Posts Tagged ‘standards

11
Feb
21

Successful Musings

It’s funny, the way it happens; I hear a random word on the radio and ZIP! ZAP! ZOOM! the wheels start their wild spinning, leading me off into strange and interesting (and hopefully productive) places. 

The word I heard yesterday was SUCCESS. I don’t even remember the context I heard it in. But then, off I went, wondering…

… “Am I a success?”

… “Have I succeeded?”

And finally, “Just what IS success anyway?”

Clearly the first two questions are two VERY different questions indeed, requiring two VERY different analyses.

I can tell very quickly and clearly that – though the day is yet young – I have personally succeeded at many things already; I succeeded at getting out of bed… at making coffee… at taking my car in to the shop… at working out… at cleaning up and getting dressed.

Answering the first question, however, – “Am I a success?” – is a much slipperier proposition. The question seems to be asking me to stand back and dispassionately evaluate my entire life in the light of some objective, universally understood yardstick… a yardstick I may or may not subscribe to.

I mean, are you asking if I am a financial success? Or a spiritual success? Or an emotional success? Do you mean, am I a success in maintaining the health of my family relationships? Or maybe you’re wondering if I am a success in the measure of beneficial impact I have had on the world around me?

What do you mean by SUCCESS, exactly?

Dictionary.com defines the word success as, “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals…” a definition which I find extremely interesting! It seems to be saying that success can only be measured at the END… once you have stopped trying. 

So, yes, I have stopped trying to succeed in the NBA. HOWEVER… since it was not a FAVORABLE termination of my endeavors, I can’t really say I succeeded as a professional basketball player, can I?

Maybe a better question to ask is: WHY do we devote so much time and energy to the subject of success? What causes some of us (certainly not ALL of us) to worry so much about how our lives stack up… either against the lives of other people, or against some kind of external, artificial, culturally imposed standard?

How much misery has been caused by our striving after success? How much suffering has one person inflicted on another in the pursuit of success?

Please don’t misunderstand me: I believe goals are good… STANDARDS are laudable… Life is richer, deeper, more textured when it is ABOUT something and has PURPOSE and DIRECTION. 

Maybe the issue has more to do with WHOSE standards of success we are trying to attain? 

How about instead of allowing People magazine, HGTV, or the latest internet influencer to set our standards, we turn and ask God what GOD’S standards of success are?

Jesus helps us “get our minds right” on this question right there in the Sermon on the Mount when he says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33, NRSV). And I don’t know about you, but for me it is refreshing to be reminded that aiming for success on God’s terms doesn’t depend on my level of athletic ability, my intelligence, my innate problem-solving skills, or my boyish good looks. 

WHEW!

It only depends on my willingness to SEEK God’s kingdom… and to receive God’s forgiveness when I fall short. (Which, incidentally, I do EVERY SINGLE DAY). 

So… am I a success – in God’s eyes? 

Are you?

28
Apr
20

It’s a Group Thing

“What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.” (1 Corinthians 14:26, NRSV)

Group exercise classExercise – even in the best of times – is a struggle for me.

Here in the time of global pandemic it has become a Mount Everest.

Even though I seem to do it a lot, I’ll admit it: I have never enjoyed exercise. My favorite part of that whole process, I always say, is the part where I am FINISHED!

And so, imagine my excitement when, several years ago, I discovered a great way to overcome my inborn aversion to sweating and straining; WORKOUT CLASSES!

A workout class, I discovered, offers many benefits over going and grunting on my own. For starters, there is REGULARITY. The class meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:00 a.m., rain or shine, motivation or no.

There is CAMARADERIE! There you are, surrounded by other people enduring the same pain. Yes, it’s true; misery does indeed love company. And if those other folks are the right kind of people, you can exchange snarky remarks and high fives with them as the class grinds on.

But for me, the biggest benefit of a group workout is the HIGHER STANDARD it entails. Here is what I mean by that: every workout class I have ever been involved with is led by an instructor. The instructor is usually (not always, but usually) a person highly trained in the science of body mechanics. The good ones will always demonstrate both the RIGHT WAY and the WRONG WAY to do that bicep curl, or that tricep kickback, or that abdominal crunch.

Of course, I can always choose to either follow or ignore their guidance. But it is good to have that higher standard to measure myself against. Left to my own devices, I would probably just slap-dash it through a few moves on the same old machines I use every time and call it good.

That is why this is such a difficult (i.e., lackadaisical) exercise time for me. The gyms are all CLOSED! Classes are not meeting! I am left to my own so-so devices to keep this Temple in shape.

Oddly enough, I find some of these same observations can be made about my spiritual life. Sure, there are many good reasons for folks to cultivate a solitary devotional discipline. Numerous are the biblical citations of Jesus “going off by himself” to pray and connect with God.  (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, Luke 9:18, Luke 11:1, to name a few).

And yet, shocking as it might seem, the exact same advantages of a group approach to physical exercise seem also to apply to SPIRITUAL exercise. Group-based spiritual exercise (a.k.a. “corporate worship”) also offers the benefits of REGULARITY, CAMARADERIE, and HIGHER STANDARDS one finds in a typical workout class.

Like most (responsible) worshiping congregations in this time of the COVID-19 crisis, ours has been meeting exclusively in the on-line format since early March. So, unlike my group exercise classes, we can all still enjoy the benefits of REGULARITY and HIGHER STANDARDS in our spiritual pursuits.

But I have to tell you… I really do miss the camaraderie part.

  • I miss handling the printed paper bulletin.
  • I miss singing together.
  • I miss standing and sitting together.
  • I miss turning and offering a sign of God’s peace to my pew neighbors.
  • I miss taking the offering plate from the person on my left and handing it off to the person on my right.
  • I miss standing when it is our row’s turn and shuffling forward to the front of the sanctuary.
  • I miss receiving the broken piece of bread (“the body of Christ, given for you”) and the thimblecup of wine (“the blood of Christ, shed for you”) from the anointed hands of my neighbors.
  • I miss milling around in the foyer after the service, sipping coffee and chit-chatting with folks.

But mostly I miss being regularly reminded that the body of Christ consists of a bunch of odd-looking, beautiful, regular, extraordinary, messed-up, serene, beloved, neglected people just like me.

And somehow, that just doesn’t quite come through on Facebook Live.

Abundant blessings!




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