Tag Archives: success

Fear and pain are what move you to grow, mature and serve others to your glory and Jesus’

One thing I find odd about people today is that too many of them genuinely think that things are supposed to happen nice and easy, that they’re never supposed to experience any kind of pain, that there shouldn’t be any risk to what they do. Basically we have become unrealistically averse to any kind of pain or risk. An article in “Triathlete Magazine” (October 2015 p 28) written by Jene Shaw discusses the fact that if you’re going to do anything to grow, there’s going to be pain.

It really is called maturing, too many really think that they can really sit back, contribute as little as possible or nothing and expect everyone else to scurry around them. Obviously as a person and in a society, that model is not going to last too long. Only so many people can take, because there are only so many  available to give. In order to grow and become stronger and be better positioned to support those in genuine need. When we all do what is necessary then it’s not just for someone else, be we do become much stronger and a lot better able to cope with life. As a part of that whole we become better.

Too many really believe that pain is bad and something is wrong when they have pain. As the picture posted by someone in the triathlon community puts so well, at the end , when the challenge is overcome, the pain is a sign that you have grown through it. Whether it’s triathlon, basketball, weights, abs, swimming, if I don’t feel some pain, muscular, a little bruising I really don’t feel I’ve gotten the whole experience. That pain in the muscles tells me, that my body will rebuild from that pain and make me stronger.

As Jene suggests in the article, you need to accept the pain, if you fight it or fear it you can’t grow into it. Believe me there have been plenty of times when I’ve stood at the start of a swim at 7am wondering what I’m doing up at this time, knowing that hitting that water is going to be a, yea, painful experience. Knowing that I’m probably going to be kicked and elbowed by other swimmers, knowing that I have to get out to bike and run, yea there is anxiety. But knowing the feeling of accomplishment, success in finishing and knowing what it will do for my physical, mental and yes spiritual growth that will follow (some call it “bragging rights”), helps me to stand up to the challenge. So realize what you love about it, what it will move you to and the heck with the pain. I’ve done 54 triathlons and dozens of other races, so yea, I think I know what I’m talking about.

Jene suggests setting some goals. How can I do the swim, bike, run faster. Isn’t that finishers medal going to look good with my other medals, how great it will be to share with the other finishers, with my family, friends,  others at church? Think about the things you need to do during the race in order to finish as strong as possible.

She suggests relaxing, find some positive way; deep breaths, stretching and shaking, encouraging mental images, encouraging the other triathletes. It will work out and it will be rewarding, even if it’s only for your personal satisfaction.

Yes there is pain that is a warning sign. When you get to the point where you have overcome a lot of fear, anxiety you might think you should push through that pain. You do have to learn the difference, when you need to push through and accomplish, or when you do need to stop in order to prevent further damage. So there is pain that we need to overcome on our own in order to grow stronger, but pain when we do need someone else’s help. Can you say “medical tent, take me to the hospital”?

But in a Christian context it is the same. As disciples we need to grow and strengthen. When we do, those around us can take courage in us, we become stronger to help those who are genuinely in need, we become givers and leaders, not just takers. Yes there is a time in the Christian walk when we do need to take. Jesus has provided those times to be baptized, to be strengthened in His Body and Blood in our body and spirit, to be built up and strengthened in His preached word and in Scripture. To be a part of Christian fellowship that builds up yourself and those around you. There are times when you will feel you can’t go on. Truth is that being a Christian marks you out for attacks by the devil. The upside is that it also marks us out to be protected by the Holy Spirit, and to be strengthened and gifted to be better able to provide for yourself and for others. Certainly Jesus’ disciples started out as kind of weak and petty. Within a few short years they grew to be tigers of the Christian faith who served many others and also stood up to the fear and challenges of being disciples up to and including dying for Christ.

Too many people today make up their minds that they can’t, when it’s really they won’t. They think that they’re too weak, when they’ve never even tried to see how strong they could be. I’ve experienced this a lot: “well you are bigger and stronger, mentally and physically, you’re special so you can”. I assure you the only way I became that way is by pushing myself. There are plenty of times when I could have just rolled over and let it defeat me. There are too many people who’ve already decided they can’t do anything for themselves and let it defeat them. Ironically those will be the someones who decide that you shouldn’t be doing those things for yourself either. You have to continue to strive. Yea, don’t get me started on those people who stand there, find some way to pooh-pooh what you’re doing and give you this “hey! You think you’re better than me?” Me? I really don’t care, but apparently you seem to know deep down.

Ministry has been a very real lesson in knowing who I can rely on and who I just need to keep at arms length. Sure I serve anyone as much as I can. But, especially in an inner-city church, there are a lot out there who simply don’t want to step up and in fact want to take all that you will give them, if not more. They really see others as simply a source to provide for themselves. Again, yes, do what you can and don’t try to make excuses to avoid situations. However, know your limits and what pain is a warning sign. Do you want to beat yourself on some of those people who are hard as rocks? There are a lot of Christian brothers and sisters who do understand their own growth and growth together with others. Those are the ones that you need to pull together with.

Yes, there is pain, that’s a good thing and the sooner you accept that it will build and strengthen, the better for you and those around you. Sometimes you do need to be at that starting line wondering; “what the heck am I doing here”. But you seem to get to the finish and realize how great that was. There is team too. It is exhilarating to win a basketball game as a team, even though you’ve gotten bruised and banged and it’s kind of hard to really stand. Those painful muscles in the morning are a wonderful memory of the things you did to be stronger from the previous day. Find those who encourage and build you up and let them do the same for you. Quit sitting behind that computer looking for that kind of fellowship. It’s sad on your part and it’s just not going to happen.

Celebrate the success you’ve achieved, share it with those who know what it means to be fearful and have pain, it’s a great way to grow in brothers and sisters. Realize that even when there is suffering for Jesus, He knows what’s going on, who is and isn’t His. I’m glad I’m His, I’m glad He’s given me the challenges He has and that He’s been the one to move me through the fear, pain, anxiety and given me the thrill of victory, no matter how small the world sees that victory. Let Jesus move you to where you need to be regardless of the things you have to overcome. When I’ve reached the end of those challenges, I’ve realized that Jesus has done the things necessary in order to get me there. So feel some real pain and fear, join those who know the joy and accomplishment that makes you feel. You will be a far better person and so much of your fear and stress will disappear. Find me at the starting line of the next race, it would be great to obsess and encourage with you. !

We are called to take risks and be bold as the church and as individual Christians.

I worked in corporate finance for 20 years, mostly for very large corporations and organizations. I spent 29 years in the Coast Guard always in an operational capacity and I worked in other capacities in other sectors. The common denominator with these is that the status quo is just not acceptable. Standing still, same ole/same ole, “we never did it that way before”, however, is the MO with most churches. I’m not talking creative worship or “user friendly”, any of the quasi Christian attempts to entertain or be “relevant”. (I just read recently about a woman serving on the “worship team”, who wasn’t sure she was ready to go on stage.)

When did worship become entertainment?

In terms of risk in the church, it’s not about monkeying around with age-old worship in favor of “entertaining”, people-pleasing. Worship is worship. Frankly if we got serious about it, we would begin to realize the benefits of genuine worship, plus genuinely lifting up our Creator/Sustainer/Savior up to praise, glorify and give thanksgiving to.

But yes, in other ways we need to take “risks”. Way too many churches discourage anyone they somehow consider “different”. Far too many people have a very general definition of “different”.

“Success” as a Christian, in the church, is always about Jesus and those who are truly disciples of Jesus, those who are saved. Period. Yes, numbers, money, activities are great. But that is not success. It is in the world and that’s the way it will be, but the church is about becoming and living as the Body of Christ. But does that mean just passivity or are we expected to risk, to step out and be bold for Jesus? The answer, obviously, is to be bold for Jesus.

This is probably self-evident, but Inc Magazine writes: “The INC 500 ENTREPRENEURS excel in every area identified by Gallup. But they absolutely dominate in three strengths: risk-taking, business focus and determination -compared with the national sample. Those strengths are, not coincidentally, the ones most universally associated with business starts, survival and scaling.”

These are not areas that Christians excel in. There is no risk taking, there is an excessive focus on being conservative. Nice, non-commital worship, restrictive use of the facility, nice-pleasant studies- don’t want to get into the controversial. One area that’s especially showing up in the church is; that Jesus isn’t the only way. Too much accommodating the individual and less and less faithfulness to true worship and what we do to serve the Lord. It is risky to tell someone that they have to be a member of the church in order to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. Too many encourage you to follow the easy path and worry more about the person than the Lord.

It’s easy to turn people away from using the church facility. One thing that bugs me is that with few exceptions, the church sanctuary is used once a week. There should be more worship during the week, not to use the sanctuary for other things, but to increase worship opportunities, making worship more accessible and meaningful. The rest of the facility should be in regular use for small groups, groups that serve the community. Too often it’s easier to just say no, or only accept the “safest” groups or situations.

I’m not saying that churches, for the most part, do this with mean-spirited. I’m sure most people feel a genuine duty to protect what is there, especially when there’s been a long familial relationship with a particular church. You certainly don’t want to tear up Great-Great-Aunt Tilly’s whatever. It may have nothing to do with church or worship or be obsolete or beyond repair, but who wants to be the one to do the deed? Having said that, tough decisions do need to be made. Not arbitrarily, not because “well that’s so old”, but with the intent of what is going to serve best, what glorifies God and helps people in their Christian-disciple lives. To do that means stepping out in risk. The group that would like to use the facility may not be the “right” kind of people, but you need to welcome them, integrate them into the life of the congregation and help them to grow in Jesus. You disciple them, you take the risk. God put them there for a reason, for you to take the opportunity to be a good disciple of Jesus.

This can be fun, it can be exciting, it can be a rush like you’ve never known. The exhilaration of being used by the Holy Spirit to bring someone to salvation in Jesus is unforgettable and frankly even addicting. When you really do step out and take that risk, you are going to want to keep going.

“Gallup says those with a talent for risk-taking possess a highly optimistic perception of risk but are also rational decision makers who have an extraordinary ability to mitigate that risk. The assessment shows that Inc 500 founders are more likely than other entrepreneurs to take more and bigger risks. But they are also more likely to optimize their chances for good outcomes and, consequently, rapid growth.” (Leigh Buchanan Inc Magazine September 2014 p 30).

We are children of God, the Creator of all, the great sustainer. How can we not be optimistic, how can we take such a negative view when the Holy Spirit is really pressing on us to do something? How can you not be excited about the opportunity? Yea, I guess the vast majority of people in the world see risk as scary and unproductive (why try? It’s not going to work). OK. So? If we are His, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will always “succeed”, but really is their any doubt that it’s not going to be an experience that is rewarding, in terms of growth, in terms of strengthening, in terms of building relationships, on and on? We are the children of God He who will do miracles, they will usually be subtle, but when you think back, you will see the miracle. We need to start taking the risks that the world does. Our risk-taking results in eternal reward, where people in the world are so less reluctant to take risks for material gain that will just end up destroyed. Yea, I don’t want to knock down, Great-Grandfather Elwood’s desk, not lack of respect, but what is truly helping people to come to Christ and what is truly glorifying God. Within those parameters we need to take risks, everything else are lesser considerations and should never keep us from our greater calls.

And I am not saying “name it and claim it”, but it has been my experience that when you do take a risk, we Christians call it faith, that people see that and respond. Often you will get the support you need for a particular “risk” and sometimes you even get more from people who want to encourage the church to continue to step out in faith.

How do we as risk takers in the world, readily understand how that looks as a Christian and how to we live that as disciples of Jesus and part of a church? Join us on our Wednesday morning Coffee Breaks, shop at the corner of Beaver and W King Sts, 10am, park behind the church and walk about 20 yards. First timers? I will buy you a cup of coffee. God bless.

Our identity is in Jesus, not in our job title/description

AJ Sherrill is the pastor of Trinity Grace Church in Manhattan, NY. In an earlier post I wrote about New York City being the unhappiest metropolitan area in the country. I haven’t seen any research, but NYC is the hub of those who seek to make their fortune. Let’s face it only so many are going to do that, the vast majority are going to fall short. When you’ve staked everything on achieving what only a few will realize, the result will usually be unhappiness, or however else you want to characterize the despondency associated with “failure”.
May sound a little harsh and I’m not saying that is my perception, but it is the perception of many in the world, particularly those people that supposedly “matter”. When we have staked everything on our “success”, it leaves very little room for anything else in our life; family, integrity, self-fulfillment, God.
Pastor Sherrill quotes Abraham Kuyper (Leadership Journal Summer 2014 p84), “the 20th century Dutch journalist, theologian and politician. His famous proclamation, ‘There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!” “…is the reminder that should resound in the ears of every Christian in the workforce.”
Let’s face it, that is not the case. As soon as most of us hit the threshold at church, we have to beat the Baptists to “Country Buffet”, get home for football and then try to relaxe before we get back to the “real” world on Monday. Hey I’m not disputing that you have to work hard and focus on your career. I’ve never said you shouldn’t, but when you become so immersed, may I even say obsessed, you lose your identity in the Body of Christ and you become your job title/description. “…far too many are over-identified with their work as the context to achieve identity rather than express identity. When our identities are not settled in Christ, we subconsciously put them up for negotiation – and that negotiation is usually based on our ‘success’ or ‘failure’ we experience in the marketplace. Am I good enough? Is my future secure?”
When we lose our identity to anything/one, other than Christ we are already at risk to being dragged back into the cares and temptations of the world. We trust in God’s providence and sovereignty in our life, not how the workplace treats us. My experience in the corporate and military world has been that as a Christian you’re often not going to be treated “fairly”. It’s not necessarily an issue of success and failure, you may be marginalized because of your faith. So what does that mean? You give up? As Pastor Sherrill points out: “Unitl Christians in the workforce find freedom from over-identification they will only view work as meaning, while never getting around to approaching work as mission.” This is Christian integrity, I’m certainly not telling you can’t be all you can be in your vocation, you should be. As I’ve discussed before working for your “master” as if you are working for Christ. But to maintain your integrity, your identification has to be in Christ. You can be a good/great Indian chief, but being a great Indian chief in Jesus is what we strive for.
Pastor Sherrill quotes Richard Rohr: “When you get your ‘Who am I/” question right, all the ‘What should I do’ questions (begin to) take care of themselves.” Perhaps in terms of how I can be a great Indian chief for Jesus, instead of just great for my own fame, fortune and personal fulfillment.
This is a challenge we face in all our areas of life, how to be a Christian, father, husband, child, employee, citizen, but the workplace is what dominates so much of our life and is probably the area that encourages us to shed our Christian identity. It’s as if the workplace is not what Kuyper says, Jesus only can claim ‘mine’ to the time outside of the office. Of course that erosion continues to the point where we only see ourselves as Christians on Sunday morning and for only a few hours then. Jesus lived a life of integrity and sacrifice. What we presume to offer back two, maybe three hours at a church where we think we should be comfortable and entertained. This is for the men, speaking to you I’d like to say this is not being the strong man of integrity. This is an attitude of entitlement and frankly presuming to think that it’s all about you and that you are in control. If you are at any point of being a mature man, you know that you are not really in control. When we know that God is in control, that He does love us, but He also expects us to step up and be strong, courageous, and to act with Christian integrity in all of the areas of our lives. There is no integrity in the attitude where you throw Jesus some crumbs, expecting that it really results in your comfort and pleasure, especially when we remember what He did for us.
Let’s keep talking about it, Wednesday mornings 10 am at First St Johns, we have coffee and some sort of pastry, good discussion, we’re still going through Dr Gene Veith’s book, and a way to break up the week to be built up and restored in Jesus. 140 W King St, park right behind the church.

Happy, unhappy, go figure

Stumbled across an interesting, maybe, contrast.
According to Forbes the happiest place to work, by a lot, is the good ole US of A. According to Forbes not only are we the happiest, but we are also the most productive, $63 per GDP hour. (Forbes Nov 18, 2013 p 28) So there you go, personal opinion, I would guess that the American workplace is probably the most motivated, flexible, given the most freedom to do the job and not shackled with a lot of social engineering. At least compared to other countries, the concern is getting the job done. I would also hazard to guess that there is much more freedom of conscience, more give and take, more ability for people to work with each other without a lot of extraneous matter. That was my experience. I worked for twenty years in corporate finance, as well as being operational in the Coast Guard Reserved, as well as active duty time. I haven’t seen research, and I’m certainly not saying that the workplace is a “comfortable” place, but there still is an acceptance. I would be willing to bet a lot, that people of faith in other countries, especially Europe, are very much discouraged. No doubt the workplace is more workable because people can live out there principles in the workplace.
In contrast, (from an on-line study, PIX 11, believe got it off Huffington Post Jul 23, 2014) the least happy place in the U.S.? Yea, bet you didn’t see this coming, New York, NY. That’s right the city that never sleeps, of course that could be the reason why. What do NYCers worship? Oh yeah, money, success, and power. It is a place where everyone goes to succeed and only a tiny minority do. Oh believe me, most of my corporate life was related to the City. I started working for Chase Manhattan. Ironically one of my last assignments in the Coast Guard before retiring and going to seminary was Staten Island, cruising around the city in a forty one foot Coast Guard boat. So yeah, many come to NYC and all except for a tiny number, leave, usually in short order. Can’t be very happy in a place like that. In addition faith is an issue only in terms of whether it furthers your career and fortune. Work in the City is how much, how fast and how high, anything else, to use a Yiddish expression which is pretty common in NYC, is bupkus.

The ten happiest metropolitan areas? Are, with one exception, in the south, yup the Bible belt. The one area north of the Mason-Dixon, interestingly enough is in New Jersey, go figure. If there’s an area where faith is still going to be a part of the workplace, it would logically be where the Christian faith is still a daily reality.

Yeah, I may be laying template/agenda across two unrelated studies, but … the facts would seem to indicate that in those areas where faith still matters, it still makes all the difference in life.

So take some time tomorrow 10am  at First St Johns 140 W King St, have a cup of coffee, we can talk a little more about this or pursue Gene Veith’s book.

Success, Growth, Service, urgency, in life and for Christ

Bo Burlingham of Inc Magazine (October 2013) visited West Point, the US Army Military Academy, and made some interesting observations about military training, thatt I never really heard articulated. I have seen a reasonable facsimile of a team environment in the corporate world, but for the most part too many environments, including the church, just do not seem to be able to grasp the following concepts.

I can hear you say, “the military’s a different environment, different mission, different conditions,” Yeah, but. For way too many in the rest of the world, it’s the pursuit of the “buck”, and it’s all about the individual, I have to do anything and everything that is good for me. Frankly I’ve seen too many who didn’t even really understand what is actually good for them.

Burlingham makes this observation: “Every cadet also is extremely busy. Yet these cadets were taking time away from their studies and other duties to help their friends get through the course.” Well yeah, because you need to. There simply cannot be a “weak link” in the unit, whether it’s the class, the squad, boat crew, air crew, on and on. It is the unit that is successful, if it’s not, then no one in the unit is. If anything comes close to that it’s sports teams, but even in that environment, it’s the individual who’s torn between getting the championship ring and the new contract for next year.

I did not go to a military academy, but even in the shortened version of that, in boot camp and “A” school, you certainly get a sense of the four year environment. And I can really relate to  Burlingham’s next observation: “,..not only were the cadets more collegial, but they seemed to be happier – much happier- than students at civilian universities…” I’ve done college and I’ve done the military. Oh yes, college can be stressful, but puhlease, getting yanked out of bed at midnight to get screamed at and run around and in kind of physical, I don’t know, abuse. Sorry but most college students I know/known, would be sobbing, quivering masses. In the world’s  “it’s all about me environment”, they just can not internalize the concept that “if we’re all getting beat on together, it’s not personal, it’s intended to make us stronger and pull together.” But today you can’t seem to look at most people without them taking it personally. There’s way too many people out there who would do themselves a big favor and listen more and talk a lot less and get over themselves.

Burlingham says: “A cadet’s life is anything but fun. And yet these young people seem to get something out of their lives that is missing from the lives of many of their contemporaries.” Amen, preach it brother. Just to give you some context, I’m not some sort of “I remember the big one…” I only retired 9 years ago. I started when I was 17 years old. I served 29 years and I saw many changes, but for the most part, things were still the same principles and I can very much relate to this article. Things haven’t changed that much in the last nine years and with a real actual shooting war going on for, in or about, 13 years, all the more sense of urgency, mission and team. People could be readily killed and were. No one wants to send anyone into a shooting mission or a mission of any kind of danger without doing everything possible to make sure they come home alive. I’ve never had to deal with it, but I can imagine the sick feeling a senior person must feel when they hear about someone they trained being killed in action or some other operation. I think one of the things that Burlingham sees is the sense that cadets are, to an extent, living on the edge, meeting challenges that the vast majority of their peers wouldn’t and couldn’t begin to step up to, the sense that they are making a real difference, they are serving and also the sense that they will be meeting challenges very soon that could mean lives, including theirs.

One observation he makes that I think is unique and yet if you’re not feeling this, regardless of the environment you’re in, you are not really stepping up, you are frankly coasting. He asks “Does anyone get through West Point without feeling that sense of inadequacy?” The response from the cadets was, “No”. Their isn’t any nonsense about “self-esteem”, hurting someone’s feelings, no one cares, you should feel inadequacy and on a regular basis. How else are you going to push yourself, step-up, achieve more then you ever thought? Get over yourself, if you’re not failing, if you’re not being challenged and losing once in awhile, you are simply not living, you’re existing: “…repeated failure was built into West Point’s culture. Yet that didn’t seem to faze the cadets in the least. They came across as irrepressibly positive and devoid of the alienation that infected other campuses … there was the phenomenon he had observed in the gym: cadets going out of their way to help one another, even as they were competing intensely to outdo one another.” Interesting paradox, I have to win, but I cannot let you fail. And if I win and make you successful, well heck, I’m doubly successful and you are too. You also manage to avoid the inevitable “you got me this time, but now it’s personal and I’m going to do whatever I can to mess you up the next time.” I have seen this toxic, immature environment constantly, and in the end, everyone ends up messing themselves up. Why do we have the world we have today? Because everyone is stomping on everyone to grab everything they can get, only to get subsequently stomped on (and with prejudice), by someone else.

Too bad more people don’t have the following attitude: “‘It’s better to fail here and have other people help you get it right than to fail in Afghanistan, where the consequences could be catastrophic,’ said … cadet, Christer Hosrtman.” Great observation young man.

A man named Jim Collins who, among other things, has written business books, made this observation: “Collins took out a piece of paper and drew a triangle. One point he labeled success, another growth and the other service. Those three corners of the triangle, he sensed, held an answer to the paradox he had observed in the culture of West Point.”

I really don’t see it as a paradox. In military life, in Christian life and yes even in your day to day workaday life. You have to have these elements, you also have to have a sense of urgency, you have to have a sense that this matters and not just in a “just one more transaction, one more customer tedium” but in a way that you are serving a greater cause.

I would also like to pay tribute to so many I have served with that have exemplified these qualities of the military that protects you. My big brother Chief Jerry DeModena, my rebel southern cousin Lt Colonel Roger Niblet. Lt Commander Dave Wajda, Lieutenant Eric Bernstein, really all the men and women I served with in Harbor Defense Command Naval Coastal Warfare. All my brothers four of them and we covered the span of services; Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Marines, my father Air Force, my son Army and my nephew Air Force. Joe and Kathy Mokris both Annapolis graduates and Marine officers. God has blessed me greatly with great military brothers and sisters,  and Christian brothers and sisters. But this caveat, those Christian brothers and sisters, in whatever walk of life, need to  learn this lifestyle and it was a lifestyle that Jesus and the disciples exemplified. They had constant success because the Holy Spirit used them to turn those they were led to, to lives  in Jesus. They knew failure too and and trusted God in the successes and “failures”. They knew growth, growing through those they discipled and through the trials God put them through and they certainly knew service. Not just in terms of providing for bodily needs, but in eternal service, what really matters in Christ.

I know all rah, rah, but this is where it’s at. True faith, true service, true sacrifice, on and on in whatever you do. You may not feel the need to be so “Semper” in your position, but I can tell you that I have been truly blessed by people in what many would see in humble positions. Serving others, serving Christ with a sense of urgency, with a sense of, yes, making myself better, but challenging and helping those around me to be better too. When you have that kind of synergy, the Holy Spirit will use that to do amazing things to benefit you and to bless so many others. Do it, and let’s talk about it on Wednesday 10am corner of W King St and Beaver St, you are welcome to park behind the church and for those who are new I will buy you coffee.