Archives for the month of: February, 2011

So, would you say time is your most precious resource? I think it was the Rolling Stones that sang a song that went something like this, “time is on my side…yes it is.”  While those words certainly sound affirming it is becoming ever more apparent to me that the old adage, “time waits for no man” seems to be the real life truism.  How can something that is so ever present remain so elusive? I mean when we really dig deep doesn’t it seem like time is more like our most scarce resource? (Perhaps in the end that is why it is so precious to us.)  Why can’t we just create more time? We’ll I’ve been pondering more about this and realized that it seems part of the answer may lie in how we think about time. No doubt time is part of an ongoing continuum but maybe rather than get overwhelmed by the fact that time seems to be continually escaping us perhaps we should begin to think in terms of seasons of time.  In other words, to begin to carve the continuum up into more manageable and measureable pieces where we can see real progress, real life change being made.  As I look back on my adult life I can clearly identify three distinct seasons so far; the exhibition season…a time of great adventure where the risk of trying new things seemed to be almost non-existent, the season of achievement…a time primarily focused on setting and attaining goals and then lastly, the season to make an intentional shift towards significance…a time to move away from the pursuit of worldly success to follow a larger purpose for my life. Could it be that this simple perspective change could provide us with one of the best benchmarks for helping us filter out the noise that promotes what so often feels like life’s listlessness? Is it possible that this approach could provide us with an integral part of what it takes to lean in and experience life with greater direction and resolve?  On a personal note, in just a few short months our last child at home will be off to college and the house will be empty.  Undoubtedly, this foretells a season of time that will be quite different from the one my wife and I have known for the last twenty or so years.  Most certainly we should see some freed up “time capacity” on our hands as we look ahead to the upcoming season, a time when many of the “no’s” of today will become the “yes’s” of tomorrow. For each of us the “spring season” is almost upon us…a time characterized by the beauty of new growth. May we all find great joy as we experience new growth in whatever season of life we find ourself in.  Peace.

So, where and when did the tables get turned upside down? Perhaps you can remember those informative and impressionable times of your early life when you were routinely told, “do this…don’t do that.”  If your home growing up was anything like mine I’m certain that your parents were pretty intentional to carry forward the generational mantel to make sure you or your siblings knew the “what to do’s and what not to do’s” of life.  All of this seemed to be an intentional effort designed to help us build a life of disciplined moral thought so that we could easily discern right from wrong (and stay out of trouble).  This instruction served to establish the underpinnings that we would need to stay the course of living a life of informed obedience.  After all wasn’t the end game to help forge in us the building blocks to become young men and women of consistent character and integrity? As I think back on this I can clearly see the countless hours devoted to this effort on my behalf by my parents.  I know too as a dad I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to instill this into the life of my son and daughter as well.  But I’ve been thinking (and observing) recently about another set of “do’s and don’ts.”  One’s that once allowed to germinate and take root eat away at the very core of our intended being.  Here’s the question. Why is it that so many of us that do have so much spend so much of our life’s energy focused on what we don’t have while so many of those that don’t have spend so much of their life’s energy simply being grateful for what they do have? Once again we can see how what was intended for us as good has been turned upside down by our own nature such that it now works against what we know to be right and good thinking.  How can we get things back to being right side up?  Could it be a matter of getting back to the basics?  To seek character over comparison, to trade places with looking for what we can get out of life to what we can give to the life of others, to pursue the freedom of enjoying versus the bondage of coveting and lastly, to become outwardly faced as opposed to inwardly focused.  You know it’s been said that thanksgiving is the best antidote for the angst and anxiety caused by wanting what you don’t have.  Perhaps we too just simply need to be grateful for what we do have. Peace.                 

So, what’s in a name?  Several months ago I found myself at lunch with a dear friend who was struggling with a dilemma in his life.  As we engaged in conversation my friend began to express to me how his life was, like many, compartmentalized into many independent but not interrelated parts.  More importantly he felt like he had to live up to the demands of having a different title for every compartment of his life.  At home he was husband and father.  At work he was boss.  At church he was elder.  And to those closest to him he was friend.  Keeping up with this was draining the life right out of him.  Further conversation revealed that even that wasn’t the root of the real dilemma.  It seemed that what was causing him the most consternation and angst was that he recognized in himself that he actually loved differently in each area of his life.  He was bothered by the feeling that he was not the same man day in and day out.  He wondered if there might be a better approach.  A way to let’s say live a “seamless life.”  Well two things came to mind to share with him.  First, the more obvious one was that rather than live a life broken up into stand alone compartments he needed to begin to pursue with great intention living an integrated life wherein those disparate, solo compartments begin to interleave and intertwine with one another.  In other words, make it a life pursuit (and it will take that long) to end your days with your life represented by one compartment.  One that holds the contents of all of your life.  That time when the circles of life are intended to become the “circle of life.”  The second thought to consider was to come up with a title for his life.  To go through a disciplined exercise to boil down into one title, one name that would govern every area of his life.  To even visually imagine handing out a business card that rather than having the traditional job title would actually reveal a title for living.  A title like Encourager, Teacher, Giver, Connector, etc.   Just imagine the cumulative effect of living a life that was filtered through the lens of that “one thing.”  Certainly you would still find yourself to be husband (or wife), dad (or mom), boss, friend, etc. but you would now have an overarching characteristic, a framework, a purpose that would fully inform how you live your life.  Talk about life giving!  Peace.           

So, is your “whoness” wrapped up in your “whatness?”  One doesn’t have to go far to realize the multitude of ill effects that have been caused by the period of steep unemployment we find ourselves in.  Many good people have lost their jobs and long to get back to work.  Perhaps though on any given day even more people who are actually gainfully employed voice their displeasure with the job they do have.  Many of these folks speak of how “all things would be better” if they could just “get a new job.” The outward manifestation of this inward struggle shows itself in their loss of joy, fulfillment, excitement, etc. in their work and life.  In their mind’s eye their job has let them down and as a result they simply don’t like who they’ve become.   The answer or so they think…find a new job and then “things will all be better.”   Have there been those times in your own life when you’ve reached that place where you’ve found yourself wrestling with your work and just not liking the person you see in the mirror?  No doubt there will be and have been days when our jobs will let us down.  Those days that find us simply not liking our work and longing to just do something different. But are we once again allowing ourselves to be governed by the outward symptoms of a much deeper inward reality?  Could this really be a case of mistaken identity?  Could it be that we have wrapped our whoness in our whatness and allowed ourselves to be defined almost exclusively by our work?  Men in particular have long sought to find their identity in their work and therein lies the root of the problem when things start to go awry at the office.  Are we looking to our work to satisfy the longings of our heart?  You know those innate longings to matter and make a difference.  While our work can certainly bring great satisfaction and fulfillment it can never provide the foundation for our existence by defining who it is we are as a person.  No job in the world can validate our worth as a human being.  To find our identity in anything other than our worth as a child of God will only lead to a life pursuit of mistaken identity.  The real you will simply never be known!  Interestingly though, as we live an intentional life pursuing the “who” that’s in us as a child of the King we just may find that there will be a multitude of joyously fulfilling “what” opportunities that come our way over a lifetime.  Peace.

So, when you listen to yourself what do you hear?  No doubt we have all had up close and personal, mountaintop experiences in life only to find ourselves back down in the valley even before we knew what happened to us.   I’m certain too we have all heard it said many times before that “life is full of peaks and valley” or perhaps as more often stated, “life sure has its ups and downs.”  Indeed it does!  If you’re like me you can probably think about some valuable lessons you have learned along the way that have come out of these valley times of life.  For sure it seems the valley is normally the place where many of us go to wrestle and struggle against the intricacies of living life here on earth.  But what else is there to be learned from the valley?  Well, I’d like to share with you something I recently learned from a great lady named Shirley, one of life’s peaches.  You see a number of us were gathered in conversation a few months back when we came upon the topic of “valleys.”  Shirley piped up and said, “I’ll tell you something about valleys!”  She then proceeded to tell us about how she had been watching a Western movie the night before.  A Western that had two cowboys laying in wait to ambush the armed bandits headed their way.  It seemed one cowboy, in his impatience and anticipation, just couldn’t stop talking.  Finally, to quiet the guy up so as not blow their cover the other cowboy had to look at his compatriot and whisper, “Shush, don’t you know your voice echoes in the valley?”  So Shirley, a well-spring of street wisdom, asked the group “Isn’t that just the way it is in life?”  Wow what truth! That what we say to ourselves while in the valleys of life has a way of either leading us out of the valley back to the mountaintop or causes us to remain stuck in the quagmire of the valley.  When we dwell on the negatives and speak these to ourselves when life has us on the ropes it makes it close to impossible to get up off the mat.  The negative voices just keep echoing back to us as more negatives as we get further and further beat down.  But in contrast the seemingly shortest route to get “back to the mountaintop” is to speak positives and give praise even while we’re in the valley.  So, if you find yourself in one of those valley times of life call out the positives, give praise for the richness of simple blessings and listen for the echoes of good things beginning to ring truth in your life.  In doing so it would my hope that each of us can once again be lifted up as we can begin to enjoy the amazing and fantastic views from the mountaintop vistas of life.  Peace.

So, is there something to be learned from a common rubber band?   Recently I’ve been thinking on the importance of having “elasticity” in my life.  Perhaps it’s really another way of saying I recognize a longing to be a bit more of a “go with the flow” type of guy.  Seeking to be more spontaneous, more adventurous and generally just more fun to be around.  Isn’t it funny how life has a way of robbing us of some of these highly cherished attributes as the years march on?  So it seemed only natural that the best place to turn for some insight into this topic was to consider the good ole rubber band.   A quick study of this universal tool of both business and home reveals four simple but useful insights on elasticity to consider.  First, elasticity yields strength.  The more you stretch a rubber band the stronger it seems to get.  So it seems it’s good to be stretched as individuals from time to time.  Who amongst us wouldn’t say that when we get on the other side of an experience that takes us outside of our comfort zone we don’t emerge stronger?  Next, elasticity enables the rubber band to wrap itself around objects of many different shapes and sizes.  By way of analogy our own personal elasticity enables us to engage and enter in to the lives of many different people.  We get to wrap ourselves around people of all personality types, unique gifts, life experiences, etc.  Could this be the missing link to becoming better at loving the unlovely?  I just wonder.  Thirdly, elasticity by its very nature makes the rubber band more flexible.  When we allow ourselves to be more flexible we embody that much needed ingredient for continued personal growth…a teachable spirit.  New ideas all of a sudden become our friend and we become must less resistant to change, less uptight at life.  The question of our life then is no longer centered around where we have been or what have we done but now it is squarely pointed to who we can become.  Finally, elasticity makes the rubber band more vulnerable.  In this case vulnerable to being broken if it gets stretched too tight.  Our own vulnerability can be our gateway for offloading those burdens that once made known can keep us from actually reaching the breaking points of life.  I’m sure we have all experienced just how quickly the energy is taken out of the burden when we simply allow ourselves to be transparent and share our hurts and pains with others.  So it’s interesting that unlike the rubber band our vulnerability can actually make us stronger.  (We’ll talk more about the strength found in leading with transparency at a later date.)  Well, no doubt there are more takeaways to be considered if time permitted.  My hope is that at the end of the day these thoughts haven’t been too much of a stretch for you to consider.  Come on…I’m just kidding.  Peace.            

So, every picture tells a story doesn’t it?  Two things come to mind when I think of this question.  First, if I’m not mistaken, this was the title of a popular song by Rod Stewart that I used to sing in my car before the modern days of karaoke or air guitar.  Can you relate?  But my fondest memory is drawn back to those bygone days of elementary school when the teacher would hand out those papers that had what appeared to be just a bunch of randomly numbered dots on the pages.  You remember these I’m sure.  After initially being overwhelmed by the sheer number of dots we would be instructed to draw a line from one to the next.  Soon after making the connections from this jumbled mess of dots and lines a picture would emerge; a picture of a person or an animal or something of the like.  So, I’ve been thinking on this for a bit.  Isn’t this the way the tapestry of our lives are woven and intertwined together?  What appears to us as random encounters with random people on random days of living (a.k.a. “the dots of life”) are really the connecting points of life coming together to paint a wonderfully intricate and orchestrated picture of the story of our lives.  Lives marked by chaos, struggles and unending demands can appear at times to be just as much of a jumbled mess as those dots on the papers we used to get handed to us.  But we have to marvel at the reality that there is nothing elementary going on with the painting of this picture.  What a priceless picture is being created amongst this beautiful mess.  The picture of you!  Of me!  Of us!  You see the storyline of our lives tells of the amazingly patient grace and the lavishness of immeasurable love that is showered upon us one day, one moment, one breath at a time by a loving God that never tires of painting masterpieces.  Do we see ourselves as masterpieces whose lives are being painstakingly painted and made known to the world by the Master Artist?  Have we considered what role we have in being the hands and feet of the Master Artist to help connect the dots of life for others as we seek to engage and invest in the larger story?  Are we simply inviting others in to the greatest love story ever told? Lots to think on…perhaps our best next step as we do is to simply fall in love afresh with the Master Artist.  Peace.

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