The Power Of A Life Well Lived

When you consider how you or those around you have lived, what stands out the most? That is, what makes any life have real meaning and significance? Is it the money that has been made or the lives that have been influenced? Perhaps it’s recognition from the general public or acceptance among those who are rich or famous. At some point in everyone’s life the question, “did my life have meaning” will have to be asked, and when it is will you be happy with the answer?

In case you are wondering, I am dying at this moment. Did that statement shock you? The fact is, so are you! I don’t mean we all have a terminal illness that is quickly taking our life. What I mean is, like it or not, every day that passes by brings us one day closer to our final moment. We are all dying one day at a time. This is a reality that no one can escape, and it can’t be stopped. Some have a month to go, some a year, some 20 years, others 50 or more years. In the end we all die when our time is up, but dying is not the issue. It’s the living we do that makes all the difference!

For some the final conclusion that will be reached may be quite satisfying. This is because they have considered not only what they did with their life, but more importantly how they did it. In the final analysis the real power of a life is found in how it is lived. The living we do before others is what brings peace to the stormiest situation and clear vision to the darkest night. Such a life is never spent on achieving great things. No, it has a much higher vision. A life well lived is invested. It is sown like seed into the lives of those who are touched and inspires others to do even greater things.

So the question we all must ask is, “who has my life inspired”? What I do from this day forward will determine that answer. Will I leave a rich, vibrant legacy of care, encouragement and blessing in the hearts of those I have touched, or will I simply be another picture and personal article in the obituary section of the local newspaper?  You know what I mean; “they were born and died on such and such a day, they are survived by so and so kids and grand kids, they worked at thus and thus until they retired. End of story!

I believe we can all live life in such a way that it inspires others to go further, deeper and higher than we ever dreamed. It is possible to live and impart such passion into others that they are motivated to do the impossible. Let’s decided today that we will live a life with such purpose that it encourages and propels others forward to do better and greater things. People imparted that into me and it caused me to step off the path of a mediocre, half-hearted, lukewarm existence.

Now I want to…. I have to make a difference! In fact I believe this is one of the highest callings in life. We are all here for a reason, and if we choose to have a life well lived we will leave this world a better place. More importantly we will so enthuse others that they will do the same. What is the result? Let me quote Louie Armstrong, “and I think to myself, what a wonderful world”! So, go live your life with passion and purpose. Inspire others to do great things and you will discover the amazing power of a life well lived.

Principles Of Truth

Like it or not, we all live out our lives rooted and grounded in the core realities we have embraced.  Every action, and every word that flows from our life, comes from this frame of reference called “principles”. These truths direct how we live, what we believe and why we do the things we do. They are powerful concept-builders that are at work in every life, every moment of every day. The stark reality is simple; no one can avoid the influence or the consequences of the principles upon which they have built their life.

Evidence of this is seen whenever we turn on the news, pick up a newspaper or read the latest of what those in Hollywood or in Washington have been doing. The illegal activity, blatant greed, multiple marriages, lies and broken lives of those in the headlines clearly identifies the principles upon which they are living their lives. These people do what they do because of what is directing them from the inside, and it’s virtually impossible for them to do otherwise. The truth is simple and it is unavoidable. The principles in us direct what we believe, and what we really believe directs what we do.  

The ancient Greeks had a word for these foundational principles that we establish our lives on. It is the word “aletheia”.  Alethia is the truth you have embraced in your core. It is the bedrock within you that forms the lens through which you see everything. This is your reality and it absolutely establishes who you are, what you believe about yourself and what you believe you can do. Once “aletheia” is cemented within you, it forms the framework upon which your entire existence hangs. However, there is a catch. Aletheia can be true in reality, or it can be the reality that is true for you. Most people don’t realize there is a huge difference.

If your principles are grounded in the truth, that which is real, accurate and correct, you will have a great foundation upon which to build your life and touch others. It will keep you balanced, focused, honest, genuine and transparent. Those who develop trust in someone who lives this way will not be disappointed, because this is a life that deserves, and will be given great honor. On the other hand, I have had the misfortune of knowing those who had principles built upon a reality that was true for them. They believed everyone and everything in life was there to serve them, and their actions clearly demonstrated that reality when they wounded and betrayed everyone around them.

What is the “aletheia” in you? Are you honest, truthful, genuine, transparent and honorable? Do you really care about the family, friendships and well-being of those around you? If the answer is yes, then you have life principles built upon the truth. On the other hand, do you build trust with others simply because you want something from them? Has there been a pattern where you continually betray and disappoint family and friends?  If you said yes to this then you are one who has life principles based upon a reality that is true for you, but it is not the truth. Until you face this fact, nothing in your life will ever get better.  

Before it’s too late, you might want to ask yourself a very important question. When it’s my time to die, will I be satisfied, at peace and surrounded by those who love me because my influence touched them deeply in a good way? If the answer is no, then today is the day to take an honest look within. Examine the principles and truths you have built your life upon. Embrace your need for a genuine relationship with God and reject those things that are self-serving and self-promoting. Remember, the key to a life of profound good is established upon principles grounded in truth. When loving God and serving others becomes your reality, you will have life principles that really make a difference. In the final analysis, there is no better way to live and no greater way die! It’s your decision… now what are you going to do about it?

The Illusion Of “Safe”

As I sat here this morning pondering the life we have and the land we live in, something dawned on me. Perhaps the better word is that a reality startled me. I have never considered it before, but the concept of living in a “free” nation is powerful. Our free nation however, has radically changed from what our forefathers established. Not that what we now have is bad. Our nation has done more good and brought more aid to suffering humanity than any other nation on planet earth. That being said, the concept of “freedom” and what that really means, hit me in a new and thought provoking way.

Our national anthem ends with “ of the free and the home of the brave”. When that was written our society had a level of freedom we in this modern age cannot imagine. Sadly the loss of our freedom has been so gradual, so well planned for the “good” of the people that we have surrendered it without so much as a whimper, in order to be “safe”. Any people that exchanges true freedom for the illusion of safety, will end up just as we are. They will be smothered in regulations under the illusion of freedom.

Consider the following as you ponder the above statement. See if you also agree that what I have said is in fact the cold, hard, undeniable truth. In this land of freedom we call the United States of America the temperature in the hot water heater which I bought and installed in my own home is now regulated by the government. The height of every stair step, the width of every door, the amount of water that flows from my shower head is controlled by laws. How wide the sidewalks and roads must be outside my house is determined by a regulatory board.

Think of it, there are rules in place that now regulate how and when you can choose to die.  There are laws for seatbelts and helmets, safety glasses and the speed of an airplane. There are laws that protect a green sea turtle and a snail darter from being killed, but other laws that allow us to kill our own children. There are regulations that prevent us from biblically spanking our children in order to train them to know right from wrong. However, a recent poll just stated that the US has more adults in its prison system than any other nation in the world. This is the land of the free?

The speed at which I drive my car and the kind of car I am allowed to drive is now fully under government control. The food on my table, the medication I take when I am sick and the size drink I can purchase at a restaurant has been decided for me, so I can be kept safe and healthy. How far apart the studs are in my house has a rule and how far apart cars can park from each other on the roadside has another rule. If I can have a fire in my own back yard is now regulated. When and where I can shoot my gun as well as what and when I can hunt is strictly enforced. An ever increasing law enforcement agency is now encouraging us to turn in those who don’t comply. Why? So we will all be safe!

How we educate our children, what kind of toilet we can purchase and what makes up the clothes we buy are all under rules and regulations. The material that makes up the furniture in every house and the paint on every building is under government supervision. The rules now tell us how many people can be in a building, what the angle must be for a ramp going into that building, how many fire extinguishers must be available and even how far apart outlets must be in order for that building to be deemed “safe” and “approved”.

Topping all this off are other rules. These say we must pay for yearly inspections of that building in order to keep it approved. We must pay for a yearly inspection of our vehicle to make sure it is safe. We must register our guns so the government can identify where they are which keeps us safe. We must register our children, by getting them a social security number, so they can be easily identified by the government and kept safe. Adding to this is the fact that we must pay for the people the government hires to continually check up on us to make sure we are complying with the rules.

When I consider the above and so much more, I have to ask myself a heartbreaking question, “we may be safe, but are we free any longer?”  Is this the vision our ancestors had when they began this magnificent experiment we call America? In my heart the answer cried out and it was so clear that I could not deny it. We have indeed surrendered our freedom and now we feel “safe”. However, the cost has been more than we could ever have possibly imagined. There is no doubt in my mind that we are nothing more than a nation of slaves.

How did it happen? To begin with we laid aside common sense, accountability and personal consequences for bad decisions. We covered and coddled those who did wrong and held suspect the motives and success of those who walked in honor and integrity.  We handed out trophies to every kid for any half-hearted effort they gave and thus demoralize the ones who tried and actually earned and deserved the trophy. We have been so intent on making people feel good and safe that we have robbed them of the exhilarating thrill of honest victory and the agonizing education found in a crushing defeat. We have stolen from them the truth of experiences that say they are living a normal, healthy life.

As for me, I jumped out of the boat years ago and I have lived my life as it was meant to be. At times I have been in over my head, but that taught me how to swim. I have abandoned the safety of a well-worn path and that taught me how to find my way to new and exciting adventures.  I have had massive failures but I have also had stunning victories. I have risked the possibility of falling where no one would be there to help me up. However, in so doing I blazed a trail that set me and others free to really enjoy all this life has to offer. This is the life I must live and it is the life I hope others will hunger for.

Come step away from the shore of a safe life and swim out into the deep. Real life, the life you were designed to explore, is found when you are in it way over your head. If you ever begin to feel what it’s like to be free of the restraints of “safe” , you will never go back to the comfort of the shallows again! 

The Success Of Failure

I got an education today from a most unusual source. It came in an unexpected way, but when it happened the power of it impacted me very deeply. At times, the reality of what I am seeing may not grab me in that present moment. However, in pondering things and rolling them over in my mind, the truth reveals itself like the subtle flavors hidden in a rare wine. They always come out as I lingered over and patiently consider the event and those who were part of it.

I did a memorial service for a man who was a dear friend, a fellow minister and a member of our church for the past 13 years. I first met him in 1989 when we were both teaching summer school at a state detention center for juvenile offenders. He died February 15th at the age of 85 and had lived a very rich, vibrant and honorable life. The service was in our church and people came from other states and the local area to share in the event. It was a fantastic tribute to a great man of God.

As the building began to fill with people, I greeted many who had been part of our church at one point or another in the past. Those who were once an active and faithful part of this place now came through the doors as guests and friends. With each handshake and hug, each smile and warm greeting, I could feel a flood of mixed emotions rising within me. They were strangely swirling around and at first began to catch me completely off guard.

I realized these were people I had loved deeply and poured my time, my friendship, my counsel and my mistakes into. Some of these I had married, some had family members I had buried. Many I had baptized in the Jacuzzi under the church floor. We had shared life together and lived through the agonies it presents. We had shared our hearts and finances as well, to build the very place we were now in. Some had been part of things for a year or two while others had been here serving and loving the church for a decade or two before they left. Now they were all going to different churches, both near and far, and continuing on with their walk in God, but without me.

Some had left our church out of frustration or misunderstanding, while others knew it was God who had moved them, and those we sent off with a blessing. Now, here they were, walking back into the building and filling the atmosphere with their laughter, their memories and their new adventures. They greeted me kindly and genuinely, and really wanted to know how things were going. A few looked around the building with approval while others were glad to reconnect with old friends who were still part of this place.

As I stood there and watched the sea of people, I began to realize what I was feeling. It was the same emotional storm that hit when two of my sons signed up for the Air Force and my third son took a promotion and a job in another city. I had done my job as a father and my boys had followed my example and found a good life of their own. By doing so it launched them into their own destinies but it also took them away from mine. When each came to kiss me on the cheek and say good-by, I wept like a baby because I knew our lives were about to change forever and there was no going back.

So as I stood there looking at these people I heard God’s Spirit whisper that the building was not full of my mistakes and failures. It was full of people who were my spiritual kids. I had loved them, guided them, served them, challenged and corrected them while they were part of this place. Some had responded well and others not so well, but growth had come to each. With that growth came the responsibility to hear from God for themselves and do what He was calling them to do. In other words, when my part was over, they needed another to take over. These were people I had impacted as God intended, and each was now living out the destiny I had helped to develop within them.

One of my current leaders came up to me with a look of amazement after I had done the memorial service and whispered, “Pastor, do you realize that all of our old friends who are here today are in places of leadership in every church they attend? Think of that! Do you realize the impact you have had on so many people and how your influence goes where they go!” When he said this everything came into focus and a great peace settled upon me, because it was true. I had planted the seed that was now producing a mighty harvest.

You may have experienced friends, business partners or even relatives leaving your circle of life over the years. Some may have left for the right reason while others may have abandoned you for something that was totally wrong. Whatever happened, consider the importance of reframing that person and event according to where they are today. Did they change and grow? Did they make good choices? Are they better off than when they were with you? If so, part of the reason for that success is because of the seed you planted in them. Whether they know it or not, they are who they are because of  you. Take comfort in the knowledge that what looks like failure in one season of life has actually planted the seeds of greatness in a season yet to come.