Life is its natural state of being. Some flowers are in full bloom and some a wilting and waiting for death.
At any given time, depending on your perspective and the narrative through which you filter life's events and trends, things are either going in the right direction or plunging into the depths of doom. Our instincts for self preservation are riding on desperation or momentum. We dearly desire to stay alive in something more meaningful than hollow existence. That can be a jive or we can thrive.
"Jive" can be the music of swing or the language of nonsense. It is an apt description of how many deal with challenges, dangers, and complexities in a chaotic world.
Like the dips, sways, and slides of a "Dancing with the Stars" episode or the meaningless chatter that fills in the blanks, we are caught up in malaise of shifting realities and inconsistent commentary.
We're standing on the beach during a particularly windy change of tide and it is hard to maintain a foothold.
And yet, some people thrive. It has been historically true and is true today.
We can thrive through the social, political, and economic jive.
First, we must stop listening to the jive of doomsayers and tune in to a different voice - the voice of the THRIVE.
Think on these things," the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, things that promote life, health, well-being, and wholeness. "These things" are the things that keep us truly alive.
This voice declares that to thrive, one must make six decisions:
1 - The T is for a commitment to TAP into everything that is positive, opportunistic, wholesome, encouraging, and substantive in the moment. Whatever music the band is playing, dance to the most positive rhythms and melodies that are interwoven into the composition of current events. Great ideas are still emerging; great art is being composed; great products are being manufactured; great lives are emerging. You can be a part of the greatness all around. That which others might mean for evil, Joseph of old learned, God might mean for good. TAP into the positive.
2 - The H is for HOLD and the commitment is to HOLD onto ones noblest, purist, and best values. Think on "whatsoever things are" worthy of your thoughts and maintain your commitments in spite of the obstacles. Too often, we sacrifice what is value on the altar of hardship for the sake of expediency. When we do so, we may survive, but we do not thrive. Your arrival at greatness surpasses survival of difficulty. Hold onto truth, goodwill, compassion, love, integrity, and your core mission in life. Hold on to your values. People who emerge from storms with their values intact build a foundation for lasting success and significance.
3 - The R is for RELEASE. Make a commitment to RELEASE the fear in your life into a vast sea of faith. Just let it go. Do not allow it to overcome, hinder, intimidate, or define you. Find what part of your personality is clinging to fear and release your grip. This is easier said than done because fear becomes ingrained. Start by disallowing any new fears to creep in no matter how reputable or respected their sources. "Fear not." Become a person of hope in the midst of the only context where hope is relevant - difficulty.
4 - The next commitment starts with the letter I and it is INVESTMENT. Invest your resources. Some will say that this is not the time to make investments. It may not be the time for foolish or frivolous investments, but it is the time to invest in yourself, your dreams, and your future. Discover the resources of time, money, energy, and influence that you possess which are available to you and, perhaps of greater value now than they were in boom times. INVEST your resources. Give yourself away. Make it a commitment.
5 - The V is for VISUALIZE. Make a commitment to visualize better times - but beyond that, a positive and glorious outcome to your efforts. Take the risk to see, hear, taste, and imagine a future that exists now only in your dreams. Be a visionary and shape that which is to come in your life and your world. This is called faith and it is a God thing. "For that which is seen is temporal, but that which is unseen is eternal."
6 - The E in THRIVE is for EFFORT. Don't kid yourself; there is some work to be done and you must do it if you will thrive in a time when others merely survive and many do not even do that. Discouragement, despondency, hopelessness, and cynicism will sap your faith and, in turn, your strength. You may not feel like putting forth the effort. Do it anyway. Sometimes you are merely choice or an activity away from a breakthrough when you quit. Don't quit. Keep on keeping on.
"Change and decay in all about I see. Oh Thou, who changest not, abide with me."
Whether or not the circumstances of your life change, you can change, and in that change, you can THRIVE.
In the Fourth Watch of the Night - That is when it happened, perhaps at about 3:00 A.M.. It is that unique time when the extreme night owls are thinking of retiring and the extreme early birds are rising.
It is also at that time when "graveyard shift" workers are starting to yawn and requiring a second wind to make it through.
At such a time, a second wind came for the disciples in the boat Jesus sent on ahead of Him while He prayed. it was a big wind, the kid that beats and batters and threatens to beach even the most seasoned mariner.
In the hours leading up to this cataclysmic event, Jesus had been praying alone and the disciples had been trying to cross the body of water as the storm got worse and worse.
We really don't know exactly when the storm came, but when Jesus looked in on the disciples, they had only moved about three and a half miles and they were straining at their oars, desperately trying to survive. Matthew 14, Mark 6, and John 6 give essentially the same accounts, but Matthew records more of the dialog.
They see Him and He looks ghostly. At least they suspect He is a ghost - even more so when He starts moving toward them walking on the water.
Question: What beats your boat?
What winds are against you? What has got you nearly swamped? What forces are so overwhelming that you are making little or no progress? What are you rowing against that is defeating you?
To you, in your present situation, Jesus speaks three words and then a fourth and finally a fifth. First, "take courage; it is I; do not be afraid."
The original Greek meaning was to lift or carry and came to mean endure, dare, suffer, and be bold. Thus, it is to have courage, to bear up under the great burdens, hardships, threats, and challenges that we face in spite of our fears and apprehensions and the odds against us. When we take courage, we refuse to throw in the towel and quit. We keep rowing when we think we are going nowhere.
It is I.
Mark said that even after Jesus crawled into the boat with them, they were amazed, lacking in understanding, and hard of heart. Yet, knowing it was Him ought to have and did give them some comfort. It should strengthen out hearts and encourage our souls to know that in the midst of the storm it is Jesus walking toward us, above the storm and above the waves.
Be not afraid.
He will calm our fears so that we will not be crippled or driven by them. We have many choices available to us. It is those we make based on terror or fright that will usually be shortsighted and poor.
It is at that point that Peter had a streak of boldness and made an audacious request. He asked Jesus to call Him out of the boat and into the water. "If it is you, bid me come to you on the water."
I admire the fact that Peter is unwilling to leave the boat if it is not Jesus and if Jesus does not call. That is wise.
Mark does not record this and Peter had Mark's ear. Matthew "tells on him."
Jesus utters the fourth word.
It is a gracious word. It is inviting, affirming, and challenging. It is still the word He speaks to us in crisis. He is always, in the storm or in the calm, calling us to Himself to meet Him and to experience Him in a new way. We could hope for no better outcome.
Yet, Peter loses focus and then faith and falters. Ray Steadman said, "If your faith fizzles before the finish it was faulty from the first." Peter had what we used to call in Virginia "a ways to go." In his defense, he was the only guy willing to get out of the boat.
Peter cried out for Jesus to save Him and Jesus effortlessly reached for him and lifted him up. This gave occasion to His third word for the stormy moment.
You of little faith.
Why did you doubt? I have heard this and said this before. Why did you stop? You were doing so well. You were almost there. You could have made it.
We get so close and then we stop in panic, retreat in horror, or slink away in a loss o confidence. The storms are real, but just a moment before, we were rising above them. We have lost our focus, our short term memory, and our faith. We have "a ways to go."
But none of that stops Jesus. He comes to our boat, we invite Him in, He climbs in, and eventually (or sometimes immediately) the winds subside. It is then that we declare again, "Truly You are the Son of God."
In 1925, Gertrude Ederle sought to swim the English Channel . "She had less than seven miles to go when her trainer, Jabez Wolffe, who thought she was too tired to keep going, pulled her from the water."
Some have said that it was because she could not see the shore that she grew weary.
The next year, she would not be deterred. She captured a vision of the prize in her mind and kept going. She became the first woman to swim the channel. More people have climbed Everest than have accomplished this.
For us, it is the vision of one who walks on the water in the fourth watch of the night who becomes the focus of our faith. We may not be able to walk on water, but we can certainly ride out our storms in the boat with confidence and courage as we take Him on board.
We dream; we grow; We move; we flow; We laugh; we glow. While here below, We live in anticipation Of pomp and circumstance And graduation. We are matriculated in the school of life Articulated by toil and tears and strife. We are students of all that passes Work and play, day by day, our classes. We are classmates with our fellow creatures. These also are our students and our teachers. And this is our assignment: Absolute and total realignment. And someday through the pain and stress of it. We will celebrate the gain and success of it. We dream; we grow and by God's grace we move and flow And laugh and glow While here below, We live.
Live well. Live Long. Prosper and overcome. Be all that you can be. You are more special than you know and it is an honor to know you.
"We can do anything we want if we stick to it long enough." - Helen Keller
" If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse. " - Walt Disney
" Whatever you can do or dream, you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin now! " - Goethe
" Humanity cannot forget its dreamers. It cannot let their ideas fade and die. It lives in them. It knows them as the realities which it shall one day see and know. Composers, sculptors, painters, poets, prophets and sages these are the makers of tomorrow. These are the architects of heaven." - John Donne
"Commit yourself to a dream. Nobody who tries to do something great but fails is a total failure. Why? Because he can always rest assured that he succeeded in life's most important battle; he defeated his fear of trying." - Dr. Robert Schuller
At this very moment, out of the 1470 people receiving this bulletin, someone is considering quitting.
It is not their job that they are tempted to walk out on, or necessarily their marriage, or anything that anyone will immediately notice. It is something far more important ... their dreams.
Someone is about to give up on their dreams and it will show gradually and in very subtle ways.
They are discouraged and hopeless and the rewards just are not coming from their efforts.
I have one word for you, dear friend, and it is not necessarily brilliant. There will be tomorrow. You will have countless opportunities to quit. Quitting will always be an option for you unless and until you come to the place of deciding that it is not. Here is the word: WAIT.
I am just saying, wait. Don't quit today. Give it another day and get back with me. You have no idea what inspiration, burst of energy, word of encouragement, seed of an idea, or Word from God is right around the corner for you.
You just don't know. You still have some strength; use it to get through the day. you still have some faith; apply it. You still have time; you don't have to quit today.
Down time is OK. in fact, it is sometimes necessary. Down time is waiting time - time to "not quit."
There is always tomorrow to throw away your hopes, dreams, ideas, and the investments you have already made. You don't have to quit today.
I know you can do that. While you are waiting to regain your belief in yourself, use a little of mine in you.
What is that on your heart? Is it just another attachment, Or is it part of the whole? Can it be severed as part? An incidental detachment ? Or must it remain as your very soul?
I think it is more than you know More than you suspect More than you can part with. I think it is ebb and flow, Something you must protect, That which you must daily start with.
It is - Is it not, your dream? It is that essence you embrace, That core of being driving you on. It is the radiant, pulsating beam That neither time nor trouble can erase. It is what keeps you striving when hope's gone..
You are a dreamer, fashioned with purpose. You are a schemer, designed for greatness. You are a believer, infused with boundless hoping. Live your dreams surrounded by the circus, Under the big top with crowds predicting a fate less Wonderful than what you know as groundless coping.
Reality is what you dream. Activated by what you do. Empowered by who you are. You are far more than what you seem. Your reach extends beyond your view. Do it now and you will go far.
God be with you as you dream and do.
Just a thought to encourage you to embrace your God-given dreams with your God-given resolve, passion, and love and go for it.
Broken hearts can be mended. In fact, they can be made stronger in the broken places. Broken-heartedness is actually seen, at times, in a positive light in the scriptures.
Psalm 51:7 says that the sacrifices of God are a broken heart along with a broken and contrite spirit.
There are many good reasons for having a broken heart. Show me your broken heart and I can tell what drives you and impassions you. it is only normal to have a broken heart for injustice in the world, for poverty of soul and life, and for suffering that we can prevent or alleviate. That kind of brokenness energizes us.
It is also normal to be broken within over the pain that we cause others and God through our own negative choices. That sort of brokenness leads to and predicts the possibility for change in our lives. Without it, we lost some of our own humanity and pliability.
What we cannot afford is loss of heart. II Corinthians 4;1 says that we do not lose heart even when our outer man is perishing. Hebrews 12:3 reminds us not to lose heart when we face opposition and Hebrews 12:5 makes the same demand on us when we face correction by God.
So, the things that most commonly cause us discouragement are (a) our own human frailty and limitations as expressed especially in aging, (b) opposition from people, (c) and God's correction in our lives.
Returning to II Corinthians 4:1, Paul gives us one rationale for maintaining heart - our ministry. Because we have purpose and calling in our lives, we keep on keeping on. The broken heart of calling becomes the heart that beats on when we might too easily become disheartened.
Furthermore, Hebrews expands on that rationale with two admonitions: that we remember the example of Jesus and that we remember the love of God.
Losing heart is simply not an option - even when we know that the heart that can be warmed by a loving embrace can be broken by pain. No walls are allowed here. All protective devices are disabled. We must be vulnerable and valiant and that is the path of joyful calling.
I am as efficient at the art of procrastination as anyone I know. I know that you can put off a decision until it is irrelevant. That way, you never have to say "no" or commit to a "yes."
I am proficient at avoiding a task until the last minute and renegotiating my schedule with myself many times a day.
I also know that this lifestyle is stressful and often, unproductive. For that reason, I have been working on the issue.
For instance, there is an emerging sense of the power of a moment to whittle away at a long term task, the energy of a few minutes focused on a job that may even facilitate completion. I can do something now that will have far-reaching benefits. I don't need a full hour for every task, nor do I have to schedule it in the future.
II Corinthians 6:2 puts it all in a theological context,
"...I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation."
I was playing with my calendar this morning and had spent considerable time scheduling small an d large jobs, appointments, and events. In frustration, I realized that I had not scheduled a significant time slot for writing my blog and had, in fact, missed several days.
Then, there was that inner voice whispering in my ear, saying, "What about now?"
"But I don't have enough time?"
"You have some. Do what you can."
So, here you are. That was 11 minutes and I am glad I posted something.
A question was raised about innovation and innovators at Toastmaster's morning. It put my brain in gear theologically and entrepreneurially. I moved from the "creatio ex nihlo" to James Weldon Johnson's" Creation." It triggered the concept of co-creativity among those made in the "imagio Dei."
So, naturally, an acronym piped into my warped brain: WHY NOT?
Actually, it started with WHY.
But it is "why not" that is so often on the lips of innovators who quickly move past the "why" questions as George Bernard Shaw observed and Robert Kennedy often quoted him.
WHY W = What the H = Heck Y = Yall!
What the heck, yall - throws caution to the wind and envelopes a universe of possibilities.
NOT N = Negate O = Old T = Timidity
Negate old timidity and the accompanying boundaries that are arbitrarily imposed by tired paradigms and limited thinking.
Having taken those steps, one is free to think new thoughts. "Why not" is not the same as innovation, but it is a necessary preliminary step in that direction.
As I set out to type this entry about Integrity and specifically, "no excuses," I kept hitting the "m" instead of the "N." As a result, I was getting MO excuses rather than NO excuses.
I am absolutely certain that there is a lesson in that slip of the fingers.
In the processes of eliminating my excuses, more and more present themselves. My soul is on alert for anything that can get me off the hook for my choices. It takes a conscious effort to go back and type in the right letter so that I can have the integrity of taking responsibility for my actions.
If I run out of time for projects at the end of the day because I wasted time in the middle, I have no excuses even though I've had plenty of time to dream "mo" of them up. If I fail to reach my goals it may be because they were unrealistic or because I could not anticipate all the contingencies, or because I did not bother to do all my homework and keep on keeping on.
Excuses take time I do not have, so I cannot afford them. I do better to recognize where I went wrong and make changes there.
Excuses obscure the dream because they take us to a default position which says, "IT not your fault. It is an impossible task. No one could have done any better than you did."
Do you see the subtle message that sabotages the dream? We are checking off the box that says, "I can't change. I can never do better. I can never be more."
Excuses, not responsibility kick us in the rear end because they drag us down into a stagnant pool of stinking impossibility thinking.
I'll go with integrity. At least that way, I can do better tomorrow. -------------------------------------------------------------------
Mid Valley Christian Women's Job Corp is training women to take charge of their choices and enter the job force, some for the first time. Under the leadership of Donna Cooper, lives are being changed. The next round of classes begins in the Fall. You can help by ordering (and reording) our magazines using this Link: Magazine Fund Raiser for CWJC.
Maybe the problem with some folks who think they are very wise is that they don't eat enough sweets.
I understand the rather obvious problem with that statement, but I wonder if I also might be on to something. Some folks seem to do more snarling than smiling when they encounter great ideas. The lights go on in their minds and out in their countenance. All of the energy that comes from insight is used up in perpetuating their misery.
Sour puss thinking, teaching, and living misses the whole point of wisdom.
Wisdom is sweet. After a long wrestling match with truth - which ought to be as playful as it is dead serious, we emerge with something wonderful, an idea. It rings true with the scriptures and true with the soul and it gathers around it a galaxy of other loose ended ideas which suddenly find an orbit that was there all along, but unnoticed.
Eureka! Serendipity! Spread the honey! How sweet it is!
Do you ever chuckle when you read the bible? If not, I dare say you are missing something.
There you are, pouring over the word of God, brain strain focus is fixed on the meaning of the passage and you turn the page. There in living color is an illustration that rings true. You encounter a mirror of your own emotions, a replay of your own experience, an answer that has eluded you and you get all giggly.
You just got the point. How sweet it is!
The gospel is the wisdom of God and it is good news. There is some bad news mixed in, but only to lead us to the good. Carrots are sweet and corn is really sweet, but a little honey brightens the disposition so much.
No one wants or needs a steady diet of nothing but sugar coating, but blandness is not a characteristic of radical Christianity. I want to be where there is love and life and laughter. That's my honey tree. That is wisdom. That is my faith.
I dream. On a restless summer night in a pool of my own perspiration, I dream. In the quiet slumber of an October evening, I dream. In the quickening of the morning and the settling of the evening, I dream. And when I am awakened and as I move through the appointed day, my dreams do not die. Yes, they are tamed by civility and harnessed by realism, but they persist through the day.
My dreams have been cooled by the drenching rain of discouragement, but not quenched. They have been temporarily diverted by the icy onslaught of negative criticism and stilled by the paralyzing power of self doubt, but they emerge from the cold and persist. I dream on.
I refuse to stop dreaming.
I do not subscribe to the “All your dreams can come true; it can happen to you if you’re young at heart” philosophy. But I believe that our core dreams can drive us on to their own fulfillment in us as we submit to the One who has given them to us and who alone knows how to interpret them in our lives.
I believe that we were made to dream and that our dreams are the impulses that alert us to our significance. Yes, dreams can become distorted, self-centered, and wrongly inflated, but those distortions point to a deeper reality. Just as perversions of reality validate reality, dreams off center cry out for centering.
I dream on because my dreams are the impulses that validate my living. They remind me that I am not an accident, that my life has meaning, and that I am a part of a larger dream.
And if dreaming is so vital for me, I want to help others dream and refine their dreams, fleshing them out with goals and strategies, reinforcing them with prayer and conforming them to God’s will from whence their essence is derived.
I dream of a life as an encourager of the dreams God has planted in your heart. That is why I will spend the rest of my life and ministry as a Pastor-Coach.
I am not where I want to be. My church,
Baptist Temple, the Fellowship of Joy, is not where it needs to be. But I believe that where I am is not where I am going.