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Breakthrough

As I consider my experience in Taekwondo the thing that stands out to me most is that in both Taekwondo and life we should always be willing to give a little more than might be required or expected. In order to do that you may need to learn to concentrate on what you know with your mind rather than what you see with your eyes. Let me explain.

taekwondo break Micah 2014

Action Photography by Micah Holland

One of the first real tests that a martial artist faces is the test of breaking a board. Each time a student begins to learn how to break a board we instruct them to kick beyond the board or to kick through the board. To help him or her grasp this concept we remove the board so that the student is able to visualize the point to which they should kick or strike. The goal of course is for them to concentrate their focus, energy, power and aim beyond the fictitious barrier.

Most students do well in this exercise. Then comes the actual test. Everything changes the moment that they see an actual board standing in the way. At that point something happens in the mind of the student. Rather than concentrating on kicking beyond the board their full attention is captured and placed on the board itself. The board is suddenly obstructing their perfect view of their goal. What seemed possible now feels impossible. 

Why does that happen? Why will a student agree to concentrate kicking to one point, practice kicking to that point and then suddenly and somewhat unconsciously completely lose sight of their goal? Why do they suddenly become in danger of fixating on the board? Is it that the student doesn’t trust their instructor? I think the explanation is a rather simple one. This change of focus happens because the board is real. Breaking the board was a nice goal and thought but actually breaking through the board is another matter entirely. What the student knows in their mind and believes in their heart is hijacked by what they see with their eyes. They believe their instructor, but then they begin to think and that is the problem. It seems that the more they think about the board the more they stop believing they can actually break through the board.

Action Photography by CI Roy Reid

That is a powerful lesson in life itself. You may know that there is more then what you might be able to see in this life and so you make your goal to live with faith, courage and determination. Yet, sometimes whenever you face physical, relational or financial obstacles (to name a few) hope, faith and joy can suddenly be hidden from sight. And then what happens? You focus on the problem rather than beyond the problem to the solution. You focus on what may become a source of pain rather than the joy that lies just beyond it. In some instances you may find that you have been fixated on the “board” in your life for years!

Now, because you have lost sight of the goal, you may continually and courageously kick against the very real obstacle and it hurts again and again. Why are we suddenly afraid of the trouble we face? While there is no simple answer I would like to submit that it might simply be due to a loss of sight. It seems to me that in the same way that a student might be suddenly afraid of seeing the board, although he or she knew that there would be a board to break, that we can suddenly be afraid in life.

We fear the board because we do not want to suffer.

We certainly don’t want to cause ourselves unnecessary pain and suffering. And so we do everything in our power to avoid the pain we expect. In other words, we want to break the board, but we don’t want it to hurt! We want to move through each challenge without suffering in any way. Yet suffering leads to perseverance, perseverance leads to maturity / character, and character leads to hope, according to scripture.

Something powerful happens in the human spirit whenever we focus our attention and belief on something that is outside of ourselves and beyond our trouble. For me, whenever I focus my attention on Christ and eternal life that is beyond anything on this earth, I also find exceptional joy and abiding peace. And when I focus on joy I am better able to break through obstacles that life presents. Not always without pain and not always on the first try. But that’s life.

Not accomplishing something the first time is ok.

Hurting as a result of trying is ok. Pain does not mean that you are doing something wrong; sometimes it’s a result of breaking through something. However, it is not ok to give up just because you are tired. There is no valid reason for not trying again: if you fall down seven times, then get up eight.

Back to the board-breaking…I learned to focus on a point beyond the board. All was well until I was required to face the more difficult challenge of breaking through concrete. First degree required that I break one 2″ concrete cap with my hand. Second degree black required breaking through two 2″ concrete caps with my foot. The lessons I carried into breaking concrete were things like: Don’t overthink it (huge lesson)…It’s been done before…You are well prepared…Trust your instructor to put you in situations that are both challenging and sometimes difficult…Always give your best.

Having said that, times of testing in both Taekwondo and in life can be useful markers along the journey just to confirm that you are experiencing progress. I like that I am always learning and always teaching.

Why did I pursue 3rd Dan Black Belt?

Once the testing was over, individuals were allowed to ask questions of me in a public forum. One of those questions came from my wife. She asked me why I did it? She said, “A lot has happened in the year leading up to this point of testing. At any point you could have decided not to move forward. Why did you do it?” After thinking for a moment I answered to the audience, “I decided to persevere because I knew that if I did and was successful, it would allow me to work toward a fourth degree. But if I didn’t, it would be the end. I didn’t want it to be the end.” 

I am humbled by the fact that while many began this race, few (by comparison) have come this far. I am thankful for each person who invested time, energy, suggestions, training and encouragement. While I am so grateful to each instructor and students, I am especially grateful to Kwanjangnim David Turnbull and Sahbumnim Wendy Turnbull. I hope that there will be many opportunities to help others experience breakthroughs to their dreams and goals.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Goal Setting, Leadership

 

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Examine Yourself

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An environment of tolerance is a funny thing because in such an environment, intolerance is not tolerated. Weird.

I’ve thought it might be helpful, or at least fun, to say to people who are intolerant of intolerance, “Sorry you think its intolerant of me to not tolerate your intolerance,” but then that comment may come across a bit, shall we say, snide.

What is the opposite of tolerance? Is it intolerance? No. I think the opposite of tolerance might be caring. When you genuinely care about ideals you have about people and things, then you will appropriately stand for truth. Yet, this gets you to the root of the problem…doesn’t it? All to often you may not be clear about what is truth. Here’s the truth…

Tolerate something long enough and it becomes acceptable.

Accept something long enough and it becomes familiar.

And if it’s familiar long enough – it becomes right – even righteous.

At this point everyone does what is right in his own eyes. It happened to God’s Old Testament people (Judges 17:6; 21:25) and it can happen to you. It can happen to you but it doesn’t have to happen to you. Just be careful what you tolerate!

Not everything we tolerate is a sin or national crisis. Sometimes we tolerate “dumb” stuff. Some examples might help: If you Tolerate laziness, in yourself or anyone, and what do you hope to gain? If you Tolerate overspending, then eventually you may have to live with her children named poverty and hardship – and they have an insatiable appetite! If you Tolerate people misbehaving in your life/world, anyone, then you likely will live in chaos, conflict, strive and serious avoidance.

It begins with building a tolerance for something…anything. That is usually accomplished by allowing existence or practice of something without interference. Often it is tolerating something that you do not necessarily like or agree with. You just tolerate it. You allow it to exist or to be practiced without interference. Why would you do that? Good question? What’s the answer? Is it…Fear of rejection/Desire for acceptance…Lack of courage…Laziness…Avoiding conflict? Your guess is as good as mine.

The point is that you can and probably should examine what and why you tolerate stuff.

“That’s All Folks!”

Oh…almost forgot, a couple of scriptures for you to contemplate:

1. “For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths.” – Proverbs 5:21. You can be sure that the Lord is paying attention to your steps.

2. “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” – Acts 17:11. Before you accept something as true examine it through the lens of scripture.

3. “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” – 1 Corinthians 11:28. Communion is a time when you should examine your life and relationship with God and others as well.

4. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? – 2 Corinthians 13:5. Notice that the pronoun yourselves is used twice…this is to emphasize the idea that you should start looking more at your self than at others.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Bible Verse, Goal Setting, Leadership

 

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Impossible-Hard-Inevitable Stuff

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Speak of the impossible and someone might say: “It’s not impossible – it just hasn’t been done yet.”

As true as that might be, you sometimes face situations that you feel are impossible.

Or perhaps inevitable might be a better word to describe some situations. You feel like something is inevitable and hard at the same time and you would like nothing more than to avoid that situation. Maybe you know what I’m talking about.

When you are in a hard-inevitable situation, have you ever asked God for something impossible, such as stopping the inevitable? Me too! In fact, whenever Jesus came face to face with the hard, yet inevitable suffering and death by crucifixion, he did as well. In fact, the way he talked to God in that moment has often guided the difficult prayers that I have prayed. More precisely, the prayers were not difficult, but the circumstances in which I found myself were indeed difficult.

The model I personally use in such times is Jesus’ prayer(s) in Gethsemane. To say that he was facing a difficult situation would be the understatement of all time. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” were his exact words. You’ve heard his words but have you noticed the clarity?

First read his prayer…then pray your prayer following his example.

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:36

First, pray intimately. After all you are speaking to your heavenly Father.

Second, pray expecting that God can and will answer…acknowledge his power: “Everything is possible for you.”

Third, pray specifically. Don’t be chicken. Don’t concern yourself with how it sounds. You’re talking to your Father and you are desperate! Pray! Ask! Seek! Knock!

Finally, pray better than you are. All I mean by that is this: when life is said and done you will be glad that you lived in God’s will. You will never regret asking that God’s will be done before your own. So in every bold prayer say this: “Yet (even though I have asked for some things I would like/prefer) not what I will, but what you will be done.” Accept his will above your own.

I learned from a wise woman…and sometimes it is this simple: “You have not because you ask not.”

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Provision

ProVision01Recently, while writing a prayer, I thanked God for His provision.  I suddenly noticed that the word is comprised of two words: “pro” and “vision.”  You probably already knew that but it was a new thought for me.

Provision means to provide or supply something for someone’s use such as food, drink or equipment.  Add an “s” and you’re suddenly looking to the future. Provisions means to make “financial or other arrangements for future eventualities or requirements.” For example, saving for retirement…you don’t need it yet, however, if you live long enough, you will.

What struck me is that the word “pro” can mean “to be for something”. For example, you might be pro-life which simply means that you would choose life over death when possible. And sometimes “pro” is used as slang to describe someone that has achieved the highest skill level such as someone that excels in their career like a speech writer or athlete. But the whole idea of being pro-vision struck me because it might mean that you would choose vision over illusion any day.

You probably remember the story of Abraham going through the motions to sacrifice his dearly loved son, Isaac, when suddenly, just in the nick of time, God provided a ram to use as a sacrifice in the place of Isaac.  Obviously the story offers us a picture of Jesus being offered as a substitutionary sacrifice for us.  Look closely because there is an emotionally charged moment in the story when both Abraham and Isaac are trying to understand how this was going to play out.  This is how it is written:

“Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.” (Gn 22:7-8)

Abraham’s response is simply that God would make pro-vision…God would provide.  Maybe you have been in a place when you are walking forward in obedience and not totally certain how everything will turn out.  But you keep walking!  Each day, you get out of bed and remind yourself to breath.  You really only know the next thing to do and so you do whatever that thing is.  For Abraham and Isaac it meant building an altar, placing the wood.

At some point they had to do the hard thing…they had to go through the process of binding Isaac’s feet and hands, and laying him on the altar.  Seeing no way out of this hard obedience, Abraham finally raised the knife to kill his son.  Freeze!

Which do you think required more faith:  Being bound and laid on the altar or raising the knife?  I’ll let you think about that one.

So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” (Gn 22:14)

In this true story the Lord’s Hebrew name is Jehovah-Jireh which means ‘The LORD will provide’ or ‘The LORD will see.’  It means to give a means of deliverance; the root means “to see.”  In other words, and this is the interesting piece of pro-vision, the LORD will see and provide.

The good news is this: when the Lord requires hard things from you, he also sees what is needed and provides.  Not ahead of time but always in time.  He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and just in time provided a ram.  Whatever He has asked of you, he will also make pro-vison. Just keep walking.

Vision definitely makes the hard things easier.  On the other hand “Where there is no vision, the people perish (cast off restraint)” Proverbs 29:18.

And that, my friend, is no illusion.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Bible Verse, Goal Setting, Leadership

 

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Influence

Familie Müller Dez. 2007

Heinz and Ruth Müller were household names in my family. We even named a Siamese cat Heinz, after our beloved German friend. If I am not mistaken, I think that my youngest sisters middle name is Ruth. More than that, this German family was used by God has had a Christian influence on my life. Heinz and Ruth Müller are pictured to the left, front row, first and third from the left respectively.

Heinz served as the pastor of the church that our family attended while we were stationed in Augsburg, Germany. More than once I heard dad say, “I fell in love with Jesus while in Germany. I learned to love Jesus from Heinz because he was the first person I had met who acted and spoke as though Jesus was present with him at all times.”

Following nearly 15 years of active military duty, and due in great part to Heinz’s influence, my father spent 30 years serving the Lord in ministry. He served as both a minister and elder during that time. How did Heinz have such influence? The first thing Heinz did was to walk the talk. He was authentic (before being authentic was cool). He also invited my father to participate in the ministry of the church. Heinz would occasionally invite dad to lead a Bible study or to teach a Bible lesson. This simple act of placing faith in my father enough to trust him to teach, according to my mother, had an enormous impact on dad.

Look again at the picture: The man seated on the front row and far right is one of their sons, Klaus. He also learned the heart of his father and has served as a missionary in Africa for more than my entire adult life. I remember a time when I was teenager that dad and I visited Klaus at Texas Tech University where he was studying agriculture. He was preparing to move to Africa where he would carry the gospel by teaching people how to grow food under the severe conditions that exist there. Klaus has continued to train people in techniques for obtaining maximum food production from minimum water and land.

That Klaus is passionate about the training he gives is obvious: “Let’s face it, farming is one of the most biblical occupations we have,” Klaus Mueller tells a room full of African Christians at a ministry conference (according to  the Christian Chronicle).

Klaus and Christiane moved to Zambia in 1979.  “He is teaching Zambians to farm, to raise cattle and chickens and to serve the Lord,” said Evertt Huffard, dean of the Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tenn., who recently taught in Harding University’s Zambia program. Along with growing crops Klaus also teaches pricing and marketing where they learn to feed those in need and maximize their profits. A boost in their income increases their ability to spread the gospel.

“Don’t complain about the market being flooded,” he says. “Kill the competition. Be better competitors.” Sounds very American, or should we say German or perhaps Zambian? The point is, getting grain effectively out into the market place to those who need it most requires great effort, and so does getting the gospel out to those who need it. That is pretty good advice: For now, put into practice what Klaus taught those Zambian farmers. Don’t complain…be better competitors.

Heinz and Ruth joined Klaus and his family in Zambia in 1996 where they continued to have an influence for Christ. According to the Christian Chronicle, “Heinz raised funds to build a primary school” and “in 2011, Mueller and his family added a carpentry workshop to the primary school to teach vocational skills.”

People such as the Müller family have impacted the way I see the world and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for their continued faithfulness to God and obedience to Jesus Christ. The truth is, if my parents could have and the Lord had made a way, they would have returned to Germany to serve alongside Heinz and Ruth. But dad is already with the Lord. I am not sure if Heinz and Ruth are still alive, but I know for sure that they had a positive impact on my family. And I thank God for that.

Look around today and notice the people with whom you have influence. Don’t complain about where you are; rather influence the people who are near you. I would also encourage you to think of someone that you can say thank you to for the good influence they have had in your life.

BTW – I had the opportunity to personally thank Heinz for his influence in my parents’ lives – and in my life as well. After preaching in London in the early 1990’s Beth and I flew to Wiesbaden Germany to visit Richard and Leslie Nesbitt (my sister). While there we were pleasantly surprised to learn that Heinz and Ruth lived in the area. It meant so much to me to be able to say thank you to Heinz. That unexpected opportunity was a special gift from the Lord.

The Müller family reminds me of the verse: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Co 9:22)

If you would like to check out Klaus’ work please check at http://www.goodhopezambia.net

Dan

 
 

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