Friday, April 04, 2008

Packing For Another Place

I'm just rambling a bit this morning, sipping my coffee ... Like most sane people I want to live well, but I'm kinda slow. (I suck at the simple stuff!) Living life well can seem as futile as trying to get a better grip on the wind?! Once we get a grip, our grip slips! That’s why I’m starting to say, “Rod, hold your dreams lightly, hold your hopes tightly.” Sound upside down? I don’t think so. How many of you really ended up at the destination you thought you’d find when you began your adult trek?! I’m not saying we should stop aiming at dreams, goals, making plans and future stuff - just that we need to aim at the really important stuff - and maybe it's different than we we've been forced to swallow??

I’m going to keep dreaming, but at this point I’m holding my earthly dreams more lightly, learning (as in, on-going-not-there-yet-know-very-little) to submit to God first. I’m not sure I know the difference between a dream and vision until I wake up anyway?

If I'm really awake, living life well must mean to live in consideration of a life that exists beyond the present; a life lived aiming at eternity. Though life is very rewarding, most sane carbon units recognize that planted within them are the fingerprints of a life in another realm. Can't you almost smell it?! We may not be able to explain it fully, but neither can we deny it. So then, squeezing every drop of truth out of every experience in this realm, whether good or bad, fun or not, should be the preoccupation of the sane, right? Why? Because we're packing for another place! This is my journey of course, but I process better "out loud" So I'm just sharing the oars as we paddle along together.

Some form of learning is important if we're interested in a life well lived, and in most cases I learn more from stooping than standing! (Blog, April 1) The path to that higher aim comes by a different route than I was taught to expect. So, living life well Hmm... I'm starting to think that success means something much different than I was taught, and that the measurements I learned to evaluate with must change. In the mean time, I'm still sniffing for the fragrance of another realm. I think a life well lived is one spent sniffing for the scent of heaven in every experience, good or bad, happy or sad, fun, or none? Here's to packing for another place...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Beauty in Failure

This has been a busy season for me. I have a large family. I’m part of a group of tribes for which I feel responsible, and which require much of my organizational oversight. Honestly, this is a season of soul-jarring circumstance. I’m also easily distracted. I’ve needed to process badly, but had precious little time to reflect without feeling the pressure of running after the next screaming voice in my head.

Seasons…sitting at Starbucks lusting for my motorcycle, when my son just text me on his way to work and said, “Watch for ice! It’s crazy out here!” It’s April for crying out loud! And winter is still hanging around! Yesterday was Opening Day for the Mariners, and its 32 degrees outside! Some seasons just suck! They seem to stay too long and return too soon. Seasons are unpredictable even for well paid meteorologists on KOMO. Spring, get down here! Apparently, something has to come into alignment above me before Ms. Winter goes away for another year.

Maybe this is a metaphor for how life seems to work. I long for another season, but something has to align above me before this particular “winter” goes away. Something has to change above me. I’m starting to see that change only happens when lessons are learned and choices are made.

Looking in my own rearview mirror, I see that very little actually changed until I learned certain lessons I needed for the next “season.” I need to learn to embrace the beauty in failure. I want to succeed. I love to succeed! But I learn almost nothing through success. I enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done, people served, and progress made. But I learn the most lasting lessons through failure. Really, ask yourself what you’ve learned though success? Ask yourself, “When I was successful at … or in … what did I REALLY learn from it?” For me, satisfaction is a gift; pain a mentor. Pleasure is a blessing, but not a teacher.

Now maybe I’m a sicko, but there is beauty in failure because it takes me back to humility. It shows my brokenness. Failure exposes the weakness in my character, shows me that my insight is dim, and displays my shallow wisdom. Failure asks me for reflection and requires my feedback. Failure demands evaluation. Failure is patient for a response.

We look for the beauty in life, as we should. We long for the blessings of life, as we should. But if we’re honest, we must also face the brokenness of life. I have to grapple with the lessons of failure. If we care to open it, history shows that most leaders became effective only after some great failure from which they recovered and from there, discovered how to succeed. Success is good. Achievement can be advantageous. But to get there, failure may be the best teacher.

I have a good friend who has experienced much pain in life - much from others and some from his own reactions and poor choices. The good news is that he’s very tenacious. He’s learning much and deciding not to give up. In some ways his progress is heroic. He’s not afraid of pain. He’s afraid he won’t learn what he needs to through his pain. I’ve watched him, and walked with him for the last ten years. We’ve decided that there is good pain and bad pain. Good pain is when a person squeezes all the truth out of pain so he or she doesn’t have to continually experience it. Bad pain is when pain continually comes, yet I still refuse to change. That kind of pain - to change the lyrics of a song slightly - is like “living in last night’s nightmare.” That’s a dark season.

A mentor of mine used to remind me from time to time, that “nothing changes until something changes.” And about the time I was ready to say, “DUH!” He continued… “Nothing changes until something changes, and nothing changes until a decision is made.” I’m tired of this particular winter season. Something’s got to change above me. I’ll be back … I’ve got some decisions to make.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Humility; Lesson One

Most journeys begin with little thought given to what we may learn along the way. Only recently, I’ve begun to learn by seeing backwards. Just like the windshield is filled with opportunities, so the rear view mirror is filled with lessons if we care to glance back. This will help us do life well.

Jesus wants us to learn to do life well. “I have come to give you life and that more abundantly …” (John 10:10). The beauty of the destination makes the journey critically important. A few personal lessons have come to my attention of late, along the journey and for the journey. These are important to me.

Lesson one: If I think I’m humble, I only think I’m humble. Being my slow self, one day it dawned on me that humility is one of those quiet virtues. I noticed that humble people never think they are humble. Then it became obvious: thinking one is humble cancels the whole concept! Broadly speaking, humility can be defined as a proper view of oneself, others and God. Developing such views truly takes a lifetime. Taken more narrowly, to be humble is being prone to modesty and deference rather than arrogance and pretentious. Humility is the absolute antithesis of pride. In fact it carries the connotation of abasement. Jesus’ call even more stark in it’s implications when viewed from this angle!

Just this morning I got a personal example to keep my in pursuit of the difficult blessing of humility. At Starbucks I noticed a man of different race than myself. He was obviously trying very hard to keep to himself and he was reading a Gideon Bible. He was reading quietly out loud and had an old tattered dictionary lying next to him that he would occasionally consult. He had no cup of coffee and as I always have mine, I had one of those feelings that it would be nice of me to offer to buy him one, and hoped that this would give me a chance to maybe interact with him about his Bible reading. So, after putting myself through a mini-test about the reasons I would not do such a thing, I approached the man and asked if I could interrupt him. Immediately he said, “No!” He didn’t say it overly loud as if to make a scene, but there was something in his eyes that looked like fear and finality. I then asked if I could simply buy him a cup of coffee. He just added another word to the one he already used then turned away, “No thank you.”

Now, you probably had to be there to get the sense of it all. Describing his expression and response is very difficult. I almost ‘felt lead’ to approach him, and then very definitely felt rejected by his terse rebuff. I was humbled, actually a bit humiliated standing there like a dope when all I could muster was a polite, “OK.” Maybe my feelings came as I began evaluating my motives. Maybe it was because of my own ‘need’ to be helpful(?) Whatever was he afraid of? Certainly I will never know. Who would turn down a cup of coffee from a normal looking guy who was trying to be polite? Maybe a black man who has learned not to trust white men? Maybe a person who couldn’t be handled like a charity case one more time? Maybe a shy person, who simply didn’t want any interaction, and didn’t like coffee? Whatever the case, I cannot know. The ‘not knowing’ is still bugging me …

As I got into my car I considered two questions: why did I think I could help, or think he wanted or needed my input in the first place? Was it my pride? And then, why did I feel so terribly uncomfortable after such a brief encounter? Probably pride. Then a third question entered my head: why would anyone ever actually pursue such a virtue as humility?! Maybe humility is one of those virtues that just happens to a person? Is it possible that instead of pursuing it, we are just to accept it? Is this the unseen process of Christ-likeness that begins before one leaves the planet? What is Christ-likeness anyway if one is not rejected, humiliated, and rebuffed? Hmmm…

Like the rest of ME, my education is a work in progress. So I’m not implying that practicing humility is wrong. But to my way of thinking, to begin to think one is humble is pride all over again. Humility is Lesson One.

Monday, January 07, 2008


I am not in the habit of making New Year's Resolutions, thinking in my pride that any day of any year is a good day to resolve to change something. If I am honest, I must admit to possessing the fear that once resolved, such resolutions will only serve to be a dissapointment because of my largely undisciplined life.

However, in thinking about how things really change in the human heart, such change only happens by the full surrender of the saint to the Christ-life, through which the Spirit of God is called and somehow enabled to work. In truth, any santifying work is HIS. As Andrew Murray wrote years ago, (9 May 1828-18 January 1917)absolute surrender is not only desired and required of a Holy God, but also, it is the thing to which God has committed Himself in the life of every saint who makes such a resolution with a "believing heart and a faltering will." This resolution to surrender the best we can each and every day, seems the very thing that 'attracts' the absurd grace of God to work in that humility and enable such surrender.

One example of such a man is Johnathon Edwards, whose resolutions are convicting in scope and attainment. We have the record of his life and can varify that God indeed worked by His Spirit in those resolutions. It may be instructive and motivating for you to review them, as it is to me, though overwhelming in scope! If one could only achieve a small portion of this exhaustive list! One step at a time ...

Oh God forgive me for my trivial goals!!

THE RESOLUTIONS of Jonathan Edwards


Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God' s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.
2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.
3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.
4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.
5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. July 30.
9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.
12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.
13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.
14. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge.
15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.
16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
17. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
18. Resolved, to live so, at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.
19. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.
20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance, in eating and drinking.
21. Resolved, never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him. (Resolutions 1 through 21 written in one setting in New Haven in 1722)
22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.
23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God' s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.
24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.
26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.
27. Resolved, never willfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.
28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.
30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.
31. Resolved, never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.
32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Proverbs 20:6,‹A faithful man who can find?Š may not be partly fulfilled in me.
33. Resolved, to do always, what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without overbalancing detriment in other respects. Dec. 26, 1722.
34. Resolved, in narrations never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.
35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.
36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. Dec. 19, 1722.
37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,- what sin I have committed,-and wherein I have denied myself;-also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.
38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord' s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.
39. Resolved, never to do any thing of which I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.
40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.
41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.
42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.
43. Resolved, never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God' s; agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12, 1723.
44. Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. January 12, 1723.
45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan. 12 and 13, 1723.
46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye: and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.
47. Resolved, to endeavor, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving and sincere temper; and to do at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5, 1723.
48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.
49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.
50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.
51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.
52. I frequently hear persons in old age, say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.
53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.
54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it. July 8, 1723.
55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if, I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.
56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it, and let the event be just as providence orders it. I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty, and my sin. June 9, and July 13 1723.
58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May 27, and July 13, 1723.
59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July 11, and July 13.
60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.
61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.
62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty, and then according to Ephesians 6:6-8, to do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man:‹knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.Š June 25 and July 13, 1723.
63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. January 14 and July 13, 1723.
64. Resolved, when I find those ‹groanings which cannot be utteredŠ (Romans 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those‹breakings of soul for the longing it hath,Š of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and August 10, 1723.
65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness, of which I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton' s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.
66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.
67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what am I the better for them, and what I might have got by them.
68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.
69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. August 11, 1723.
70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak. August 17, 1723.