My dad has my back. I don’t want to disappoint him. I love spending time with him, because I know that he loves me. We’ve got a good relationship, and that has been formative in my life. I’m literally not the same person I would be without him loving me the way that he does. In some ways, our relationship with God is like this. That’s why he invites us to call Him “Father.”
Far from the remote, disinterested God-idea many people struggle with, and a far cry from the buzz-kill God of to-do lists and do-nots, the Bible describes a God who INITIATES. A God who loves first. A God who created us to be RELATIONAL beings, just as He is a RELATIONAL God. God wants us to live in close relationship with him through His Word. … …
“A Relational People for a Relational God” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Pastor Monseth has been the dean of our AFLC Seminary for 42 years. He was my Systematic Theology professor and my good friend. He was also the father of some of the best friends I have ever had. When you love much, you grieve hard, and so his absence is felt deeply by our families and by our whole church Association. Fran Monseth died on Good Friday. Late at night, following an emotionally tangled Easter, my brother-in-law, Adam, sent the following tweet:
There it is. GOSPEL! HOPE! The exact minute we concede our loved ones are gone, the power of hope floods in.
For those of us who loved Fran so deeply, we grieve his passing with many tears. I hate it. He was like a second (or third) dad to me, he loved my wife and kiddos like family. And he let us know. His absence will be felt for the rest of our lives. My grief spills down my face, and it has for a week, and it shows no signs of stopping. But then, in every conversation, and in every story… Jesus. The Gospel. HOPE.
I’m straining at the keyboard to shout it to you. Whether you go to church or not. I feel this one to my toes. Jesus makes all the difference. On one side stands anger/confusion/hopelessness/defeat/despair/eventual cynicism and apathy. On the other stands HOPE. With hope comes forgiveness, freedom, purpose, and much joy. God is in the business of proclaiming HOPE in the darkest of places, in the darkest of moments, to the darkest of hearts. I want to be a part of His great story. Like Fran.
Those who ever had a chance to meet Pastor Monseth – or had the great privilege of knowing him well – will speak with conviction that he reflected the character of his greatest love. I’ve heard people say that we become like what we love most. It is natural to worship what we love most. It is natural for a student to become like their teacher. For boys to grow up to be like the dads they love. In this regard Fran reflected the love and character and values of his father, Pastor Fritjof Monseth. Even more, we saw JESUS in him.
I’m struggling to shake off the “churchy” language here – I don’t want my words to blend into the evangelical beige. To say we saw JESUS in Fran has some TEETH. It means real-world lives were changed, because Fran lived DIFFERENTLY than most people – even churchy people. Fran’s faith was bold. He was resolute. He loved God fiercely, and his family joyfully, and his friends deeply. He was full of the truth. He had huge swaths of God’s Word memorized, and his conversations were saturated with scripture. When I had the pressures of life weighing me down, I would talk to Fran, and he cared about it. He cared about our stuff like it was HIS stuff. He would pray with me, asking God to bless and protect and provide for us, with every understanding that his prayers would be answered, because His God is my God. And our God is trustworthy. Without Jesus, I would carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. With Jesus, I can rest. Fran reminded me of that a hundred times.
I was talking to one of the maintenance men on the Seminary campus where I live (and where Fran worked everyday as Professor of Systematic Theology and Seminary Dean), and we noted the consistency with which Fran loved people. I mean ALL people. Recognize the rarity in this. We don’t live like this, even if we believe we should… Or maybe I should just speak for me. I don’t love people the same – with Jesus’ kind of love – regardless of their stature or intellect or smell. I know I shouldn’t, but I tend to categorize people. Lord forgive me.
Fran looked everybody in the eye. His countenance and his words communicated “You matter to me and you matter to God.” This was true for the academicians he could call peers, and it was true for the everyday Joes, and even for the Seminary students who sometimes thought we knew better. Notably, it was just as true for the awkward and the offensive and the marginal people. Fran supernaturally loved people. He was like Jesus.
Do you get this? How remarkable and important this is? Pastor Monseth breathed out Jesus to everybody he had contact with. He affirmed the learned and the weirdos. I want to be that kind of man.
But then he died. He just died. It was a Friday morning. And then by lunch time, no heartbeat.
This is a spark that grows. This is the unique thing that Jesus-lovers experience that the rest of the world doesn’t believe truly exists. This is HOPE: God’s PROVEN power on full display in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it is the future of those who believe. Like Fran. Jesus promised us in Romans 6 that our sins were put to death with Him on the cross, and in His resurrection WE who believe are (and will be) resurrected to new life in Him.
As Fran’s death approached he was preparing us – those who love him much – in the HOPE that we would need in days like today, the day of his funeral.
On the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday, the Monseth family gathered at the family farm in Rogers, MN, to celebrate Easter together. Grandpa Monseth spoke that afternoon to the family about the hope of resurrection. He talked about the death of his dad, Fritjof, and how he grieved it. “But,” he said, “we do not grieve as those who have no hope.” Quoting 1 Thessalonians 4:13, he prepared his family. “When I go to heaven on Friday, I know you will be sad. But the sovereign God loves us. Remember the HOPE we have in Jesus. We’ll spend FOREVER together with Him. You’ll see.” Jesus makes all the difference.
He was preparing us, too, his students at AFLTS. In his last lecture of his 42 year career teaching at our Seminary, Dr. Monseth spoke to us about death and the nature of our transition to heaven as disciples of Jesus. In a profoundly fitting turn, Pastor Monseth ended class on Wednesday, March 27, with Job 19:25-27, which is likely the oldest statement in the Bible about the hope of the resurrection.
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”
This matters! HOPE! No other religion offers HOPE like the assurance of freedom and life that Jesus gives us. His promises are so clear. I agree with the Apostle Paul, who wrote about this hope in Romans 1:16.
“I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe…”
ALL who believe. Jesus made all the difference to Fran. This confidence in the Gospel fueled his passion to share it. With everyone. With Doctors and weirdos. Because the smartest and the slowest, the kindest and the cruelest, the polished and the ragamuffins ALL fall short of God’s perfect standard. Every soul needs Jesus. Fran lived the Gospel message – the unshakable HOPE that is stronger than death: JESUS died and rose again to forgive everyone. Salvation and freedom and purpose and meaning and HOPE are universally available to EVERYONE who believes.
So today we gather in the chapel on the beloved campus where Dr. Monseth poured out his Jesus to thousands of students. Not just religious ideology. He gave us Jesus. Through the Spirit and the Word, Pastor Monseth helped usher in the Kingdom of God among us. And I know we will never be able to accommodate all the traffic. And I know the spaces of this campus will be filled to overflowing. But I know this is right, to be right here together to mourn as a family. And I think of the last time we gathered with Pastor Monseth as a family in this chapel, not too many days ago.
We gathered here for Ben and Dre’s new daughter – Fran’s latest grandchild. It was her baptism day. I had the great privilege of holding this new 8 pound life, and welcoming her into the family of God with the water and the Word. Everybody huddled around, and the kids had the best seats, right up in front. Blessings were read over her. And Grandpa Fran’s rich voice, full of love and conviction, rang out his blessing, calling upon Jesus to keep her and strengthen her and use her life for His glory. And in this little girl I see his legacy. Like I do in the family picture above.
Only when I look at these pictures, I see thousands of other souls leaning into the frame. Lives changed forever because Fran lived with the courage and conviction to tell them how they mattered to God, and how their sick souls and selfish hearts needed Jesus. And more than that… how Jesus was available to them. Today. Right now. How many souls will be with Fran in heaven because he loved the somebodies and the nobodies with equal compassion? I imagine a stadium full. Only they’re not cheering for Fran. They’re shouting their praise to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – Fran’s first love. The One he sees today face to face.
I think again of this little girl that Fran loved so dearly. I see her daddy hold her close with such joy and protective, crazy love. And I understand again the metaphor that God has given us. “I love you like that. I hold you close like that. I am your father, and you are my adopted sons and daughters whom I chose to be my own. When you love much, you will grieve hard, and so I will comfort you today.”
Jesus makes all the difference. Without Him we wail into the wind. But Fran knew Jesus. Peace. Purpose. Forgiveness. Freedom. Wholeness. Resurrection. LIFE.
I marvel at the grace of God. I think of Fran’s new granddaughter, and I see how His hand of blessing was surely upon Ben and Dre as they continued his family line. I imagine her growing in her faith, with the tender heart for Jesus that we see in her dad, and the beautiful boldness of her momma, furthering the exponential reach of her Grandpa’s Gospel legacy.
And I think what a wonder it is that in this season of deep grief, in the midst of deep faith, they named her HOPE.
The primary difference between Moms and Dads, as far as I can tell, is the length of leash with which we are comfortable letting our kids run. While 99% of the time Dads know that their children can run far afield with no more than a few near misses, the occasional potential debilitating accident, and a brush with death now and again, we can all say a collective “THANK GOD” for Moms during that other 1% of the time… when it really matters.
As the father of boys – five of them – my leash is even longer than the average guy. Boys have gotta take an occasional ER run in order to experience the fullness that life has to offer. No pain, no gain, right? Boys don’t climb to the treetops because it just looks so safe up there. Boys don’t launch their bikes and skateboards off ramps, steps, and railings because they shy away from risk. Boys don’t try to light stuff on fire because they simply long for serenity. No sir. They are as addicted to adrenaline as they are to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. And somewhere in the heart of every Dad is that 12 year old daredevil explorer we used to be. We understand. Climb that tree, kid. I’ll drive you to the hospital if you break an arm.
However, there are moments. We Dads know that there is a threshold. We know because we’ve had to cross it a thousand times ourselves. These are the “big boy” moments along the road that lead to growing up. We can see it in the eyes of our children, and we remember. They are the times when we wish the incline wasn’t quite so steep and the roller coaster wasn’t quite so aggressive. Sometimes the hard path is a necessary one. Sometimes the hard path may not be entirely necessary – but good, nonetheless. These are the times when we must look our boys in the eye, and with all the compassion we can muster, utter the words every child needs to hear once in awhile…
“Man up, Nancy.”
Sure, there are people out there with kids actually named Nancy. I don’t think that makes it any less effective.
Real life example: This past weekend I drove my 11 year old son Isaac to meet up with a youth group from our church on their way to a weekend retreat across the border in Wisconsin. I had to drop him off at a suburban Applebee’s where the van would pick him up about 15 minutes after I left. His bags were packed, the list was double checked, Bible securely stowed, sleeping bag and pillow in the back of the Jeep, and Ike was a bundle of energy. I could tell that his adrenaline habit was being fed right now. Heading off to a retreat away from the family, out of state, no older brother with him this time. His first “on his own” outing with the youth group. He was stoked.
But his eyes were sending mixed messages. Flashes of trepidation between the smiles. Traces of concern peeking out the corners of his eyes, betraying his “I can do this” adventurous gaze out the windshield.
“Are you nervous?”
Pause. “Nah. I’m excited.” Pause. “I mean… first time I’ve really done this.” Pause. “Seth’s not gonna be there…” Pause. “But it’ll be awesome.” He said it like a declarative statement, and then his face looked at me like he had just asked a question.
I grabbed the bill of his baseball hat and jerked it around with a grin. “You’ll do great, Ike. You’ll have a blast.”
That was it.
Sometimes the “man up, Nancy” moments – the big boy moments – don’t require many words. I knew he’d be OK. And this independent moment was both good and necessary. He knew it was worth a few butterflies. The best rides are, right?
Someday I won’t be dropping him off at Applebee’s and waving goodbye for the weekend. Someday it will be a college dorm. Then he’ll be the excited one, and the tears will be mine. Amy will likely be giving ME a much needed “Man up, Nancy,” when that day comes.
The point here, after all, is that I am not primarily seeking to shield my boys from pain. I have friends and family in the Marine Corps. who tell me “pain is just weakness leaving the body.” My boys love it when I quote the Marines.
Pain avoidance is not our job, parents. Character development is. Maturity is the goal. These objectives are long term and require stretching. Sometimes, the hard path is the best one.
Isaac and I never talked all of this through. But I knew that getting dropped off at Applebee’s with his pile of bags to wait by himself for the Youth Group van was a big boy moment for him. And when he came home, among the hugs and high-fives, I was sure to look him in those just-a-little-bit-older eyes of his and tell him, “I’m proud of you.”
Certain stories in our family have a way of finding new legs year after year at our family gatherings. One such story has its roots in my parents’ small farm town upbringing in the upper northwestern corner of Minnesota, where the North Dakota plains have invaded the landscape, and families earn their bread in the rich black soil of the Red River Valley.
My dad was in 3rd Grade. The assignment was to write and share a poem about “your favorite sport.” One of dad’s friends stepped forward and shared, with great aplomb, the following legendary verse:
When I was a little lad
I ran to meet my Dad
O’er the fields so wavy
Oh, how I love to eat gravy
There is a simple perfection in this poem. The affectionate relationship between father and son. The eagerness of the son to join the father as a prelude to feasting. The tip of the hat to the waving wheat fields, ready for harvest… a sign of provision and plenty. And then, in a glorious climactic moment, the hailing of gravy. Nay, the very pleasure of ingesting said gravy. Economy of words. Perfect.
I’m going up north today to revel in my family. And to eat gravy. I love Thanksgiving.
Not just the holiday. The act. Not just the family meal. The relationships. Not just the gravy…
But gravy is a big deal.
“Gravy” is the extra goodness that makes life sing. More than brownish meat sauce. It is the extra. The “beyond enough.” The abundance of blessing. The richness of the meal. We could subsist on dry turkey and boiled potatoes, green beans and dry bread. But why? God has blessed in abundance. When we eat gravy, we celebrate the love God has for us. We feast, and thank the Giver. The gravy is the the savory saucy goodness that signifies the fat of life. Pressed down, shaken together, running over… In America, we all are blessed with abundance. If you are at a computer reading this right now, thank God. Thank God for the warm place. Thank God for the computer. Thank God for electricity, and the ability to reason. Thank God that you can read.
We have so much to be thankful for there are not enough seconds in a lifetime to express it adequately.
I saw a quote the other day that rang my bell: “Thanksgiving is a prerequisite to joy.”
Yes and AMEN. This is one of my most important goals as a dad – to raise gratitude-filled sons. Because I also want to raise JOY-filled sons.
I believe my boys were created by God to live their lives celebrating Him in joy. Not a “ho-hum, work-a-day, give me what I got coming to me” life. LIFE TO THE FULL. Enjoying freedom from sin. Living in obedience to God as a joyful worship response to the God who gave us life and breath and heartbeats and mozzarella cheese. And gravy.
The next few days in Bemidji, we’ll be in the thick of God’s greatest gifts. Family who love us. Abundant food. Faith in God at the heart of our conversations. None of it is lost on me. God is a good God. He is GOOD. In the midst of the best times of life, and in the hardest, He is good.
When I takes that first gravy-laden bite (and the third… and the forty fifth…), I’m going to be saying a prayer. “Thank you, God, that You are so good to me, though I don’t deserve your favor. Thank you for your ABUNDANCE.”
October 30, 2011.Living Hope Church in St. Michael-Albertville, MN. Sunday night service. This message is taken from Isaiah 43:1-7. It’s a message to Christ followers who are going through extremely difficult circumstances… times the old testament writers would refer to in poetic, idiomatic language… “going through water and fire.” In these desperate times, Isaiah 43 brings us this encouragement:
Don’t be afraid, because God is with you!
VIDEO NOTES: The video here begins a few minutes into my message after I had talked about my dear friends Jeremy and Jenny Erickson. You can see their picture on the screen behind me as the video starts. Jeremy was in the hospital awaiting news of a bone marrow scan that would eventually reveal a pre-leukemia disorder, and Jenny had just received word that her dad had died in a car accident. That is going through water and fire. I had the Ericksons in my mind as I prepared and delivered this message. Ongoing prayers for their family are deeply appreciated.
Also on this video, we decided to include some of our closing song. If you are interested in finding it for use in your own church, it is called “Covenant Song,” written by Aaron Senseman, copyright 2000 Stuntman Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
We ended our service Sunday night in a prayer huddle around Pastor Bob’s son, Joshua Halvorson, who is a Marine being deployed to Afghanistan this week… through water and fire. We will keep Joshua in our prayers, too.
I’m pausing briefly in my series on the pursuit of joy (check out part one, two, and three) to make this important announcement:
Seth is out of the family. Man, I loved that kid, too. It will be hard to lose him, sure, but he did, after all, leave the dishes half finished. Levi is out, too. He talked back twice yesterday. It’s hard to kick a seven year old out of the house in Autumn, but Seth is going, too, and he’s a pretty resourceful kid. They’ll probably cobble together lunch money with some kind of street performance involving music and dance. They’ll do alright. Too bad they can’t be Skogerboes anymore. If only they had followed the rules…
This is so ridiculous that it hardly works as a metaphor… and that’s exactly why it works as a metaphor. Let me explain…
Today in my Christian Ethics class we confronted a conceptual stumbling block that I’ve had for years concerning Christ’s imputed righteousness. That’s fancy pants seminarian talk for “the righteousness Jesus credits to me because he has forgiven my sins.” I have struggled to correctly understand what this means in relation to my “split personality…” I’m a sinner. And I’m a saint. I’m wretched. And I’m righteous.
This is a mystery. But it is a stone cold reality. Believers in Jesus – followers of Christ – ARE righteous in God’s eyes, because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross on our behalf. In church-ese, he has been made the propitiation for our sins, and his sacrifice on the cross 2000 years ago was the substitutionary atonement for us, redeeming us to relationship with God, and we have been clothed with Christ’s righteousness. That means that HIS righteousness has been imputed (given) to us. WE ARE RIGHTEOUS.
At the same time we live corrupted by sin, and like Paul, we who love the Lord are frustrated and horrified that the things we want to do we can’t do, and the things we DON’T want to do we can’t seem to let go of. WE ARE SINNERS.
For years I have wondered how all of this works together. I have read the passages that explain how Jesus is my Mediator (again with the church talk… so sorry) literally translated my “advocate,” like a defense attorney. Only he’s NEVER LOST a case. He only has ONE LINE OF DEFENSE, and it works every single time. He stands before His Father, the Righteous Judge, and He shows the nail holes in his hands and feet. His blood is the payment. The debt is accounted for. The sin is erased. “And when God looks at me,” I’ve been told, “He doesn’t see my sin at all. He sees Jesus’ righteousness.”
So after He saved me, Jesus is basically my Elmore Smith.
Elmore Smith was a 7’0″ center from Kentucky State University. He played in the National Basketball Association from 1971 to 1979 as a member of the Buffalo Braves, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. While racking up an impressive stack of stats as a point-maker and rebounder, what Smith is best remembered for his shot-blocking, earning him the nickname “Elmore the Rejector”. He led the league in total blocked shots in both 1974 and 1975, and holds the NBA record for most blocked shots in a game since 1973, with 17.
This is how I have seen the work of the Trinity in regards to my sin and in view of Christ’s imputed righteousness in my life: When I sin, I grieve the Holy Spirit (my Counselor) who lives in me and continually reminds me of God’s Word, the refining Law that points me to the cross. In heaven, I have imagined the Father (Righteous Judge), ruling in holiness and unapproachable light, sitting on His throne in perfection and purity, the unattainable standard by which I will be measured in order to gain access to heaven some day.
And then there, before the Throne of the Judge, stands “Jesus the Rejector,” my spiritual Elmore Smith, shot blocking my sins with 100% accuracy, so that the Judge behind Him will never see my imperfection.
It kinda works, right?
But there’s a problem… My sins really do matter. And The Trinity is in perfect communion. And the God-head is ONE. And the Godhead is omniscient (which is church-speak for “KNOWS EVERYTHING, past present, and future.”)
If God the Father knows all that God the Son and God the Spirit know, then it isn’t possible that my sins are “unknown” to Him. So yes, I am righteous… the Bible says that I am. My sins are covered by Jesus’ righteousness imputed to me. But God knows all, and He sees that I sin. How can I sin… and be perfectly righteous?
What really helped clarify this conundrum for me today was the understanding that this imputed righteousness is a righteousness of POSITION. In other words, as a Christ-child, I still sin. I need the cross everyday, and I need to turn to Jesus in repentance daily. He is my Advocate, and His blood has covered my sin… but they are not unknown to the Father. And yet my sins don’t affect my POSITION as a child of God. That is Jesus’ work, not mine.
Just like my kids’ rule-breaking is not unknown to me. Although they may think they get away with it now and again, I know. I always know. And I want them to do what is right. I want them to follow the rules out of love and respect for me… out a a belief that they know I have the BEST in mind for them. But they mess up. They break the rules. They sin.
Do I ask them to take responsibility when they sin? Yes. Do I expect them to turn and go the other way? Yes. But I don’t kick them out of the family.
They are still my beloved kiddos. I will fight for them and direct them and raise them to live healthy, fulfilled lives, and when they mess up, I will forgive. But they will always be my kids.
So it is with the righteousness of Jesus. It is a righteousness of position. It is placement within the family of God. We are His beloved children. When we mess up, He will forgive. Does our sin matter? You bet. Jesus is not my Elmore Smith. God knows it all. But our position is not dependant upon our striving hard enough. Our position is secure in the work Jesus has already done in our place.
Does this smack of “eternal security” to you… or to decipher for the non-church crowd… Does that mean once we’re saved we’re ALWAYS saved no matter how we live? Absolutely not. The Bible is clear that if we rebel hard enough, long enough, our heart for God will become a heart of stone, and we can fall away from the faith that saves. Even children can rebel long enough – hard enough – that they become “dead to the family.” Sometimes legal action is taken to sever family ties. But even without any formal ceremony, family ties can be cut if the child wants out. Sin is a dangerous flirtation with death and darkness. Sin matters. But if we want to be God’s children, and we live in daily repentance for our corrupt nature and misguided behavior, the righteousness of Jesus is ours. Our standing in God’s family remains secure in Him.
Imputed righteousness. There’s your daily dose of “church-ese” decoded for real life.
I always want to be a better dad. When I finally achieve “best dad of all time” staus, I’ll still want to be a better dad. Today’s post is meant to inspire us dads to be intentional in our dadliness.
My friend Carlos Whittaker (known in the Twittersphere as @loswhit, father of viral video star ‘lil los, and the uber-creative behind ragamuffinsoul.com) continues to be inspiring on so many levels. But I gotta give him props for this one as a top five on the all-time greatest dad moves of the 21st Century.
I don’t have girls… I’ve got my own hockey team of boys, but no mascara, barrettes, no pink, no lip gloss. However… if I were a dad of girls, I’d be all over this stuff. Carlos’ daughter just turned 8. As a Taylor Swift fan, she wanteded to host a Taylor Swift party.
But in the words of Carlos, “if you know the Whittakers, you know that did not mean Taylor Swift cups and plates from Walmart.” No sir. They invited a pile of her friends over and produced a video, complete with make-up and hairstyling, lighting effects, plenty of dancing about and general frolicking in wee cowgirl boots. Dads, whether your home is full of Barbies and ballet slippers or cluttered with baseball gear like our home is, we can all learn something from Carlos here…
Don’t wait for the moments. Make the moments. Amen.
If you want to drop Carlos a note about this, find his original post here and check out ragamuffinsoul.com often. He will inspire your faith, fuel your creative energy, and encourage you.
May we dads be intentional in our parenting. A little planning goes a LONG way, guys. God bless you and of all our kiddos.
It’s that time again. Once in awhile it is healthy to take a break. Because I’m an active technology user, I need to step away once in awhile to remind myself that I use technology with a purpose, or it will use me.
This weekend is the unofficial (but recognized) kick-off to summer, and our family is heading up North for a little vacation. We have often taken JUNE off from television/technology in the last few years. I’m going to follow that tradition this year, too.
Also, for those of you who know me best, you have seen how much of my life has been wrapped up in late nights and early mornings studying. My family has not seen much of me these last nine months, and I haven’t seen enough of them, either. I’ve got a few more assignments to wrap up before next Friday, and then I’m deeply looking forward to going on more dates, playing catch and reading with my kids, and basically being present with and for them.
I’m overdue for a tech Sabbath. It seems like the time is right. I’m not done blogging or tweeting or Facebooking altogether (unless the Lord so leads), but for now, I’m getting off the train. Catch up with y’all later this summer! God bless.
I was 11. I heard this word more than any other word during my Little League days under the summer sun in Bemidji, MN. Coach Whitey Anderson could say HUSTLE more times in a minute than anyone I’ve ever known. I loved baseball. Still do. In large part, thanks to Coach Whitey.
“Skogerboe, you’re a ball player, son. You’re a ball player. You can play this game right here. Yessir. Skogerboe’s a ball player.”
Coach Whitey was like encouragement on steroids for a young second baseman who otherwise wouldn’t have considered himself much of a ballplayer. I was moderately athletic, but overshadowed by the up-and-coming superstars. I could hold my own in the field and maintained a somewhat below average track record in the batting box, but I kept in the game year after year, growing better in my skill-set and deeper in love with the game. Coach Whitey fueled me to keep getting better, to learn why “hustle” had more to do with a healthy competitive attitude than just physical “hurry-up,” and he helped build into me a deep love of baseball that has never gone away.
Now I have a 10-year-old out there under the lights. I see his coach picking up the mantle from Coach Whitey for the next generation. I see him FEEDING encouragement and high expectations to the young men under his charge. And the boys are thriving. When Isaac talks about baseball, his eyes flash. Coach Haberlie is not just getting the bases covered, and he’s not just getting results… he’s building baseball lovers.
I just got an email from Coach last night, asking me to encourage Isaac, that he was so proud to have Isaac on the Team, and he is consistent in saying, “He is made for this game.” I hear echoes of Coach Whitey… “You’re a ball player, son. Skogerboe’s a ball player.”
These guys are both great leaders, and I hold them both in high regard.
The consistent ingredient in great leadership isn’t enthusiasm. It isn’t deeper, better, higher knowledge. It isn’t the ability to control outcomes.
The consistent ingredient in great leadership is this: INFLUENCE.
Coach Whitey literally changed my life. My childhood years are full of great memories, and I was a ball player. I believed it to my core. And now I see Isaac out there making plays, wrecking the knees of his baseball pants, and it’s better than the Twins. He’s hungry for baseball. Isaac’s gone from casual to passionate. THAT is INFLUENCE. And Coach Haberlie has been clear from the beginning: His goal is to help shape these boys into young men of character first, great athletes second. He’s not only influencing the boys… he’s influencing their dads. That’s great leadership.
All kinds of people read this blog. Friends and family, Pastors, Ministry leaders, Worship leaders… All kinds of people in all kinds of leadership roles. Here’s where ball meets bat, rubber meets road, hammer meets nail on the head… LEADERSHIP = INFLUENCE.
This has implications for two groups today.
First of all, if you don’t consider yourself a “leader,” you are WRONG. Think about your circle of relationships. Certainly among those relationships are a handful over whom you have some kind of influence. If you have influence, you have leadership. You may lead badly, of course, and influence those around you to make bad choices, to turn away from God or from wise counsel. But make no mistake: if you have influence, you are a leader. Lead well.
Secondly, if you THINK you are a leader, or if you are a leader by position, this is a good measuring stick for you. Are you herding a group, or are you leading? Are you steering outcomes, or are you leading? In other words, are you truly INFLUENCING the lives of those you lead? If you are in a position of authority, take a cue from Coach Whitey and Coach Haberlie… don’t just steer. LEAD. Don’t just point people. INFLUENCE people. Stop, pray, and think about how you can not just get the job done, but how can your influence lead to changed lives. If you are a leader, then LEAD WELL.
The consistent ingredient in great leadership is INFLUENCE. If you don’t have influence, you’re not really leading. And if you think you don’t have a role as a leader, invest in those you have influence over.
We only get one life. Wield some influence and change some lives, because time is short. And in the spirit of Coach Whitey… HUSTLE.
So we were having a… discussion. Do you have those? All married people have them, I suppose. You know, our marriage would be just about perfect if I wasn’t in it. 🙂 I thought for sure I was right this time. Just one time…
But no. As it turns out, I wasn’t right this time. In fact, after I had said my piece, Amy quietly reminded me of a few of my idiosyncracies – my own personality quirks – that transcend rational thought. It was one of these quirks that had started all of this in the first place.
This was one of those times. She had, through no fault of her own, stumbled unwittingly into my irrational headspace. And therin lay the impetus for the aforementioned discussion. I had to concede, when faced with actual facts instead of my own irrational emotional personality quirks, that – doggone it – she had a point.
And no… I’m not going into the details. Let your imagination run rampant. I’ll never tell.
Suffice it to say, she was dead on about a few of my personality quirks. I didn’t see myself as an unusually quirky person… but oh yes. I let my quirk flag fly more often than I realize. And the glory of it is, people who love me roll with it, and love me anyway. And that is a gift.
Today, my message is this… Most likely you have your own set of irrational quirks. Guaranteed, the people you love have their own, as well. My advice: instead of butting heads against those quirks, and as long as they are not causing the rest of the family undue stress, I’m encouraging you to roll with it. Go ahead and enable those quirks. Yep, I’m talking full-on quirktastic co-dependancy.
Because real, powerful, life-affirming love means “who you are… I love.” And there’s plenty of time for “who you are becoming… I love, too.” But an open discussion of personal quirks within a home or among roommates or close friends seems like good juju to me. Get ’em out there in the open. Respect the quirks, baby!
Example: My mom, God bless her, is a top-calliber cook/home-maker/guest-entertainer. People love to come to her home for meals, conversation, and good coffee. It was a great home to grow up in. But the kitchen is MOM’s domain. You do not mess with the kitchen. I repeat: you DO NOT MESS with the kitchen. Every detail matters. Case in point, when we load the dishwasher, knives go point down, but all other silverware must go eating-end-up, so that as the water rinses off the utinsels it runs DOWN the handle, away from the eating end. That, right there, is a grade-A quirk, in my book. But here’s the deal… this is Mom’s passion. The kitchen is HER arena, and she uses it to love and serve people. And she’s great at it. And we love her for it. So, you know how we express our thanks and love back to momma?
We put the knives pointy-side down and the other utensils eaty-side up.
I don’t know that it makes a lick of difference, but my Mom wants it that way, so… good times.
So, in the spirit of transparency and personal confession (which is good for the soul, I’m told – and makes for more interesting reading), here is a short list of some of my identified quirks. Again, these may not seem rational to you, but that’s not the point. The point is, they seem not only rational but downright IMPORTANT to me… at the time. Of course, it is also therapeutic to be self-aware enough that I can identify when my personal quirk is taking over rationality in my inter-personal interactions. Therefore, here’s a short list from the inner-mind of Joshua Skogerboe:
(1) When beginning to do laundry (which isn’t often – Amy has to shoulder this one most of the time), I must scour the house for every piece of dirty clothes. Like the random sock that ends up under the boy’s bed. The baseball shirt that got wet in the rain and then hung up in the closet when mom and dad weren’t looking. The PJ’s that my seven-year-old took off while in bed and which now are stuffed under his covers instead of in his drawer or the dirty clothes basket. Before I begin, I want to get EVERYTHING together so it can be properly sorted into piles before the process begins. I know it’s borderline OCD. I know. And we have five rowdy boys who, unless herded with a cattle prod, tend to shed their clothes in a moving explosion of laundry, leaving a trail behind them. So my quirk sometimes needs to take backseat to reason to keep that laundry train a’ movin’.
(2) We must eat hot food. This increases exponentially (a) when I cook it, or (b) if I have cooked it upon the grill, or especially (c) if the meal involves eggs or toast. This is peculiar to me in a frighteningly irrational way when it comes to eggs and toast. I would prefer the toast to jump hot out of the toaster into my mouth before it cools in any way. This way I can savor the toasty crunch of the golden brown outer shell and still enjoy the soft core… Mmmmm, toast. But let’s say I put bread into the toaster and get sidetracked with another task, allowing the bread to pop up and sit in said toaster for more than 14 seconds. No good. Bad juju. The toast must be thrown out. I know. Starving kids in China. Consumerism run amok. I’m evil and wasteful and bad. But dude… you GOTTA eat fresh toast. And that is all.
(3) When the family is going to watch a movie, there must be no extraneous shuffling about or donning of jammies or last minute drinks of juice while the previews run. No how. The trailers are sacred nuggets of extra enjoyment BEFORE the actual movie gets started, and I’m not about to concede this moment of extra goodness. Now you kids SIT DOWN and CLOSE YOUR YAPPING MAWS and I mean NOW! We’re going to have some FUN around here, or ELSE! Keep on talkin’… that’s it. I don’t care if you have to pee. WE ARE HAVING FUN RIGHT NOW or, so help me, I’m going to send you to your room for the week with nothing but gruel and cold toast! …wait. Did I say that out loud? Sorry. Quirk alert.
Ahhh. I feel better. Not so much for my confession of irrationality but for the fact that many of you now, surely, are nodding your heads in silent approval. Darn right you get every piece of laundry. No doubt eggs and toast must be consumed within seconds of leaving their implement of cookery. Doggone straight the DVD trailers on family movie night are sacred and must be enjoyed silently or else. Can I get an AMEN?!
OK, your turn… confession is good for you. Besides, we want to laugh at you. Or WITH you, I mean. What are YOUR quirks?