Are You Really Listening?

So many people are up in arms about the fact that our national government doesn’t appear to want to listen to anyone except their friends. Anyone who disagrees with them is labelled an idiot, bigot, hate-monger, ignorant, terrorist threat, etc. This has a tendency to leave the people whom they serve feeling as if the government could care less about anyone but themselves.

It got me thinking…how much do we as leaders in the church fall guilty of this as well? There are some leaders who believe that they know better (or best) than anyone else, and to question their ideas is proof of the questioner’s ignorance and lack of spirituality. We need to keep ourselves as leaders accountable to someone as well. Yes, God is the best, but we always tend to give that as an excuse that we’re always in the right. We need human accountability as well because, quite frankly, if we don’t like what we hear from God, we tend to dismiss it away in our minds and pursue what we want anyway.

A friend of mine recently put a status on a public profile that got me thinking, and I wanted to share it with the greater public…

The Church’s refusal to entertain critique restricts her ability to stay relevant… Selah. Encouragment w/out critique = stunted growth.

How much do we really listen when critique, true critique, comes across our desks? Or do we dismiss it because we don’t like to hear it? Is it stunting our growth personally, or worse yet, corporately in the church?

Just a thought…


A Lizard’s Tail

I tried to find this old e-mail I sent out a few years back when a church was dealing with some things that were dragging them down to the point of stopping viable ministries. However, due to computer transfer and data loss, it seems to have disappeared…not to worry! My brain still remembers the majority of it, so I will share it here in its newest incarnation… “A Lizard’s Tail

Once, a long time ago when the world was quite new, there was a lizard. Now, just to say that there was a lizard was not anything truly spectacular as there were many lizards created; but this particular lizard seemed to catch the attention of many other creatures in the world. You see, this particular lizard had beautiful markings all along his tail.

The lizard’s tale was a matter of pride for him as many animals talked about how amazing and beautiful the markings were. He would politely accept their praise and say that it was just how God made him. The truth was, he was quite proud of his tail, and sometimes when he was alone, he’d sit on a rock and admire the tail himself. This, sadly, was what lead to the tragic events that took place some weeks later…

On this particular day, the lizard was sunning himself on a rock as he usually did in the afternoon. His tail seemed especially bright as it glistened in the sun – making the colors seem all the more vibrant. The lizard was so focused on admiring his tail that he didn’t notice a lion in the reeds nearby until it was too late. The lion pounced and the lizard barely had enough time to move out of the way…or so he thought.

His tail was caught underneath the paws of the lion. The lizard panicked – he thought he was doomed to be a mid-afternoon snack of the lion. As the lizard was bemoaning his fate, he heard God’s voice gently on the breeze. It said, “Let go of your tail…”

The lizard wasn’t sure he had heard it right, but the voice came back even stronger, “Little lizard, let go of your tail…”

“Let go of my tail!?” the lizard wailed, “How could you suggest such a thing? It is my pride and joy! Creatures near and far know me by my beautifully marked tail! They admire it and talk about it! If I let go, I will no longer have it!”

“Little lizard, Let go of your tail…”

“But…but…I don’t know if I can,” wept the lizard, “or if I want to. I won’t know what to do with myself without a tail!”

“Little lizard,” replied God’s voice, “I created you with the capacity to release your tail in times when dangerously caught by it, so you can preserve your life. You need to trust me when I tell you to let go of your tail!”

“But I…”

“If you do not let go, you will not only lose your tail, but your life as well. You will die as a snack of the lion. Time is running out, little lizard. Let go of your tail.”

Weeping and afraid, the lizard realized he had no choice but to do as God’s voice said if he wished to remain alive. So, taking a deep breath, he let go of his tail and scurried off before the lion knew what had happened.

The lizard was devastated. He ran all the way back home as quick as he could for fear that someone might see him without his lovely tail. Upon reaching his home in the rocks, he turned his body this way and that to assess the damage. Where his once beautiful tail resided, was now just a messy nub. It was ugly, and short, and awful. The lizard began to cry again.

Over the next few weeks, the lizard refused to leave his home unless he was sure no one was around to see him. He was sure that animals would talk and laugh if they saw his disfigurement, his embarassment, his lack of beauty. He would only come out in the cool of the evening as animals were bedding down so he could drink from the watering pond and catch the last remnants of heat from the midday sun’s baking of the rocks. If he ever heard sounds that might be someone approaching, he quickly retreated back into his home. He was so ashamed and embarassed that he never even looked near his own tail again because he couldn’t bear the painful reminder of what he once was and once posessed.

One morning, he awoke early with a desperate need for a drink. He knew that he might be able to sneak out to the watering pond before anyone else came by and then return home. So, he carefully crept out of his hole in the rocks. Making sure he saw and heard no one about, he scurried as quickly as he could to the watering pond. As he was enjoying drinking the cool water and how nice and clean the morning air was, he suddenly heard…

“OH MY GOODNESS, Will you look at THAT!” “Have you ever seen anything like it before?” “Never!”

Stunned, embarassed, and devastated, the lizard tried to fight back emotions of sadness, fear, and anger at being caught outside of his home by others. He quickly whipped around and was trying to think of the best way to leave. As he began inching his way toward home he yelled out, “What?! Haven’t you ever seen a disfigured lizard before?! Just leave me alone, okay?”

The other animals looked at each other in confusion. Then one of the animals nearby said, “I’m not sure what you are talking about, little lizard…”

“Don’t play dumb with me,” the lizard countered, “I heard you all talking about my…my…” he couldn’t bring himself to say it.

“Your beautiful tail?!” the animal replied in confusion. “How could that make you disfigured?”

“Please don’t mock me,” replied the lizard. “I lost my beautiful tail a few weeks back. I’m nothing now but an ugly lizard.”

“You may have lost a tail, but your new tail is amazing!” replied another animal.

“My new tail?!” said the lizard, now confused. He quickly twisted around to see that where once was the remnants of his old tail – his pride and joy – was a new tail nearly full grown, and even more beautiful than the last! The colors were as vibrant as the summer flowers and this tail even had flecks of gold markings that caught the sunlight and sparkled!

The lizard’s heart leapt for joy as he realized that he did not have to worry about what others thought of him anymore. And even better, he knew that God DID know what He was doing when He told the lizard to release his old tail. While he had been moaning the loss of his old tail, God had been allowing his body to grow a new tail! Now, he no longer needed to hide! He could walk with pride in what God had done for him and would continue to do in him, no matter the circumstances! The animals cheered as the lizard yelped out thanks to God, glad that their friend was better!

So there you have it! The basic moral of the story (if you couldn’t figure it out by now) is that sometimes in life, God gives us a ministry, talent, position, whatever, for a season and will bless it, but sometimes that gift or season is cut short or runs its course. Sometimes, we are loathe to part with it for whatever reason; but God is asking us to let it go for two reasons. One, if we continue to hang on to it, we will slowly (or quickly, in some cases) die. Maybe a church is hanging on to a program that has outlasted its usefulness, maybe the talent we have was not meant to be more than something for us to enjoy and we continue to try and force a future in that talent…whatever it is, it will stunt or stop our spiritual growth. The second reason is that God has a plan for something better (and oftentimes bigger) for us, but the old things must “pass away” in order for us to see the “new things” that He’s placing in our lives!

I’d encourage you all, whether the individual or the corporate ministry, that if you are struggling to see the growth or favor that you had in the past, take a good look at what you are doing and really ask yourself, “Am I hanging on to something that I shoudn’t be? Is there something I’m holding on to that’s getting in God’s way? Is there an area that God is asking me to step out in faith and leave the things I know and am comfortable with behind?” If there is, take a deep breath and let your “tail” go, and wait and see what God does in your or your ministry’s life! You probably would never have thought of what He’s about to do!

Be blessed!