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Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Downside of Talent

Talent. We all have one or some. We love it when we get to use them. We enjoy the praise that comes when others notice ours. We get frustrated when we don't get to use them.

We wish we had others. We admire those who have different ones than ours. We enjoy watching others use their.

At the end of the day, you and I will be held accountable for how we use them whether we believe that will be by our boss and/or our Maker in heaven. That will come at a review or a termination or a pay raise. Or at that face-to-face meeting we have have with God upon entering his eternal presence in heaven when we says, "Well done, good and faithful servant," or "You wicked and lazy servant!" (Matthew 25:14-30)

I started reflecting on this truth when I recently read an article about Michael Vick's reflection on his time playing football in Atlanta. He looks back with regret on his time in there because he was "complacent, lazy and settled for mediocrity." He relied on his legs - his talents - to get him by and it cost him, that organization and the fans.

Then this morning I read this article about Apolo Ohno and his run at being the most decorated winter Olympic athlete ever. It states how early in his career, Ohno, won on pure talent and sheer speed that at times won him victories, but at other times cost him gold medals. The article goes on to say what got him to the medal stand last night was not just his talent, but his willingness to prepare.

God is using both of these to convict, grow and guide me. I think for most of my vocational life, I have been relying on talent and living off the hype as a can't miss success with students.

Now don't get me wrong, I have worked hard and long hours. But that is very different than preparing in the little (but big) ways to get the "biggest return" on my talent especially when I was pursuing my dream of serving as a youth pastor. You see the downside of talent is I/we end up relying on it at the expense of not preparing well, listening to others, and, ultimately, not walking by faith in the area of work.

I don't know if I'll be back in full-time vocational ministry ever again, but through lots of personal reflection, I acknowledge like Vick, I have dropped the ball with my talent. But I hope live and lead out the second half of my career with the will to prepare and humility to seek God and trust him whether it be in education, ministry, or somewhere else so as to squeeze the most I can out of what He has graciously given me.

So the question I have for you: how have you been affected by the downside of talent? Where have you cut you or other short because you relied solely on talent and not the other "little" things to maximize what God has given you?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine's Day Chance

For all my friends out there looking for love, wondering if Mr. or Ms. Right is out there, and not looking forward to another Valentine's Day, I give you a funny sort of way.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Worth, Value, and the Problem of Words

One of the cool things I get to do in my job is meet with students and their families to talk about life after high school. We gather together around the round table in my office for me to listen to their hopes and dreams, ask questions about who they are and what they are passionate about, and offer some insight and support to the process of figuring out this huge time of transition.

A tool we we use to help juniors figure out where they are at in relation to college readiness is a standardized test called the PSAT. It helps student and parents gauge what areas they doing well in, what areas need work, and how improve in those areas both in the classroom and on the test. In the midst of these conversations, I notice students and many times "feel" students equating worth and value to the scores on this (and other) test, as well as, grades, GPA, and class rank.

On a couple of occasions, I have had to halt the meeting for a redefining of personal worth and refocusing of why they are valuable. You see students (especially high achieving girls, I've noticed) start tearing up when they see their test score that might not meet their expectations, not high enough for college they are looking at, and be where their other friends are scoring. When I stop and ask what they are feeling, the answers of each student can be summed up in one phrase: "I'm not good enough."

Their value is so tied up in the personal, family, and institutional expectations that are project on them that they begin to define their own value and worth based on this educational data. It's so sad. Thus, the "timeout" to redefine self-worth/personal value.

I've struggled not with having these conversations (they are priceless and powerful), but with using the words worth and value to define how a person "measures up". So I've reworking the word "significance" into my vocabulary during these important meetings.

I think significance is ab better word But should I throw out the baby with the bath water and not use worth and value? The reason I ask, is because worth and value have the connotations of being linked with money, goods, services, and stuff. All the things that humanity uses to determine their place in this world (thanks, Michael W. Smith). If we are going to get people and especially students to think of themselves differently, I wonder if a change in vocabulary is in order.

Just some thoughts. What do you think?

Recognizing My Idols

I'm realizing more and more that I'm an idolizing person. I love me my idols. Now I don't say that with pride, but more with a sense of "Dang it...I don't want these..I don't want this to be me."

What's ironic is that we live in an country that glamorizes, even promotes having idols. Heck, we have a hugely popular reality show called, American Idol, don't we? It's hard for us, for me, to not have idols. And the rub is that God calls us to have no persons, things, stuff, gadgets, gizmos, money, etc. that supplants Him as the priority, that which satisfies our soul.

And so over the last few days, God's been working on me in a couple of areas. I haven't quite finished processing these issues in these areas, but here are some thoughts:

Emotional Arena: I've settled for being OK. I've worked towards health (personal retreat to SD, CA, organized church sabbatical, commitment to walk with God through times of quiet, serving my co-workers, praying for my neighbors, etc), but for some reason I still feel like it's OK to sometimes (maybe even lots of times) settle for personal frustration and disappointment with my life and with others. That's an idol I need to deal with.

Family Arena: This one hurts, but it flows from the personal arena. In light of some of my disappointment/frustration with myself (for whatever reason), I have not been very engaging with my family relationally, emotionally, and spiritually. I've made the choice to be pseudo-engaged by working on our finances claiming (defending/justifying to myself) that it is THE priority for our family in this current season. It's not good. I've got to enter the room of Grace and allow God to love and heal. I've got to acknowledge to myself, Kelly, Sarah, and Parker that I've fallen short by not giving them the best, healthiest me that they deserve.

Stuff Arena: Computer, financial managing (watch dogging), Facebook, music and others. I've got to set some boundaries that give me the space to engage God, my family, and my heart in meaningful ways. My friend, Charlie, recently talked about that with Facebook.

These are some of my idols that God is saying needs reorganizing, reprioritizing, and possibly even eliminating. I'm stoked I'm not going to be doing this solo. Jesus is there saying, "Together. You and me, son. Never alone. Me, you, and my all sufficient grace." My family will be helping me, too.

So...In light of that, I had better jump off the computer, stop blogging, quit idolizing myself and the gadgets that help me process/communicate and get my family outside for some serious play time, memory making, and laughfest on this awesome snow day!

Thanks, Jesus, for reminding me of my weak tendency to pursue and prioritize things that are not You. You grace is a healing balm that gives me hope and courage to reset and move past my idols. You and your grace are enough! Amen.

The Hunger Site

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