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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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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!

Easy Doesn’t Do It . . .

In a counseling session several years ago, the counselee Cheryl (name changed) was debating the pros and cons of marrying her sweetheart of about a year and a half. As we worked our way through our list, she sighed, sat back heavily onto the couch, and started to cry. After a few moments of silence I asked, “What is it that you’re thinking or feeling right now?” She replied, “I don’t know if getting married is right for me or not. What I do know though, is that being single is just so hard.”

I remember smiling at her and responding, “Cheryl, if you think that being or remaining single is harder than being married, then don’t get married.” She immediately sat upright, wide-eyed, surprised, and asked, rather abruptly, “Why? How can sharing everything – responsibilities, finances, accountability – be harder with two people than it is with one?”

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That conversation has been played out between my chair and the couch in my office dozens of times over the years. And when the expectation is that being married will be easier than being single, my response is always the same, “I don’t think you have thought through or accepted the personal cost of committing your life to another person.”

Bold statement? 

Yes . . . 

But I care too much about that potential marriage being fulfilling and pleasurable to allow the other people to go into it somewhat blindly. 

Oh I don’t have all the answers, and have plenty of diplomas on my office wall to prove it. At least 98% of my degrees were earned from the “School of Hard Knocks.” And in my own younger years, I had no clue about the work – the personal cost – the sacrifices – that were needed for a marriage to become good, and succeed.

Getting married is the easy part . . . 

Staying in a progressive, satisfying union with the same person for the rest of your life is perhaps the most difficult challenge of our time. I am not at all surprised that the divorce rate in our current state is at more than 50%. What does surprise me however, is that 40-something percent of marriages succeed. 

So why all this chatter about the difficulty of marriage? Certainly it is not to scare anyone off from becoming married. Instead, we have to remember that marriage is work . . . Hard work. It’s like a second full-time job – and certainly not less important than our profession. It would help us all, if we paused before walking through the door after coming home from work and say to ourselves, “OK, I’m showing up for my most important job, and I need to work hard when I get in there.”

Our wives need to know that to us, they are the most important person on the planet – bar none. If true, the way that we prove that to them is in how hard we are willing to work in order that the relationship thrives – grows through the hard times – and that we are not only able, but willing to work hard with them so we can all relish in the knowledge that we are willing partners for life.

Everything and everyone around us as husbands tells us, “Be the man. Go for the brass ring. Nobody tells a real man what to do. Satisfy your passion.” The Bible’s message to husbands is exactly the opposite -“Crucify yourself.” Here’s how Paul put it in Ephesians 5:25: 

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for her.”

Let me be real here. I am not always successful in this. There are more times than I’d really care to admit that I have been ego-centric, self-centered, and self-focused and not respected the expectations and hopes that my wife has of me/us in our marriage. I have recently had to explain myself in ways that are embarrassing and humbling. Regardless of my intent, and in spite of my promises, I have lost my focus. Thankfully, little enough damage (in my moments of “braindeadedness”) has been done and she has found within her heart enough grace to understand and forgive me for the errors of my ways.

It’s too easy for me (and I’m guessing you, too) to allow my emotions to escape the confines of reality and common sense . .

And duty . . .

Even the best of us make stupid, selfish decisions. I take my place in the classroom of “jugheads.”

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But the reminder that the cost of commitment to my wife and kids is worth all that seems to be sacrificial to me, is what brings me – and sometimes not so gently – back to earth.

Do you have your own stories of struggle in this area? You know that “putting them out there” serves as an encouragement, or as a learning point to the rest of us. I’ll keep writing about it as God puts it on my heart. But I know I’m not alone in this – and need partners – warriors – to affirm and encourage those that are embattled by the same enemy. I look forward to hearing from you (men or women) about it.

Keep working! Keep winning!

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!