Feb 27, 2020

This Is The Story of My Life

Although I didn’t write this, it is the story of my life; my testimony.

I used to stay out late, I had a party disease
I could've wrecked my car, I couldn't find the keys
I heard the voice of God tell me to leave it alone
"You got a train to catch out of the danger zone"

I used to shake my fist, I was an angry boy
Wanting to fight the world, I didn't know what for
I heard the voice of God tell me to leave it alone
"You got a bus to catch out of the danger zone"

Heard Him say, hey, hey, hey, you can go
Heard Him say, hey, hey, hey
Headed for another world, out of the danger zone

Though I was good and safe, acted like a natural fool
I thought that life was a game, I didn't know the rules
I heard the voice of God tell me to leave it alone
"You got a train to catch out of the danger zone"

Heard Him say, hey, hey, hey, you can go
I heard Him say, hey, hey, hey
Headed for another world, out of the danger zone

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Out of the danger zone

© 1987 Eddie DeGarmo and Dana Key- Out Of The Danger Zone

Feb 20, 2020

Don’t Keep Score!

It was Monday morning. And it felt like a “Monday Morning”; the kind that Garfield the cat hated. It was the kind that people dreaded going to work on after a long weekend.

And I was at work…and I wanted to be alone…and he walked into my office and stood there in the doorway and stared at me.

To say that the weekend had been eventful was the understatement of the decade.

Never had my life gone from such success to the exact opposite in such a short amount of time. The drama that took place on Saturday alone had sent terror deep into my soul.

You might be thinking; “Why the overdramatization? Things couldn’t have been that bad!”

They had been bad; in fact, people (literally) died under my watch. And several others went missing and almost died under my watch. And I dreaded facing the music as Monday morning came around.

And I was at work…and I wanted to be alone…and he walked into my office and stood there in the doorway and stared at me.

He was a therapist whose clients in the treatment center where we both worked were under my watch. And I was in charge of over sixty men and twelve staff; and yet felt so far from being a leader as I tried to wrap my head around the events of the weekend…

The men had been out on a biannual pass with their families and almost twelve of them never made it back because of bad choices; or at least not when they were supposed to be back. Some of them came back on time but had broken the rules and were clearly under the influence.

Several of them were missing. Several others had decided not to come back. A few literally died. 

And I was at work…and I wanted to be alone…and he walked into my office and stood there in the doorway and stared at me.

My facility had been rated (by clients and staff) as one of the best in the whole state for satisfaction and retention. Guys liked living there and staff liked working for me.

We were a team who had high success. We were the facility in which clients went out on passes and came back; sober and ready to keep working on their lives.

That is until this past weekend; when everything seemed to hit the fan. On Saturday, I had been at a dinner party, during which I received a total (of no less than) twenty-five phone calls from staff reporting on the drama that was unfolding.

Each and every time the phone rang, I had to excuse myself so that I could take the call in another room. Each and every time the phone rang, several people had to stand up so that I could make my way from the crowded table to take the phone call in private.

Each and every time the phone rang, there was more bad news of another client who had made bad choices and now had either not come back or had come back under the influence and this continued throughout the rest of the sleepless weekend.

And now it was Monday and it was time to face the music.

And I was at work…and I wanted to be alone…and he walked into my office and stood there in the doorway and stared at me and said; “Don’t keep score!”

Realizing that I wasn’t paying attention to his words, he took a few steps closer to my desk and said it again with a stronger tone; “Don’t keep score!”

I continued my work as I gave him a gratuitous nod of my head hoping that he would move on so that I could prepare my reports.

Motivated by my lack of attention he got within a few feet of my person and raised his voice and said; “What about all of those people who came back? I mean it; DON’T KEEP SCORE!”

I looked at him and said that this was different; people left and either came back under the influence or never came back and some had died under my watch.

This was the kind of event that set the clients and staff on edge as they each wondered and started to ask what THEY could have done to have prevented this.

I was looking for answers as I tried to protect my great staff who themselves had fallen on their metaphorical swords and were second guessing their decisions.

Determined to make his point, he continued as he was inches from my face; “You never took credit for their success. You always deflected the compliments and results of the surveys that made your leadership look good; the best in the state.”

“You always shared the reasons for the success of your facility as your team working together and never kept score. Why are you now taking the blame for choices that others made?”

“Don’t take the blame for their bad choices. You have a great team who did their best and still people made wrong choices” he said as he was now inches from my face.

“I mean it; DON’T KEEP SCORE!”

“Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10b)

With that, he left my office and I knew he was right. He loved the Lord and his words were the reality check that I needed to help get my bearings back in order to lead the team in making sense of the metaphorical atomic bomb that had been dropped into our lives.

A few minutes later my boss called me to see how I was doing. He too had been a part of the long weekend as some decisions needed to be bounced off of him. I shared the words that the therapist had given to me.

He said that he’s correct, adding that it wasn’t my job to take the blame.

I needed to file reports to give account and make more phone calls to those in the legal community to explain what had happened. That was part of my job. But it wasn’t my job to take the blame.

My job was to rally both the clients and staff to take a breath, look upward, and keep going forward. This would not be the end of the story. God was the One who got to say how it went from here because He was the reason that I had great success.

I called a meeting and spoke life into the clients and staff and took time to take questions in an attempt to stop the mental erosion that others were experiencing as they continued to blame themselves.

“Don’t keep score” I told them as I exhorted them to look upward as we took the next steps to go forward.

Eventually, this event would leave a dent in my armor that proved to be too much and I and a few of my staff made a shift and resigned from our positions. But, the words of that therapist became a battle cry that has been in my heart as new situations have come across my life.

No matter what the situation is, I need to give God the glory and the praise due His Name.

No matter what the situation is, I need to look to the Lord as the One alone who can make sense to the matters that weigh down my heart.

No matter what the situation is, I need to trust the Lord to repair the damage from the metaphorical atomic bomb that has been dropped into my life.

No matter what the situation is, I learned to not keep score.

"and we know all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Feb 13, 2020

Letting Go While Maintaining Control

A Parable

It was 2007 and I could tell that he was upset when he walked into the construction company where I worked and he made a beeline to my office. His name was Tony and he was a supervisor and I was his boss.

“Bob won’t follow my instructions”, Tony said as his eyebrows were raised by his wide-eyed look. “I think that we should get rid of him!” he said as he sat down in one of the chairs in front of my desk.

I asked him to tell me what he had done and he went on to explain how Bob (under his leadership) continued to not do what he asked him to do.

Apparently, Bob had blown off some specific instructions that were given to him by Tony, but had actually come from the owner of the company.

He added that he had given Bob a good tongue lashing.

I told him that I would talk with my boss John (who was the general manager) and see what he would like us to do. Until then, I asked him to not talk to Bob because I could see that his anger was still there as he talked with me about Bob.

I left my office and went to talk to John about the situation. He agreed that we should bring Bob in and have the three of us meet to get his perspective.

I went back to my office only to see the supervisor chewing out Bob and adding that he was in trouble since he went up the chain of command.

I asked Tony to come into my office where I asked him why he was talking to Bob since I had asked him not to do so.

Tony said that he was going out the back door when Bob came in, so “I decided to let him know that he was in trouble!”

I told him that John wanted me to set up a meeting with himself, myself and Bob; but not Tony. The plan was for us to get Bob’s side of the story and then talk about following his authority. To fail to do so would result in disciplinary action; including the possibility of termination of his employment with the company.

I asked Tony (again) to NOT talk to Bob about this situation. He could cast it upon me and I personally would handle the situation. Bob said that it sounded good. He made his way out the back door to his truck.

A few minutes later, I needed to get something out of my vehicle so I, too, made my way out the back door.

When I got to the parking lot, Tony and Bob were having a shouting match that was escalating as Tony let Bob know that he was REALLY in trouble. I asked Bob to leave and I asked Tony to please go to my office.

I asked him why he was shouting at Bob when I gave specific instruction to not talk with him.

Tony replied that he was just letting him know that Bob had to come in for a special meeting at which time he was going to get written up.

I asked Tony to wait in my office and went to talk to John.

When I spoke to John about the latest development, he shook his head in amazement and asked me to bring Tony to his office; which I did.

John asked Tony; “Why did you talk to Bob when we gave very clear instructions that we were going to handle it?”

Tony responded that he let his frustration and anger get the best of him. We once again asked him to cast it upon us and that we would take care of it. Once again, we asked him to NOT talk with Bob, then dismissed him as John asked me to stay behind.

John said to me; “Give him five minutes and then check on him, and then get back to me; ok?” I agreed and went back to my office.

Five minutes later I went outside to the workshop off the parking lot and…sure enough, (once again), Bob and Tony were having a shouting match as Tony let Bob know the latest depth of the trouble he was in Bob let Tony that he was mad at him for talking to John and I.

I went back to John to report the latest update. John asked me to (once again) bring Tony to his office for a meeting, which I did. During the meeting John asked Tony how he could ever expect someone to follow his leadership when he wouldn’t follow ours?

Tony made excuses which sounded very similar to Bob’s excuses about why he didn’t have to follow his instructions. We told him that this was unacceptable and it was decided that we were terminating his employment and asked Tony to turn in his keys.

After he was escorted out of the building to make sure that he didn’t run into Bob, John and I met to get our bearings. We stared at each other as we analyzed how Tony’s valid complaint had turned into his departure. 

He let his pride stop him from trusting that we really cared for him and would follow through. He couldn’t see how we were on his side and had his back.

Simply put; he brought his cares to us to take care of; but couldn’t seem to trust us to take care of things…so he kept picking it back up.

Similarly, how often have things gotten worse because we don’t follow the instruction of the Lord?

1 Peter 5:6-7 says; Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

If you cast your cares upon the Lord, why are you still carrying them? Why are you still worried about it? Isn’t it time to do something different?

Feb 6, 2020

Time For a New String Of Lights

There has been a picture in my head; a scene from a movie lately. What I have been seeing is a very large ball of Christmas lights that are all tangled up and need to be unraveled. 

If you have ever seen the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, then you will know what I am talking about.

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants to have a perfect family Christmas; including the perfect decorations and lights on the outside of his house. 

The plan is to install the 250 strands of lights (with 100 bulbs on each strand for a total of 25,000 light bulbs, enough to make the power company turn on their auxiliary nuclear generator…)

But, before he can install them, he needs to untangle massive balls of lights from the last time they were installed on the house. Clark enlists his son Rusty (Johnny Galecki) to help him in this endeavor.

Clark tells Rusty; “Come on, unravel these. You have to check every bulb”

“There’s a little knot here…you work on that!” he continues as he hands Rusty the world’s largest ball of Christmas lights.

“I’ll get the other box.” Clark says as he makes his way back into the garage to retrieve another set of lights.

That picture, along with a recent message I heard on ‘forgiveness’, has been on my mind.

Why, I ask myself, does Clark even attempt (or have Rusty attempt) to unravel that massive ball of lights? Why not simply throw out the ball and purchase another set of lights?

And it got me thinking; There are times in life when no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot untangle the mess that was created in the past.

Sometimes the best thing to do is simply throw out the old and admit that it is time for a new string of lights and go from there.

I will admit that I have lost countless hours, days, and weeks of my life trying to resolve things only to get further away from the end goal of reconciliation.

I will admit that I am hardwired to check every jot and tittle to make sure that every area and viewpoint has been looked at so that both sides can really know that everything has been discussed.

I will admit that I have done all this in an attempt toward reconciliation and so that it will never happen again.

I will admit that I had to come to the point of realizing that sometimes in forgiveness and relationships there are times when it is almost impossible to untangle the minutia and one simply needs to start over in the relationship.

That sometimes the best thing to do is simply do is throw out the old and admit that it is time for a new string of lights and go from there.

In first Corinthians chapter thirteen verse 4-7, the Apostle Paul wrote:
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

One version of the Bible translates verse five as;
it keeps no record of wrongs.”

In other words; “Love keeps no record”. That doesn’t mean that we don’t remember, but in order to move on we need to stop trying to go over and over every detail. We need to keep no record.

Jesus expands on the seriousness of not letting go in Matthew chapter six verse 14-15
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

I will let His words speak for themselves and add:
Sometimes it is time for a new string of lights