Sunday, June 26, 2011

Freedom Isn't Free

Image from encorecareers.

As July 4th approaches, thoughts of our country's history always comes to mind.  Images of the Revolutionary War, George Washington, or the Constitutional Congress are visualized.  Or maybe words like patriotism, independence, and freedom come to mind.
    The past few days, I've thought long about the price of freedom.  In our country, we have taken freedom for granted.  Freedom on any level is achieved, earned, or given by someone.  We have forgotten that there is a price for freedom and someone had or has to pay for that freedom.  Think about some of these freedoms and the costs to obtain them:

    Freedoms noted in the U.S. Constitution:
    That wonderful document did not give us freedom.  The U.S. Constitution was made possible because of the sacrifice of the founders and patriots of this nation.  Many great men and women, starting at the birth of this nation and continuing since, have paid the price with their very lives so that we can enjoy "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".  If you have served or are currently serving in the military, thank you so much for your service!

    Financial Freedom:
    Anyone who is financially free has been given that opportunity or earned it.  Some may have inherited their fortunes, but those fortunes were still provided by the long hours of hard work and sweat of a relative or friend.  Someone has to pay for it - it just doesn't happen.

    Spiritual Freedom: Not to be confused with religious freedom.  Religious freedom is addressed in our great constitution.  Spiritual freedom is living out one's relationship with their creator in the light of grace and mercy.  For Christians, that price was paid by the Son of God himself, Jesus Christ.

    Those are just my top three freedoms for which I am thankful (in no particular order).

    I would love to know the freedoms for which you are thankful this holiday.  Please share by leaving a comment here.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Spoken Words Matter

    Image from
    You've probably heard that "common sense is the least common of all our senses".  So many times we're given simple advice that is really just common sense, but we still need to be reminded it.  This week's post most likely falls into that category.

    Years ago, a mentor of mine encouraged me to do a study in Proverbs, a book in the Bible, by writing out every verse that contained the words: tongue, lips, or mouth.  He asked me to reflect on those verses and let them speak to me about the importance of the words we speak.

    The words we speak are very similar to money.  Money is not good or bad, it's how we use our money that determines it's attribute.  So it is with our words, they are not determined good or bad until they are passed through the filter of motives.

    I will not pretend to have this subject conquered, but I have to revisit this study periodically as a reminder how my words can build great leaders or lay a path of total destruction.  And I am the one responsible for what comes out of my mouth.

    The following are just the verses in Proverbs (NIV) that contain the word "tongue".  Read one or two of them each day for the next week and just see if you find any pearls of wisdom or enlightenment about how words matter.

    Do you think words matter?  Would love for you to comment.

    Proverbs 6:17
    haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
    Proverbs 10:19
    Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.
    Proverbs 10:20
    The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
    Proverbs 10:31
    From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced.
    Proverbs 11:12
    Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.
    Proverbs 12:18
    The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
    Proverbs 12:19
    Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.
    Proverbs 15:2
    The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
    Proverbs 15:4
    The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
    Proverbs 16:1
    To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.
    Proverbs 17:4
    A wicked person listens to deceitful lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.
    Proverbs 17:20
    One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble.
    Proverbs 17:28
    Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.
    Proverbs 18:21
    The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
    Proverbs 21:6
    A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.
    Proverbs 21:23
    Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.
    Proverbs 25:15
    Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
    Proverbs 25:23
    Like a north wind that brings unexpected rain is a sly tongue—which provokes a horrified look.
    Proverbs 26:28
    A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.
    Proverbs 28:23
    Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.
    Proverbs 31:26
    She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    People's Stories Matter

    Break from ATV's for quick pic
    Anticipating the Memorial Day holiday, my wife and I decided to use the time to go on vacation for a week to Costa Rica.  (I did not anticipate that I'd have to take a midterm exam before the holiday break was over.)  This vacation provided a much needed mental break, but also served to give my wife and I some uninterrupted time away together.  Running our company together keeps us extremely busy, but now with the added time required for grad school, there's not much time left for us.  This trip also taught me some deeper things about myself, as well as others.

    I had not prepared for this trip at all.  Antoinette had taken care of all of the details - flights, hotel, transportation, etc...and she did a great job putting that all together!  When we arrived at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, we had to wait for 3 hours for our shuttle to come pick us up and take us to Manuel Antonio.  We decided to wait just outside the airport where everyone catches their transportation or crosses the street into the parking garage for their own car.

    As we exited the airport to sit on a bench outside, we were bombarded by a dozen men asking us if we needed a taxi or help with our luggage.  They couldn't understand why we were coming outside without catching a taxi or leaving the area, so they'd check with us multiple times to see if we wanted a taxi.  As we sat down on a bench, up walks "Freddy" to explore further about our travel plans and transportation.  Freddy was difficult to communicate with as he knew little English and I knew even less Spanish.  Immediately, I was struck with the wonder of what was Freddy's story and began wondering if the week would involve any meaningful conversations with others, because of the language barrier.  If you know me, you know I like to learn people's stories.

    Over the course of three hours, Freddy and I would engage each other in sporadic short questions about one another and then try to figure out what each other was saying.  Freddy is in his mid-50's, a father of 5 children (he showed us their pictures) and would come to the airport to work for tips as he would offer to help people with their luggage.  As I watched Freddy, I saw a hard-working and kind gentleman that was liked by all of the employees working outside at the airport.  At one point I went to buy Antoinette and I bottled waters, so I got an extra one and gave it to Freddy.  I then witnessed the beauty of community when Freddy took a couple of swallows of water then offered the bottle to those around him to have a nice cold swallow as well.  Freddy serves those around him selflessly.
    Enriquez w/ Ant & I

    My experience with Freddy made me realize that the week could hold endless possibilities in encounters if I was intentional and creative about it.

    So over the course of the week, I was able to learn the stories of several people on this trip, both Ticos and Americans.  Some whose stories that will have a lasting impact with me like Enriquez, Maday, Ivania, Alex, Alexander,  Joe & Heidi, Josh & Shauna, and others.

    Even with language barriers, showing interest in someone's story will always make them come alive and will open a whole new level of understanding with that person.  The main thing this trip has taught me is that if you want to really know about someone:
    • Be intentional
    • Show genuine, authentic interest in them
    • Listen, Listen, Listen
    • Ask probing, but not nosey questions about them
    • Be grateful for their time
    When we take our eyes off ourselves and invest the time and effort to get to know others, a whole new level of community opens up.  The walls that people typically exist behind are replaced by a vulnerable beauty that is drawn to the surface from authentic meaningful conversation.

    Who will you engage today in authentic conversation and listen to the beauty of their story?

    Would love to know your thoughts and ideas regarding authentic conversation.