Rocks and Horizons

Each of us are unique where we are today…

HorizonsBut each of us are unique from where we once were, and where we will be in the future.

Consider this. Our likes and dislikes will change, foods we once abhorred will become like on old friend, and people we were close to, well, they (or you) will simply diverge in the woods, each going their own direction.

Let me give you an example.

In Junior High, I loved the school of learning. But life showed up with some barriers and all of a sudden I could not wait to get away from school. So much so that I changed high school my senior year just to end the school day and school year early. College became like a buffet line, taking only what I needed to advance or only what interested my. Yes, I took a class on building and flying RC airplanes – probably at the same time I was taking a management course.

It was later, when online campuses opened up schooling to my schedule and not on some classroom time frame that interfered with family, work or recreation. In fact, I found that for the most part I excelled in school and rapidly moved through my degrees that I was wanting before I turned 60.

Horizons and RocksThen, reading between several posts yesterday and today, I sort of realized that if I were younger, and if learning was as easy as it is today with the advent of online, there is so much more I would accomplish with my younger view of the horizon. Rather, I walk around looking for the hindrances, or the rocks, of my next few steps.

With so little time left it would seem the next few steps are more trouble for me than the horizons of my youth.

Looking at the horizon keeps me dreaming big and wishing for what’s around the corner.

Looking at the rocks keeps me focused on the day to day and making sure I do not stub my toe!

If I could write pages and tell you how deeply I feel about this, then I could load you down with examples and exercises to test where you are, and to help you find what you are looking for.

Let me think it through like this: When you are young, dream big. But dream about where you will be when you reach my age. Now, it’s not that the horizons are gone, but if I had done things differently in my youth with training and finances, then those horizons would still be on the verge of being realized. What if education had been more easily available for me in my younger years, how much more would I have accomplished before the ending years arrive.

The problem is, as a friend stated to me several weeks ago in words like the following: “Most men your age are looking for a place to slow down at. You are an enigma. You are looking for your next challenge.”

I guess I’m different. I still look at the horizons wishing for that next “conquest” and am not willing to slow down to enjoy my collection of rocks!

So, ask this question: “Will I have accomplished all those big ideas so that I will be able to enjoy the rocks before me?”

The War of the Day

Every morning you start…

And there is something that needs to be battled and won! Either it’s something personal that needs to be manhandled into submission, or it’s something that is slipping into your world from another source and you need to defeat it before it defeats you!

Weasel and WoodpeckerA web reference this morning showed a woodpecker… And a weasel. Can you believe it?

Like all the parables of old you may think that the bird is giving the weasel a ride, but in reality the weasel is trying to EAT the woodpecker! Check the story here:

Weasel vs Woodpecker!

This made me stop and think about all the weight we carry that is attempting to consume us. Perhaps things we do not even realize we are carrying, or we have been carrying it so long that we do not even realize it’s there.

The writer of Hebrews tells us something about the loads we carry, about how we are responsible for the weight we have picked up along the way.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” ~(Hebrews 12:1-4 ESV)

I remember a story in a literature book, oh, back in my junior high days. It was about a little boy who wanted to run a race but never seemed to get his speed and endurance up to the level that he needed to be successful. Someone encouraged him to add more weight to his training so as to build up his strength, so he filled his satchel with rocks and practiced running with the added resistance. Then, on the day of the race he laid aside the satchel and enjoyed his win.

This is a little different from the scripture admonition, but the concept of mentally and spiritually laying aside the weight which hampers us.

Bad habits, clutter, emotions, past feelings, anger, frustrations, generational sins… Maybe an endless list…

They are all things we carry that slows us down. We have voluntarily picked up some of them, others were slung on us by others, and some we get simply by proximity.

Still, what we have been carrying is keeping us from being successful.

What are you loaded down with that is keeping you corralled from your potential? The woodpecker unloaded the weasel and flew away. Perhaps even wiser, but definitely freer!

We Are All… Different

Yet, we are all the Same.

Maslo Hierarchy of NeedSomething that was made clearly evident yesterday during a presentation by a missionary to another country.

Regardless of our backgrounds, our present situation, or the notion of where we are each headed – we are all Different, yet we are all the Same.

Regardless of our country of origin, culture, race or economic status, we all require the same thing. Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) developed a hierarchy matrix that shows the needs of every single human on the face of the earth.

The foundation is wide and shows the basic items we all require – breath, sustenance, shelter, rest. Among the billions on earth, there are those who struggle with this very basic requirement. Without this foundation you can forget all the higher needs – safety, love, belonging, self-esteem or even the concept of realizing who we truly are.

For some of us this foundation is taken for granted. I have never known the lack of the physiological needs listed, yet their are billions that fight for their very existence who can not even feel safe, or loved. It is estimated that there are 131.4 million births per year (http://www.ecology.com/birth-death-rates/) and 55.3 million deaths. That’s 360,000 births per day, and 151,600 deaths per day. Four births per second, and two deaths per second.

There are more being born each day than are passing away. This means there are more alive each second that will every die.

This means there are more people living in the current state of existence – whether their physiological needs are being met, or not.

Again, the one thing I learned yesterday that meeting others in their situation, without helping them to elevate their position in life, then we are not giving them a “leg-up” to become more secure.

Where Jesus Taught
Where Jesus Taught

It was with compassion that Jesus fed the multitudes, healed the sick, taught valuable lessons on how to live overcoming lives. It was with compassion that he gave his own life for the ransom of the whole world. (Mark 10:45, 1 Timothy 2:6)

This was where his beginning ministry started (Matthew 5-7) opening the eyes of his people.

It is from uncertain origin that we remember the proverb:

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Give someone hope for tomorrow, and you give them the ease to hear words of life today.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63 ESV)

Just as we teach balance here at home, we must show balance elsewhere. So, the missionary shows us that with each outreach, they provide resources of grain, trees of production, filters for water, and I know others who are providing deep wells to bring better water supplies.

Balance of words, balance of help.

Just as the Apostle Paul carried the teachings even farther.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV)

Lofty words are not enough. It takes the Spirit and Power. You cannot simply speak, you must demonstrate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Clean Up

Regardless of the day, or the work being done…

Artesian WellThere is nothing like getting to the ending of your schedule and needing to “clean up.” Sometimes it is simply preparing the hands and face to greet others, or to sit at a meal. Then there are the times when nothing but a good shower will do!

It’s not only your self, but generally your clothing also. Whatever you have been doing, skin and clothes often reflect the environment – whether smells, dirt or clinging debris.

I remember my dad coming home from work at Champion Paper Company. It produced nice clean paper for all kinds of purposes from the raw timber delivered by the truck loads. Yet, the manufacturing process required great labor and many chemicals. That rotten smell permeated dad – clothes, skin and truck!

We used to hose the truck out with a water hose before using it for a date!

I also remember those fun times of camping and playing in the woods. At the end of the day, with a bar of soap, you immersed yourself into the river, the lake, or even that artesian well at the bottom of the hill there in Ace, Texas. You soaped up, and dunked yourself in that water that washes away all the stains of that day.

I do not know why I thought of this early this morning. But we are approaching church time, and though I think of it as a time and place of celebration, it is still the place we go to when life has left us dirty!

It’s a time and place of cleansing.

It used to be that Sunday church was an overly full day with Sunday School, Morning and Evening Service, and all the fellowship that goes on in between. Most churches today are satisfied with a single service on Sunday, and maybe some activity during the week for fellowship or teaching.

Maybe this is one reason why we struggle with our cleaning time before God? One simple service time that is generally geared around celebration often leaves those that feel the need of cleansing without the time and space to accomplish it.

David teaches us that cleansing time does not replace worship time. Consider his Psalms 51, written as a result of his sin that we find documented in 2 Samuel 11, and the proclamation of acceptance of guilt in 2 Samuel 12.

Spend a few minutes reading and thinking about this psalms. He did not not wait until service time to make things right, he immediately took it before God as soon as he realized his sin.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.  ~(Psalms 51:1-19 ESV)

Do you need a cleansing yourself? Do not wait until church as a time and place to cleanse yourself. Do it now. There is no better time.

Family, Friends and You

Drawing a Big Circle around my life includes you!

Circles 1Life and living can be extremely complicated, complex and often confusing as the intersecting pieces of my life meet and cross over each other. Consider that I am an individual identified by this image of a blue circle. I am identified by that blue circle.

What you may not see since I have been married 40 years is that circle includes my sweet bride. We are two who became one before God. (Matthew 19:6) There is no division between us, yet each of us have a different history: our family, friends and you – are different set’s of individuals based upon the different parts and roles of life we live.

Yet we are one. Inseparable.

Circles 1aStart the layering of all of our family, friends, and, you, of course, then our single circle starts to become dissected by all the other circles of influences. If you follow my logic then you can see how my one circle gets overlaid with family, friends, and, you, of course. Sometimes, the circles of connections complement, while others clog. At times the connections are severed, while new ones arrive. Some are enjoyable, others are tolerated, and there are others who we are still waiting to see what their connection will become like.

Okay, snap your magic fingers, and voila’… one connection can easily shift and become a connection of another nature!

Circles 2aCircles 3Life’s connections can often be crude, unfulfilled, and stressful. What we want is the flower of perfect life and living. Our weird intersections of life that we end up with are often confusing.

In a flash, I think of the Apostle Paul where he notes all the occurrences of life – and he wraps up his statements with this statement.

“And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:28 ESV)

Notice his phrase… Daily Pressure. Oh, the pressures of our lives can sometimes be very difficult to handle. Crushing weights. Hard decisions. Questions, questions, and more questions. Few answers. Disappointments. Joy. Pressure.

Sometimes these pressures are tough to handle.

So, back up a little bit from Paul’s statement and look at his earlier life. Before he converted to be a follower of Christ, he ravaged the church (Acts 8:3, ESV), dragging followers to prison and approving of executions. His actions scattered the church, and a miracle occurred. Everywhere the church went they preached the Word!

This made me think, what if every connection to our personal world was not as convoluted as the drawings show, but was viewed as our field of evangelism?

Tortured, forced, complex, desired, enjoyed and dreaded connections. Some really enjoyed, and others really hated. Yet, they each represents a field. Now, think this through with me. Are we accountable to God for how we relate to this connection?

If so, what grade would you give yourself?

French ProtractorOver 45 years ago I remember owning one of the French Protractors. With all the available options you could draw a perfect image. People, Cars, Houses, and all those things you wish you could make just perfect! Everything could be perfect and proportional.

But life is not perfect and we should really think about our responsibility to the imperfect world we find ourselves living in. I want to be a good Godly example to every person I come in contact with. How about you?

Life Can Be Tough

And, it can be weird!

Building BlocksChoices can be so strenuously tested, or ignored, so that one wrong step can cost you more time and money than you may be comfortable with investing.

It was a last minute decision to attend a lunch workshop yesterday to get ourselves thinking about the future, and retirement. Not that the future is here, nor retirement is planned, but when you look at the complexity of your existing financial position, and portend the future, then it makes sense to consider talking to someone who has a clearer picture of what the future could look like.

You need advisers in your life that you will listen to! (Read yesterday’s blog…)

When it comes to our personal finances, I struggle with accepting advice from someone I know, even more so a complete stranger! Even if the stranger has excellent credentials, a book, a radio show, and free workshops where she feeds you a good meal!

You must prepare for the future, else the future will have it’s own plans for you!

Hence, someone with skills, knowledge and a view of the future is someone you should have in your corner. It should not be just anyone! Your banker has a view of their own bottom line and how to keep your money working in their world. The same could be said for any of the many people who would love to help you spend, uh, invest your funds, whether they have stocks, bonds, annuities, or some other product to sell.

You need an adviser that can help you plan!

It was a wise old philosopher who is first recorded as saying:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~Lao Tzu

Many have replicated the same thought with their own words.

  • “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” ~MLK
  • “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” ~Tony Robbins
  • “Step by step and the thing is done.” ~Charles Atlas
  • “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” ~Neil Armstrong
  • “The first step to knowledge is to know that we are ignorant.” ~Richard Cecil

Building Blocks 2See… The concept is there. You start from nothing, and add to your life the appropriate steps that makes you more complete. And less weird. But you do not do it by yourself! You find the appropriate pieces from many different sources!

It was not the Apostle Paul that said the following, although it sounds like something he would say.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” (2 Peter 1:3-12 ESV)

Building blocks 3The Apostle Peter tells us to take the basic pieces of life, pick the appropriate building blocks, and add them to your life! I think of it in a simple stair step fashion, but reality is that it interlocks with all the other pieces to make the end product stronger….

As Stephen Covey is quoted as saying, “The Main Thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.” An though it was not Benjamin Franklin who first prompted the thought, but he says it in a way that makes sense here on North America…

“Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”

I add the same premise to everything else whether they be minutes/hours, days/weeks, or months/years… When we keep control of the small things in life, then the big things take care of themselves. After all, it’s the little foxes that spoil the vineyards! (Song of Solomon 2:15)

What we do not do is just as important as what we choose to do!! Chose wisely…

 

What IS My Next Step?

One of the things I’ve never struggled with…

What to do next. As is my habit, there are generally a series of throw away lists that identify pro’s and con’s of known options, and then the best choice rises to the top like cream.

The choice is easy.

Yet, when you get to a certain age, and your high earning years are behind you, you start taking your time in determining a next step. For example, as we near the traditional retirement age, many of us start to ask these kind of questions.

What will retirement look like? Do you still live in your same home, or must you downsize? How do you pay for that needed new car when you are on a fixed income? Do you have enough savings to take care of the unforeseen or the desired vacation? What about medical expenses? After all, the older you get the more fragile you become and the less money you make, so how do you prepare sufficiently for that raining day?

Yet, when I was young it was easier to change careers and salary amounts as you edged around the options of career and living. When you age, it becomes more difficult to make adjustments. What are the new career options? Sure, there part time ways to make up the missing income for the special needs, but what about the needs for the next 30 years or so? Yes. 30 years!

One advice I received from a retired relative, “Don’t retire too soon! You income goes “fixed” and your expenses keep rising.” This is good advice. When we moved to Washington I bought my 2003 Dodge Diesel 1 Ton truck. Fuel was about $1.65 per gallon. A few years ago, that same gallon was over $5.00. Now, it’s back to about $2.50, only our state government keeps adding taxes and we pay some of the highest gas tax around. If fuel and or taxes rises again, can I afford to drive very far?

So, what to do?

Do not rush into anything. Take your time. Pray. Seek advice from many trusted sources. Pray. Ask questions. Pray. Take plenty of notes. Pray. Read voraciously. Pray. Consider your options. Pray. Ask those who have already been there, done that… and then pray.

Consider the words of a wise man.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. (Proverbs 12:15 ESV)

Listen to Complete Jewish Bible version:

Fools suppose their way is straight, but the wise pay attention to advice.  (Proverbs 12:15 CJB)

Yet, pay attention to who you think has the best advice. Consider these last two last scriptures.

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. (Proverbs 19:20-21 ESV) (And this is why we pray!)

Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.  (Ecclesiastes 4:13 ESV)

At my age, I know I need advice. I seek for answers, and those who have the appropriate voice to speak into my life.

At the same time, this is not simply a question for me and mine… It’s not about my retirement. It’s about you. It’s about the church. It’s about all entities who are trying to make good choices in life.