Archive for November, 2007

Got Stress?

November 30, 2007

As I was praying this morning, going through my prayer list for people who are really suffering (depression, recent loss of a parent, financial difficulties, unemployment, car accident, marital problems, prison), it suddenly occurred to me that if you are a Christian, you have the ultimate comfort.

This sounds harsh, but it isn’t meant that way: none of this really matters. One day, sooner or later, you will stand before the Lord, all of your problems having been washed away, and you’ll enjoy the bliss of God’s company forever. That’s really tough for some people to find comfort in, but I’ve seen others endure incredible hardship by leaning on that assurance.

There are secular ways to deal with things like this, and they often work: counting your blessings, or focusing on how much better you have it than most people, or thinking of how much worse it could be. But none of them is even close to God’s comfort.

Right now I’m under more stress than at any point in my life. But I feel I’m handling it much better than at times when I had much less stress, but also much less faith. I pray a lot, and read the Bible a lot. If you are facing minor or major problems today, start with few of these verses, and lean on God.

Edge Cases

November 27, 2007

I think we spend a lot of time arguing/thinking/stressing about “edge cases” in our religion. For this discussion I’ll define those as issues that either don’t directly affect us one way or another, are mentioned only briefly (and possibly not very clearly) in the Bible, or are just really complex, with lots to consider on either side. For example:

  • What happens to a pygmy in Africa who never hears of God?
  • Should our church support this or that program with its money?
  • Will Jesus come back to earth physically and rule for 1,000 years?

A friend of mine made an interesting observation the other day: we have plenty to do trying to learn to love our neighbor and while we could, for example, spend hundreds of hours studying Revelation to decide what type of premillinialist we may be, is most of that time better spent understanding the sermon on the mount or the parables of the rich young ruler or the sower?

I’m not saying that anything in the Bible is unimportant – in fact I believe every word is there for a reason. But unless we are full time monks we only have a certain amount of time, energy, and attention. For example, if God thinks that loving each other is so important that he devoted paragraphs and paragraphs to it across several different books in the Bible, maybe that’s something I should really try to do well before I spend 300 hours researching whether men are permitted to have long hair.

Think about what edge case may be distracting you, and contrast that with how well you did loving your neighbor today.

Elder Care

November 16, 2007

This may seem an odd post for me, considering that I know close to zero about this. However, my friend Cara Mason recently left Conditioned Air to focus on one of her true passions in life – being an elder care giver.

This is such an important service – and from what I can tell it is hard to find people who will love (not just care for) your relatives who need this. So please help spread the word about Cara and what she’s doing.

The C.S. Lewis Institute

November 11, 2007

For all you C. S. Lewis fans: The C.S. Lewis Institute

Naturally this is a good time to mention one my favorite books

Teeny Tiny Changes

November 7, 2007

One of the biggest problems we face in trying to improve ourselves is that we want big changes, and we want them now! Whether it is losing weight or learning something new – whatever your goal – it is hard to keep doing the things that will eventually get us to our goal. The feedback loop is just too long for us to gut through.

The only way to do this is to have a goal clearly in mind (I’m going to lose 20 pounds), decide on the things that will get you there (cut back on the 800 calorie desserts, exercise 3 times per week, etc.), understand that if you do those things consistently and for enough time, you’ll eventually get there – then don’t give up. You probably won’t see a difference the first week. Only a slight one the second week, etc. But if you have faith that you are right about the things that will get you there, you just have to “turn the handle”.

The problem is that turning the handle is really hard. We don’t see results quickly enough and we get discouraged and give up. We often sabotage our efforts with negative thinking, and really, just don’t believe we can do it.

Henry Ford said “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right” and I believe that to the very core of my being. If you will combine that belief with the Japanese proverb “Fall seven times, stand up eight” you will lose the weight, learn the subject, or achieve any goal.

You have to know that the feedback loop is there, that you’ll eventually get to the point where you see the changes your efforts have produced, and then it will get a bit easier. But until then, you have to have faith in yourself, faith in your plan, and believe that if you keep pushing, the results will come.

Persistence

November 4, 2007

I’m a big fan of persistence. I think it is the ultimate power tool. With it you can conquer the world! Before its wrath, obstacles are blown away, problems fall by the wayside, setbacks are scoffed at. Whatever you are trying to accomplish, persistence wins.

So many people give up just before they turn the corner. If they could just see through the clouds, they’d see success.

Here are some of my favorite quotes on persistence:

  • Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in. – Bill Bradley
  • Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. – Napoleon Hill
  • Energy and persistence conquer all things. – Ben Franklin
  • Persistence is what makes the impossible possible, the possible likely, and the likely definite. – Robert Half
  • Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance. – Samual Johnson
  • Fall seven times, stand up eight. – Japanese proverb
  • When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stone-cutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it would split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before together. – Jacob A. Riis, journalist and social reformer (1849-1914)
  • Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. – Calvin Coolidge
  • It is the `follow through’ that makes the great difference between ultimate success and failure, because it is so easy to stop. – Charles F. Kettering

Marriage Conference

November 4, 2007

Gail and I attended a 5-hour marriage conference at Asbury United Methodist Church yesterday. It was called “Marriage, A Great Adventure” and subtitled “For anyone who is interested in applying biblical principles to help strengthen every marriage covenant to reveal the glory of God.” It was created by Asbury and was just wonderful.

Few of us do enough things like this. A friend of ours (thanks Tish!) emailed me the info a few weeks ago – she & Tom were going and wondered if we’d be interested. My first thoughts were: I don’t have time for that. Hey, I’m busy. Gail’s busy. Where would Will stay? I’ve got work to do you know!

I forwarded the email to Gail who responded in like manner: “It being on a Saturday is the pits…however, if you want to go, sign us up.” We both thought that if Tom & Tish were going, we’d at least be able to sit by someone we knew.

So we decided to go…and had a wonderful time. We sat with some old friends we hadn’t seen in years (hi Jeff & Mary!), learned a ton of what the Bible has to say about marriage, and got closer as a couple. We are going to go back through our notes together, read the scriptures, and make sure we’re following God’s word in our marriage.

Two things come to mind:

1) Much of what we learned we already knew but weren’t applying as well as we’d like – as Dr. Johnson said (quoted by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity): “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”

2) We will resist almost any form self-improvement at first. You don’t have time to read that book. You’d rather listen to music in your car than the audio book. You’ve got things to do the day of that seminar. You know you’ve got a great marriage and don’t need anyone’s advice. You have to find a way to occasionally break through the excuses and just get started. It turns out that Tom had asked Tish to see if we were interested, and then he’d go – so we had both used each other to justify going – that’s OK – whatever gets you there.