Focus

Lean 2

A few years ago Mike Ashcraft came up with a revolutionary idea.  In considering what we all intuitively know – that New Year’s resolutions are inherently powerless to produce real life change – Mike proposed capturing the essence of the person we want to become, or what we most want God to do for us in one simple word.

“My One Word,” he called it.

The idea caught fire, and his web site, myoneword.org, became a gathering place for people all over the world to share their core essential idea for that particular year.

I arrived late to that party when a LifeVesting reader pointed me to the site a couple of years ago.  I was captivated by the idea, and landed on the word, Finish! as my word for that year.

I revisited the idea when I wrote this post about things to do before the end of the year.  I learned in the process that Mike, along with Rachel Olsen, has since written a book that is now available to guide you through the process.

In prayerfully considering what my one word could and should be for this year, I began searching for the themes the Lord seems to have been playing out in my life recently – what I call the Descants of the Soul.  Those themes have a way of ebbing and flowing.  And it didn’t take me long at all to land on what my one word should be… [click to continue…]

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Oh happiness, there’s grace,
Enough for us and the whole human race
-David Crowder

Sometimes we just make it more complicated than it should be… than it has to be.  Can you relate?

We’ve long ago learned that money and things don’t buy it, though that doesn’t seem to stop us from trying.

Technology promises to serve it up, but that server keeps crashing… hard.  Of course, that won’t stop us from lining up for the next iThingy when it comes out (complete with a three-year service plan and a monthly charge).

Love?  Can’t love do it?  Sure, depending on whose definition you’re talking about.  Honestly, most people’s definition of love would complicate a two-car funeral or reduce the rest of the world to service providers.  And can you really be happy when the people around you are so miserable trying to keep you satisfied?

Yeah, I know.  It’s complicated.

We’re like the parents of that preschooler who just spent hundreds on that latest gotta-have-it toy with its techno-wizardry, who are mystified that the kid just wants to play with the box.  And he’s having a blast with the box, while the exasperated parents keep shoving this strange, noisy thing in his face trying to get him to be happy.

Most of us, though, have trained ourselves to look past the simple source of creative imagination (the box) and demand that the latest products or people provide us the happiness we demand.  And we never quite arrive at what’s advertised… at least not for very long.

Maybe we’re looking in the wrong place.  Maybe it’s time to go back to the box.  Maybe it’s time to unplug – to go from “batteries not included” to “no purchase necessary.”

Maybe it’s time to rediscover the beauty of Simple Happiness.  And you’ll find it: [click to continue…]

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The other day Laura Kate, age 4, decided (again) what she wants to be when she grows up.  She wants “the person who dumps those big piles of dirt.”

The other day I, age 53, decided (again) what I want to be when I grow up.  I want to be the author of a book on leadership.

She’ll think of other things she wants to be when she grows up, and I’ll think of other things I’ll want to be when I grow up.  I guess when either of us quits thinking of who or what we want to be at a point of maturity, it’ll be time to die.

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There is only one person who gets to measure love by obedience – that’s Jesus.  All the rest of us have a different standard.

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Pam is a worrier.  She knows she isn’t supposed to, but her underlying insecurity tends to frame every thought or situation in terms of what’s the worst thing that can happen.  When people tell her it’s a sin to worry, she just worries more about that.  She would like some joy in her life, but after a couple of times being burned or disappointed, she feels the need to protect herself from pain.

Pam is living in the tension of a core conflict.  And so is her boss, Alex.

Alex lives his life in pursuit of excellence.  Work excellence.  Play excellence.  Family excellence.  Financial excellence.  Your excellence if you get close enough.  The problem is that everything has to be so excellent that most times nothing is.  Because Alex can’t settle for ordinary in anything, he’s haunted by mediocrity in everything.

Alex is living in the tension of a core conflict.  And so is his sister, Teri.

Teri is one of the walking wounded.  Her life has been a vicious cycle of injury, followed by failure, followed by injury, followed by failure again.  It seems that whenever she’s working on forgiving somebody else, she becomes haunted by her own past sins or consequences.  These past mistakes and conflicts have left her fearful of trusting and shy of trying anything or anyone new in her life.  She knows her version of “playing it safe” is only adding to the sadness.  But she’d rather have a sad heart than a seared one.

Teri is living in the tension of a core conflict.  And so is her son, Will. [click to continue…]

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Watch the video, then let’s talk (yeah, that’s me doing the voiceover).

 

Here’s a bit of thoughtful Bible trivia for you:  what was it that enabled David to kill the giant, Goliath?

There are a number of possible answers, of course.  A rock in the middle of the forehead was certainly helpful.  David’s faith in God was essential.  His skill and courage were an asset.

But I believe there was one catalyst that made David stand out among the armies of Israel.  In a badly-translated King James verse, David asked his brother, “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29).
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If you just read the title of this and are still reading, you don’t have time for cute stories or complicated formulas, so I’ll just get to the point, if that’s OK.

If you are in a situation where you are at a complete loss as to what to do, it’s because you need to reset your glance and your gaze.  You have allowed your gaze – your long-term focus – to become set on your circumstances, your prayer request, your frustration, your pain, your desperate desire for change, or something other than the Lord.  You’re glancing at God, asking Him to fix whatever you’re gazing at.

Nice try.  I understand why.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Reset your gaze on God, and your glance on the world around you.

That’s what it means to wait on the Lord.

That’s what it means to praise, or to worship

Yes, that’s in the Bible. [click to continue…]

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In the previous post, we looked at some of the kinds of problems that go past hangnails and headaches.  Drawing from the experience of Jehoshaphat, Judah’s godly king, we explored some parallels of our own:

  • Unprovoked hostility
  • Overwhelming odds
  • Unresolved fear
  • Unfulfilled promises (of God)
  • Absolute weakness
  • Unclear direction

There are plenty of others, of course.  But that’s a healthy list to remind us that faith doesn’t mean you never have problems. Believing God doesn’t mean you’re never afraid, or that you never face impossible situations.  And in spite of the way some “believers” act, faith doesn’t mean you have all the answers.  In one of my favorite verses in the Bible, this godly man says to God, “We don’t know what to do.  But our eyes are on you.”

So when your back is to the wall and the Ammonites are coming, when you’re way past anxious and have no answers or direction, how does faith respond?  Let me suggest five ways: [click to continue…]

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Here’s a little exercise we actually take worship service time to practice occasionally.  Follow the instructions carefully (yes, I mean I want you to actually do this):

  • Take a deep breath
  • Let out half of it.
  • Hold
  • Smile
  • Repeat the following out loud, in a calm soothing voice:

“No.”

Repeat this exercise regularly, just for practice, and as needed in live game situations.

Not, “No because…”

Not, “Maybe later…”

Not, “Let me pray about it…”

Certainly not, “See if you can find somebody else, and if you can’t, I’ll see what I can do.”

Learning to graciously, kindly refuse is one of eight steps to building or rebuilding margin in your life.  Margin has to do with creating gaps – cushions of time, money, energy, or spiritual strength that act as living shock absorbers for those who have them.

Imagine how it could revolutionize your attitude, relationships, productivity, and health if the next time somebody says, “Got a minute?” you actually do! [click to continue…]

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The LifeVesting Cycle

Stage 1:  Allocate your resources
Stage 2:  Explore the possibilities.

Stage 3:  Follow your passion.

Heart Island and Boldt Castle (Click picture to enlarge)

Heart Island and Boldt Castle (Click picture to enlarge)

George Boldt had the touch.  And everything he touched seemed to prosper.  The son of poor parents, Mr. Boldt came to America in the 1860s from Prussia.  George was a man of tremendous industry and organizational skill.  With daring and imagination, he became the most successful hotel magnate in America.  He was also the president of several other companies, and director of the Hotel Association of New York.  For George, to “dream” and to “do” were the same thing.  However fantastic his dreams, they happened.

But business wasn’t his passion.

Louise was.

And what he did, he did for her.

As a testimony to his love for his wife, George purchased an island on the St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands Region, and had it carved into the shape of a heart.  He renamed it Heart Island and began preparing for the greatest achievement of his lifetime – a Valentine’s Day present for his wife.  You’ve heard that a man’s home is his castle?  For George, this was literally true.  He would build Louise a castle.

George spared no expense.  He invested $2.5 million (in 1900 currency), bringing in the finest artists and most skilled craftsmen for the project.  He imported marble from Italy, stone from Scotland, and art from the treasures of Europe.  The towers and spires rose imperiously over the waters of the St. Lawrence, and the castle looked as if it would rival those that dot the Rhine.  Rising six stories from the foundation level of the indoor swimming pool to the highest tower room, an elevator served the 120-room mansion with its 365 windows. In all, there would be eleven buildings, including a clock tower, a power house, a playhouse, and a gazebo.

Then in January 1904 tragedy struck. [click to continue…]

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Okay, first take a look at the following 60-second video.  SPOILER ALERT BELOW!  Then click on “Read the rest of this entry” if you’re on the home page and let’s talk about it.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ahg6qcgoay4" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

[click to continue…]

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