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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.

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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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Taking Stock

ImageOn 1/31 look at Gn 1:31 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.” (Ge 1:31)

On the final day of creation – which just happens to be the final verse of Genesis chapter one – God looked back over his handy work and declared that it was very good. It was so good that on the following day he rested!

Well, today is the last day of the first month of 2014! Stopping to evaluate the first month isn’t a bad idea. In fact it can be quite helpful.

When you look back over the first month can you say it was very good? Are you headed the direction you had hoped for? Would you grade January as average, good, or excellent? What things did you plan to do and in fact you did them? What opportunities came along that you are glad that you took ahold of? Are there some important lessons you learned that you should write down in your journal? What are some “do betters” for the month of February?

Now say a prayer thanking God for all the things that went well and ask for His help in the areas where you need it.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phil 4:6

Try not to be too narrowly focused as you look over the past month. For example, Think about all aspects of your life: marriage, parenting, financially, friends (are you meeting new people), family, education, physically (confession: I need to step it up in this area), educationally (are you reading and learning anything), attitude (are you joyful, at peace, friendly, etc), spiritually (Are you loving God by being content and thankful to Him for where you are in life? Are you loving your neighbor as yourself?). You get the point. I have also found it to be quite encouraging to list your blessings, speak them out loud.

I’ll end with a quote from the movie The Shawshank Redemption – just because I like it – “You need to get busy living or get busy dying.”

 
 

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Strong Leader

Strong Leader01Have you ever had someone say something to you that was so true it made you stop the conversation, or at least pause for a moment, just to think about what had just been said?  I had one of those exact experiences a few years ago, and I’ve tried to live up to it since.

Here is what happened: I was on the phone with a trusted friend and mentor that lives in Miami.  We were discussing solutions to some challenges I was facing and that is when he said it.  He spoke in a deliberate tone: “If you want to work with strong leaders then be one.”

I’ll never forget that moment.  I was so grateful and at the same time I wanted to yell, “Ouch…that hurt!”  Although I agreed with him the impact felt like I had hit a speed bump to quickly.  The kind of speed bump that almost brings you to a stop while your car rolls up and over the “bump.”  That one comment stopped me cold in my tracks.  In that instance I had to slow down while I finished getting over that thought.

My friend was dead on accurate:  Leaders are people who think of solutions and act.  Don’t be somebody who sees only problems but doesn’t feel the burden to bring a solution?  Be the person in your family, office, group or team that spends the necessary time to think through a problem long enough to think new thoughts about possible solutions.  Expect the leaders around you to do the same.  The fact is that whenever you live as a strong leader you find yourself in the company of other strong leaders.  You will either attract them to you or you will be attracted to them.  It’s probably both.  Pretty cool deal for sure.

I have the privilege of working with lots of strong leaders…and hopefully so do you.  About six months ago at one of our staff meetings we went over some guiding principles, the kind that really resonate in the heart of those who want to lead well.  If memory serves me, I think that our lead pastor Justin Miller gave the list.  The basic points are his, the commentary is mine.  Anyway, here is the list.  I hope that these thoughts are helpful and inspiring.

1. There is a clear difference between processes and people.  A strong leader will fix systems and deal with individuals.

2. Planning and preparation are key to success in most anything.  Sweat before or sweat during.  The weekend is won or lost by Friday.  In other words, before you get to an event or meeting you can feel confident when you have planned and prepared well.

3. Be people focused on the weekends.  Regardless of the type of business, in the end it comes down to people business.  I joke that ministry would be so fantastic if only we didn’t have to deal with people.  Of course that would be true for most businesses.  Of course what is also true is that if it weren’t for people, you would be out of business.  My guess is that its as easy for electricians and pastors alike to forget that we are in the people business.

4. Take ownership for all we do.  Take responsibility for being heard, don’t assume people know.

5. Back of house and team preparedness sets the tone for everyone.  Remember that everyone in your organization matters.  For one thing their attitude matters because it will come through in their interactions with those you serve.  That is why it really matters for you to have conversations with everyone in your organization.  Your people need to know what matters to you.  Not just one speech to your team at Christmastime, but lots of conversations all of the time.

6. Follow up promptly, accurately and tactfully.  In other words, keep your word…do what you said you’d do. The secrets to success aren’t secrets at all: Say thank you and please, smile, show up on time, and keep your word.  Four things!  Does anyone have a red Staples Easy button?

7. Spend time on the ground with your sleeves rolled up.  Don’t depend solely on reports from those you lead.  Get into their world and understand what it takes to get things done that you as a leader expect to have done.  That is exactly what happens in the television show Undercover Boss.  Awesome…  Imagine that your boss, I mean the big dog in your company is working next to you.  Would you work, act, or speak differently then you currently do?

That’s all: If you want to work with strong leaders, then be one.  BOOM!

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Leadership, Uncategorized

 

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The Reason

Reason02Why do you do what you do?  And…why do you do what you do the way you do?

I serve as a pastor of Real Life Christian Church.  Real Life is a serving and growing place.  Everyone serves and everyone grows.  That’s how it works.

Fortunately, I get a front row seat to witness the lives that are being changed and impacted through this ministry.  On one particular weekend after services, our team met to pray and to celebrate the changed lives.  I complimented one of the team leaders about the excellence and intentionality of his leadership.  His response was more than a “thank-you-for-the-compliment.”  His response to the team and me summed up his reasoning behind his leadership.

I thought that, regardless of your profession, you might appreciate and be motivated by his reason for living and leading well.  Here is what he said:

“One of the reasons that I am so detail oriented when it comes to the presentation and operations of Real Life UCF/Oviedo is because we only have 90 minutes to let God do what he does best.  My objective is to eliminate as many distractions and hindrances as possible in order to let God have full access to a person’s heart. 

I am blessed to work with such an awesome crew that is willing to do whatever it takes to make the Sunday morning experience the most inviting and least distracting environment for our visitors and newer members.”

Three take-a-ways to apply immediately to your life and work are:

Eliminate distractions from your environment.  Anything that interrupts or disrupts the flow of your life unnecessarily might be considered a distraction.  Also, consider others so that you do not become an unwanted distraction in their life.  It is easy to underestimate the power of changing your environment.

Eliminate hindrances from your life.  Anything that obstructs or sabotages what you do can likely be dealt with if a little forethought is given to your day.  Identify those things that were hindrances yesterday or last week.  Write down three possible options you have to remove, or at the very least, minimize the impact of the obstacle?

Surround yourself with an awesome crew.  Pay close attention to the people to whom you choose to entrust yourself.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

 
 

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