It’s Not About Me

Maybe I’m the only one, but I’ve struggled my whole life to grasp that the universe doesn’t revolve around me.  Perhaps it is because every great movie seems to have an epic French horn solo, and because that’s my instrument I too felt like my life was epic.  I could almost hear my own movie soundtrack playing as I walked the streets of New York, living my seemingly grandiose life.

I mean, in theory I understand that I’m this infinitesimally small being living on a sphere orbiting a sun in a galaxy which is one of many galaxies, but the struggle of my self-involvedness happens in day-to-day life.  In those small moments, I’m really guilty of making it all about me.  And in the end, NEWSFLASH, it’s not.  I guess I’m in good company, since God had to say to Job, “Where were you when I Iaid the earth’s foundations?”  Clearly, we all have a propensity to lose perspective.

The more I get that, the more useful I find myself becoming.  The more I get that, the more selfless I find my actions.  The more I get that, the less offense I take when others do their thing.  So how do we cultivate a lifestyle that’s not all about us when our nature is to walk through life hearing our epic soundtrack and its swooping melodies?  Here are some tips.

1.  Give Your Day Away

GiveI’m sure your thinking, ‘What?  Give my day away?  I have to work, raise my kids, study…. I already feel like I’m giving it away and there’s nothing left for me.’  Trust me, before we give our day to anything, we need to first present it as an offering to the Father.  The thing I have found is that when I do this, I actually end up laying down the anxieties, the stresses, the concerns, the selfishness, and the fears.  In their place I pick up peace, joy, long suffering, gentleness, kindness, meekness and goodness.  I also seem to pick up this radar that helps me see the heavy load that someone else is silently carrying.  This radar helps me find opportunities to love, lift up, encourage and give.  It’s like that time in the morning is a time of refreshing, refilling and drinking deep from the fount of life.  Then, as the day pulls at me from all sides I am drawing from a deep reservoir within and I am able to meet whatever comes.

2.  Commit Yourself

commitWe are so guilty of thinking only of ourselves when faced with things that require commitment.  We’d rather not commit to being in the choir because sometimes we like our Sundays to ourselves.  We’d rather not commit to leading a small group because we aren’t that much of a people person.  We’d rather not join that club because then we’ll have to pay dues.  Here’s the thing.  When we start to consider that just our presence there each Sunday could encourage someone, that’s not pride.  That’s not making it all about you.  That, my friends, is accepting responsibility.  When we realize that committing to that weekly prayer meeting not only lifts you (because it increases your relationship with God), but it also encourages the others that pray because they see they are not alone, we begin to see a purpose in being a part of the bigger picture.  Servanthood asks first, what can I do for my God and for my fellowman, not what do I feel like doing today?

If you are like me, you will be more faithful if you commit to things.  Make vows.  Tell others.  Be accountable.  Commit yourself.  The radical, almost instantaneous growth you will see in your spiritual walk will astound you.

3. Pick Three People

pick 3What if all of us just found three.  Three disenfranchised.  Three hurting.  Three oddballs that are kind of odd like we are odd.  And I’m not talking about family here (though I know we all have lots of oddballs in our families).  I’m talking about three people in your life that are near you right now.  What if we committed to pray for them daily, reach out to them, love them unconditionally, and find little ways to pour into their lives selflessly.   What if we eventually even told them what they were to us, how we weren’t going to let them go, how we are praying for them daily, how they are significant to someone.  I think that if we did this, we could begin to change the world.  Here’s the thing though.  We’ve gotta love those three expecting nothing back.  We’ve gotta pray for those 3 relentlessly no matter whether we see quick answers or not.

Christ gave himself.  So if we are to be Christians – AKA Christ-like- we too must give ourselves.  First to him and then to others.  To me, this means laying down myself, my dreams and my plans at the foot of the cross daily.  It also means that I am asking God to change my worldview from one that sees everything through a Misty-lens to one that sees through a God-lens.  Every time we catch ourselves feeling put-upon or upset by a situation, let’s stop, look up and ask, “Is this really about me, or is there some larger picture here that I am failing to see?”  If we get in this habit, he is sure to adjust our vision and get our eyes on the things that matter and off of ourselves.

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Leader??!? Not me!

Do you feel like you’re called to lead, but are uncomfortable thinking of yourself in that way?  Or maybe you’re naturally charismatic, but lack the depth to back up your gifts.  Whatever the case, leadership is not for the chosen few that stand in front of audiences of thousands.  It is something many are called to and it takes myriad forms.  Here are a few tips to help you embrace the leadership mantle whether you’re feeling it or not.

1.  Begin Now

StartLineOne of my favorite quotes says, “There are seven days in the week and someday isn’t one of them.”

Here’s the thing.  Talk to anyone who is living their dream – I mean really out there doing what they feel called to do everyday.  They will tell you that they are not fully formed.  They are a work in progress.  They are learning things daily and often find themselves needing to seek advice from others who are wiser than they are.  Those who become great learn to step out in faith, study relentlessly, & labor intensively.  They are not waiting for their ship to come in, but are building opportunities daily.  They are pressing towards the mark, knowing that when we are “faithful in a few things, we become the master over many things.”

Just today, I was at a school and was practicing between lessons.  The band director came to me afterwards and said, “It was so refreshing to hear you practice.  Even after all these years and your accomplishments, you just spent the last hour playing scales and long tones without ever playing a piece of music.  I wish my kids could understand that and would practice that way.”  I thought to myself, ‘I play all those things because I need them.  I’ve not yet arrived.  I still have so much to work on and learn.’  Maybe others don’t see it that way, but I do.  Does that mean I’m not out there teaching and playing?  Of course I am, but I didn’t wait to be fully perfected to begin.  If musicians did that, there would be no one to play music for us anywhere, ever!

2.  Don’t Assume That You’re Not Good Enough

failure-sucksI think many of us are paralyzed by our fears that we are not worthy to be someone of value.  We determine that we aren’t able to be used for good, because we’ve done too much bad stuff or because we’re still holding onto some things we shouldn’t.

Look at the Bible for moment.  Moses was a murderer and God used him.  Sarah (the wife of Abraham) laughed at God and he still made her the mother of many nations.  Peter denied that he even knew Christ, and yet God then used him DAYS LATER to begin building his church.  Not only does God use imperfect people at some point in their lives, he uses imperfect people shortly after they have really been a screwup!

I think that we think of leadership all wrong, assuming that great leaders are forging ahead with everyone trailing behind them, but as Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  Leading is servanthood.  So it’s not for the fabulous, the perfect, and all those other Shiny Happy People.  It’s for those that feel the call to live a life that is in and of itself a message to others.  A changed life.  A transformed life.  A life that GIVES life.

3.  Teach to Learn

Teacher Pointing at Map of WorldAre you hungry to get better?  To go deeper?  To find the next level of your craft or spiritual walk?  There is no better teacher than teaching.  There is no greater catalyst for in-depth study than being faced with real problems to solve, real quandaries to address, and real people needing answers.  In the last year alone, I have had the opportunity to teach over 25 young horn players and let me tell you, they are all different.  They have different needs & their needs challenge me.  They send me to Youtube looking up masterclasses on tone production. They send me to my own practice room trying out different exercises and techniques.    They send me deeper into a craft I have spent almost 30 years perfecting.  They challenge me to make it fun, relevant and interesting.  They remind me how important failure is to learning.  They remind me that as the great Mickey Mouse said, “To laugh at yourself is to love yourself.”

If you are hoping to go deeper in your spiritual walk, begin to teach others what you know, even if all you’ve really got down is the story of salvation.  Find an outlet that propels you into the study of The Word.  If you’re like me, you’ll do more when you have a looming deadline, or a regular meeting you are preparing for.  Find a mentor and bounce your ideas off of them.  Get their feedback on what you’re reading.  Allow them to push you, question you, and refine your thinking.  Don’t be afraid of their criticism.

4.  Lead by Lifting Others

weriseLao Tzu said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”  Let me say it another way.  You know a great leader by how well things can function when he/she is not around.  Leaders equip others, build others up, finding ways to allow others to grow and shine brightly.  Leaders praise when praise is due.  Leaders assume the best, not the worst.  Great leaders spend more energy building capacity around them than they do on building capacity in themselves.  As the CEO of a Fortune 500 company said, “Every great leader has a generosity gene.”  Don’t have one?  Cultivate yours.  Spend your days adding value to others & watch how your influence grows.

One final note.  In the end, leading is nothing more than submitting to your call.  I think many of us feel a pull to do something that matters, but we spend much of our lives waiting for that moment when lightening will strike and suddenly we will be in a position of authority.  We think that then, all the sudden, we will be called into leadership.  Let me tell you folks, that’s not how it happens.  We must lead from where we are.  We must pursue the calling on our lives daily, even if it feels vague and unsure.  As you pursue it and pursue Him, I promise it will all become clear.