Cost of Influence, a blackout poem

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I remember wishing that I wouldn’t be picked to lead a team, group project, or committee simply because I didn’t want to pay the price for leadership and influence. As this poem implies, sometimes we want to refuse the honor of influence and let someone else lead. Unfortunately, we have done that too many times, and now there is a vacuum of influence that is being filled by people and forces that I don’t want influencing those I love. This poem doesn’t delve into the cost of choosing NOT to influence. It’s a high price. So, when offered the chance to influence, my friends, may we take up the honor, face the hardship and criticism, and lead our followers toward righteousness and integrity, toward truth and faithfulness, toward love and unity, and toward growth and maturity. Will we face aggression, injury, and wrong? Yes, the criticism will come. Leaders suffer. May we never leave a vacuum of influence for the world to fill because we decided influence was too difficult and too costly for us to possess. Vacuums get filled. We can’t afford to falter in our calling or give away what was ours to do.

My Solomon on Earth

This week is my dad’s–your grandpa’s–birthday. I’ve actually been thinking about his birthday for a few days, which is pretty unusual because birthdays have a habit of creeping up on me. I had leaned on your great-grandmother’s skills in remembering and planning birthdays so much that when she died, I realized very quickly that I had used her as my calendar reminder. She was much better than any Outlook reminder or smart phone alert! I will write more about her in the coming marks.

But my dad…your grandfather…is the topic of today’s vapor mark. As the title indicates, my dad is my Solomon on earth. I used that phrase to describe him to an audience years ago, and I wholeheartedly believe he is the wisest man I know. Wisdom can be intimidating to others, but I’ve discovered it’s only intimidating to the proud. The humble bite into, chew, swallow, and digest wisdom like their lives depend on it. Just as a side note, that’s a good test for whether you are proud or humble…how do you handle being around people who know more than you? Are you intimidated or hungry? Don’t be intimidated by your “grand-Solomon”; be hungry to listen and learn.

Another reason I call my dad my Solomon on earth is that he is a prolific sharer. By that I mean that he doesn’t hoard anything (except maybe his ice cream and pecan pie). The man enjoys sharing what God has given him. We tease one another because we get one another when we say we aren’t wordy people except on paper. Neither of us do much talking in group settings, but we can sure put down the words on paper…what can be written in ten words gets written in fifty. On the flip side, when someone asks your grand-Solomon for an opinion…what might take a hundred words to be said by another, he states it in ten words. He has few words to say and many words to write. Just like Solomon.

Your grand-Solomon is methodical. You probably see that in how he keeps his hobby shop, how he studies a project before tackling it, and how he stewards his talents and time. My dad has a reason for everything he does. I know because I’ve tested it: “Hey dad, why do you…?” Without fail, he gives me a reason; and it’s a solid, well-thought-out reason. Kiddos, it takes meditation to be methodical. It’s an intentional way of living. Grand-Solomon doesn’t “fly by the seat of his pants” as the idiom goes. His yeas and nays are measured. He has made a habit of counting the cost before making a cut. I’ve seen him measure and re-measure in his hobby shop just to be sure he cuts the wood in the right place. As in life, remember to measure and be methodical about your choices. Count the cost before weighing the comfort. What I mean by that is sometimes the best choice is the least comfortable choice. Your dad and I set some tight boundaries on our entertainment and music when you were young because your future was more important than our comfort. That’s the kind of choices you will be making your entire life. Your grand-Solomon has a knack for being able to see really far down the road to know what the cost would be for each choice. Be methodical. Be intentional. Count the cost. Ask your grandpa about his dating methods in college, and you will discover just how methodical he is.

Your grand-Solomon made one of the wisest choices in life when he married your grandma. He used shotgun shells back then to count the cost so apparently your grandma was well worth several boxes of shells. A virtuous woman is worth every penny you spend on her because you will reap dividends ten fold. I will write about your grandma in another post. The lesson here…you can’t see value if you haven’t learned what’s valuable. It’s definitely a learned, not-natural-to-us trait. Think of the bee and the fly. One is attracted to flowers, and one is attracted to dung. Naturally, all of us in our sinful nature are attracted to the dung piles of sin. Pleasure for a season. We have to learn holiness through God’s grace to learn that flowers are rich in nectar. The gospel turns our fly-infested heart into a bee-buzzing heart. Grandpa let the gospel teach him that godliness and virtue will outshine, outperform, and reap way more joy than all the boxes of shotgun shells he could have purchased in his lifetime. That’s Solomon wisdom and that’s your grandpa.

Your grand-Solomon rarely felt qualified for the path God led him down. Because of that, he devoured leadership and Christian growth books, he studied theology, and he practiced communication skills. I don’t think your grandpa would tell you that anything he accomplished came easy to him. He sat at the feet of Jesus and listened and learned. Unlike Solomon, Grandpa didn’t make a request and all of a sudden have wisdom. But like Solomon, I know he asked God for wisdom, and I believe God honored that request with grace to listen and learn and grow. Your grand-Solomon made his personal relationship with God his most important priority, and I spent a good portion of my childhood observing his desire to learn and grow through study and practice. Never think you have arrived; if you do, I pray the Lord finds a way to knock some sense into you.

I see my three children exhibiting some of my Solomon on earth, and it makes me smile. Jonathan, you have your grand-Solomon’s discernment and discipline. You can see ahead and develop a plan to reach it. It doesn’t mean you are never spontaneous because it’s fun to be purposeful in your spontaneity. With that in mind, being predictable is an important leadership trait: the steady guy, the quiet-strength guy, the loyal guy, the principled guy. And, like your grandpa, manual labor has never scared you. Peter, you have your grand-Solomon’s love for learning. You’ve always been a self-motivating person, and you rarely let an obstacle stop you. Like your grandpa, you are a problem solver, and that’s a great trait to bring into your marriage and work environment. Although you aren’t the avid book reader your grand-Solomon is; in today’s digital age, you are still quite a reader. And, truth be told, you got your grandpa’s emotions. Never be ashamed of tears. They say something beyond the words spoken, and that’s a gift. Olivia, you’re my expressive girl so you may wonder if you share any of Grandpa’s traits. I say you do. At the age of seven, you began asking me “why questions” that warned me I had a thinker in the works. You haven’t disappointed. I love how you look at all the angles, consider truth, identify error, ask for advice, pray for wisdom, and pursue what is right. That sounds pretty methodical to me! Also, you are passionate and compassionate. Grandpa would not have pursued by faith his ministry endeavors without being passionate and compassionate about people. Continue being a thinker and always evaluate the foundation of your thinking. Your job in the little things is much like your grandpa. He may not jump up and down like you, but then again, I’ve seen some pretty good hoopla when his Forty-niners were winning. As for Belle and Summer, all I can say is my sons picked some great treasures who, by God’s grace, will come alongside their husbands in the same way Grandma does for Grandpa. I. Am. So. Thankful!

One of the greatest gifts God has given each of you is the heritage of your grandparents on both sides. I don’t know if you know how rare it is to have such a rich, godly heritage. Lean in on the wisdom your grand-Solomon portrays and shares. Like a flower his wisdom-nectar oozes out with a beautiful scent, but only bees fly to it. Be a bee, not a fly. You won’t be disappointed. Happy birthday to my Solomon–your grand-Solomon! We are blessed.