Flying Blind

But flying all the same

Tag: Discipleship

Surprisingly Jealous of a Pharmacist

I wrote this almost 6 months ago and sat on it.  I wanted to make sure that I was not just letting emotional lightning scorch the keys and then publish a vain and wayward post.  As I have had my coffee with Jesus over the last several months, I still feel the same way… even though some things have changed.  So…

 

Jealous may not be the word I am looking for, or even the best word to describe what I am feeling, but what I feel seems to feel a lot like jealousy.

And why wouldn’t I be jealous?

Meet Dan.

I have seen Dan struggle, think, sacrifice, and work like a mule in order to become a pharmacist.  (I still don’t see how it is all that hard though, I mean, you’re just counting pills and calling people’s names right?  Just Kidding!) I have seen Dan persevere through some mentally and emotionally grueling days and I rejoiced with him and his family when he landed a job.  Albeit a LONG commute each day from home and not quite the environment that he had hoped for, but a job none the less.

When we made our detour trip through Washington en route to Japan, Dan picked us up from SeaTac.  He told me about this great opportunity that, more or less, just fell in his lap.  As Dan was telling me the ins and outs of what was going on, I was getting super excited for him.  I felt as though he was scared of committing to this new opportunity.  Did I mention that Dan is a calm, quiet, gentle man?  Though I was busting at the seams with excitement for him, I tried to temper that and merely encourage him to take the offer, or at least meet with whoever he needed to meet with to see if things really were going to be as good as they sounded.  Were it my decision, I would have jumped at it in a heartbeat.

My family stayed with Dan and his family while in town and used his home and backyard as a defacto base of operations.  We had many MANY late LATE nights with some of the people we were involved with before we left the Great State of Washington.  12108974_10153654713010682_7792035204522113729_n

 

Dan sat with me every night that I was there.  His house became a revolving door of men, one at a time, or married couples, coming in and going out almost constantly in order to spend time with me or my wife and I (and sometimes just my wife) and Dan was by my side for almost every bit of it.  These people would share with us the joys and sorrows, the victories and struggles of their lives over the last year or so and would look to Jessica and I for advice, counsel, and encouragement… which we were STOKED to give.  (Something in me just comes magnificently alive when I get to function in this role)  I would listen and would engage, all the while noticing that Dan would have his fingers running at mach 3 through the pages of his Bible.  At one point it seemed like he had 13 fingers holding 15 different passages of scripture in queue.  Dan would say nothing… or almost nothing… most of the time.  When he would speak up, I would be blown away by the depth of his wisdom and insight.  Every.  Single.  Time.

When Dan and I would talk after all of the visitors had left, I would be amazed at how concerned Dan would seem.  These meetings were adventurous bouts of spiritual and emotional grappling which fuel my fire and leave me refreshed and encouraged at the end of the night.  Did y’all catch that?  These long hours and stressful, delicate conversations  leave me refreshed and encouraged.  These meetings are things that I pursue and run after, engaging every chance I get with little hesitation.  Like jumping out of the car and running down a wilderness trail with reckless abandon.  Dan seemed to view these meetings with… um…  well… with what seemed like a bit more maturity.  He seemed to be, at the same time, intimidated and confident, simultaneously academic and studious while being deeply burdened and frankly concerned.

This seems to have rabbit trailed from why I am jealous of a pharmacist to simply being a tribute to my Bro-mantic feelings for Dan.  I digress.

Why am I jealous of this man?  He has been deeply blessed in a very real, tangible, public way.  That is what fuels my jealousy.  This is such a problem for me.  I see Dan’s life and I see the principles and themes present therein and I immediately think that if I apply these to my life, then I too will be blessed in a truly deep, tangible, and public way.  If I make the right sacrifices, if I work hard enough, if I study long enough, if I persevere and endure the hardships, then one day I too will be as blessed a man as Dan.

How ridiculous is that?!?!

While Dan did work and sacrifice, he was not blessed because of these things, he was blessed because he was a man of integrity who spent time in the word and on his knees before God.  Every conversation that Dan sat in on while I was there was, for him, an exercise in blowing through the scriptures finding dozens of references that applied to EVERY topic we were discussing.  That cannot be faked.  That cannot be developed in a matter of weeks or even months.  That is the evidence of a man who knows the cannon of Scripture.  Likewise no amount of hard work alone will result in the kind of blessing in my life that Dan is seeing in his… that is a result of falling broken and contrite, scared and alone at the mercy of Jesus.

And one more thing…  why am I chasing His public, tangible blessing with such fervor when what I should be chasing is simply intimacy with Christ?

And if that wasn’t enough, why do I feel so moved and motivated to see such a blessing in my life… as though being healthy, having such great relationships with my wife and kids isn’t enough?

I know.  I can be so shallow sometimes.

Dan, if you are reading this, I am proud of you (and I feel a lot like a little boy saying that to an adult).

Truly I am.

 

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

I sent this to Dan in order to get his perspective and permission to post this.  I sent it to him almost 6 months ago and the following paragraphs are an excerpt from his response.  I hope y’all can hear the depth of this mans heart.  I have a deep yearning to sit again with this man and his bride by a fire.

 

When I was reading what you wrote I was really thinking, “I had no idea he thought that way.”  I honestly did not know you understood why I am who I am and the beatings required to walk this road.

Things that are true:  When I was at [Grocery Store] as a pharmacist, I was taken emotionally and mentally to my very limit.  I would have lines of people who had come to speak to me; a couple that had just lost their first child at the very end of  pregnancy, a man just diagnosed with a brain tumor, a woman who had just been raped, a mother with 3 children who just found out she had 3 months to live, an old man whose wife of over 50 years had just passed.  All of these one after another after another.  It wears on you.  I do struggle, I feel burdened, intimidated, concerned and find it hard to keep up in conversation with quick thinning people.  I do try to be calm and gentle.  I want to be mature, studious, wise, insightful, quick-thinking, and easily able to navigate scripture to the exact reference.  It is very true that I feel very blessed.  God has provided a new pharmacy with an owner who expects me to be in prayer.  My wife is a blessing to me and all those she comes into contact with.  She is a far better pharmacist than I am and yet she has sacrificed a career which she loves to serve our family and God.  My oldest son as a teenager is thinking about others and praying that he and his friends would delight in reading the Bible and loves time together as a family.  My younger 2 children have confessed that they are children of God.  God has richly blessed us beyond what I could have planned out.  Not one of these things is because of me, they are in spite of me.

 

He says “In spite of me.

 

Funny thing is… a few months after he sent me his response, he told me that the new pharmacy job dried up and life again was looking difficult in front of him.  His question to me…

“Still Jealous?”

 

And my answer…

 

Yes, Dan, I am.  Why wouldn’t I be?

 

…  and again, Jealous may not be the best word to describe it anway!

 

 

I Found My Max Capacity

I was frustrated.

I was angry.

I was moving away from Washington State.  I had developed some really intimate relationships with some of the men I met up there and had started meeting with them at least once a week.  I was spending close to 8 hours per man each week praying for them, studying with them, counseling them, challenging them… shepherding them.

I had prayed for a long time that God would send a replacement for me or that He would develop one of them to step in and start shepherding that little flock in my place after I left.

It didn’t happen.

A couple weeks before we left Washington, I heard that another fella who is a part of the same ministry team that I am a part of was moving into the area.  I was excited to say the least.  I then found out that he had no plans of connecting with our little posse… he had no plans to lead it, to shepherd it, or to even meet with it.

In my frustration, I called the head guy for our team and expressed to him my frustration.  The team leader’s response was pretty simple…

This man will be working a very specific and demanding job while

in Washington and simply does not have the capacity right now to

be involved.  I’m sorry.

I was dumbfounded.

He doesn’t have the capacity?

What a poor excuse!

The team leader tried to explain to me that not everybody is capable of the same amount of stress, or relational tenacity, or multitasking agility.  It was so hard for me to understand.  I kept thinking that if I could do it, while being a husband, a father of 4, and a Sailor, surely this fella could do it.

Fast forward a year and a half.  A long, painful, cold, and dark year and a half.

I have been in school for a long time.  I was dropped from my original class and placed in the class behind me… akin to repeating the 3rd grade.  While going to school, I had a handful of “distractors” stack up in my personal life.  To name a few, and just a few, my grandpa passed away last Thanksgiving, my brother had a tumor removed, was diagnosed with cancer, and started chemo, we went through an eviction proceeding following a long period of no income on our rental home in NC, and have been the recipients of a lawsuit threat from an employee of a real estate company.

It all finally stacked up against me.  Between the rough relationships in my extended family and me feeling like I have a responsibility to mend them, the loss my family has suffered, the strained (but healing) relationships between my wife and I (and my kids and I), and the lack of local friends (because I was too busy with school, there are good people here who care about me)… I cracked.

I would sit before my open books, read the same line a hundred times, and be consumed with thoughts that I was neglecting my family.  I would close my books and go see my family but my heart wasn’t there.  I would hear in the back of my mind that I was wasting the taxpayers dollar, that my family is doing just fine and that I need to do what I have been chosen to do… study and do well in school so that I can go forward and do great things on behalf of the US Navy.  This cycle continued until I started to feel simply paralyzed.

I would sit in front of my books and just stare at them.

I would stand in my yard with my kids playing around me and just stare at them.

I went in to take a test a couple weeks ago and failed it.  I needed a 75 and I earned a 74.  A weak 74 at that… tons of guessing!

This test fail triggered an academic investigation.  I told the investigating board all of what was going on in my home life.

The end result?

I have been dismissed from training.

Not for a lack of trying.  Not for a lack of intellectual ability.  Not for a lack of time management or failure to prioritize.  But for a lack of capacity.

I had in my head that being capable of succeeding was directly related to my ability to perform when the time came.  I now understand that life isn’t just about performing when the time comes.  There is a lot of life that happens behind the scenes, when the curtain is down and the seats are empty.

I do not live in a vacuum and I cannot continue to ask my family to wait for me.  As life has gotten a little thicker, a little more tricky, I have come to understand that I do not have the capacity to do what I wanted.

I am okay with this.

I am becoming very happy with this.

I was frustrated and angry before because I had no concept of somebody knowing where the edges of their envelope existed and choosing to stay within those boundaries.  I am sorry for the way that I reacted to that situation (and I will get in touch with the parties involved in order to communicate that).

I now know what it feels like to be stretched beyond my capacity and I see the damage that that causes to me and my family.  I also now recognize what it feels like to approach the limit of my capabilities.

I had a friend in Washington, a man I met with from time to time who coached me as a husband, a father, and a young shepherd.  He would tell me often that I needed to learn to say no.  He would tell me that he was afraid that I did not know where my boundaries were and that I was on a crash course for taking on more than I should and potentially causing great harm to myself and my family.

Rob, if you are reading this, you were right!  I was on that train.  I was not over committed in Washington, but I quickly ran out of space out here.  By the grace of GodI did not cause great harm to me or my family.

I have learned what my limits are and , more importantnly what ifeels like to reach them.

I found my max capacity and I managed to get off that train before it wrecked my life.

Thank you to all the friends and family who have supported us, encouraged us, and prayed for us as we walked through this part of our journey.

The Cost of Discipleship

Continuing what I was writing about regarding discipleship and mentoring

A friend asked me a long time ago what it cost to be mentored by somebody. I said it didn’t cost me anything.

Then you are not being mentored…

That got my attention. I knew I was being influenced by a couple guys, I knew that I was changing and that my life was reflecting the lives of these men the more they influenced me. I was being mentored. Naturally, being told that something was not happening when I clearly thought it was caused me to dig a little bit.

Come to find out, he was right. I was being influenced by these men, but there was no direction in their influence. There was no goal for my development. There wasn’t a reason or a purpose to our time together, other than the surface level stuff we were doing. These guys would correct me when they would hear me saying something wrong or doing something wrong, but that was about it. My life was changing simply from proximity to them. I started using little slogans, slang, and jargon like them, and could tell that I was valuing some things more than I used to, and some things less than I used to. Because these were some good men, the changes in my life were also good…

But that is not the point of discipleship.

I do not want my life to meander directionless to a form of maturity that is good. I would like for my life to push forth deliberately and purposefully toward a form of maturity that is great.

Here lies the crux of the matter. Direction and Purpose. To be a disciple is to be a strict adherent to a certain set of principles. To be a dedicated student to a philosophy, a proponent of a way of life. Taking a step back from the churchiness of the word and thinking about it in the world of martial arts, a disciple of Jui Jitsu patterns his life around the art. I have a friend who is a phenomenal fighter, a beast of a man. This guy eats a diet that is far from “normal.” It takes eating “clean” and “Paleo” to a whole different level. The guy goes out late on weekends with friends, and still gets up at the crack of dawn in order to get his cardio in. He spends HOURS upon HOURS reading books and articles about his art, practicing in a gym, sparring, entering competitions, fighting in tournemants… He is a very weak bicyclist, doesn’t do any paddling (as far as I know), couldn’t care less about what was going on in the land of TV (unless it was fight night). He has focus and direction, and he submits his life to the disciplines of his art and the instruction of his mentors.

The Bible actually teaches that there is a cost to disciplehip. Jesus compares it to a king going out to fight a war. Does the king evaluate his enemy, then go and try to settle his differences without a fight if the enemy is stronger than he is… He compares it to a man building a silo for his grain. Does he start building the tower without first calculating how much the tower will cost in the end? If either of these people do not evaluate the cost of their decisions, they end up defeated.

I talk about the cost of discipleship and the marks of a disciple at the same time. They go hand in hand.

A mentor is somebody who is willing to invest their LIFE into somebody in order to replicate the essence of who they are in the person listening to them.

A disciple is somebody who wants to develop some character traits that they see in somebody else and is willing to make the sacrifices required.

When I have the opportunity to mentor somebody, I look for 3 things at the minimum, 5 things if I can. I evaluate everybody who wants some of my time according to these principles, whether they want me to influence them as a husband, a father, a son, a sailor, a leader, or a medical provider… they all get put on the same matrix.

Are they FAT? Does their life spell FAITH?

Faithful, Available, and Teachable.

Do I see evidence in their lives that they maintain some sense of commitment to something outside of them? Have I seen them make sacrifices, choose to do things that they would rather not do because it was required by their commitment? Do they have the time to meet with me? Are they willing to wake up early or stay up late in order to talk with me? Are they willing to ride along with me while I run errands just so that we can spend some time talking? Will they make our time together a priority? Do they receive instruction or do they argue against anything they don’t like? Are they an “expert” on everything, constantly nodding their head and telling me they already understand, or do they listen, take notes, and attempt to assimilate what they see and hear in me?

Faithful, Available, Initiative, Teachable, and Hungry.

The F, A, and T, are the same as above. Does this person take the initiative or are they passive? Will I have to poke and prod them to get up off the couch, or are they motivated to make some changes? Are they pursuing life, charging down the river, or are they more or less existing, like a leaf floating on by? Are they hungry? Is there something deep inside them driving them for some kind of change? Are they excited to be mentored because they read a cool business book that mentioned it, or are they fueled by a desire to trim the fat from the flesh and go to war?

When I meet with somebody for the first time after they talk to me about taking an active role in their lives, I lay out a couple things.

1… This costs me, a lot! I spend a lot of time praying for, and thinking about the people I mentor. I reread chapters from books that I think might help them, I write letters and emails, I take notes about conversations I have had with them, I jot down things I observe from them, I prepare for our formal meetings… At 1 point in time, I was investing about 8 hours of my own time for every 1.5 hours I spent face to face with one of these guys… once a week! At 1 point in my life I had 3 guys who were resource heavy on me… that made for 24 hours of my own time, each week, 4.5 hours of time with them, each week… Significant cost! I paid it willingly (except for during hunting season… That was my time of the year to check out and recharge…)

2… It is going to cost them. When we get together for our formal meetings, they were to have a couple pens, a high lighter, a notebook, their Bible (or whatever source document we were using at work). They were to have whatever assignments I gave them completed. I expect that what we talk about is received and acted upon.

3… Before we met the second time, and I scheduled that for the following week, I wanted them to memorize all of Psalm 1, write 5 observations per verse, and be prepared to discuss it with me. If this was a guy I was mentoring at work, I had them memorize some leadership intensive/character development kind of quotes as well as some important piece of our literature.

After looking at the cost of Discipleship that Jesus laid out in the Bible, after showing them what it was going to cost me, what it was going to cost them (at the minimum), and after telling them what I expected them to memorize and have ready in a week, I would ask them…

Are you sure you want to make this investment?

I have had more than 1 fella tell me straight up, NOPE, and we finish our snacks, we talk about other things, we move on with life.

I have had some guys get pumped, like I was trying to nut check them before a big game, they say yes, then show up a week later without their Bible, Notebook, Pens, High Lighter, and with no verses memorized. I have smiled, greeted them, chit chatted while I drink my tea or coffee, and then, politely explain to them that they failed to pay the cost. I was not going to sacrifice my time with my family, or with other men who were hungry, to meet with somebody who is not serious… and then I walk out.

A surprisingly large number of guys have risen to that challenge… they come prepared… mostly… Usually there is a lot of stumbling through the verses, the observations are a bit thin, there may be 1 pen, and a crayon… but I see very quickly that there was effort made, a price was paid.

And then I know that it is costing them…

… I know they want to be there…

And when it costs me to be mentored by somebody…

My heart is all in…

What prices have y’all paid to be mentored/discipled? Have you ever paid the price because the person discipling you was not committed to your time together? Or vice versa, a person you were discipling was not committed?

What would you say is the cost of discipleship?

Mentors and Disciples

I am really not all that good at anything in particular.  Not like my dad at all.  The phrase, “Jack of all, master of none”, has been proven as a false statement for many years by my dad.  He is absolutely a Jack of all and master of most.  My brother seems to have caught that part of the genes, but not me.  Nope, not me at all.

I am mostly a “hazard to all, barely passing at best” for so many things.  This bothered me for a long time.  I wanted to be good at a lot of things, now I just enjoy being merely average or even a bit below average but acceptable in the myriad of things to which I put my  mind and hands.

If there is one thing that I think I do a pretty good job with, it is influencing and coaching people.

Not so much coaching T-Ballers.  Coaching people in their day to day lives.

The Navy has made it clear that it desires a vibrant, functioning mentorship program within its ranks.  The trouble is that the program seems to be a management burden placed on already heavily burdened leaders.  The program does not seem to be so active.  This is really sad to me.

Businesses use the terms Mentor and Mentorship.  The Church uses the terms Disciple and Discipleship.  I hear folks in the Church getting their panties in a wad when they hear the words Mentor or Mentorship being used in the context of Christianity.  This really saddens me also.

I will write a handful of posts about Mentoring and Discipling.  I am no expert at it and I do not make any claims to that.  I have been doing this for a little while now and have seen some really great things from it, both in the Navy and in the Church.  I have also made some mistakes that have been absolutely devastating to me and those around me… I will write about those too.

A lot of the concepts and ideas that I will talk about apply to more than one facet of our lives.  Most of these things can be used in our workplaces as well as in our homes and in our places of ministry or service.  If you do not share the spiritual beliefs that I hold, please do not dismiss my opinions regarding mentorship and influential leadership.  That said…

 

What is Mentorship?

To best grasp this concept, lets look at where we get the word “Mentor.”  I will tell this story in a super boiled down version…

In Homer’s Odyssey, King Odysseus is leaving for war.  He has a son who will one day replace him as king, but his son is still young and needs to be taught, trained, honed into being kingship material.  Odysseus goes to a trusted friend of his and asks him to raise his son as though his son belonged to him.  As far as I can tell, Odysseus trusted that his son would be a wise king, with the knowledge and the character to reign well, because he would have been raised by his friend who possessed these desired leadership traits and characteristics.  Odysseus must have hoped that, when he returned from his war, that his son would sound and act like his friend, value what his friend valued, be passionate about the things his friend was passionate for, essentially being a “chip off the old block” with his friend being the block off of which the son would be “chipped.”  This friend’s name was Mentor.

Let that sink in for a minute if you have never heard the story before.  Mentor…  a character in a story in which his primary role was to raise another man’s son so that the son could one day lead well.  Mentor… a trusted man who was tasked with replicating his character, his ethos, his very essence in a boy so that the boy would one day be able to lead his people.  Mentor… a man who was chosen to model the values of a kingdom and led his life in a deliberate manor to ensure these values were understood and received.

I really do not understand why some church folk get upset when they hear the word Mentor when talking about one more seasoned and mature Christian helping to develop a less mature Christian… seems like a pretty fitting title to me.

The role of the Mentor is to replicate his life, or an aspect of his life, in somebody else.

In the posts to follow I hope to answer questions like, What is a disciple… What is Discipleship?  Why is mentoring/discipling important?  How to pick a mentor… What does a discipling relationship look like?

Have you ever been mentored or discipled?  How did that relationship start?  Did you know you were being developed for a purpose in the beginning?  Have you ever discipled anybody else?

If you have questions about this topic or simply want my perspective on some of the things that go along with Mentorship and Discipleship, feel free to ask them in the comments.  I will either answer them in the comments or incorporate those things in the posts to follow.

Thanks!

 

 

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