A LIFE THAT’S SECOND-TO-NONE…

Second to None  

Every person has a standard of living.  You might assume that I’m referring to money. I’m not!  When I say that each of us has a standard of living, I am not referring to the quality of our house, car, clothes or even the food we eat. When I say that each of us has a standard of living, I’m referring to the quality of our character.  Not what you own, but who you are. Not what you have on the outside, but what you’re like on the inside.  And I’ve discovered that in life, there are three standards of living from which I can choose to live.

Some people have a standard of living called SURVIVAL. They have no loftier goal in life than to simply eek by and not die. They do the bare minimum, if that much, and rather than manage their life to GET AHEAD, they’re simply managing TO GET BY. That’s survival mode and the lowest standard of living.

Then, secondly, there’s the standard of living called SUCCESS. This is where most people want to live their life.  Their goal is not SURVIVAL, but ARRIVAL. They want to arrive.  They want to go somewhere, own something, do something, be somebody. That’s success mode.

And then, there’s the third and I believe highest level of living that exists. It’s called SIGNIFICANCE. There’s SURVIVAL, SUCCESS, and then thirdly, SIGNIFICANCE.  Significance is not so much about what you own, but who you are. A person who’s living for significance is not concerned as much with doing good, as they are with being good. Deep down in their heart of hearts, they want more than anything to be a good person and live a good life. They want significance. They want to live a life that I call: Second-To-None.

Regardless of which mode you may personally be living on at this moment, I think all of us want to live good lives and be good people. I think all of us want to know that our life is about more than punching a time clock, having a fancy title or our own prominent parking spot.

Let me share with you 3 Principles For Living A Life That Is Second-To-None.

1.  For A Life That’s Second-To-None…Go The Second Mile.

Jesus said it best: “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” – Matthew 5:41  Live a life dedicated to serving others.  Always do more than is expected of you.  In fact, as one wise man has said, “It’s not about meeting expectations.  It’s about raising the standard!”    

2.  For A Life That’s Second-To-None…Give Others A Second Chance.

I love the exchange Jesus had with Peter one day: “Then came Peter to him, and said, ‘Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  Till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, ‘I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven’.” – Matthew 18:21-22 Whoa!  Watchu’ talkin’ about Willis?  70 times 7?  I don’t believe Jesus was emphasizing the actual number but rather the spirit of forgiveness He wants His followers to exude and adopt.  When we offer forgiveness, we give others a second chance.  Everybody needs a second chance!

3.  For A Life That’s Second-To-None…Don’t Give Quitting A Second Thought!

The writer of the book of Proverbs penned this bit of wisdom: “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again…” – Proverbs 24:16 People who give up are a dime-a-dozen.  But people who get up are one-in-a-million.  Which kind are you?  Remember that even the best of us falls from time to time.  That’s not the issue. What is the issue is whether you get back up and try again!

FROM SELF-REJECT TO SELF-RESPECT…

Self-Reject or Self-Respect
Self-Reject or Self-Respect

Has anyone ever hated himself more in modern literature than Dr. Jekyll.  Tormented by violent desire, lust, and ambition mixed with love, kindness and “quiet desperation”; his inner turmoil served as the perfect “womb” for evil Mr. Hyde. “Inner conflict” often creates great art, but little peace of mind.

Self-loathing isn’t just a subject for novels, it’s also a real-life struggle for every human being.   For many people, self-loathing falls down around their mental and emotional shoulders like a wet, heavy, cold cloak, slowing them down and freezing their otherwise warm heart. This is Self-Reject: the unfortunate state of rejecting who we are. Psychologists call it Self-Hatred.

But something stronger calls to us from out of the depths of our being, pleading with us to love ourselves more than we do. It’s God-given. It’s Self-Respect: that happy state of accepting who we are and who we’re not.  Self-Respect includes having healthy self-esteem, developing self-discipline and acquiring self-control.  Self-Respect increases as we learn to get along with ourselves, get out of ourselves and get over ourselves (In a good way:)  Self-Respect is a personal commitment we each make to honor ourselves by staying true to our noblest ideals aspired to in our best moments.  If you want to move from Self-Reject to Self-Respect allow me to share what I’m learning.

Self-Respect means we make 6 PROMISES TO OURSELVES…

1.  STOP HOLDING YOURSELF BACK!

Self-Sabotage.  Getting in your own way.  Becoming your own stumbling-block to success.  At times it’s unconsciously perpetrated; at other times, I suspect deep down, we know we’re setting our own booby-traps.  STOP IT! It isn’t that holding yourself back is necessarily wrong, it just isn’t necessary! (Tweet that)

2. STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP!

Blaming yourself.  Punishing yourself.  Piling on extra helpings of guilt, shame and regret only makes your “emotional plate” burdensome. (Excuse the “food metaphor”: Freudian Slip)  See how I can even cleverly punish myself while writing this post on Self-Respect? Arghh:)

3. STOP TEARING YOURSELF DOWN!

If…only.  What…if.  I’m such a &#*!  I can’t believe I ______! Sound familiar?  The language of self-criticism opens the door to Self-Reject. Our own self-talk is often the thief that steals our self-worth.  Like a child that steals from their own parents, our “inner-child” rips and tears at the fabric of our self-esteem from the inside-out.  Only you can stop this from happening!

4. STOP BURNING YOURSELF OUT!

Someone “needs” me.  Isn’t that what we tell ourselves?  So, we go, go, go.  “Being needed” feels good. So I light the candle and keep it burning until there’s nothing left to burn.  Why?  Who are you doing this for?  Stop it!  If you burn the candle at both ends, you’re not as bright as you think you are:)

5. STOP SELLING YOURSELF SHORT!

The “I’m not good enough” language comes to mind. Comparing ourselves to others and feeling like we don’t measure up. We’ve all been there.  We all do it.  But we all can stop doing it. Instead of feeling like we have to be the best competitor, why can’t we strive to be our best self?

6. STOP WRITING YOURSELF OFF!

As Bono of U2 screams in their song, “Beautiful Day”, “I know I’m not a hopeless case!”  None of us is.  We are never without hope.  As long as we breathe, we hope.  As long as we think, we’re one thought away from reaching our potential. So, don’t give up; ever!

BLESSED MONDAY EVER…

BLESSED MONDAY EVER…

BLESSED LIFE EVER

Immanuel Kant, the famous 17th century philosopher, once began his book, “Introduction to Logic”, with this opening thought:

“Everything in nature, whether in the animate or inanimate world, takes place according to rules, although we do not always know these rules.”

What Kant meant, of course, is simply that “what goes up must come down”!  Water does not flow upward.  Birds fly, as well as airplanes, according to laws of aerodynamics.  Our own beloved pets, dogs, cats, snakes:), move according to well-known laws of locomotion.  Nature is orderly not random.  As in nature, so in life.  There are ‘laws of success’ or ‘laws of blessability’ that we must follow in order to achieve our BLESSED LIFE EVER, and BLESSED MONDAY EVER.

If I want to have a successful and blessed life, what ‘rules’ or ‘laws’ must I know about and follow?  Dr. Elmer Towns suggests 4 laws that people should know and follow in order to be blessed by God.  These 4 laws have particular interest to those of us who serve in some form of full-time vocational ministry; as well supplying cross-over principles that work in the marketplace of business.  Look at them with me briefly:

  1. The Law of Laws: God does not run his work by chance, but by his laws.  We prosper as we follow his laws and encounter difficulty when we violate these laws.

God gave ‘rules’ we should live by in order for us to please Him and receive His blessings.  God carved 10 of them in stone and handed them to Moses. Thou shalt not lie, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal…remember, those?  This is nothing more than God’s love written in stone!  As I follow them, I follow Him!  And following Him “makes life work”!  Learning the ropes of God’s rules is one path to having the BLESSED LIFE EVER.

2. The Law of Causation: Nothing in the work of God just happens.  It is caused.

Whenever we see a large movement, a mega-church, or a stadium filled with people attending a religious event, we have a tendency to think the whole thing just dropped down out of the sky one day; like the mother ship!  Hardly.  It never happens that way.

Growth happens day-by-day and one-by-one.  It happens “a little bit here and a little bit there”.  When viewing a bona fide mass movement of God we must remember that all of it had to start somewhere.  God came and spoke to someONE not someTWO.  He came and nudged a leader to act, or prompted a little old grandmother to kneel behind closed doors and pray for a national or global stirring of God for transformation.  And God moves.  And God blesses in response to the faith of individuals and communities.

And the whole thing is caused…somewhere along the way…by somebody…some time.  Why not you?  Why not now?  Maybe God is leading you to be the answer to your own prayers!

   3. The Law of the Division of Labor: You cannot do the work God has reserved as his own task and God will not do the work for you that he has given as your task.

Elmer Towns clarifies, “God will not do for his people what is their responsibility and within their realm.  People must do for themselves, then trust God to do what they cannot.”

Once, while I attended Liberty University, my friend waved down Jerry Falwell as he was driving on campus.  Dr. Falwell rolled down his window and asked, “What can I do for you guys?”  My friend said, “Dr. Falwell, what advice would you give to my friend here (that was me) who is going into the ministry?”  Dr. Falwell looked at us and said, “Well, I’ve always tried to work like everything depended on me.  But then pray, because everything really depends on God.”  That’s the law of the division of labor.  It’s the balance, that rhythmic dance between God and His chosen servant, where we move in step with our creator doing what we can and leaning on Him to do what we can’t!

4. The Law of Blessability: God does not necessarily bless doctrine, programs, methods or avoidance of sin.  God blesses those who are close to his heart in faith, hope and love.

With all of this talk about rules, you might be feeling like it’s all too rigid.  But let me assure you, there is one thing that comes before learning the laws of Godly success; and that is having a close relationship with God himself.  That, after all, is what God is really blessing.  He’s not merely blessing your effort or performance, he’s blessing your heart, soul and motives.

I believe that even when my best isn’t good enough, or when I just give up too easily, God still loves and blesses me.  I believe that even when I fail to please God, God is still pleased with the fact that I wanted to please Him.  Wow!  How awesome!

Starting today, follow these four ‘laws’ and have your BLESSED MONDAY EVER.  Keep following them after that and you’ll find your BLESSED LIFE EVER!

GET UNSTUCK SO THINGS WON’T SUCK!

We all get stuck at times!

We all get stuck sometimes!

Truth is: It’s gonna suck ’til you’re unstuck! The fact is you’re gonna keep spinning your wheels, getting stuck in the mud, until you elevate your life to a higher level. As Albert Einstein famously quipped,“You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.”  Translation: GET TO A HIGHER LEVEL.  So, let’s elevate our life!  Here are 3 steps for getting unstuck.

GET UNSTUCK BY UNDERSTANDING…

“Stuck” is a place of ‘loss’.  When we’re stuck we’ve usually lost something important to our progress: something like momentum, our spiritual centeredness, emotional balance, a relationship, a job, our status or reputation, or any number of other things.  Some of the best advice I’ve ever read on getting unstuck comes from the New Testament of the Bible.  John, the Apostle, wrote this short phrase: “Remember then how far you have fallen.”  Understand where you were before you were stuck.   

There’s a reason you woke up this morning.  Something got you out of bed.  What was it?  Your purpose in life?  Your passion for life? The people in your life?  What’s your motivation?  Better yet, what’s your mission?  Go back to your purpose and get into that position of understanding, once again, of knowing what you’re all about.  See where you were, in light of where you are.  Remember!  Get back to that place mentally.  Understanding is the first step in getting unstuck! The Law of Submission says, “You’ll never become your best self without submitting to something bigger than yourself.” (tweet that) Remember what your purpose is then re-submit to it!

GET UNSTUCK BY UNLEARNING…

The futurist, Alvin Toffler, has projected:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” 

Instead of being a product of my environment.  I want to be a product of my own conditioning.  That way I’m not being controlled by outside conditions but rather inner conditioning.  The Apostle John also said, “Repent…”  To ‘repent’ is to make a U-TURN; a complete 180 degree reversal in thinking and direction.  To ‘repent’ is to start unlearning what you’ve conditioned yourself to ‘learn’: unlearning poor habits, behaviors and decision-making.  You begin to re-condition yourself by renewing your mind and body, reminding yourself that you are responsible, able and accountable; ultimately to God.  

Conditioning yourself is really preparing yourself to do your best in everything and make the best of everything. Easier said than done sometimes.  Actually, it is easier done when said!  Things don’t really start off on the wrong foot, they start off on the wrong thought!  Say the right words to yourself and begin unlearning to get unstuck.  

GET UNSTUCK BY UNWINDING…

I guess what I mean is: when you’re stuck, stop trying so hard.  At times, when we get stuck, we make such a big deal about how terrible it is that we’re stuck, that we use up our mental and emotional reserves on whining, which only adds to the emotional frustration of feeling stuck.

Sometimes, the most disciplined thing you can do, is take a break! (tweet that)

Unwind, take a nap, get some exercise, take a walk, call up a friend, watch a movie, read a novel or some other book or magazine not normally in your field of expertise.

I’m talking about “letting go”; tension and release.  Let go of all that built up tension by releasing it through a recreational or renewing type of activity.  Prayer and play, worship and laughter are, to me, two of the most refreshing activities we can engage in. Unwinding can take many forms.  Just make sure you unwind.  Unwinding can get you unstuck!       

 

IRRITABLE “DAD” SYNDROME: HOW TO LENGTHEN YOUR SHORT FUSE

DAD'S, REMEMBER WHEN THIS MADE NEWS?
DAD’S, REMEMBER WHEN THIS MADE NEWS?

It’s a condition known as Irritable “Dad” Syndrome. How many dads will agree with me that sometimes we come home and we are just exhausted from the day? Mustering energy to be cheerful with our spouse and playful with our kids feels like pushing a boulder up a hill.

This is a pattern I hear from a lot of dads and experience myself.  How can we as dads lengthen our short fuses and keep from taking out our work frustrations on the ones we love the most?

1. Realize that a dad’s greatest victory is over himself.

It was Plato who said “The first and best victory is to conquer self.” As a father I’m learning that the only person I really have control over is me. Ever tried controlling your kids? It may work up to a point, perhaps while they’re little and pulling on your pants leg, but inevitably it breaks down as young ones get distracted or older ones become defiant.

Controlling others is a lost cause. Controlling self is the main issue. As a father I can’t blame others around me for the way I feel or the attitudes I adopt. I must assume full responsibility for my actions and responses to the people and events in my environment. If I focus on staying in control emotionally, then when I come home and the house is still messy, the kids are drawing on the walls and my spouse is worrying about our low bank account, I can summon the control I need to filter what I say to them and how I act toward them.

2. Recognize that a father’s greatest decision is to be a dad to his kids.

I have a little thing I do, from time to time, whenever I arrive home and step up to my front door. Many times just before I turn the key to walk into the house, I pause, whisper a prayer to God and make a decision of my will right then and there to be a dad to my kids. In a split second I “renew my vows” to my children to protect, provide and love them no matter what. Being a father is a choice we make. We may or may not have planned our children, but God did! (tweet that)  Being a dad requires that we re-decide every day that we will put effort into “being there” with and for our kids in all the situations life presents. I’ve found that renewing my decision refocuses me on the important job of raising my three kids to be healthy responsible adults, a task I can’t delegate no matter how tired I am.

3. Remember that a dad’s greatest resource is his own father in heaven.

I am a man of faith. That’s just who I am. I’m not trying to convert anybody, so just relax, take a pill and hear me out. I’ve found in my life that just because I am a dad now, and find myself in a responsible role where I serve as a source of attention, affection and acceptance for others, doesn’t mean that I don’t also yearn for someone to do the same for me. I long to be able to have someone stronger and wiser reassure me that things are going to turn out okay, that I’m doing a good job or that they’ll be here if I need someone to talk to. Who doesn’t need that?

I’ve found that relating to God, who has revealed himself as our heavenly father, strengthens and stabilizes me for the long journey of fatherhood. Jesus once said, “I will not leave you as orphans. I am coming to you.” I like that. Jesus said he wouldn’t leave me alone in this world, that he wouldn’t leave me fatherless. Just like I can’t bear to imagine my children being fatherless, God can’t imagine me, or you for that matter, having to do life without Him as our father.

These three helpful hints have helped me hone my skills of controlling negative emotions when they rise up within me at the end of a long busy day. Practice these for a while and I predict you’ll notice your fuse getting longer and your home life a little happier.

GOD CREATED THE ORGASM…HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Author, John Bowe and I at a public reading of his 2010 book, US: Americans Talk About Love
Author, John Bowe and I at a public reading of his 2010 book, US: Americans Talk About Love

“My feeling is: God created the orgasm. How cool is that?” Those were the words pasted on page 110 of the book US: Americans Talk About Love in which I was, to my amusement, included in the unique group of “…horny-but-chaste pastors.” 

Award winning author, John Bowe, who has co-written several best-selling books, including the critically acclaimed, Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy, had painstakingly accumulated thousands of hours of interviews with a cross-section of Americans asking them to talk about that most ubiquitous and amorphous of subjects: LOVE.

Through a providential relationship with a friend from High School I had been included in these over 400 pages of “weird, crazy, fun” interviews that comprised this unique compilation.  In it, I was interviewed about, well, love and sex.  It was one of the most interesting experiences of my life.  In this book, John had interviewed different kinds of people from different walks of life with varying approaches to “love, sex, and relationships”.  He interviewed homosexuals, swingers, heterosexuals, monogamous married couples who had weathered the storms and vicissitudes of wedded life for more than 50 years.  He interviewed real people about their real relationships.  John gave ordinary folks “a megaphone” and boy, did they use it! Including yours truly:)

I took the opportunity to share my personal journey of learning to relate to to my wife of 11 years now, from a framework of Christian faith.  I was raw and vulnerable in a way I usually can’t be from a stained-glass pulpit.  It felt good to “be real” and talk openly about “inner feelings and thoughts” rarely spoken out loud buried in the rubble of past experiences.

I don’t know what you think love is.  I have my opinion.  The Greeks had 4 words for our 1 english word ‘love’.  It’s not always easy to describe, but we know it when we feel it!  I encourage you to read John’s illuminating book as you are becoming a person of love in all of your relationships.

I appreciate John’s thoughtful questions and genuine search for love himself, a journey which compelled him to put this gem together, I think, in the first place.  It’s not always “popular” to let Evangelical Christians share their opinions in works of art these days, but John is, I believe, “a truth seeker”, and his frame of intellectual reference knows no idea off-limits!  For that I am so thankful to John as an author and activist and grateful I was included in this momentous project.

John signed my book and wrote:

“Dear Brad, I’m too tired, too worn out, too serious of a person to resort to some cheap use of the word ‘orgasm’ to refer to your wonderful contribution.  Thanks.  Here’s to the movie version.  John Bowe”

Thanks, John.  Happy Valentine’s Day, my friend.  Here’s to finding ‘love’…whatever that is:)