New Year’s Revolution

I’M SICK OF RESOLUTIONS!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously-I really am.

For quite some time now, I’ve forsaken the common practice of declaring a New Year’s Resolution for each burgeoning year.  Remember how your last resolution to improve your diet (and lose a few), was overtaken and brutally beaten to death by that apple pie craving?  How about that iron-clad resolve to improve your time management skills that gave up the ghost on the battlefield of procrastination?

Trust me; I have experienced my share of “resolution regret” over my lifetime.  I do, however, love to entertain the notion of intentional contemplation.  Goals are great, and I have nothing against them; but goals without achievable, corresponding tasks are like cars without engines.

So for me, this year marks the death of “resolution regret.”  I lay to rest the corpse of empty excitement, devoid of life-changing action.

As we straddle the threshold between 2014 and 2015, let’s start a New Year’s REVOLUTION!!!!

A revolution demands inward change, before outward change is manifested.  It’s not just a hypocritical, temporary feeling of “I’m going to…”  In my experience, as long as we remain in the “I’m going to…” mindset, nothing ever gets done.  A revolution starts deep within an individual, and like wildfire, it spreads to the hearts of other individuals.

That’s right…revolutions are contagious.

Resolutions affect only the person, revolutions affect the public.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of thinking too small.  Let’s not limit our potential to the little boxes of our New Year’s Resolutions.  Instead, let us look out over the landscape of our lives and our communities to assess the possibilities that exist, by touching the lives of other people.  We are so much bigger than the commitments that we make to ourselves.  We were meant to deposit something great in this earth; a contribution that speaks to the fact that we were here, and we lived our lives intentionally and in High-Def.

Change is only the beginning.  It begins with us, but it should never end in us.  In the words of French Poet, Alphonse de Lamartine:

 “Private passions tire and exhaust themselves, public ones never do.” (Alphonse de Lamartine~~1790-1869)

Happy New Year…and let the revolution begin!


As always, thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill. See you soon.

Keep Learning ♦ Keep Loving ♦ Keep Living

Editor: Jaime Evans

BE

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Fourth Quarter Tune-Up

Remember January 1, 2014? 

Seems like such a long time ago, right?  How about all of those New Year’s resolutions floating around in the air (including yours)?  Let’s get personal.  What was your number one resolution?

Start that workout routine?

Eat healthier?

Manage your time better?

Save more money?

Relax more?

 

How’s that going for you?

The truth is, about 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but only 8% achieve those goals.  Pretty depressing, huh?  In fact, some people  (about 38% of Americans) have resolved to not make resolutions at all (University of Scranton.  Journal of Clinical Psychology).

Let’s pause for a moment of silence for all of the resolutions that have given their lives for our fleeting motivations…

Statistics like these are very telling within our society concerning the evanescence of our motivation.  Just recently I was engaged in a short conversation with two coworkers, and the subject of exercise came up.  I was asked if I was going to workout that day;  my response was one of mixed emotions, because I knew I needed to workout, but I just wasn’t motivated at the time.  Excuses flooded my soul, and all of the things that I needed to do after work presented themselves to my mind one by one.  Eventually, I did recover from the assault on my mind and found the grit to part the doors of the gym for another successful workout.

Within that same conversation, one of my coworkers expressed concern for the usual after-work crowd that makes it difficult to occupy the desired cardio equipment.  This raised some very interesting thoughts, which spawned this very post.  Many of us who faithfully attend the gym are very familiar with the mid-year trail off.  When January 1 of each year rolls around, you can expect to see a massive influx of people hitting the gym, as if brand new sexy bodies were being given away in the cardio section.

Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

In many cases, by the time June hits, the numbers have dwindled so; treadmills are virtually screaming for some action.  The psychology of motivation is such a mystery, experts are still trying to figure it out; what causes it, and why is it so fleeting?  I think we all can agree that we’ve been there at some point in our own lives.

Fast-forward to your “now.”  Here it is, fourth quarter 2014, and less than four months left in this year; I sincerely ask you…

Are you on track to accomplish your goals for this year?

I know-I know…you’ve had some set-backs, failures, obstacles and opposition.  So have I.  You would not believe the year that I’ve had…but I’m grateful for it all.  Through all of your trials this year alone, kudos to you for still being here, and not just surviving, but thriving.  I know it’s been hard…please know that I can relate, but think of me as your coach today.  This is the last time out in the fourth quarter…get back in the game, you can win!

In the game of football, if a defender interferes with the receiver’s ability to connect with a pass, the referees generally calls a Pass Interference penalty against the defense.  The result of this penalty, in many cases, is a 10-yard advance for the offense.  God is about to advance you as you approach the final push of 2014.  We can’t forget that we are in a battle, and our enemy is real.  He has wreaked so much havock in your life by interfering with the clean reception of all that God has prepared for you, but God has blown the whistle and thrown the flag…Blessing Interference penalty on the enemy.  Your Father is about to stop the assault on your life, so that you can make up precious ground.  According to Joel 2:25, God is able to restore the years that have been damaged and the time that has been lost for whatever reason; our only requirement is to stay connected to Him, and in turn to our purpose.

Receive  that!!!

I encourage you to reconnect to God; reconnect to your plan; and reconnect to your passion.  Remember the reason why you committed to that change in the first place.  If your goal was to lose weight for health reasons, then reconnect with those reasons.  Is it that you want to feel better, look better, and live longer?  Reconnect with that.  If your goal was to be the king/queen of organization, think about that pumped feeling you got every time you thought about accomplishing your goal.  Connect to those feelings, then just do it.  See yourself there over and over again in your mind.  Meditate on it, write a plan, live it out in your imagination.

See it to BE it. 

Even though motivation is a mystery, it is not an impossibility.  You can do this.  It’s fourth and goal, and we’re down to the “2-minute warning.”  You’re too close to let it slip through your fingers.

 

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

You’re almost there!!!  PUSH!!!

 

 

Editor: Jaime Evans

As always, thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.  See you soon.

Keep Learning ♦ Keep Loving ♦ Keep Living

BE

The Laboratory of Loss

Chemotherapy chairs, councellors, and clean heads were the predominant sights during my tour as a computer software trainer in an oncology center recently.  During that time, I was experiencing my own personal turmoil, due to a series of unexpected storms that rocked the otherwise tranquil seas of my life. 

I’m sure you can relate…

 While in the chemo infusion area of this oncology center, I had the priviledge of observing many patient types as they checked-out of the clinic after their treatments.  I saw the patient who could barely stand, and was visibly weakened immediately after treatment.  I also saw the patient who had been understandably trounced by the trauma of this terrible disease.  For these patients, rendering a smile was a feat of epic proportions.  Then, there were the patients that wore their treatment very well.  To look at them, one would never perceive that they had cancer.  They were happy and upbeat in the face of pain and nausea. 

Perhaps, the most remarkable patient type was embodied in a young lady who came to assist her mom on her treatment days.  She was a vibrant, blond-haired woman with rosy cheeks and a contagious smile.  She possessed a type of piquancy in her personality indicative of burgeoning youthfulness.  She began to express how important it was to her to be there for her mother on treatment days.  Her passion seemed to convey something more than just a loving concern for her mother. 

As we continued to listen to her, she inquired about a particular physician by name.  At that moment, the check-out receptionist informed her that the physician was no longer practicing.  She then revealed that he was her attending physician who treated her when she had cancer.  Turns out, she was a cancer survivor of 12 years.

As my jaw dropped to the floor, I was in awe.  She couldn’t have been more than 30 years old.

Here was this young woman standing before us glowing with health and a full head of hair.  She told us about her bone marrow transplant, and of course her hair loss (but…it grew back).  She wanted to give up because of the pain and the harsh side-effects of her treatment (but…she didn’t).  Now she is strong enough to care for her mother who is going through the same thing she walked through.  As I spent more time in this clinic and met more people, I learned that many of the workers that I saw were volunteers who were cancer survivors. 

You may have recently experienced loss on some level.  It may not be health or hair, but what about hope.  I’m writing this to you.  Please don’t give up.  Keep living.  What you are going through now is just a rung on the ladder of your elevation.  When this is over, you will be strong enough to help someone else who is struggling to live through what you have already overcome.  Someone needs to hear the story of how you survived.  Yes, you lost a lot (but…it grew back).

Sometimes what we perceive as loss really isn’t loss at all.  In most cases, God is pruning our lives of unnecessary, unproductive limbs so that we will be prepared to be more fruitful than ever in our season.  John 15:1-2, elucidates this truth beautifully.  When a tree is pruned of unproductive limbs, it appears to be dead.  All of the signs of visible life are gone.  Loss of limbs, loss of leaves, and loss of fruit all signify the end.  Others who pass by the tree may assume it is dead, then cast judgment and walk away.  The same thing may happen to us during our pruning seasons.  You may appear to be dead right now, but don’t lose hope.  As long as your roots wrap around Christ, you will produce again. 

How do you negotiate the uncertain seas of loss?  What is your valuation of the people and things that are leaving your life?  Are they really beneficial to you?  Are they a gain or are they a drain? 

Loss is only one part of the whole when it comes to God’s holy laboratory.  God is a master chemist.  He knows how to combine all of the elements in your life to produce a result that will both glorify Him and edify you.  The process may be volatile, the reaction may be violent,  but the product is always beautiful. 

As a part of my undergraduate studies, I enrolled in several labs associated with my major course of study.  One of which was Organic Chemistry, which is the study of how carbon behaves in various organic compounds.  Lab was pretty fun because it involved mixing chemicals together, observing their reactions, and then documenting the details of the products.  Some of these reactions were spontaneous and explosive, in some instances.  Fortunately, our labs were fitted with huge fume hoods that were designed to extract toxic fumes from the air that were emitted after certain reactions.  God’s grace is much like the fume hoods in a lab.  It covers us during our times of painful pruning, when our reactions to the pain cause us to melt down and explode.  Sometimes, we may even release toxic words and attitudes into the air.  God’s grace sufficiently covers us, because His grace is sufficient for us. 

In this life, you may have lost some things that were dear to you.  The pruning may have caused loss of leaves, limbs, friends, hair, or even hope; but our Father is the Great Husbandman that ensures our prosperity and productivity.  The pruning is preparation for productivity.

In God’s laboratory, all things work together for our good. 

Remember:  IT WILL GROW BACK!!!

 Editor: Jaime Evans

As always, thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.  See you soon. 

Keep Learning ♦ Keep Loving ♦ Keep Living

BE

 

 

You: Under Construction

What do you do when you come into contact with “that person?”  You know which one I’m talking about.  The obnoxious, repeat-offender that can’t seem to keep their comments to themselves.  How about the person that feels like they’re always right, and never admits their own fault?  I’m pretty certain you have a name floating around in your head right now.  As much as you may hate to admit it, just like you have that someone in your head, other people may have YOU on their list of the obnoxious ones.  Hard to believe, isn’t it?  I know. 

The problem is, whenever there is personal interaction, the probability of personality conflicts will always be present.  Furthermore, depending on the environment and personalities involved, that probability soars.  It’s just the risk you take by interacting with others.  Scientifically speaking, it’s called entropy, which is the natural tendency of the universe to be in chaos.  In others words, no one/nothing is perfect.  Have you ever wondered why you have to clean house so often, or say the same things over and over and over again to your kids or spouse?  It’s all epitomized in one word…entropy; and entropy equals chaos.

When it comes to relationships, very little can be done to control other people.  However, there is one thing you can control, and that is your perspective.  Either you can view difficult people and situations as major sources of pain, or you can view them as God’s scaffolding preparing your life for growth.

 

Your Life: God’s Construction Site

Now, here is where you say, “Brian, what do you mean by God’s scaffolding…” and this is where I insert a true story to explain.

Because I travel quite a bit with my job, I have tons of time to think and observe.  One day, as I was travelling along a very familiar route, I noticed a construction site in the distance.  A building was going up, and workers were scaling the edifice like ants over an ant mound.  I also noticed a familiar site surrounding the building.  It was a huge network of scaffolding.  The workers were able to work at altitudes that would not have been possible without the scaffolding in place. 

Nothing spectacular about that, right?

Well, quite some time had passed and I found myself travelling that old familiar route again.  As I came upon that same construction site, I noticed this beautifully erected building that was now standing tall and majestic.  However, something was missing that was there before.  You guessed it…the scaffolding was gone.  You see, your life is like a construction site.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a neat and tidy construction site.  In my experience, construction is always messy.  Heavy vehicles crawl the site transporting building supplies and materials.  In most cases, it becomes necessary to bring in scaffolding, because there is only so much work that can be done on ground level.  By definition, a scaffold is a temporary or movable platform or structure on which a person stands or sits while working high above the floor or ground.  While God is building you, he allows you to be surrounded with the scaffolding of difficulty, so that the hard, fallow ground in your heart can be accessed by His Spirit within you.  If it were not for the resistance of difficulty, you would never gain the strength and fortitude to expand and rise to higher heights.  I believe difficulty serves as a heart-opener.  Just like fruit is pressed to unleash the sweet juices that we all enjoy, so our lives release the sweetness of ministry when we are pressed and broken.

God is the Great Architect and Master Builder.  He knows how to use difficult people and tumultuous situations to build you up and work for your good.  One of the most beloved scriptures in the Bible states:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28 (NIV)

 God takes all of the messy things in your life (your past failures, bad decisions, and set-backs) and makes something beautiful out of it all like only He can.  In fact, these things are designed to make you taller, stronger and wiser.  You can be complacent and  remain at ground-level, but at some point, if you desire to fulfill the command of God upon your life, the scaffolding must be brought in and you MUST grow. 

Therefore, embrace the scaffolding of difficulty as part of God’s building process in your life.  See yourself rising to heights and altitudes never before experienced.  Yes…that person is unpleasant.  Yes…that experience is uncomfortable.  Keep in mind that until you learn how to endure and navigate through the pain of expansion, your growth will always be impeded. 

 

YOU: The Finished Product

Scaffolding is usually temporary.  By the time the finished product is revealed, the scaffolding has already served its purpose.  However, in many cases, the scaffolding is put in place before the growth begins.  You can always tell when you’re about to enter a growth phase by the intensity of the fight in your life.  I know it’s a challenge during these times to remain encouraged, but remember the words of the Apostle Paul as stated in 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV):

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 

God is about to reveal what He has been working on in your life all this time.  He’s about to pull back the curtains of your life to reveal the masterpiece of YOU.  You’ve been surrounded by scaffolding while God has been working, and your life has been a mess because of the imperfections of your past.  You’ve been like clay on the wheel of the Potter, and have endured the discomfort of the Refiner’s fire.  Be encouraged, even though you may not realize it, this has made you stronger, smarter, and more tenacious. 

So the next time you see “that person” approaching, don’t do a “180” and run the other way.  Instead, stick your chest out, hold your head up and say to yourself…”It’s GROW time.”

As always, thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.  See you soon.

BE

The Chronicles of Marriage Part 2: What Penguins Taught Me About Love

Welcome to Wisdom’s Quill.  This is the second post in the series called: The Chronicles of Marriage.  Please come back next week for part 3. 

Love ever gives,

Forgives

Outlives

And ever stands

With open hands.

And while it lives

It gives,

For this is love’s prerogative

O give, and give, and give.    by: John Oxenham

The concept of love is multi-faceted in expression and experience.  If you were to poll 100 people for a definition of love, undoubtedly you would likely receive 100 different answers.  Why?  Because we all give and receive love differently.

The salient differences become even more pronounced when discussing how men and women express love.  As men, we tend to get a bum rap when it comes to understanding and expressing our love.  As I pondered why this was, and began to search out reasons for this paradigm, I came across an astounding model of love.  There is a fascinating species of the bird family we’re all familiar with called the penguin, which changed my perspective about a man’s responsibility to exhibit love.

 

Searching For A Soul-Mate

Is there a such thing as a soul-mate?  This question is definitely a hot topic of discussion, especially during this season.  I don’t really subscribe to the vox populi as it relates to soul-mates.  Most people believe that a soul-mate is a singular person that is meant for you, and no one else, and if you don’t find that one person in the whole, wide world, then you’ll never really know true love.  I do believe, in many cases, God gives us the ability to choose who we love, and based on that decision, we grow in love with that special someone for the rest of our lives. 

I am definitely an advocate for monogamy, and this is where penguins shine.  Generally speaking, penguins are monogamous.  Once they choose a partner, they stick with them.  Some species (i.e. the Adelie Penguin) even keep the same partner for life.  It appears that there are certain laws of attraction in play when it comes to choosing a potential mate.  We all have different things that we are attracted to, but there are certain common threads of attraction among the sexes.  Woodrow Wyatt once stated,

“A man falls in love through his eyes, a woman through her ears.” 

When it comes to finding a suitable partner, I believe it boils down two things:

  1. Prayer
  2. Attraction

These two things together act as a compass for finding “the one.”  Don’t make it exclusively about one or the other.  Utilize both prayer and attraction to guide you to that right someone.  I remember the first time I laid eyes on my wife. I sensed an amazing initial attraction to her that I couldn’t articulate.  It was like when I saw her, I just knew I had to meet her.  Our first conversation reaffirmed that attraction and the rest is history.  Thinking back to those moments, I ask myself, when did I know I loved my wife?  Was it a feeling?  Was it butterflies?  No.  Although these feelings were (and still are) present, feelings are fleeting; they come and go.  I knew I loved my wife when I chose to love her.  I believe when we mutually chose to love each other, we became soul-mates at that moment.  I chose to surrender to love’s work within me when I first saw my wife, and later realized that it was love in its infant stages.  One day my wife asked me “How do you know you love me?”  My answer:  Because I choose to love you.  I don’t believe in love at first sight in the traditional sense, but I do believe in love at the point of decision, which can take place “at first sight.”  When you choose to love someone, that is the most powerful aphrodisiac there is.  Choosing to love a person, just because you want to, is like Super Glue; it holds you together forever.

 

Submitted To Sacrifice

The penguin shows us a powerful picture of paternal piety.  Once the female penguin lays the egg (usually 1-2), she hands it over to the male penguin, and departs in search for food.  The male penguin incubates the egg carefully by balancing the egg on the top of his feet in a body pouch for up to 70 days. 

During this time, all of the male penguins gather together in a huge huddle and brace themselves for some of the harshest conditions on Earth while incubating the delicate eggs.  Temperatures drop as low as -40 degrees with shearing winds.  Huddling in a group is the only means of survival during this period.  While the female penguins are absent in search of food, the male penguins patiently await their return, which can take up to 2-3 months.  By the time female penguin returns, the male penguins will have gone a full four months without food, and lost roughly half of their body weight.  How about that for sacrifice?  This brings true perspective to sacrificial love. 

Sacrifice requires love, and love is an investment.  When we, as husbands and fathers, invest our love into our families, we reap love compounded, and this is one of the greatest returns on an investment.  Love always softens the blow of sacrifice.

 

Sensitivity To My Spouse

As a husband, I am realizing daily the importance of knowing my wife’s voice.  By voice, I don’t mean the tone of her voice, but rather the heart of her voice.  Can you hear what your spouse is really saying when they communicate certain things to you?  I encourage you to invest some time learning your partners love language. (Recommended reading: The Five Love Languages by: Gary Chapman) 

The 5 languages are as follows:

1.  Words of Affirmation

2.  Quality Time

3.  Receiving Gifts

4.  Acts of Service

5.  Physical Touch

When the group of female penguins return from feeding, they call out to their mates in the huddle.  Amazingly, each male penguin recognizes the voice of his partner when she calls.  He is so sensitive to his partner, that he knows the sound of her voice among the hundreds of other female penguins.  When we learn this type of remarkable sensitivity, I believe we will fulfill our roles as husbands, and become amazing lovers.

In conclusion, whether you want to admit it or not, your partner is a reflection of you.  You chose your partner based on your value system, because what you value is what you seek.  When you come into contact with that special someone who speaks to your value system, they become irresistible. 

Love is a choice, so let’s take a lesson from the penguin and choose to love for life. 

Feel free to leave comments in the comments section, and as always…

Thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.

Reference websites:

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/about-antarctica/wildlife/animals/penguins/emperor-penguins/breeding-cycle

http://blog.farwestclimatecontrol.com/2012/02/21/the-romantic-life-of-penguins/

BE