The Power of Physical Touch

 

 

DJ at CCC

[The following is from a blog of Michelle Cuthrell who is in our Church. She is hosting a Chinese orphan this summer as part of an adoption advocacy program, something that my daughter did over a year ago with an orphan from Eastern Europe. This is her story of the impact of our worship service on DJ, the orphan. She granted me permission to repost it on this blog. Kleenex is not provided. Her blog can be found at  goo.gl/ndOO8C]

Since we met our sweet summer superhero a week ago today, he’s been so vivacious and energetic and full of life and joy and heart-melting smiles. He’s jumped into the trampoline-jumping, boy-wrestling, clothes-hating fray and marched to the beat of Cuthrell chaos as if it’s been his whole life’s tune. He’s embraced every aspect of our crazy, boy-filled life and made himself at home in our family and our routines.

But for the last week, he’s been stiff in our arms.

Two of the three little people in our house are huggers and cuddlers and right-next-to-ers and smotherers. And my first love language is physical touch. (That was a funny joke, God, when you married me to a man who is never here to TOUCH. The pillow I snuggle with and drool on every night thanks you.) So with the exception of Superhero 1, who uses cuddle time with Mama purely for negotiation purposes (I will allow you to cuddle with me for 15 minutes if you allow me to stay up LATE for those 15 minutes) and Supersoldier (who is still in Michelle’s Hugging Bootcamp 101), we’re a bunch of on-top-of-each-other touchers in this family.

It’s how we feel love, so it’s how we SHOW love. And it was clearly strange to our summer superhero.

So for seven days, as we’ve greeted this sweet boy with morning hugs, tucked him into bed with goodnight kisses and rubbed his back and pulled him close anytime we’ve been constructing Legos or playing games or reading books or telling nighttime stories, he’s been rigid in our arms. Whether he had never experienced such affection or whether, like Superhero 1, it just wasn’t his love language or favorite thing ever, he didn’t know quite what to do with our constant cuddling and touching. And although he gave us PERMISSION to be this close, he never initiated or returned the hugs or snuggles we’ve smothered him in for seven days.

Until yesterday.

As we walked into our family’s church yesterday morning, hand in hand with our summer superhero who had no idea what “church” was or what these people who attended this church thing did, DJ was mesmerized by the families all around him. Throughout the foyer were moms holding little hands and dads lifting children in arms and family units sitting at tables eating donuts TOGETHER. Smiling. His eyes focused on these unfamiliar units, and he couldn’t take them off the MEN he saw interacting with little superheroes. With little boys.

We dropped his host brothers off in Sunday school classrooms, and DJ, who was looking back over his shoulder to take in these “families” who seemed to love each other in such different ways than he was accustomed, and I entered the sanctuary.

As he and I rose for worship at his very first church service ever, he stood beaming, mesmerized by the band playing live music right before him. His eyes sparkled as he listened to songs in English he didn’t know and watched people worship God for possibly the first time in his life.

I put my arm around him throughout the worship set, wanting to connect with him and love on him during what may have been an overwhelming experience. He just kept looking from the worship band to me, the worship band to me.

And then, in the middle of the third song, he looked up at me, just radiating, and threw two arms around my waist and squeezed.

His very first self-initiated hug.

He hung there for the most precious of moments, and I just pulled him in close, trying to savor that second with this little boy who may never have had a person in his life to offer such affection to. My eyes filled with tears as my arms held tight.

When he released, this sweet, sweet boy who has known me only for a week looked up with brilliant eyes so full of life, and he smiled.

And as the worship band began to play “The Power of Your Name,” I lost it.

Surely children weren’t made for the streets; 
 And fathers were not made to leave;
   Surely this isn’t how it should be;    
Let Your kingdom come …”

This precious little boy was not meant to be abandoned. He was not meant to be left alone at one week old, dropped anonymously at a police station in his province. To spend a decade in an orphanage waiting for SOMEONE to see his beauty. His value. His worth.

He wasn’t made for the streets. Not then. Not in three years, when he turns 14.

He was made for FAMILY.

And now he’s living in a world that’s broken. That’s not as it was meant to be. And in this place, DJ saw the love and heart of a redeeming God and church people singing and praying about loving a world that’s broken. And he saw HERE, not in our home, not in our car, not in the places we’ve taken him or the activities we’ve engaged in with him, a new kind of LOVE.

A love found in the presence of God and the body of Christ. A love that COMPELS TO ACTION. A love that OVERWHELMS. And his response to this overwhelming love in this place with people singing to a God who is a Father to the fatherless was PHYSICAL LOVE in return.

Lord, let this by my LIFE song. Let me live to carry your compassion to a world that’s broken — to be YOUR hands and feet.

To LOVE this sweet boy who is just learning how to receive and show love.

To OPEN MY EYES not to an overwhelming world crisis but to the FACES of these sweet angels who JUST NEED A MAMA TO HOLD THEM. To teach them how to receive hugs. To introduce them to a God who wraps His perfect arms around them and FILLS THEM with HIS perfect love.

To LOVE those who are CRAVING love … and might take some time to learn to show it in return. Who may NEVER learn how to show it in return but desperately need to feel and experience it.

Let my eyes be OPEN to the need. To the faces. To the hearts. To the heart of the most precious superhero-in-waiting we know … the one right before me, just waiting for a mama he can hug and hold FOREVER.

Let YOUR compassion MOVE me so that MY action on his behalf never ENDS.

In the power of YOUR NAME.

#ChangeDJsStory

[If you have a story or a reflection that you would want posted, please let me know.  You can contact me at otterpater@nc.rr.com]

Bill Mann

 

Advertisements

The Genuine Article

fake watch

 

 “You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?”  James 2:20

The picture is one of my all time favorites.  I took it when we visited Ephesus  a couple of years ago.   It was a road side stand near the place where we were dropped off to tour the city.  I still laugh when I see it.   As you can tell from the above picture, some people are up front with the fact that they are not selling something that is what it looks like – it’s not genuine.  We call them “knock-offs”, or imitations.   But it brings a greater truth – how much of what we get from “religion” is the real thing. The unaltered article – without any pretenses or fakery. Usually  the church doesn’t have a sign announcing it’s intentions.  In some churches, your Sunday experience doesn’t connect with your Monday through Friday.  For many, It is often an academic exercise.

We live in a time where “me” is more important than “we”.  It is a time where people are refusing to listen to God or refuse to see where God is leading them.  Our obsession with social media, twitter, etc. perpetuates our isolation, and give us autonomy so that we can enhance our self-indulgence.  It takes many forms and is often subtle.  For years, I observed adults in Raleigh attending bible study after bible study, sometimes repeating them over the years.  I’m not against bible studies per se because learning God’s word is essential to discipleship. Head knowledge is great, but it is not the end game. God wants you to put your faith in action.  Jesus’s method of teaching – through mentoring – introduced a lifestyle to his disciples, so that it was more than just head knowledge.  It’s not just what you know, but what you do with that knowledge.  How does it act out in your life?  Do you put it to use?   As James notes, faith without works is useless, and we often deceive ourselves thinking that being a “good” Christian by attending bible studies and church is all that we need to do.  That’s not what authentic Christianity is all about – we are called to action to use our gifts and talents for the kingdom. It is a clarion call, not just a whisper.

Possibly there are social things in your culture that you turn a blind eye to, thinking that it is someone else’s job to be compassionate to those hurting around us.  This summer, my church has done a series of messages under the banner of the “Untouchables” – these are topics that most churches shy away from yet are part of our lives.  Each of the messages – from abortion, refugees and immigrants, poverty, to sex trafficking and pornography,  reflect our cultures’ liberalized mores and often we don’t think of them as “our” problem.  Jesus was never timid about taking on the “untouchables”, and so it was refreshing to have a series on things that are often not topics for the average sermon.

This week’s message was on sex trafficking and pornography.  It was eye-opening.  Some of the statistics are mind-boggling.  There are some estimated 100,000 to 300,000 children in sex trafficking in the U.S. alone.  The message was a conversation between our pastor and a woman who grew up through her own horrors of being in an abusive relationship -– both physically and sexually.  Her life to the outside looked fine – she was a successful business woman who actually helped train professional athletes.    A friend invited her to Church and she heard a message about taking refuge in God, and she knew right then that she needed to do that to break free of her prison.  She broke off her abusive relationship but not before her  boyfriend acted in rage by kidnapping her, subjecting her to additional abuse and threatened to kill her as well.  She knew she had heard the genuine thing – about God’s redemptive grace and a place where she could seek refuge and she immediately embraced it.  From that point on, her life took a different direction – she completed her education and got several degrees, including a PhD and speaks on this topic nationally.

Her testimony of her redemption from a hidden life was riveting.  She was so ashamed of her life that it took years before she could even talk about it.  Unfortunately, her story is all too common, which some in the audience found hard to believe.  One of the songs we sang, The Power of Your Name, speaks about how we need to expand the Kingdom to untouched people.  It starts with this verse:

Surely children weren’t made for the streets                                                                                                   And   fathers were not made to leave                                                                                                              Surely this isn’t how it should be                                                                                                                          Let Your Kingdom come 

And the chorus is a battle cry for all Christians today:

And I will live                                                                                                                                                                To carry Your compassion                                                                                                                                         To love a world that’s broken                                                                                                                                   To be Your hands and feet                                                                                                                                      And I will give                                                                                                                                                           With the life that I’ve been given                                                                                                                         And go beyond religion                                                                                                                                             To see the world be changed                                                                                                                                    By the power of Your name

That’s Christianity in action.  Not a fake. Being the hands and feet of God is the genuine article.

My challenge is for you to get out of your comfort zone and be the hands and feet of Jesus:   to reach the formerly untouchables, or to consider a new ministry, or to just spend time with someone in the next generation who is searching for an authentic person to talk to.  We live in a broken world.  Not all of us are like the woman I described who had a Jesus moment and realized her life was on a path to self-destruction.  Pray for God to lead you to a ministry that might be an encouragement to others who share your experiences.  They are all around you, but you haven’t been involved.  Jesus reached the untouchables – He wants you to be involved, too.  May we follow His example.

Bill Mann

Mistaken Identity

Identity

If you ask a millennial what their purpose in life is, they often are still thinking about that question, but in often in terms that are general – kind of the “what do I want to be when I grow up?” type of question. These questions are now coming later than ever since most millennials are slower to become adults and be on their own than prior generations.

Most of them think of their life’s purpose in terms of their occupation – their job – what they will be doing.  Few, if any, think of their purpose as being related to their identity.  Who they are, not what they do.  Many have great dreams, but those dreams mostly deal with doing, not being.  They might want to be a firefighter, architect, doctor, or an Olympic medal winner, a singer or actor.

We often ask them “What do you want to be?” which they translate to “What job do you want to have?”.  This is a mistake.  What happens is that from an early age they identify who they are with what they will be doing, rather than who they are.  Most will spend their lives identifying themselves in terms of what they do.

When I retired from law practice – my chosen profession – it didn’t change who I was.  In fact, it was an opportunity for me to do things in life that I didn’t have time for – singing on a worship team, volunteering to do leadership training in an Institute or in foreign countries and even writing this blog, and having time to play with my grandchildren who are growing up fast.

I figured out my identity years ago, and although part of my identity was associated with what I did, it didn’t really identify me.  When I retired from law, my identity did not change.

As the title suggests, I consider this to be mistaken identity.  If you look at how Christ chose his disciples, he didn’t look at their accomplishments in their jobs – their degrees, accomplishments or awards.  He looked at their hearts and said “Follow Me.”

The most important thing about you is who you are, not what you do.   You might believe that achieving recognition in your profession or accomplishing your goals is satisfying – well it is, to a point – but outward accomplishments won’t change who you are on the inside and what God has done to make you who you are.

Who you are is your identity, not what you do.  The recognitions that I received practicing law – peer reviews of excellence – really was more of a recognition of my competency, not of my identity.

As a late-blooming Christian who came to faith at age 38, I had to totally rethink my identity in Christ.  It was a game changer for me. Up until that moment of conversion, I was settled in my identity as a lawyer and father, but not as a spiritual leader of my family or a follower of Christ.

It took me several years to come to grips that the primary purpose of a Christian is to glorify God in all that you do and say.  That comes first, not somewhere down the line, or something that you do only on Sunday.

God is concerned with what you do on Monday through Saturday, not just the worship experience on Sunday.  You don’t leave church and then check your faith life at the door, so that when you step into your office on Monday morning, it’s as though you have left that all behind.  Christianity is now beginning to turn to the concept of the integration of your faith life with your work.

Two authors recently have written good books on the topic. One is Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in New York whose book is entitled Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work with God’s Work.

The second is by Tom Nelson, a pastor in the mid-west who came to the realization that his weekly messages did very little to inspire his congregation to live their work lives for God.  His book is entitled Work Matters:  Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work.  I’ve used both of these books when I speak to businessmen who are interested in a marketplace ministry.  It helps them determine their real identity in Christ – not by just what they do, but who they are.

My challenge is for you to see that your identity is not tied up in what you do, but who you are. If you can connect the dots of your faith and your work, you have come a long way to becoming the man or woman who God wants you to be.  He has planted you in a place for a reason, and He wants you to grow there for His kingdom.

Bill Mann

 

Chaos and Anarchy

 

chaos-485491_1280

These are not the topics I’d like to be writing about, but the recent events worldwide have caused many to wonder what is happening in this world.  Terrorism is everywhere – it is no longer limited to the Middle East or Africa where Isis, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have committed atrocities that often don’t make the headlines in America because they are so commonplace.  The recent events of Orlando, Florida, Paris, Brussels and just this last weekend in Nice, France brings these threats to our culture closer to home and therefore to our consciousness.

I recently hosted a friend from Jos, Nigeria, Timothy Olonade.  In a discussion with a group from my church, one person asked him to compare our life in Pinehurst, NC with his life in Jos, Nigeria.  He answered it with two examples that are chilling.  The first was that there had been 40 bombings or terrorist attacks in Jos in the last 10 years alone.  Not so in Pinehurst.  Also, traveling in Nigeria can be dangerous, and Timothy noted that his wife wants him to get a newer car.  One of his mentees, a pastor, had his car break down on the side of the road, and he was caught by terrorists who beheaded him.  Just traveling from place to place in parts of sub-Saharan Africa is dangerous.  In Pinehurst, if you are traveling, your “danger” is how much time it will take to have AAA or a towing service to fix your car roadside or perhaps tow it.  You don’t worry about being vulnerable to terrorists.  My African friends live with these dangers, and they accept that these dangers are part of life itself.  Yet they are undeterred in living life to the fullest even though they live in a dangerous place.

In America, Black Lives Matter movement and the recent arming of the Black Panthers both expresses a rage and anger aimed at those in authority and particularly the police, and indirectly to any whites. The movements reflect deep-seated resentment and prejudice, even though the premise of the Black Lives Matter movement is false.  The fiction is that blacks are much less likely to be killed by police than other races (whites or Hispanics), but the movement ignores this and the outrage continues.  I watched an angry black leader being interviewed and was struck that his rage was deeper than any single incident. Rage and anger rarely stops to be bothered with facts but instead is driven by emotion. Recent attacks on police in Dallas resulted in 5 white police officers being killed by a black sniper, and this past weekend in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,  another 3 police officers were killed in a planned ambush by black man.  One of those officers killed in Baton Rouge was black which demonstrates that the rage is as much against authority as it is racially motivated.

Both of these ambushes were preceded by what appears to be inappropriate killings of black men by police officers in Minnesota and Baton Rouge the previous week, both of which were caught on video which went viral. Pundits are now suggesting that these attacks on authority and police are just the beginning, and that there will be more of these attacks on authority.  If so, we are in for chaos and anarchy in the near term and it saddens me to see a country that is divided and polarized.    When one travels anywhere today, you now think in the back of your mind that you don’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  To peaceful citizens, fear creeps in.  A recent study done at a Christian college, Wheaton College in Illinois, revealed that a majority of their students were now fearful.

Without authority, we sink into chaos and anarchy.  So, how does a Christian bring “order” into this chaos?  How do we make sense of the senseless acts of terrorists and misguided people who are intent on committing violent acts on any one in authority? Where is the good news in all of this?  Romans 8:28 says that there is “good” news in everything and that God makes all things (good or bad) work for good.  Well, ironically, these trying times in the world has led to a revival of Christianity in places where only darkness and previously existed.  Revival has occurred in countries in the middle east where Christian persecution has been the norm – Iran and Egypt are now experiencing unprecedented growth in Christianity by people who are fed up with Islam, their governments and their circumstances and are looking for spiritual answers to this chaos and anarchy.  They are trying to makes sense of the senseless, and turning to Christianity because it provides answers to their fears.

The head of the police department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was spot on when he noted that the attack on police and people in authority is really a “heart” problem. When life is treated as being expendable (either by a twisted religion or by a people group that has no moral boundaries), the problem is clearly the human spirit, and there is only one answer for that – a revival of immense proportions.    As Christian, we know these truths – we know that God is sovereign in all of this.   We sang the song “Sovereign” this weekend, and the lyrics really resonated with me:

Sovereign in the mountain air, Sovereign on the ocean floor, With me in the calm, With me in the storm;   Sovereign in my greatest joy, Sovereign in my deepest cry;                                                               With me in the dark, with me at the dawn.  In your everlasting arms, all the pieces of my life                                                                                  From beginning to the end, I can trust you;   You work everything for good                                                                                                                     God, whatever comes my way, I will trust you      

Last weekend, Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State, prayed a prayer for our nation at a church in California which was captured on video.  It is a wonderful prayer and worth watching: https://vimeo.com/174267124  Although the prayer is directed at Americans and encourages them to “race toward God”, it applies to all nations where chaos and anarchy exists.

So our challenge is to find goodness in the bad events – to find God in the darkest hours and pray to Him for his deliverance.  We also need to pray for a spiritual  revival of human hearts to turn toward God in difficult times.  Revival is happening in the middle east – it could happen in America, too. Only Christ can provide order in a world of chaos and anarchy.

Bill Mann

I’ve Got Your Back (Part II)

defense                                     

 

But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David  and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. 1 Samuel 19:1-3 

This is the second post on this topic.  In the first post, I discussed the story of Jonathan and David which is taken from 1 Samuel 18-20.  It is a wonderful example of peer mentoring – having a deep intentional relationship with another colleague or friend.  Some 30 years ago, a close friend of mine, Floyd Green,  suggested that he wanted to have a personal “board of directors” where you submit to one another and be the Proverbs 27:17 “iron sharpener” in each other’s life.  I had never thought of the concept, but I liked it immediately.     From that conversation grew a small group of men that changed from time to time, but over the next 24 years, three of us continued to meet weekly.   We still do, as time and logistics permit.

In our culture in the U.S., and in the two African countries I’ve visited, very few pastors have any kind of mentor, either an older person or even a peer.  They are isolated in many ways because it is often difficult to find someone around them with whom they can be transparent and share their struggles.  I love the quote:  “A mind alone is a bad neighborhood.”  That quote applies to everyone, even pastors and leaders.  While we need direction from God, we also need each other.  David needed Jonathan.  Without Jonathan, Saul could have easily killed David, and the course of history and Christianity would have been changed.

Technology has changed the game in the past decade. Having a mentor (either someone older or a peer) can be done even if your mentor is not in your town, or even in your country.  You can use Skype or even Instant Messenger (IM) on Facebook.  I have been using Instant Messenger on Facebook with my friend, Benvictor Ojong, who lives in Limbe, Cameroon. It is a real-time “conversation” and it is free even though I am six-time zones away.  It even has a video feature so you can actually see one another while talking.

Last week in the first part, I covered the two “take-aways” or principles from the story of Jonathan and David:  1) Every David needs a Jonathan,  and 2) Jonathan’s loyalty to David was intentional.

Part II covers a couple more lessons to take away from the Jonathan – David relationship:

  1. Mentors take risks for their friends. Jonathan took risks for David– he was almost killed himself by his father, King Saul, and he risked his relationship with his father, and his reward for his actions was that he was disinherited from the throne by Saul.  As Jesus said in John 15:13, there is no greater love than one who is willing to lay down his life for a friend.  Jonathan was willing to do that, even if it involved risks to himself and his future.  In the same way, mentors can take risks with their friends by sometimes giving them the “tough stuff” – telling them that their life or conduct is in need of repair, or helping them figure out how to deal with an area of their life that is weak or holding them back.  Such advice can be invaluable.  Sometimes we mistakenly think that ministry to another only takes place in a church.  We forget that most of the life of Jesus as reported in the Gospels takes place outside a church or synagogue.  Being a mentor is really a ministry to your friends.
  1. Mentors dispense grace to their friends. A mentor invests in his friends without an expectation of receiving any benefit.  There is no quid pro quo involved.  David was in little position to reciprocate with Jonathan by doing similar things in return, although I can imagine that he would have done the same for Jonathan if the situation had been reversed.  That’s called grace – unmerited favor, which really is not earned. David did nothing to deserve Jonathan’s favor or his loyalty.  It’s a picture of what God does for us – grace is unmerited favor.  We don’t get what we justly deserve.  That’s what a mentor does – a mentor invests in another’s life with no expectation of personal gain or advancement, other than to help his mentee  be the best that he or she can be.

Do you have a Jonathan or a David in your life?  If you are a leader – a David as it were – or if you are a pastor, you need to find the Jonathan’s of the world.   You need someone who will “protect your back”against blind spots or help you through personal issues that may be sensitive if you divulge them to the wrong people  If you don’t have one, who has your back?  Take time to pray about finding a Jonathan or a David in which to invest in each other’s lives. It may be the best investment you ever made.

Bill Mann

 

I’ve Got Your Back (Part I)

teamsport

 Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.   1 Samuel 19: 9 

There are several types of mentor relationships and sometimes age is not a factor.  The more traditional one that we think of is an older person (not necessarily in age but in experience) with a younger one.  That’s what I have called a “Sensei” relationship, which, in Japanese, means “one who comes before another.”  But there is another type – what I term “peer mentoring” – surrounding yourself with one or more people of similar age that you can trust, confide in and develop a mutual support system.  I’ve been in a peer mentoring relationship with two other men for close to 24 years.  We met weekly throughout these years.  It’s a powerful force in my life.  Over the years, I’ve learned that Christianity is like a “team sport” and the person that plays “solo” is creating unnecessary risks of failure.

The term “I’ve got your back” has been popularized in the sports world in the U.S., although it is also used on the battlefield.  If you are playing a team sport like soccer or football, it is the concept that if you fail on defense and the person with the ball gets past you, there is someone behind you to cover for you. In American football, the last defensive man is a position called “safety” because he is the last defensive man to protect the goal. The safety always has the back of the other ten defensive players on the field.   On the battlefield, it is the image of two soldiers fighting with their backs to each other so that neither is risking an attack from behind that they can’t see.   Your greatest vulnerability comes from your back because you can’t see a threat.  In the real world, we are all vulnerable to things we either don’t see (i.e. blind spots), or things we choose not to see.  Either of them can be trouble.

The story of Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel 18-20 is a biblical illustration of several principles of peer mentoring.  Jonathan and David remained loyal to each other during the end of King Saul’s reign.  Today’s post will cover two of the principles and a later post will cover the other two.

The story starts in 1 Samuel 18, which begins just after David has killed Goliath, the giant Philistine.   Saul is interested in David because of his feat of defeating Goliath.  So is Jonathan, Saul’s son and heir to the throne.  In verse 1, it says that Jonathan became “one in spirit” with David and “loved him as himself”, and in verses 3 and 4 it reports that Jonathan made a covenant with David and gave him his robe, tunic, sword, bow and belt.

Saul, in the meantime, becomes paranoid because he sees David’s star rising and that the Lord has his hand on David.  He felt threatened, and in the ensuing chapters, Saul repeatedly tries to kill David, but each time, Jonathan intervenes, either by convincing Saul that David is a benefit to Saul, or by warning David of impending danger from Saul.  David recognizes the loyalty of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:3-4 when he takes an oath with Jonathan to recognize Jonathan as being the only step between David and death.  What a picture!  This is saying that Jonathan had David’s back.  He was protecting David from threats that David couldn’t see.

Saul is still angry and disgruntled, and throws a spear at Jonathan who is pleading on David’s behalf.  Jonathan was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David. David again averts being killed and Jonathan confirms his loyalty, which is between he and David “and their descendants forever”.  As punishment, Saul takes out his anger on Jonathan and bars him from succeeding on the throne.

There are several lessons or take aways here, each of which are instructive:

  1. Every David needs a Jonathan. Jonathan protected David from Saul, or as we say in the US, he “had his back.” The goalie on the soccer team tells the other players “I’ve got your back” so that they will feel free to be aggressive.  Jonathan told David: “I’ve got your back.”  We all need that, although most of us won’t be in a life or death situation.  We need others to help us cover for our weaknesses or blind spots.  We all have blind spots – things that we can’t see, or, more often, chose not to see about our behavior that could hurt us.
  1. Jonathan’s loyalty to David was intentional. This relationship was not accidental.  It didn’t just happen.  It was based on an articulated understanding – a covenant – that Jonathan and David had with each other: to love the other as themselves.   Jesus says in John 15:13 that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends.   Peer mentors makes intentional commitments to each other – to pray for them, to help them through struggles, and encourage them to be all that God wants them to be.  There is no limit to the list of to-do’s that a peer mentor does because life itself can’t be defined in the future – you don’t know that is around that next curve in the road, but it is comforting to know that you are not alone in your journey.  The point here is that you won’t stumble into this kind of relationship.  It takes commitment and conviction – it won’t happen accidentally.

In picking your friends, do you ever think about what they can do for you, or do you think about what you can do for them?  Pick your friends carefully based on shared values and make the relationship a covenant relationship – one that will last through good times and bad.  If you are a “David”, do you have a Jonathan in your camp?  Your challenge is to seek a relationship with one or more friends which is intentional and mutual – it’s not just what you get out of it, but what you can give back to each other by protecting each other’s backs.  Think of it of playing a team sport.

Bill Mann

 

 

 

 

 

Gone Fishing

river-fish-1164953_1280

“Even 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

A question that always comes up when I discuss mentoring is “where do I find one?”  That question gets asked universally – in America, in Africa, everywhere.  Part of the reason that a simple question is asked frequently is that the process of mentoring has largely dropped out of our cultures.  In America, the process of mentoring was part of our teaching model until the middle of the last century – most professions had internships or apprenticeships which required students to work side by side a more experienced professional.  The only profession that I know that still retains this is the medical profession, where young doctors have to do internships – usually at hospitals – to learn practical aspects of being a doctor.  They actually grow and learn by actually doing procedures under watchful eye of a more experienced resident.  The legal profession also used the process for many years where a graduate from a law school had to spend at least one year doing an apprenticeship in a law firm before he was actually admitted to the Bar and able to practice on his own.  New Jersey is the only state that still has this program, but when I recently looked into it, I found that the program has been watered down and it is no longer an absolute requirement.

As a consequence, the idea of mentoring has largely been eliminated from the consciousness of our culture.  Some professions and businesses have now recognized its importance and have promoted mentoring – the North Carolina Bar Association is one that has encouraged older lawyers to accept younger lawyers – not even in their own law firms – to become mentors.   I’m glad to see these initiatives, and more are needed.

Today’s post is for everyone – young and old alike.  For the younger person – the next generation or the millennials –  it will offer some practical suggestions to help you become a “fisher of mentors” to coin a phrase similar to what Jesus told the disciples that he would make them a “fisher of men”.  To the more mature out there – this is a reminder that the vast majority of the next generation are looking for a mentor – you, in fact, although you may not know it.

But to a millennial – someone in the next generation who would jump at the chance of having someone who he admires speak into his life – he or she are on their own because it is rare to find the few actual  potential mentors who are proactively looking for someone to mentor.  It is not the norm – people who have life experiences to share with others just aren’t out there looking for young people to pour themselves into.   So, the question is, how do we address this?  I thought I would offer some practical tips to someone who wants a mentor to come to them, but since that is not happening, what should they do.  Here are six suggestions:

  1. There is no perfect mentor for all seasons of your life. As you grow, your needs and challenges change.  Your challenges as a single person starting out in the workplace is very different from someone married with 2 young children.  The need for new mentors may change over time when your current mentoring relationship has matured.
  2. Be Intentional, but be discrete. Sometimes just using the word “mentor” can be a barrier.  It is often misunderstood because of our cultures lack of familiarity with it.  If you identify someone who you would consider a good mentor, you might be better off just developing a relationship by meeting together periodically and then strengthening the relationship by asking if it were possible to meet on a regular basis because you enjoy your time together.  For the record, with only a couple of exceptions, I don’t use the “mentor” in our conversations.  It’s really not necessary.  The relationship is the important thing, not the label.
  3. Be Intentional.  Once you have developed a relationship with a mentor, you will need to grant them permission to speak into your life.  Schedule regular meetings of coffees, breakfasts or lunches that are convenient to you.  My peer mentor group meets once a week, every week, schedules permitting. We’ve changed the venue over the past 24 years based on mutual convenience.  Map out a course – just sitting down and having someone ask you “How’s life?” does not count.  Ask what books you should read.  What things in your life do you want to be held accountable? Agree on mutual expectations – those that you have of yourself and of your mentor (that will probably come as a surprise to him).
  4. Be A Fisherman. Good mentors are not out looking for you.  You would be deluding yourself if you think otherwise.  Almost by definition, the good mentors are busy with their jobs, their families, and other obligations.  You are not on their radar screen.  As someone else said, “you need to jump into their river and let them show you life on their terms.”   In fishing, you don’t always catch a fish on every cast.  Be prepared to throw out your line to more than one candidate.
  5. Consider your peers. Not all mentors are older than you.  They may contemporaries who have experiences that you don’t have.  You can learn from someone younger.  Some of the best ideas I’ve had came from younger people or someone my own age who has a totally different set of life experiences.
  6. Have a strategy. Consider those around you who you think could you help be the best you can be at your current life station.  Every mentor, either man or woman, doesn’t have all the answers for your needs.  In fact, mentors often don’t have the answers, but they can ask probing questions to help you figure things out for yourself.

The challenge here is help you engage in a mentoring relationship in a culture where mentoring has disappeared from our consciousness.   If you are a millennial, my question to you is this:  Are you actively seeking a mentor?  If so, what is your strategy to find someone who appropriately can speak into your life and help you along the way?   On the other hand, if you are someone who could mentor others, I would challenge you to raise your consciousness to the great need for people like you to “pass it on” to the next generation.  I challenge you to be proactive in looking for someone to mentor.  As the MasterCard ad suggests, your willingness to invest in someone else’s life is Priceless.

Bill Mann