FARGO — In kindergarten, a member of the Williston Fire Department came to our school. Each of us went home that afternoon with a bright red firefighter hat. That was the absolute coolest item I owned, and I was convinced someday I would be a firefighter. A year later my dream career changed. I decided I wanted to own a ranch and be a cowboy. I had cowboy boots, blue jeans, a belt with an appropriate buckle, a western shirt, along with a slick and stylish cowboy hat. That lasted for a few years until my dream changed to being a professional basketball player.
FARGO — On a recent morning I was blessed to visit my daughter's elementary school. Earlier in the school year, she entered the Battle of the Books competition and scored high enough to be selected. Her team competed against seven other teams. Each one did outstanding. Her team did not make the championship, but she was grinning ear-to-ear to participate and have mom and dad watch her.
In 2005, I opened up a book by Thom Rainer as my son practiced at USA Spirit Christian Tae Kwon Do Academy. The first sentence of the first chapter is this: "It is a sin to be good if God has called us to be great." That statement hit me so hard I blurted out "WOW!" I then circled the sentence and wrote "WOW!"
Joy Behar of ABC News and co-host of "The View" recently said, "It's one thing to talk to Jesus. It's another thing when Jesus talks to you... that's called mental illness." I would not recognize Joy Behar at the grocery store. I am slightly familiar with her show but choose not to watch it. But, I am so thankful for her definition of "mental illness." I will gladly accept and celebrate her diagnosis. I cannot imagine where my life or family would be without my heart, mind and soul connected to the voice of Jesus Christ.
I find it fascinating that we call natural disasters, such as earthquakes or tsunamis, "acts of God." This week we witnessed the horrific scenes from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people died after a gunman opened fire. I consider that an "act of satan."
In December, I drove to Alexandria, Minn., to meet with a successful businessman. In 1979, he purchased a company with a few employees in central Minnesota and now has nearly 200. I got to know him when we served together on the board for a regional nonprofit. He is a great guy, very wise, with a deep love for the Lord and for people. I enjoyed learning from him as we served on this board together.
We all have warm and memorable moments from past Christmas seasons. I remember our Christmas, at age 20, when nine of us, eight adults and a 4-month-old baby, stayed in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom, basement apartment for three days! I don't know how we did it, but we actually still like each other. We laugh and repeat stories from that Christmas but we are not repeating those living conditions!
Life is certainly a journey. There are highs and lows; difficult days and days of great joy; moments you would never wish back and moments you wish you could stop time and savor. Time goes faster than what we like, relationships change and emotions run high. We drift, get distracted and get back on track. We have regrets and proud moments, days of confusion and times when decisions and direction are crystal clear. We can get blind-sided and be surprised, disappointed and elated. Life can be monotonous and then an unexpected joy enters our life.
You will never go any further in life or leadership than your ability to connect and communicate with others. For all of us this includes one-on-one communication. For many it includes communicating to a small group. For some this also means the dreaded, frightening public speaking. Effective communication is key to the effective outcomes of almost every initiative: marriage, parenting, customer service, relationships, construction projects, growing organizations and winning teams.
A man named Matthew, who lived when Jesus did, wrote about the most famous sermon Jesus taught, called the Sermon on the Mount. Large crowds started gathering wherever Jesus went as he taught, encouraged, physically healed and helped people in a way very different than any other religious teacher of his day.