Where The Rubber Meets the Road



This idiom or metaphor in the post title has been used for many years. It refers to that place where two things come together or where a theory or idea is put to the practical test and accomplishes the goal. I think it is one many younger people today might not know, but for those of us of a certain age it is not unfamiliar.


One of those places “where the rubber meets the road” is when our words mean something, when the promises and commitments we make match the actions we take. Some of those promises and commitments get made too hastily because we are not looking at counting the cost and if they fit our resources of time, energy, skills and gifting, or even money.


Some promises can be what some call “pie crust promises”, ones that are easily made and easily broken.


Any of us can and do speak too quickly in giving an answer to a request, but when it becomes a habit and our follow-up does not materialize, our reputation slips and shows a gap in our character. To the degree and extent that happens, we fail to represent Christ in us. It exposes a weakness in integrity.


black-and-white-black-and-white-car-441103The short definition for integrity is that our words and actions match (“the rubber meets the road”).


We don’t need to look far or long to find examples; but rather than looking at all of those, we need to start by looking in the mirror and consider what we find there.


The Word is the perfect mirror for our examination. None of us should fear using that because we see we are in good company when we fall short.  Consider Paul’s words in Romans 7:15:


“What I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”


In Charles Causey’s new book, Words and Deeds, he calls this personal integrity gap “the primary gap.”  To the degree we are honest with ourselves, we may be aware of such gaps whether we easily admit them or not.  But he suggests another gap as well that he calls the “perception gap.”  Let me share his definition here to be clear:


“The perception gap is that area of our inner world excluded from our awareness; the perceived words and deeds of a man as he sees himself versus the words and deeds of the man experienced by others. This gap is what others believe to be true about a man, even though he himself may not see it or believe it to be true.”


Yes, the quote uses “man” because the book was written to a male audience, but the word “woman” can and does fit easily in the definition since women are not immune to the problem. We all have blind spots and as women we often desire to please and “be nice” without recognizing how that motive may or may not be focused on others and if it causes us to commit to do or be something that we should not.


We develop blind spots because we can never see ourselves 100% accurately. We keep them when we do not use the mirror of God’s Word or have a few close to us that know alone-beautiful-dark-808713us well enough to keep us accurately informed.


There are also some foes that oppose us in our desire to walk in integrity or as Paul says in Ephesians 4:1 “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…” 


One of the foes that oppose us is pride.  Pride has the capacity to deceive us into believing we are better than other people. We would like to deny it, but if we think we have the better opinion, plan, attitude, or skill than most anyone else, we may see one of our blind spots. Charles Causey notes, “The struggle with pride is essentially a struggle with unbelief.  To indulge in pride is to denounce the simple gospel message, to remove God from His rightful place.”


 Another foe that sets us up is lying. I am not sure there is a man or woman on the earth who can plead totally innocent to never failing prey to lying or “telling a fib.” It is woven into our original DNA from the fall in the garden and sanctification takes quite a while after we come to know the Lord and may not be complete until He returns and we are wholly transformed. We are lured into lying for many reasons, but one of the most common is when we want to get rid of a problem or situation we are in the midst of with someone or something else. We fail to recognize that God is the audience we should be most aware of and it is He who desires we be authentic not only with Him, but with others as well.


Envy can also ensnare us along with greed and other “little foxes” seeking to “spoil the vines.” Thankfully, Paul comes to our aid again in Romans 8:1:


“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”


There are also some tools I will mention next time that can reinforce our moves toward integrity despite our frailty.


Spring in OH


Words and Deeds



The debate about words versus deeds and vice versa has been around for a long time. Sadly, the debate misses the point. Alignment of both is where integrity is accomplished. The latest book from NavPress brings this topic into clearer focus.


Words and Deeds: Becoming A Man of Courageous Integrity by Charles Causey, Army chaplain and recipient of a Bronze Star, highlights a subject needed by any and all men. Too often a focus on deeds is common for men without discerning the importance of   words and how they align and intersect in the context of their relationships, stress, teamwork, and leadership. Words and deeds are both important and most important of all is that they match.


In the author’s words:


“Words and Deeds was written to help men identify whether there is integrity between their words and actions, and – if not – to give them tools for alignment.”


Luke 24:19 states that Jesus was a man mighty in both words and deeds. It is a model not easy for anyone to accomplish without the Lord’s help and accountability with a few others.


For too many, there is a gap between who men are (or think they are) and who they want to be. This book looks at this problem and how to bridge that gap. It starts with an honest look at self. The book includes a straightforward assessment that provides a snapshot for the man who takes it for where he is today. It gives him an opportunity to look at his perception of himself and see whether there is a discrepancy in what he sees or thinks he sees and what the mirror shows. To get a more precise view, the reader is asked to ask several others close to him to take the assessment on him, which then allows him to see if there is also a perception gap, and to give the most accurate view of who he is.


The book includes stories and quotes that round out the message of the book and make it easy for a man to recognize the author’s points. All along the way the author makes clear what should be obvious and yet does not often appear in the lives of too many of us. Listen to a small part what the author says to clarify integrity:


“Integrity means continuity. The word itself comes from the Latin word integer, meaning ‘entire,’ or ‘whole.’ It means coherence, unity, soundness. With integrity, things are not ambiguous. There is clarity, morally or otherwise. To have integrity means to have an absence of duplicity. In ethics, it means to have consistency of character or uncorrupted virtue. A man of integrity has his words and deeds integrated, with no sunlight in between the two.”


No one is perfect and if we are brutally honest we can acknowledge that sunlight and gaps appear here and there. The author lays out a path toward growth and improvement in those areas and then at the end of 140 pages, offers a one session discussion guide for a small group or a six week Bible study guide for a small group. (Both are good, but the one session questions will likely result in the participants wanting more time than one session.)


This book appeals on many fronts and as a woman, I gained from the challenges on the subject as well, even though the book is targeted and designed for men. It is an excellent resource that I believe every man will appreciate.


To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.



Questions: Invitation or Intrusion



I remember so well how much I disliked sitting in a classroom with the anticipation of the teacher asking me a question. I tried to almost make myself disappear so I would not be seen or called upon to answer. Later, as a teacher, I realized how typical that could be as well as how futile it can be if the teacher is an observant one.


There has been an occasional time as an adult sitting in a class or workshop that I felt similar feelings. I grew up often feeling inadequate and feared that answering a question would confirm that not only to me but also to everyone else in the room. Those feelings are not so unusual, but I think how we respond to questions tends to reveal a bit more about us than we might wish.


advise-arrow-billboard-208494A question can be viewed as an intrusion when we see it as interrupting whatever we are doing or thinking about. It can jar us out of our own little world back into the world of others. Often, we do not like that nor want that.


If we have young children (or really children of almost any age living at home), we experience this on a regular basis. For the youngest children, questions can seem to be almost endless and yet are essential as they seek to learn names of things, how they work, what they are for, and of course, why that is the way it is. As children get older, they seem to be looking for answers so they don’t have to think through where they left their homework, what happened to that favorite red sweater, or what you asked them to do five minutes ago.


A question can also be viewed as an intrusion when we feel it exposes something in us that we prefer to remain hidden. A question can also be viewed as an intrusion bright-bulb-dark-132340if what is being asked seems more personal to us than the level of the relationship.


In considering this subject of how we view questions, let me suggest that a question can also be an invitation to share who we are, what we think or know. Even when we fear it, most of us desire to be known, if we also are accepted and loved.


That is the keylove and acceptance for who we are, where we are, and how we are. When we experience it, that allows us to grow, heal, and gain clarity in who we are and what we want to be or do.


activity-adult-barbecue-344102Wise questions can also convey to us that someone cares about us and wants to develop a closer relationship with us. If we are honest, we need to recognize that everyone wants and needs to know they matter.


Asking good questions is really a gift and skill. When we do so, it can make a great deal of difference in our relationships.


No one was more gifted than Jesus in this. Absolutely no one. He seemed to be able to ask a question that was both an intrusion and an invitation at the same time.


Listen to some of the examples we see in the gospels:


  • “Why are you timid, you men of little faith?” Or in a modern translation “Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?”
  • “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?”
  • “Which is easier, to say, your sins are forgiven, or to say, rise and walk?”
  • “But to what shall I compare this generation?”
  • “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
  • “Who do you say that I am?”
  • “What do you wish me to do for you?”
  • “Who touched my garments?”
  • “Do you love me?”


As I read these examples and many more, I see how each one intruded into the thinking and lives of the one or ones asked. His questions were often piercing and direct.


But I also see something else, his questions reveal His desire to be known, for us to see and understand the truth about Him as well as ourselves. He was inviting us to know Him and showing that He clearly knew us while yet loving us.


That reality speaks volumes to me about the relationship He desires to have with me, with us. It also speaks of the significance of the invitation.


Those same questions reach out to us from His Word because He was and is speaking them to us as well.


Will we hide or will we accept His invitation?


Beware of Little Foxes




My day started out well enough despite some weariness from a long travel day the previous day. I had a leisurely lunch with a special friend and headed home for a list of assorted odds and ends, some of these were ones I had on my radar screen and some showed up unexpectedly.


The mix of these odds and ends gradually built into a cacophony in my head that left it throbbing and reduced my capacity to really get started with writing or to complete anything else on the list. I was soon spinning my wheels and getting more stuck in the mud in the process. Nothing seemed to be going well and I could not resolve several projects that were bearing down on my mind as a result of a deadline attached to them.


IMG_2714After hours of frustration with little accomplished, I shut down the computer and tried to shift my mind away from everything I had been struggling with in order to relax and get ready for sleep. If you are guessing that I was not very successful at either of these things, you are right!


It was clear that I could not be productive, but neither could I relax and sleep did not come to relieve my aching head for hours after I got into bed. My shoulders were taut and scrunched up to my ears in tension and my mind refused to stop rehearsing the last four or five hours prior to getting into bed.


When morning arrived, I felt the hangover of too little sleep and all that was incomplete still facing me. I began to try to pick one piece of the thread to unravel the mess with only modest success. Prayer did not seem to reach the place I needed to be. My mind was still scattered and resulted in more little things like misplacing my keys at one point and my phone at another.


I needed help!


I texted my dear friend who had shared lunch with me and asked her to pray for me. She is one of those people who truly will pray when asked to do so. As she came IMG_2711alongside me by praying, I began to feel some release and a short phrase from Song of Solomon came to mind, “little foxes spoil the vines”. It brought a smile to my face as I reflected on the state I had gotten into over “little things”. I felt as if the Lord was gently reminding me I had lost sight of what was important. It’s the sort of thing all of us periodically get snared by when we are not looking or expecting an assault.


Most of us may not routinely delve into the Song of Solomon with its apparent allegorical style. We enjoy it as we read the lavish descriptions of love written there, but the nuances of meaning in the midst of graphic descriptions are not always clear to us. As I checked several commentaries, the clarity of meaning of that phrase was not as precise as I would have liked.


One commentary suggested that little things can creep in nearly unnoticed and yet do great mischief and if not addressed lead to even greater problems. What I sensed from the Lord beyond that was a reminder that I am grafted into the vine as his daughter, but if I am too weary, tired, or bogged down with the cares of this life these little “foxes” can nibble away at the fruit in my life, destroy grace, squelch good motives and direction.


The phrase brought about a grace-filled gentle conviction that my mind needs to be alert to little things that nibble at the eternal relationship found in the vine because when this happens I become irritable, frustrated, and less able to see the forest for the trees or to reflect Christ’s character.



Growing Up, But Being a Child



Many of us remember the story of Peter Pan and especially the movie as well as the live production aired on television a few years ago. One of the many songs Peter sings is one with the lyrics “I won’t group up”. Peter and his band of boys have many adventures, but never do they want to grow up, go to school, or be forced to do anything adults feel they IMG_0173should do including take responsibility.


J.M. Barrie’s story is a delightful excursion into battles with Indians, pirates, a princess, and of course the sparkling Tinkerbelle. It’s perfect for every child or child-at-heart’s 469247_2090246632530_874624013_oimagination, but I wonder if we recognize when we also struggle with growing up.


I think I grew up being somewhat of an “old soul” whose home life was more focused on chores and responsibilities than playing games and living in a fantasy land of pirates and fairies. It probably took me into adulthood until I realized the fun and freedom of being playful. My grandchildren helped me a great deal in this area, but I still am not as free as they are.



Consequently, when I saw in the gospels that we are to become like children in our faith in Jesus, it was harder to identify what that would look like. Over time, I grew in my understanding. As I sat alone with Him in my quiet times with journal and pen in hand, He would sometimes seem to speak to me about what it might look like.


In the autumn quite a few years ago as I was journaling with the Lord about this, I sensed Him letting me know that even though I was growing in my understanding of being a child in Him I sometimes made Him into “a serious Papa” and that I needed to see Him smiling, eyes twinkling, and delighting as He did with children as He walked the earth. As a child, I would trust Him without doubting or questioning if He would be there for me.


PICT0213 (1)He gave me a sense of the absolute trust a child has when a loving dad invites his child to jump into his arms. The child doesn’t question whether the dad will be there. The child believes the loving, caring, and strong daddy will always make the catch and jumps without doubting.


He seemed to give me permission to know that enjoying Him in that way did not diminish my reverence of Him if I trusted Him as such a child would do. Very clearly, my journal that day sensed these words from His heart to mine, “You’re allowed to laugh with me, dance with me, crawl into my lap and hide in the folds of garments, but you will need to learn to risk more and be more of a child with me.”


I knew He was not suggesting I be childish or irresponsible. There were battles to fight, but not with imaginary Indians and pirates. There was the need to serve selflessly rather than with self as focus as is often true of us as children.


So what would it mean to grow up while yet being a child? The best description came from C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. Let me share it with you.



Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary. He told us to be not only as ‘harmless as doves’, but also as ‘wise as serpents’. He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.”



*Sweet photo remembrances of six grandchildren from years ago who have grown up way to fast, but love the Lord with child-like trust and abandon as they move into adulthood and quickly move through their teenage years.