"The boy chose safety. The man chooses suffering."
I was thumbing through "Shadowlands," a novel by Leonore Fleischer based on William Nicholson's stage play recounting the romance and tragedy of C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham.
The author places Lewis at his desk at the close of the book, reflecting, writing - perhaps writing his journal which would become, "A Grief Observed."
""Why love if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore, only the life I've lived. Twice in that life, I've been given a choice, as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety. The man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal.""
"Jack Lewis put his pen down and smiled, thinking of Joy. He wished he had read her these words, but never mind. Jack had a feeling she had heard them; she was never far from him now."
It is not pleasant to consider choosing suffering, but safety is no option at the cost of love.
I have just received word from my old friend, Rick Via, that our mutual friend and father in ministry, Oden E Lockhart, died on February 24 after a brief illness at the age of 91.
Some may remember the tribute I wrote to "The Old Time Preacher Man" back in 2007 on the occasion of his 60th anniversary of ministry and continuous broadcasting on radio stations around the Appalachian region.
Rick informs me that "The Preacher" was still conducting his radio ministry up until the time of his death.
He was an encourager to me for 35 years. I will miss him. "Well done, Thou good an faithful servant," applies.
I responded to a question on Answerbag.com and I was surprised at my answer. Someone asked if we wanted to be remembered when we were gone and I answered what follows. I must say, I was somewhat influenced by conducting a graveside service in an old cemetery this past week and reading some of the gravestones and not recognizing any names. Well, my name is Tom Sims and my answer is:
Yes, I do (want to be remembered), but I also know that eventually, I will be forgotten. That is OK. What I really want is to contribute something that blends with other somethings and makes a difference in the world for good. Then, I want that new something that is blended with other somethings to take on a life and identity of its own and grow and be remembered for what it is, something positive, affirming, and compassionate. That is what I really want to be remembered. Then, if someone thinks of Old Tom, I hope they will think of that. My stone will read the day of my birth and the day of my death, but all the living will have been done in the tiny dash between.
I am sitting here with tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat, and a chest that is swelling up with pride and gratitude for the unique privilege of being an American. I am full of hope and courage for whatever we must face. I know enough not to put all my confidence in one leader, but I am also thrilled at the possibilities of what we can all accomplish together if we rally our strength and respond to positive leadership. What I see in America today is enthusiasm and the closest thing to unity we have had for a long time, and it is coming from both ends of the political landscape. It may not last for more than a moment, but in that moment, we can all experience what it is to be one country and one people. No matter who people voted for in the election, we can all come together with prayers and good wishes for a man who is the President of all of us who call ourselves American. And to those of you around the world who do not call yourselves American, welcome back to the table!
Louise was the wife of playwright Boot Tarkington. He died in 1946. They married in 1902 and had a daughter, Laurel in 1906. He was an alcoholic and she divorced him in 1911. Laurel developed schizophrenia and died of pneumonia at the age of 16. Louise died in 1923 a year after Laurel. Here is her obituary:
"TABKINGTON, Laurel Louise Fletcher (Mrs.Newton Booth Tarkington), 1100 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis, Ind. Born Indianapolis, Ind.; grad. Smith Coll., B.I. 1900- m. Indianapolis, June 18, 1902, Newton Booth Tarkington, the well-known novelist; one daughter: Laurel Louise, b. Feb. 11, 1906. Contributor of short stories to the magazine. "
I would love to find more references to her life, her personal pain, and her philosophy of living. Usually we hear just one verse of this poem, which I honestly believe is now in the public domain. Here are all the verses as a Sunday morning treat.
I wish that there were some wonderful place
Called the Land of Beginning Again
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat by the door
And never be put on again.
I wish we could come on it all unaware
Like the hunter who finds a lost trail
And I wish that the one whom our blindness has done
The greatest injustice of all
Could be at the gates like an old friend that waits
For the comrade he's gladdest to hail.
We would find all the things we intended to do
But forgot, and remembered too late;
Little praises unspoken, little promises broken
And all of the thousand and one
Little duties neglected that might have perfected
The day for one less fortunate.
It wouldn't be possible not to be kind
In the Land of Beginning Again
And the ones we misjudged and the ones whom we grudged
Their moments of victory then
Would find in the grasp of our loving handclasp
More than penitent lips could explain.
For what had been hardest we'd know had been best
And what had seemed loss would be gain
For there isn't a sting that will not take a wing
When we've faced it and laughed it away,
And I think that the laughter is most what we're after
In the Land of Beginning Again.
So I wish that there were some wondered place
Called the Land of Beginning Again
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door
STEP UP is a visioning process for the Fellowship of Joy at Baptist Temple church of Fresno, CA. While these devotional thoughts were written with our campaign in mind, they are applicable beyond that context. STEP UP is a call to Step Up to the plate and hit a home run for God as one of our members told me Sunday. It is also a capital development campaign, but it is much MORE. It is a time of revival and renewal of our lives, our dreams, and our commitments to Jesus Christ. STEP UP is an opportunity to pray and seek God for miracles in our church, our community, our personal relationships with God, our ministries, and our own finances as we develop sound principles of personal stewardship. STEP UP is an opportunity to serve, commit, and give sacrificially. STEP UP is a bold initiative to clarify our church's VISION, launch a bold strategy, makes some improvements to our facilities, and solidify our financial base so that we can more effectively fulfill our mission in the city.
Monday – January 5 – "Ask and it will be given you." (Matthew 7:7a, NKJV) – At the risk of seeming obvious, have you asked God for anything lately? Have you with some heart for a pure motive and unselfish desire asked for Him to supply your needs, lead you according to His purposes, given you strength and wisdom to become all He wants you to be, and to help you delight in Him so that He may give you the desires of your heart? "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4 - NIV)" That being in place, perhaps the word in James 4:2 is operative; "You do not have, because you do not ask God. (NIV). As a community of believers, as individual members of the church, and as individuals before God, it behooves us to learn to ask.
Tuesday – January 6 – "Seek and you will find." (Matthew 7:7b, NKJV) – Emily Daniels, my high school Sunday school teacher used to remind us to put legs on our prayers. I always wondered if that was a bit unspiritual until I realized it was very true. God expects us to seek after what He is supplying for us. He hides treasures in odd places. He invites us to participate in His provision. He calls us into a mystical and practical partnership. Where are you seeking for God's best? What are you seeking? How are you seeking? Are you limited what Good can provide for you and do through you by refusing to seek diligently and turn over all the rocks? Embrace the promise of more today and find God's best.
Wednesday – January 7 – "Knock and it will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7c, NKJV) – All of the imperatives in this verse describe continuous action: Keep on asking. Keep on receiving. Keep on knocking. By the time we get to knocking, it is obvious without even knowing the verb structure that persistence is the key to laying hold of the promises of God. We cannot stop short of our goals. We dare not quit before the finish line. To do so would be to diminish the meaning of all past efforts, prayers, and discipline. Our quest is a lifetime process, not a quick and easy fix. We are called to step up and to keep stepping up. My wife once hired a young man, not because his resume was impressive or because he was an outstanding candidate for the job, but because he proved his desire to do that particular job by coming in several times a week to inquire about it. God wants us to deeply desire His best and to demonstrate that desire with persistence.
Thursday – January 8 – "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:11) – God is good. That is a theological fact. We are sinners, broken by the fall. That is also a fact. But even as sinners, we know how to give good gifts to our children. How much more will a God who is 100% good give good gifts to His children whom He loves? We are His children. He loves us. He wants to give His best to us. He is waiting for our to do our part for own good so that we will not just be receptacles of blessings, but participants in His purpose. It is about the character of God and the love He has for us.
Friday – January 9 – "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12) – If God were a man, this is how He would treat us. It is how He treats us. It is also how He mandates that we treat each other. It is a positive command to be proactive, not a caution of restraint. It is the essence of all He has ever sought to reveal through the scriptures. It is what makes God's people salt and light. It is the secret of true prosperity and fulfillment. It is the Golden Rule. How will you go out of your way today to observe it?
Saturday – January 10 - "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." (Matthew 7:13, NIV) – Destruction is easy. It is the path of least resistance. The call to step up to call of God is a call to reject the easy path, to shun the downhill slide, and to despise call to mediocrity. God has no interest in our earthly comfort zones or addiction to convenience. He values those qualities little in our lives or churches where we often value them much. Whether Jesus is speaking of the destruction of our eternal souls, of our dreams, or our earthly lives, the principle holds. It is easy to get shipwrecked by esteeming ease about all other values. Could we decide today to be suspicious of every broad path and path to which the masses flock? If we see the crowds gathering, let us look further for a path of life.
Sunday - January 11 – "But small is the gate and narrows the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:14, NIV) You will be in a distinct minority to the extent to which you choose the path of life. It is a gate you may have to squeeze and contort yourself to get through. You will not shape it. It will shape you. Most people are intimidated by the potential of being odd or out of step with the crowd. But when we step up to God's plate, we often stand alone. Life, in all its dimensions, fullness, and implications is experienced only by a few who are willing to be different and to fit into some pretty tight places for God. But once through the gate, it is the path of greatest freedom and joy. We wonder why we didn't choose it all along.
I am working on tomorrow's message and, yes, I am later than usual. It is from Matthew 7 focuses on the issue of judging, or rather, not judging other people. We can find all sorts of loopholes, lots of wiggle room, and an easy 40 acres for turning our rigs around, but the point remains, Jesus is not calling us to be judgmental sour pusses, but compelling agents of grace. Folks already know their failings. The call to repentance is joyful good news that there is a possibility and help for real change.
I didn't realize that Donald Miller had prayed at the DNC.
He is positive and unapologetic in his witness, yet in no way offensive to those still working our their beliefs. It is really great material.
In "First Things First," Stephen Covey tells a story that was told him. I don’t know the sources, so I will embellish a bit.
There was a speaker who was called upon to address a group of young people. As a prop, he pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar and placed it next to a pile of fist-sized rocks, another pile of gravel, a jar of sand, and a glass of water.
“Who believes I can get all of this into this one gallon jar?” The question evoked some chuckling. No one raised their hand.
After filling the jar to the top with rocks, he asked, "Is the jar full?"
The group replied,"Yes."
He then took the pile of gravel and began to pour it in. He jiggled the jar until the gravel filled the spaces between the rocks.
Again, he asked, "Is the jar full?"
By now, the group cautiously replied, "Probably not."
The speaker then added the sand and asked, "Is the jar full?"
"No!" shouted the group.
Finally, the speaker filled the jar to the brim with water and asked the group the point of this illustration.
Someone replied that you could always fit more things into your life if "you really work at it."
"No," countered the speaker. The point is, if that if you don't put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get any of them in.
What are the big rocks in your life? I’d like to suggest a few for your consideration:
1.Do not neglect the rock of FAITH:
a.Have faith in the power of TRUTH – and by that, I suggest to you, ultimate truth, a higher power, God if you will.
b.Have faith in the power of TENACITY. Keep on keeping on. Don’t give up. Persist and insist on a successful outcome and work toward it.
c.Have faith in the power of TENURE – By that I mean, time invested and time passed. Be patient with temporary setbacks and inconveniences.
d. Have faith in the power of TEAMWORK. Work together. TEAM stands for – Together Everyone Accomplishes More!
"Gettin' good players is easy. Gettin' 'em to play together is the hard part." - Casey Stengel
"The strength of the team is each individual member...the strength of each member is the team."- Coach Phil Jackson Chicago Bulls
"Men have never been individually self-sufficient." - Reinhold Niebuhr
" All winning teams are goal-oriented. Teams like these win consistently because everyone connected with them concentrates on specific objectives. They go about their business with blinders on; nothing will distract them from achieving their aims. " - Lou Holtz
``Now is the Law of the Jungle---as old and true as the sky;
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk, the Law runneth forward and back---
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.'' - Rudyard Kipling
2.Do not neglect the rock of FAMILY: You are here because you believe in family and have committed yourself to strengthening families. You have been sharpening your skills for that purpose. You are already heroes and deserve praise. Now, do not neglect your own family.
a.If you do not have a warm family, CREATE it! Gather folks around you with whom you can be accountable, authentic, and supportive. If your family is dysfunctional, you will also be in creative mode by setting and observing strong boundaries and creating a safe zone of functionality around yourself. When Rich Mullins, the song writer and leader of the Ragamuffin Band died, there was a traveling funeral that moved from city to city, mostly on university campuses because it was said that Rich created communities wherever he went.
b.CULTIVATE family. Like a garden, a warm and nurturing family must grow. To grow, it needs the sunlight of truth, the food of love, and the water of life.
c.Third, we must all make it a point to COMMUNICATE as families and develop healthy communication skills which we can pass on to our children. Strong and nurturing families that resolve conflict with healthy communication, fair “fighting,” and unconditional love are the hope of society because the skills children learn in families, they practice in the larger community and world.
3.Do not neglect the rock of the FUTURE. Become futurists. That means to begin to live a life of hope and optimism in a dark world.
a.Have a WINNING attitude. Your future will rise or fall on your attitude.
b.Translate I WANT to I WILL! Then, will it and do it!
c.Then, WORK toward a brighter future for, after all is said and done, the big rock of success, which is a journey and not a destination, is a four letter word spelled simply: W-O-R-K.
Don’t forget the big rocks in these difficult times and be blessed:
Times are tough. You are tougher. Face the times.
Life is hard. You are resilient. Keep moving forward.
The future is uncertain. God is already there. Do not be afraid.
Hope is a rare commodity. Hope is within the grasp of your imagination. Let it soar.
Money is scarce. You have all you need in a seed. Plant it and watch it grow.
You are discouraged. There is a great dream within you. Feed it, follow it, fulfill it.
You deeply desire a blessing. Be a blessing.
You lack courage.
Encourage someone else.
You have nothing left to give. Give what only God can supply.
You are frightened of failure. Risk everything to be all you can be.
These are not idle words. This is how you must live if you will live above your circumstances.
Weighing all possible outcomes of the choices you can make right now, to do nothing, risk nothing, and give nothing will insure that nothing will come back to you. You will be a success in the art of failure by default.
However, if you risk extending yourself, you may also fail, but you will fail with the satisfaction of trying and with all the lessons you can only learn by climbing out on a limb.
But you might also succeed. Out on that limb, when circumstances cut it from under you, you may discover that you can fly.
You'll never find out without taking the big risk.
Take the risk, get the big rocks in place, and be blessed.
I have been applying the 15 Minute Challenge to my health in several dimensions.
Along with the major changes in my life it had started to become apparent to me that I needed to do something about my body's condition or (A) die young or (B) become an invalid. (B) sounded worse than (A) and neither sounded good.
So I took several steps and one of them was to start using my gym membership more effectively.
I know the kinds of workouts we need for maximum aerobic effect, but I also knew I had to start somewhere - and I did - 15 minutes - a little of this, a little of that, a little of the other, and a lot of hot tub.
It is a start. Now I am up to a longer workout and feeling positive results.
Don't let starting slow or with inadequate resources stop you from starting at all.
I am presently engaged in a challenge with the folks in my church. I asked them and myself to identify 4 areeas of their lives where they really needed to work. All dimensions of life were legitimate areas of concern.
I then asked them for an hour a day in 4 - 15 minute slots to devote one of those slots to each of those areas.
It could be reading the scriptures or professional/personal development books, exercise, family time, or anything that just wasn't getting done - things most likely that need more than 15 minutes but areas where that would be a good start and a major improvement.
What difference could 15 minutes a day make in some area of your life?
I have been readjusting to changes in my life personally, in family responsibilities, and professionally and my posting activity has suffered.
Here is a dilemma: You don't have large enough blocks of time to focus on your big projects. Everything is chopped up with what we have called cracks in time available. The cracks seem to small to allow accomplishments. On the other hand, you work so hard that when you get the big blocks, you are weary and wasteful with that time. Your body doesn't want to do what is necessary for you to dig in.
What will you do?
Well, there is down time and then, there is down time.
True down time is a good thing, is to be celebrated, and is to be sanctified. It is Sabbath and we all need it.
Remember it and keep it holy. That means separate and unique and uncluttered with worry and self-flagellation over how you ought to be using it to catch up. You ARE using it to catch up. Your body is replenishing its resources and your total being is renewing itself for future full engagement.
The other sort of down time is all in your head. It is not down time at all and needs to be redefined - I do that by spelling things out.
D = Decide that you can use the time fruitfully and be ready to do so. If I seem redundant it is because I still don't have this attitude perfected in me. I need to decide and re-decide and maybe you do too. Prepare for the times when all you have is ten or fifteen minutes. So many of the jobs I procrastinate for months take less time than that.
O = Obligate yourself to use every moment that is not genuine rest and reflection to some productive end. Rest and reflection are also productive, so don't count them out if that is what is called for in the moment. Make a commitment to live every second of your life with purpose.
W = Walk in Wonder. It may well be that the next thought you need to think will arise from something you see or hear if you will stop to look and listen. Don't pass up the opportunities for "aha" moments because you are in such a hurry to get to the next thing.
N = Negotiate and renegotiate with time. It is not your adversary but you can enrage it and yourself by not honoring it with some attention and respect. Time can be arranged and rearranged, but it will always be a factor.
I felt that there was some scriptural basis here for this marvelous composition of Leonard Bernstein in "Candida," and then I came across Jeremiah 40:10 again: "...you are to harvest the wine, summer fruit and oil, and put them in your
storage jars, and live in the towns you have taken over."
God is instructing His people to reject two extremes:
On one hand, they are not to be paralyzed by their regrets with regards to the past.
On the other, they are not to be lulled into lethargy awaiting eschatological hope which, while very real, is not meant to cripple our lives in the present. Rather, it is to enhance those lives.
So, we are called to do the best we can in the present. There is honor in this simple determination to live with dignity and joy. When it becomes a celebration of the life God gives and the Giver who gives it, it is also worship:
"We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good We'll do the best we know. We'll build our house and chop our wood And make our garden grow. And make our garden grow!"
Enjoy the video - that's Bernstein himself. Thanks, YOUTUBE!
My New Year's celebration is almost in sync with the calendar, but off by 2 days. The rest of the world was marking a new year two days ago and I do so today. I was actually three days late for my father to get a tax exemption for 1954 and he never let me forget that. In retrospect, from my vantage, I can see that might have been a great hardship.
Sorry Dad if you even remember that in Heaven.
My New Year marks the completion of 53 years of whatever I have done or become. If I live to 106 like Rose Kennedy, I am half done. If I live as long as my father, I only have 14 more years. Compared to many, I was done long ago.
Or - I could use Abraham as a role model.
It is my New Year because it is the beginning of my next rotation around the sun and frankly, I am a few days behind in getting started with my New Year's resolutions - so this is a bit of grace I am extended to myself to get back into the groove of my blogging and other disciplines - which I am doing right now.
While you are escaping the frenzy of the season, don't lose its energy. A bit of stress is propelling. Management of stress is essential and must include developing tools to harness it as a source of energy and inspiration.
Christmas is about celebrating the coming of Light into a world of darkness and that carries huge implications for our lives, opportunities, possibilities, and calling.
You must find the balance and you must find it within yourself.
Frenzies are frequent and frightful in the frantic days before Christmas. All that we have resolved to do for our businesses and families well in advance, we feel we must do now and finish quickly.
To this wave of hyperactive scrambling I would say one thing: STOP!
Spell FRENZY with me - F-R-E-N-Z-Y and let this acronym guide you.
F - Fake it. Whatever is left undone, just let it hang and act like you are finished and that it was your idea not to overdo it.
R - Refocus, Reschedule, and Relax. Start December 26 and plan for next Christmas. Stop where you are with cards an d send out Epiphany cards or Easter cards. Whatever is not done can be done some other time. You are not alone. Stop whipping yourself, slow down, and enjoy the holiday in the spirit of grace.
E - Exhale. You are hyperventilating. That is not helpful to you. You don't have to do it all in the next couple of days. There will be other Christmases and people need widgets all year long.
N - NEXT! It is always NEXT! Next year, next Christmas, next prospect, next opportunity; all of these come around. "Some will, some won't, so what. NEXT!"
Z - Zero - That is what you will gain from beating yourself up over your failures.
Y - YES is what you need to say to the gift of God is Jesus Christ. Nothing in your lack of planning or implementation can negate the reality of the wonder of His incarnation. Celebrate with a humongous YES!
About that frenzy? Let it go. At about 10 A.M. Christmas morning, none of it will matter.
Ann Felton passed away this week in a way that was, from my perspective, suddenly. We visited last in September and it was, as always, too short a visit with exploding currents of information and more stories than I could absorb. However, I was, again as always, desperate to take as much in as possible while I could, suspecting, but not knowing that it would be our last visit.
Ann was my aunt, my father's sister, the family historian, a student of Virginia and Virginia Baptist history, an enthralling story teller, and one of the warm people in my life who always made me feel that she was glad I came or called. She was one of the most interesting people I have ever known and my memories of her holding me spell-bound go back as far as I can remember.
She made history come alive, especially the wide and dispersed history of our family. She made strangers who I had never met and never will meet seem like long lost friends. She fleshed out cold facts and gave me the sense that the people whose names occupied genealogical lists were actually real folks with real stories whose stories somehow intersected with mine and factored into the person I am today.
Perhaps it was from her and my grandmother, her mother, that I first learned to love stories of common people making a way in the world. I came to appreciate their wonderful idiosyncrasies and to revel in hilarity of the common place.
She called me "Buddy," a distinction I am sure that I share with hundreds of other people. However, it made me feel special.
She knew that I loved the history and that, while I had little time to do the rigorous research and study she had done, I wanted to hear it and read it. She was always ready for me and my visits. She always had notes and articles, books and pictures ready for me to peruse. In our last visit, I was reading with one eye, looking at her with the other, occasionally glancing at my notes and jotting some things down, listening with both ears, and forming questions with my mouth.
Somehow all of that seemed quite normal.
Ann's husband, Staley died several years ago and was a challenging counterpart to her intelligence and curiosity in his own spheres of interest. He was a man of quiet wit; she was a woman of boisterous enthusiasm for life. While she grew quieter with the years, she never lost her gifts as a conversationalist. There was never a moment of boredom in her presence.
Ann collected friends and valued them highly, bringing something of value into her own life from every relationship. She was a loyal friend, a devoted wife and mother, an attentive and devoted daughter, and a committed Christian.
Her spirit was gentle and generously compassionate, but she was never a push over. She could be a formidable force when fighting for the people she loved. You always knew where she stood on issues, but she was not recalcitrant in clinging to outmoded views or unsubstantiated beliefs. Her faith was an intelligent and active dynamic. She was widely read and raised four wonderful children who were and are curious, conscientious, and congenial in her own manner.
I am deeply grieved to part with the last link to a past I know too little about, grieved and sorrowful to lose my aunt and friend, sad for Sims, Larry, Beverly, and Alan, my fun cousins who have absorbed so much of the culture she formed around her. Ann was my connection to our entire family - those I knew and those I never met. Because she knew people so well, she could interpret them with a warm humanity and sweet humor. I always felt welcome in her presence. I cannot replace her. There will not be another. I just assumed that she might always be around while knowing that she was getting weaker each time I saw her.
In recent years, she lost so much of her physical strength and independence. That was hard, but her mind was alert and free and she was surrounded by books, notes, and a very busy telephone. She was very active intellectually and interactively. She was still growing, learning, and corresponding. In the last few weeks, that very core of her lifestyle was severely threatened by immobility. I wondered if she could survive it.
She did. She stepped into a realm where her curiosity and sense of wonder can flourish, in the presence of people she knew without ever meeting and a Savior she has known for many, many years.
We will miss her, but we shall see her again.
Heaven must be a very interesting place for my aunt - so many people to meet, so many stories to tell and to hear. I know she is busy.
What a blessing to see so many who aim for something better and toward becoming all they can be.
It is a source of joy to see so many who are cultivating faith in their lives and businesses.
I apologize for the gap in these postings. Life seems to have other plans than those I neatly organize sometimes.
And that is part of the beauty of it.
May your God-given dreams envelope you in a sea of wonder. May your goals be ever before you to get you up and get you going. May you celebrate your successes and embrace your failures as cobblestones on the road to success. May the joy of this season of hope lift you to higher planes of grace and deeper levels of commitment. May your view be always fixed ahead and above while you live with awe in the present and in peace with the past.
May the One who gives life and health guide you over the storms of this present sea of danger and opportunity steadily into the port of purpose.
May each day of your life be filled with glorious manifestations of infinite possibilities.
May your home be a reservoir of love overflowing into the streets of your city.
May your life be a lighthouse of hope and integrity; may your words be well chosen food for the souls of many; may your thoughts be seeds of greatness for yourself and others.
You have it in you and I am honored to be called your friend. Keep up the good work. You are making a difference in this world and the world to come.
Here is Roger McGuinn singing "May the Road Rise to Meet You." (His own version)
Abraham Lincoln: The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.
Malcolm S. Forbes:
The best vision is insight.
Theodore Roosevelt: The best executive is the one who has sense
enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to
keep from meddling with them while they do it.
Lincoln, Forbes, and Roosevelt have contributed to my thinking about best things today. In the early 70s, Jimmy Carter wrote a book inspired by something Admiral Hyman Rickover said to him. The title of the book was, "Why Not the Best?"
Whatever your politics, it is good reading.
Here is my contribution to those who, today, are aiming beyond mediocrity for what is best:
B - Better. The best is better than good. If all you want it good, there are many choices. none of them are the best. They are just OK. For those whose aim is toward the best, today is opportune and tomorrow is a place of wonder. Progress is expected. Failures are the price of success and are merely temporary assessments on the road to what is incrementally better. People who are focused on being and doing their best are not discouraged by their imperfections, but inspired toward something better which is ever before them.
E - Ever - Ever improving, ever reaching, ever growing, ever expanding, and ever celebrating small victories are characteristics of people who aim high and keep aiming higher and higher. They are "EVER People." Such people have a sense of eternity in their hearts, knowing that this life is not all there is, but that it is important and that every day counts. The most effective "Ever People" are also "Forever People" who have grounded their lives in something and Someone who can interpret their existence in terms of eternal purpose. In the meantime, we keep going.
S - Satisfied Dissatisfaction - Those who are ever-becoming and never satisfied with mediocrity have a deep sense of satisfaction which is not to be confused with complacency. It comes from enjoying the journey, celebrating progress, and living by grace. Grace not only offers God's forgiveness for shortcomings and His mercy for our failures, but it gives us the ability to receive these and renew our hope that we can become more and do more. This sort of satisfaction is deep and inner and is never circumstantial or subject to our arbitrary score cards. Because it is not circumstantial, it means we can never be circumstantially satisfied while at the same time, we are kept by the power of perfect peace.
T - Trust - People who aim for the best are people who are cultivating an extraordinary capacity for faith in God, in themselves as servants of God, in others as children of God, and in the future as something being fashioned by God for the unfolding of a great and glorious purpose. They are infused with trust that what is better is not merely a fantasy, but a possibility. You cannot aim for the best without believing in it or in the possibility of its attainment.
Yet another reason why I resist wearing labels such as "Conservative" or "Liberal" with an upper case "C" or "L" comes to surface as I hear the word,"wing" attached to directional terms such as "left" or "right." This comes from a guy who cannot tell you off the top of his head what a "red state" is as opposed to a "blue state" or why they are opposed at all.
Words I like to describe words like these are "deceptive," "misleading," "ambiguous," and "meaningless."
But back to the wing metaphor. My grandson brought me one shoe to put on his foot the other day and I sought to explain to him why he could go outside with one shoe on and what it might be like to feel lopsided.
Then, I thought about airplanes and realized I wouldn't consider getting on a left-winged or right winged airplane. I prefer my aerial transportation with two wings. Balance means a lot to me at that elevation.
I read an interview with a guy today who thought he'd always been on the left wing of a theological issue. Then, he said, a movement emerged that went further to the left and left him in the center. When you are in the center, you might lean to one side or the other, but you are still in the middle.
"Talk of the Nation" had articulate spokespersons for "both" sides of the Guantanamo Bay issue before the Supreme Court today. Both made sense and I felt a tug of "leaning" as each spoke and ended up in balance after weighing all the arguments.
Now there is a sticky issue where the definitions have been in flux.
I don't want to live in a one-winged society. I am not impressed with one winged philosophies and would not feel happy about a brain with a single hemisphere. I want a multitude of counselors helping me look at all sides of any question. This is true in politics, religion, and business.
Proverbs 18:17says, "The first to present his case seemsright, till another comes forward and questions him."
I think that is by design. Truth is simple, but not simplistic. The best course of action may not always be the most obvious. We need point and counterpoint to make good and wise decisions.
Perhaps that is why the American people as a body politic can be so shifting in their political party loyalties. As a people we know that you can't fly the "airline of state" with one wing - nor a business, nor a life.
If you are a decision maker, make sure you are getting good information and that all of your advisers are not always in 100% agreement. If you are not wrestling with some of the major matters that come before you, you are probably not getting the best out of your own abilities to think clearly and objectively.
We all have biases and they are helpful when they inform us. They are dangerous when they blind us. They are disastrous when the rule us.
Fly with both wings!
How do you fly with both wings?
F - Face your own limitations in perspective, knowledge, and ability to know it all. There is a vast storehouse of knowledge that no human will ever possess. The only all-wise and all-knowing one is God and He ha distributed bits of His knowledge widely among diverse peoples.
L - Listen carefully to what others are saying. Respect those with whom you disagree and who disagree with you. Consider that people who are wrong about one thing may have insight into something else. Never throw out babies with the bath wash or dismiss the value of people because of your prejudices.
Y - Yin/Yang it. The truth of a given situation may dwell in the tension between paradoxical opposites and failure to look for it there will deprive you of the truth you seek to make a good decision.
Here it is, the first Sunday of Advent and I am, as usual, unprepared to meet the opportunities of the season with a ready receptor and available resources.
Every year I declare it will be different the next in both business and ministry. I will be geared up to reach the greatest number of people in every dimension of my life. I will have new books ready to sell and give as gifts. I will have amazing sermons ready to preach, cards ready to send, and e-commerce possibilities ready for big boosts to my income and that of my church.I will visit every lonely soul with an annual pastoral call and make contact with every old friend I have ever know. Those I miss will be centers around which I attract great guilt and regret to myself and I will sit beneath the tree wishing I had done a much better "job" of Christmas.
I plan for optimum. Then, it doesn't happen. It never really has. I have never been ready. I have always been ambushed by Christmas.
Yesterday, Andrea came home with all sorts of Christmas paraphernalia and she, Elijah, and Kaibian hung Christmas lights while I tended the baby and backed up Microsoft Outlook. Then she had the audacity to build a fire in the fireplace and host a cozy pre-Christmas moment in the living room.
The most infuriating part of it all was that she was 100% right and everyone enjoyed the time - some of us quite reluctantly.
All this is going on around me, and I am not even at the starting line. I am sulking over the fact that another Christmas has apparently already arrived without giving me the appropriate heads-up.
I am learning to do everything I do in the tiny cracks between other things in my life. No more protracted thinking times or solitude (some of which, I have quite frankly wasted away).
Yesterday, for instance, Kaibo did something unbelievably cute which reminded me of a deep spiritual truth and - (Wouldn't you know?) - I didn't have a pen and paper with me to reflect upon it. And if I had, he would have grabbed it out of my hand with an expression of glee and called out, "BOOKIE," proceeding to write on it and everything else.
I guess I'll just have to live these moments and reflect later.
I had my alarm set for 3:50 A.M. - I had intended 5:00 A.M.. Adrianna roused me at 3:30 A.M. and the alarm went off as I was feeding her. Something inside me deceived me into resetting the alarm for 5 and returning to sleep. When it went off, I rolled over not to rise till 6:00 A.M.
So much for beating the rush - morning or Christmas.
For years I have had myself convinced that I was not experiencing anything unless I was writing, preaching, or singing about it and that it was even possible to miss the actual events as long as I expressed them with words.
Now I am wondering if anything I have ever done is as important as what I am doing now, wiping baby spit, changing diapers, playing cars, reading stories, and making breakfast.
In a little while, I will walk onto the platform of my church and preach on Jesus changing the water to wine. I will relate the words He spoke on that occasion indicating that His time had not yet come to the timeliness of all God does and the wonder of Christ's coming in the fullness of time with the new wine of grace and the ruddiness of incarnation. I will point out the significance of this event and its meaning to the Advent season and lead our people to the Lord's Table to partake of the bread and juice symbolizing His sacrifice for us and His abiding presence with us.
The service will begin at precisely 11:15 A.M. whether or not I am ready.
Christmas will come on time too even as Jesus came on time.
I may not feel that I have time for anything, but my times are in His hand.
A friend of mine in business was telling me that recently he had not been sure what his "WHY" was, that great dream that gets a person up and going and propels him over obstacles and frustrations. It is the reason for all we do and when we lose sight of it, we are a bit lost.
I think I know mine. It is an extension of one I have had in my heart for a long time, but it is currently taking a different shape that I had expected.
Our economists are on the clock. They measure things by quarters and points. They calculate the minutest details to formulate their forecasts and evaluate Christmas by growth in predefined indicators.
What that still small voice that the prophet Elijah heard is yelling in my ear this Christmas is that there are no predefined indicators available to us which can define the bottom lines of our lives or the value of these moments. There is no adequate preparation for what had always been an invasion.
Light has invaded darkness suddenly. Praise has overwhelmed the noises of traffic. Hope has burst upon the scenes of despair all around us and we don't have to manage it, capitalize on it, or seize it. It seizes us.
Do what you can while you can. There is no problem there. Work hard, work smart, and work quickly. However, when you have done what you can and the results may not be what you projected, don't beat yourself up. The greatest loss to your bottom line is missing the unplanned, unanticipated moments of wonder. Success is a big part of what I teach and write, but it is not everything - especially our limited definitions of it.
Applause is fulfilling (for a few seconds) - making a sale is cool - commissions are great - a well attended event is gratifying - a smooth program will be remembered for a while ---- BUT - the smile on a baby's face when she has a clean diaper is HUGE.
And being surprised by Christmas sneaking up on you and realizing what it means for a sad and angry world to be visited by a joyful and loving Savior - That is amazing.
On Tuesday of last week at about 5:00 P.M., a car drove up in front of our house with three little children in it: Elijah 6 (7 next month), Kaibian (22 months), and Adrianna (2 months). The boys had been a part of our home on a weekly basis until 7 weeks ago and their sister came as a bonus. They, our grandchildren (3 for the "price of one.") are living with us now indefinitely. We prayed for it, advocated for it, irritated the system over it, and finally received the blessing. Now, most everything revolves around these children.
Life here is busy and basic these days - all about what goes in and comes out for the most part.
We are tuning to what God's rhythm is in all of this and I am sensing a pulse and downbeat here and there.
Adrianna is teaching me so much about God's love and care for us and how natural it is to trust Him and rest in His embrace.
Kaibo is teaching me about open-faced wonder at the newness of every moment and taking nothing as mundane and devoid of purpose.
Elijah is teaching me that if I don't stay a step ahead in my eagerness and willingness to learn, he will pass me by quickly.
All three remind me of God's sovereignty and providence in the details as well as in the big picture He is painting of a Universe conformed to His will.
So, I seem to let things go a little bit every day, shuffle my schedule around, drop items from my to-do list, and spend a lot more time at home and not alone.
When I look in their eyes, priorities are reordered and my perspective is reoriented. Many perplexities are simplified and my vision of my own life comes into clearer focus.
Wasted time is no longer an option, trivial pursuits cannot be accommodated. I cannot live in neutral waiting to be pushed by the agendas of others. I am five weeks away from 53 and I am waking up at 3:00 AM to feed and change a baby.
I cannot fathom why God would be so good to me as to give me a second chance at this, the greatest of all callings - people building. I am tired and grateful, overwhelmed and awed, exhausted and blessed.
This is the life and I still get to preach, write, and cast a few visions here and there. It is all about what goes in and what comes out and the difference that it all makes.
The usual imagery for "running the race" of life spiritually and in terms of our goals is that of a well defined track with markers and measured lanes.
This video by some young folks reminded me that it is more like the route this boy took, over, under, around, and through obstacles, crooked paths, and unmarked pathways.
Our race is whatever space is between us and where we are going.
Thanks to the MysteriousDonut for this treat.
As Hebrews says, "Run the race that is set before you." It may seem like a jagged course. It may not be witnessed by the masses or cheered by throngs of onlookers, but it is yours and the finish line is home.
We were invaded yesterday and our lives changed dramatically. We had been building up for it, anticipating it, and working toward having it happen. We prayed for the day and many of you stood with us in prayer. Now that it has happened, we are not 100% sure what we are doing. But we have never been so gladly invaded before.
Elijah, Kaibian, and a newcomer, Adrianna came to live in our house.
We have missed the boys very much and have been looking forward to meeting their two month old sister. She is a hand full, arm full, and joyful attention grabber (and holder). Kaibian has grown and is smarter than ever - just like his big brother. It has been nearly two months since we have seen them, but their delight in being "home" and re-exploring old familiar surroundings was gratifying.
I am on the far side of 52 - in that territory where I start thinking of myself as the next year old. I am overweight, out-of-shape, and late middle aged. Andrea is almost as old (less six months) and the world's healthiest cancer survivor. We are both post-most-things.
I can only draw one conclusion: God has the most delightful sense of humor.
We are also convinced that He has called us to this and we are blessed to have these children in our lives - our grandchildren. One came as a bonus by virtue of his relationship to our grandson, his brother and we became family. We were not certain we would ever have a relationship with the newest arrival. She was born as no relation to us at all. Now she is our granddaughter.
The challenge now is finding the time to pastor, write, and do the other things that are so vital to my breathing in this life. That will come. We join the ranks of so many boomers who are having to step in and help raise the next generation.
All the parents are doing the work they need to be doing at the moment. We pray for them. The mother of these three children is a young lady with a sweet heart and tremendous potential. She also obviously has great genes.
I commented on a bumper sticker a few weeks ago that said, "Too Blessed to Be Stressed." I must now dispute that theme. We are both blessed and stressed. The stress will fade as we adapt to a new routine. The blessings will multiply.
There are some steep mountains to climb, but as long as we are on the right course, it is OK.
Thanks for praying and for letting me share a little personal note.
The word, "persistence" popped into my mind this afternoon as I was engaging in reflection and considering what to write.
The verb "to persist" is derived from the Latin, "persistere" which is a compilation of two concepts, "per" (thoroughly) and "sistere" (come or cause to stand still).
The one who persists stands for and on something and continues. The meaning comes to be, "to continue steadfastly."
Many have reflected upon the importance of persistence through the years because it seems to be one of the primary identifying characteristics of people who succeed. It differentiates the conquerers from the conquered, the victors from those who are defeated by life and its circumstances. Sometimes it is the only factor that differentiates them.
"The secret of success is constancy to purpose." - Benjamin Disraeli.
To know your purpose and mission is to know how to prioritize your time, energy, and focus. Without a sense of purpose, it is extremely difficult to persevere.
of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people
who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all." - Dale Carnegie
Races are won by the differences in milliseconds between great competitors. Equal talent, unbridled commitment, and just a little more effort make the difference.
"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." Thomas Alva Edison
"I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen." - Frank Llloyd Wright
His wok still stands and is studied by generations of architects because he lived out this philosophy of perseverance.
Real perseverance is really not about how we do when things are going well. It is about how we keep moving when there is resistance, adversity, and the absence of tangible results to encourage us. Winston Churchill saw England through some of her darkest days and said:
"If you're going through hell, keep going."
The operative word is "through."
That means that trouble is not your destination, it is merely the stretch of road you are on at the moment. Robert Frost put it this way: "The best way out is always through."
The oft-quoted presidential admonition that follows is ever worthy of repeating:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” - Calvin Coolidge
Press on. That is on direct loan from Paul in the book of Philippians. Press on toward the mark, he admonishes us. In order to do that, one must know where and what the mark it is and value it highly.
People who press on are folks who have developed certain strengths of character that eneable to endure hardships, overlook adversity, and see beyond obstacles.
"Persistence is to the character of man as carbon is to steel." - Napoleon Hill
We can learn the virtue of persistence from persistent people. The value of their words is validated by the quality of their lives..
"What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the
striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the
discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting
to be fulfilled by him." - Victor Frankl
heights by great men reached and kept Were not attained by sudden
flight, But they, while their companions slept, Were toiling upward
in the night. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left
one unexpended effort that might have saved the world." - Jane Addams
I was a little taken back as I sat in the training session for aspiring vacuum cleaner salesmen and heard the trainer say, "I hope you are all in serious debt or financial trouble. If you are, you will be successful."
I didn't like what he said at the time, but I came to understand that he was right.
The wise teacher of the proverbs tells us, "“A worker's appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on” (Proverbs 16:26 NASB). This can be known through careful observation and is as true today as it was in Solomon's time.
You have to be hungry. At the very least, you must possess an appetite for more. If you are satisfied, you will stay where you are. If you are complacent, you will not exert extraordinary effort in any direction. If you are resigned to your circumstance or to the world as it is, you will not do much to change either.
Even Jesus said that those were blessed who hungered and thirsted for things to be right (ie... righteousness).
What does the hunger that works for us and drives us on look like? Let us break it down.
H - HATE. Hunger involves hate, not in the sense of vitriolic preoccupation with a destructive emotion toward other people. but the broader definition of detesting something to the point of turning away from it. You must be willing to make a clean break with your addiction to an undesirable condition in order to embrace something better. Some people are addicted to their self identities as poor failures and hopeless "losers." It takes something as dramatic as hating those designations to break free of them. Like Scarlet O'Hara you declare that you will never be hungry again. - except for the next goal.
U - URGE - We have used this word before to point to something inside that goes beyond rejecting the old to the idea of being drawn toward something in a powerful and compelling way. When you are deeply hungry for food, that hunger urges you on. You move in the direction of your goal. It drags you out of bed and out of the house. The urge is powerful and is empowered by the faith and hope that what you long for is possible with God's help and with your commitment.
N - NOTICE - When you are hungry for your goal, you start noticing things around you that you have previously ignored, things that remind you where you are going, examples of what you desire.You notice other people on the same path. You notice books, articles, and information designed to equip you in the fulfillment of your dreams. You notice open doors and opportunities. You notice people in a new way.
G - GRASP - Having identified a goal for which you hunger, you are always grasping in that direction. You hold what is in your grasp and reach for what is beyond it. You also grasp concepts you never would have paid any attention to before because understanding them is a means to your desired end. You make grasping a tool in your belt for reaching that to which you aspire.
E- EXHAUSTION - you stop at nothing less than the exhaustion of every effort in the service of your goal. if you haven't tried everything, you are not done. If you have not tried some things several times and several ways, you are not finished. If you have any energy left, you use it. of course you pace yourself, get adequate rest, and care for your body and soul in the process, but you DO NOT QUIT until all options are exhausted and even when they seem to be, you look for more.
R - RESILIENCE - When you fall, get up. When you fail, try again. When you falter in your faith, renew it and never let entertain discouragement for any longer than it takes to be encouraged by positive people, scripture, prayer, and your own commitment to keep on keeping on. Successful people are resilient in their hunger. They are often the folks that stayed in the game just a little bit longer than everyone else, tried a few more tricks, and refused to quit. They are knocked down, insulted, wounded, and wearied, but they have elastic in the back ends of their trousers so that that they bounce when knocked on their posteriors. Be that kind of person and your hungry appetite will drive you to success.
Do you love the results of wisdom, but hate the process?
Wisdom is key to success in any endeavor. Without it, we falter at some point. For that reason, we all want it - and we want it right now. We want to be wise and successful. We want it immediately.
We all want good results, but it is the few who are willing to embrace the means by which good things come who actually receive the benefits.
Proverbs 12:1 says in the KJV, "Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish."
In the NIV, the word "instruction" is rendered, "discipline." The word for "brutish" is "stupid."
The meaning is the same. If you love the results, you will learn to love the process. It is "stupid" to expect to grow without discipline and instruction.
It takes a degree of humility to submit to mentors, teachers, and coaches. It takes a truckload of open-mindedness to ask questions when we think we know the answers. It takes great wisdom to listen with the admission that we don't know everything.
Those who are willing to make such an admission are those who acquire greater wisdom and more useful knowledge.
Learn to love the process even if it stretches you beyond your ordinary comfort zone. Don't just endure it; enjoy it. Make it an adventure.
There are some other proverbs in chapter 12 that help me understand the reluctance of people to learn while they profess the desire to know.
Verse 12 says, "The wicked desireth the net of evil men: but the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit."
"Net" means "plunder." Plunder is something you take from someone else after they have done the hard work and gained it through effort and application of truth. Plunderers gather up the fruits of war that others have earned.
We tend to plunder the surface fruits of other people's discipline, but real fruit comes when the search for truth goes deep in our lives.
That is why it is the "root of righteousness" that bears fruit.
Plunder will last until the first scorching heat or freezing rain, but that which is rooted in sound discipline and the natural processes of growth will last and continue to bear fruit.
So do your own work with the people that have come into your life to guide you. Study, read, listen, ask questions, observe the masters, allow them to observe you, and accept correction.
Verse 15 says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise."
You can be right in your own eyes and still not prosper because your eyes have blind spots. Hating the process of discipline often manifests itself in an unwillingness to submit our ideas to the scrutiny of others and listen to their counsel.
The fool is not lacking in confidence, but it is false confidence based upon false assumptions that he is always right.
Verse 24 - "The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute."
Verse 27 - "The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious."
The lazy man may actually gain something and not be willing to do the follow-through to apply what he has gained.
Maybe you have been to a workshop and have taken meticulous notes - even made to-do lists to implement the moment you got back home or to work. Then, you put the notebook in a drawer and forgot about it.
You have not roasted your game. It just rots.
Our problem is that we have been conditioned toward laziness and we reject the process of discipline and learning because it looks too much like work. Follow-through is even harder.
IT IS WORK!
It is hard work, but it is work that produces positive results and continues to do so. Wisdom perpetuates itself because it never stops loving the process and never stops desiring more and investing in growth.
What is the PROCESS?
P - Perpetual learning. You are a student of life for the rest of your life.You will never come to the place where you are not a student no matter how many people call you, "teacher."
R - Receptivity . You can't pour water into a container with the lid on. Take the lid off of your attitude and drink in what is being offered. Keep your knowledge to yourself from time to time so that you can gain the knowledge of others. Proverbs 12:23 says that a prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself all the while a fool is blurting out folly. There will be plenty of time to tell what you know and impress the socks off of people. Don't waste the time for learning by spouting what you already know.
O - Observation. Part of the process of learning is observing the world and people around you. Be a student of people and their behaviors. Imitate successful people. hang around so that you can observe. Sometimes it is just being there. Proverbs 13:20 (NIV) says, "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm."
C - Counsel. Wise people who are getting wiser are always seeking advice and counsel. The are checking our their own impressions and not relying on what they already know. They seek counsel from the old and the young, from teachers and students, and from God. Has it ever occurred to you why lawyers don't represent themselves in court (or doctors don't operate on themselves?). There is a saying among those in the law profession that goes like this: A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for an attorney."
E - Eagerness. Loving discipline implies an eagerness for it. It suggests that the individual seeks out mentors and teachers, opportunities to learn, workshops, audio lectures, books, journals, Internet sites, and companions who can help him learn and grow. The eager learner embraces correction and accountability and wants to know when he is on the wrong track.
S - Simplicity. While the process may seem complex, it is in the sense that it organizes itself as it is lived out in life. Discipline applied from the outside is not complicated. We are given instructions and assignments and we do them. We sign up for an entry level course and are given a text book. We look at the book and think it is to simplistic for us. So we go out and gather material that is out of sequence rather than submitting to the simple discipline of the course. The result it confusion. Don't despise the simplicity that is presented to you in order to consider yourself deep or advanced. Every new discipline starts out at the beginning for us. Don't skip first base.
S- Stages. All learning takes place in stages and some of us like to skip them. Don't. Take your steps one at a time. Occasionally, you may be able to skip one, but more often that not, you will discover later on that you missed an important building block and you will have to go back to that stage to get it.
Love the process and the process will bring you the results you desire.
When I make a to-do list, I am setting priorities, reserving (dedicating) time, committing myself to objectives, and more importantly, praying about my day because "many are the plans of a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." (Proverbs 19:21 - NIV).
To-do lists are almost always overly ambitious and yet, I often inflate the importance and difficulty of some of the things that i put on my list. As a procrastinator, I find some items keep showing up again and again when a little five minute effort could eliminate them forever.
How I develop my lists, as Sasha Cagen suggests, reveals much about what I value, how I think, and how effective I am at accomplishing my goals.
The wise teacher of Proverbs (21:5 - NIV) said that "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty."
So this is very a very important as well as entertaining territory.
I forgot to offer you an easy way to get your tickets. I know you can figure that out, but just in case you want to do it now, here is a Fandango link, but what follows is far more important than that link.
Here is some reasoning for why we might consider doing something NOW rather than putting it off.
N - Not the same level of uncertainty as tomorrow. You know you have this moment because you are in it.
O - Output levels to get the job done will never be easier.
W - Why Wait?
It is not so important with movies - although, big screen is really the way to see certain films and they are usually gone before I see them.
What is important is the phone call you ought to make, the letter you ought to write, and the word of encouragement you really need to give.
That is because ...
N - NOT is such a final word. You are NOT promised tomorrow to do what needs to be done today. People die every day. They move away. They forget. They lay aside their hopes and dreams. Opportunities pass never to return.
O - Output demands increase with each passing moment, day, and year. You get older and the job gets harder. For one thing, your heart has gotten harder, you've lost the spontaneity, and you have to make all sorts of excuses and apologies for why you didn't do it sooner.
W - Why wait? Why not? Well ... the only reasons I know for waiting to do what ought to be done are laziness which is usually more about fear, followed by all sorts of other negative emotions.
It is not easy to say and do some of the things that are on our hearts, but many of those things MUST be done and they need to be done now before it is too late.
OK - [email protected] has actually written a wonderful article on how to ride an actual horse. I felt obligated to point to it since some folks are using Google to retrieve that information and coming up with my business and theological advice. Here is is: How to Ride a Horse
And while I am here, let me learn a few things from this author and skill.
The authors says, "you never know when you might find a time when you are for one reason or another on the back of a horse."
That is so right. no matter what our intentions might be starting out, we might find ourselves in a place or on a mode of transportation that cannot be accounted for by our own manipulative efforts.
So, according to ccunning, we need to take seven things into account: proper attire, proper position, basic control, actually riding, stopping, and getting off.
I don't know what attire you might need in your business, ministry, or other project, but you need to know. Then you need to secure it and wear it. that includes actual clothing and accessories and the ethereal clothing of proper attitude, demeanor, and vocabulary. Read what needs to be read. Listen to what is being taught. Wrap yourself in the attire of good preparation.
Always be preparing for whatever is next. Job 29:14 says, "I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; My justice was like a robe and a turban."
Whatever it takes, put it on.
Getting on the right way is vital because first impressions with horses and people tend to last. Horses will buck us and so will people. The advice to try not to kick the horse is quite transferable. Good starts are more valuable than many, many restarts.
It is vital for the horse rider to acquire the proper position of the horse and it is equally vital for the business rider to position himself/herself as well within the organization, with colleagues, and with his or her support system. With horses, there are varying positions based upon riding style and the shape of the saddle. However, all require making necessary adjustments to equipment and with regard to our own bodies. So it is in business and projects. Adjustments are always necessary.
Basic control is an area of horse pedagogy that is affluent with rules. Most of these revolve around the issues of respect and communication. The rider must respect the horse not just as a vehicle, but as a living sentient being with feelings and inclinations. The rider must also establish effective give and take communication avenues and skills. How is that different than working with people in an organization. Power "trips" don't work very well with horses or with people.
There are three general movements in actually riding the horse: walk, trot, and canter.
Walks are east for riders. With the proper posture and, at times, help, anyone can ride a walking horse. It is a good place to start and a wonderful place to spend most of our times.
Trots are more difficult. A trotting horse is impressive to watch with its two foot rough gait, but it is tough to ride. It is good for a show, but not the most comfortable for sustained activity.
Make of these what you like. Most of our business life is spent walking, being "found faithful," and moving forward a little bit at a time. Slow progress is the surest and often, the most satisfying, but there will be times of canter as well, interspersed by showy moments of trotting on stage to receive recognition and give thanks.
The canter is a time of increased speed The gait is rhythmic and the speed can be frightening and intimidating. It is a time of faith in the horse and in the process. Experienced rides and coaches teach us techniques for just riding with it and letting the horse carry us.
There will be all of these moments in your ventures and you need to learn how to ride them.
There will be times when you stop and you need to do these well and with class. The getting off is, according to the author, pretty much just the opposite of getting on. It just needs to be done well and with respect for the horse.
Whatever horse (business, project, ministry) you choose, you need to learn and practice the skills specific to the horse and the riding style. You can do it.
So, you are trying to narrow your options with regard to a business opportunity, ministry emphasis, or project and you are exploring various vehicles (horses) that will enable you to accomplish your goals.
Sometimes I ride a horse with a limp and still get to where I am going.
For instance, a couple of weeks ago, I announced an acronym for the word "optimist" and just discovered, a few minutes ago, that I had spelled "optimive" instead. Now, as far as I know, there is no such word, but I still got the point across ... unless no one was paying attention.
There is no perfect anything in this world or this life. Only God is perfect.
I chose the better of two options to fix the error. One was to invent a new word, which i seriously considered. The other was to change the words in the acronym to comply with the time-honored spelling and yet maintain the meaning of the lesson. I chose the latter.
So, we are not looking for a perfect program or a flawless horse to ride. We are just looking for the one that is right for us at this time. I think I can spell H-O-R-S-E, but check me and let me know if I mess up.
My friends on CompuServe have known for years that when it comes to speelink und tuping i sumtimes meke errers.
H - I have lots of H words that fit. You want a Healthy horse (company, program) which you will know by examining its History and by the Helpfulness of the people answering your questions. All of those "h"s will help you discover the HEART of the organization. You want to affiliate with a group whose heart is good and one that you can put your heart and soul into. Listen to your heart and examine the heart of the company for compatibility.
O - OPPORTUNE moment. Is this the right time in your life for this affiliation and the right time in history for success with this organization. What does the market tell you? What are the futurists saying? look carefully for timing issues.
R - RIDE-ABILITY - Can this horse be ridden? That depends on the strength of the horse and the skill of the rider. If the rider has no skill, are there good trainers available? Is this something you can do or be helped to do? What strengths lie in you that can be developed to do this sort of business or ministry? You are much more than you have already become, but you must play to your basic strengths which will often be somewhat communicative with your interests, passions, and desires.
S - STABILITY - Is this company currently financially stable? What is the state of its finances, indebtedness, and financial accountability? Are there mountains of lawsuits piled up against it? Is it complying with the law? Are its leaders people of integrity? Are its corporate values clear and congruent with its behavior and your own values? Is it producing some real verifiable success stories? Are a significant (not necessarily the majority) number of recruits sticking with the program and consistently building growth?
E - I want to do two here: EXPERIENCE and EXPENSE - First, is there are coming together of your own experiences, the experience of people in the mentoring support team, and the upper level leadership of the organization so that there is a foundation upon which you can build. One can make up for the other, but not all can be weak and there needs to be some significant experience at the top. Second, what does it cost to get in and really get going? Ask about hidden costs, ongoing investments, and the cost of tools and training as well as the costs for initial sign-up and monthly product purchases. Have all this information ahead of time. Credible sponsors will tell you. There is no success without some investment. Don't shy away from that, but count the cost and consider if this is an expense you can afford by stretching yourself, making some sacrifices, and being very careful. Do not become immersed in unsecured debt (with a few exceptions) to get started and do not choke out your success because you have not planned to make the necessary investments.
These are things you consider up front.
If you and the horse both qualify, saddle up and get started.
I just found a great article on the net, simple, readable, and accurate on how to ride a horse. I will be citing it and building a post on its concepts in a day or two.
Why would I search for such a thing?
I was just going over some of my business affiliations in my databases yesterday and it occurred to me that I had way too many. I need to narrow the field and concentrate on a few things during the limited amount of time I allow myself away from ministry, family, and writing to dabble in business.
You can't ride too many horses in a day.
The last real horse I tried to get on buckled under my weight. I knew then that it really mattered which horse I chose to ride.
A good horse can take you to success, but you must pick the right horse for you and ride it well. There are some excellent horses (business opportunities) out there for average people, but not all of them are right for you. I enjoy evaluating many of them, but I can only do a few of them well.
What is yours? In order to answer that question, you need to develop an understanding of your own passions, strengths, and interests as well as the resources you bring to the table.
If there is any interest in this subject, I will keep writing about it for the next few days.
Know this: There is a horse out there with your name on it and you can learn to ride it well. You may need to look around the stable a bit, but you will find the right opportunity. You can do it.
Proverb for today:
"... pay attention and gain understanding." (Proverbs 4:1b)
You have heard that advice. You have heeded it. perhaps you have given it. Perhaps it is the top of your list of survival techniques. There is only one problem with it.
It is bad advice.
With currents come waves ... or perhaps currents are made of waves. Either way, they are necessary for change and change is necessary for growth.
No. Not all change is good, but no change is almost always bad.
We need waves to move us around, shift the sand under our feet, and to make life interesting.
Waves are indicators of influence and influence is at the heart of leadership.
The world is changing with or without our consent. Our resistance is futile and naive. We can only go against the flow of negativity by creating currents of positivity. We can only resist evil influences by making waves of our own. Holding our ground is impossible in a liquid environment. We just can't be lazy and expect to have a positive influence in the world.
Jesus described life in the Spirit as like having living water flow from us - fresh, moving, and refreshing.
Living water never accumulates in stagnant pools.
You must change if you are going to be an agent of change.
The first six verses of Proverbs 1 are populated with gerunds: attaining, understanding acquiring, doing, giving, learning, and discerning.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of kn0wledge ..." (v7)
That which begins, continues. It flows. It makes waves. Knowledge is dynamic. It shakes things up, loosens faulty foundations, and stirs the pot of human experience. It also provides an exciting ride for those who are willing to go wherever it leads.
Here is your acronym for making waves that create new currents of thinking and bring positive change to the world through your business or ministry:
W = We. Make "we waves" because "me waves" are only about my interests, desires, and opinions. A "we-focus" acknowledges that everything a person thinks, does, and contributes affects other people. It embraces a team approach to life and business. It considers the needs and dreams of others and appeals to them in order to build a strong wave of agreement and energy. Selfish motives only create ripples; waves swell when we are "in it" together. Build a team and speak to the masses.
A = Affect. There are numerous definitions of this word, but I choose the one that means having an emotional impact. Humans are logical beings, but not entirely. We are not a race of Vulcans. We are emotional. We lead with our hearts and follow our hearts. If you are going to make positive waves in the ocean of humanity, you must speak from your heart to the hearts of people.
V = Values. People value what they value. We have social values that we share and personal values that tend to vary, but we all value something. Many of our core values are commendable. It is in the area of our attitudes where we falter. It is when we forget, neglect, or disconnect from our core values that our behaviors become unpredictable, destructive, and unproductive. The person or movement that makes big waves will appeal to the core values of the masses and of individuals. You will create positive change through a positive influence when you make the connection between what people believe and cherish and what you are saying.
E = Exercise. We say it many ways, but it requires an exercise of will and energy to create waves of change and influence the thinking and behaviors of people. You must actually do something. Get out of bed, out of your chair, out of your house, and out of your comfort zone(s) and exercise your influence. Talk to people, write, speak in public, do visible deeds, invest your resources, and act in faith. Do something! Take risks. Go out on a limb. Struggle. Exercise. Your level of activity will reflect your commitment and determine your success - but make sure you are acting strategically, intelligently, and with focus.
S - Stick-to-it-iveness. It is not a real word but it is a very real concept denoting perseverance, determination, and commitment. Making waves that produce positive change in the climate of business, ministry, and the culture may not be an overnight phenomenon. It most likely will not be. In fact, the price of change and influence is often frustration, weariness, resistance, opposition, criticism, and long hours of hard unrewarding work. It is the cumulative efforts of you, your team, and the unseen work of the Spirit who motivates and empowers you that produces results over time. Your job is to stick with it and not give up.
Making waves makes people uncomfortable and makes you the object of potential ridicule, but it is the price of change and it is a major factor in the road to success in leadership and progress. Waves move things around and refresh the environment. Sometimes we catch a wave and sometimes we make a wave.
If someone says to you, "Don't make waves," smile and keep on making them.
I have been a little dry lately. I don't know if it is a lack of focus, a drought of motivation/inspiration, the pressures of life, or just a season, but there has been a wall between what I have wanted and needed to say and my frontal lobe functions culminating in finger tips on the keyboard typing anything brilliant or mundane.
I am not sure how I feel about seasons.
We have an extra week of daylight savings time on this end and had an extra week in the Spring. That plays to my love of stability, but that will change Saturday night. Don't forget to FALL BACK (especially folks from my church). Better put:
Remember, when you hit the sack, to set your clock an hour back.
Seasons change and they are quite predictable. The weather changes and so does the "look and feel" of the earth. It is amazing how much.
I change, sometimes predictably and seasonally, and occasionally with dramatic surges and jerks.
The key to living above one's circumstances has at least one groove of accepting them and acknowledging their power and influence. The rest of the grooves have to do with functioning in spite of them in accordance with our dreams and commitments.
Actually, I like seasons - especially the ones I really like.
Fickle, aren't we? I know full well how important it is for the earth to breath in its own rhythms and independently of my preferences. If only my knee jerk reactions would catch up with my intellectual assent to that reality.
I know that the seasons of my own life, creativity, and productivity are just as vital to what God is forming through me.
It is October 31, 2007 - a day that has never been before and never will be again.
Brennan Manning, who God uses to speak to my heart as few others makes this bold statement, "You're only going to be as big as your concept of God."
He poses a searching question about a heavenly encounter with Jesus where our Lord asks us if we truly realized how much He loved us and desired fellowship with us. Manning doesn't just ask these questions; he probes our hearts. He then predicts that some of our answers might actually reveal our unbelief, thought we might have professed and proclaimed the love of God.
When I say I am optimistic, I want to know that what I think I mean is what I am really saying. Here is their take on the word:
"1782, from Fr. optimisme (1737), from Mod.L. optimum, used by Leibnitz (in Théodicée, 1710) to mean "the greatest good," from L. optimus "the best" (see optimum).
The doctrine holds that the actual world is the "best of all possible
worlds," in which the creator accomplishes the most good at the cost of
the least evil." See the full article here
The greatest good, the least evil, the best of all possible worlds. These are lenses through which I choose to view life and goals which i have in every challenge, circumstance, and problem.
I am an optimist. A pessimist, by definition (pessimus = worst in Latin) looks for the worst. That being said, I think that there is another self-description that becomes an enemy of the optimum or best in our lives. It is being a minimalist.
I am not making a value judgment about art or design here. There is a value to minimalism, especially with regards to consumption and excess. I am talking about the potential of every situation. I am referring to the outlook of a person on life and growth especially with regard to the call to overcome our obstacles and to become all that we can be in life.
Two people can exist in the same milieu of circumstances, suffer the same limitations, face the same challenges, and be buffeted with equal opposition and one will succeed while the other fails. There may be any number of factors involved in these outcomes, but one thing we know given the scenario is that they are internal and volitional. In other words, they involve the choices that each person makes.
Of course there is no way to duplicate identical circumstances, but we can approximate them. Each of us is imbued with our own distinct mixes of gifts, strengths, weaknesses, genetic predispositions, family backgrounds, and belief systems, but even with those, we all have choices.
I think that one of the great deciding factors in our lives is in our choices to believe the best, the worst, or the least about where we are and where we are going. Brain science, behavioral research, and the worlds of business and performance motivation fall into line with anecdotal illustrations of the power of belief and attitude to determine what will be made of the "givens" in our lives.
These fall into alliance with the scriptures as recorded in such passages as Proverbs 23:7, " For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he ..."
Optimism is not fantasizing about a desired future. It is believing in its possibility and rallying our thoughts, prayers, and actions toward the realization of that future. It is acting on what we believe in and pray for. Proverbs 28:19 (NLB) distinguishes between wishful thinking and positive thinking resulting in positive actions:
"A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty."
In order to work the field, the farmer must believe that the process can and, most likely will, bring results. In order to have any validity to his beliefs, he must do the work. The two go hand in hand and both exist with the realm of the knowledge of God's sovereignty and love.
For those who like acronyms on which to hang their rhetorical hats, here is one for the optimist:
O - Over the top thinking as opposed to under the circumstances thinking. P - Positive about the possibilities of proactive beliefs and action. T - Truth - The optimist is not hiding his head in the sand, but standing in the sand and seeing beyond. I - Inspired and inspiring to others. M - Makes the best of things rather than surrendering to the worst or the minimum. I - Initiative-taking rather than waiting for things to work out. S - Sacred values are important to the optimist who stakes everything on them. T - Time expended and energy invested are what it costs and what is multiplied in a true optimist.
It is your choice. I get a little shaky sometimes, I must confess, but in the end, I always choose optimism because anything less is simply unacceptable.
I was coming out of the parking lot after the Fresno Business Forum today when an SUV swung around to my left in a one-way-the-other-way lane to negotiate a left turn in front of me. The driver then accelerated in a manner that suggested hurry and slammed to a stop in the next round of traffic giving me an opportunity to catch up and read the nicely mounted plate on the back of his or her car:
"Too Blessed to be Stressed."
CHUCKLE - said I to myself with a grunt of superiority and wisdom beyond my capacity. After all, I had just been treated to 45 minutes of Mr. Leadership/Success/Got-It-It-Together John Maxwell himself. (Don't get me wrong - I really do attribute all those qualities to him). This was an opportunity to wax philosophical and perhaps, to break my blog-silence with a fresh idea.
While I was waxing thus and so, I had an awakening. It was halfway through the process of slamming on my breaks and testing their anti-lock capabilities.
The SUV had stopped in a timely manner to let a pedestrian cross the street in an appropriate walkway and once again, I was afforded a literary insight:
Tomorrow, Tuesday, October 23, is a big day for the Sims family and your prayers will be appreciated. We will be having our home inspected and will be interviewed for the purpose of having our grandchildren placed in our care. There are some other decisions involved as well. Forgive this foray into a blatantly personal request, but I appreciate your support.
Baptist Temple, the Fellowship of Joy, is in the red financially. Curiously, this coincides with my new preaching series, "The Red Zone." It may take the rest of my life, but I am going to be preaching with a focus on the actual words of Jesus, the Old Testament passages He alludes to and the interpretation of His words in the epistles and apostle's preaching. The main focus will be the actual words which appear in many bibles as red print.
Why? We identify ourselves as followers of Jesus and, in some unique way, all scriptural and spiritual truth is subject to is interpretation, illustration, and application. So, I am going to live there for the next few years of my preaching.
The current mini-series piece of that is on the Temptations of Jesus. They follow His baptism where he taught us to do the right thing for the right reason and the manifestation of the Spirit in the form of a dove making way for the words of the Father when He said, "This is my Son. I love Him. I am pleased with Him."
What greater motivation could we need.
After the dove came the desert, and in the desert, He found the devil.
So, it is about the dove, the devil, and the desert.
Picks from Tom is some material that I cleared off my MySpace profile to make room for other things. All of my Blogger blogs are listed in my Profile there.
I am relearning the value of one step at a time. It is about faith and faithfulness. It is about hope, optimism, and perseverance. I do not understand why policies designed to help children are so proficient at victimizing them or why people who are dedicated and reasonable public servants can be so crippled and deadlocked by a system that is intended to empower them to do the right thing, but I know something that makes all of that of marginal importance.
At every turn, God is still in charge of things and He can unravel our bureaucratic entanglements with but a word and that is what we are trusting Him to do and that is where our prayers gather for our little ones.
Staying the course is an effort. Without the effort, there is no movement because the course does not drag us through. We must take steps and those steps are sometimes on uneven ground and along winding paths with ascents and descents.
We must stay it and that demands focus, refocus, and refinement.
S - Steady, constant determination with an integrity of focus and commitment.
T - Tenacity not to be deterred, discouraged, or distracted from our life mission.
A - Activity appropriate to the goals we have adopted.
Y - "Yes, Yes" living in a culture that is addicted to "no"s and negative feedback.
Funny thing, when we STAY, this way, we MOVE forward along the course.
C - Constant consciousness of a compelling calling.
O - Obstinate, objective, outlook on our desired outcomes.
U - Undying understanding of a undeniable universe of possibilities we envision.
R - Reach - It is a reach and a stretch to realize that which is unrealized except in our clear vision of what can be.
S - Simplicity - The course is not complicated or vague. We can state the outcome we desire.
E - Eagerness - We desire it deeply and will stop at nothing less.
Before I sleep tonight, I'll be in all of those cities.
It is noon in Richmond and will be tomorrow in Richmond when I arrive in Fresno tonight.
Go figure that out.
Travel takes its toll on clear and concise speech.
I return home with high expectations and enthusiasm for my sermon tomorrow. There are some key questions I will pose. One of them is, "Who would ever listen to anything a 12 year old has to say?"
The answer is - some pretty impressive rabbis about 2000 years ago during the Passover in Jerusalem. For three days, there was a running discussion of theology and law between them and some kid from Nazareth.
"Who was that kid? Where did He get all those ideas and questions."
And, having lost all track of time in the process of being fully engaged in the subject, he was sought by his flks who asked why he had caused them such distress. He replied that they should have know where he was and then figured it was time to go home and be a dutiful son for the next decade or so.
Years ago, I learned that if I had somewhere to go, I only needed to take one step at a time to get there. It was from a lady who had accomplished many "firsts" in her life and knew what sh was talking about.
I had the opportunity this week to meet someone who reminded me of someone else who had first taught me that lesson That reminder triggered a truth recollection that, having once entered my heart and mind, has never left. In fact, it has been like a seed germinating into a general philosophy of life that has encouraged me in so many ways and which I have used to encourage others as well:
"Inch by inch, its a cinch."
More specifically, it is ""Inch by inch it's a cinch, yard by yard it's really hard."
I don't know who first said it; it has been quoted many times. However, I first heard it from Eleanor Sheppard, the first woman council member, vice-mayor, and mayor of my home town of Richmond Virginia. Born in 1907, her career in elected office began in 1954 and included service in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1968-1977. Her credentials, memberships, and honors are too numerous to recount. Her civic life included memberships on many boards, advisory commissions, and community organizations including her Baptist Church home.
The occasion for remembering was a Sunday and Wednesday night conversation at Southampton Baptist Church where I was a guest this week. It was there that I met a teacher by the name of Sally Dunnington and learned that she was Mrs. Sheppard's daughter.
Mrs. Sheppard spoke at my 7th grade graduation in 1967. Our 7th grade convened in a separate section of the Westover Hills Elementary School that was all our own. The next fall would signal a giant leap from there to George Wythe High School where we would all be 8th graders, lower than lower class, so far at the bottom of the heap that we'd have to crawl to reach zero.
And she encouraged us to take one step at a time. It would not be necessary to make great leaps or to skip steps. All we had to face was what was next and then keep taking steps.
We all listened. This was the first woman mayor of Richmond, an elegant and stately lady with a presence that exuded dignity. Yet she was speaking to us with the kind gentleness of a mother. She had done it and she knew we could do it.
It was my privilege to tell Sally that I remembered her mother and her mother's words. Imagine such an enduring memory. Mine is selective. I seem to only remember the really important things. It was encouraging to hear how those words had helped the daughter in a time of trouble and to share how they had informed my thinking and been used by me many times over to encourage others.
People who make great contributions and achieve great accomplishments are often forgotten by name, but the impact of their lives continues to add value to people and communities. Generations may forget, but in forgetting, they do not negate the contributions. Someone had to take some first steps for others to follow.
It was fun to hear how some of this played out in Sally's home life in the house of such a great mother and states-person, how the children were encouraged to be independent, to grow, and to become what they were made to be - inch by inch.
We all matriculate in the school of can-do long before we learn the contraction, "can't." Whatever we learn to do and to be begins with baby steps and never graduates far beyond single steps. We have two feet and we get a bit off balance when we try to move them both forward at the same time. We develop rhythms and large motor memories that become as second nature in our mobility, propelling us forward without effort. It is only as we overwhelm ourselves with the distance between where we are and where we are going that we become frustrated, discouraged, and perplexed.
Then we sit down or run around in circles - because we just don't believe that we can actually make progress toward any great goal.
We forget that a little progress is far more than no progress. We are either moving forward or falling back.
How do you eat an elephant (not that I want to)?
One bite at a time.
Eleanor Sheppard was trying to instill that in us. She lived it and was passing it on.
I went on the 8th grade and then to 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, college, and graduate school. I have found the words I heard that day to be perpetually true, spiritually sound, and increasingly encouraging. Just this week, I have had to apply them to a problem that has seemed so insurmountable to me and to my family that without this bit of advice, to be faithful in taking next steps, we might have surrendered to despair.
Since those days, I have heard the phrase from time to time. I include some references below. But none of these have impacted me as Mayor Sheppard's words did. I had often wondered what had become of her and what her legacy might have been. It remains profound. For one thing, she has at least one child, daily encouraging children who have been told they are losers that they can be winners ... inch by inch.
And I am living across the country trying to convey the same message to people who have given up on hope and abandoned the notion of dreaming.
It's a cinch ... one step at a time.
Take the next step, trust God, and then check in with me for another pep talk if you need it. Soon you will be giving the pep talks and will be a role model for others.
That is how it works.
Here are some excellent references to this old saying accompanied by fine articles applying the principle to a number of settings: