In the Blink of an Eye

USP OLYMPICS: SWIMMING-EVENING SESSION S OLY BRAI used to wonder why I wondered about certain things, but I’ve decided that somewhere in my DNA I must have an inquisitive gene that is alive and well.

So, I wasn’t surprised when I noticed my curious nature thinking about the speed of a blinking eye. After a quick Google search, I learned:

  • If you are an average blinker, you will blink about every 4 seconds.
  • Each minute of the day you will blink about 15 times or roughly 20,000 times a day.
  • The surface of your eye is cleaned and lubricated,  in the 10th of a second it takes you to blink.

A 10th of a second is fast, and this fact jogged my memory: I remembered the 2016 Olympics and Anthony Ervin. At the age of 35, Ervin set a record for being the oldest individual competitor to win a gold medal in the Olympics. Ervin swam the 50M Men’s Freestyle, and he won the gold medal; France’s Florent Manaudou finished second and won the silver.

The difference that separated these two men wasn’t the 10th of a second it takes you to blink, but the hairbreadth of just 100th of a second. Ervin finished the race in 21.40 seconds and Manaudou finished it in 21.41.

Even though the critical factor that separates the winner from the runner-up can be as minuscule as 100th of a second, the minuscule can be mighty powerful.

Had Anthony Ervin succumbed to the power of a negative thought for just 100th of a second, he may have returned home with the silver medal and not the gold.

Ervin achieved his dream because he trained hard in preparation for the Olympics.  To have success in life we should do the same. This is why the Scriptures encourage us to discipline the body and to focus the mind.

Another Olympian who attained great success is Jesse Owens. At the 1936 Olympics, he won four gold medals, turning his dreams into reality. Later in life, Owens said: “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”

I encourage to keep your eyes on the prize and run life’s race with determination, dedication, and self-discipline.

The Silhoutte of Truth

basketballLike many other sports fans, I spent much of last weekend in front of a TV watching college basketball. While I’m happy that four of the teams in the Sweet Sixteen are from the Big 12, I’m disappointed that Wichita State was knocked out of the tournament in the first round.

It was either the success of Kansas and Kansas State or the failure of WSU that reminded me of coach John Wooden. The coach was a man of character and wise words, and he once said: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

Wooden’s words remind me of the self-portrait Paul painted in Philippians: If it were right to have such confidence, I could certainly have it, and if any of these men thinks he has grounds for such confidence I can assure him I have more. I was born a true Jew, I was circumcised on the eighth day, I was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, I was, in fact, a full-blooded Jew. As far as keeping the Law is concerned I was a Pharisee, and you can judge my enthusiasm for the Jewish faith by my active persecution of the Church. As far as the Law’s righteousness is concerned, I don’t think anyone could have found fault with me (Philippians 3:4-6).

As a Pharisee Paul thought he knew it all, but when he met Jesus he underwent a life-changing transformation: But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith.  My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).

Let me paraphrase the verses above in just a few words: I got rid of my worthless-self-righteous-know-it-all attitude so I could know Jesus.

Stephen Covey said that “In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.”  The “what-we-are” communication of Paul, was the harsh restrictive, and punitive mindset of the Old Testament.  Paul knew the nitty-gritty essence of what it took to be a Pharisee, but he didn’t have an itty-bitty speck of “what-we-are” grace. Paul was a know-it-all theologian, and at his core, he would abhor the grace-themed principles of Christianity.

Paul’s pace was slowed on the Damascus Road, when he had a personal encounter with Jesus. Up to this point in his life, Paul had tried to find fullness in a silhouette of truth. When he met the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Paul couldn’t ignore the majestic mercy and the grace galore that Jesus offers.

The arrogance of what Paul was, was quickly overshadowed by the eloquence of what he became. He became a Christian of significance because he was not content to just talk-it-up.  He knew he needed to live-it-out.

The Covey quote I shared earlier seems to be based on the teaching of John: “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  If “what we are” determines the effectiveness of what we say, how influential is your life?

Inflection Points

Decision Point IconAn inflection point can be defined as a moment of dramatic change, especially in the development of a company, industry, or market (American Heritage Dictionary).  Wall Street defines it as a point on a chart that marks the beginning of a significant move either up or down.

Due to the stress and strain of the moment, inflection points can be hard to recognize in the present, and sometimes they are more easily seen from the perspective of history.

A significant inflection point in the Old Testament involved the Hebrew nation and its long awaited and highly anticipated move into the Promised Land.  Instead of crossing over to claim a fertile promise, they chose to hunker down in a dust-choking, water- deprived wilderness.

The dramatic change in the life of this fledgling nation occurred when they listened to the report of 12 spies.  The majority report was given by 10 spies, and this faith-deficient report nullified the needs of the nation.

The minority report was given by Joshua and Caleb. Their vigorous faith painted a different trajectory as they spoke of the vast resources of the Promised Land, and they invited their fellow Hebrews to join them on a journey to the land of milk and honey.

It only takes a casual look into the pages of Scripture to discover several other inflection points:

  • Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Jesus and a monumental movement began that transformed lives.
  • Paul’s weighty epitaph highlighted Demas’ ignoble behavior: Demas has forsaken me, loving the present world more than the one to come.
  • Think of the magnitude of David’s sexual interlude: His decision to peek into the private life of Bathsheba changed the course of many lives; innocent people died, and others suffered consequences that were not of their own making.

When faced with a critical decision, your choices can be evaluated with a few simple questions.  Perhaps David and Demas could have negotiated theirs better, if they had consider their situation in light of these:

  • Will my decision break any laws or violate any principles of Scripture?
  • Will my actions be incongruent with my core values?
  • Am I living in the moment or am I considering the short and long-term consequences of my choices?
  • If my conduct became headline news, would my mother be proud of me?
  • Have I asked for feedback from my mentor and trustworthy friends?

I’ll close with the wise counsel of Solomon:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil (Proverbs 3:5-7).

Putting On A Show

doggyI’m not sure where we had been, but when John Hayden drove up his driveway, his little mutt ran off the porch and begin to bark with the attitude of a junk yard dog.  John looked at me with his characteristic ear to ear grin, and said:  “That’s the best little watchdog I’ve ever had.”

I chuckled, and said: “John, that dog is just putting on a show for you.”   I went on to tell my mentor and friend that his little watchdog never barked or even moved off the front porch when I approached his house.

This incident reminds me of Paul’s instructions in Colossians 3:22: Obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.

The word eyeservice is found only in the King James Version, but I like this unique rendering of Paul’s instructions.  It clearly explains the modus operandi of some people: Some are known as men-pleasers while others are noted for their sincerity of heart.

Sincerity is the ethic that inspired the Apostle Paul, and Philippians 1:21 is the maxim that guided his life:  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Paul lived for Christ because he loved him, and we would do well to accept his challenge to, Be imitators of God as dearly loved children  and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. ~Ephesians 5:1-2

Sand on the Seashore

Sand carver Shanin works on a sculpture during the Sand Sculpture Festival "Disney Sand Magic" in OstendHave you ever wanted to visit Cinderella’s castle, stand side-by-side with Captain America, or get investment advice from the curmudgeonly Scrooge McDuck? If so, you might want to schedule a vacation to Belgium.

Sand sculptor enthusiasts have transformed a beach in Belgium into a giant sand gallery of larger-than-life characters.  Visitors to the beach will see the super heroes and cartoon characters who were part of their childhood fantasies.

The Sand Sculpture Festival of Ostend, Belgium, is scheduled to run until September’ unless, a character flaw is revealed.  Each of these sculptures has an Achille’s heel; they are made of sand, and can easily fall prey to a drenching thunderstorm.

The same is true with anyone who tries to build a life on an unstable foundation.  Are you trying to build on a solid rock or shifting sand? Jesus said: Whoever hears these words of Mine and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain came down. The water came up. The wind blew and hit the house. The house did not fall because it was built on rock.  Whoever hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. ~Matthew 7:24-25

castle

A Penny’s Worth of Effort

1874-indian-head-penny-25-1423485383When I speak of proverbs, I usually think of Solomon as the author; however, there is an old German proverb that offers some wisdom in the area of self-discipline and priorities: Whoever does not respect the penny is not worthy of the dollar.

The essence of this quote seems to be: If you neglect or ignore the small things, you can’t be trusted with larger things. Neglect in one area of your life might be inconsequential if it happens once; however, when a pattern forms, it becomes a habit, and habits are the routines and practices that either confine you or refine you.

Most of us are like a stringed instrument, and we need to be re-tuned from time to time.  The word tune has several meanings:

  • As a noun it means, “a succession of musical sounds forming an air or melody, with or without the harmony accompanying it; a musical setting in four-part harmony; the state of being in the proper pitch.”
  • As a verb it means, “to give forth a musical sound; to be in harmony or accord; become responsive.”

It only takes a small incremental turn of the peg to make a big change in the tightness of a string and a dramatic change in the sound of a violin or guitar.  The same is true with your life—small changes can make a big difference.

To make these changes, I suggest that you:

  • Learn from Santa Claus: Make a list and check it twice. Which of your habits are being naughty or nice to you, and which one help you live in harmony with God?
  • Focus: When you tune a violin or guitar, you don’t turn all of the pegs and adjust all of the strings at once. You focus on one at a time. Instead of trying to develop several new habits and make multiple changes, make them one at a time.
  • Be Discriminate: Eliminate the non-essentials and practice the essentials. The one sucks the blood of life out of you while the other revitalizes you.
  • Learn from the 7 Dwarfs: Whistle while you work, and find some joy in what you’re doing. Be Happy, not Grumpy!
  • Circle the Wagons: When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was Wagon Train. At the end of the day, Ward Bond would instruct the westward bound settlers to “Circle the wagons.”  This provided a circle of safety for the pioneers.  Ward Bond would tell you to “Circle yourself with good friends and people of character.”
  • Learn from David: In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch (Psalm 5:3).” Meet with God daily to pray, and plan for success.

The power of small acts is found in the words of Samuel Smiles:

Sow a thought, and you reap an act;

Sow an act, and you reap a habit;

Sow a habit, and you reap a character;

Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”

~Samuel Smiles

Refocus

blueeyerefocus-e1402765750552One of the great men of the Bible was David, and he reigned as King for over thirty years. His path to the throne wasn’t an easy journey, and his years as a monarch were often times of great difficulty.

One of the more trying moments of his life is recorded in 1 Samuel 30:6: David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters.  But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.

Even though David was greatly distressed, he didn’t allow the trial, the heartache, and the grief to define the rest of his life.  Instead, David strengthened himself in the Lord.

David refocused his emotions, turned his thoughts towards God, and remembered: My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121).

It’s also likely, that David rehearsed the many times that God had intervened in his life:

  • God once delivered him from a lion and a bear
  • God gave him a victory when he faced Goliath in battle and beat him
  • When jealous Saul tried to kill him, God always provided safety.

Today may be one of those days that you’re feeling distressed.  Whatever your Goliath may be, God can bring your giant to his knees.  Find strength in knowing that what God did for David, He can also do for you.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:13

Graduation: Another Step in Life’s Journey

IMG_0133Last week I attended two celebrations that involved two of my grandchildren; one was promoted from 8th grade to begin her high school journey, and the other said goodbye to high school and Gig ‘em as she looks forward to four years at Texas A&M.

While many students were involved in these ceremonies, many more people were assembled in the stadium seats to applaud their accomplishments and to cheer them on as the pursue their dreams. The parents, some teary-eyed, and all proud, were witnesses to the academic successes of their young graduates.

Each family member took on the role of the great cloud of witnesses of Hebrews 12. They can testify of their son’s or daughter’s accomplishments to this point, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. The wise parents will nudge their children forward and remind them that the milestone they have just reached is not the finish line—it is a significant step in the marathon of life.IMG_0106

Most of this year’s high school graduates have expended 6,570 days of an average lifespan that is about 29,200 days long.  There’s not a single one of these grads who has lived their life exactly life one of their peers, and this is because each of them are unique.

The words of  Max Lucado are a fitting conclusion to my thoughts: You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the Earth by the Master Craftsman

Leaders: Some Rise and Some Fall

 

thumbs upIf you take a causal walk down the self-help aisle of most book stores, you find shelves stocked full of books on leadership.  A common principle in many of these books is the need to study the lives of leaders.

To accomplish this, you can thumb through the pages of the Bible where you will discover a long list of leaders.  Some them are polished and practical; others are hopeless and hapless; but, the stories are fair a fair and balanced account that opens the door that reveals the skeletons in their closets.

Two of the better-known leaders are Saul and David.  Saul, the first king of Israel, could whip most anyone, but his ego got the best of him.  Samuel, the priest, issued a stern rebuke and no-holds-barred reprimand to King Saul: Now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee (I Samuel 13:14).

The man after God’s own heart was David, and he knew the key of his strength would be a dependence on God.  David said: You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me (Psalm 31:3).

Like David, we can and should, look to God for strength and guidance:

  • Psalm 5:8: Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before my face.
  • Psalm 25:5: Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.
  • Psalm 23:2-3: He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
  • Psalm 143:10: Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.

When you begin to trust in the goodness of God, you hear the rhythm and cadence of His voice and begin to walk in step with Him—He leads; you follow.

Solomon said, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Are you a King Saul who continually tried to prop himself up with his own wisdom; or, are you a David who found a life of blessings by trusting God and letting Him direct his paths?

Who has your ear? Whose voice are you hearing?  Which path in life are you walking? Are you following God’s lead?

Thoughts About Thinking

Thought-LeadershipSocial media has found an unwelcome guest in the form of fake news.  This strange bedfellow forces us to look beneath the bed sheets to validate the integrity of the stories being told—are they truth’s faithful companion or are they legends and lies?

These media hacks, have honed their presentation skills, and they offer tantalizing tidbits that activate the prey mentality and create a viral feeding frenzy.  The skeptical will deny the veracity of most everything they read, but the gullible will savage every story, hook, line, and sinker, like a hungry bass.

Skewing the facts and twisting the truth was also problem in the days of Isaiah, who said: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20).

Why are people so easily deceived? Leonardo da Vinci may have been a prophet when said the average person looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrance, and talks without thinking.

We can’t afford to be intellectual coach potatoes and allow others to do our thinking for us.  John Ortberg has said: What repeatedly enters your mind and occupies your mind, eventually shapes your mind, and will ultimately express itself in what you do and who you become.

Ortberg’s words are based on the advice of the apostle Paul who instructed people to manage the mental messages that bounce around inside the head.  If we fail to capture and control these thoughts, the mind easily becomes an echo chamber of negativity.

I’ll close with a quote that has been attributed to Frank Outlaw: Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.