Sunday, December 11, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Unshackled Spirit"

Do you have a favorite moment of the week? You know, an event? It might be poker night, Pilates workout, coffee with a long-time friend, dinner with your precious daughter, date night with your darling girlfriend, quiet time with an aging parent, volunteering for a cause - whatever?

Do you have a special time of each and every week reserved for something that sparks joy? I sure hope so. I also know life, and its unexpected twists and turns, can often make that desirable quest easier said than done, right? Well, I’m blessed. Friday mornings, I get the chance to huddle with a bunch of knuckleheads and talk about our faith. We’re just a bunch of “jacked up dudes” who happen to share a real passion for following Jesus. Usually about 15-20 strong, we love to gather in a business office conference room and lambast, cajole, encourage and pray for one another to have the strength to be mighty men for our families, businesses and communities. We call it Platoon. Others might suggest, Animal House.

It’s a tough crowd, like a football team. We know the battle will be difficult and love the weekly camaraderie and its value in helping us dig deep for the resolve to claim victory in living our faith. We’re big on “actions speak louder than words.” The group is led by LeRoy Matticks. We call him the Coach. He and I, along with Carl Medearis, also host a 15-minute radio show each weekday called, Street Theology: A Different Look. You can learn more about that at

Anyway, back to the story, at this week’s meeting a question was asked: “Do you see your problems as the start of a great opportunity?” We had animated conversation centered around that thought-provoking question. Matticks, a western Nebraska native - don’t hold it against him please - brings important figures of the Bible alive in ways I’ve never experienced. He had just told us the story of two buddies long ago, who also thought the world of Jesus. They were imprisoned for it but still displayed joy, optimism and courage despite dire straights.

The world’s best-selling book on wisdom, translated into more than 2,500 languages, shares the story in Acts. It’s about Paul and Silas having a real bad day if you consider imprisoned, shackled and beaten less than best. However, the pair managed to keep a good attitude and rallied for dramatic victory and historical induction. If I could steal one from the sports world: Hall of Famers. If they’re not playing golf with my old man maybe they’re having a cold one together, somewhere. How would you like to sit down with those two dudes over a beer? For all the event planners out there, that would be a great auction item wouldn’t it?

Ya know, I might be a fruitcake, but folks, that seems a good example of seeing your problems as the start of a good opportunity. The gathered men of Platoon sat in relative silence for awhile, soaking in the meaning and how it applies to us, when a guest shared his story. It burrowed deep into the marrow of every man present and took the message from past to present.

He and his wife were homeless. He had been sober for about a month. He earnestly seems dedicated to transformation. In his late 50‘s, the Oklahoma native’s dream is to move to South Dakota and serve others on an Indian reservation. He was seeing his problems - homeless and jobless - as the start of a great opportunity to never grow weary of doing good. I had the thrill of sitting next to Marcos - what are the odds? - and we shared three or four hugs in the hour and a half together. He has a wonderful spirit right now. It’s my prayer it never departs.

What about us? No doubt we have some challenges in life right now, right? Maybe it has to do with a job situation; a relationship unraveling; a malignant tumor; a child severely injured - stuff happens, right? We have those moments when we’re wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?”

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s when we must make a choice, choose wisely, K? Be a student, not victim. Keep an unshackled spirit toward challenges. Whether long ago in a prison, a few days ago in an office or, right now, in life - home, work or elsewhere.

I dunno, just a simple dude from Missouri; been called many things in life, smart rarely one of them, but this much I believe: while there’s no guarantee of success, possessing an unshackled spirit seems, if used wisely, to increase the odds we prevail against whatever foe might ail us.

Thanks for your time, attention and willingness to connect. I hope this Pep Talk is received as intended and encourages others to accept diversity of belief while working like heck to promote unity of spirit.

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