Happy Monday

Happy Monday – Lighter fare in the form of great quotes on life, great illustrations, humor, and occasionally, art.

“I know every day is a gift, but where’s the receipt for Mondays? I want to exchange it for another Friday.”

“Monday, Monday. Can’t trust that day.”  -The Mamas & The Papas

“Oh! Yeah I have to go to work on Mondays and yes everyone hates Mondays. But i look at it a little differently. I don’t have to work, I GET to work. I am blessed to have a job while many don’t have one.  -Dinky Manuel


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Part 2 of the series, “How Shall I Then Live?”

To become a US Navy SEAL, one must undergo such rigorous training and screening that the majority never complete the process.  If one can survive to the end without quitting or being carried off, that person is a Navy SEAL.  There’s one part of the process called “drown-proofing,” in which the instructors bind the hands behind the back, tie the feet together, and dump the person into a 9-foot-deep pool.  The mission is to survive until the end of the exercise.

Most cadets who attempt drown-proofing fail. Upon being tossed into the water, many panic and scream to be lifted back out. Others struggle until they slip underwater, lose consciousness, and are rescued.  Some must be resuscitated.

Yet some trainees make it. They do so because they understand an important yet counter-intuitive lesson: the more one struggles to keep one’s head above water, the more likely one is to sink.  With the arms and legs bound, it’s impossible to stay at the surface for long.  Attempts to keep afloat will only lead to sinking faster. The trick is to stop struggling, let go of the will to fight this out, and relax.  One must simply sink to the bottom of the pool. Once at the bottom, a firm push off the pool floor regains the surface. There one quickly grabs a quick breath of air and starts the whole process over again.

Surviving drown-proofing requires no superhuman strength or endurance, or even knowing how to swim (although swimming is critical for other parts of the training). Instead, it requires the ability to not swim. Instead of resisting the physics that will soon kill, the survivor must surrender to them and use them to save his or her own life.  The more one panics or struggles, the more likely one is to deplete the body’s oxygen, fall unconscious and perhaps drown. The survival instinct is turned against the one who would survive.  The more intense the desire to breathe, the less one will be able to breathe. The more intense the will to live, the greater the chance of dying.

In the last post on this topic, I identified a consuming love for our God as the greatest priority in life, and as the means to illuminate the path to true discipleship. This illustration of “drown-proofing” illustrates the second most important priority by which a true new covenant disciple must live every day:  to be crucified to oneself in thinking and living (see Luke 9:23-24 and Galatians 2:20). Jesus stated in no uncertain terms that if any person would follow Him – be a disciple – that person must deny themselves and take up the cross of death to all that is of the self.  See prior posts on this topic.

Jesus did not instruct us to strive to be crucified, for to strive is to rely on the self, the flesh, the ego.  We cannot crucify ourselves; we can only submit to the process, presenting ourselves to our God for His crucifying work.  Like stopping the struggle and yielding to the drown-proofing challenge, one must crucify the self by letting go, ceasing the striving against self.  The crucified life is letting God kill the self, yielded in quiet trust and submission.  No wiggling and squirming.  No negotiating or seeking to retain some control.  Relinquishing the self every day, sinking in humble submission, pushing off the bottom and into the oxygen of the Holy Spirit’s life inside.

There is a third important priority for effective new covenant living that will illuminate life as true disciples of Jesus.  That is to live one’s life out of a united heart (Psalm 86:10).  There is no division in the life a true disciple; life is unified in terms of focus, purpose, practice, and chronology.  There is one focus in life to the exclusion of all others – it is God.  There is one purpose in life to the exclusion of all others – love and worship for Him from one’s entire being.  There is one practice in life that overrules and controls all other practices – to be crucified in thinking and living.  There is only one chronological framework now –eternal life, which has already started and is lived daily here on earth.

The life of the disciple is truly only possible when it is lived not by the person but by the Holy Spirit who lives in the disciple. To abide any priority that exceeds these priorities – loving God above all loves, denying self and dying to the self in all areas of living, and living an undivided life united by the Holy Spirit within – is to live an un-discipled life.  In light of the salvation we have in Christ and the Holy Spirit alive within, this un-discipled life would be functionally godless living.

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”  – Jesus Christ, as quoted in Matthew 10:37-39

How Shall I Then Live?

There are two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way.  The older fish nods at them and asks “How’s the water?” The two young fish say nothing, and swim on for a bit. Eventually, one of them looks over at the other and asks, “What the heck is water?”

How much are we like the two young fish in this story? We live every day in a context, and one of the most pervasive features of a context is its invisibility to most of those living in it.  We tend to be profoundly unaware of the nature of our environment, be it good, bad, or most likely, both.

Lao Tzu stated, “To know others is wisdom; to know oneself is enlightenment.”  Certainly, the ability to self-reflect accurately, often called “insight,” and adjust one’s thinking and behavior appropriately is enlightening. There is great freedom in using accurate insight to index one’s behavior to the current environment, for this is how we come to live and move with greatest positive effect. To gain the greatest enlightenment and positive effect from self-reflection, one must understand the environment, the context for behavior.  To use the parable of the fish, one must be aware of and paying attention to the “water.”  If we are not accurately aware of the environment – the water in which we swim –the enlightenment of self-reflection will be of limited effect and dubious value.  One might say that to know oneself is potential enlightenment, to know oneself and one’s environment is the most practical enlightenment.

The new covenant life to which we are called – our placement in Jesus and His Spirit in us – helps to illumine us as to how we should live as true disciples of Jesus.  These new covenant realities expose and reveal the true nature of our environment.  True new covenant living creates in us the ability to make sense of and respond to the “water” of our lives, which are lived in a world hostile to us.  New covenant living will lead to better understanding of ourselves and our environment, and will begin to yield our best living as true disciples.

In light of what we have been learning of the new covenant (see previous posts) – the Holy Spirit living in us and our placement into Christ Jesus Himself – how should we order our thinking and living each day?  Following (below and in the following post on this topic) are the new covenant priorities that will truly enlighten us and lead us into true discipleship.

Love for God above all other loves.  This is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:34-38).  Make it so in your daily experience.  Speak love and worship to your God as soon as you awake each morning, before you drift off at night, and many times in between.  Speak to Him about any weakness or selfishness in your love for Him, inviting Him to pour out His love in you (see Romans 5:5).  Place reminders to express your love to Him around your environment.  Create significant time for silence, solitude, and conversational communion in your daily living, and use it to express love.  Make your praying about expressing love, ignoring the desire to ask your God to give you things, to tell Him how to run the world.  He’s got that down.  We know virtually nothing about running much of anything or about what we really need in life, for that matter.

While you are consciously in the presence of your God, remember to express how much He is worth to you; that is true worship.  Recount His greatness, glory, goodness, and character traits.  Praise His works, His patience, love, and mercy.  Use the Psalms as a guide.  Don’t play worship songs, for that is listening to others worship.  Instead, sing true worship in the silence and solitude.  I do this a lot while driving.  No tunes on the radio, just worship in song and speech.

“The order in the Great Commandment is love for God before labor for God, allegiance to God before an assignment from God, intimacy with God before service for God.”   ― Benjamin Sawatsky

The next post will continue with the next priorities that answer the question, “How Shall I Then Live?”

Happy Monday

Happy Monday – Lighter fare in the form of great quotes on life, great illustrations, humor, and occasionally, art.

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”      – Henry Ward Beecher

“THE GOOD LIFE requires that we take pleasure in new things; A GOOD LIFE requires that we take pleasure in moments.
To enjoy THE GOOD LIFE we have to get ahead; to enjoy A GOOD LIFE we have to make the trip worthwhile.
THE GOOD LIFE is supported by feeding our pocketbooks; A GOOD LIFE is supported by feeding our souls.”    ― Steve Goodier

“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”               ― Voltaire

“We are always getting ready to live but never living.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Life becomes harder for us when we live for others, but it also becomes richer and happier.”  – Albert Schweitzer

“When it comes to life the critical thing is, whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”  – Gilbert Chesterton

And finally,

“If God answered all your prayers, would the world look different, or just your life?”         – Dave Willis

Hedgehog Living

A “Live, Love, and Lead Well” post

Even before I understood the hedgehog concept, making the adjustments necessary to stay working in the intersection of my passion, skills, and the place where the greatest difference could be made was driving my career decisions.  Several times, my work shifted over time to the point where it no longer was at that intersection.  In each of these cases, a reboot of my career and sometimes a change in location followed.  At other times my passion and skills outgrew my current work, so rebooting again was the choice.  Between reboots, shifting within the job setting has kept me on my hedgehog, and kept me fresh and focused as long as possible.

The hedgehog and you

“”Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.” – Lao Tzu

To help you in maintaining a growth edge and passionate commitment to your career, you will need to know yourself well.  Most people do not.  For a variety of reasons, most people are different from what they think they are.  To get to know yourself with greater accuracy takes some work, honesty with yourself, and a lot of humility.  There are several ways to pursue this “enlightenment.”

Begin with some honest self-reflection.  What do you love doing, even if you are not yet world-class at it?  What keeps popping up in your life because you seem to be good?  At what do people say you excel?  Not your mom (“You’re good at everything, honey”).  Ask a few good, honest friends to tell you the truth about where you are great, and where you create a vacuum in the universe (vacuums suck).  Take notes.  Honor them for being honest with you, and do not be disappointed if they say what you don’t want to hear.

Here is a list of objective assessment ideas.  Remember, honesty is critical in this process and truth is what you are seeking. Some people want results that verify their own opinions of themselves. Not useful.  You will not be disappointed in the truth, and you will likely be pleasantly surprised.  No cheating!

  1. For career strengths, take the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment. You can do this on line and get a printout of the results for somewhere around $50.  Great assessment and useful report.
  2. To discover your temperament type, take a DISC Inventory on line and spend the $30 for the full report. Go to 123tests.com for a good deal.
  3. To better understand your personality type, consider some type of Myers-Briggs assessment. These are in the same price range as the DISC.
  4. To fill in some gaps and get a second opinion, take one of several pop psychology assessments related to you and your vocation. Many of these are free.  Skip the love-life and food or wine type tests.
  5. If you are in any kind of influencer position, consider taking a 3600 assessment of your leadership. The product, based upon Kouzes and Pozner’s “The Leadership Challenge,” is excellent.  Choose raters who are a mix of your friend and your non-friend workmates or peers.  If you get a balance of raters, the report from this is very worthwhile.

As you take this journey, keep notes in a kind of journal that you can reflect on over a period of weeks or months.  Determine the major themes related to your three hedgehog drivers: your passion, the things you do best, and the greatest need that you can invest your passion and skills in meeting.  Along the way, keep asking yourself what your heart desires most based on what you are learning about yourself. Take your findings to a career counselor or career-oriented life coach and crop some cash to get an expert opinion on your results.

I have done all of these twice in my life.  Both times set me on a course for success in finding and staying focused on my personal hedgehog.  My honest friends said tough things long the way, and I am grateful to them for doing so.  My confidence in my career choices has never been higher.  I wish you well, and Godspeed.

Covenants New and Old Part 2

Most Christians are satisfied living their entire lives as common Christians. They never experience the richness of what it truly means to be a Christian. Without a deep insatiable hunger for the things of God, there is nothing within them prodding them to go forward to perfection…once again, we need a great move of the Holy Spirit to break out of the spiritual rut and press on to spiritual perfection. That move needs to start with individual Christians who are willing to give all to God and live the crucified life.” –  AW Tozer

Our God created humans for intimacy with Himself.  This is not because He is needy or lonely, but because His nature must be expressed.  Love, companionship, and intimacy express that nature, it is His plan to share these with the humans He created.  When humans rejected that, our God began pursuing us all the way to our redemption through Jesus Christ and the initiation of the new covenant relationship.  We were created for the new covenant life, and no other kind of living is our God’s will for us.  Religiosity, rituals whether simple or complex, or efforts to please our God in our own strength will not bring us to intimacy with our God.  To try to do so by these old covenant methods alone is not the Christian life.

This is because the old covenant and the law of God were not intended to save people from their sin or produce holy living in them.  These were established to point out that no one by keeping religious rituals and laws or doing good deeds can ever be justified or made holy.  Galatians 3:21 is clear on this.  “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.”   Hebrew 10:11 tells us, “Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins….

The old covenant had several important purposes, including to point everyone to the necessity of a Savior to redeem people from their sin and to reunite them to their God.  Galatians 3:24-25 “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

In the Bible, “the heart” most often does not mean a blood-pumping organ.  It is a term used for the combination of the mind, the will and the emotions.  That “heart” was made only for such an intimate relationship with our God and was damaged and wounded by our choice to reject Him.  The old covenant and the law were not intended change the hearts of the people.  Our God restores our hearts through the new covenant relationship with us, as was promised through Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” 

In the analogy of the wineskins in a recent Adventure Blog post, Jesus ended with the warning, “But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.  And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”  For the priests to whom He spoke, the old wine of the religiosity to which they were devoted was good enough.  For many Christian adherents today, the old wine of religion is good enough.  They are not living in a new covenant relationship with their God.  Consequently, they are not experiencing the fulness of a restored heart, and miss so much of what their God has for them.

The new covenant purchased by Christ’s blood is also our God’s initiative to restore us to companionship and intimacy with Himself.  The defining feature of the new covenant is this:  the triune God in His fullness once again resides literally within every true disciple.  Not the faint essence of our God.  Not a sliver of our God.  The fullness of our God in us by His Holy Spirit.  If we are to realize the power and the transformation of the manifest presence of our God within us, we must be living fully in the realities of the new covenant.

God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there; there is no such thing.”    – CS Lewis

Happy Monday!

Happy Monday – Lighter fare in the form of great quotes on life, great illustrations, humor, and occasionally, art.

A true story from my family history to remind us that stuff happens, no matter the day.

For generations my family has lived in the mountains, most recently the Sierra Nevada.  My grandfather and his father ran a small cattle operation near Yosemite National Park for a number of years.  This entailed a three-day cattle drive (complete with a chuck wagon) up into the high country every spring, and the return drive every fall.  While up high, they lived in the “cow camp,” a two small-cabin arrangement with a bunk house and a cook house. Calling these shacks “houses” was extravagant flattery.

One fall morning, my grandfather, Oliver, found that he had left his pistol and belt hanging on a post outside the cook house the night before.  The wood-burning cook stove, which was slightly warm from the previous evening, seemed like the best place to dry the handgun. He put it in the oven, closed the door, and off he went to do his morning chores.

You can probably see where this is going.

My great-grandfather, Ira, came in shortly thereafter and began making breakfast. This meant firing up the cook stove with fresh wood.  When breakfast was made, Ira called to Oliver to “come n’ get it!”  Oliver did not remember that the pistol was in the oven, which proved to be a tactical error of no small proportion.  Of course, the oven door faced the small, homemade table at which the two men sat down to eat.

Part way through the meal, the first shot rang out from the oven, slamming the door open and then part-way shut.  Peering from their seats on either side of the table, the men saw the pistol, smoke curling out of one cylinder and the barrel pointing to the back of the oven.

At that moment another round fired off.  Bullet fragments flew from the back wall of the oven, and the pistol slid off the rack and into the hinge area of the partly-open oven. Another round fired, hitting somewhere up in the rafters.

At this point, the two men had not moved from the table, even though they were less than six feet from “the action,” action showed no sign of abating.  They were still staring at the pistol in the partly-open oven doorway, transfixed by the improbability of what they were seeing, when it fired another round.  This time, the bullet drove into the leg of the table at which they were seated.

“Oliver, get that gun out of the oven!” barked Ira, still not moving from his seat on the bench.  Oliver took a long stick from the wood box, picked up the pistol by the trigger guard, and tossed it out a window.  Breakfast was finished, and the day proceeded without further interruption.  No one in the family knows if the pistol was damaged by the three rounds that exited the cylinders instead of through the barrel.  In typical cowboy fashion, little was ever said about it after that.

Just another day in cow camp.

Maybe Mondays aren’t all that bad after all.  I mean, my breakfast was pretty quiet by comparison.

Finding Your Hedgehog

A “Live, Love, Lead Well” post

The concept of the “hedgehog,” that one big idea that captures our attention and fuels our vision, is a vital component of effective leadership.   When you discover your hedgehog, it will be at the intersection of three key drivers, your passion, what you are the very best at doing, and at what can you find your greatest opportunity to express your passion and gifts. We left off last week with “homework” related to finding the first of these drivers – your passion. What did you discover?  Now you can move on to identifying the other two drivers and your personal hedgehog.

At what can you be the best?

Or as Jim Collins would say, at what are you “world class?”  What have you gravitated toward, what keeps “popping up” in your life? At what are people saying you are particularly good?  What activities get you into a state of flow – “the zone” – where you work with passion, even joy?  When you find these, you are close to or on your best skills.

Finding out at what you are the best, even world class, is vitally important.  When your efforts are utilizing your best skills and gifts, your work energizes you (another clue), not drains you.  This means you also need to know what you are not best at doing, so that you can minimize your expenditure of energy in these areas and maximize it in others.  We all want to be good in everything, but that is impossible.  It takes courage and honesty to admit we are not world class at a lot of things, and to accept that this is good.

To answer these questions at the personal level consider doing a SWOT analysis of your life and work efforts.  Get trusted friends to help in this, listening non-judgmentally to what they say.  Do not defend yourself in this process.  Consider getting 3600 leadership assessment utilizing a balance of friend and non-friend raters.  Honest feedback is the key.  Truth is the target, not reinforcement of what we think or want others to think.

Where are your greatest areas of opportunity?

At the personal level, understanding where you have the greatest opportunity to be your best self with the greatest passion is important.  This is not about finding a “business opportunity.”  This is finding where you have the greatest opportunity to live your passion and skills to the fullest.

If you are in a work setting where you cannot live your passion, or where your best skills and gifts are underutilized, you have little opportunity there.  Throughout my career I knew this deep inside, even though I have understood the hedgehog concept only in the last decade.  As a result, when my work moved me away from my passion and my gifts (or when my passion and gifts moved away from my work), my response was to reboot my living and get back on course.  This has led to five career reboots, approximately 20 different jobs or businesses, a wide array of work experiences, and a rewarding, purposeful, passion-driven career that looks a bit like a patch-work quilt.

Finding your hedgehog at the intersection

If you draw three overlapping circles, labeling one circle for each of the drivers (passion, your best skills and gifts, your greatest opportunity), look at where all three overlap. At the point where they overlap – the place where your passion, your best gifts and skills, and your best opportunity to express you purpose are all found – you’ll find your personal hedgehog.  When the majority of your energy is flowing into a life and work is built on all three drivers, that will be the life expression (or career) that bring purpose, joy, vision and impact to your living.Hedgehog Graphic

This week, work on identifying overlapping life expressions –career, lifestyle, both – that might center you in the overlap.   It might be an adjustment to your current situation, or it might be on the other side of a reboot.  But don’t quit your job yet!  We have more to do on this!

Wineskins and Patches

One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team.”  ― A.W. Tozer

One of the missions fulfilled by Jesus while He was on earth 2000 years ago was to begin to prepare those who would listen for the new covenant that He was about to initiate.  The religious establishment of His day had developed an entire culture and society around the religiosity they had built to help them retain power and perpetuate the system.  They had turned the old covenant into a self-serving social industry.  Those who appeared to subvert this established order had to be put in their place, put out of the system, or put to death.  They tried often to put Jesus in His place, as we find in Luke 5:33-39: 

 “And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.”  And Jesus said to them, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you?  But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.”  And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined.  But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.  And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”

Jesus was addressing the need for new thinking and new understandings in this discourse with the religionists.  He was warning of the radical shift that would come with the new covenant, using the analogies of new patches on old garments and new wine in old wineskins.  In that day, wine was sometimes fermented in wineskins, bags made from new leather to carry wine.  New wine would expand as it fermented, so it had to be put into new leather skins.  These skins would stretch with the expansion but not burst.  Old wine could be poured into old wineskins because the fermentation process was complete.  If the winemaker poured new wine into old wineskins, already stretched to capacity, the expansion of the wine would tear the skins and the wine would be lost.

His illustration was in response to the rebuke from the religionists of His day.  They were focused upon technical aspects of legalism – old wineskins – while Jesus was preparing the world for the new wine of the new covenant. Jesus was pointing out new thinking will be needed if we are to live in the new covenant.

This change of thinking never happened for the religionists.  Eventually, they put Jesus to death so He would not disrupt their old covenant-based system of rules and controls.  That, of course, opened the way for the new covenant to emerge as our God’s way of relating to people.  It made possible the imparting of the Holy Spirit to inhabit the church as a group and as individuals.  Even when the new covenant was in full view, the religionists and many of the people did not want to make the change.  Jesus warned of this reluctance to embrace the new covenant: “But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.  And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”

How many adherents to the Christian church today are more like the religionists than like new covenant disciples?  They are invested in a religious system of expectations, requirements, layers of separations between the people and their God.  It is an entire culture and society built upon religiosity to help perpetuate the system. The new wine of the Spirit of God would likely burst their old wine skins.  For them, there is no wish for the new, for the old wine suits them.  For them, the old is good enough.

Live conscious of the perfect, life-giving and never ending covenant of God’s approval and favor that Jesus died to give you”  Joseph Prince

Happy Monday!

Happy Monday – Lighter fare in the form of great quotes on life, great illustrations, humor, and occasionally, art.

Inspirational Quote:  It’s Monday. I’m Happy. I’m Blessed. God is going to do amazing things this week.  – Author unknown

Notable Quote:  “One of the strange things about God is that He will come in as far as we allow Him.  I have often said that a Christians is as full of the Holy Spirit as he wants to be.  We can beg to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  We can talk about it, but until we are willing to empty ourselves, we will never have the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  God will fill as much of us as we allow Him to fill.”  – AW Tozer

Blog Quote:   “New covenant life is predicated upon the decision in both mind and heart to walk not by our flesh but according to the Spirit of Christ in us.  When we choose to turn to our God to have full control over us, we gain the fullness of His new life and resurrection power in us.”   The One Pursuit Adventure Blog

And remember: It’s a good day to have a good day!

Happy Monday, everyone!