We is Better than Me

friendship-1081843_1920

 

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. ……….But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

The emphasis throughout both the New and Old Testament is that life is better lived in relationship with another.  I came across athe following quote that is attributed to C.S. Lewis:

The safest road to hell is the gradual one . . . the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. This is why it’s so dangerous to do life alone.” 

A quote from a resident of a halfway house in Darien Connecticut put it this way:

The mind alone is a bad neighborhood.”

A 2015 study done in the U.K. found that a majority of the men surveyed (51%) had two or fewer friends, and 15% had no friends. None.  Nada.  Zip.  That’s hard to imagine.   According to C.S. Lewis, they are leading a dangerous life. It’s so easy in life to do things solo – without any aid from our friends.  We live in community with one another – in fact, most of the New Testament deals with how our Christian life is to play out on the horizontal field with other people.  Christianity is an individual decision,  but it is also a team sport.

So, who is on your team?  Do you have a friend – someone who knows you inside and out – the good, the bad, the ugly, including what your spiritual and thought life, and what junk you have in the trunk of your car (or “boot”, as it is called in other parts of the world)?  The British survey is sobering, but it really is even worse, because their definition of a “friend” really doesn’t go beyond an acquaintance with whom you share a common interest.  That’s not the friend that will stick by you through thick and thin, and will help you up when you have failed or fallen down or had a serious setback of circumstances.

The passage from Ecclesiastes above is one of the many scriptures that follows the theme of what I call the “principle of the twos” in the Bible.   Another one is found in Proverb 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another.”  I have met with two men weekly for the past 24 years.  It is an intentional and covenantal relationship. Over time, we have shared each others ups and downs, successes and failures, trials and tribulations, and rejoiced at each others accomplishments for the kingdom. It’s second nature to us to be transparent with our lives and challenges.  I am really saddened how few other men have what we have experienced over a long time.

The majority of men I meet disregard the principle that life is best lived in community, unfortunately to their detriment. As the title says, “We is better than Me”.   Pastors are often the biggest offenders and yet the most vulnerable. They put moats around their lives and become insulated from others because of their position.   But that’s not how Jesus modeled it when he sent out the seventy-two disciples in Luke 10.  He sent them out two by two with a reason. This was their first “road trip”. Had I been advising Jesus, I would have suggested that it might make strategic sense to send them out individually because they would have covered more territory.  But Jesus had more wisdom than me, knowing full well that sending them in twos was more important than getting more geographical coverage.

I have long been known as an advocate of having someone else in your life (other than your spouse) to whom you can confide in and be accountable to.  The evil one doesn’t attack us in groups:  he isolates us and takes us down when we are alone.  Satan doesn’t influence a group to go out and collectively commit adultery.  It happens when we are isolated.

If you don’t have one or more close friends that you can be transparent with, you risk violating the biblical principle of the twos, and as C.S. Lewis suggests, you are in danger.  I encourage you to find one today.

Bill Mann

 

Impartiality

 

 justice

They divided them impartially by casting lots, for there were officials of the sanctuary and officials of God among the descendants of both Eleazar and Ithamar. 1 Chronicles 24:5

Life is fun, and often you discover things in quite unexpected places.  I’ve been thinking of this topic for some time, but hadn’t developed it very far.  Last night, since my wife stayed in Raleigh for an extra day, I ate dinner by myself at a local restaurant called Dugan’s Pub in Pinehurst.  They have great chicken wings. Since I was alone, I sat at the bar rather than be  seated at table because the restaurant was crowded.

As I was munching on my wings, a man came and sat down two seats away.  I asked him if he was here to play golf, and he said yes. We then talked about great courses he had played, including the three highly rated courses in Kohler, Wisconsin.  One thing led to another, and I mentioned that I had done a blog on how I came to play golf entitled “Flog”.  He was interested so we pulled it up on my phone and he enlarged it so he could read it since he didn’t have his glasses.

He loved the verse I had chosen (1 Corinthians 15:33) and our conversation continued. He admitted he had two older children, now in their 20’s, and that he had been a terrible parent to them.  He also had an 8-year-old and he felt better about his role as a father.  Of course, those in their 20’s are part of Generation iY.  We talked about their profile for a while.  He was from Generation X (i.e. born before 1980), and was having issues with connecting with Generation Y (those born after 1980).

Then he said something that interested me.  He said he would rather take advice from a stranger like me than from someone he who was part of his family. He looked at me and said “I can tell you care about me.”  “I would take advice from you before I would take it from my uncle.”

Which leads me back to the title of this – impartiality.  We talked some more about the role of a mentor.   One of the things is that they provide is impartial advice.  Mentors should have no agenda, which often is perceived by adolescents when they get advice from parents or family. The agenda of a mentor is to help improve the life of the mentee – to make them the best that they can be based on what talents, interests, gifts and passions God has blessed them with.

Having practice law for 45 years, the concept of impartiality is imbedded in our justice system.  Justice is said to be “blind” meaning that the justice system is supposed to be neutral and objective.  A judge is supposed to make a ruling in a case based solely on the facts of the matter and the applicable law. It is not to be based on public opinion, the views of special interest groups or even a judge’s own personal beliefs.

At least that’s how it is supposed to be. I will digress only to say that in some courts in the United States, politics and public opinion take precedence over “blind justice”. When that happens, the populace lose faith that the system will not work as it should.

As a result, lawyers, do “forum shopping.”  They know which courts are “friendly” to their case, and will file the case in the friendly jurisdiction in order to improve their chances of success. I can cite a lot of cases from my own experience where this has happened.  Even a system that is supposed to be impartial fails in real life.

Getting back to the concept of impartiality, the younger generation is looking for mentors – someone who is outside their family circle who can provide them an impartial sounding board.  A mentor doesn’t have any baggage or agenda to deal with.  His or her advice is based on his or her own experience, education or reasoning.   I recently asked one of my mentees why he continued to meet with me, and his response was immediate: “You are a great sounding board.”

The only difference from the man at the bar in the restaurant and the millennials is that millennials require trust before they will listen. The conversation I had with this man would not have occurred with a millennial.  Millennials would require that I first establish a closer relationship with them before I would be permitted to speak into their lives in a way they would accept.

Establishing trust with millennials takes time. It does not happen during a chance conversation at a bar (unless the conversation is with someone from an older generation).  Trust is “earned” through forming a deep relationship and being transparent and authentic.

A recent Pew survey said this: “[J]ust 19% of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31% of Gen Xers, 37% of Silents and 40% of Boomers.”  (Note: “Gen X’ers”, “Silents” and “Boomers” are all older generations born before 1980).

On a personal note, the disdain that adolescents have for their parents’ advice does wear off after a while – usually in early adulthood.  That’s when the adolescent’s perspective has advanced to see that a parent’s advice was often correct, even if they could not “hear” it at the time.

In the past two weeks, I have been approached by several in their 20’s looking for a mentor. One is a young woman in another city.  That one will be a challenge, because I need to find one for her. She learned about what a mentor does from a business colleague of hers that I mentor, and immediately wanted one of her own.  She deserves that. It’s our obligation to reach out to the next generation and help.

I met with the other 20 something just yesterday.  It was a good start, and he is anxious to set up more sessions as our schedules will permit. He found me, not the other way around. He read one of my posts (“We is Better the Me”) and sent me a blind email thanking me for it and wondering if I had any resources that could help him. He didn’t realize I live close by and was surprised when I replied ““What are you doing next Tuesday?”

The challenge here is obvious. As a potential mentor, you are being sought out by the next generation to provide impartial input.  You don’t have a stake in the outcome, other than to see your protégé advance in life to be the best they can be.  You can help them overcome challenges with neutral advice.  You can help them problem solve by analyzing their options, or even helping them consider options that they might not have considered. In a word, you can be that impartial sounding board that they need when life throws challenges in their direction.

FURTHER STUDY:  Read “6 New Findings about Millennials” from Pew Research (March 7, 2014) including their lack of trust:  http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/03/07/6-new-findings-about-millennials/

WORSHIP:  One thing we know for sure, and that is we can trust in God. Listen to Lauren Daigle sing “Trust In You”:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_aVFVveJNs

COMMENT:  I am delighted at your comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

All’s Well That Ends Well

 

 sunsetcomincaEven when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.  Psalm 71:18

 Every generation that comes along is often thought of as “going to the dogs” by older generations.  That was just as true in biblical times as it is today.  Yet, somehow the next generation manages to survive and often excel where the older generation thought they would fail.

Which brings me to “our” next generations:  Gen Y, iY and the latest, Gen Z. These are people born after 1980 and are now young adults in most cases. As I have noted, there are always going to be generational differences, but for these millennials, the change is much more.  It is a cultural change.  As Dr. Tim Elmore says: “They think differently, they communicate differently, and they often hold different values than [their predecessors]”.

Millennials make up the largest demographic group in the western world. They are our future (that’s a scary thought).  But their life, and their future, depends on us, the older generations to bridge the gap.  So, following some of the things that Tim Elmore has said recently, I thought I would give a profile of what makes millennials different.

In the job markets, most millennials will have up to 9 different jobs.  This is much more than prior generations where even career lasting jobs were replaced by greater mobility, but never to the extent of 9 job changes.  While I had several entry-level jobs (mostly during the summers when I was in college), my career only had three job changes.  That’s typical for my generation.

Elmore says the corporate ladder has been replaced by the “Corporate Lily Pad”, where job changes are more akin to a frog jumping from lily pad to lily pad.  Interesting metaphor. The only problem is that the job market looks for stability in your resume and a person who hops around at several jobs will be scrutinized more than others.

Millennials also want to find work environments in the workplace which has the “feel” of family where “working with friends, mixing laughter, games, passion, strategy, charitable service and even competition” is present.  This is more than previous generations who sought a work-life balance.

My last twenty years in law practice was in a law firm that was counter to most large firms where the only yardstick was performance, i.e. how much you worked and how much money you collected from your clients. We were blessed to have a large-firm sophisticated practice, but our smaller size permitted us to look beyond just making money to emphasizing family and a life outside of the practice of law. We were the exception, rather than the general rule.  I was fortunate.

The millennials – particularly Generation iY who were born after 1990– process information digitally.  A hardcover book is a rarity. Everything is on a screen.  “Their world has fewer words and a greater number of images” says Elmore. Currently, 82% of the internet content is in 10 languages, and futurists are predicting that half of the 6,900 languages will disappear in the next century.

We are already seeing this in the U.S.  For Generation iY, the average vocabulary of children in middle school (grades 5-8) has dropped from 25,000 words ten years ago to !0,000 words today.

As I wrote in an earlier post entitled “Critical Thinking” last October, according to The Mindset List put out by Beloit College every year since 1998, this years’ class entering college (called the Class of 2020) think that books have “always been read TO them on audible.com.

Millennials are effecting the workplace, where “bosses are being replaced by therapists.” Elmore talked to two managers who candidly said “they feel like they have to be a therapist, coach, diplomat and nanny.”  That’s a big difference in the corporate world I experienced where, except for clear cases of mental health issues, most companies were not all that concerned about the “emotional intelligence” of employees.

The workplace has always had a proverbial “water cooler” which was usually a break room where you could get coffee and sometimes chat with other colleagues at work.  The millennials are replacing the water cooler with social media, which concerns me because it means their interactions are far less personal and face-to-face.

Studies show that the millennials are not good at resolving conflicts.  I attribute this to the fact that they have defective interpersonal skills because they have isolated their interactions to social media.   They don’t know how to resolve conflicts on an interpersonal basis.

Getting back to my title, I am worried that the future, for many millennials, might not end well. Unlike prior generations, for them to succeed, we may have to adjust to them, not the other way around.  A friend of mine, Julie Schmiesing, sent me a video recently which is a talk by Simon Sinek entitled “Millennials in the Workplace.”

She hoped that I would enjoy it, and I did.   I knew a many of the attributes of millennials in the video after a couple of years of study. The link to the video is below – it is 5 minutes long, and well worth watching. The video’s primary thrust is that companies may have to adjust to the millennials to assimilate them as productive employees in the business world.

Recently, Accenture, a company that employs over 330,000 people worldwide, joined several other public companies in eliminating the “annual performance review” which has been a staple of many businesses and professions over the years. Part of the reason is attributed to millennials who want to receive feedback immediately and consistently, not just annually. They want assessments in real-time, not something every twelve months.

There are other notable trends for millennials worth mentioning. They are staying single longer: only 26% of millennials aged 18-32 are married compared to 38% for Gen X (the prior generation) and 48% of the Baby Boomers. They are well-educated with some 23% having college degrees.

They are more multicultural, with some 38% of them being bilingual, which is up from 23% in 2003. On a down note, a recent study by Jean Twenge, a high percentage of them describe themselves as “overwhelmed”, so much so that close to half of them find it difficult to even function. As mentors, we have to help cultivate coping skills in younger adults so that they can develop resiliency to face life’s challenges.

Lastly, they want to do something meaningful in life.  They want a mission, not just a job. Some 87% of millennials consider a company’s commitment to social and environmental causes when choosing a job. Unfortunately, not all available jobs are with companies that want to transform the world.  As mentors and parents, we have to help them learn to do the little things (i.e. entry level jobs) to gain experience.

As Elmore notes:  “How can we capitalize on young adults’ desire to improve the world and, at the same time, demonstrate that they may have to do “little” things first?”

Yesterday, I got an unexpected message from a lawyer (Tom) who I mentored over 15 years ago as a young associate in my law firm.  He said “Bill, you made more of an impact on my life than you possibly can imagine. Thank you.”  His note surprised me. He went on to describe some of the mess that occurred from his divorce and then went on to describe his new “life-time partner (like Sis for [me].”  His faith has deepened, and I am glad to see him on the right track.  I haven’t given up on him.

The challenge here is not to give up on the next generation, but to jump into their boat and help them row through these new currents of rapid change caused, in part, by technology. They need mentors – people with a longer perspective to help them navigate and find their God-given purpose in life. It’s our job to help them “End Well”.  Not everyone has happy endings, but you can make a difference just by being a role model so others can see you handle your own struggles and overcome them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation is desperate for inter-generational mentoring, and based on the studies, they need it badly.  You can do your part to invest in the next generation. Even investing in one person can make a difference.

FURTHER STUDY:  The video by Simon Sinek on “Millennials in the Workplace”:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MC2X-LRbkE&sns=em

Read about the elimination of annual assessments to accommodate millennials preferences:  https://growingleaders.com/blog/changing-the-way-you-offer-feedback-to-your-team/

For a study on languages: http://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/how-many-languages-are-there-world

For a study on the emotional health of millennials by Jean Twenge:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1939-0025.2011.01115.x/abstract

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “Take My Life (and Let it Be)”

COMMENT:  I am delighted at your comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

Flog

golf

“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”   1 Corinthians 15:33

 I often title my posts with an acronym where every letter stands for a word, such as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get), or even YOYO (You’re On Your Own).  Not this time:  FLOG is actually GOLF spelled backwards.  It’s an irony, because golf can be such a challenging and frustrating game.  80% of golfers have a handicap of 18 or above.  Only 5% have a handicap under 10.

For those who are not familiar with golf, a handicap is a number assigned based on your average scores on an 18-hole golf course.  You take the number assigned and subtract it from your actual score, and it is supposed to be your “par” – i.e. a score adjusted for your level.

A typical 18-hole course has a par of 72, so if a person has a handicap of 18, his reassigned “par” is a score of 90 based on his handicap.  I’ll let you do the math.

The handicap system is a convenient way to adjust scores so that people playing at different levels have a way of being competitive by using their handicap.  It permits a good golfer play with a non-so-good golfer.

My introduction to the sport of golf was almost by accident. Having attended a boarding school in New England, I returned home for the summer my first year to find that all my friends from grade school were on vacation for the summer.  My mother suggested that I consider learning to play golf. We were fortunate to belong to a Country Club in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

That was when I met George Jacobus. George was the head professional at Ridgewood, but he was much more than that as I would come to learn later.  He had been president of the PGA – the umbrella organization of golf professionals in America from 1930 to 1939.

He taught many professional golfers and amateurs alike. He was an encourager of youth to learn the game because he knew they would be the future.  George kindly took me and many others under his wing and gave us unlimited instruction without charge.

He was always available, even if we weren’t home.  He had a memory of your swing, and if you could describe what was going on, he would quickly suggest a “fix” that always worked.  His knowledge of the golf swing was magical.

As we improved, he asked that we “give back” by helping him teach clinics for others. By the time I was 17, I had a 1 handicap, and often spent Saturday mornings helping him with his golf clinics for other youth and adults.

But George taught me more than golf. He taught me about life, too. He was my first mentor, a term I didn’t identify him with until recently.  George was “classy” in his appearance. Even on the hottest days, he would teach wearing a long-sleeved white shirt, a tie, and a white linen jacket with a Panama hat. He usually looked like he was modeling sports clothes.

George was a disciplinarian, too.  Even though golf could be frustrating, he taught us that we were to be “a gentleman first, and a golfer second.”  You were not to alter that order or priority. In other words, your behavior on the course was never to change, even if you were playing poorly.  No throwing of clubs, no cursing or getting angry. It was not permitted. Period.  Violations had consequences.

A gentleman, by definition, is one who is courteous and polite.  In modern parlance, the term gentleman refers to any man of good, courteous conduct. In other words, a man of good character.

I have no idea whether George Jacobus was a believer, but his values were consistent and Godly.  George died in 1965, and it was many years later that I learned how special he had been, not just in my life, but in the lives of others.

A few years ago, I watched a documentary on Byron Nelson entitled “Byron Nelson: A Texas Gentleman” on television and learned for the first time the details of George’s influence.  Byron Nelson was hired by George as an assistant pro at Ridgewood Country Club in 1935. George changed Byron’s swing, and he went on to win 18 tournaments in 1945, including 11 pro events in a row, a record that stands today.

As you can tell from the title of the documentary, Byron Nelson was known as a “gentleman” throughout his career, first as a professional golfer, and later as a golf analyst on television. In the documentary, Arnold Palmer called Byron not just a great golfer, but a great person.

George’s message was the same to Byron as it was to all who he taught.  In life, your character matters.  It is a lesson I carry with me today, from my first mentor.

Our challenge is to pass on to the next generation values that matter and are consistent with Jesus, who was a gentleman in every way.  Character does matter, and the next generation is watching you to see if your words match your actions.  May you live so that a biography of you includes the word “gentleman” or “gentlewoman” in its title.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Authenticity is what the millennials are looking for in a mentor. They want you to exhibit your values, not just talk about them.  Being a gentleman is a great start.

FURTHER STUDY:  You can read a biography of George Jacobus including his involvement with Byron Nelson:

http://www.rcc1890.com/files/GeorgeJacobus_Jan2014.pdf

Watch a 71-minute video on “Byron Nelson: A Texas Gentleman” on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wAm247d1vY

WORSHIP:  Join Travis Cottrell who reminds us that we are a “Friend of God

 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If

resting-235665_1920

The road to life is a disciplined life; ignore correction and you’re lost for good.  Proverbs 10:17 (The Message)

I recently attended a workshop for our worship team at my church.  We do three of them a year, and often speakers are brought in to develop and hone our skills.  This last one included a session by Scott Bullman who is on the faculty of Liberty University.

He gave ten points which would be important for members of the worship team, whether they be musicians, singers or the media folks who are so important (if there are no words to a song on the screen, then there’s a big problem).

One thing he said was a summation: “The best gift of worshippers is to be the best you that you can be.  It takes continual growth, and you have to be a student always.”   I think that advice is not just for members of a worship team, but for every believer regardless of how their gifts are used in the body.  You should strive to be the best that you can be at what you do.

In a way, that’s what a mentor does with his charges.  He helps them figure out what they are good at, and then he helps figure out what is needed to make the mentee the best he can be.  It might be encouragement, or helping suggest possible training or education.  It might be helping them get experience or connections to help the mentee get started. It might mean just being there to consider what options are available and dialogue the pros and cons of each.

Among other things that Scott said was that you need to develop your craft.  For a singer, that means working on your voice and practice. For instrumentalists, it means that you need to practice and get better. You must be willing to be stretched, and develop the courage and confidence in your abilities.

I struggled a little when Scott Bullman said that, at age 52, he had gone to a voice instructor because his voice had “changed”.  I started singing without any formal training at age 71, although I had a musical background.  I can’t tell any “change” since I’ve never sung before.

I played the piano as a child, and then switched to the bass violin.  That’s not an instrument that is easily carried around.  I probably should have switched to bass guitar in high school – at least it has frets and is easily transported.  That’s what I call an “if only” moment: “if only” I had continued with piano or a bass guitar.

But that’s a statement of “if only”, not a “what if”.  You see, the phrase “if only” is used when looking at life in hindsight.  It often reflects a regret what you may have missed a big opportunity for some reason or another.  “What if”, on the other hand, is forward thinking.

Scott then mentioned a book that I am now reading which is intriguing.  It is entitled “If: Trading Your ‘If Only’ Regrets for God’s ‘What If’ Possibilities” by Mark Betterson.  I had not heard of Betterson before, but when Scott Bullman quoted from the book at our session, I knew I liked the plain writing style. It is a book to be savored. A chapter a day, in fact. No speed reading allowed.

I recall using some of Betterson’s logic when my son was having trouble at a boarding school near Boston in 1986.  He came home for Thanksgiving vacation in his second year, and admitted that he had been so miserable that he had skipped going to class for the previous week. Over the next few days, we spent time together talking through his challenges.  As a parent, I wanted to find out the “why” of his misery.  Only then could I understand how to help.

What emerged from our talks was that he felt he was an outsider – he didn’t have a group of friends that had his interests, so he felt socially out of water.  I found this hard to believe because he has such a sunny disposition that everyone at his previous school liked him. Yet here he was 700 miles away in an environment that was cold and unwelcoming.

We then talked about his options – he was 17 at the time.  I wanted him to be part of the decision process.  I wanted him to make the best decision for himself at the time, but I wanted him to understand the consequences of each option.  One of those options, of course, was to pull him out from Andover and return him to a school in Raleigh.  Another would have been to find another private school that was more suitable. His mother and I said that whatever path he chose, we would support him.

As we talked through his options, I used my “if only” comment.  I told him that whatever decision he made – either to stay, or go somewhere else – I wanted him to be sure that he would never regret a decision to leave and say “if only” I had stayed. I also told him that if he chose to stay, it would take courage. Going back to an environment that had seemed hostile was not an easy way out. Plus, he would be facing exams having missed an entire week of classes.

Another day passed, and he started thinking about returning – perhaps only for the rest of the semester which would be over in a couple of weeks.  I was concerned that if he returned to his misery and didn’t have any resources to help him, he would be in trouble and it might not end well.

I asked him if there was any teacher that he liked or felt he could lean on if needed.  He thought about it and said that Mr. Wennik, his German teacher, was someone he could connect with.  So, I called Mr. Wennik and described the plight of my son.  His reaction was interesting.  He said “I would love to help your son.  You see, I have just gone through the same issue with my own daughter, and I think I know how to help him through this rough spot.”

Another thing Mr. Wennik said in our phone call amazes me to this day.  He told me that he was surprised that I took the initiative to call him to help my son. As incredulous as that sounds, he continued by saying that most parents wouldn’t have done what I did.  I am astonished that any parent wouldn’t reach out to help one of their children through a struggle.

The rest is, of course, now history.  My son returned to school, and with Mr. Wennik’s help and mentoring, he was guided to a group of students that my son identified with – creative students who loved music and drama. He bonded with them.  His misery turned into happiness over time.

On his tenth reunion in 1998, my son flew back to Andover with his sister, who had also attended Andover and graduated with him. On the airplane trip, he told her that he wanted his children to have the opportunity of going to Andover.  Now, this was the school that he once hated and was miserable.

I look back on this story as a turning point in his life.  He faced adversity returning to a boarding school away from home.  With help from a mentor, Mr. Wennik, he stuck it out and was able to graduate the next year.  His grades (and his attitude) improved from that point on.  It wasn’t his intellect that was holding him back from being the best he could be.  It was the environment of being alone away from home and not having any friends.

There are two takeaways here.  First, when life puts you in tough spots, seek out a mentor who can help you navigate the difficulties.  Mr. Wennik was a god-send who reached out and took my son under his wing. He did something that I couldn’t do because I could not be present for my son when he needed immediate help.

The second takeaway, and perhaps just as important, is to think about the difference of “what if” in your analysis of a decision.  “What if” really is the idea of thinking about the possibilities that come from taking a certain action.  I used the flip side of that by talking to my son about the “if only” analyses:  I wanted him to look at his decision from a longer perspective so that he could look back on it and not have any regrets for his decision.  It worked for him and he made a courageous but correct decision.

Our challenge is twofold.  The first is to be available as a mentor when an opportunity arises. You can be the Mr. Wennik  to someone else’s child. The second lesson is that a mentor (or even a parent) needs to help his protégé make their own decisions. That’s a growth experience.  The mentors job is to help the mentee consider all options and then think through “what if” I took this path instead of another one. It’s fun to watch when it turns out well, as it did for my son.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation is screaming at the older generation to get involved in their lives so they can have someone with experience to talk through their challenges.  You can help them find a way to convert an “if only” regret into a “what if” opportunity.

FURTHER STUDY:   Read “IF: Trading your ‘If Only’ Regrets for God’s ‘What If’ Possibilities” by Mark Betterson is available from Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/If-Trading-Your-Regrets-Possibilities-ebook/dp/B00XNJGQT4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486653612&sr=8-1&keywords=if+by+batterson

WORSHIP: Listen to Michael W. Smith sing Draw Me Close:

 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let My Words Be Few

contemplate                                     

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Ephesians 5:2

I recently received an email from my friend, Steve Morrow, who lives in Minnesota.  He has been a big encouragement to me in my efforts to write posts which are interesting and provocative.  This email, however, took a different tack.

He wrote: “Also, it might be encouraging for you to convey in a blog or part of a blog how you came to Christ.  Being at age 38 and being a lawyer aren’t a combination we typically consider when we think about someone coming to Christ.”

I will overlook his lawyer “joke” innuendo.  Basically, a law degree is a post-graduate degree in skepticism, where nothing is accepted on its face and everything is challenged.  That’s how we are trained.  Taking anything by faith would be totally outside the box.

The rationale for Steve’s request?  He thought It might be an encouragement to people reading my posts “not to give up on people who don’t know Him, even those well into their career and those they may not expect would be open to the Gospel.”

It hadn’t occurred to me to detail how I came to faith until Steve sent me his email.  When I first went to Africa and was asked to speak in a church in Nairobi, I asked my friend, Stacy Rinehart, for suggestions on what to say.  His immediate response was similar: “Tell them your testimony!”  Africans love stories, and are used to an oral tradition where their culture was handed down from generation to generation by stories told and retold.

I don’t think my testimony is very spectacular or riveting. My experience was enough to get my name written in the Lamb’s Book.  I grew up in a family where religion was mostly a social thing. My parents were not believers, and they had some background with Christian Scientist theology. I won’t digress on this point. Suffice it to say that this denomination is not mainstream Christian theology.

My concept of God was limited. I think I always believed in God, but only in a detached way.  I met my wife in college. Both of her older brothers were in my fraternity.  She had grown up in Shelby, NC, a rural community in western North Carolina.  I had grown up in a suburb of New York. We were opposites in so many ways.  Growing up, she had been active in Young Life and in her church. I had not. Cub scouts was the closest I got, and that’s not very close.

We got married when I was 21 and in my second year of law school.  As our family grew, she was desperate to have our children involved in Christian things.  Grudgingly, I agreed to visit various churches in Raleigh with her. She was hoping one of them would appeal to me. They did not, and I often opted to spend my Sunday mornings at my office trying to catch up. My kids even enjoyed coming with me because they loved to play with paper and pens at my office.

Great spiritual leader?  Well, no, not exactly.

By the time our third child arrived, I was entrenched in a life devoid of anything spiritual. Work was my god, and at times I was a workaholic, spending many hours at the office.  In the law business, you get paid for every hour that you work for a client. Ergo, the more hours you work, the more money you make.  I think you get the idea of what that might look like to a young aspiring lawyer.

That all changed in the early 1980’s.  My mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer in September, 1981.  She lived about 4 hours away by car.  I had grown close to her over the years. She treated me like one of her sons.  Both brothers often accused me as being her “favorite”.

During that final year of her life, my wife took our 5-year-old with her and spent most of the week with her mother.  She would return to Raleigh on Friday night for the weekend, and then return to Shelby on Sunday night. I remained in Raleigh and kept up with our older two children. My wife put some 25,000 miles on our car going back and forth that year.   My youngest son spent so much time in Shelby that he graduated from two separate schools – one in Shelby and one in Raleigh.

The experience of that year could have caused marital friction, but it didn’t because I knew how much my wife loved her mother.  Her mother was a rare bird:  a school teacher with a severe case of osteoarthritis, a painful, deforming and debilitating disease.  Yet she never complained about her circumstances.  In fact, you could never get her to talk about herself.  She would quickly turn every conversation to finding out what was going on in your life, not hers.

Over that final year of her mother’s life, I began to realize that she had an inner peace about her life that I had not encountered before.  Self-effacing.  Ever gracious, even though her health was on the decline. She was a true servant of God – always putting others’ interests ahead of her own. Her life had an enormous impact on me.

In February of 1982, we went to a church service and I heard the gospel message.  I had never heard it before, and it penetrated me. For the first time, Christianity made sense to me.

In tears, I came forward and I accepted Him into my life.  It was a game changer, as I have noted before.  I later realized I had been the product of 17 years of prayers by my wife.  The terminal illness of her mother was what caused me to turn my life over to someone greater than me.

While my mother-in-law played a key role in my coming to faith, she did so without ever verbalizing it.  She just lived it. She was a billboard for Christ without saying a word.  She had a peace that was surreal and unfathomable.  It made me wonder what made her different, and where she got her inner strength.

Several years ago, I had a card with a saying on it on my desk.  It said: “Preach Christ always; if necessary, use words.” That’s what my mother-in-law did. And that saying is something we can all use.  Sometimes, it is not the words you use to point to Christ, but what you do and how you live.

That’s what the next generation is looking for: authenticity.  When you have shown them authenticity, they will then listen to your words.  You must first earn the right to speak with your life.

That was the beginning of my journey in Christ. It has not been linear.  No straight roads.  Lots of turns and twists, many of them unanticipated.  But that’s life. I quickly learned to trust Jesus to guide me through the unknowns.  I also have learned that he does perform miracles – often in others.  I wish I had kept a list of the miracles I’ve seen happen in my life. It makes a convincing story to tell of God’s power.  If nothing else, it confirms that God is real and that He answers prayer.

So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The challenge here is that we all need to remember that the world is watching.  You may be a billboard for Christ. Not just what you say, but what you do.  Is your life authentic?  Does your faith show up in your actions?  Remember: one picture is worth a thousand words.  If you are going to be a picture to someone else, make sure it is a good one.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  How you live your life is more important than you realize, and your mentee is watching you.  Be authentic and transparent. It is the key to being able to speak into their lives.

WORSHIP: Listen to Matt Redman sing Let My Words Be Few.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sound Bites

bitechili

This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you’.  Exodus 3:14.

Increasingly, we are living in an age where “sound bites” dominate the news and our culture.  For those who are computer challenged, a “byte” is a unit of digital information.  It came about with the advent of computers. Historically, it was the smallest number of bits used to comprise a single character in a computer. For that reason, it is the smallest unit of memory.

In Exodus, when Moses was confused as to his authority, God had a very simple response.  Just tell them that “I Am” sent me.  Not a deep theological explanation.  Very simple. It was a sound bite.

The term “sound bites” is a takeoff of the computer “byte”. It is a short sentence or phrase that characterizes the essence of what someone is saying.  It often is just a paraphrase, but unfortunately, the sound bite has become the entire news.  It’s like a headline of a story, only no one bothers to read the entire story to capture all the fine points and intricacies of what has been said.

I was watching a news program recently where the discusssion involved reviewing what happened in the recent Presidential election in the US.  The question raised was why one candidate’s message didn’t resonate or connect with voters.  One candidate had distilled his message into four words.   The other had written 100,000 words on the same topic. No one read it and the candidate lost to the sound bite. The four words trumped 100,000 words.

Our millennials are accustomed to sound bites rather than lengthier discourse. Their attention span is 8 seconds.  That’s hardly greater than the attention span of a gnat. They are comfortable with slogans and headlines as being the entire story. Unfortunately, it is not.   I love watching interviews on the street with millennials who, when asked a pointed question about an issue, can only utter the sound bite but not give any rational thought as to what it means.

The NBA (National Basketball Association) is currently considering changing the rules as to the end of the game. Current rules permit teams that are behind to call time outs or cause fouls which draws out the length of the game.  They are losing the millennials as an audience because of their short attention span. The NBA knows that the millennials are their next audience, and if they lose them, they will lose money.

And Generation iY (Gen iY) is getting worse than the older millennials.  Gen iY is the part of millennials (Generation Y) who were born after 1990.  The “i” stands for the “i” in iPods, iMac, or iPhones.  This part of Gen Y has only known smart phones and not their predecessor: mobile phone with few features, or dumb phones. They have grown up in a total digital environment.

It seems to me that they are not alone in their embracing slogans and sound bites as being the equivalent of a deep understanding of an issue.  Certainly, there is no critical thinking involved. It has become a dumbing down of people, where slogans and sound bites pass for clarity of thought.  Perhaps that’s the lawyer in me, but words mean something, and just a few words don’t mean a lot.

According to Tim Elmore, studies and research shows that verbal comprehension is declining in Gen iY– and fast. The average vocabulary of a middle school child ten years ago was 25,000 words.  Today, it is 10,000.  That’s alarming.  And the boys are worse off than the girls due to a lot of factors, including heavier usage of video games.

But one of the biggest factors is the parents who have adopted parenting styles that don’t challenge their kids to become the best they can be. Instead, parents largely just want their children to have more self-esteem where getting a certificate of participation replaces getting recognized for real excellence.

I worry about these trends, because Generation Y and the next one, Generation Z, are our next generations. They are our future leaders, and if they can’t think beyond simple slogans or headlines, well, it just doesn’t look like it will end well for them.

It’s our obligation to “pass it on” to the next generation.  Not just tangible things like assets, but the intangible things like an education, wisdom and guidance.  Your life can make a difference in the lives of the next generation.  But it won’t happen unless you take the initiative and seek them out. They are out there wondering where you are.

My friend, Jessica Choy, a millennial, commented: “Where are the Godly mentors?  When will someone actually want to invest in me? I want to have a mentor; only no one wants to mentor me; they’re too busy.  (I) find this particularly true with the males in the church.”  Ouch.

If the next generation is to get past an understanding limited to sound bites, we have to engage them. We must invest in them and get them to realize that issues are deeper than slogans or headlines.  There are nuances that can’t be captured in a word or two.

Tim Elmore’s research indicates that Gen iY spends most of their days with other iYers, and only 15% of their time with adults.  “Instead of getting their learning from other generations, they get much of their guidance from the unprepared.”

Elmore continues: “They (Gen iY) are accustomed to learning on a need-to-know basis – but their need to know will increase if a person they trust and know well is the one sharing the information. They’re looking for mentors – authentic mentors.”

An advertisement for recruiting for the Marine Corps includes this slogan: “We’re looking for a few good men.”  Well, that can be said of the next generation.  They are looking for a few good men or women who are willing to invest in them. Our challenge is to respond to that need.  Our life experiences won’t mean anything if they are not shared with them.  Let this be your sound bite for now:  Find someone younger to invest in today.

MENTOR TAKEWAY:  The millennials need more than sound bites to think critically. Encourage deeper discussions and encourage them to read more. It can make a big difference in a potential future leader.

FURTHER STUDY:  Dr. Tim Elmore, a futurist and leader developer, has written a book entitled Generation iY, which is available at Amazon and other places. It’s an excellent read. https://www.amazon.com/Generation-Iy-Updated-Expanded-Anniversary/dp/0996697004/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1485954117&sr=8-3&keywords=tim+elmore

WORSHIP: Listen to Hillsong sing You Said.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

Chosen

                                      

creation

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15:15 (NIV)

Chosen is a word that has rolled around my noggin for the past week.  We see it often in scripture in both the Old and New Testament.  Abraham and Moses were chosen by God to lead Israel.  The Nation Israel were the “chosen” people by God (Deuteronomy 7:6).

In the New Testament, all of us are the chosen people, not just the nation Israel. Every believer is part of this.   In 1 Peter 2:9 we learn that “we are the chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.

Jesus was God’s chosen servant (Matthew 12:18).   We all remember the baptism scene where the spirit of the Lord in the form of a dove lands on Jesus and God proclaimed “This is my son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17).

The Apostles were chosen by Jesus. The Lord told Ananias that Saul was “my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” Acts 9:15.

Note that in every case where someone is chosen, there is a responsibility attached.  Each one  selected by God was chosen for a purpose. Moses was to be the leader of the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt.  But even Moses had grave doubts, and several times asked God to pick someone else. In that well-known scene before the burning bush, Moses asks God “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  (Exodus 3:11).

God’s answer to Moses is clear: “I will be with you.”  Period. He didn’t say to Moses: you’ve got the right stuff to do what I want.  No, what he said was not complicated. Not a lot of conditions or regulations went with it.  Just simply:  I will be with you every step of the way.

Which leads me to the verse in John 15:15 that has changed my thinking on this topic. In the middle of what I call the “Abide” chapter where Jesus uses the analogy of the vine and the branches, there is the verse written above. It was the first time that realized I was chosen and that I hadn’t done the choosing when I decided to follow Jesus at age 38.

Until I read that passage and understood it and embraced it, I had subliminally thought that my becoming a believer was my own choice.   My choice, not His. At least that’s what I thought until I read John 15:15. It finally sunk in that God had been with me even when I didn’t realize it.  Wow.  I was 180 degrees off course in my thinking.

But life is difficult sometimes.  There are many times in my life when I didn’t feel chosen.  In fact, there were times when I doubted God was with me and I felt disconnected.  I had a hard time seeing God’s hand in financial distress which almost drove me to bankruptcy in the late 1980’s. I didn’t feel so special when I burned out because I ignored the effect of high stress in my life.

Nor did I feel chosen when I got prostate cancer and even now, I don’t feel chosen when I am tempted.  Life sometimes makes us forget that we are chosen forever and that God is with us every step of the way.

I have mentored and met with several men who also face challenges in their lives.  A wayward child, an illness, death of a friend, financial difficulties, marital difficulties, etc.   I try to encourage them through their challenges.   Now that I think about it, I am reminding them that they are chosen, and that like Moses, God will be with them wherever their journey takes them.  Very simple message. Emanuel.  God with us.

The second part of the verse in ohn 15:15 is even more challenging.  It provides the purpose for being chosen: we are to bear fruitWe are to point to Jesus in everything that we do or say.  Not sometimes, but all the time.  Not just when things are going well, but in all circumstances and challenges.  Even at life’s darkest moments. We are not alone.  We have Emanuel.

So, the challenge to each of us is clear.  Do you have challenges that face you causing you not to think of yourself as chosen, and not realizing that God is with you?  I have two suggestions:  Remember the power of God resides within you, and seek others to help you through your difficult times. God didn’t put any of us on this earth to be alone.  He put us here to be in relationship to others. A mentor or trusted friend can be just the encouragement you need when you need it most.

As a mentor, do you know others who are going through dark times and need a word of encouragement.  Don’t be passive:  reach out to them and remind them they are chosen, and that God is with them. Emanuel.

MENTOR TAKEWAY:  One of the purposes God has for mentors is to help others fight through challenges.  Reminding your mentees that they are chosen is a good start.

WORSHIP: Listen to Chris Tomlin sing Emanuel – Hallowed Manger Ground, reminding us that God is with us.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.