Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a significant book entitled Necessary Endings. Cloud wrote, “When we fail to end things well, we are destined to repeat the mistakes that keep us from moving on.” He shares observations why pruning may be essential for an organization to move forward; why many leaders struggle to understand that endings are a natural season in life; the difference between pain with a purpose and pain for no good reason; hoping versus wishing; three kinds of people; creating urgency and motivation for change; how to handle resistance; and, many other excellent insights that best position leaders to succeed in the future.
Two words in the English language frequently reveal obstinacy—“I can’t.” Whenever I say “I can’t” in the context of not doing what should be done, I profess to know myself and my limitations and therefore to pronounce what Iwill not do. Of course, I have the right to state what I am unwilling to do. But it is not a question of rights when rebellion is exposed, rather it is a question of will. God sees me for who and what I really am. All the cleverest observations I utter about myself, the most thoughtful pronouncements fall infinitely short of God’s understanding of who I am.
1 Samuel 16:1—The LORD said to Samuel, “How long are you going to mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have selected a king from his sons.”
Because of them, Shirley quit working so hard and gave up trying to achieve excellence. Her coworkers said she was making them look like slackers and they badgered her for getting too much done. They told her to stop being an overachiever or they would get her fired.
Because of them, Randy bullied Jonah, a scrawny eighth-grader. He knew it was wrong but he didn’t want his buddies to turn on him so he went along with them when they targeted Jonah for abuse.
2 Chronicles 14:7—So he said to the people of Judah, “Let’s build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, with doors and bars. The land is still ours because we sought the LORD our God. We sought Him and He gave us rest on every side.” So they built and succeeded.
Guards stopped us at the entrance to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Ho Chunk and checked our IDs before allowing my Command Sergeant Major (CSM) and me to walk unarmed into the camp where several units were assigned. As we inspected the premises we saw unmade beds and gear strewn haphazardly inside tents. Soldiers walked by us out of uniform. At one point I ducked inside a tent and noticed several unsecured weapons. I grabbed an M16 and slung it on my shoulder. As we continued observing, warning sirens sounded and a quick response force rushed by us to meet a notional threat. I wondered what soldier was running around trying to find what happened to his M16! The captain in charge of the FOB (known as the mayor) approached us and spoke to us for several minutes. Amazingly he completely missed the fact that I was carrying a rifle—not something generals do.
On August 10, 1628, King Gustav Adolf was away on business when the Vasa set sail. The 69 meter-long warship was built to be a key asset for the Swedish Navy during its war with Poland. At the time of its commissioning the ship was ornately decorated and armed with the largest concentration of artillery in the world. Henrik Hybertsson supervised her construction but unfortunately was handicapped by size and gun requirements King Adolf demanded. Unable to dissuade the king from rushing its production, the ship was precariously top heavy combined with insufficient ballast on its lowest deck. Unfortunately, Captain Söfring Hansson ordered its launch. The large craft sailed for less than a nautical mile before tipping and sinking. Historians believe 30-50 people drowned.
I had the privilege for several weeks of working with four Army generals. In discussing the importance of a good reputation, several of them shared why it was vital to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Their conduct was measured not just by standards but also the perception of those standards. Aside from their own moral and spiritual convictions what they were willing to do or not do was tied directly to the people they served. I was encouraged that powerful men modeled integrity with humility.
I’ve never had a ministry to the poor. Few of my friends are financially needy and those I work and live around are middle or upper-class families. While my finances have often been sparse, compared to most in the world I am incredibly well off. So, I wondered what it would be like to spend so many hours each week helping those at the center of ever-converging problems from which escape seems bleak and overwhelming.
My office is the scene of constant battle. On the front line of my desk, two forces are engaged—the Pile Army led by General Intentions versus the Orderly Army led by General Tidy. The Pile Army constantly bombs the white-painted plain where I work with papers, books, writing instruments, mail, business cards, pictures and occasionally food and drink. Tidy is outgunned, outmaneuvered and so seldom wins victories that his army is often prone to quit fighting. Bills, deadlines and voting ballots are sporadically missed—all casualties beneath the deadly aim of Intention’s battle captain—Procrastination. On occasion, when I take trips, my wife visits the frontlines and brilliantly supports the Orderly forces with such pragmatic movements that I can actually see my desktop when I return.
It was 1:00 a.m. and the doorbell rang. I got out of bed, walked down the stairs, looked through the peephole and opened the door for a young police officer.
“Sir, we received a 911 call from your home.”
“Officer, was the call from 620-4081?”
“Yes, the dispatcher said all she could hear was static. She called back and left a message.”
“I’m so sorry. This is the second time this week (midnight or later) this has happened. My computer is turned off and I don’t know how you are getting called.”
I took him into my office and showed him the offending phone.
“Okay, you might want to call your phone company and have them check this out.”
“Yes, I will. I’m sorry you had to come out here.”
“No problem. Hope you can get back to sleep.”
In Oregon an evil cloud camps over the Catholic Church as certain priests stand accused of pedophilia. The scandal is not unique to this northwestern state. Perhaps what is lost in this brooding scandal is the misleading charge of the press. First, the real issue is not whether the cause of these problems is the vow of celibacy priests invoke. Second, it is more than abusing boys that is occurring, it is homosexual relationships—something the press will not touch for fear of offending the homosexual community.
CPT Bob climbed the tower. His soldiers were there to rappel off the tall wooden platform. At the top he inspected the training and noticed that the end of one of the ropes was improperly anchored with a simple granny knot. So he pointed out to the Lieutenant, Officer in Charge (OIC), the problem. The LT disagreed, said the knot was fine and ordered Bob off the tower. By rights as the OIC he could do so. Bob reminded him that safety was everyone’s responsibility and that he would not allow his soldiers to go down under such unsafe conditions. Again, the LT told him to leave. After more heated words, Bob descended the stairs and walked over to the nearest phone to report an unsafe condition. While he was on the phone, one of his soldiers leaning over the edge shrieked as his rope came loose. He fell straight to the ground. Today that injured soldier remains a quadriplegic.
Aber and I sat at the table and dipped the addicting chips in delicious hot sauce. Aber asked if we could meet. He was spiritually hungry, eager to learn more about God. After our usual chitchat he shared about a vivacious gal at work on his team. She had recently moved to Oregon from Massachusetts. He noted her athleticism and that the two of them were working out three times a week during lunch. He was losing weight and felt great. Not surprisingly, the chips I’d been munching lost their flavor.
2 Corinthians 13:5,6--Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test. And I hope you will recognize that we do not fail the test.
If forty is an age for contemplation than here is a provocative observation. Failure ending in disappointment with God often begins on a trail of good intentions.