Don’t Assume Inferiority

“Not that I have already obtained all this,” the apostle Paul wrote. “Or have already arrived at my goal. But I press on to take hold …”

I take great comfort in Paul’s assessment of his own journey. One of the greatest contributors to the New Testament freely admits that even he hasn’t mastered his own advice.

The danger of pursuing help from those we perceive as masters is in believing  that they have mastered their own advice. Not at all. Sure, they have insight we need – sure, they are submersed in their topic – and hopefully have experienced fruitful application. But, they are on a journey just like you and me.

“The master is not above the student.” Don’t lose sight of that. Learn from the master, but don’t assume inferiority. You’re better than that.

Are We There Yet?

At a men’s conference in late 2006, one of our assignments was to take some personal time to get away and reflect. We were at a lodge in the mountains of Virginia, so the natural path was up a mountain trail. I found a old, tall Oak tree and took a seat in a pile of leaves. Like any good student, I took out my Bible and journal and began to read and write. I wrote mostly questions – to God – and then proceeded to answer them as best as I thought He would. Sounds kind of humorous now that I think about it. Eventually though, I heard this whisper in my spirit; “Are you done yet?” After some wrestling with what I knew was God prompting me to get quiet and listen; I put down my pen and sat there restlessly for the next 25 minutes. Finally, a passage came to my heart; Hebrews 3:13. I flipped through the pages of my Bible, landing on these words; ” … encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today …” That was it. I knew then that those simple words would be my life’s mission. And I came down ready to get started. Was I in for an experience!

Later that fall I read a piece from Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost For His Highest (July 6) that has proved to be quite true, and helpful, over these past seven years. “We always have visions, before a thing is made real. When we realize that although the vision is real, it is not real in us, then is the time that Satan comes in with his temptations, and we are apt to say it is no use to go on. Instead of the vision becoming real, there has come the valley of humiliation. God gives us the vision, then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way. Every vision will be made real if we will have patience. Think of the enormous leisure of God! He is never in a hurry.”

What is your vision? What has God laid on your heart for the journey of your life? Has it been made real yet? If not, it’s okay, trust me. The past seven years have been an amazing journey into myself with God as the trail guide. But it hasn’t been easy, and I’m pretty sure the vision hasn’t been made completely real yet either. Today God reminded me again of that mountain top experience as he led me to this entry from the Jesus Calling devotional for August 22. “You live in the middle of a fierce spiritual battle, and fear is one of Satan’s favorite weapons.”

We all need hope and encouragement. It’s what we really need to find the strength for this life, more than ever. So be encouraged today. While the world is set against you, God is for you, always has been, always will be. And the vision will be made real in his perfect timing.

Undoing Unhappy

One of my favorite sales writers is Jeffrey Gitomer. Taped to the edge of my computer screen is this quote from his book Little Platinum Book Of Cha-Ching; “If you want to learn something new, all you have to do is study something that was written 100 years ago.” I’ve taken that theory to heart over the past few years as I journey further into the archeology my soul. Digging into old books has uncovered some golden nuggets to chew on.

Tucked in my library is a photo copy of a thin little gem by Ralph Waldo Emerson called Success. The original notes on the back cover say “five hundred and forty copies … printed in 1912.” Almost exactly 100 years ago, Emerson put this ink to paper. “Don’t be a cynic and a disconsolate preacher,” he said. “Don’t bewail and bemoan. Omit the negative propositions. Nerve us with incessant affirmatives. Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of good. When that is spoken which has a right to be spoken, the chatter and the criticism will stop. Set down nothing that will not help somebody.”

Oh how much better we would fair in life if we would heed his words today. Seems the whole world is steeped in cynicism. The dictionary has the word disconsolate as being unhappy or cheerless. I know a lot of unhappy and cheerless people. Sad. Seems we are encouraged to chase happy – only to find emptiness is really all we’ve achieved.

“Set down nothing that will not help somebody,” he wrote. I wonder; how much better would our world be if that was our mantra? Don’t you think success would come more easily if that was our attitude every morning? (I’m talking to myself here too by the way.) Emerson later writes; “The affirmative of affirmatives is love.” Seems to me then that loving others will just about undo unhappiness. I like that.

21 Day Challenge, Day 10

I was setting around in a group chatting last night about random topics when the subject of weight loss came up. I guess we were all feeling a little insecure as we each boasted about the various plans and routines we were investigating. As we compared notes each of us probably felt a bit guarded about ours being the better choice. One of the guys finally commented on how difficult it is to stay committed to any plan. That line of conversation continued for a while when another chimed in; “why don’t we just all agree to encourage each other in this common pursuit.”

Good plan! “And the word we’re looking for,” I suggested, “is accountability.” Of course that word can evoke both negative and positive emotions – but for the sake of our conversation it was an appropriate term. In this case, we’re not accountable to, but accountable with; as a means of positive encouragement with a buddy or group of people who are simultaneously pursuing a similar goal.

Let’s face it, alone is tough. Sure, smaller goals like fix-it-ups, or balancing your checkbook are easily completed by yourself. But when you set out to tackle something that requires significant physical effort or inner strength, it’s always helpful to team up with someone, (or a group) who will help you stay focused and positive minded during the process. You can encourage each other when you get down, and praise each other when you reach certain milestones. The likelihood of giving up is reduced as well when there is someone committed to helping you succeed.

Are you going it alone? Consider inviting someone to be your partner on this journey. Even if they aren’t pursuing a particular goal, ask if they will allow you to report to them, and invite them to help you stay focused.

Change, I Dare You

I woke up this morning at five AM with an epiphany. Wednesday (12/5) marks 21 days til Christmas. Various research suggests that it takes 21 days to change a habit; or at least initiate positive change. If that’s true, 21 days would certainly also be a good time frame to accomplish a desired goal. And I have a few goals, changes, bad habits, etc., that I’d like to address. So I grabbed my journal and a pen and captured as much of the incoming information as I could (hoping I could go back to sleep). Following is the deciphering of my notes and idea:

I am offering a 21 day challenge. Give yourself a Christmas present. Challenge yourself to focus intently on one or two specific goals for the next 21 days – quit something, start something, change something – lose a few pounds, begin an exercise routine, learn a new craft, adopt a new hobby … Change is difficult, and oh, how we resist it. But the only way for something to change is for you to change something. We cannot change something we are willing to continue to tolerate. What are you tolerating? What change would you like to make in your life? What goal would you like to accomplish? If it’s a smaller goal like painting that room you’ve been putting off – make a commitment to paint it this weekend, and then pick a new goal. How much can you get done in 21 days? Create a list of small projects that have been haunting you – and knock them out. You have two days to think about it.

I came up with a list of 21 attributes of change. Each day I’ll pass one along to those of you who decide to participate, as a way of encouragement. They will be the beginnings of the manuscript I am preparing for a new book; “Yes You Can! 21 Attributes Of Personal Change,” which is one of my two personal goals – the other is to lose 10 pounds. I believe (which is one of the attributes) I can accomplish both. But here’s an important piece; IF we fall short, we haven’t failed. We have only failed if we never try. If we don’t completely reach a specific goal, we celebrate the progress, reset the due date, and continue on.

I will set up a facebook community page (Yes I Can) for those of you that wish to receive some daily encouragement. Your presence and participation will encourage others as well. All of this is a big undertaking for me, but it’s been on my heart for some time – probably like many of you with your own goals. But there’s no time like the present. And why not wake up Christmas morning with the personal gift of knowing you did it!

Email me if you’re interested in joining the “Yes I Can” challenge. I’ll add you to the list, and fill you in on the details as we go. (By the way, there’s not cost for this – it’s my Christmas gift to you.)