Letter #601: Lessons from the Pope

Dear Pope,

Congrats on being the biggest announcement possible in the most old school of ways. Seriously, Lebron’s trade, Apple’s next big product release and any other modern day announcement have nothing on the black and white smoke coming out of the Vatican on your behalf. Hmmm”…if I ever have a kid, look out for the pink or blue smoke on behalf of its gender! I digress.

You fascinate me. You are one of my most notable, respected, powerful leaders in the world yet you are chosen, at least on some levels, based on your service to others and your relationship with the church and the Lord. Your stance on controversial issues matters more significantly than I think we even realize. Your influence on culture and where it’s going is vast. Be wise Francis, be wise.

We’re not getting into the theology and my personal opinion on all this, but I do think we all have some lessons to learn from you and your response to being selected for such an important office. Here’s a few I’ve taken away for myself:

  • Be bold. Dream big.

—Pope Francis’ made many historic firsts: first non-European in the modern era, first

from Latin America, first Jesuit and first to take the name Francis. Don’t be scared.

Anything’s possible.

  • Lead well. Be humble.

—Pope Francis refused to stand on the traditional platform of the pope elevating himself

above the cardinals but rather stood equal with them. How can you not respect a leader in

this move?

  • Be open to break tradition/the way things have always been done.

—No platform. Asking for prayer. Choosing the name Francis. He’s not afraid to break

tradition when necessary and change for the better. I get set in my ways, so props to this

76-year-old for being open to change! “The new pope is sending a signal that this will not

be business as usual.” -CNN Vatican analyst

  • Ask for prayer and pray for others.

—Oh that we might be quick to ask for prayer and help as well as pray for others.

  • Be simple.

—Every article notes him being known for his simplicity, choosing to ride the bus rather than

a chauffeured limo and to live in an apartment rather than the archbishop’s palace. May we

embrace simplicity and the blessings it brings.

  • Stand firm.

—Pope Francis is known as a straight shooter and is not afraid to take a stand against

opposing views when he disagrees. In a culture where tolerance and love have been tainted

and turned into not being able to disagree and fight for convictions, I respect this and long

to stand firm myself.

  • Serve.

—“It seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen one who is from faraway. But here I

am.” May I serve with the attitude of ‘here I am’ to both the Lord and others.

 

Regardless of our thoughts on you and your office, we can all learn from the gracious way you’ve entered your role. Best of luck to you as you lead in very unique ways. Stick to Scripture and the Lord’s leading and you can’t go wrong.

Learning in the most unexpected of ways,

Lesson learner from world events

Letter #571: I Love Rehabs

Dear learning,

There are a few things in life I strive to obtain. One of them is to always be a learner. There are so many things I’d love to have even a basic understanding. The only way to ever even remotely learn is to be willing to sit beneath people who are experienced and learn from them. Every facet of life is set up this way. Children learn from parents, players from coaches, entry-level employees from people who’ve been around for a while.

If you look closely, life is filled with avenues to learn from others. However, we live in an era where we don’t want to be told what to do, long to be our own boss and operate out of pride rather than humility. I long to be the opposite of this. I’m clueless in many areas and long to glean as much wisdom and as many skills and tips as I can in life.

Sunday I capitalized on my quest to learn and assisted in a kitchen backsplash tiling project. I grew up helping Papa Roth with things, but I’ve never tiled before. What a great skill to have”…what if I want to renovate my house one day??

No bigs, just cutting some tile. Don’t mind my awkward leg straddling!

A few years ago my friend, Jennifer, who happens to also be from Lawton and a fellow Kanakuk director, started doing projects to update and renovate her home. Slowly, her and her husband discovered something they both enjoyed and were good at. They’ve done a complete facelift on their own home and have even flipped a house or two to sell. One of the many things I love about Jennifer is that as she’s gaining skills for herself, she loves to teach others. One of her favorite things to do is go into friends’ homes and help them with projects. This is where the backsplash comes in”…she taught Beth and I how to tile as we renovated Beth’s kitchen!

Are you kidding me?!? I helped achieve this!!!

After realizing the life and passion doing these types of projects gave her, Jennifer started a blog to share her DIY tips and tricks with everyone else. I Love Rehabs is filled with unbelievable ideas: space-saving Christmas trees to tutorials on all sorts of projects to wedding decorations. You name it, she’s probably done it. The best thing about you finding out about her blog now”…FREE STUFF. Everyday from now until Christmas, she’s giving away something free. Some are accessible to every viewer while others only one lucky reader will win. I have the inside scoop of what some of the prizes are, and trust me when I say you’ll want to come back each day”…and today’s is solid!!

Seriously, Jennifer is one of the most talented people I know. She is able to put new life into things everyone else sees as junk. The thing I love about her most is she doesn’t just do this with home renovations and old furniture. She sees the good in people, comes alongside, invests and pulls the good out. She lives her life with vision and inspires and challenges those around her to be better. She is incredibly well rounded, a vault of knowledge who contributes vast amounts of information to every conversation. Over the years, she has become a dear friend, but also a person in life I willingly look to, learn from and laugh with. Trust me when I tell you to check out her blog. You will not be disappointed.

Longing to always be a learner,

Huge fan of @iloverehabs

Letter #536: Student at Catalyst

Dear learning,

Now that I’ve completed my masters, I have to find ways for you to occur on my own. Basically for 24 years I was forced to learn because of the schooling structures I was required to be in or chose to pursue. At 25, school is complete, but I don’t ever want to stop with you.

The day we think we know everything is the day we fail. We will never be at a point where we can’t learn. I love to be challenged and acquire new information to process. I was the kid who always loved school. Oh may I never stop the process of you and may I always embody a teachable heart.

This being said, I had the opportunity to attend Catalyst One Day in Northwest Arkansas last week with Craig Groeschel and Andy Stanley. Every second of the event was purposeful and allowed my wheels to spin with practical application to the way I do life as well as to my job, my relationships and my perspective on life in general. I’m still processing the majority of it and am hoping to flesh out all I was challenged with in the next few weeks. I never want to hear things, be challenged and then not be changed. One way to avoid this for me is to truly process things then write about them. Hopefully I’ll make that happen in the next few weeks concerning Catalyst takeaways.

Didn’t hurt to have this crew with me at the event!!!

This being said, I’ll go ahead and process one them. Andy introduced the event and hit on five truths concerning the culture of an organization. All were good, but one in particular stood out to me. He said, “Time in erodes awareness of.” This could not be more true. Bottom line, the longer you are around something, the less aware you become. It’s why old people often are slow to or won’t change. Think about the pile of clutter sitting on your kitchen counter. Yup, you’ve become immune because it’s become normal!

It is so important to listen to people who come fresh into situations. For example, every summer some of the greatest feedback I receive on camp is from first year staff. They see things I’ve become blind toward. This can also be true of my personal life. The way I do things is natural for me, but someone could come along and show me how to do things more efficiently or point out a character flaw I’m completely unaware of. A great example of this could be that two years ago, I received feedback from a few people that I could be intimidating. Really?!?! Me? I didn’t see it, but people felt it. I never want someone to feel I am unapproachable. I committed to working on it. I’m continuing to work on this, but I have improved in this area of my life immensely simply because I was made aware. For those of you who were honest with me”…thanks.

Standing in the presence of K-West Legends…Love these women!

In order for us to be as successful as we can be, we must constantly be open to learning new things, applying them and allowing ourselves to be evaluated and constructively criticized. None of these things are easy, but this is a key ingredient for us to operate at our full potential. Time in may erode awareness of, but it doesn’t mean it eliminates awareness. I must simply be more and more creative of how to engage and remain aware. Part of this means humbling myself to allow others to speak truth into my life, my work and even my character.

Striving to remain teachable,

Wannabe lifelong learner

Letter #490: The Fight

Dear school,

I always liked you. I probably like the social aspect of you far more than the academic side, but I’ve also always loved to learn. For some reason you’ve become this negative thing in our world. We typically dread classes, homework and reading assignments. It’s as if this dark, gloomy cloud is looming over the heads of students.

I hate this. I wish you were associated with positive thinking, that learning was valued. The way school has been structured plays into this a ton, but I wish we embraced learning. At the core, I think people do enjoy learning but it’s hard to enjoy the academic setting.

I’m wrestling with this right now. I’m in my final classes of grad school and am fighting to stay engaged. I’m supposed to be reading five different books and doing a ton of outside research. It’s daunting and joy would not be a word I would use to describe. However, if I remove my cynicism and negative connotations, at the root of it the things I could be learning are applicable to my life in huge ways. I’m not just skimming to write a paper; I’m reading to illicit change in my thinking and in our world.

This is what we wrestle. You are forced upon us and we resist the lessons you offer. I am trying to fight my flesh and resistance and to thoroughly embrace what you potentially can offer. Only five more weeks of organized you, but my hope is that I can embrace and walk away with practical application because of you.

Here’s to a lifetime of learning,

Wanna-be Student of Life

Letter #210: Surgery Learning

Dear learning,

At 24, you haven’t stopped happening in my life. I hope you never do. Yesterday, I informed readers of my recent run in with ingrown toenails…I apologize if I grossed anybody out, but from the beginning I promised I would be real on here. Welcome!

That being said, something as significant as receiving anesthetic, spending 40 minutes a day with my feet in salt water to eliminate infection possibilities and being ridiculed in the process, some sort of you had to have occurred. Good news, you did!

The issue with my toes was my nails were growing where they weren’t intended to grow. This picture is a bit disgusting, but it does a great job depicting my lesson learned. My doctor let me keep the pieces of nail he cut out. I had both insides of my big toes operated on, so the nails below are sitting how they were on my feet. If you look closely the inside portions of the nails are what any Joe Schmo would have. Then, the outer parts of the nails are the issue. The left toe was just beginning to be ingrown again, the right toe was infected. It’s gross, but stick with me.

Gross, but seeing these allowed me, and every person who knew about my ingrown toenails that gave me looks of disgust, to understand what was wrong with my feet.

How the heck does a centimeter (if that) chunk of nail cause infection and severe pain? I’ll never understand, but as I was thinking about it I paralleled it to the big picture of life. How many times do I allow my little mistakes to build up and create much bigger issues in my world?

We were created to live in harmony with God. Adam and Eve sinned. Now, we all inherit a sin nature, but God didn’t choose to leave us in our sinful state. God sent His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life, become our sin on the cross and defeat death, so we may live in harmony with God once again. So, once I accept Christ, I’ll never sin again. Awesome, but absolutely not true. I’m going to fail, sin, mess up, make mistakes. The difference is my sin has been redeemed, and I want to rid myself of the junk in my life that grieves the Lord.

So, how does this blip of theology have anything to do with my feet?! Just like my toenails were growing in places they shouldn’t be, sometimes I let sin fester in my life where it doesn’t need to be. It starts small, and I allow it to grow and remain a stronghold in my life.  I fail to confess my sin, to humble myself and admit I’m wrong. So, it continues to grow where it’s not supposed to be. The longer we allow it to be present, the more painful removing it is…just like my toes. The consequences of our sin are greater the longer we allow it to remain. Our sins are forgiven, but they don’t come without consequence.

As I physically had my ingrown toenails ripped out, I couldn’t help but wonder what sin needs to be ripped out of my life as well.

Finding ways to learn in all aspects of life,

Lifetime learner