Monthly Archives: August 2014

Character Counts

Good day! There was a slogan going around some time ago called “Character Counts.” What is Character? Character is the culmination of a person’s moral standards and belief’s. A person can be of good or bad character. Mother Teresa and Hitler are two examples. What we base our character on determines the outcome. For instance, “When we say someone has good character we are expressing the opinion that his or her nature is defined by traits like integrity, courage, and compassion.” (Note 1) Can we agree that Christ embodied integrity, courage, and compassion? Try not to confuse character with Talent. Talent is what you have the ability to do; character is who you are. Pastor Paul Cole mentions five ways we can refine our character (Note 2):
1. Commit to live in private what you talk about in public.
2. Make truth the bedrock principle of your life and your speech.
3. Practice forgiveness.
4. Develop friends with a heart for God.
5. Push away from distractions.
Having “Good Character” does not require perfection; it requires abiding in Christ through the Power of the Holy Spirit. Read Romans 5:3-5 (NKJV)
Note 1:
Note 2: Paul Louis Cole: Christian Men’s Network Article “Five Ways To Build Your Character.”


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Courageous Grace

Ernest Hemingway, once said, “Courage is grace under pressure.” Courage and grace never ask the question: “What’s in it for me?” Courageous Grace spoke one sentence under tremendous emotional and physical pressure: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Why did Christ say this? Because he knew “forgiveness” is the way to freedom. Have you considered forgiving someone but held back? Who’s the prisoner now? To forgive is courageous, as well as grace manifest. Most of us come around to forgiving others sooner or later. However, finding the courage to forgive ourselves can truly be “Grace under pressure.” Christ (Grace) unlocked our prison door years ago, on the Cross. Yet, it takes receiving his grace along with individual courage to push the door open. Oh! And remember; after you have pushed open the prison door don’t let circumstance or the winds of change close it on you.

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There’s a Bulldozer Inside Me

I have recently become a student of listening. Why? Well, I have been told relationships grow exponentially when two people make an effort to compassionately listen to one another. I’ve discovered, the journey of learning must be accompanied by desire. Therefore, my desire to communicate better has prompted me to take interpersonal communication seriously. Why? Well, I desire to be a better husband and father. Plus, I am a Christian Minister to men of all varieties. I often think to myself, “How can I be a better husband, father, and minister if I do not learn to compassionately listen?
I wished I could say I was always the “listening” type; but I can’t. After some relational hardships I have discovered that I am a terrible listener. Fortunate for me, I believe awareness of one’s weakness is paramount to authentic lasting change. You can’t fix something you aren’t aware is broken. After making this discovery, I thought to myself, “If I am not a good listener, then what am I? What have I conversationally been most of my life?” The word best used to describe my interpersonal communication skill is “Bulldozer.” So, what is a conversational bulldozer? According to the Urban Dictionary; a conversational bulldozer is: “The act of completely dominating a conversation, whether amongst a crowd or an intimate conversation. The “Bulldozer” can be anyone, inebriated or not, so long as everyone else that has something to say can’t, simply because the said person just talks louder to drown them out.” I truly wished I could have blamed my bulldozing personality on being inebriated; it would have helped soften the blow. But, I can’t; so I didn’t. Needless to say a “bulldozer” is a poor listener. Does this discovery mean I isolate and quarantine myself from future conversations? I think not. I believe meaningful two-way face to face communication is integral to personal and spiritual growth. Since I desire to be a better listener, I have begun to exchange my bulldozer for a gondola. A gondola is: “a vehicle that hangs from a cable and is used for carrying passengers (such as skiers) especially up a mountain.” I would rather build up another soul by listening; than tear one down by bulldozing. Therefore, I endeavor to learn the art of listening.
If I truly want to listen, then why don’t I? As a poor listener am I alone? Sue Shellenbarger, a communications expert, believes: “Humans’ listening skills are poor on average. We retain less than half of what we hear, and evidence shows that these skills are getting worse.” Upon hearing these words, I ask myself, “How can I tell if I am a bad listener?” Ms. Shellenbarger says, “Signs can be if you’re arguing a lot at work, or talking more than you’re listening. Feeling left out of the loop or like your relationships are weak are other clues. We’re getting worse at it, researchers say, in part because we’re spending less time in face-to-face conversations.” Wow! That really hit me like a ton of bricks, it seems learning an unpleasant truth about myself requires courage. And courage allows me to confront my weakness head on. Like I alluded to earlier, listening is an art. And like most artistic endeavors it requires commitment and practice. So, how does one practice good listening? I believe practice happens by immersion; immersing one’s self in intentional face to face conversations. In other words, communicate on purpose. Try not to hide behind facebook, text, and email.
Now that I am willing to practice, how can I make sure I am truly listening? I am a huge fan of cheat-sheets, and Ms. Shellenbarger has graciously provided me with one. In her cheat-sheet Ms. Shellenbarger shares some tips for face to face conversations:

1) Write a list of what you want to say, questions to ask.
2) Do a “brain dump.”
3) Take notes and make eye contact.
4) Receive, appreciate, summarize and ask questions.”

What a great tool! Now when I enter a conversation I place value on the words of another. I think if we truly want to know someone we must find value in their words. A person whose words are valued, feel completely valued inside and out. I now leave you with wise advice from the Apostle James, “Remember this, my dear brothers and sisters: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and should not get angry easily.”(James 1:19) (GWT)

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Is it better to Give or Receive? Or both, in balance?

Some believe it is better to give than to receive. I, on the other hand, believe one must learn to receive before one can truly give. Benevolence without the ability to humbly receive from others, is merely a ploy to appear reverent in the faces of those being pleased by one’s giving. In this case, giving actually becomes an act of self-service vice selfless service. If one cannot humbly and regularly accept the position of receiver; then true giving is never achieved.

This poem by Reverend Forbes explains:
I’m a novice when it comes to receiving.
Giving has become my second expertise,
But giving alone without getting
Becomes soon a fatal disease.

If the intake valve is not opened
There’s no way to maintain a supply
There comes a point in a cycle of life
Where the out-going stream runs dry.

Straining out love from a vacuum
Is like drinking from the heart of a stone.
Try as we may, at the end of the day,
We’re exhausted, frustrated, alone.

‘Better to give than to receive’, we are taught
Yet another truth I’ve learnt just by living:
Only the soul with the grace to receive,
Excels in the fine art of giving.

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