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Christmas is my favorite time of the year for a myriad of reasons: I have some great memories as a child and I love to give and show my love via gifts and the thought that goes behind them. However, the most incredible part of this time of year – this year – is that I get the chance to tell my 4-yr. old son about why we celebrate Christmas.

Sure, he’ll struggle to put some of the concepts together when all he really wants to do is ramp his trucks off the living room ottoman and watch the Thomas video for the 1000th time, but I persist regardless. I’m confident some of it is getting in there and next year more will make it in and every year it will get more and more comprehensible.

For me, this time of year is about hope – actually Hope. There was a time in my life when things looked like they would remain mundane – the days would be “normal” regardless of the activity. At some point in college, I started wondering if this was all there was…was there any hope for anything better – even supernatural?

Growing up in the south, God is talked about as commonly as baseball and apple pie, but this does not make a faith. Did I believe God existed. Sure. Did I believe he was interested in me? Nope. Was He relevant to me day in and day-out? Not in the least. After all, I was in control and managed to keep it between the ditches for all these years – I’m wasn’t sure I NEEDED God.

At some point, I started wondering about eternity. What happened after I died? Who was right about that? Would I come back as a cricket or go to heaven or, worse yet, cease to exist. The only one worth examination seemed to be heaven, so I started asking some questions and found out that, not only is this scenario plausible, it is possible – FOR ME.

There was more! In my research, I discovered that not only could heaven be my destination, but my daily life could have true meaning. A relationship with Jesus Christ promised eternal life starting NOW!!!

Eighteen years later, I still marvel at the wonder of my salvation. The story is absurd from a human perspective – nonetheless, it is true and I believe it to the core. The birth of my Savior put in motion God’s plan to restore hope to humanity. His death and resurrection thirty three years later finalized it.

So, for me, hope was restored during this time of year when Hope was born. Someday, my son will understand the Hope that can be found in this time of year and I pray that it doesn’t take him as long to “get it” as it did me.

A recent “scuffle” relationally has reminded me  how important good solid leadership is needed in our world – especially in the Christian realms. The aspect that is brought to mind is courage. To me, the best definition of courage is found when contrasting it against fear. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the overcoming of it. Courage moves you into the burning building when everything in you is saying “STOP!”

Leaders are often find themselves in the midst of difficult situations requiring vast amounts of courage. This happens for several reasons:

  1. Leaders are typically trying to move people where they wouldn’t naturally go themselves. In Henry & Richard Blackaby’s book, Spiritual Leadershp, the spiritual leader is defined as someone who is trying to move people onto God’s agenda. If you’ve ever explored God’s agenda, you know that not only the destination, but the journey can be hard to get up for. And with that comes tension and hard conversations. A leader not willing to move courageously into those hard places 1) won’t be a leader for long and 2) will miss out on some of the most exhilarating “God moments” that can be experienced.
  2. People are messy and need leaders to help sort it all out. So, from that standpoint, we are all leaders in one form or another. If you’ve ever broken up a sibling scuffle or a stopped your child from doing something very dangerous then you know that on occasion, you get elbowed in the nose or have to endure the tantrum of all tantrums. Every day, we find ourselves faced with choices whether to step up and into something hard or remain silent and let some other leader deal with it. Doing the former is one hallmark of true leadership.
  3. Leaders must make the hard decision when nobody else will. James Kirk, the captain of the starship Enterpise from Star Trek, comes to mind when I think about leaders making hard decisions. Military leaders face some of the most difficult decisions on the planet because they deal with choosing between the good of the few and the good of the many. That’s why I admire former President George W. Bush. He led courageously without much thought as to his approval rating. In short, he did what he felt was right for the good of the many. For this, I’m grateful and very glad I work with computers!

Great leadership requires courage – not just personally, but also for others. The word encourage means to instill or give courage to another person and great leaders can do this better than anyone. They instinctively know the right words or most effective gesture to breath life into our crusty innards – to warm us in places long since cold.

As you look around you, who needs encouraging? Who needs some courage to face the lions of the day? Who absolutely must have you stand up and be strong and look them in the face and say, “together…we can make it!”

Go and be that for them. Don’t hesitate, just go and BE the source of courage for the world…we all need it.

It struck me that the “age old” question, “What is the meaning of life?” isn’t a mystery to me and hasn’t been for some time, but for whatever reason, I just now put it into one cohesive thought. The answer isn’t going to be popular with some, but that’s what happens when you answer age old questions.

Before I get to my answer though, I would like to define the term life for just a minute. Some would say that as long as blood is flowing and air is being turned from O2 to CO2, we’re alive. And, by the strictest of technicalities – they’d be right.

However, as humans, life is much more than functional biology. Life is emotional, mental, dimensional, spiritual. Life is experienced and those experiences, for better or worse affect us in both small and profound ways. Life is moving and changing and ever-fluid – sometimes in spite of our best efforts.

Another component to life is time because another way to define a thing is by it’s opposite – in this case, death. Life is our existence prior to an inevitable and inescapable death. So, when we talk about life, we’re normally talking about being alive physically and therefore requires us to consider time.

To sum up, I think we can all agree that life is more than biological success and that it has a limited timeframe, at least physical life. With that in mind, the meaning of life would seem to be a question that has no definite answer unless we have more criteria to add to the mixing bowl. How about some qualifiers?

Perhaps we can all agree that the desire for life is that it be positive when all things are considered. More good, less bad; more fun, less pain; more laughs, less grief – that’s the goal. Perhaps a term that fits is “abundant” – we desire to have an abundant life. Great – now we’re cooking with gas.

This makes me want to rephrase the original question – “What is the purpose of my time pursuing the abundant life?” I mean we spend a tremendous amount of energy trying to make happy memories, build relationships, accumulate niceties, survive the valleys – but why? For what? Is it so we can say today is better than yesterday or might it be something more majestic?

I think hope believe so.

Life, with all of the potential for amazing adventures and incredible experiences is best described, in my mind, as a quest. Yep – like the quest for the holy grail in King Arthur’s tales. An adventure with a beginning, journey and climatic end. But to have a quest, you must know what you are seeking and at least an inkling on how you will go about finding it.

To me, the purpose of the quest is to know God. I believe He created not only me, but everything I can lay eyes on…for a purpose. I believe He designed each of us with gifts and talents that, when used according to His design, make it possible to achieve the abundant life we all seek and, in knowing Him, we get a sense of how to do just that. Thus the journey part of our quest is finding our purpose by examining our design. Haven’t you ever experience the sweet spot when you took a swing at life and hit a home run – where it just felt natural. That’s your design in the flesh baby.

Therefore, the meaning of life (quest) is to know God – our Creator. The journey is to understand our design and put that to use exploring abundant living. That just leaves one part – the beginning. Have you begun the quest yet? Are you pursuing the abundant life through trial and error or are you going to the master’s workshop to get the goods first-hand? Perhaps it’s time to stop wasting your precious time wondering around the castle and actually get on your horse and ride – the grail is out there, just waiting for you to discover it.

If you’d like some help with your saddle, let me know – I’d be honored to be your stable-boy!

Before getting started, my wife has written a blog post on http://aimingarrows.wordpress.com on this same topic – be sure to check it out. I haven’t read it yet and wanted to write my own post without influence from her thoughts.

Some friends of ours told about a day of celebration they did with their adopted daughter and son called “gotcha day and big brother day” that represents the day they received their daughter and their son became a big brother. I thought that was an incredible idea and we’ve decided to make it a part of our yearly celebration schedule as well.

September 16th represents the day we got the call from Bethany about our daughter’s existence. She was 13 days old and the risk of the birth parents changing their minds had passed – no take backs this time! Today, one year ago, our life changed forever. I now had a daughter. A black daughter. Both things I have no experience with as I grew up with a brother. And our son had a sister and his journey as a big brother started and from day one, he’s cherished his little sister.

So, today we celebrate God’s goodness to us – a gracious and merciful outpouring of His love to his hurting children (Heidi and I). We celebrate the end of a long trek through the valley of longing for a second child and sing about the mountaintop that God has once again given us the privileged of experiencing. Our family is a miracle and not a day goes by that we aren’t reminded of this fact.

Adoption is a weird deal – as you’ve no doubt gathered if you’ve read any of the adoption posts on this blog and it’s the little things that make the biggest impact. My wife is the best about making sure these things are captured in print and photo. She thinks about such things all the time and I’m so thankful for her heart.

With a humble heart, I ask you to help us celebrate our family on this very special day. Thank you all for your support and love – we’ve felt it all and it has been good.

After a recent encounter with a 17 yr. old gone south, I’m reminded how much I hate arrogance. Webster defines arrogance as, “an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.” You see, it’s an attitude…a mental position that comes out as overbearing. At the center of this mental position is ego (self) that is inflated with an unnatural confidence born out of compensation or fear.

Arrogance is a mask that is designed to keep people from seeing the real person. For anyone with time on the planet measured in decades, the illusion that we are the best – AT ANYTHING – has long since faded. With that comes a realization that anything positive that comes from one’s effort is a blessing bestowed because we’ve seen how horribly wrong things can also go when we get involved.

I’ve had the incredible blessing in my life to have men that cared for me deeply spend the time and risk the relationship to instill in me humility. At times, those lessons hurt and were unappreciated. Other times, there were exactly what I needed to hear. Regardless of how I took them, the wisdom of these men took hold to some degree because at 36, I “get it” – at least more than I did. Life isn’t about me – it’s about others and arrogance gets in the way.

Knowledge is the realization it’s raining. Wisdom is the sense to come in out of it. So, here’s the question: are you driving a wedge between yourself and the world because you’re afraid they might get too close and see your dirty underwear and therefore not love you? Don’t answer now – think about it…it takes time to process. If the eventual answer has even a hint of “yes,” then it’s time to get some new tapes playing and the first one starts like this:

God loves you. Did you hear me? The creator of the known and unknown universe loves YOU. He knew about your dirty underwear and He still sent His Son to die so you could have life – right here; right now; and for all eternity. Wrap your noodle around that and you’ll stop caring what other people think about you and the need for the mask will go away. You’ll finally be free from shame and letting people get close will be met with joy rather than fear. Want to know more about how God loves you, read the book of Ephesians from the Bible – it’s a great place to start.

You don’t have to hide any more – arrogant isn’t something you want to be in the list of adjectives that describe you. It’s ugly and a horrible state of mind. It’s also unnecessary and wastes opportunities to build meaningful bridges rather than strapping C4 to them and pushing the plunger. Joy awaits, but it starts with coming in out of the rain…

I heard the term “immoral profits” today from Nancy Pelosi in reference to the insurance companies’ financials and it floored me. I have never heard two words put side by side that don’t deserve it more in my life. In fact, I’m not even sure I know exactly what that means when you look at the words individually.

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