Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Tension of Letting Go or Holding On

I believe The Clash said it best, "Should I stay or should I go now?"

There are certain times when you are at the intersection of life and a choice must be made.

It could be over the future of a relationship.
It could be over the decision of a new career.
It could be over the location of buying a home.

Some people follow a peace and make a decision while others weigh all of the options before making that final choice.

We all make choices.

Whether you stay or go, you make a choice.

The tension came to the forefront recently during our six month battle to purchase a house.  It was so exhausting.  We hit almost every obstacle one could face as a first time home buyer.

At one point our lender expressed how she has never dealt with a client like us and could not believe all of the opposition we were facing.  She broke down one evening and asked, "Do you really think you should purchase this house, are there other forces at work here?"

I stammered a bit as I answered her question as best I could at that time.

Looking back over that conversation and a number of situations over the years here are
5 Principles to follow in the tension of letting go or holding on:

1. Timing
Sometimes you have a small window of time to make a decision.  If a choice is not made you might not get another chance again with the same circumstances.  My wife and I had to make a choice to buy a house or rent...again.  We chose to go for it and buy while the market was hot for first time home buyers.  We were able to secure an amazing rate by God's grace.  The resources and timing could not have been better and that helped us feel confident in making this decision that we have never made before.

2. Never Settle
The phrase rolls easily off the tongue but it is hard to put into practice.  We like comfort. We like playing it safe, but playing it safe is risky and being comfortable can be an illusion of insecurity.  When I was in college and the sparks began to fly with Marisa. I had a glimpse of where the relationship could go.  In my heart I knew that this was either going to be the girl I would marry or she would be the standard that every other girl would be compared.  I am glad I didn't settle. I am glad she said Yes.

3. Red Flags
It is amazing how we can see the red flags in other peoples lives but we are completely oblivious to see them in our own lives.  It is important to surround yourself with those who can be honest and not just tell you what you want to hear.  There was a time earlier on in ministry when a number of people warned me not to accept a certain position and there were others who seemed to praise the same opportunity.  In my enthusiasm I tuned out those who seemed to know a little more than I did and only listen to those who made me feel good.  Looking back I was able to learn a lot, but sometimes it would be nice not to learn the hard way.

4. Be Open
When we first started the journey to plant a church there was an area that seemed like would be a good location but there were many obstacles.  I talked to an older and wiser pastor about the situation.  I expected to hear phrases like, "Just pray harder brother," and others like "Just have more faith."  He did not say those cliches.  What he did say is to be Open.  His simple words to be open gave me perspective to see other opportunities I wouldn't have seen otherwise.  Being Open allows God into enter the situation rather than forcing to have my way and leaving God out of the situation.

5. Worth Fighting For
Some things are worth fighting for. Some people are worth fighting for.  When I was in youth ministry we had a student baptism service outside at a lake.  We almost didn't have it.  The day of our service was a monsoon of a rain storm.  Parents were calling me if we were going to cancel, after all I thought I was going to cancel.  Until one of students challenged me in the church kitchen.  She expressed how she could only be baptized on this day before she left for a mission trip.  In a sweet but tough voice she said, "Pastor Al I will be baptized today!"  I knew I had a to make a decision that wasn't easy but despite the circumstances these were special students worth fighting for. We went to the lake and as soon as we got ready for our service the clouds parted, the sun shined down, and we had our baptism service.  I knew this service was going to be an analogy I would go back to again and again when things seemed hopeless, but somethings are worth fighting for.

About that phone conversation...

Going back to the conversation with our lender, when she asked why this was so difficult.  I said, "honestly I am a pastor, and It's par for the course that somethings are a trial of perseverance." She then opened about her family, her 10 kids (wow) and how she hasn't been able to sleep the past couple of nights.  I asked if I could pray with her and she was hoping I would ask.  The next day she sent my wife and I an email expressing how thankful she was that we prayed, and how she was able to sleep.  She also shared about a conversation between her and her husband about making some key decisions together.

I saved the email.

This is the video of the Water Baptism Service that we didn't give up on back in 2008.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Communicate Creative: The Beauty of Tony Bennett

My Grandmother loves Tony Bennett and so does... Lady Gaga!?

It is rare that an artist can cross generations and also appeal to all types of people. We are talking about a career spanning six decades and over 50 million records sold.

The Rolling Stones have been around forever, but they haven't been relevant since Microsoft used Start Me Up to roll out Windows 95 (I think Windows hasn't been relevant since '95 too).

Bob Dylan has been around for just as long, but I do not think Dylan has the pop appeal that can spawn two successful duet albums with current pop artists like Bennett will release soon.  Can you imagine a Dylan-Beiber mashup... "Baby Baby Oh- Nooo."

So what is it about the beauty of Bennett where the boys still think he is cool and the girls find him is classy?

I believe there are 3 characteristics modeled in the man Tony Bennett that we can take into our own heart and soul.  And they go beyond being a smooth singer and slick Italian.

1.  Humility 

There are a lot of artists who insist you know how great they are, ala Kanye West; not so with Tony Bennett.  He has been a hard worker understanding the weight of his career without ever having to brag about it.  You would never see Bennett take an award from a Taylor Swift bringing her to tears.  You would see, however, Bennett give an award to Amy Winehouse that would bring her to tears, simply because of her respect for Tony.

2.  Humor

It seems as if every picture of Tony Bennett comes with a smile.  A certain smirk that relaxes you and also conveys the idea that he might be up to something.  He never takes himself too seriously and there is something really endearing about that in an accomplished musician. You can see Bennett's slick wit in this quote addressing his popularity, "I think one of the reasons I'm popular again is because I'm wearing a tie. You have to be different." 

3.  Heart

Tony Bennett has a big smile but he has bigger heart.  You can find Bennett connected to seven charities  (American Cancer Society, Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, Exploring The Arts, Griffith Park Recovery Fund, MusiCares, Neurofibromatosis, Inc., Starkey Hearing Foundation) as well as supporting eight causes (At-Risk/Disadvantaged Youths, Cancer, Children, Creative Arts, Education, Health, Miscellaneous, Unemployment/Career Support).  His philanthropy is commendable but it is how he talks and sees people that really shows the compassion of Bennett.  In a recent interview about his duet (Lady is a Tramp) with Lady Gaga, she said "I'm a tramp," to Tony's reply, "No No No you're a lady playing a tramp."  It is that type of heart we need to have that is described in the verse Philippians 2.3 to consider others better than yourself.  

Check out this interview that captures the Beauty of Bennett featuring his new duets album some great current artists and also his connection with Amy Winehouse.