Archive for June, 2008

Paul’s Eyes

June 28, 2008

We can only know what we can know, and we have to be satisfied that we can’t know more than that. My particular engineering-type personality doesn’t like that. I want to know everything; I want to be certain of everything. But I can’t be. I’ve come to accept that for the most part, and that sometimes makes it hard not to be annoyed by people who haven’t.

You see, some things are clearly spelled out in the Bible, and we can safely decide that they are true. Some things are less clear, and while they may be true, the Bible doesn’t give us enough information to know for sure. Take the following passage:

Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. – Galatians 4:12-15, ESV

Paul seemed to have some sort of physical ailment (“…a thorn was given me in the flesh…” – 2 Cor 12:7) and people have theorized that he had a problem with his eyes based on the verse above and a few other phrases in the epistles such as “See with what large letters I am writing to you…” – Galatians 6:12).

Now that may very well be what those verses mean. My point is that we can’t be sure.

And left alone, that’s well and good. Does it really matter whether Paul had poor eyesight or gout or heartburn? I don’t think so. What I think we want to avoid is this:

We pick something like this, decide it is a fact, then base further assumptions on that, often not stopping until we’ve “proven” something to be true. Unfortunately that “proof” is based on a series of assumptions, none of which are certain. My wife’s grandmother (Jane Hale) used to warn that you could prove anything by the Bible, and I think by this reasoning she was right.

So be careful to distinguish between what is true and what may be true. What’s our best defense against this? In my opinion it is reading and studying the whole Bible over and over, in many different ways (and it doesn’t hurt to use different translations from time to time). Look for the overall message and for how the pieces fit together. If you believe Matthew 7:7 is true, we’ll understand in the end.

Single Handling Tasks

June 20, 2008

The other day I received an email from someone at work with a problem for me to address. I opened it and saw what it was and decided it was too complex for me to easily solve right now, so I replied that I’d take a look at it soon and started to move on. Then I remembered something I’ve heard Brian Tracy mention many times: practice single-handling tasks.

You see, it wasn’t that I couldn’t do anything on this task right now, it was that I didn’t want to! It wasn’t going to be straightforward, and was going to require some thought, and some coordination with other people, and who has the energy for all that right now?

But here’s the problem: every time you open that email or pick up that paper you have to spend time coming up to speed on what it says. You have to switch everything out of your mind and put this task back into it. If you do like I’ve often done and open it 3 or 4 or 10 times before you eventually do something with it you can sometimes spend as much time trying to get started as actually doing it!

So what did I do with that email? I opened it right back up and handled it. I spent the time to think about what was required, and emailed the people from whom I needed input, and made some notes, and basically took it as far as I could at that point. Then I was able to archive that email – it wasn’t sitting there in my inbox waiting for me to open it over and over, causing me never-ending stress.

Persistence

June 17, 2008

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

Being in Awe of God

June 14, 2008

I listened to a sermon recently about how to have a better prayer life and one thing I heard that really stayed with me was how we often fail to appreciate the magnitude of God and the reverence that appreciation should generate. He compared praying and attending church to visiting the President – would we wear old clothes, take cell phone calls during dinner, or otherwise be disrespectful? Of course not, a visit like that would be a once-in-a-lifetime honor for most of us.

If that’s how we’d feel about a meeting with the President, how should we feel about a meeting (prayer, church) with the creator of the universe?

I hadn’t thought about it that way, but that really stuck in my mind, and I’ve decided that I need to show more awe toward God.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

June 6, 2008

“If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then also there is no need to worry.” – Dalai Lama

I’ve had this posted on the wall of my office for a long time. I think about it often, and if you know me very well I’ve probably told you about it at one point or another.

I think this is one of the most valuable pieces of advice anyone could ever get, and I try to live by it. Is it hard to implement? Oh yeah, definitely. But is it possible?

I believe so. And the upside is tremendous!

Like anything else, the first step in implementing it is to think about it. When you find yourself stressing about something, examine it and ask yourself which of the two of the Dalai Lama’s categories it fits into, and then decide whether you need to worry!

I’m only being partly facetious – the more you try to do this, the better your results will be. Practice makes perfect (well, if not perfect, at least mostly worry free).

One final thing: I’ve had friends point out that they know there is something they can do about their situation, but they don’t, and so they just worry (or worry about why they aren’t doing it). All I can say is that if your problem is that you know what you need to do, but can’t get yourself to do it…well, that’s a topic for another day…