Posts Tagged ‘success

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?

15
Oct
20

Where the Nutrients Are

A couple of years ago, I was driving from Point A to Point B, listening to the radio. As is usually the case, my car radio was tuned to the local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate.

By Jeremy Nelson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70921545

The host of the show was interviewing a young musician named Josiah Wise who performs under the name, serpentwithfeet. His musical style is described as “neo-soul,” whatever that means. (As an aside, that is one of the reasons I enjoy listening to NPR so much; they put me in touch with people I might never seek out on my own.)

As Mr. Wise told his story, he talked about his upbringing in the church, and his early interest in classical music. Many of his friends told him that he had an opera-quality voice and should pursue music education at the conservatory.

The point in the interview when my ears really perked up was when Wise talked about applying to multiple conservatories and receiving rejection after rejection. 

Those rejections ultimately led him to exploring his own unique musical style and put him on the path to what has now become a very successful musical career. [In the interest of full disclosure, I have not heard Wise perform. But he has been on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, so he’s clearly no slouch.]

When asked how he felt as he was hearing “NO” after “NO” after “NO,” in response to his applications, Wise (appropriately named, as it turns out) said this, “I learned to love NO. Because NO is where the nutrients are.”

Take a minute with that. Let it percolate. Connect it with your own experience.

Think back on the times in your life when you have resolutely pointed yourself in a particular direction – full of vinegar and conviction – and then run smack-dab into a brick wall of NO!

What did you do? How did it affect you?

In my case, one of the biggest “NO’s” I ever received came in the form of the failure of the small advertising and public relations firm I had started. I never could find the sweet spot between actually DOING the business and going out and FINDING NEW business. And so, after five years, I had to face the facts and shut the doors. 

That gigantic NO then led me to God’s YES of seminary and a life in ministry.

When we dive into it, we find that the Bible is chock full of stories of God’s people encountering life-shattering NO’s: the Great Flood, the fall of the Tower of Babel, the enslavement of the Israelites, droughts, plagues of locusts, suffering, disease, pestilence, crucifixion, and death. 

And as we see in each of those stories, each of those NO’s produced a rich field of nutrients that nourished astounding New Beginnings.

A new world… a new people… a new land… a new destiny.

But I have to admit… I am not sure I have EVER heard a “NO” in my life, smiled, and thought, “YUM! More nutrients!” I still regularly catch myself wanting MY plans to succeed… wanting MY blueprint of the future to triumph.

Someday I hope to be as wise as a serpentwithfeet… finding nourishment in the NO. 

Until then, I guess I will just keep listening and learning.

Abundant blessings;

07
May
19

It’s Closing In!

Retirement coupleI’m not going to lie… I am more than a little bit scared.

There is a date looming on my calendar that ties my stomach into the kind of knots only a Boy Scout could master.

What is the nature of this anxiety-producing date, you ask?

Is it a root canal? A colonoscopy? An IRS audit? A Kenny G concert?

Nope. None of the above.

June 30, 2019, is the date of my official, 100% retirement.

And it scares me pantsless. (Not literally, of course.)

To clarify… I OFFICIALLY retired from ministry in the United Methodist Church three years ago. But because I still had energy – along with a deep-seated fear of facing an empty calendar every day – I accepted a half-time appointment.

Since July 1, 2016, I have been the pastor of the Mound City and Blue Mound, Kansas United Methodist Churches. They are located just about an hour south of my home.

The people at Mound City and Blue Mound have been more than gracious in allowing Joan and I to serve as their clergy couple. They have been generous and forgiving in helping this confirmed city boy connect with his first rural pastorate.

But now the time has come to move on to that next chapter, and I am surprised to find myself more anxious about making THIS transition than the last one.

Questions abound.

Questions such as: what am I supposed to DO all day? How often should I shave? How much Candy Crush is too much? What happens if Joan gets sick and tired of seeing me all the time? Am I going to turn into one of those people who take every little sniffle to the doctor’s office just to have something to do? Is reading a book in a big, comfy chair (and then falling asleep) really as much fun as it looks? When do black socks with sandals become acceptable? Will going out to a restaurant at 4:30 p.m. suddenly seem like normal behavior? How many blog posts a week are too many?

And the question of all questions: IS LEARNING TO PLAY GOLF A RETIREMENT REQUIREMENT?

Good Lord, I hope not.

OK… maybe I’m making some of those things up. But I am not making up the part about having no small bit of nervousness about entering full retirement.

You see, like many (most) other males, I have tied my identity a bit too close to my work. Here is what I mean by that: if someone were to ask me who I am, I would likely respond by telling that person what I do.

The truth is; who I am is NOT what I do.

And yet, for those who fail to make that distinction, the disappearance of our WORK can often mean (in our minds) the disappearance of our WORTH.

I have preached and counseled about this very topic on numerous occasions. I have looked people in the eye and told them, “You are a person of INFINITE WORTH, no matter what else is going on in your life.”

I have opened my Bible and read Matthew 6:26 to them… reminding them, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

If anyone should be hip to this whole idea, shouldn’t it be ME?

Well, not to worry. It is only May 7. I’ve still got six weeks to figure this out. I’m sure something will percolate through my brain by then and I will finally be EXCITED and EAGER to retire.

 

In the meantime though, can anybody tell me what the Earlybird Special is at Denny’s today?




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