The Power of YES

“Say, yes. And if you’re lucky, you will find people who say ‘yes’ back. Now will saying yes, get you in trouble at times? Will saying yes, lead you to some foolish things? Yes, it will, but don’t be afraid to be a fool. Cynics don’t learn anything. Cynics always say no. But saying yes, begins things. It’s how things grow.” ~ Steven Colbert in his 2006 commencement speech to the graduates at Knox College.

***

This story isn’t about me, or even Harold, really.

It’s about the power of “yes,” and it’s true.

***

More than how it curbed my enthusiasm, I mostly remember how it outright dampened my spirit.

I’d just enjoyed an hourlong visit, and a cup of coffee with an old friend. Three years earlier, he’d presided over the ceremony where Dana and I became husband and wife.

We talked about life’s ups and downs, some common challenges we’d both shared, and how it can sometimes just wear you all down. Then he hit me with something I never expected.

“You know, I haven’t had a vacation in 17 years. I really need a vacation,” Harold said, explaining that he had neither the money, nor the time for a really relaxing trip.

Seventeen years. That’s a very long time.

This is Harold. Actually, his name is Bill Barber, and he's one of my wisest friends. Bill has said "yes" more times than anyone I know.

This is Harold. Actually, his name is Bill Barber, and he’s one of my wisest friends. Bill has said “yes” more times than anyone I know.

Minutes later, I left our visit determined to put the 75-year-old Harold and his wife on a plane to somewhere, anywhere, tropical, for at least a week. But I would need some help. I would surely need some “yesses.”

Harold is a man who goes above and beyond the call for whatever it is he’s called to do. For a year or more we attended the same church where Harold was then leading its membership through a time of transition to a point where a new pastor would ultimately be appointed. I got sick of the politics and left the church months long before it all came to pass, but faithful Harold stayed behind to lead where no one else could, and he wasn’t one bit mad at me for doing what I had to do. He just wanted me to be okay. That’s why I love Harold. He “gets” things.

For me, the very thought that Harold hadn’t seen a vacation in 17 years was unacceptable, and I intended to do something about it, and right fast, but I’d need some help.

On a dime, I scrapped the day’s schedule, and put on my fundraising hat. In a previous career as director of development at a 12,000-student university, I’d helped raised millions of dollars a year over several years, so the $5,000 we needed to put Harold and his wife on a plane to somewhere tropical would be no big deal, I thought, and I had every intention of raising it by 5 o’clock that afternoon, and putting Harold on a plane to somewhere tropical in the next two weeks.

I went back to my office and wrote down 10 names. Ten names in Harold’s church who I really thought would see the need and vision for this wonderful opportunity to “give back” to Harold for all his wisdom and leadership over the years. And, moreover, 10 names that I thought could cough up $500 each on the spot, and never miss a dime.

An hour later the list was on paper, and I was making phone calls.

“I think it’s a great idea, but I’m not sure the time is right,” one said. “Maybe in a few months.”

“Don’t you think this is something we ought to run by the leadership?” another asked.

“I see where you’re coming from, and admire the effort, but why such a hurry?” another finally confessed.

Less than halfway through the calling list, it was clear we weren’t going to put 75-year-old Harold and his wife on a plane to somewhere tropical that week, or any other time for that matter.

No one would say “yes,” to such a whimsical gesture from such an apparently naive dreamer.

Harold’s still there, giving as much as ever, and he’s not getting any younger.

Many months later “when the time was right,” the church leadership went on to acknowledge Harold. I’m pretty sure they gave him a certificate of achievement.

One day soon, I’m going to put Harold and his wife on a plane to somewhere tropical. Count on that.

***

To lead a movement, one of the greatest qualities a person can possess, I suggest, is the ability to say “yes” now, and figure out the “how” later.

Are you a leader? At your company? In your family? In your church?

Want to see your team make a difference? Learn how to give a reflexive YES. Stop throwing up barriers to the very people who want to make a difference.

Stop making them sense apprehension at the very thought of asking your PERMISSION.

Lead with a yes, and ask how later.

Now what laughable dream will you say yes to, today?

Say yes.

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Failure: Friend or Foe? (Part II)

https://www.dropbox.com/s/gdvnm5a7i6zj9od/Watkins_EverydayMissionaries_20121212.mov

***

As a follow-up to this post yesterday, I’m attaching a 7-minute video clip produced by, and shown yesterday, at Fellowship Bible Church in Jonesboro, AR. Just click on the link above and enjoy.

For Dana and me, it chronicles our life during the last three years, how things seemingly fell apart, and then,  how God responded to it all with the most laughable dream we could ever imagine.

Life is good.

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Failure: Friend or Foe? (Part I)

(Blogger‘s Note: This is the first in a two-post series on how I look at failure. I’ll post Part II this afternoon in the form a a 7-minute video – a short testimony from Dana and me, produced by Fellowship Bible Church of Jonesboro, AR)

***

“I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.” ~ Tony Robbins

***

Kings of  Failure. Queens of Regret.

Thank goodness God wants us to live in a Realm of Redemption because I invent new ways to fail every day.

And I wouldn’t exactly call failure my friend, but he’s someone with whom I’m very well acquainted.

In fact, up until not too long ago, when anyone asked me about the one thing in life that motivated me most, my response would’ve been – fear of failure. How screwed up is that?

Mile 25 at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, just looking for the finish line.

Mile 25 at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, just looking for the finish line.

One day in 2005, after nine months of training, and just moments after completing my first 26.2-mile marathon, all I could think about was the failure of having missed my finishing time goal by 20 minutes. The fact that I’d just finished the monumental race – unfortunately, it was meaningless.

One day in 2008 I woke up to the realization that I was divorced, a business failure, broke, and a likely disappointment in a new marriage to the most amazing woman I’d ever met.

And one day shortly thereafter, my professional and personal life went dark, absent of a vision, and I thought I’d never again have the opportunity to work again in the communication business I loved so much.

It took a long time to grasp, ever so slightly, the concept of Grace, and my freedom to fail without penalty.

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:12-14

Experienced failure? Let people down? Got guilt? Violated the very thing you knew was right?

What does God say to that? This, I think, maybe…

“I’m not going to ask for your transcript or your resume. Fallen short?

“It’s okay. And it’s okay to Own It. But I’m God, so for God’s Sake, Own It, But Stop Carrying it Around.”

Watch for the video post later today and see how, for Dana and me, our greatest failures turned into the realization of our most Laughable Dreams.

“The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of, and response to, failure.” ~ John Maxwell, Failing Forward

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The Parable of Waste Management

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~ John 8:32

***

Each morning’s routine was different, but there was always a routine.

It went something like this:

Four o’clock wake-up call, two cups of decaf coffee (half teaspoon Splenda, one small splash French vanilla cream); 10 minutes of Seinfeld; 4:30 dress for run with all the attire perfectly placed on the guest bedroom floor the preceding night; out the door at 5 for a three-mile run; back in the door at 5:40 (give or take); think about breakfast for the twins; lay out their matching clothes for the day; shower; then wake-up call for everyone else in the family, and the madness begins.

Parable of Waste ManagementAnd Monday mornings were especially exciting since it was garbage pickup day.

Jenna was totally OCD.

***

Her organizational skills trumped all others. She was super wife, super mom, super friend, super bank vice president; super community volunteer and super everything. Schedule and a daily checklist were her inspiration, all coordinated from the calendar and notes of her mini Ipad. She managed an unmanageable schedule with total, masterful control.

Almost always.

If she could only control her garbage…

***

Weekly curbside garbage pickup came to Jenna’s quiet cove about 10:15 every Monday morning. Around 5 p.m., each Sunday, Jenna wheeled the garbage can to its proper place near the driveway curve and parked it at a proper 90 degree angle adjacent to the street. It brought a certain feeling of triumph each Monday morning when the garbage was picked up, and hauled away.

Checklist. Check.

The garbage was gone, hauled to a distant landfill, and never seen again. Sort of.

As much as she loved taking the garbage out and sending it way, one thing still really nagged at Jenna. It was her trash can. Specifically, the bottom of her trash can.

Every two weeks, Jenna made a trip to Wal-Mart to stock up on household supplies. Garbage bags were almost always on the Ipad list, and Jenna didn’t skimp for the cheap bags. She bought the 40-ply, scented bags that held everything and covered up the odors accumulated by a family of four each week.

But frequently, there was a problem with the bags, and for someone like Jenna, it was a nagging problem she could never quite release.

No matter how carefully, how strategically, how methodically, Jenna Parable of Waste Managementplaced items in the trash can, something always seemed to pierce the best bags money could buy, and what remained behind was awful.

Whatever pierced the trash bag on a given week facilitated the dripping stuff that quietly oozed to the bottom of the can. Spoiled milk, spaghetti sauce, yogurt, all the disgusting liquids that never stay in the tightly wrapped boneless chicken breast package.

They all made their way to the bottom – a collective, offensive concoction – the foulest of reminders of the family’s garbage – and it was putrid. Every week.

Each Sunday evening, Jenna would take the garbage out, pleased to send it on its way, only to come back to the trash can, see the remaining filth, stare it down, and curse it. She washed it thoroughly with bleach every week, but it always came back. Some weeks what remained was less grotesque than others, but, in some form, it was always there.

She often wondered what it would be like if there were a garbage bag that could hold everything. Everything? …and be sent away forever so she could move on to other things.

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The Parable of the Blessing Box

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” ~ Matthew 7:7-11

***

(Blogger‘s note: I’m not sure if it’s possible to plagiarize a parable, but just for the sake of full disclosure, this parable, or a form thereof, has been passed through the generations. It may be most noticeably found in Bruce Wilkinson‘s Prayer of Jabez. The parable takes on subtly different variations with each telling. This just happens to be mine.)

Blessing Box

William was 72, and he’d just died.

And he now found himself face-to-face with a man who greeted him as if he’d known him all his life.

***

On earth, William had been a good man. He was faithful to family, attended church regularly, and respected by all who know him. For William, life was pretty easy. Most days he felt blessed beyond what he deserved, and so for the many magnificent things in his life, he always felt a little guilty.

No one ever knew it. He just carried it around, and kept it in a place where no one ever saw it.

Lord, why have you blessed me with so much?” he often asked in his prayers.

And as a result, he mostly coasted through life, grateful all the while, never asking for much. To have asked for more would have been an insult, he thought.

Blessing  Box

At this moment, William stood face-to-face with Peter. William was in Heaven. Light was everywhere. Will saw colors he’d never seen before, and the music was so beautiful it took on a new dimension. William could actually see the music in the air.

Peter was standing by, waiting for William’s arrival, to give him a tour of the place.

Quickly in, among the majestic beauty of golden streets and sidewalks of pearl, William noticed a facility resembling what a warehouse looked like on earth.

“What is that place?” William asked.

“Nothing we’re interested in seeing,” Peter replied.

But William was drawn to the warehouse.

William will have nothing of Peter’s ongoing tour until he can see the warehouse.

And Peter, as he has so many times before, finally relents.

He opens the door and William almost trips over himself to see what’s inside.

 He sees millions of white boxes with red ribbons wrapped carefully around each one. Each box has a name on it.
William runs to the “J” aisle (his name had been Jones on Earth) and finds a box with his name. He opens the box and Peter hears the familiar deep sigh, he’s heard so many times before.
Inside the box, William’s just found all the blessings God wanted to give him. But they remained in side the box because JOE NEVER ASKED FOR THEM.
Fortunately, for William, there no regrets in Heaven. Just more wisdom every day.
Blessing Box
“Now Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that you would bless me, indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from the harm that it may not pain me!’ And God granted him what he requested.” 1st  Chronicles 4:10
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