This past week was Spring Break for my family. It was a great to have the opportunity to spend the week in the Great Smoky Mountains with my family (wife and sons). We took the opportunity to enjoy God's creation in miles of hiking and biking trails.
While headed up a trail called The Chimney Tops I noticed writing on the back of a t-shirt. The quote was simple, "Tomorrow, today." It reminded me of the importance of not procrastinating. Many of us are familiar with Benjamin Franklin saying, "Don't put off until tomorrow, what can be done today." and "You may delay, but time will not." These quotes are not to be confused with Mark Twain, "Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well."
There are times in all of our lives when we have jobs and tasks we face that we do not want to tackle. We avoid, we make excuses, and we find other jobs to start in hopes of delaying the inevitable. A mentor I had while living in Las Vegas, NV would tell me, "make a list of everything you need to do each day, and start with the one you are least looking forward, then your day will become more and more enjoyable." I have been guilty of not taking Tommy's advice, but on those days when I do, it's amazing how well things go.
Leadership master, John Maxwell teaches a leadership law titled, The Law of Diminishing Intent. Here is Maxwell’s explanation in an excerpt from his book:
“When I was a kid, one of my father’s favorite riddles to us went like this: Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many are left?
“The first time he asked me, I answered, “One.”
“No,” he responded, “Five. Why? Because there’s a difference between deciding and doing!”
Ouch. How many times have we said, “I should take them a meal, we should hang out again, I need to talk to him/her about…?” And so often what happens is that eventually the thought is gone and when we think about it again…later, much later, we rationalize to ourselves that too much time has passed and it would be awkward.
For the Christian…what is it you are putting off? Is there something in your life that you need to act on…yesterday? A conversation with a person, a reprioritizing of time, a commitment to flee from sin…etc. As I work with students and teach them the truths of the scripture, I remind them that time is NOW. Just as in many evangelistic methods, the evangelizer tries to draw the hearer with "you know none of us know the day or hour we might die…” Indeed, they are correct. I too don’t know the day or hour of my death or what will happen from moment to moment. I too must stand in conviction knowing that I may draw my last breath, saying, tomorrow I will tell _____________ about my relationship with Christ.
Tomorrow. Would you consider making tomorrow today? To take each moment captive. Is there a neighbor you need to show the love of Christ to? A co-worker you need to take to lunch and talk with about your spiritual journey? A class mate who needs to know you care? That past friendship / family relationship that needs to be reconciled? Would you make tomorrow…or next week…or later…or some time soon…TODAY?
On my commute to the gym this past week, I decided to not to zip through a yellow light, but stoped. This apparently hit the wrong nerve in the person who was following me. Hands flying up over her steering wheel, I could easily read her lips..."OH COMEON! YOU COULD HAVE MADE THAT..." Not making a judgment here, as I think all of us have been in the rush drive mode at some point or another and have done the exact same thing or worse. This is funny because separating our faces was my tinted windows. A barrier that separated her knowing my true identity...not Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider Man) but Peter Cunningham...one of her husband's good friend. Ugh oh.
I'm lying in a tent in the middle of a forest above the bank of a rushing creek (writing this post only for commitment purposes). It has been raining for days and the ground is soaked. Miles away from civilization, we are Survivor Men. 15 other guys spread out over 5 tents, tomorrow we hike two miles south to the banks of the Little Missouri River.
I am sharing my tent with my son (9 years ole) and an 8th grader. "Hey Peter, it's Friday the 13th ya know!" "What do we do if we hear chainsaws?" "Run bro, go for the van," I tell him. Funny thing is now I'm reliving in my mind all of those horrible Friday the 13th flicks I saw when I was in fifth grade! The rushing river, rustling leaves, sounds from other tents, an occasional water drop from an above tree limb.
Well as the weekend progressed, the weather did as well. Our group was able to hike a little over five miles and forge a couple of raging creeks, we didn't however attempt to cross the Little Mo. Concerned for safety and wanting to stay dry we hiked (bushwhacked) to the back side of winding stairs.
Arriving back at camp the weather had worsened. After eating dinner and realizing that 4 out of the 5 tents was holding water, the call was made to pack up in the rain and roll out. We arrived back at Bryant close to 9:00PM, about 15 hrs ahead of schedule.
Not a single person complained that we decided to have a change of plans. I was happy and looking forward to Sunday AM services with our church family. Coming home early proved to be a good decision.
I was amazed by the ability and adaptability of several of our guys and especially of my 9 year old son. He loves the outdoors, but this trip pushed his physicality. There's not many places I would choose to spend my time above the wilderness, the peacefulness and sense of adventure that comes with being among untouched environments, envigorates me. Matched with being with a bunch of dudes I care deeply about...makes for a GREAT WEEKEND.
"What?", you may be asking. "Why would you leave your stuff outside over night?" And you know what? I'm not worried about anyone taking it.
I'm speaking specifically about that big green rolling container, that when something goes in it...no one wants to dig it back out. I'm sure we've all be there at some point. Elbow deep in coffee grounds searching for that bill, or letter that should have been filed or the check we accidentally threw away.
For the sake of keeping this short, it's late, I'm tired, and I just made the midnight run to the end of the driveway in my pjs with the rolling trash can in tow, I know that I n about nine hours that can will be empty ready to start a new week.
I'll stop here. Either let you insert the potential spiritual metaphors (you don't see any?) or let you dismiss this post placing it in the same category as what's currently sitting out at the end of my driveway. I'm sure I'll revisit this some day.
Did you remember to roll out the trash can?
I've been doing more intentional reading this year than ever before. Two of the books I've read this year so far have been centered around stories that come from the battle field (Unbroken & You, The Warrior Leader). From these two books there are numerous examples of integrity, grit, commitment, self will, focus, leadership, friendship, team work, and so much more!
Recently, in my reading, I came to Proverbs 4:23 "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." Just as on the battlefield soldiers are living in the threat of constant attack, King Soloman reminds us that our heart is under a similar attack...constantly. Your enemy (Satan) wants to defeat you, to destroy you, and to distract you. "Keep" your heart. This is an intentional action on our part. No other person will keep your heart in the same manner as you. From the wise words of Soloman, the reason we are to keep our heart with ALL vigilance is because from our heart flows LIFE (The way I follow God, how I treat my spouse, how I respond to my parents, the way I do my work).
I am going wilderness camping in a couple days with 16 other guys. There are a couple of places on our route where we will have to cross streams. These streams start from springs. We will drink water from these springs. These springs will provide life to us (water) they provide life to all of the nearby vegetation as well. What would happen if a person chose to contaminate any of these little streams that we will be crossing? The contamination doesn't stay does it? It starts flowing down stream contaminating as it flows. Then other people that come in contact with the stream see how it has been polluted, so they may be more likely to pollute the stream as well. You see the cycle starting don't you?
Our lives are similar. When we fail to guard our hearts the potential for contaminates are inserted and it affects our entire life..."for from it flow the springs of life." When we don't keep our heart from jealousy, anger, & lust, our life becomes contaminated...flowing through all areas of my life, affecting the way I interact with family, strangers, & people I see every day. Others then see how contaminated I have allowed my life to become, so they intern become eager to insert their contaminates into my life as well.
Is your heart being guarded? Are you vigilant, guarding what you allow inside? Consider the more complete statement of encouragement that Solomon gives in Proverbs 4:20-27 -
"My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. for they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the sprigs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil."
KEEP YOUR HEART WITH ALL VIGILANCE! FOR YOU ARE UNDER ATTACK!
Romans 6:11 "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."
I did not become a student of English until I became a student of Spanish. Speaking a language and understanding how grammer works are different. As I was learning Spanish I was forced (by a very small in stature yet extremely assertive Guatemalan lady) to learn about parts of speech and other points of grammer.
At some point in all of our lives we been on the receiving end of an imperative statement. You know what I'm talking about. Take out the trash. Don't do, Go there, come here, eat this...etc. In the verse above (Romans 6:11) Paul uses the first imperative in his letter. It takes him five complete chapters until he finally gives a demand. For clarification an imperative is "extremely important; urgent; unavoidable."
As I was reading this passage last week this statement came across to me from Paul as in a manner that a loving father would instruct his child. "You also, MUST CONSIDER..." Must consider is an action of the will. We consider a lot during our day to day; what we will eat, wear, read, to be lazy, just to touch a couple. Here we are told to consider ourselves dead to sin. So often we blindly walk into sins; habitual, without consideration, some we don't see any possible way to over come - so there is no attempt to conquer. Must consider...requires a conscience effort, sometimes to stop, slowdown, and make a choice. Sometime the consideration is already determined...like my consideration to eat tuna fish. It's already been determined, the consideration was given and I said no!
What would your life look like today if you took Paul's imperative to heart? What would our thought life, the words we say, the way we treat parents or spouses, or our secret life look like if we "considered yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."? Will you? WIll you heed Paul's words? You Must Consider...
Snow days always throw me off my schedule. This year, so far, we are on number six. On top of that we are have had Wednesday night church cancelled three weeks in a row. For a student pastor, that's huge. Being with students drives us. Being able to hang out, crack jokes, invest in life, teach the Bible...these are all things I love.
But I have one love that tops what I feel the Lord has called me into. My family. Snowdays these days have given me great joy hanging with my wife and sons. I praise God for all circumstances. For this snow and for being 'stuck' at home...I praise.
Influence. You have it. But what you do with it, that is what determines who you are, to yourself and others. Decisions that all of us make, not only affect ourselves, but can touch others lives in so many ways. Whether you are a fourth grader or a forty year old, you have the ability to influence others.
Because everyone has influence the decision is upon each individual on how that influence will be used. You have the choice to live each day being a person who will use his influence to affect people in a positive or a negative way. Just as we are people of influence, we are surrounded by people of influence. Each one of us has to determine each day, 'who am I going to allow to influence me?" For me, I have chosen to let Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Bible influence me, my wife, my sons, I have chosen to allow my parents to influence me...the list will go on and on...many of the people who have influenced me will probably be written about over this year.
But equally opposite, I have chosen to not allow certain people to influence me. I cannot prevent their actions or my awareness of their behavior or even sometimes how others choices may even affect my life. But I can control, "Am I going to allow this person, their choice, or the situation to affect me?" I choose no. The bully at school, the person who is trying to distract me from completing my tasks, the other students using inappropriate language or talking about situations which I know are inappropriate...you cannot unhear or unlearn information, but you can choose to not be influenced by those situations.
Who are you going to allow to be the greatest influence in your life?
How are you going to let that choice affect you?
We've all experienced boredom at some point or another. Some people seem to live in a constant state of boredom, which leads to lots of bad decisions. Yesterday AM, while my wife was getting ready for church, my eldest son Fisher told his mom that He was bored. She suggested that he read my blog. WHUUU...? Driven to read his fathers less than active blog from boredom. That makes me feel top notch. After later discovering this, I asked him today, "If I wrote every day, would you read it?" To which his reply was "Yes, you need to write more, cause the last time you wrote was last year." Ugh. Guilty as charged. "You think I should make a goal to write every day this year?" I asked him. "Yeah, i think you can do that!"
So because of a confident statement by my son, I commit this year to write every day. What a better way to live your 39th year of life. Yesterday was my birthday. So, here it is. The start of a new journey, 365 blog posts. Some will be short...others will probably be shorter. Some may be posted a day or two late (from being out of town or away from technology...but I will write.) I guess I could make one of those head shots a day for the whole year...but nah.
Fisher, enjoy this next year. You will hit double digits,your mom will catch up with my age in nine months, your bro will become 9, prayerfully Grand Poppa will ring in 96! I love you bud. Thank you for believing in me! I believe in you!
Christ Follower, Husband, Father, Student Pastor, and Lover of all things Garlic and Bacon.