birthday. Now I understand what my dad always said about Christmas and his birthday–“I don’t need anything, I just want to be with you all!” I enjoy the time with my wife and girls and visiting our extended family. So that is hopefully what we will plan to do this year. Read the rest of this entry »