Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Servant Spirit

Have you noticed that whenever we have one of our Atlantic or Gulf Coast hurricanes that the news organizations send "no-name" reporters to cover the event? It is seldom a prominent news anchor standing out there, holding on for dear life, and getting beaten by wind and rain. It’s the women and men you’ve never heard of who get these assignments.

 I can hear their bosses now as they send them into harm’s way: "I’m about to give you a great professional opportunity. You will be on national television. You will be broadcasting live from the eye of the storm."

And where are news assignment managers and the prominent news anchors? Back in the safety of the New York studio.

Here’s the point: Don’t ever send someone else to do something you think you are above doing yourself. The primary prerequisite for leadership is a servant spirit.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stop Look Listen

When I was a boy, most railroad crossing signs had three words printed on them: "STOP. LOOK. LISTEN." These commands were intended to keep people from being killed by passing trains, but on a spiritual level, we would all live better lives if we could learn to observe these three words.

"Stop." Each of us needs to take stock every now and then. We tend to put the wrong things at the top of the list and to get our values out of focus. The problem is we do not know it unless we stop long enough to think.

"Look." We need to open our eyes to the pageant of the seasons, to the miracles of death and resurrection that are unfolding around us all the time. We miss the drama of life because we live with our eyes shut.

"Listen." Every wind is Tchaikovsky; every rain is Chopin; every stream is Beethoven – if we would listen.

"Stop. Look. Listen:" Three good words for today.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Black Holes

More than thirty years ago, Cambridge astro-physicist, Stephen Hawkins, discovered "black holes" in space. He said the gravitational pull of these collapsed stars was so great that matter could not escape from their vast celestial vortexes. Hawkins even wondered if black holes were not some sort of passageway into a rival solar system. He pondered whether matter might be able to float back and forth between solar systems.

 But in 2004, Hawkins changed his mind. He now says matter cannot disappear,even in a black hole. Particles that enter black holes always reappear, even though the re-emerged material will be in an altered form.

Sometimes we humans find ourselves sucked into spiritual black holes. The light dies out. We feel ourselves pulled into inescapable darkness. We fear we will never find our way out. The good news is we can, but when we re-emerge, we are altered. We are wiser, braver, and humbler. And we see reality more clearly.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Poor George

Now and then, the ushers at our church find interesting notes left behind in pews or hymnals. They are written on the backs of envelopes or on scraps of left over bulletins.

Here are samples of notes found recently:

 "Do you love George?"

 "No."

 "Then why do you keep going out with him?"

 "Cause no one else ever asks me."

 Poor George.

 How about this note:

"Is he ever going to quit?"

I think that one is about me.

 But this is my favorite one:

"He makes me want to believe I can be a better person."

 I hope that one is about me.

That would be a pretty neat epitaph, wouldn’t it? "He or she made people want to believe they could be a better person." That’s about as big a compliment as someone could ever give you.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Encouragement

In recent years, folks have discovered the children’s books of two twentieth century British writers: C. S. Lewis, who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, and J. R. R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings.

 Lewis and Tolkien were English literature professors and lifelong friends at Oxford University.

 Lewis began publishing his stories early in his career. Tolkien did not think his stories were worthy of print. It was through Lewis' encouragement that Tolkien submitted his stories for publication.

 But Tolkien made a big contribution to Lewis' life, too. It was through his friend's encouragement that Lewis moved from atheist to believer.

 Encouragement is a precious gift. When we give it to the people around us, miraculous things can happen. Through encouragement, they can do things which otherwise would have been impossible.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Don't get suckered into believing too little

P. T. Barnum of circus fame is often quoted as saying, "There is a sucker born every minute." While we all know what he was talking about – there are some pretty gullible people around - it is sad that Mr. Barnum had such a cynical attitude toward his customers.

 But P. T. Barnum also made an astute observation about faith. He said, "More people are fooled into believing too little than are fooled into believing too much." I think he was right.

 Don’t get suckered into believing too little. I know it is popular to be skeptical, and it sounds intellectual to be doubtful. But don’t let your questions steal from you the wonder and the joy of belief. If you must err, then err on the side of believing too much.

 By nature, I’m a doubter. Belief comes hard for me. But I’ve discovered that doubt locks me up in a dark room. Belief opens the door and turns on the lights.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hard Times

The other day I talked to a man who has been through hell in recent years. He has experienced difficulty and loss in virtually every area of his life. He has suffered physically, relationally, and vocationally.

 I asked him, “What has life taught you in recent years?” His answer gave me a lot to think about. He said, “The trauma I have gone through has taught me what is important and what is not.”

 What a tremendous thing to learn, even if pain was the teacher.

 I have always believed that the only bad pain is wasted pain – pain that doesn’t get turned and used for good in our lives.

Have you been through a hard time? If so, what lessons did you learn form it? If you could learn what is important in life and what is not, your pain would have been worth it

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Finding the Gold in People

A friend of Charles Williams, the English author, said this of him: "He found gold in all of us and made it shine." What a wonderful compliment! I wish more people had a talent for finding something beautiful that was hidden from public view, and to help people to see it, believe it, and lay claim to it.

 I am told by geologists that gold is seldom located on the earth’s surface, and it is not usually found in large chunks. Gold is located beneath the earth, and it is mixed in with other rock formations. As a matter of fact, most people are not able to identify gold with the naked eye. It therefore has to be excavated, mined, and refined. The refining process is about separating the gold from the non-gold products.

 May you have the eyes to see the gold that lies underneath the surface in the people around you, and may you have the patient persistence to make it shine.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Faith is the most powerful thing in the world

My mother had more faith than anyone I have ever known. She had an unshakable belief that her God would provide.

 As a young boy, my mother’s faith seemed na├»ve and unrealistic to me, and I spent a lot of time and energy trying to talk some sense into her.

When my older sister decided to go to an expensive private school for college, I cried foul. There was no money to send her. Why not go to a neighborhood state junior college that we could afford? My mother kept saying, "The Lord will provide." I kept scoffing.

 One evening when I was trying to talk some sense into them, the phone rang. It was the local Coca Cola distributor. He gave someone local a college scholarship each year, and the person he had been sending decided at the last minute to get married rather than return to school. He wanted to know if my sister might need some help.

Faith is the most powerful thing in the world.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Don't Start Your Kick Too Late

When my youngest son was in middle school, he was a miler. I often accompanied him to track meets. Jared was a pretty good runner. He usually finished in the money.

But I remember a particular morning when he ran and didn’t place. He finished with the pack. We got in the car and started home. There was silence until we got near the house. Finally I asked, "What happened?" "I started my kick too late," he answered. In other words, he didn’t finish with a trophy because he finished with too much in him.

I’ve thought about that conversation many times through the years. One of the things I don’t want to do is start my kick too late and finish with too much in me. I know people who go through life holding back. They live with their foot on the brake. Not me. I want to give life my best shot. When I come to the end of my life, I want to be used up in the service of my mission.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Two Teams of Horses

I like the story of the reprobate who got religion. He asked for forgiveness and help with his new life of sobriety and morality.

After about six months, someone asked him how his new life was going. He said, "Well, it feels like I’ve got two teams of horses on the inside. One team is pulling me back into my old behaviors of drinking, gambling, and womanizing. The other team is tugging me in the direction of purity."

The friend asked the converted reprobate the obvious question, "Which team of horses is winning?"

With a twinkle in his eye, he responded, "It’s all according to which one I say 'giddy up' to."

That pretty well sums it up, doesn’t it?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Don’t live a second-hand life

I own some stock in a company that is planning an upcoming annual meeting. Realizing that I might not be able to go to the meeting in Los Angeles, they sent me a form so I could assign my votes to their designated proxy. The idea of a proxy set me to thinking.
I know a lot of people who live by proxy. They go to movies and read novels to experience romance vicariously. They go to athletic events and pay others to play for them. They adopt other people’s ideas, thereby letting other do their thinking for them. They pay professionals to do their serving for them. I could go on and on.
I urge you; I plead with you: Don’t live a second-hand life. Get out of your easy chair and enter into the scrap of life. Experience the agony and the ecstasy of romantic love. Enter the arena and play the game. Learn to think your own thoughts. Get your hands dirty serving others. Choose not to live by proxy.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Core Life Philosophy

Here is one of my core life philosophies.

Each one of us has a God-given bank of energy that I call a "life force." When you use up all the energy you have for a given day, and there is more you have to do, you can dip into your "life force" and get the energy to get the job done. But your "life force" is like a bank you can make withdrawals from but you cannot make deposits into. When you make a withdrawal from your "life force" you are permanently diminished. These withdrawals are what I call "aging." When we use up more energy than we actually have, we age our bodies prematurely.

The trick to living life is to use our daily allotment of energy and then to stop – to choose not to dip into our "life force" bank. Naturally there are times of crisis when each of us must use more energy than we have, but this should not be our lifestyle.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Last Wills and Testaments

Do you consider it strange that people who have elaborate, well-planned "Last Wills and Testaments" have no goals and objectives for their lives? They can tell you in great detail what they plan to leave to those they love when they die, but if you ask them:

• What is the mission of your life?

• What is your vision for the kind of person you want to become?

• What are the non-negotiable goals you hope to accomplish before you die?

They give you a blank stare and then offer a generic, off-the-cuff verbal response. Why is it that we do a better job of preparing for death than for life?

Each one of us needs to think through the direction we want our life to go, and then we need to establish some priorities that will get it done. When I come to the end of my days, I want my concluding words to be "mission accomplished."