Several weeks ago I took my dad to visit his good friend, Don. They’ve been friends for over 30 years. They worked together at Battelle Memorial Institute. Their wives were friends. They went to church together. Don just celebrated his 90-something birthday. My dad will be 85 in two weeks. In January Don drove himself to the doctor’s office for a routine appointment, and while getting out of the car slipped and fell, breaking his hip. He’s been bed-fast ever since. Now Don lives in a skilled nursing facility. My dad has Alzheimer’s. During his career he was part of the team that developed the ceramic tiles used on the NASA Space Shuttle. Using radiation he developed a way for the NASA astronauts to safely take food into space, without the worry of spoilage. Today, my dad is not able to write out a check. These two men loved their families, loved the wives. They served in church together. They love one another. So, daddy wanted to go visit Don and off we went.
As we entered the room, I noticed that Don had a new roommate but I kept on going. Don was fast asleep. So, Dad and I pondered this, then I wrote Don a note and we determined we’d come back soon. As we left the room, Don’s roommate motioned to us. I quickly surmised that this gentleman was ill and not did not have all his faculties. I pulled on my dad’s sleeve, signaling to come with me. But Daddy stopped. He leaned in. He listened. The gentleman was offering to tell Don we’d been there. My dad stopped and engaged Don’s roommate in conversation, “What is it Bud? Do you need something?” I was in a hurry, I didn’t see anything more than the time on my watch.
My dad cannot make coffee. Most days doesn’t remember his grandchildren’s names. Wants to go home, but home may be from 50 years ago. He no longer reads his Bible, a life-long habit now gone. He unplugs things and then gets frustrated that they don’t work. But, my dad remembers something he purposed in his heart many years ago. He is a courageous leader.
Let’s look at Daniel, from the historical account of the same name found in the Bible. Daniel was one of many young Jewish people taken captive when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Israel (Judah) around 605 B.C. Daniel actually ended up working in a very high position in the Babylonian empire through the reins of Nebuchadnezzar, his son Belshazzar, into the rise of the Medo-Persian empire. He had a long career to say the least. But that’s not my point. My point is this, when Daniel found himself outside of his comfort zone, through no fault or desire of his own, he had some choices to make. Daniel chapter 1:8 tells us that he purposed in his heart. Some versions say, Daniel resolved. Other versions indicate that Daniel determined. What did he determine? Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not give in to the ways of this culture, because they were counter to the ways of God. Daniel resolved, determined, purposed in his heart in such a way that his resolve was completely in tune with God’s will. Daniels resolve and God’s teachings were intertwined.
There is significance in determining something in your heart. Have you ever noticed that when you think you’re going to get fit, eat healthy, stop smoking, or get rid of a bad habit that it is almost impossible? Change, big change, takes a resolve and purpose that is deep and soulful. It is a change of heart, so to speak; a decision that cannot be undone. A decision that is intertwined with a purpose bigger than just a thought or whim. That’s the type of decision that Daniel made. Purposeful. Intentional. Determined. Resolute. As he was suddenly thrust into a culture so foreign to him, Daniel made up his mind not to change the core of who he was, to please the popularity and whims of the culture. And, to be real, this decision could well of cost him his life.
In 21st century America, we don’t have to worry that an intentional decision not to dive into popular culture will cost us our life. But it could cost us relationships, job opportunities, social status, acceptance. In fact, I would venture to say that in America today you can count on some sort of cost should you intentionally choose to not give in to popular culture as a result of a resolve to stay true to the tenants and teachings of God.
The temperature in American culture currently is pretty uncomfortable for folks who intentionally choose to reject popular thought, and hold on to the tenants of God’s teaching. And it can be a struggle balancing an extension of the grace and love of Christ with the truth of His teachings. So often popular culture responds to us with words like judgmental, old-fashioned, outdated, and hateful. Just how do we extend love and lean into engage this culture, without adopting it?
Long before I was born my dad purposed, resolved, determined in his heart to live a life that is an example of Christ on earth. This resolve is as strong as the strands of string intertwined and woven to make up a strong, hefty rope. This resolve is intertwined with God’s truth. Daddy has walked this out in a consistent intentional way, accepting people of all walks of life just as he found them. He has long been a student of God’s Word, studying it, applying it, living it out at church, at home, at work. He has always had an easy laugh, a quick joke, engaged people in conversation in a real way, and cared deeply that everyone he meet see Christ’s love through him. His cognitive abilities and memory are diminishing every day. This resolve, made oh so long ago has not left him, and in fact is as strong as I ever remember. It is indeed an intertwining of his will with that of his Creator that runs so deep that even the mysterious power of Alzheimer’s cannot diminish its strength.
I’m still learning from my dad. And, I’m learning from the Daniel model just how to walk out my faith in this culture in which I am a stranger. I never want to stop learning from daddy, a truly courageous leader, while I’m just beginning my journey with Daniel. I so want to learn from him just how to effectively live out the resolve I have adopted, in an engaging way so that people see the love and the truth of Christ in my life. And I invite you to join me as over the next few months we look at The Daniel Model of courageous leadership in 21st century America. Come on – go with me!