Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Trapeze

Last week our pastor talked about how trusting God's leading is a bit like jumping from one trapeze to another. The picture at the left is not as clear as I would like, but then neither is the path that God has for us.

The picture is from an "outward bound" type of management training session. I went to one of these workshops nearly 20 years ago when I was with American Airlines Sabre division. It was put on by a firm called SportsMind™. The picture is from an exercise called the trapeze.

The first thing that happens is that you climb a telephone pole that has "steps" nailed to it. On the top of the pole is a little wooden disk, about 12" in diameter or about the size of a small pizza pan. When you get to the top of the pole, you have to climb up on the disk and stand up, turn around and then jump out about 6 1/2 ft to grab a trapeze.

OK, I'm afraid of heights. Actually it is more than that, it is actually a fear of falling off of high things or worse, being pushed.

Sometimes this is what life feels like - scaling something impossible, only to have to balance on something equally impossible and having to jump from there to something even more impossible.

What if I lose my balance? What if I fall?

What I didn't tell you is that at SportsMind, they start by attaching you to ropes that allow your colleagues to hold on to you as you are climbing, and if you fall, they are able to steady the ropes and the carabiners and beley lines keep you from falling as they control your descent.

This is exactly like faith. God never allows us to take those chances without having a solid grasp on the beley lines of our life. He won't let us fall.

Back to my jump. I was scared. Even though the beley lines were there and I knew my colleagues had a good handle on the ropes. But did I trust them?? We hadn't exactly been working as a team leading up to the executive retreat, which was largely the reason we were all there.

I climbed the pole with relative ease, but getting up on the disk was harder than I ever imagined. And turning around to face the trapeze was even harder. When I finally got steady and I jumped, it was amazing. Someone got a picture of me totally in flight. I reached and I caught the trapeze.

What a rush!

I let go and my teammates guided me slowly and safely to the ground.

I wanted to do it again!

If you are just reading this post not having read the one below it, now listen to the song by Twila Paris. "Do I trust you Lord" is the refrain of the song.

Do I trust you Lord? You bet.

Chicke Fitzgerald

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Warrior is a Child

This weekend as I looked at all of the things that I am facing in my life, at least in the natural realm, I was feeling particularly weak and discouraged and quite frankly, tired.

I am frequently inspired by songs, which is why the best thing I could possibly do each morning is go out for a walk with these songs loaded on my iPod.

The song that kept coming to my mind yesterday was one by Twila Paris called "Warrior is a Child". (click on the link to hear the song on You Tube)

In that song, she says that although people look at her and see how strong she is (which is an observation that many of my colleagues make of me), at her core, she is the the child that "goes running home when she falls down" and that her Almighty is the one that "picks her up when no one is around".

Lately I've been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I'm amazing
Strong beyond my years
But they don't see inside of me
I'm hiding all the tears

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
'Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

Unafraid because His armor is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I'm amazing
Never face retreat
But they don't see the enemies
That lay me at His feet

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and and cry for just a while
'Cause deep inside this armor
the warrior is a child

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and look up for a smile
'Cause deep inside this armor
Deep inside this armor
Deep inside this armor
The Warrior is a Child

My strength comes not from who I am, but from whose I am.

I know that no matter what battles I face, his armour is the best.

Deep inside this armour, this warrior is a child. His child.

Chicke Fitzgerald

Living in the Cone of Uncertainty

On a call that I have with a group of executive women in my industry each week, this week a number of us who live in Florida were talking about being residents of hurricane alley. We regularly monitor what is called the "cone of uncertainty" as weather scientists and pundits alike attempt to predict where a hurricane will make landfall.

Ike is the latest of the named storms that Floridians are monitoring. When they first started talking about Ike, Tampa where I live, was smack dab in the center of the cone of uncertainty. This morning, the forecast for Tampa is now clear as a bell.

One of my friends on the call mentioned that life was often like living in the cone of uncertainty. That created a mental picture that over the weekend I haven't been able to shake. I joked about writing a book with that title, but my faith blog is a much better place for this tome.

Uncertainty comes from having external events (or other people) that influence control over your situation. It can come from within as well, when you haven't yet made a decision.

In the hurricane vernacular, the external events are high pressure and low pressure systems, water temperature, winds and the like. And even your own decision to get everything valuable out of the first floor of your home, board up or evacuate.

In life, we have the economy that is swirling around us, often feeling like it is bearing Category 4 winds and metaphorically fearing 10-20 foot storm surge that could result from being laid off, not getting that next consulting contract or not getting funding for a business. For some it is not being able to pay a mortgage, or make payroll or just not having money to make ends meet and having to severely trim or cut your lifestyle.

We also have other people's actions and decisions that impact most everything that we do. This starts as high as with the government and the impact that the coming presidential election will have on our lives and goes down as finitely as the decisions and actions of those that we live and work with, or those that we are responsible for.

For those few days where a hurricane is actually bearing down on a particular area, the responsible thing to do, particularly as it is looking highly likely (e.g. the center of the cone), is to prepare "Plan B". Or you could sit and cower in fear I suppose, doing nothing more than watching it come closer and closer and it getting darker and windier outside.

In those same storms of life, we have the same choice. We can let worry overtake us and give voice to the fact that "I'll never have the money to pay my taxes in April, or I know our current savings will run out in October", or we can make sure that we realize that we aren't in control of the winds and that, while it is prudent to have a Plan B, the best things is to take your worries to the feet of the one that created the winds.

Here are the lyrics from one of my favorite worship songs by Chris Tomlin, called "You do all things well". Listen to it by clicking on the link.

Mountain Maker
Ocean Tamer
Glimpses of You
Burn in my eyes
The worship of heaven
Fills up the skies

You made it all
Said, "let there be"
And there was
All that we see

The sound of Your voice
The works of Your hands
You do all things well
You do all things well
You do all things well

Star creator
Wind breather
The strokes of Your beauty
Brushed through the clouds
Light from the heavens
Touching the ground

Imagination runs wild
And breathes the breath of life
Across the fields
Across the miles

My favorite line of that song is the one about the power of words. "He said let there be, and it was". If indeed we are created in His image, our words have power as well. I want to harness his creative word in my life and for his "imagination" to run wild on my situation, breathing the breath of life into our companies and into our finances!

I take refuge today not in a storm shelter, but in the shadow of the wings of the Almighty God.

If you find yourself living in a cone of uncertainty, take heart. Psalm 57 was written by King David when he fled from Saul into a cave, being fairly certain that he was going to be destroyed.

Psalm 57, verse 1
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by.

Whatever calamities, percieved or real are facing you, and whatever the velocity of the winds are that are whipping at you, as you work to create your own "Plan B", try also calling on him as your refuge.

Although some days I get caught up in fear as to the effects of my own personal cone of uncertainty, today I woke up knowing that the shadow I see is not the great storm approaching, but the soft underside of the wings of the Almighty.

And I breathe the same sigh of relief as seeing the cone for Ike now far west of Tampa, while at the same time praying for those in His path that they will call on the same power to keep them safe.

Chicke Fitzgerald

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Achieving New Heights

I have been very fortunate to have an executive coach and friend, John, that is pushing me to achieve new heights. He speaks from personal experience (, having tackled the height of all heights, Everest.

In the picture above, there is a mountain ahead. There is fog at the bottom and there is water on either side of the path. Anyone who has climbed a mountain, like John, will tell you that doing so requires not only preparation, but vigilance and keeping your eyes wide open. On the path above, if you don't remain focused on the goal, the prize, you may stray off the path and find yourself in dangerous waters. Metaphorically of course.

In the quest for the mountain, we can get tired. We get discouraged. Each time we focus on ourselves, we find new reasons not to put one foot in front of another. We look around and feel alone.

If we were in fact alone, it would not only seem hopeless, it would be hopeless.

I haven't asked John specifically about what it took to make him successful in his Everest climb, but I do know from reading his website that the support of others was critical.

Over and over in the Old Testament and New alike, you will find the phrase "Fear not, for I am with you". If we change that to today's vernacular, it would say "Don't stress out, for I am right by your side".

This past year has been an extremely difficult one for me personally, for my family and for my companies. I do know that I am not alone. Not only am I surrounded by friends, family and my friend and coach, I have the God of heaven and earth at my side. He is prepared to hold my hand and guide me, when I can no longer keep my eyes open and when I'm so tired or fatigued that I can't take another step. When the fog is so thick that I can't see the way, He gives me uncanny guidance and the most amazing people come into my path.

One thing is for sure. I will reach the mountain top. No one ever promised it would be easy, but God promised that I wouldn't be alone.

Whew! That gives me courage to face another day. How about you?

Chicke Fitzgerald
Tampa, FL