You Can’t Do What You Can’t Do—Until You Do What You Can.

Ben White PhotosYOU CAN’T DO WHAT YOU CAN’T—UNTIL YOU DO WHAT YOU CAN.

   Picture this: a ten-month old, precariously gripping the edge of a coffee table, contemplates the wisdom of letting go and testing this new mode of transportation: feet. As daddy coaxes and coos, Little Guy finally decides “What the heck!” and lets go, tipping and toddling his way toward the goal line, thereby achieving his longest distance ever—1.5 steps! It would’ve been two steps if his toe hadn’t gotten in the way, but daddy doesn’t care—tears are drizzling, video is streaming, and Little Guy is an immediate FB superstar. To celebrate, daddy immediately signs him up for Pee Wee football. After all, he has a month to train.

   What?

   How about this: Joey, a 7th grader, gets an A on his first biology test. The next day, he applies to med school.

   Dumb? Probably. But still, hundreds, thousands—even millions of people do it every day: get ahead of themselves. Of course, the average 7th grader doesn’t apply to med school, and I can’t remember the last time a toddler scored a TD, but others jump right into things they’re not remotely ready for.

   Remember, you can’t do what you can’t do until you first do what you can do. In other words, we’ll blow up the big dream if we don’t first do the time developing the skills we have.

   Maybe we think we can jump right into the big time, but we won’t stay there long.

   “Do not despise the day of small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zech. 4:10).

   A lifelong relationship begins with a “hello”. A business begins with the very first customer. A mighty oak tree begins with a small acorn. Writing a book begins with the first word. A concert pianist begins with “Chopsticks”. Losing pounds begins with the first day of the diet. A dynasty begins with one man and one woman.

   God rarely begins a person on the highway to his or her destiny in a big way. Not that He can’t, but there is much to be learned on the road from small to big. And depending on what our dreams and destinies are, lessons will vary.

   For example, how to manage people is a big lesson for anyone wanting to head up an organization, manage a department or own their own business. Businesses rarely begin with more than a handful of employees so that owners learn how to hire wisely, manage workers with the right balance of respect and authority, and handle personnel problems. Imagine trying to learn all of that with dozens of employees.

   Or a military service member—he or she begins as the lowest-ranked soldier or officer and grows into more responsibility through promotion. To begin as an admiral or general would probably not work.

   Many other examples come to mind. Talents for writing or music or art must be developed; one begins small, writing for a school paper, performing a music recital, or painting a school mural.

   “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.”

   We often want to start big and then get frustrated when we can’t. Or, we get tired of working, practicing, doing and re-doing and so we quit, thinking the dream will never happen. But here’s a principle: The bigger the destiny, the longer the prep time. Oak trees take decades to become full grown. Masters take decades to perfect their crafts. Multi-million dollar companies take years to become that profitable.

   The fact is that to appreciate the value of “small beginnings,” we have to realize that all of life is about “becoming.”

   We make the mistake of asking children what they want to “be” when they grow up. Rather we should be asking them what they want to “become.” Small distinction but the message is huge: “becoming” takes time and work.

   The Bible’s King David, for example, spent years by himself learning to shepherd sheep and fight lions and bears. Afterward, he spent 16 years hiding in caves from Saul who wanted to kill him. What did he learn from all that trauma?  Warfare, leadership and honor. And what did he become?  A mighty warrior and a king.

   Both Joseph and Esther are examples as well.

   Joseph was sold into slavery to a rich Egyptian (not fair), during which time he rose to favor for his ability to organize, grow, and prosper his master’s entire estate and business. Esther, likewise, was kidnapped and cast into a Persian king’s harem in an impossible-odds contest to become his queen (also not fair). But what did both Joseph and Esther learn in their prisons? They mastered the foreign languages, cultures, customs, and upper class etiquette of a foreign people. In addition, Joseph learned large-scale people management and government leadership skills because God was training him to become an administrator and Egypt’s second in command to Pharaoh. Esther learned a great deal about how to navigate the politics of a royal court—intel she needed in order to function as queen and save her people from total annihilation.

   So—what do David, Joseph and Esther all have in common?

   They all made the best of their humble situations by doing the best they could do. They exhibited grace, excellence and honor despite long seasons of obscurity, opposition, grueling work, and demanding tests of faith. But here’s the endgame: each was promoted to royalty.

   Not one of them despised their days of small beginnings nor did they reject the prep time critical to the success of their assignments from the Lord.

   Lesson? Don’t be discouraged at the small beginnings of your dream or destiny. Granted, it can seem overwhelming when you envision how far you have to go but, as Michael Hyatt says, “Just do the next thing in front of you.”

   The bottom line: You can’t do what you were called to do later until you learn to build on what you can do now.

           

           

 

“You’re Just Not Good Enough.”

MercyMe II

“YOU’RE JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH.”

   Recently I saw the movie I Can Only Imagine about Bart Millard who co-founded the band MercyMe and wrote that incredible song. The thing is, he wasn’t supposed to be able to do that. His whole childhood, he was brutally abused by a father who regularly beat him to a pulp and served it up with a blistering side of condemnation for his hopes and dreams. “You can’t do that” and “You’re not good enough” were never-ending proclamations over Bart. Not that mom helped any; she abandoned Bart when he was ten, leaving him all alone with his abusive father.

   Still, Bart never gave up on his dreams. Being a big guy, he played football in high school and dreamed of a career in the NFL—until the day he suffered a grave injury, ending that dream. Dad’s only comment? “You were never good enough anyway.”

   God wasn’t kidding when he says, ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’” (Is. 55:8). This means that God’s thoughts are incomprehensible to us and, as a result, many times we can’t make sense of why he does what he does.

Moreover, God loves to take what we think we know and dump those assumptions on their heads.

   For example, we know what we’re good at, our strengths, our talents, our giftings—and we play to those. Nothing wrong with that. But then along comes God and decides that what we really need to be doing is that one thing we have no talent for, we’re terrified of doing, we’ve failed at doing, and/or we’ve been told we’ll never be “good enough” to succeed at doing.

   Fast forward:  While recovering, Bart is persuaded (by a pretty girl—no surprise) to join a chorus class—where he refuses to sing—which is how he ends up being the sound techie for the choir. Ironically enough, his music teacher overhears Bart singing one day and so, without his knowledge, casts him into the lead of “Oklahoma”. Bart is livid but she refuses to take no for an answer and a star is born. But does dad come to hear Bart sing? Of course not.

   Finally comes the day when Bart graduates and moves out. He and the band go on the road, and eventually, MercyMe begins to gain some recognition and a fan base. One night, several top record execs show up at one of their shows to check them out and Bart and his boys are so excited; this would be their big break! The execs’ response? “You’re not good enough. You just don’t have what it takes.” And they weren’t even nice about it!

   What was that? It seemed that God had steered Bart from the path he’d chosen for himself—football—and detoured him to the path, the destiny, that God had for him—music. Then it all blew up into nothing. But why?

   Sound familiar?

   Moses experienced the same. God told him to go back to Egypt to speak to Pharaoh and warn him to “let My people go.” Moses’ response? “You’ve got the wrong guy!” Then he began to list all the reasons he wasn’t qualified to deliver any message to Pharaoh: He’d been rejected by the Hebrews, he couldn’t speak well, and Pharaoh would never listen to him anyway. In fact, Moses protested for so long that God finally allowed his brother Aaron to be Moses’ spokesperson.

   So Moses and Aaron traveled all the way back to Egypt and appeared before Pharaoh, delivered the mail, and Pharaoh, terrified, immediately released all of the Israelites to Moses.

   Right?

   Wrong. Nothing went right in that little scenario. Pharaoh was livid and the Israelites ended up working harder and being treated more brutally than ever before.

   Ever had that happen?

   Have you ever argued with God about why you’re not qualified to do that thing he’s obviously calling you to do? Not talented enough? No degree? Might get laughed at? Disqualified because of your past? How about you just don’t want to?

   Here’s a thought: Don’t ever tell God what you won’t do; I think he takes that as a personal challenge.

   When I was in junior high and high school, I hated it. I was bullied mercilessly back in the day when there was no help for victims except “suck up and deal.” That didn’t work for me and so I graduated hoping and praying that college would be different and I’d never again have to relive the terrors that I’d survived during those years. And when I say “survived,” I’m not exaggerating. At 14, I was pushed out in front of a car and spent 2½ months in the hospital with a head injury and in traction with a busted femur. So when God called me to teach high school, I was less than compliant.

   Looking back, it’s interesting that he didn’t even bring it up until long after I’d already graduated from college—ten years after high school. Even so, once I went back to college for an education degree, I had, of course, to student teach. And that experience turned out to be such a nightmare that, once through it, I was absolutely and unequivocally over it. The students had behaved so badly—deliberately rebellious and disruptive and actually downright mean—that I finished out the eight weeks and never looked back.

   I was done.

   I’d obviously misheard God and been mistaken—horribly mistaken—to think that he would call me to go anywhere near a school ever again. And so I didn’t teach for ten years after that.

   But still… God never stopped calling. He allowed me to wander and hide during those years but he never quit.

   “God’s gifts and call are irrevocable” (Heb. 11:29)—no matter how far we run, how badly we feel, or how terrified we are. 

   Maybe God is calling you to a destiny that is nothing short of impossible. Maybe you are uneducated. Maybe you have failed before. Maybe you have grown up hearing how you “can’t” because you’re “just not good enough.”

   None of that matters to God. He sees only the gold buried deep inside of you, the “diamond in the rough,” the beautiful pearl that’s taken decades to form.

   He sees you. And he’s chosen you. Only you can do that job or write that book or run that business or parent that child or impact that group of people the way he wants it done.

   But only you can answer his call; no one else can do it for you. Don’t look back someday and regret that you didn’t say yes, that you didn’t at least try that thing he’s created you to do. And on the journey, no matter how scary, just remember one thing: It’s up to you to say yes. After that, it’s all on him.

   But that’s another principle for another day…

  

  

 

 

 

The Key to Destiny

Key in DoorTHE KEY TO DESTINY

   Alex couldn’t stand the sight of it—one more baby, another young mother—at the mall, at the grocery store, in the park where she sometimes wandered, imagining her child on that little slide. Everywhere she went, babies in strollers in the neighborhood, in car seats at the gas station, in the nursery at church. Alex wanted a child—she’d shared how much—but for her, it was not to be. She and her husband had tried, almost from their wedding day, but still, no baby. There was only cruel disappointment as months turned into years and a decade passed.

   But one day, that all changed—but not for any reason Alex could ever have foreseen. It happened when she learned about the Biblical law of “sowing and reaping”: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal. 6:7). Essentially, this means that we harvest what we plant. This is a foundational truth in both the physical and spiritual realms, also known as the “Principle of Return” or the “Principle of Reciprocity” (derived from the word “receiving”). In short, how we implement this law will determine whether we succeed or fail in the pursuit of our dreams and destinies.

As Biblical laws go, “sowing and reaping” is huge.

   However, most people are not aware of the scope of its effect; many understand that this truth impacts finances—monetary giving results in a financial return—but many don’t realize it also influences all other areas in life. Yes—all. Here’s why:

   Principle #1: You reap because you sow. Every farmer knows that in order to produce a crop, he must first plant seed. If he chooses not to plant seed, he won’t reap a harvest. Period. There is, after all, nothing there to grow and multiply. And while we might think that fact would be a no-brainer, many is the person who plants no seed in some area and yet expects a harvest in that area. Take finances for example: a person might be fervently petitioning God for provision, yet gives no money in donations or offerings; in essence, he plants no seed. That would be one reason for no harvest.

   Principle #2: You reap what you sow. Every farmer also knows that if you want carrots, you plant carrot seeds. You don’t plant watermelon seeds or bean seeds or a coconut. If you need money, you give money—and you give it first. We do not reap before we plant. That’s all. Moreover—and this is crucial—this principle applies to anything we sow: if we sow anger (or kindness), we will reap anger (or kindness) from others. If we sow division (or unity), we will reap division (or unity) among groups. If we sow unhealthy habits, we will reap illness, disease and even death. If we sow healthy habits, we will sow health—mental, emotional and physical. The problem is that many people sow bad seed, but still expect a good harvest and are totally dumbfounded when they reap disaster.

   Principle #3: You reap more than you sow. Farmers also know that seed is multiplied after it is sown. For example, one apple seed produces an entire apple tree, itself bearing hundreds of apples, each apple producing multiple seeds. The same is true in the spiritual realm: Whatever we sow, we will reap as a multiplied harvest. That’s great if we’ve planted good seed, but if we’ve sown bad seed, then we will reap pain, loss, disaster and regret—lots of it. Furthermore, if we don’t plant anything, we’ll reap nothing but drought. In other words, say we sow neglect in a relationship, chances are good that we won’t just reap reciprocal neglect; we may well reap a loss of the relationship. Still, some people think they can “get away” with sowing bad behavior because they don’t see a bad return on their bad seed. Yet.

   Principle #4: You reap later than you sow. Seeds take time to grow and crops take time to manifest. That’s why we have “seasons”; there is planting time and harvest time. We don’t harvest in the spring, meaning we don’t harvest immediately after we plant. The same is true in the spiritual realm; harvests take time. But—and this is key—a crop will appear. We will reap the consequences of our actions. Moreover, just as some seeds take longer than others to produce—beans sprout in weeks; oaks take decades—some actions take longer to manifest consequences than others. Lesson? Just because a harvest doesn’t happen immediately, doesn’t mean it’s not coming. This is good news for folks awaiting a good harvest produced from good seed. It’s not particularly good news for those who’ve sown wrong seed.

   So what of Alex? After she grasped the law of sowing and reaping, she decided to host a baby shower for every pregnant woman in her church—no lie. In short, she sowed the kind of seed she wanted to produce. Within a period of time, she became pregnant and had a child and I believe she now has two children. She sowed seed into the lives of others of the kind she wanted to reproduce, and she was blessed with a “harvest” of that seed.

If you take nothing else away from this principle, understand this: If you sow no seed, you will not—you cannot—reap any harvest. A crop cannot grow where it has not been planted.

   Need money? Give money. Want to get married? Bless others in their marriages. Want to see loved ones saved? Pray for others’ loved ones. Want success in business or school? Help others to succeed in theirs. It’s not difficult.

It is your key to destiny.

   

 

 

  

  

That Mysterious Highway to Destiny

Highway with Moon II

   Late one last-summer night, I was driving south on Interstate 81 after dropping son #2 off at college. The road before me was dark, but the brights were on, and I was wide awake. Still, I never saw what hit me. But whatever it was slammed my front bumper so hard it cracked the grill and shut down the hybrid’s electrical system. I coasted to the side of the road, certain of only one thing: I had never taken my eyes off the highway, even for one second, and I still never saw anything in the road—no deer, no furry little critter—nothing.

   The road was empty.

   The road to fulfilling our purpose in life is much like a long highway trip—peppered with potholes, detours, speed traps, slippery bridges, traffic jams, fog, and even crashes. And often we don’t see them coming. That’s the bad news. However, much of our lifelong journey is also filled with breath-taking scenery, divinely-appointed encounters, adventurous explorations, iconic diner stops and, if we’re lucky, a whole car/van/truckload full of beloved backseat drivers along for the ride. “Are we there yet?” isn’t so annoying when you realize it means you actually have a destination.

   And we do have a destination: our destiny. The problem is that the road to achieving it is not going to be all starlight and moonbeams—but we expect it to be. We know bad stuff happens to people—but not to us. We know fulfilling our dreams and visions won’t come easily—except to us. We know that failure is always a possibility—except that, deep down, what we really believe is that failure only happens to the weak, the lazy or the “bad” people of the world. And we’re none of those.

The point? Our expectations set us up to believe that nothing can stand in the way of achieving our dreams if we just obey the speed limit and drive.

So when things do pop up in the middle of the road and we bust an axel on the Cinderella coach of life, we flip. “How could that have happened to me?? I pay my tithe/work hard/rescue little kitties from mean people! It’s so unfair!”

   Can I just make a suggestion? It ain’t like that.

   Will we always have a full gas tank, smooth highways, and an accurate GPS? Absolutely not. On a long highway trip, we map out the route before us. We program the GPS, anticipate the gas station stops, and reserve the hotel rooms. However, the GPS isn’t always up-to-date, the gas station is farther away than we calculated, and the hotel we booked is overpriced—especially considering the cold showers, slooooow room service, and thin walls.

   So what do we do? How do we accomplish our destinies when the unexpected leaps out of the darkness and smashes our windshield? What happens when our expectations of life, love, and liberty are stalled, roadblocked or even T-boned? We have two choices: We can either abandon our destiny and climb back onto the hopeless hamster wheel of life or… Option #2: Get a new battery, find another route or, after any necessary rest and recovery, start all over again. We may need a brand new vehicle—a new means of “getting there,” of fulfilling our dreams and destinies, but we’ll find a way to get one.

   Is it fair when we’re the one life chooses to dump down the rabbit hole? Probably not—although it helps to know that we all have to crawl out of some dark sinkhole, sometime, somewhere. A bankruptcy, an illness, a relationship irretrievably broken—all dark pits, no question. However, like deep ruts in a broken road, those pits aren’t bottomless.

   Is it frustrating to spend 22.5 hours on a trip that should have taken six? Of course. But how often do we find out later that that traffic gridlock kept us from participating in a pile-up further down the road—one that would have kept us from ever reaching our destination? A layoff that launched us (albeit kicking and screaming) into a far better job—just before our old company went belly-up. Or an illness that revealed a deadly disease while it was still treatable. All delays along unpaved and pitted roads. Sometimes we have to fight our way back to the highway despite the dents, busted rims, and/or the rusted undercarriage—but we keep driving.

   Will it be hard? Absolutely. If you’ve ever had to push a car out of a ditch, it can seem impossible. But you probably didn’t do it alone—you got help: a group-push or a tow—and together you accomplished what you couldn’t do by yourself.

   Have you ever had to (heaven forbid) stop and ask for directions? There are times in life when the road to our destiny is foggy or we’ve been detoured and don’t know how to get back on track or, horror of horrors! the GPS  has “lost satellite reception”. Sometimes we simply need to humble ourselves and be willing to ask for guidance or counsel. And not from Siri or Alexa.

   Have you ever had to back completely up and re-learn how to do something you thought you could ace? We all have. A return to school or training or practice? Writers get it: learn and revise then do it again. And again. And…

   So fun.

   Or… you might be having one of those days when the car won’t even start and you don’t know why. Sometimes our dreams and destinies do the same; they stall and we don’t have a clue. Then what? Well, for our cars, it’s a trip to the mechanic for a hook-up to the diagnostic machine. Sometimes for us, it’s a trip back to the drawing board to diagnose what’s gone wrong.

   Destiny-chasing is not easy; don’t expect it to be. Just the same way we invest in car insurance—and not because it’s mandatory but because we know sometime we’re going to need it—we need to expect that things on the destiny highway are not always going to go smoothly. There will be bumps in the road and we need, as best we can, to plan for them.

   Business is slow? Budget for marketing from the start. Trouble meeting deadlines? Hire help, get an intern or consider an accountability partner. Potential lawsuit by one of “those” customers? Get liability insurance. Cash flow problems? Arrange for a line of credit. Inventory shortage? Partner with multiple suppliers. You get the idea—plan to stay ahead of problems.

   On the highway to your destiny, may the lights always be green, may the traffic always be light, and may your adventure change the lives of everyone you meet.