Thursday, January 26, 2006
The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other poeple think, or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make a break a company...a church...a home.
The remarkable think is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude.
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
- Chuck Swindoll
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
The background is that Stephen made a bit of coin as a businessman, and is continuing to improve his financial situation through savy deals and wise management. As I can attest, once you've acquired some monetary success, you tend to become a bit of a target. The ramifications of these new relationships will truly change your world view.
In this particular dialogue, the parable of the rich young ruler was naturally brought up. We discussed how the issue with this particular fellow wasn't the rich part or the young part or the ruler part. It was that he was holding something back in his spiritual life. That the rich part (and maybe the ruler part?) were impacting his ability to give of himself completely. If you want your whole soul saved, you need to give up your whole old soul first. [Editors note: don't shoot me for the theological inconsistencies with that last phrase, I just liked how it sounded. Stay focused now.]
As we both so politically agreed that there is no problem with having money or nice things, I found it necessary to share my true perspective on the problem. One that isn't very politic, bordering on heretical. You see, I don't believe it is possible to follow God, live by faith, and have wealth. Yes, I you heard me. I said it. You can't be rich and in right relationship with God. That is honestly what I believe to be the only message to be derived from Scripture. Of course, that's not all I believe.
Before you fly off the handle, let me lay out the whole foundation for you. You see, just because a person cannot be wealthy and live by faith, doesn't mean they can't control wealth. This subtle distinction is what makes world-changing by believers a practical reality. We can have big companies that make a profit. We can have huge charities that change the world. We can have lobbies and pay for politics. We can throw parties, create television programming, build publishing houses and construct huge housing developments. But individually, our responsibility in living by faith is to never be wealthy. Remember, this is just what I believe.
So how does this play out in practice? Stephen had the answer. He called it the Walking Non-Profit. Make as much money as you want, invest in the company as much as you need. Be TRULY successful. But in your own life, make sure the balance sheet is run like a non-profit. Other than what you need, make sure the rest goes back to those who do need it. For example, a faithful CEO should never receive more income than the amount the company spent on benefits for all the other workers combined. That's how the world runs today. Do a little research and you will see that story continually replayed. I posted some stats from Forbes in an earlier post.
As we meandered around this subject it was really refreshing to me to actually be able to share something I truly feel with someone I thought would truly understand. Unfortunately, this is more rare with me than I'd like to admit. I don't like hearing my buddies talking about how little effort is involved with finding dates. It annoys me to watch someone who dances so much better than I do it so effortless while urging me, "It's easy!". People don't want to hear an accomplished person saying things are easy. They don't want to see someone they view as wealthy talking about giving it away. It just comes off as condescending and fake. Nobody believes in altruism anymore. Even the ones who say the do, are so hardened by abuses they've suffered, that their default response is disbelief and cynicism. This is one of many reasons I find that I keep my real opinions to myself and just offer blind encouragement.
Of course, no one wants to hear that God-Followers can't be rich either. We need the dream, the fantasy, the false-hope. We need to believe that someday we might have fortune or fame. Our adult ADHD means we can't simply be satisified in a life of service. No one aspires to the title of Servant anymore. Alas.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Don Richardson in his wonderful book Eternity in Their Hearts wrote what would be my most favorite, and often used quotes:
Simple, elegant, correct. This is the profound kind of wisdom that I can mimic and pretend understand. I flail about with words like these as if I were capable of the finesse and subtlety required to truly wield them well. In giving last minute advice to friends I may not see for some time, I bludgeon him with truths until finally he objects no more. Such lousy counsel I. But he walks in faith, or at least I've seen it's shadow in his life. So circumspectly I grant myself leave to trust him and thrust at him my tools and truths. Only afterward running down the thought that says "too much!" and "leave off, fool!".
Perhaps it is just flattery on my part. Give them unabashed assistance and let them sort out what they may. Sink, swim, or sail it truly is their own way. Let their dynamism run and then I resign myself to fuel and fire only. My experiences vast are simple fodder for their feast. I can live with this I think. But that's only because I am lazy and inept. Were I skilled and suited I would surely surpass this stopping point. My own internals would combust and drive me onwards still towards my own conclusion, not this silly stopping point.
So which is Forgiveness? Is it the hardest work, or the hardest faith? Or perhaps it is a work of faith?
Thursday, January 05, 2006
This last round of vacations left me with several notes about busy-ness. Everyone I knew seemed to be in a race against the clock. Most of the time, this was more at a subconscious or even unconscious level than deliberate, hurrying up. For myself, as an example, it was a morning when I became faintly aware of the alarm clock's grating buzz. Unfortunatley, I was utterly unable to respond to it. Finally coming awake and into full consciousness, I felt a momentary grip of panic as I realized how late it was and how much I still had to do.
Mornings like that one can be disconcerting and disturbing, because of what inevitably happens. My attention gets fixated on the activities and the doing, rather than the moments that precede it. I stop enjoying the experience of dining and conversation, I don't actually relish the smiles of those around me. I don't remember why I'm running around in the first place. The danger perceived in these moments is that I have somehow lost time. As I pondered, this I was reminded of the theologian Donald Nicholl who stated it simply: "You don't notice the small things if you are moving fast. Suppose the person you most love is in a railroad station and you are looking for one another. If she stands still and you pass through the station at 100 miles per hour, you will not find each other."
When I find myself moving too quickly, I miss the subtle moments of surprise and grace that are always present. These are the moments that often go unnoticed. I don't want my days off to become hurried times where I ungraciously attempt to snatch a quick glance at a newspaper before launching into the seemingly endless errands and responsibilities of daily life that have been put on hold the rest of the year. Time is one of the most challenging aspects of becoming simple because we are so helpless to change time itself. Invariably we move in only two directions. Either we move quickly trying to make more of the time we do have, or we limit what we will do to savor the time and make it last. Both are distortions of the truth. Neither approach will make our lives more meaningful. Doing more and quickly means we cease to live fully with deliberate attention. Doing less and slowly means we become so focused on time that we miss out on life and legacy.
- If you had a day all to yourself, with no responsibilities, how would you spend it?
- If you had an unlimited amount of time, with whom would you spend it?
- If you were put into a magical time machine, and when you stepped out time would stop for one year, what would you do with that extra year of life?
- When you see God face to face, what will you want to say about how you spent the time you were given?