Three R’s to Takeaway from the Easter Story

easter-calendar-cross_full_widthThis very day is my favorite of the year.  This day means three things to me that have shaped me from the inside out.

Resurrection:  Death has been defeated.  If death can be defeated what else in the universe can limit me?  If I believe in the resurrection, what do I have to fear?

Redemption:  I am forever redeemed from every bad choice, stupid mistake, and failure of will in my past or in my future.  I am clean, not by my own effort but by the removal of my sin and shame by the only One with the power to do so once and for all, with the final words: “It is finished.”

Rejoicing:  No matter what life and this world may throw at me from this point on, nothing can steal the joy that the dawn of that morning in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago has placed in my heart.  The empty grave forever filled my soul with “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

Winners Plan, Planners Win!

Do you want to win?  You better learn how to plan!  Almost nobody wanders into success.  Success in any arena takes intentionality. A successful life requires intentionality across all dimensions of life.  Zig Ziglar summed these up as the seven spokes in the “Wheel of Life:”

  • Career
  • Social
  • Financial
  • Family
  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

In order to have the type of life we all dream of having we need to plan first to have time to devote to all seven dimensions, and then have a plan in each of these arenas, both short-term, and long-term, if you really expect to achieve results in each area.

Finally, you must realize that a plan is only a plan, subject to change.  A friend of mine who has retired from a distinguished military career including combat command says the army has a saying about this reality:

Fight the Enemy, Not the Plan!

We have to realize that no matter how in-depth and detailed our planning is, that when we go to execute on the plan, things change.  The enemy defies our expectations, unforeseen external forces come into play, we forgot to contemplate a variable altogether…  What do we do at that point?  If you want to win, you cannot run, you cannot wave the white flag…  We have to adjust the plan and press forward to our objective, even if that means a temporary retreat to re-engage under better circumstances.  Just because you made a plan, don’t be married to it!  You did not take a vow to serve the plan “til death do you part.”

With the liberating thought that plans are made to be changed, let me throw out a few challenges for planning across the dimensions of the wheel of life:

  • Career-  How are you doing on executing this year’s plan in your current career role?  Do you know your next step for promotion at your current employer, or advancement by moving on to another?  If you are an entrepreneur, what will take your company to the next level?
  • Social- Who are you planning on having over for dinner in the next month?  What are you doing to create or tie into a network of friends that you can enjoy life with when your kids have flown the coop?
  • Financial- How are you doing at living within your budget this month?  Does every dollar have a name?  Are you telling your money where to go before the month begins, or wondering where it went when the month is through?  What is your number to reach financial independence so you can literally do whatever you want to do for the rest of your life?  How long until you get to that number?
  • Family- Do you have time set aside on your calendar each day to connect with your spouse?  Do you have a weekly date night?  How about a night for a family devotion with the kids?
  • Physical- How many calories can you consume and maintain your weight, or how many do you need to cut to get to where you want to be.  What will you eat today to reach that amount?  How much will you need to exercise if you eat that Krispy Kreme?  Is there time on your calendar set aside for exercise?  Could you maybe combine that with time with your spouse, or time to pursue intellectual pursuits with audible books or podcasts?
  • Mental- What are you doing to expand your knowledge in your specific career track.  Who are you reading or listening to in order to become a better leader, better spouse, better father, better person?  Can you make use of that awful highway commute by tapping into the information superhighway?  Can you listen to podcasts on your commute, your run, or on the elliptical?
  • Spiritual- Do you have time on your calendar each day to pray and meditate?  Could you turn your car into your prayer closet?  Is there a group of like-minded people at your work place who might like to study scripture or a book exploring scripture, together.  What are you doing today to answer the most important question in life?  When you stand before the maker of the universe and he asks, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”

The biggest part of successful planning is committing to do it.  If you want success in an area of life that you are not winning in today, MAKE A PLAN!

Relationships on the Run lead to Ruin!

I heard the statement above on a podcast recently and, being the 3R’s of Success guy, it really resonated with me.  After all, look at the three R’s… I love it!  Beyond that alliteration, however, it highlighted some issues we all battle in our family life, career life, church life, any aspect of life, really.  It highlights two truths central to whether or not we will enjoy Success:

Truth #1 – Relationships Take Quality Time!

This is a tough pill to swallow in our microwave culture, but the reality is that without investing quality time in your relationships, they will be weak.  Relationships are fragile. When they are new, they must be tenderly nurtured, like an infant. When they are in their prime they must be fought for and courted like a lover.  When they are mature they must be savored for the true gift they are, because we never know how much longer we will have them.

This is true for our relationships with our spouses, or kids, our co-workers, God and those we seek to serve.  Relationships have a life of their own.  When two people have a relationship it is almost as though they have created a unique third entity that only they have the power to make strong, or to kill.  Their choices to pour into it, starve it, kill or maim it have consequences for the relationship, and the loss of these entities can cause grief and sorrow as much as the death of family member.

Truth #2 – Relationships are the MOST Important Things in Life!

If you believe Truth #1 and you want to have joy, peace, success and happiness in life, you have to put time and effort into the relationships that are the most important to you.  Zig Ziglar often said: “You can have everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

What is it you want?

Fame?  You cannot be admired without relationships.

Fortune? Without relationships what is fortune?  If you have no one to share the things you have and the amazing experiences wealth can afford, would it bring you joy?  To answer that question, picture a man who has every material luxury money could buy or that one could imagine, but they were all on a deserted continent without another living being…  Would the wealth still have meaning?

Purpose?  We already have our answer to this in the book of Genesis.  Adam had been created by God with a purpose, and he was fulfilling that purpose, tending to the Garden of Eden, and he had fellowship with God, but yet God concluded, “It is not good for man to be alone.” and He created Eve.  Clearly we are designed to have relationships with other humans.

Whatever it is that you define as success will only happen if you invest time and energy into the relationships that matter most to that success.  If you want to succeed in you career, pour into your team, and support the mission of your employer for the good of your customers.  If family is important to you, spend quality time with them, love them well, put their needs above your wants.  If serving your community is important, know that you cannot just go through the motions.  Life is messy, and you will have to get dirty to help others dig out of their problems.

Lastly, know that you cannot do everything.  You are not God!  You are finite and your time is finite, so you will have to prioritize what it is you are meant to do, and put it first on the list.  How do you know what your priorities should be?  My advice would be found in Matthew 6:33.  If that does not ring true for you, I probably am the wrong person for you to ask…

Rip Van Winkle- 2015

Imagine the well-known tale of Rip Van Winkle revisited this New Year.  The protagonist of our story, Rip, having gone on a weekend excursion into the Catskills as part of a team building exercise for the hospital leadership team he had just been promoted into six months earlier from his Radiology Technologist position, decides to take a nap after the team finishes 4 hours on the ropes course.  It is Spring, 1995.

WAKE-UP CALL

He awakens in his well-appointed cabin to find it covered in dust and cobwebs.  He stumbles out of bed and out of the cabin to find the entire property abandoned and in disrepair.  Confused he eventually hikes out to the main road and eventually flags down a car with a very nice young couple and asks for a ride back to the city.

During the course of the ride, Rip cannot help but notice the technology in this car is simply remarkable!  There is a car phone that plays through the radio, and the dashboard looks like something out of a Star Trek, Next Generation episode.  There is a computerized Navigation system displayed on the dashboard that the couple accessed and manipulated by voice commands to input Rips home address.  He expressed his awe at these devices and the couple laughed at him as if he was joking.

As they travelled the wife pulled out an 8 x 11 device that looked like a laptop, but had no keyboard and started watching a TV news program on FOX news.  Rip saw no cords, no antennas, and was so intrigued that he leaned forward from the backseat and started watching and was completely confused as the broadcasters were discussing next steps that President Obama would be pushing for to assure that “Obamacare” would not be undone by the new Republican controlled Congress and Senate!  President who?  Obama what?

Over the course of the next two hours he sat silent and mystified as he continued to watch news story after news story that made sense only by matching it with the date at the bottom of the TV screen.  April 1, 2015.  He did not know how it was possible, but either he was going mad, was currently dreaming and unable to wake himself, or he had slept away 20 years of his life?  He thought about opening discussion with the couple, but thought better of it realizing that people do not react well to having mad men in the backseat of their cars.

You can imagine the rest of the story.  The couple dropped Rip off outside his home in the suburbs of the city, and he found the house and surrounding neighborhood to be 20 years older.  Not surprisingly, his family no longer resided at the location.  He walked a couple of miles to the local library, which was still there.  After an hour or so of coaching from a young, pleasant librarian on how to research using Google, Rip sat mesmerized as he, in 3 short hours, was able to find out almost everything that had happened to his wife, son and daughter over the last 20 years.  He wept as he read of his wife’s fatal car crash 8 years earlier, then again when he found his now 32-year-old daughter’s wedding notice two years later, and his son’s, now 30, licensure as a Medical Doctor in Radiology.

15 MINUTES OF FAME

The next few months were nothing short of fantastic.  Reuniting with his son and daughter, DNA testing, and cellular analysis confirming that Rip was who he said he was, and that his body had somehow escaped aging over the last twenty years.  Speculations ranging from alien abductions, to stasis, to wormhole time travel, to cloning all were debated on CNN and Fox News!  Rip declined the Reality series, Biography and Lifetime movie offers that would have made him a very rich man.

Within a couple of years, Rip’s life settled into a new normal, working again as a Radiology tech.  Digital X-ray was not that difficult to learn, and he really had no interest in 360 slice CT’s, 3T MRI’s, 3D Hybrid OR Angiography Suites that had become the rage in his chosen career field.  People still broke wrists and needed x-rays.  He still had meaningful work.

Over time he was able to establish a relationship with his children, and later grandchildren and that brought him joy to offset the sorrow of the loss of his beloved wife and his former life.  All in all, he considered himself blessed for the strange life he had been appointed to live.

MORAL OF THE STORY

The thought occurred to Rip one day, that many of his peers went through their lives as asleep as he was.  Missing the important time with family as their kids grew up, some losing spouses as well from death or divorce.  At least he had a wake-up call that allowed him to change the rest of his life around what was truly important.

 

If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy (Work/Life Balance)

I woke up early today thinking about my Mom.  It is Mother’s Day after all, and I cannot just pick-up the phone and call her.  She has left this world and is waiting for me in eternity, a surety I have because of her prayers and parenting.  This post is meant to honor her, and all Mom’s by reminding us to “put first things first!,” as she used to tell me.

I believe that the following four priorities serve as the boundary markers of one’s life.  The fences, if you will, not only to keep us from straying, but to protect us from the very real dangers that would seek to steal, kill and destroy.  They are in no particular order, as I believe those arguments tear people apart, dependent upon ideologies.  I have varied from time to time on my opinion of the order.  Ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that if I keep all four of these points within my vision, I will be safe and sound.

  • Home-front:  Family and friends are the richest blessings in life.  They are the reason we work so hard.  We want to provide them everything they need, most of what they want, and a future better than our past.  This is a worthy ambition.  As we go about that endeavor, however, we should never, ever forget; what they need most is us, what they want most is our time, and a future with them depends on a present where we invest in those relationships.
  • Health:  This item is not always in our control.  Many people do all the right things and have trials brought on them through no fault of their own.  That being said, every healthy habit we take part in, and every unhealthy habit we desist, increase the odds that we will live a longer and happy life.  We should, at least, play the odds.
  • Happiness:  The world around us is filled with magnificent wonder!  We should enjoy it!  Let’s have some FUN!  Whatever that means to us, we need to incorporate fun in our lives.  We were created to be happy. When we read of the Garden of Eden, or of heaven, do we see any glimpses of stress, sorrow, heartbreak?  No!  Those things are all brought into this world by evil!  Punch evil in the nose by living out the happiness God intended for us to have.  Will we be successful 100% of the time?  Absolutely not.  We live in a fallen world with sin, sickness, sorrow, and death.  We were not, however, destined to that reality for eternity.  Do NOT embrace death, rather, embrace life.
  • Hereafter:  One of the best pieces of advice came from the late Stephen Covey when he said, “Begin with the end in mind.”  That piece of advice helps us all look past our current trials, obstacles, and problems by lifting our eyes to the destination.  Failing to remember that advice is like a man walking home through a dense forest, concentrating on avoiding the briars, pitfalls, snakes, and lions, but failing to check his compass.  After a long and arduous trek he could look up and find himself even further from home than when he started.

So, as I finish this Mother’s Day post, I believe my Mother is smiling.  Go out of your way today to make Mom happy.  We all know that making Mom happy usually leads down the path to a happy, healthy, forever home.

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!