In Memoriam

“Never was a cause more important or glorious than that which you are engaged in; not only your wives, your children, and distant posterity, but humanity at large, the world of mankind, are interested in it; for if tyranny should prevail in this great country, we may expect liberty will expire throughout the world.  Therefore, more human glory and happiness may depend upon your exertions than ever yet depended upon any of the songs of men.  He that is a shoulder in defense of such a cause, needs no title; his post is a post of honor, and although not an emporer, yet he shall wear a crown- of glory- and blessed will be his memory!”

– Signed, A Freeman.  Posted in the New England Chronicle in 1775

Excuses, Excuses

I need to live a more disciplined life.  Not necessarily more structured or less spontaneous, because that wouldn’t be me, but definitely more disciplined.

You see, there are some areas of my life that I’m not exactly happy with.  But the thing is, I realized that they are totally within my control to improve.  For example:

  • I am not happy with the way my body looks.  The reality is that there is no medical reason why I can’t loose some weight or get in better shape.  I am just lazy.  It is totally within my control to change.
  • I am not happy with my relationship with God.  The reality there is that I just don’t really take time to invest in that relationship.  (Disclaimer: God does not love me any more or any less based on the amount of time I spend reading His work or talking with him.)  I mean, I take time and invest in my friendships, and as a result, have built strong friendships.  The same thing applies here.
  • I am not happy with how much stuff I buy and how attached I am to “things.”  I don’t have to by these things.  I don’t need them.  That is something I can change with some discipline.

Do you see the pattern?  I spend a lot of time talking and thinking about these things, but they are totally within my control if I would take responsibility for them.  So here is the challenge:

  1. Come up with a list of two or three things in your life that you are unhappy with.
  2. Figure out whose responsibility they are.  Is it something you can change or something you need to trust God with?
  3. If it’s the former, fix it.  Don’t just talk about it.  Fix it.

In my quest for a disciplined life I have decided that I need to run and go to the gym in the morning because I am a morning person.  All it takes is me making the choice to get out of bed.  So last week I did it.  I got up, went for a run, came back and got ready, had plenty of time to read my Bible and talk to God, and had a great day.  There are definitely benefits to a disciplined life!  And then the next day I slept in. I am a work in progress…

Just remember: there is a difference between deciding to do something and actually doing it!

First, Do No Harm

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“First, do no harm.” You hear these words a lot in TV hospital dramas as part of the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take.  While those words are not directly used in the oath, the concept is definitely there.  Of course a doctor’s goal is to do no harm.  They want to fix what is going on and set the body on its way to healing.  That may mean trying new methods or doing something risky, but not at the expense of the patient.  At least that is how I would think it works outside of TV.

I have no idea why that phrase popped into my head while I was cooking dinner tonight.  I was tearing up lettuce for a salad (that counts as cooking, right?) and said the words, “First, do no harm.”  Random.  But then I started thinking, “What if we applied that to all relationships?  What if that was our motto to every person that we encountered?”  The reality is that we are going to see something that needs fixing in everyone.  There is going to be something that rubs us the wrong way, or annoys us, or of which we can only take small doses.  (This is totally different from addressing sin in some one’s life who has given us that close relationship. This is just personality stuff.)  What if, before we started picking them apart, we said to ourselves, “first, do no harm.”

I think it would make a big difference.  You see, the reality when it comes to different personalities is that something that annoys you or bugs you about someone isn’t their problem at all.  It’s yours. You have to make the choice to love regardless and to do no harm.  Love is not self-seeking, after all.  When we start picking people apart for their personality, all we are doing is harming them.  It evokes shame and a lack of self-worth.

I think this truth hits so close to home for me because I recently experienced it.  I have definitely been on the side of picking apart, but this time I was picked on.  I could never measure up, could never say the right thing, could never act the right way for this person.  I have never cared too much about what people think, but this was someone I considered a friend picking me to pieces.  I started to feel shame.  I felt worthless, useless, and it was taking it’s toll on me.  The harm was done. Fortunately I have some really great friends and family members who helped me to take a look at what was really going on.  It was extremely eye-opening.  I was hurt, but it was such a good lesson for me.  I am choosing to first do no harm.  If I can take that moment to pause, to choose not to harm, then I can really figure out whose problem it is.

There is a verse in Hebrews that sums this up nicely.  It’s a call to encourage one another daily.  When you feel the need to pick apart, choose not to do harm.  Choose to encourage.  The author of Hebrews says that when we choose that, then we won’t be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  Here is the verse:

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”  Hebrews 3:13

External Fix-It Remedies

I have been thinking a lot about sin.  Probably because our pastor has been talking a lot about sin at church and how you have to confess and really get rid of it.  It’s more than a decision to try and stop.  And most of the time, you can’t do it yourself.  You need to confess to someone and get some help.

I think so often it’s just easier to keep things to ourselves.  It’s definitely less embarrassing.  I mean, who really wants to admit to someone that they have been doing something wrong?  So we go at it alone.  And we fail.  Then we think back to the time when we didn’t struggle with this sin.  What was different then?  My guess is that we lost sight of what was important; started slacking in some area.  In my life, it’s because I start slacking on my communication with God.  I start going at life all alone without consulting him, without learning about him, without really even talking to him.  It seems to make sense at the time.  And then I mess it all up.  I slip up in some area and sin takes its hold on me.

There is a song I really like called “External Fix-It Remedies” that describes our life as a garden.  We have a great gardener who keeps it looking great and weed free when we trust him with it completely.  (The weeds being the sin.)  But then we decide that we don’t really need the gardener; we can definitely keep it weed free on our own.  How hard can it be?  So we fire the gardener.  Weeds start popping up and we keep ripping off the leaves, but they keep growing.  We don’t know that we need to get at them from the root.  And then, one day, we try to remember how our garden used to look so beautiful.  Oh yeah……the gardener!  He was so good at that!

My point here is that we can’t go it alone.  We need accountability with other people and we need constant communication and dependency on God.  It’s the only way.  We can’t get rid of the sin by just chopping it off at the top, we have to get down to the roots.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  Hebrews 12:1

Here are the lyrics to that song I mentioned.  I made my favorite parts bold, just cause I can!

“External Fix-It Remedies” by Matt Wertz

These weeds keep poppin up
I thought I’d killed them all last week
Cause I dowsed them with this poison
Whose label read extra strength
But sure enough they’re still there
Just as sure as they’d been before
Strangling all the flowers
I’d created this garden for

But I’ve tried all the external fix-it remedies
And I’ve exhausted every ounce of my own strength
But until I dig down deep enough to find the root
All I’m doin is, all I’m doin is yankin out the leaves

You say your sin keeps poppin up
You thought you’d killed it all last week
Because you told yourself you’d stop it all
And you prayed that you’d be released
But sure enough it’s still there
Just as sure as it’d been before
Distracting you from righteousness
And rotting out your solid core

Cause you’ve tried all the external fix-it remedies
And you’ve exhausted every ounce of your own strength
But until you dig down deep enough to find the root
All you’re doin is, all you’re doin is yankin out the leaves

My garden was once my favorite part about this town
Its beauty overshadowed all others in this place
You see, I hired a man to care for it and keep it that way
He was the best gardener around

But soon my old pride got to thinkin
About doin’ this job on my own.
I fired the man that perfectly kept it
And that’s when the weeds started a grow’n

Cause I’ve tried all the external fix-it remedies
And I’ve exhausted every ounce of my own strength
But until I dig down deep enough to find the root
All I’m doin is, yankin out the leaves

Book Review: The Endurance

This was an incredible story!  The full title of the book: The Endurance:Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition. Like the Lincoln book, it’s a story of tremendous leadership.  Also similar to that book, it starts out really slow.

But, this really is a great adventure and story of hardship.  It was a totally different time than we live in now and the stuff that these guys went through is incredible.  When you read this story you will understand the depth of Shackleton’s leadership genius.  These guys should have been dead, or at least should have been losing their minds, but they didn’t.  I really want to tell you what happens, but you have to read the book

Some of my favorite quotes about Shackleton from the book:

“He would be remembered not so much for his own accomplishment- the 1909 expedition that attained the farthest South- as for what he was capable of drawing out of others.”

“At the core of Shackleton’s gift for leadership in crisis was an adamantine conviction that quite ordinary individuals were capable of heroic feats if the circumstances required; the weak and the strong could and must survive together.”

“The mystique that Shackleton acquired as a leader may partly be attributed to the fact that he elicited from his men strength and endurance they had never imagined they possessed; he ennobled them.”

I really like that last one.  I need to figure out how to ennoble people; cause that sounds like something worth being remembered for.

Book Review: Team of Rivals

I think we have learned by now that my “Book Reviews” aren’t real reviews.  They just tell you if I liked a book and why.  I never write about the ones I didn’t like.  Although, I would be happy to tell you privately which books I didn’t like! Ha!

If you like history, or reading about great leaders, or you want to improve your character, then this is the book for you!  All three of those apply to me, so I really loved it.  The full title of the book is Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. As you can tell by my last post, I am a big fan of Abe.  Basically this book talks about how he wasn’t really equipped to be president, but he surrounded himself with the people who had the skills he lacked.  In his case, that meant everyone that ran against him for the presidency.  That seriously took some balls!

The Mercury Newspaper said about him, “He has called around him in counsel the ablest and most earnest men of his country.  Where he has lacked in individual ability, learning, experience or statesmanship, he has sought it, and found it. . . . Force, energy, brains, earnestness, he has collected around him in every department.”

So I highly recommend this book.  It starts out a little slow, but by the end you grow to love the guy.  And I seriously wonder how he put up with so much disrespect and whining in his cabinet.  He had an unending source of patience!

To end this “review” I am going to share a cool story from the book.

In 1908, in a wild and remote area of the North Caucasus, Leo Tolstoy, the greatest writer of the age, was the guest of a tribal chief “living far away from civilized life in the mountains.” Gathering his family and neighbors, the chief asked Tolstoy to tell stories about the famous men of history.  Tolstoy told how he entertained the eager crowd for hours with tales of Alexander, Caesar, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon.  When he was winding to a close, the chief stood and said, “But you have not told us a syllable about the greatest general and greatest ruler of the world.  We want to know something about him.  He was a hero.  He spoke with a voice of thunder; he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were strong as the rock.  His name was Lincoln and the country in which he lived is called America, which is so far away that if a youth should journey to reach it he would be an old man when he arrived.  Tell us of that man.

I hope that I can become this kind of humble leader that knows her weaknesses and isn’t afraid to ask for help.

A Radical Response

Picture this:
Your secretary (or personal assistant, or spouse, or sibling…you get the idea) walks in and says they just read a letter from a co-worker that is very angry with you about something. They say that the letter is scathing and you better read it quick and get back to them.

What do you do? Well, what I would do is read the letter, get really mad about it, then fire off a letter in return, equally as scathing, and really stir the pot. After all, who do they think they are? I mean, are you serious? How are you mad at me about that and why couldn’t you say that to my face? What an idiot!

Obviously, that is the most appropriate way to handle things.

Then I read a book about Abraham Lincoln. Apparently that situation happened to him a lot. You know, someone mad about something that he did as president. But one time in particular, a close associate (I think it was a state governor) was angry with and wrote him a letter to tell him so. His assistant came in and told him about the letter and that he should get to it soon as the guy is very angry.

Lincoln’s response to his assistant? He told him to throw the letter away! He didn’t even read it! I would have been digging that thing out the trash and reading it over and over until I was good and mad! After he told him to throw it away, he sat down and wrote the guy a letter that essentially said three things:

  1. He did him the “great honor” of not reading his letter.
  2. He was sorry if he had offended him in some way; it was not his intention.
  3. He would love to sit down face to face and talk about it.

That’s probably one of the reasons Jon Hay, one of Lincoln’s aids, said, “There is no man in the country, so wise so gentle and so firm. I believe the hand of God placed him where he is.” Or why General Sherman said, “Of all the men I ever met, he seemed to possess more of the elements of greatness combined with goodness, than any other.” And then there was Ulysses S. Grant’s opinion: “He was incontestably the greatest man I ever knew.” Finally, Leo Tolstoy sums it up when he says, “Now, why was Lincoln so great the he overshadows all other national heroes? He really was not a great general like Napoleon or Washington; he was not such a skillful statesman as Gladstone or Frederick the Great; but his supremacy expresses itself altogether in his peculiar moral power and in the greatness of his character.”

I don’t know about you, but that is the kind of thing that I want to be remembered for. I want to be remembered as a person of great character. A person who thought before she spoke; whose words brought healing instead of pain. A person who kept short accounts and was more focused on correcting a wrong she had done instead of a person who always had to have the last word.

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14

Oh Right, I Have A Blog

So, what have I been up to the past 2 months?  Well, I haven’t been blogging, that’s for sure!  I can’t guarantee this is going to be a long streak of blogging, but I do have some ideas for some posts that I am working on.  In the meantime, here are some blogs that really got me thinking during my unofficial and unplanned blogging hiatus.  In the order in which I read them:

  1. Stuck In Saturday– by Pete Wilson over at Without Wax
  2. God is Good, No, But Seriously– by Jamie the Very Worst Missionary
  3. Adopted Father?!– by Zach Smith

Books I’ve been reading (reviews/thoughts on these to come in the next few days):

  1. Radical- David Platt
  2. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln- Doris Kearns Goodwin
  3. Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition- Caroline Alexander
  4. The Pursuit of God- Tozer

Things I have been watching:

  1. Friday Night Lights- This is streaming on Netflix right now and I LOVED it!  I am watching season 5 real time.  This is an incredible TV show!
  2. Water for Elephants- Loved the book.  Thought the movie was OK.
  3. Parenthood- I’ve mentioned it before.  This is the best show on TV.
  4. Random documentaries on Everest- I don’t know why.  It’s just fascinating.

Things I have been listening to:

  1. Matt Wertz- Weights and Wings
  2. Ben Rector- Into the Morning
  3. Taylor Swift- Duh!
  4. Justin Bieber- My World 2.0 ACOUSTIC (You can make fun, but the acoustic CD is really good!)
  5. Debussy- La Mer (on vinyl)
  6. Simon & Garfunkel- Greatest Hits (on vinyl)