Thursday, July 28, 2005

Be around good, positive people

I was in a bit of a funk when I got home last night. A bunch of to-dos on my list, and I didn't know where to start. Seems like I struggle with putting too much on my plate, as I wrote in my previous post, and then I get overwhelmed to the point I just shut down and don't do anything.

My wonderful wife helped me realize all I do accomplish. She's always reminding me not to be so hard on myself. She says not to live in the past, but focus on what we can do in the time we have and with the resources we possess. I can't make up for everything I missed out on due to past laziness or inefficiency, but I can start today to make a better tomorrow for myself and my loved ones.

Common sense, but when we're down on ourselves it often takes a voice of love and reason to open our eyes. By God's grace I didn't marry a woman who keeps focusing on what I don't accomplish. Of course I want to keep growing, but I'm thankful I can be appreciated for being further along than I was. I pray that each reader has somebody who loves them no matter what and who has confidence in them.

I just happen to be reading The Power of Focus, which says on page 17: "If you hang around people who are always complaining about how bad everything is, you may start believing what they say. On the other hand, if you surround yourself with people who are strong and positive, you're more likely to see a world full of opportunity and adventure." (Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hanson, and Les Hewitt, The Power of Focus. Health Communications, Inc: Deerfield Beach, FL, 2000). (Sorry if my bibliographical skills are lacking; it's been a while).

We can see an example of this in 1 Samuel 15, when Saul is told to totally destroy everything under Amalek (v. 3). But Saul spared Agag, king of the Amelekites, and the best of the sheep, etc. (v. 9). He tried to defend this by saying the animals were for sacrifices to the Lord (v. 21), but Samuel told him that the Lord prefers obedience over sacrifices (v. 22). Then Saul said in verse 24, "I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice" (emphasis mine).

Sometimes, like Saul, we can't choose the people around us, but the ones we choose had better be helpful or we'll be swallowed alive by the naysayers that seem to be so prevalent.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Focus or fail

That is, don't spread yourself too thin. Focus on a handful of key objectives, and stay with them.

I'm living proof of that, from both sides.

But why do I, and others, fail to focus, and as a result, fail?

Is it because I want to get too much done too soon, so I overload my "plate" and become overwhelmed to the point that I shut down?

Is it because I'm not really sure what I want, so I dabble in a multitude of ventures?

Is it because I fear failure of those things I attempt to do, so I only halfheartedly approach them, and then move on once it starts getting deep?

Robert Ringer once said, "Laserlike focus is perhaps the most common trademark of the supersuccessful." There are, after all, only a handful of people like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, who could excel at more than one thing. And it's pretty likely that they would have excelled even more if they would have focused on one sport.

Unless you are a very talented and dedicated individual, learn from my mistakes and stay focused. Otherwise, you'll come to see as I did that moving around will have you no further along than when you started.

I believe it was Zig Ziglar (and please correct me if I'm wrong) who said that you can take a magnifying glass on the hottest and sunniest day, and put it under the sun, and it won't light a dry pile of leaves--if you keep moving it around. But once you keep it still for a length of time, the sun's rays will soon heat up those leaves until they start smoldering, then burning.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Stand next to a straight line

Socrates said that the best way to tell if a line is crooked is to put a straight line next to it. So likewise, if we want to see how we're doing morally, we need to compare our thoughts and actions to those straight lines laid down by God--His moral principles. The Bible says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23; but see verse 24, where we read that we are justified freely by His grace, through Christ--that's how the gap is closed!!). So I'm not talking about entering heaven because I acted more morally than others. Our good deeds should come from a heart's desire to do so (as Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we might walk in them").

The terrorists and their leaders have used a very crooked line to compare their thoughts and deeds to. I hope that most of us who have moments of hatred or lust or greed experience regret over allowing those sins to overtake us. I have felt justified and have even enjoyed such moments, I'm ashamed to say. But the Lord's presence in me (you may remember I wrote about the Holy Spirit's indwelling being our conscience) has helped me regret such times. I don't look back on those moments and say to myself, "Boy, I feel so proud of myself." There's shame, embarrassment, anger, and so on.

But when people or groups promote such behavior, and continue to revel in it, there is something wrong. Something evil is at the core. I know I'm weak in certain areas. I don't always want to do the right thing. So I seek prayer, accountability, fellowship, encouragement. And I know that to forsake God and pursue my own agenda could lead my heart to become hardened so that I might not want Him in my life. I have experienced moments where I felt distant from God, where I didn't care what I did. And they have been among the most miserable times in my life. I'm so thankful for those people who love me and care enough to keep me in prayer. They are indispensable to my hope.

If you enjoy those things that the Lord says are an abomination (like hatred, greed, lust, envy, oppression, and prejudice), I pray that the Lord changes your heart, because you have such hope with Him, and can only experience deep despair without Him. Don't believe the lies about the Lord being always angry, or oppressive, or dull. There is love, joy, hope, power, and peace in Christ. I have personally experienced it, and He wants you to as well, no matter what you've done. Just humble yourself and admit you have offended Him. Accept His free offer to come into your heart and give you a totally new spiritual life. I promise it will be the most wonderful thing you've done. If you are willing to do so, please let me know and I'll pray for you.

Monday, July 25, 2005

God-ordained principles

The next step in the MAXIMIZERS acrostic is "Internalize Right Principles." This is where we look to see how our current values (those tenets we choose to believe) match up with overarching principles established by God. While Moses effectively broke the tablets that held the 10 Commandments, he could have never changed those laws, for they came from the unchanging heart of God. So it's not a matter of us seeking to change God's laws; rather, we need to pray that God will change our hearts so that they are in accordance with God's laws.

Here are couple of current stories showing the divide in our culture:

The first one is about the mayor of Las Vegas. Here are some comments from the story:

When he appears in public, which is as often as possible, Mayor Goodman likes to
be escorted by two scantily clad Vegas showgirls. ...
"I need showgirls!" he says. "I haven't had showgirls all day!"
A woman from
the convention staff hustles over. "A showgirl is going to walk you in," she
says.
"Just one ?" the mayor replies. "I'm being demoted."
A moment later,
the showgirl sashays in -- a tall, tan, terrific African American beauty wearing
a huge red feather hat and a tiny red bikini top.
Goodman looks her over and
smiles. " Now I know why there's only one!" he says flirtatiously. ...

"You have to get to the intersection of Sahara and Paradise," he says. "There's a billboard there with a woman in a pink dress. She's laying down and it says she'll come to your room. I don't know what she does in your room" -- he pauses to collect a laugh -- "but right next to that billboard is an ad for Viagra."
He waits for another laugh. "And that, my friends, is the entryway to my city!" ...

"I drink to excess, I gamble with both hands, I'll bet on anything that moves," Goodman says. "I'm the consummate impresario. I'm Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey -- all wrapped up for Las Vegas."
"He's the perfect mayor for Las Vegas," says Nicholas Pileggi, who wrote "Casino," the 1995 book about Vegas mobsters that Martin Scorsese made into a movie, with Goodman playing himself. "Having a rogue history works in that city. It's a city created by rogues. Who would you expect to find as mayor -- some evangelical preacher?" ...

In 1999, Goodman announced that he was running for mayor after 35 years as a defense attorney for mobsters and other miscreants. The Las Vegas Review-Journal responded with an editorial titled "Anybody but Oscar," calling him a "barrister to butchers" and a man who "carries so much baggage he could be Sky Cap of the Century." The good people of Las Vegas elected him anyway. In 2003 they reelected him with 86 percent of the vote.



(Like they say, you get what you ask for).


Now this story is considerably more promising. Sure, we can complain about how many hours children play video games, but they are not going away. And the Christian market is increasing significantly:
N'Lightning Software CEO Ralph Bagley believes half of the video game crowd is
Christian.

Which may be the result of the Christian gaming industry maturing:
"Fifteen years ago, the Christian music world looked like Christian games
today," Bagley said. "It wasn't until the Christian music companies came
together as a group and focused on quality that they were able to achieve
success."

And if they can provide some positive input to their hearts and minds, we will be far better off as a result. Says Go Play Research video game analyst Billy Pidgeon:
"Socially conservative Christians may not want their children to play games at
all. . . . On the other hand, when kids are asking to play video games,
Christian parents may find these games an acceptable way to promote their
values, while keeping their children entertained."

Of course, it can be a problem if gaming brings about increased isolation in a child (or adult, for that matter, since I've heard that the average age of a gamer is well into adulthood). Hopefully the Christians in the industry promote games that encourage interaction with other people (real people, that is).

Finally, out of the seemingly ubiquitious Left Behind series has been born the game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces," which is due out by Easter 2006.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Appreciating the talents and successes of others

I appreciate the perspective in this piece (click the heading of this post to access it). Stepping back to the Achieve Personal Significance principle temporarily, if I may, it's a reminder that we are not necessarily created equal in every area of our abilities and talents, and that we shouldn't begrudge those who are especially gifted in certain areas which we are lacking. It says we shouldn't reward everybody equally (such as bestowing honors upon the majority of a college graduating class rather than upon the top performers).

As the author Dylan Evans states in the final paragraph:

The rest of us should cherish those who possess such talent, for they are
one of our most valuable resources. They are the scientists who will come up
with the life-saving medicines of the future, the artists who will inspire us
with new works of beauty, the sportsmen and women who will amaze us with their
strength and skill. If we want society to progress rather than stagnate, we must
learn to be more generous, and rediscover the lost art of pure admiration.


I believe each of us has a destiny, a reason why God put us here. I may not be able to paint like Da Vinci or write like T.S. Eliot, but all God is calling me to do is use the gifts and talents He has given me, to His glory and to the best of my ability. If each of us does that, together we'll make great things happen in this world.

But few of us should expect to make such an impact on the world as those special few whose gifts far outweigh those of most people. If any of you are among those particularly talented, please don't forget the Lord that was gracious enough to endow and entrust you with such special abilities. And shine forth His glory through them in all you do.

New Jersey Society of Christian Writers

Click the heading to join the New Jersey Society of Christian Writers Yahoo! group, or click the icon in the Links section of this blog.

Athlete's mouth?

Seems I so often so often say things I regret that I'm surprised I don't have athlete's mouth by now for sticking my foot in it as much as I do. Recently I said some things to my wife that I realized soon after were hurtful. Whether it's saying something I should not have said at all, or saying something I phrased incorrectly, once the receiver of my message hears it, there's no taking it back. Admittedly at times I'll do this when writing, but at least there's a chance for me to review, edit, and then send it out. My brain seems to have a faulty editing and restraint system when it comes to the message traveling from my thoughts to my vocal chords. The thought comes into my head and I automatically assume, "Hey, this is a good thing to say." I often don't even consider reviewing it to make sure, a) that it's appropriate, and b) that it's phrased properly.

The third principle of Future Achievement International's MAXIMIZERS acrostic is: X Out the Negatives. This is where we learn to deal with challenges and hurts that come our way and not let them keep us down. So, for example, each time I say or do something that hurts somebody, they choose to decide how they'll deal with it and with my attempts at apologizing and repenting (see next paragraph). It would help them to remember that I make my share of mistakes (which I inadvertently remind them of quite often, if you get my drift) in this imperfect world. They need to look at who I am overall and not base their assessments of me too much on one incident. (As Dr. Jenson says in his book, we should try to believe the best about others and not make assumptions based on first impressions or isolated incidents). And they need to deal with the hurt as best they can and move past it whenever appropriate. As I've said earlier, I don't have the ability to determine how long that will take, nor is it my place to question how long they are taking to work through it. So many factors are involved.

The issue I need to focus on is what I did, and do the best I can to help right my wrong. That means such things as apologizing, repenting, and working on learning how to avoid such verbal diarrhea in the future. It's my responsibility to spend time with those I've offended to make sure they know I'm truly sorry and I'm willing to do what it takes to right the wrong I did. Life is indeed unfair at times, and, as M. Scott Peck said in his book, The Road Less Traveled: "Life is difficult." But that doesn't mean that those of us who cause difficulties are absolved from doing our best to help those we've hurt. We should know by now that sticks and stones are not the worst hurt a person can suffer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

May we remember all we possess

Even for those of us who profess Jesus as Savior and Lord, we are prone to look at ourselves and highlight (if such a word is suitable) our deficiencies, or "soft spots," as Ron Jenson might say. Not to imply that we should ignore them, for to do so long enough could lead to our being overtaken by them. But we need to see ourselves as the Lord sees us, rejoicing in the positive qualities He has blessed us with, and working on the weak spots in His power.

I, like you, have received a variety of positive and negative messages, to varying degrees. Some were spoken, some implied. I was blessed to hear words like, "I love you," "You mean a lot to me," and "You have such potential" from my family growing up, and now from my wife and stepson. Or if not spoken, to have such messages sent by way of a smile, a warm hug, or a changing of one's schedule to spend time with me.

I too often focus on the negatives in my life. And while I know I have work to do on those areas, if I could even begin to tap into what "Christ in you" means, I, like each of you in whom Christ dwells, could spread the message and power and love of Christ in a way never before seen.

May each of us see that wrapped inside each commandment and admonition of the Lord is a promise, a promise that in Him we don't have to steal or lie or hate or lust, because His Spirit is there to strengthen us, if only we'd seek Him out and surrender each moment. I so often rely on what feels good, whether it's such things as not working when I should or laying in bed too long. I lose my temper too easily at times. I look at the splinters in others' eyes while ignoring the logs in my own. And while I thank God for helping me see these shortcomings in myself, and I regret it each time they show themselves in me, I too often allow them to creep back in. Yet if I am wise and stay focused on drawing close to the Lord, I won't be overcome so regularly.

Neither will those of you in Christ. Whatever you struggle with is not strong enough to overcome the power of Christ within you. May we keep praying that the truth of Christ in us will be in the forefront of our minds and hearts, so that the enemies (our sinful nature and Satan) are seen as virtually powerless in the face of God's glory.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

How we see truth determines how accurately we see ourselves

The second principle from the Future Achievement International website is Achieve Personal Significance. This is where we look at ourselves and see where we are strong and where we are lacking. Sadly, groups like al Qaeda have such a twisted view of right and wrong that they think they are doing the world a favor by targeting innocents, cutting people's heads off, and the like. No self-respecting, God-fearing person would even consider those abominations to be righteous. Some of our soldiers have been criticized for what has taken place at sites like Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. And not to belittle any crimes that were committed by our troops, but it isn't US military policy to mistreat the enemies we've captured. In fact, we have fed them well, made sure they have arrows pointing to Mecca, we feed them well. We have had extensive investigations into any possible abuses by our troops, and we're getting rid of those troops of ours who have not acted respectfully. I am quite sure that our soldiers in general go to bed feeling good and blessed by what they are doing, while the terrorists are being lulled into a false sense of security, both here on earth and for eternity.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

TagBoard Added

Look at the bottom of the page. This is if you just want to post general comments and not address specific posts.

New link added

This is a young man who seems to have a good head on his shoulders. I wish I could have had his maturity at such a young age. In fact, we are developing an online friendship that is such a blessing to me and, I pray, to him as well.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Our weakness countered by Christ's strength

Shortly I'll be discussing the 2nd principle in Dr. Jenson's coaching guide: Achieve Personal Significance. In short, it's about knowing ourselves more fully--where we are doing pretty well and where we are struggling. Think about it: In what areas of your life are you quite successful (and I'm not just talking about financially or other externals; I mean your heart)? And where are you struggling?



Dr. Jenson uses Philippians 4:13 as a key verse in this lesson on the ministry version of the tape.
"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."

You can break this verse down in two ways.

I can do all things through Christ...
and
I can do all things.

The first example shows our need for Christ to succeed in life, that without him we won't get very far. Dr. Jenson says this shows we have "soft spots," or sins.

And the second example shows that with Christ we have power to accomplish what he has gifted us for. These are our strengths.

Check out this song for a good example of what I mean:

Artist: Casting crowns
Song: Who am I

Who am I?That the Lord of all the earth,
Would care to know my name,Would care to feel my hurt,
Who am I?That the Bright and Morning Star,
Would choose to light the way,For my ever wandering heart,

Not because of who I am,But because of what You've done,
Not because of what I've done,But because of who You are,

I am a flower quickly fading,Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean (ocean),A vapor in the wind,
Still You hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling,
And You've told me who I am.. I am Yours.

Who am I?That the eyes that see my sin,
Would look on me with love, and watch me rise again,
Who am I? That the voice that calmed the sea,
Would call out through the rain,And calm the storm in me,

Not because of who I am, But because of what You've done,
Not because of what I've done,But because of who You are,

I am a flower quickly fading,Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean (ocean),A vapor in the wind,
Still You hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling,
And You've told me who I am...
I am Yours, I am Yours.I am Yours,

Whom shall I fear?Whom shall I fear?'Cause I am Yours,I am Yours.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

New links posted

I have posted several links on my blog. Here's a little more about them:

The Bible Gateway links to various versions of the Bible (I don't know how this online Bible compares with others; it just happened to be one I found). Scripture is and should be my "primary source document" for living a life pleasing to the Lord and becoming my destiny, so it behooves (is that still a word?) me to have it close at hand (or mouse).

Future Achievement International is an organization that helps people achieve authentic success. They provide life coaches for businesses and individuals. I have benefitted tremendously from them. They cater to both the Christian and secular marketplaces.

Life Coach Foundation helps train people like you and me to be life coaches so we can help others achieve authentic success. They are closely linked to Future Achievement International.

Zig Ziglar is a well known Christian salesperson whose name is synonymous with success. He has inspired millions, and I regularly read his material to keep an up attitude.

Campus Outreach Atlanta is where my niece and her husband work. They minister to college students.

Louise Dumont, facilitator of the North Jersey Christian Writers group, helped my writing significantly. I couldn't always make her meetings, but what I learned when I was fortunate enough to attend was indispensable. She has a particular affinity for coffee and chocolate (don't we all pretty much fall into one of those two categories!), and her writings on those subjects touch more than just our taste buds.

Mark Martino is a very good friend of mine, and I was honored to be his best man at his wedding. I also know he is very handy with fixing up houses, unlike me.

Another vision statement

My niece and her husband work with Campus Outreach in Atlanta. See the site for more about that wonderful ministry.

Their vision statement on the website is:
Glorifying God Building Laborers on the campus for the lost world.

See more about this vision by clicking "vision" in the above paragraph.

Updated profile

I have updated my profile significantly. There's still more to do, but it's a start.

Update on posting

You may have not been able to post comments, but I think I fixed that (though this is all so new to me and I'm far from proficient). So please feel free to express your thoughts (in a respectful manner, of course).

Overlooking the most important things

I must extend an apology to my wife and others who have truly been the backbone of any success I've had. My posts have focused so much on those people and organizations whose business it is to help people succeed, but at least as important to a truly successful person are those people and institutions who provide spiritual, emotional, and moral support. They may not necessarily provide a list of "ways to succeed in life," but they are indispensable.

I still have a ways to go, but I'm much further along than I would have been if my I didn't have the love and encouragement and mercy that my wife provides me each day. Her example is such an inspiration to me, and my happiness in life and sense of true success are diminished if I don't make her happiness and security a priority. My parents and siblings have also played a vital role, and even though I don't talk with them as much as when I was a child, they still mean a lot to me and I continute to learn from them. My church family has helped me grow in my faith, and I'm blessed to be in a small group of couples that provides spiritual and emotional support to each other. I also have some friends who I don't speak with as regularly, but we know that we are always there for each other.

If anybody can learn from this and not belittle the importance of those closest to you, I'll be thankful.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Good vs. Evil: A clear picture of the terror war players

Portion of story:

27 killed in Baghdad suicide
blast

Police: Most of dead were children getting treats from U.S. troops

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A suicide bomber blew up a vehicle Wednesday near a
U.S. military convoy and large group of Iraqi children in Baghdad, killing 27
people, Iraqi police and hospital officials said.

Iraqi police said most of the dead were children. ...

"The soldiers were handing out treats to the children when the bomb went
off, police said.


So our troops reach out to hand out treats to children, and the terrorists reach out to blow the children up. I'm thankful CNN mentioned the good deeds of our troops, as it seems the mainstream media (commonly known as the MSM) too often focuses on their failures while ignoring or belittling their successes.

May we pray for the families and loved ones of those lost and injured in the blast, and that God will heal the bodies and hearts of those injured and otherwise scarred by this evil and totally ungodly act.

And may God help us to pray for those who submit to this evil. I do not have enough knowledge to say whether the Koran endorses such acts or whether Islam really is a religion of peace, but the fact remains that the terrorists are using Islam as a reason. I heard on the news this morning that one prominent Muslim said that his fellow believers have not risen up en masse against the bombers because they fear it will make it seem like they are on our side. Although directed toward the terrorists financial network and its supporters, President Bush's remarks on November 7, 2001 speaks to all aspects of the dividing line between those who support us and those who support the terrorists: "You are with us or you are with the terrorists. And if you're with the terrorists, you will face the consequences." So, if these certain Muslims fear they will be seen as being on our side if they denounce the terrorists, then they should not be surprised that they will be seen as being on the terrorists side if they don't denounce the terrorists. Plain and simple.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Make Things Happen: My story

I recently posted on the London bombing and how the Make Things Happen principle applied to the terrorists and those fighting for good. But I feel compelled to share how I'm doing with this principle. After all, I did post earlier that I would include my successes and failures.

Taking responsibility isn't easy, especially when the temptation to pass the buck is all around. My parents were divorced when I was young. I didn't have the best looks or athleticism or social skills as a teen, so I couldn't be with the popular groups.

I do struggle with living based on how I feel, not on what's the right thing to do at the time. I lose my temper too easily. And so on. Is it because of my genetics? Or how I was raised?

Fact is, there is no law of life saying that I must allow outside forces to determine what I do. I can't necessarily control whether I feel like doing something, but Jesus didn't feel like going to the cross. Most of the brave warriors fighing terrorism don't feel like risking their lives and leaving their families. But there is a sense of honor in doing the right thing at a hard time. I am responsible for what I do and say and allow myself to think.

Dr. Jenson says we should focus on the roots, not the fruit. In other words, work on those things we can control. I can't always control the trials and temptations I encounter, but I can control my response. And wisdom dictates more often than not that I turn these things over to God so I can be strengthened and encouraged.

Working hard. I often want things handed to me that I didn't earn. But I never look back on those moments in fond remembrance. And admittedly, working smart should also be part of the equation. But I'm sure that an employer who finds a person working hard will find more use for that person than a smart worker who sits on his duff 80% of the time. A hard worker will want to learn, while a lazy person will find ways to avoid work.

Proactivity. I'm often too reactive, not stepping out to make the path toward the end God has for me. I've heard that reacting is emotional while responding is intellectual. A person who has not encountered warfare is more likely to react and allow his emotions to control his actions for a longer time than a person who has been in battle often. A reacter will allow other people and circumstances to choose his destiny, while a proacter (OK, so those words may not be in the dictionary!!) will step into the destiny God has in mind, no matter how difficult.

Habits. I'm learning that "habit" isn't necessarily a bad word. It's simply what's natural. Until fairly recently it didn't dawn on me that I can develop good habits. Of course, bad habits are developed by doing the wrong, but enjoyable, things. The good things are not always enjoyable at first, but their reward far exceeds those of bad habits.

Hero busdriver in London

From the Times Online of London:

"THE driver of the bus ripped apart by a terrorist bomb told last night how he tried to rescue his injured passengers in the minutes after the explosion. "

This is true success. This is what is truly honorable and courageous. Not those pitiful bombers.

And it is people like this man, George Psarabakis, whom God will honor, while the terrorists will be reviled.

Consider Mr. Psarabakis' love for humanity in these actions. No doubt badly shaken by the blast, he thought outside himself for the sake of others. He overcome fear and shock that no doubt left many in the bomb's path emotionally crippled. Something inside him, something born and matured over many years, welled up and sprang forth. None of us knows how we will respond to a crisis until we are in its midst, but the character necessary for such bravery and selflessness as this was already present in this man. May I never have to face such horror, but may I have such qualities as possessed by Mr. George Psarabakis on July 7, 2005.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Keys to authentic success, and who will really succeed in the terror war

I am very thankful to Future Achievement International for helping me to live a life of Authentic Success. Over the course of a couple of years, my life coach Greg Dolby really helped me start moving with some purpose. In future messages I'll be giving examples of how FAI's principles have worked in my life, how things have gone wrong when I've gone astray from those principles, and how we can see them at work (or not) in the lives of people today.

The MAXIMIZERS Principles (here and here) form the key principles we need to follow for a successful life.

(Disclaimer: Please don't look to me as an authority on these principles; I'm just going by my best understanding of them. See the website (linked above) or talk to somebody from FAI for a more official viewpoint).

Over the next several days I'd like to look at the recent attacks on London to show how people have lived, or trounced upon, these principles. Just because a person or organization seems to have success in one principle doesn't mean you should emulate them. That will become abundantly clear down the road.

The first principle is Make Things Happen. That includes being proactive and not reactive, seeing ourselves as victors and not victims, and being disciplined and not lazy.

By "proactive" I mean acting according to predetermined principles more than simply a knee-jerk response. I heard it said that a young wrestler was struggling in his matches. His coach noticed that he was waiting for the other wrestler to make the first move, and only then did the young wrestler respond. The coach suggested that the young wrestler create a game plan and stick with it, and make the other wrestler respond to him. The young wrestler followed the coach's advice, and had great success. (This does not mean we don't adapt as necessary, a principle I'll discuss down the road. What it does mean is that we don't make reacting a habit.

It is expected for a person under a surprise attack to be in a temporarily reactive mode. But I commend the British, especially those directly in the bombs' paths, for their regaining a semblance of order so quickly. No doubt this toughness and resolve stems in part from their having been attacked so many times over the last few decades by the IRA (Irish Republican Army), and because they weathered Nazi Germany's Blitz of day after day after day bombings. Within hours after the attack on July 7, radio stations had resumed normal programming and commuters were searching for alternate modes of transportation. Emergency personnel very quickly cordoned off areas that were hit, and British and American intelligence dug for clues.

Some want us to do what's necessary to appease the terrorists. They believe that it is our presence in certain areas of the world that lead the terrorists to attack. If we would only back off, they say, then the terrorism would stop, or at least abate. Thankfully, Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush don't hold to this doctrine. They know we must not allow Osama bin Laden to dictate this war. They may have started it, but we'll finish it, so long as we exemplify a take-charge attitude.

There are obviously victims in this attack, but one key to victory in this war is not assuming an attitude of victimhood--the "poor me" syndrome. I've heard one unspoken mantra of alcoholics who see themselves as victims is, "Poor me, poor me, pour me a drink." In other words, when faced with challenges, some would rather crawl up on the proverbial barstool and take a drink than face the problem head on. They would rather say, "It's so bad, I deserve a drink," than "It's bad, but I'm going to overcome. I won't let this keep me down." Those who were hurt by the blasts must not allow themselves to take more time than necessary to recover physically and emotionally. I'm not going to assume I know when that is; for some it may take a long time. But each person must determine for themselves if he or she is dragging it out. Terrorists hate it when we rebound, when we go back to living as we always did.

Discipline is doing those things that lead to success. The word "discipline" is developed from the Greek gymatsu, which we commonly know as "gymnastics." It gives us a picture of a gymnast hard in training, trying certain moves over and over again until they are smooth and natural. It means not being lazy and sitting around because you don't feel like practicing. No doubt the British military and intelligence services go through rigorous training; and so does al Qaeda. Those being trained may question why they have to keep on doing certain things over and over.

The Karate Kid movie is a good example. Daniel LaRusso (played by Ralph Macchio) is told by his newfound karate teacher Mr. Miyagi (played by Pat Morita) to do some work around the place, using specific movements for each job. He waxes the car, paints the fence, and so on. But he walks up to Mr. Miyagi one day in anger and complains that he has not learned anything; he is only doing manual labor. Then Mr. Miyagi shows him how the movements he used come in handy in karate.

By practicing over and over those skills that lead to success, whether they want to or not, the British military, intelligence, and citizens will spend less time thinking about what to do and more time doing what needs to be done out of habit.

So who do you know that practices or doesn't practice this principle of making things happen? Are you proactive? Are you a victor? Are you disciplined? If we can all be so, and for the right reasons, then we will beat the terrorists and those enemies of laziness, addictions, and so on.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Sad Day; A Day For Heroes to Rise Up

We were shocked and saddened this morning at the news that London had been attacked by terrorists. As of now, 30+ are confirmed dead and several hundred injured, many seriously. I won't post links here, because there are plenty of other places to find them (in fact, if you can't find them, you have probably never been on the internet).

What I do want to say is that I stand with those who will not give up the fight against terrorism. In the coming days I hope to expand on how misled these terrorists are, but for now I will bow out in prayer that the Lord will help comfort the innocent and convict the guilty. And I ask the British to believe that good will triumph over evil.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Vision Statements, continued

I believe a vision statement should reflect mainly on what "could and should be," not things we should do to get there. A mission statement, which I'll address in future messages, should say, "This is what I/we will do to achieve what we would like to become--our vision."

Here are a couple of vision statements from organizations I respect, followed by our family's vision statement. Please understand that my overall support of these institutions does not necessarily mean I support everything about them:

From Focus on the Family Institute (page 5):

Focus on the Family Institute envisions leaders championing and living the truth of God
revealed in Christ through multiple spheres of influence for restoring the family, reviving
the church and transforming society.


From Future Achievement International:

Future Achievement's vision is to transform cultures, institutions and companies worldwide for future generations by impacting and changing lives...one at a time! As a result we see healthier organizations, families and individuals.


From Stand to Reason:

Our vision is to provide the training to build a new generation of confident, courageous, yet winsome and attractive ambassadors for Christ capable of restoring credibility to the Christian world view.



And now, our family's. Actually, I haven't worded an overall vision statement. This is a series of visions for each area of our lives, but you can pretty much deduce the overall vision from what follows:

"We pray and claim the following vision for our family:

We adore and shine forth Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and intimate friend, eagerly and joyfully serving Him with all our being at all times as honorable ambassadors of His heavenly kingdom.

We enjoy physical health and vibrancy, emotional peace and depth, and excellent knowledge focused wisely on what best helps us be who and what God desires.

Kim and Jeff love each other with the passion of newlyweds but with a depth and commitment beyond our years, and our children are truly secure and happy.

Our extended families know deep down that we love and care for them, and our Christian witness is clearly evident and appealing so they are drawn to the Lord.

We enjoy deep and loving friendships while always being eager and increasingly able to start and develop new ones, and we love everybody unconditionally.

We truly know we are stewards and not owners of our finances and goods, honoring God with all we possess and desiring nothing that hinders our souls or our witness, and taking good care of what we do have.

We enjoy and are fulfilled in our careers and education, working as unto the Lord and having an obviously godly impact on those around us."



Admittedly, this needs work. But it's a start.

I was quite disturbed that several organizations I researched on the web had no vision statements published, or at least I couldn't find them. I would think that it would be on their first page.

I wonder if they are incorporating their visions into their mission or purpose statements ("mission" and "purpose" may be synonymous in certain cases), because it seems that some of them have statements that say, "We plan to do...so that...will result." What are your thoughts on this?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I believe vision is key to true success. To the degree that I have focused on my personal vision statement, I have truly moved forward. But to be honest, I have not done so nearly enough. I have it written down, but it's stashed away somewhere, and at times I'll happen to come across it. Maybe some words on the importance of vision will help me realize its importance.

The way I define "vision" here is: "“Vision is born in the heart of the man and woman who is caught between the tension of what could be and what should be” (Andy Stanley) http://teenlifeministries.com/articles.php?a=read&aid=411. Hitler had a vision for Germany and Europe. He saw what "could be." But it was not what should be, that is, in God's eyes. Hitler and countless millions of people bought into the lie that Hitler's vision should be, but that vision led to destruction.

A godly vision never counters God's will. And if a personal vision statement is in direct contrast with your company's corporate vision statement, then the stress may tear you in one direction or the other.

We won't find the vision. It will find us. Referring back to Andy Stanley's quote, we don't determine what should be. God does. He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=29&chapter=46&verse=10&version=49&context=verse, so why should we, who can't even predict the weather for a few days ahead (yet certain forecasters have the audacity to tell us what the weather will be like months from now) think we know what's best?

One way we'll know it is from God, and it should be, is when we develop righteous, godly anger at what shouldn't be. Dennis Rainey writes: "Search your heart and see what it is that makes you pound the table." I realized then that what made me pound the table was when I saw kids who were hurting because of parents who weren't happy in their relationships." (see http://fltoday.com/about/staff/default.asp).

Here's what Bob Wiley writes about vision (from http://www.bobwiley.com/Resource/Smile_61203.pdf):
"Visualize sitting with your family celebrating your
eighty-fifth birthday. Consider that your life will
have been productive and effective as a purposeful
Christian and as professional as you can imagine.
What will your children and grandchildren say?
You co-workers? Your neighbors? Simply answer
this question as you think: 'What is the story that
I want them to tell about my life?'

"What do you see that would be different in your world at the
end of your life if you brought your vision to reality?

"What would cause you to weep if left undone during your life?"

Of course, attitude is vital, and I'll be addressing that, but a truly God-ordained vision will motivate us because it will fit in with how God created us and blessed us with our gifts and talents. If we're not excited about the vision, then either it's not from God or we're not right with God.

What are your thoughts? How did you come about your vision statement, and how have you done with it? Or if you don't have a vision statement, why?

Friday, July 01, 2005

What this blog is about

Our destiny is out there for us to grab. But to attain it, we must become it. "Not really," some of you might say? Tell me, how can we truly be successful unless we become, from the heart, that which we long to take hold of? I can reach the pinnacle of success (at least in the eyes of my peers) in banking, for example, but if I'm only in the banking world to please others or because it's all I've known, then I'll be quite miserable. That, to me, is not true success.

But back to "destiny." You may ask, "Doesn't the very word imply that our path and our end--at least the latter--are already predetermined (or predestined)?" I do believe that God knows all that will happen. But how much He orchestrates in our lives, well that's a matter for the more theologically advanced among you to discuss and debate. My purpose is to write about (and hear from you about) how we can live in accordance with God's expressed will and with our conscience--to become our destiny--that is, who God created us to be.

Conversely, to walk outside of God's will and/or to go against our conscience will lead us away from our destiny. Those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have the Holy Spirit's presence in us, so if we are going against God's will our conscience will be uneasy, because the Spirit will be uneasy. However, the more we go against His will, the more "calloused" our hearts become, and we feel a little less bothered each successive time we do so.

I'm writing as one who is on the road to true success. I haven't attained it, and over the coming weeks I'll post as many of my weaknesses as my strengths. But, if I'm progressing toward the end God has for me, in a manner that's honorable to Him, then I'll consider myself a success.

I'll also post items from the web that exemplify what true success is, and what it isn't. Please feel free to do the same, so we can help each other become our destiny.