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Face Time . . .

(Due to technical difficulties, several of my shared social media outlets were not included in recent posts. Please forgive me for duplicating, but did not want to leave anyone out. Thank you.)

How many times do we hear people – including ourselves – say things like these?

That knocked me flat on my back.

I was flat on my back for a week.

I was so far down the only way to look was up.

I was so confused I didn’t know up from down.

I feel like my back is against the wall.

I have never felt so helpless (or substitute hopeless) in all my life.

Unpleasant as it may seem, when I hear or say statements like these I am reminded of a turtle or a cockroach that has been displaced and ends up on his back, with legs waving in the air. When this happens, regardless of the reason, the animal is helpless – defenseless – and without assistance, will die because of his position.

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We sometimes find ourselves in that turtle/roach position – and don’t like it one bit! Any time we lose the ability to control at least basic functions of life, the emotional and physical impact is tremendous. Most if not all of us have been “run over by life” a time or two (did I hear you say ten?). When we’re literally or figuratively on our backs, we become frustrated, scared, angry. It is common to lose focus, the ability to reason, or even the desire to be cooperative. We’re tired, angry, and embarrassed. How did I get here again? Why can’t I prevent this from happening? We often learn and then play the role of the victim, even when we’re not being victimized. I am convinced that for some, victimitis” is an addiction. As backward as it may sound, some people are unable to function unless they have a soapbox to stand on – an enemy to fight – a bully who is once again pushing them around.

But instead of cursing God, shaking our fist at Him, or crying out “Why me?” God would have us to ask ourselves some serious and genuine questions when we find ourselves in this “backward” position. Why is it that I have been knocked down? Is it truly the result of a bizarre, random attack? Is it a consequence of my own sin? Am I in the line of fire where someone else’s misdeeds are concerned? Think about how often you have asked God for answers while figuratively on your back. Now think about how many answers you have received while you are in that position. Probably not many. Why is this so?

II Corinthians 12:9-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Two things come to mind. 

First, most of us like to be in control of our own lives – probably too much so. We find false comfort in our own false power. God, however, provides us with more than abundant strength when we become weak! When we die to ourselves and our own selfish desires, He then fills us with the strength and grace we need to conquer whatever battles we are fighting.

I think God allows us to find ourselves in that position for a reason. It does feel helpless, and that’s exactly how He wants us to feel. The less we rely on ourselves, the more dependent we must become on Him.

Secondly, it’s all about  position. I hear from God not when I’m flat on my back, but when I am firmly and intentionally on my face. The difference is phenomenal. You cannot take someone else’s word for this. It requires a personal experience to understand the power that God provides when we stop trying to fight off enemies ourselves, from a very defensive position, and fall prostrate before Him, submissive, ready to receive His wisdom.

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If  I’m on my back, I can still see you. I know where you are and can see you coming if you choose to attack me. My flesh needs to see what is happening! I can fend you off for a time, but I cannot defeat you. Left in this position, I will eventually die of paranoia and frustration.

When I am on my face, I cannot see you. I don’t know where you are or from where you will attack. This is frightens me because I know I am in a weakened position. I am defenseless. I am as submissive as I can be, in spite of my natural desire to know what is going on, and personally defend myself.

In this position, I must be completely and totally dependent on someone stronger and wiser than myself. What an unnatural act for a man! Since God created us, he knows how strong-willed we can be. He knows that we will default to our own strength and abilities in a pinch. So at times, I think He allows us to find ourselves in positions that show us just how unpowerful we truly are. Until it’s about humility, and until it’s all about Him, our back is where we will often stay.

It’s hard for me to imagine what would be attractive about the struggling turtle or roach. But even knowing the futility of that position, I still find myself there anyhow. Today’s encouragement – both for you and for me – is to maintain the discipline to spend more “face time” than “back time.”

When do you most often struggle to “get off your back?”

We can be stronger by sharing with each other. I look forward to hearing from you!

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!

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Recovery . . . of the Easiest Kind . . .

(Due to technical difficulties, several of my shared social media outlets were not included in my last four posts. Please forgive me for duplicating, but did not want to leave anyone out. Thank you.)

I have intentionally left out the goings on of the past week, mostly because I didn’t want to be embarrassed just in case I didn’t handle things well. From this point forward i’ not editing anything i this post unless thank the Lord for spell correctihjg, you get it fromn Him. On Wednesday I underwent a pretty major back surgery – a double disk fusion. Whey call it  double fusion when they fuse together THREE vertebra I do not know. But It reallyt isn’t important right now because understanding muy intent is. You seem if I can communicate well with you while coming off of two heavy days of morphine, virtually any time I wanted it as lojng as it was only every eight nominates of the day, (that’s jiuuuiust a little heavy for me on any day), then i ought to do  pretty good job most all the time.

The truth is though as much as anything I’m having trouble typing with this pulse ox thing typed to muy indue finger. I think you can credit about every nine out of ten mistakes to the index finger – which means since I just spelled it “indue” finger inn the last sentence, that one was probably the drugs.

As a matter of fact I was coherent enough – AT 4:12 AM – this morning, to snap this clever photo:

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My new alarm clock. Hope I’m not here long enough to operate it!

Here are the instructions. More morphine – long course.

No more morphine – “likelihood” of “start up” instructions 

Never mind it took me 24 minutes just ty type that message so i felt good about people unhderstandihbng it.

But during nmore coherent hours of the past few days I have given this entire process a bit mnore thought Even before the surgery God had this thought “running inn the background” of ny operating system (OS).

Since our purpose here at Realtime is to endouarge and challenge one another to “Bieng real” when it comes to becoming “God’s mnen,” husbands and fathers, I think it a pretty important thing that we explore our OS.

Think just for a minute of what all is required to have a good OS as a parent OR a spouse (and of either gender). All the responsibilities – the expectations – the duties – the obligations – the ways we show each other love – how we respect another – and most importantly, how we live out God’s character among another.

Now try to do all those things while either being OBN drugs, or conning OFF drugs – or a bout with alcohol. What about coming off a MAJOR LIFE SURGERY – a divorce, the estranbgenment of a child, the death of a family member, the diagnosis of a mental or emotional disorder (yes ALL those things DO happen to GOOD people).

But the one that we struggle to recover from the most – and the onje that we can do the most about . . . it’s the busy-ness. It’s the stress. It’s the lack of rest and quality timne. It’s not having enough battery to be God’s man or God’s woman. Oh, it’s not having the ability – it’s not appropriately USING the ability – HIS ability – provided in us.

Now, tell me you don’t know what the following screen is, and what is happening as a result. Since I’ve probably done enough damage thgis morning, I’mn going to lean on all of you to tell me what you see, and what you interpret.

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Would you take some time from your busy day to comment on what you read and see?

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!!

The Worst Blog Post Ever . . .

It was that kind of a week. Or month. It’s hard to remember.

If you were to go back and look at the goals and expectations for the week, it was the week where none of them were met. Not only were they not met, the feeling, at least, was that progress stalled – maybe even moved backward a few steps – the weather was crummy, everyone was crabby, the hole in the ozone grew, global warming jumped up to warp-speed, Wall Street crashed, liberty was yanked from our clutches, and it appeared as if it was the end of the world as we knew it.

But did any of that really happen?

Don’t really know . . .

Doesn’t really matter . . .

Because in spite of the likelihood that I spent the week and weekend awfulizing pretty much everything, the world went merrily spinning on, and when all was said and done, doom and gloom did not do us in.

Truth is, during those days of personal struggle, it seemed that everyone around me was having a really good time!

And I hated that – because I don’t seem to have been invited.

If God’s plan for Kyle Hargrove is to challenge and encourage other men to be real and transparent, to write about the hundreds of intricacies that make that a huge obstacle for most of us, then it is also God’s plan for Kyle Hargrove to be challenged to do the same.

So there. I said it. I had a crappy week. And as the deadline for this morning’s blog drew nearer, the reality (and teacher/writer’s nightmare) became clearer and clearer. For you . . . ?

I got nothing.

But isn’t that a place we all find ourselves from time to time? You know, that place where your mind, heart, and subsequent attitude sinks into a cold, dark hole where nothing looks good, sounds good, tastes good, feels good, and you turn into a crunchy old man who is practically convinced that at least in those moments, you got nothing? Sometimes it is hard to remember things like this:

Deuteronomy 31:8

 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

But I am discouraged. What happens in my mind when that terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day comes along, isn’t very becoming. Just take the italicized statements from the previous paragraphs for example. For someone that is expected to produce light and life, thoughts such as, “And I hated that . . .” and “I got nothing,” produce a quite undesirable result . . .

And I hated me for it . . .

God, you had a plan for me. It was good. It was exciting. You made it just for ME!

And this, quite frankly, isn’t it . . .

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Don’t worry – no need to send out the padded wagon. I’m ok. But it feels weak . . . vulnerable . . . unmanly . . . to be found in such a place. I have to be grounded enough to at least look back far enough to determine the catalyst for this brief period of – well – blah. And I know that the spark that set the week on fire for me was news about pending back surgery – the big one. See, I’ve been in a similar place before. And for me, it’s a frightening and cold place. To be tied to the bed, the sofa, even the house for a period of weeks, unable to be free, to produce, and at least in my mind – to live – is daunting. And depressing. And scary.

But we the people – the men – aren’t supposed to feel this way. We’re expected to buck up, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, take the bull by the horns, and do what? Be nice? Bake a cake? Sing a song?

Or have a good cry?

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Since it’s Realtime, let’s admit that these feelings and thoughts are real. They tend to happen to all of us. For some, a few hours or a day gets it done. But for others, it can become a way of life.

Being real about our circumstantial and subsequent emotional tendencies doesn’t “untoughen” us at all. In fact, it teaches us things about ourselves that can both help us avoid these “pits,” in the future, as well as give us the knowledge that can encourage another guy about getting out of his own.

So to my friends, family, and readers, I humbly apologize for stumbling and bumbling through a brief period of confusion and self-pity. Although somewhat humbling to admit, it was real. Now, was that so hard?

Oh, and God, for momentarily doubting Your plan for me?

Please forgive me. I am ready again.

Am I alone? Do you find that circumstances and runaway emotions take you to “a place” that is not where you want to be? 

This is a form for sharing – challenging – encouraging! Let us encourage and challenge you when you comment or post about a struggle, or shoot, HELP THE REST OF US by sharing how God leads you through times when the sun isn’t quite so bright!

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!

Are You A Lone Survivor?

“I’d take a bullet for you.”

“I wish I was the one in pain instead of you.”

“I wish I could take on your stress so you could feel more peaceful.”

“I’d climb the highest mountain, swim the deepest . . . blah blah blah . . . ”

Things we say to the people we love. They’re what’s expected . . .

But do we mean them?

Debbi and I took advantage of a Monday holiday and spent the afternoon taking in the blockbuster film, “Lone Survivor.” It is the story of four Navy seals who undertook what was probably a fairly ordinary mission for heroes, but ended up being a virtual, suicidal hell for three of the four.

Although the story itself was both sobering and inspiring, the thoughts it left me with as the leader and protector of my family were equally thought-provoking. As I watched the characters in the movie, the portraits of leadership, servanthood, provision, and protection were stunning. Pondering these traits later, it entered my mind that these are the same traits God expects of me as a husband and father!

Observing the dogged determination these men exhibited, and the valiant attempts to both survive, and leave no one behind, left me feeling – at best – wanting. Thankfully the likelihood that I will ever have to endure an explosive, two-day firefight in the mountains of Afghanistan to care for my family is quite slim. Because what these men did, and more importantly, why they did it, is hardly in my vocabulary, much less shown in my actions.

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Paul wrote in his letter to the Church at Ephesus in Ephesians 5:

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.  ”For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”  

Have you ever daydreamed, or imagined being in a survival situation? One where you have to decide what lengths you would go to in order to save your own life? What about the lives of your wife and children? Would you do the same for them that you would do for yourself?

Well for most of us, that scenario will never have to be played out. Truth is however, we are, as husbands and fathers, called to act daily. It’s not a “mountains of Afghanistan” type of behavior, but a consistent and willing type of service that virtually ensures the life of the relationships we are called to lead.

I think at our core, we’d all go to whatever lengths necessary to serve ourselves before we even think about serving someone else. Our cores are selfish – egocentric – all about us. But when Paul encouraged us to love our wives as Christ loved the church, what does that say to us?

Jesus loved completely, selflessly, 

. . . and always.

The ways He loved weren’t even related to “mountains of Afghanistan” kinds of scenarios. But He was willing to be “The Lone Survivor.” He’d do anything to show people how, and how much He loved them.

So how do we, as men who are not God, show that kind of selfless, reckless love to our wives and kids?

We serve them.

Service looks, smells, feels, and tastes differently for every one of us. But the key is how it is perceived and received by the ones who look to us as their leader. It’s not laying down my life that gets my wife’s attention. It’s me knowing what is important to her, and following through by re-routing my routine, my day, and ultimately my life in order to show her how important she is to me.

Debbi and I were facilitating a marriage conference a few years ago, and she was asked by a female participant, “How does your husband show his level of service and commitment to you? She smiled and simply replied, “He makes my coffee and brings it to me every morning.” Nobody in the room was more surprised at her answer than me. But it illuminated for me how simple it is to show her that I love her. Believe me, just making her coffee isn’t enough to seal the deal – to show her how much I cherish her as my wife.

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But it is that simple.

I know that many of the readers of this blog are women.

What are the simple acts of service, produced consistently, that tell you that your husband loves you more than he thinks of himself?

What are the things you’d “like” to see – that would be meaningful to you?

And guys, would you share with the rest of us some of the things you have learned, that make a huge difference to your wives? (and ultimately to you?) 🙂

Most of us need all the help we can get . . .

I look forward to hearing your comments!

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!

Is “Who” You See What You Get?

I remember a morning sitting by a campfire, enjoying coffee, and spending some on-purpose time with Father. I often wonder why it is so easy to do when you’re in the mountains. Here, the environment is dominated by quiet, there are few of the normal distractions of life, and it seems that my mind can be as clear as the mountain air. All I can say is that for me, that is not usually an easy task! This day has in store a particularly stunning portrait of God’s imminently creative handiwork.

At an elevation of 8000 feet, I get bird’s eye views that are never forgotten. Today the sun is rising over a mostly clear landscape, and there is a breath-taking photo being shot by my internal camera. It’s an overhead view of a blue-gray fog that is literally smothering the valley below. Not the smoky type where you can still make out objects, but the kind that completely engulfs – hides every tree, building, or person that might be under its blanket. It causes the life that exists below it, be it good or bad, to be unknown to everyone else.

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Is this representative of us?

For how many of us is the beautiful, yet all consuming fog representative of how our lives appear to others? And how can we know what to “put on” on the outside, if we don’t even know what we’re made of inside? Common sense tells us that if we ourselves haven’t discovered what our true identity is in this life, it is next to impossible for our outside façade to match up with anything! 

As exhausting as it is to keep up a good front when what is behind it doesn’t match, don’t you think it would be even harder if you can’t even identify the “behind” part?

The most revealing question I ask of any client in a therapy session is, “Who are you?” Almost without exception every client will begin with a list of what they are, or characteristics of their personality. After a few moments, I try to redirect, explaining what I’m looking for instead of their traits or identifying marks.

Only then does the moment of abject horror strike, and the face does not lie . . .

They . . .

Don’t . . .

Know . . . 

Never thought about it. Never wondered much about who is down there inside their gut. Most have, however, put a ton of time and energy into what’s on the outside . . .

What others see . . .

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Ephesians 1:5-8 

“In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding . . .”

If we have, after all, discovered “the who, instead of the do,” then why don’t others see that person in us? I have to wonder (and I sometimes waiver) about whether I even know my own ultimate purpose while I’m here. I have to admit, it was never a single, clear-cut vision for me, but one that has, at times, been somewhat hazy, and has changed its course several times during my lifetime.

What I can tell you today however, is that without the presence of God dwelling within me . . .

I will never be what I desire to be . . .

OR . .  

What He desires me to be . . .

Being an open book comes naturally for only a few of us. As for the rest of us, there is an on-purpose effort required. We’re fogged in by our own nature. There is life and purpose below the shroud. But why isn’t that life evident to others? Is it because we are unwilling to let others see what Father has created us for? Or are we not allowing Him to create in us what he had in mind from the get-go?

I’m throwing down a huge challenge for all of us today. Can you get alone. Get still? Get quiet?  Paint some quality time into your schedule, and ask God to help you understand who you really are? It’s not gonna be easy. And part of it is not gonna be pretty. But it’s part of the journey – and the struggle – of becoming a real man . . . or woman . . .

God’s man (or woman) . . .

Would you encourage others by commenting about what struggles you face regarding “the who” of you? What are you discovering about “who you are” that is either comforting . . . or not?

But perhaps an even more important question for some – or at least one that needs to precede the “who” question . . .

Before we know who we are, shouldn’t we know whose we are? 

How do YOU overcome the challenge of knowing “who” you are? 

How do YOU work toward becoming an “open book,” knowing who you are, and allowing others to see in?

FINISH WELL!

Kyle