When I Falter…


The French Foreign Legion gave us this famous motto:

“If I falter, push me on. If I fall, pick me up. If I retreat, shoot me.”

It is, of course, a magnificent way to say, “I may fall. I may even fail. But! I will never, ever quit.”

I would like to change the phrase “IF I falter” to “WHEN I falter.”

Humans falter. Humans fail. Humans stumble. If you have never experienced the bitterness of failure, I would suggest you have not aspired enough. Failure – whether great or small, on the big stage or behind closed doors – is inevitable.

It is not a question of “IF” I falter, but when.

I would, however, like to move the focus from the failure to the witness. Enough inspiration exists for those who fail. Memorable quotes abound. Multitudes of examples of perseverance exist.

But what about when your coworker – or even your competitor – fails? What about when your spouse fails? What about when your kid fails?

What then?

Today, pressures abound from every quarter and so much of what we say and do is under the white-hot spotlight of public scrutiny. (Hello, Twitter and Facebook.) Let someone misspeak, misspell a word, or make a mistake and watch the Twitter waters churn with vicious comments and demeaning Memes, like sharks on chum. Listen to a wife belittle her husband or a husband berate his wife over some failure. Go to a Select baseball (or football, or soccer, or basketball, or tiddly winks) game and listen to coaches and parents blast a preteen for a mistake. Listen to parents boo and hiss umpires and referees. Listen to how they talk about the kids on the other team.

Enough has been said about how we respond to our own failures. Not nearly enough has been said about how we respond to the failure of others. Not nearly enough is made of encouragement, kindness, patience, and empathy.

I stumbled across a story of sportsmanship the other day and it made me consider how I treat others – even those with whom I am in competition.

Very little has been said about this…..On December 2, Basque athlete Iván Fernández Anaya was competing in a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre. He was running second, some distance behind race leader Abel Mutai – bronze medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the London Olympics. As they entered the finishing straight, he saw the Kenyan runner – the certain winner of the race – mistakenly pull up about 10 meters before the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line.

Fernández Anaya quickly caught up with him, but instead of exploiting Mutai’s mistake to speed past and claim an unlikely victory, he stayed behind and, using gestures, guided the Kenyan to the line and let him cross first.

So, who was the real winner there?

Be careful. That is a trick question. There were two winners. Mutai won the race he had fought so hard to win – with an assist from a fellow runner. Anaya won as a human being. He won the right to sleep well at night. He won the immense satisfaction that comes from having done the right thing for the right thing’s sake.

They say nice guys finish last, but those who say it don’t really know where the finish line is. Life is not about always winning. Life is about always learning. Life is about growing. Life is about investing.

“If I falter…” the ball is in your court.

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Everybody Talks: The head-rattler’s guide to using social media

statusEverybody talks, but so few have anything to say.

There has always been this innate need in humankind for fellowship. God created us to be social creatures. A long time ago, I heard a preacher use the quote, “You were created to worship the glory of God and to fellowship with the God of glory.”

The Apostle Paul said it like this:

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:9

I realize this will come as a real surprise to those who know me, but when I was a kid, I talked incessantly. It was almost stream of consciousness, like Robin Williams only more annoying and less funny. I had a joke or a commentary for every subject.

My insights might have annoyed a few adults. I know for a fact it wore on parents’ last nerve.

Dad called it, “Poppin’ off.”

Dad was not a fan of poppin’ off—especially to adults. And he had the belt to prove it.

Mom would say that I sometimes talked “just to hear my head rattle.”

I liked Mom’s description better, because, even then, I was a real fan of words and the pictures they draw in one’s head.

With a little help from Mom and Dad, I did learn not to say everything I think. And especially not to say it as I am thinking it. Better to let a thought marinade. Even if I think I have insight on a subject ( and I usually do think that), I try to ruminate before I illuminate. When I am fired up (and because I am not dispassionate, I sometimes get that way), before I give someone a piece of my mind, I try to determine if afterward I will still have peace of mind.

I try to think before I talk. I also try to think straight and shoot straight, so long as shooting straight is not just an excuse to be rude or hurtful.

I try. I do not always succeed.

Like I said, I know I am not alone in the need to be heard. We all want to matter. We all want to believe someone cares what we think, what we have to say.

This is why Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) and Jack Dorsey (Twitter) are zillionaires.

Social media thrives because of the human condition. Social media feeds our need to fellowship, our need to matter. Thanks to social media and the untold power of the Internet, everybody has a voice. Everybody has a platform. Everybody is a critic. Everybody is the star in his/her own movie.

Everybody talks.

If only Plato’s wisdom would pop up every time Facebook or Twitter popped up on my laptop or smart phone:

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. ~Plato

Head rattlers beware. These days, popping off will get you more than a  thump on the ear from Dad, a scowl from Mom, or a lecture from your wife. Facebook and Twitter posts have ruined marriages, ended friendships, and cost livelihoods. They have even started uprisings. This is a powerful medium that extends beyond the screen on which you vent or the “share” button you push.

Whether you are the over-sharer chronicling your life on social media, the activist trying to lead the political or social charge, the class clown poking fun and cracking jokes the virtual classroom where no teacher is there to shush you, or the shadowy lurker perusing pictures and stalking others, social media is filling some sort of void in your life, some need or urge.

So, here is a short self-awareness guide for social media head rattlers. It is just a series of questions to ask yourself before you hit “post.”

  1. Why am I posting this?
  2. Whom might I offend with this post? Should I post it anyway?
  3. Will it make someone laugh, cry (in a good way), or think? Will it inform, inspire, or empower?
  4. Will I feel better about myself if I resist the urge to share this?
  5. And then, finally, WWJD?

Happy head rattlin’, everybody. See you on Facebook (or Twitter).

And now, an obligatory song because it sounds cool and is titled “Everybody Talks”…


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2015: A brand new start… Again #HappyNewYear

Golden 2015 Happy New Year Greeting Card With Sparking Spot Ligh

“God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness ‘night.’ And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.” Genesis 1:5 (NLT)

God gave us time to keep us sane.

Imagine if we did not have times designated for new beginnings, for releasing the old and embracing the new. How dreadfully painful, how utterly hopeless, how heavy the burden of life would be.

No matter how dark the night, the morning sun shines it’s light on a brand new day. However long and arduous the year, whatever losses suffered, whatever disappointments experienced, the calendar turns over to a brand new start – unblemished, full of hope and wonder.

But what if the way before us is hard or the path unclear? What if there is unexpected trouble?

We need not fear. We have a guide…

All the way my Savior leads me;

What have I to ask beside?

Can I doubt His tender mercy,

Who through life has been my Guide?

Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,

Here by faith in Him to dwell!

For I know, whate’er befall me,

Jesus doeth all things well.


All the way my Savior leads me,

Cheers each winding path I tread,

Gives me grace for every trial,

Feeds me with the living bread.

Though my weary steps may falter,

And my soul athirst may be,

Gushing from the Rock before me,

Lo! a spring of joy I see.


All the way my Savior leads me;

Oh, the fullness of His grace!

Perfect rest to me is promised

In my Father’s blest embrace.

When my spirit, clothed immortal,

Wings its flight to realms of day,

This my song through endless ages:

Jesus led me all the way,


Happy New Year!

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Good Grief! Is that possible?

good-grief-charlie-brown“Good grief!”

It’s one of those ironic, oxymoronic phrases that people have worked into their vocabulary to express incredulity at a thing or person. I don’t know its origin (unless it was Charlie Brown), but I have always been interested in the fact that the phrase even exists.

Last night found my wife and I at Greenwood Funeral Home in Fort Worth for the second time in a couple months. This time we were there for friends of our family.

Standing next to the grieving widow, who happens to be a very dear and longtime friend and a tremendously good-to-the-core woman, I searched for words.

I didn’t want to offer the oft-repeated, cliched stuff.

“He’s in a better place.”

“He’s not suffering anymore.”

“You will see him again.”

As true and comforting as these things are, they only mitigate the loss. They provide hope and a measure of healing, I’m sure. But what can be said? What words can be found to reach into the grieving heart of one whose soul mate, or father, or son has been taken?

Just moments before, while I waited for other friends and comforters to clear so I could take my turn at comforting my friend, I was talking to another dear couple. They, too, have been an intricate part of our lives for a very long time. They are as fine a Christian couple as one is apt to find.

She hugged me and said, “You are a wordsmith. You speak to my soul with such clarity.”

I can’t remember when a compliment meant more to me, especially considering the source was a woman I greatly admire as an example of what being an influencer for Christ is all about.

I never felt better.

Moments later, I am hugging my grieving friend. I am a wordsmith. I am a worsdmisth!

I am…lost for words.

“I wish I could find the words,” I told her, “That would make it better.”

“Well, Gene,” she replied with a smile that warmed my soul, “If you can’t find them, no one can.”

I never felt worse. Never felt more inadequate for the task at hand.

“If there’s anything I can do…”

How many times had she heard that in the past hour?

“We love you.”

Maybe that was the best I could say. Maybe that was all I could do.

And so it is with grief. All the well-wishes and covered dishes in the world won’t heal a broken heart or plug the hole left when one you have spent a lifetime loving is gone.

That doesn’t mean you don’t express your love and support. That doesn’t mean you don’t pray, pray, pray for comfort and peace. That doesn’t mean you don’t bring that potato salad.

It just means you recognize your limitations and acquiesce to the Limitless One.

Before I follow that thought, let me stop for an aside and encourage us all not to judge the grief of another. 

Joan Rivers passed this week. Years ago, after her husband committed suicide, she took the only tool she had, which was humor, and set out to help others deal with grief.

I pulled this Rivers quote from the New York Times:

“There are two kinds of friends, and both mean very well,” Ms. Rivers told the audience. “One group doesn’t want you to grieve at all — ‘Come on, come on, it has been a week and a half that you lost Joe, get out — enough!’ The other kind never want to see you be anything but grieving. ‘Your husband is dead only eight years, and you’re wearing a red dress?’ “

Ms. Rivers could be pretty irreverent. A lot of people thought she joked about stuff she shouldn’t. Maybe so. But that one time right there? She got it right.

Petty people project their preconceived notions onto others.

If you have never really experienced this kind of loss, just hang on. You will. Unless you are suddenly taken and the one grieved, you will live to grieve the loss of someone you considered your world.

Back to the Limitless One and the question as to whether “good grief” exists…

I believe it does. Let me share what I see to be the good in grief.

  1. It reveals the depths of the love and the life you shared with the one you lost. We all take one another for granted from time to time. As we hurry through life, anxious to get to that next stage, that next experience, we take for granted the presence of those on the journey with us. We shouldn’t. But we do. Then, in our grief, we understand they were so much more to us than we understood.
  2. It provides an essential release. We are emotional beings, built to feel and express our feelings. Grief is a release valve that keeps us from exploding.
  3. It gives us an opportunity to revisit the good times. To smell the flowers we missed. To relive moments that are so much more momentous now. To laugh at their silly quirks and to, at long last, listen to their wisdom.
  4. It clears the way for hope. How wonderfully David captured the essence of this point in Psalm 30:5 – For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning. Is there suffering and pain, even for the child of God? Absolutely! But the pain is temporary. The joy of the Lord is forever.
  5. It drives us to the breast of the One who is there when the casket is closed and lowered, the mourners have dispersed to their own lives and loves, and we are left alone in our grief. Alone? No! Never. He promised “never to leave us alone.”

My favorite New Testament name for the Holy Spirit is Comforter.


While I stand beside my friend, awkwardly searching for the right words, there in the quietness of her being, speaking to her spirit, is the Comforter. He doesn’t need to search for words that won’t sound hollow and rhetorical. He is the hole-in-the-soul filler. He has the balm of Gilead. He turns sorrow to joy, tears to laughter, hurt to hope, loss to life.

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Good grief?!

Yes! There it is.


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