A Life Worth Living

Image may contain: motorcycle, tree and outdoorOn May 16th, my grandson and I were coming home from the Wheelerville School. I was the substitute teacher in his classroom that day, and the bonus for him was that he got to ride on the back of my Honda Shadow VT1100C. We left school and came down off of Clip Hill, heading for  home in Johnstown, NY. The rumble of my motorcycle on that beautiful spring day was accented by the warm, moist air rushing by us, and the brilliant sunshine that was pouring down from a deep blue sky. It was one of the most perfect Spring days I have experienced in my 48 years of riding motorcycles.

We were traveling at normal highway speed in a line of traffic, and at a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of us. As we approached the Sir William Johnson Fire House, which was just outside of town, something happened. At that moment, I glanced down at my odometer to check the mileage, and make a quick mental calculation on when to stop and refill my gas tank. My eyes were off the road for about three seconds, but when I looked back up, terror gripped my heart. The driver in front of me had decided to suddenly break and make quick left-hand turn at the very moment I had looked down. It was a perfect storm of chance events, and the results were not going to be good.

When I looked up at the road ahead I realized there was not enough space to stop my bike, or manuever around the stopped vehicle. I downshifted, hit both breaks and leaned the bike over trying to protect my grandson, while getting as much stopping power as I could before we hit the vehicle. We impacted it’s rear right bumper at about 25mph and my bike went down on the road while my grandson and I were catapulted into the air. He ended up with a few abrasions on his knees, and a scraped up faceplate on his helmet, but I did not fare as well. My right side bounced off the road, I slid along the tar and finally flopped into a muddy ditch 35 feet away. I had a few crack ribs, four breaks in my lower right leg, an open fracture, cracked bones in my right foot, strained tendons and ligaments in my right leg, and numerous cuts and abrasions all over my body.

Ambulances came to take us to a local hospital where my grandson was checked over and released with a few scrapes. I was rushed to Albany Medical Center where I underwent emergency surgery on my leg. After setting the broken bones, and two and a half hours on the operating table, I was brought back to my hospital room in pain, but happy to be alive. My leg now has 4 titanium screws, 25 stitches and a long titanium rod running inside the full length of my right Tibia. I have weeks ahead of me with my leg elevate, and more weeks of physical therapy for me to return to full strength. And the bike? Well it has relatively minor damage that can be repaired, but I have no collision insurance so it’s all on me.

The obvious question I have been asked by numerous people who visited me since the accident is: “So are you ready to give up the motorcycle?” My answer has been pretty much the same each time,”Why? Did you stop driving when you wrecked your car? Did you give up fishing when you hooked yourself? Did you give up walking when you fell down?” Now let me clarify that I will drive with more care. I will stay back even further from other vehicles. I will stay even more alert to what is ahead. Yes! But, will I stop riding my motorcycle and no longer enjoy that sweet pleasure of life? The answer will always be an emphatic, No! Not until the Lord says it’s time to give it up. When I hear that from Him, it’s over!

A life worth living is the one you can enjoy without fear controlling your decisions. It is filled with risk, and blessed with reward. It is punctuated by mistakes and elevated by victories. It may be colored by pain at times, but it is also made real with unbounded joy. Most of all, it comes alive in moments of glory, or seasons of sorrow that happen as we live it to the fullest. Some may opt to live a safe, protected, bubble-wrapped life, but I submit to you that such a life is not worth living. It is simply existing in the safety net where risk is eliminated and so is passion. When victories are minimal, and the adventure of living has been sanitized away so that routine runs the show, and there are no unwanted surprises, this is no life at all. It is simply existing in a protected safety zone of comfort until you die.

How do you categorize your life? Is it neatly packaged, and clearly ordered so that you feel secure and safe, and the adventure is all but eliminated? Is it an air-conditioned, climate controlled, bug free, green zone of organized boredom? Life is short, and you must make the most of the time you have. Perhaps it is time to strap on a helmet, feel the wind in your face and see what it’s like to live a little on the edge. Break out for your deadly routines and try something different, even a bit dangerous. You can begin to live the adventure you always wanted. It only takes one decision, one step in a new direction.

You don’t have to climb Mount Everest, jump out of an air plane, trek to the South Pole or walk the Great Wall of China. Others can do such extreme things. No, you only have to break out of the mold, the comfort you have surrounded yourself with, and try something different, simple and new. It could be eating at a very different kind of restaurant, reading a new book or learning to dance. Perhaps it is vacationing in a new spot you saw on a map, or learing to drive a motorcycle or paddle a kayak. The possibilities are endless. Once you get a breakthrough, nothing will ever be the same. The question you must ask yourself is this; “Is my life the unmarked trail of adventure I want it to be, or is it the predictable, sign covered road I will safely walk, till I die?”

What is a life worth living? That, my friends, is the million dollar question we each must answer for ourselves. Mine will be very different from yours, but such a life will leave you breathless with anticipation for what might come next. It will stir your imagination, require fresh courage and fill you with the joy of discovering something you never experienced before. It will have moments of danger and risk, but it will bring the satisfaction of doing something others look at and wish they had done. A life worth living really is there for the taking. It’s just one decision away, and you can have it today. The question is, do you want it, and will you take the first step to get it? If not, take a moment to discover what’s holding you back and then move beyond it. Your life, the one you always wanted is out there waiting for you.. now go get it!

Walking In Your Wilderness

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Deuteronomy 32:10 says “He found him in a desert, and in a howling waste of a wilderness, He encircled him, He cared for him as the apple of His eye”. What a powerful picture is painted here of God’s concern and care for those who a wandering in a wilderness of life. It matters not if they chose it for themselves, it happened unexpectedly or God Himself actually took them there. The point is, they were in it alone, and in His own time God came to them and cared for them, whether they deserved it or not.

I say the above because there is a time in everyone’s life when they find ourselves totally alone. This is not so much a physical thing, but it’s more of an emotional and spiritual season of isolation. When it finds us, we cannot avoid the impact it has on everything we hold dear. This wandering might last a few weeks, a few months or even longer, but once it arrives, it does not depart until it’s work is done. This isolated plateau of the soul is identified in the Bible as a place called “the wilderness”. We arrive in this place by ourselves, distracted and in an unrefined condition, but rest assured, we will not leave it the same way.

In this empty season no one is there to carry us, guide us or give us the companionship we think we need. Not one person is there at our side, providing step by step instructions to bring us into the new place we need to be. The fact is, every man or woman of God who is destined to fulfill their life calling, has to make this journey. Even those who do not know God, but are hungry to do better, will be taken to this place. The truth is, I believe this trip into the wasteland of our soul, is a necessary part of healthy personal and spiritual growth. As a result, it is my conviction that these times of barrenness should not be avoided, but they should be looked at with clarity, embraced with sincerity and fully walked out.

It is only during our wilderness experience that we are fundamentally changed. Our metal is tested, our character is developed and our flaws are painfully exposed. It can be a powerful time of personal evaluation and transformation. The excess baggage and wrong thinking we have picked up in life are finally thrown off. What is really important and genuinely necessary comes into clear focus, perhaps for the first time. For some, this brings a shocking revelation of how shallow and self-absorbed they really are. For others, it is a grand adventure as they rediscover who they are, and begin to build upon that good foundation to become even better. These are powerful times we enter into alone and unsettled, but emerge focused and quite comfortable in our own skin.

I was just in such a season not long ago. I got back from a powerful ministry trip to the Philippines. Myself and an Apostle did two conferences and ministered at numerous church meetings. When I returned home, my wife then flew off to California to be with our daughter, who was having our 10th grandchild. I was alone in our house, after all that personal attention and activity, surrounded by the “stuff” of our lives. I was totally alone for two weeks, and the impact this had on me was quite deep. It became a time of introspection, where I was able to seek God, ponder my life and consider how I got “here”. I reflected on the family I grew up in, the wilderness seasons I had been through, and the lessons I learned that made me the man I am.

I pondered how my father was a strong presence of security in our home. He made us feel wanted, valued and safe. He was an intelligent, slender, quiet, thoughtful man who spoke very few words, but meant every word he said. He was kind and gentle, filled with internal strength yet tender. He had a will of iron and a backbone that could support it. He was an outdoors-men to the bone and loved the woods, but could still carry his own with any city dweller. His word was his bond. He had a peaceful stability about him that filled our lives, and had the power to make everything alright, even when it wasn’t. On his death bed, his bright blue eyes looked at me with a calm resolve and they were able to reassured me that even this would be fine.

His example, both the good and the bad, served to shape me in ways I am just now discovering. Among other things, he taught me the wholesome value of a strong cup of hot, black tea and a slow cooked venison stew. He taught me the blessing of honest work and the need for personal sacrifice when it came to family. He showed me that failing to plan for retirement meant you could never retire. He showed me how to love the wife God gave me, and how to care for my family, no matter what the personal cost might be. He demonstrated the value of living debt free, and within our financial means. He also showed me why it was important to pay cash for the things we needed or wanted. The truth is, my father taught me how to be a real man.

Because of that, I became the kind of man my children could look up to. I showed them it’s OK to not always be right, but it is good to always be willing to make things right. They learned how to be a leader in their own homes, and the voice of reason to their children, when it is needed. They were shown how to love their wives and children in ways that are meaningful to them, and to do what must be done to provide for their families. Most of all, I taught them not to see the government as their source of income. Welfare is NOT a lifestyle, it is an emergency crutch until someone who needs it can get back on your feet. They were taught to seek God, plan with care and work hard. They learned from me that these things are more than enough to bring them all the provision they will ever need.

How did I learn these things, you might ask? These truth’s became life lessons during my wilderness wanderings. They became real when there was no one to prop me up or carry me, but Jesus. It was the time I found myself needing a teaching job. I prayed and sought God, and the perfect job opened up where there had been none the week before. It was the time I quit my teaching job, at age 35, and my a wife and three boys followed me back to college. We needed a place to live in Plattsburgh NY, and out of nowhere an apartment opened up near the college that we could afford. It was the time our cupboards were totally empty and I gave my sons the last of the powdered milk and instant mashed potatoes for breakfast. I went to class hungry that morning, but when I returned home that evening, food filled our shelves, our hallway and every counter top in our kitchen. I told no one but God about our need, and He showed me His faithfulness.

Without those wilderness journey’s my knowledge of God, and experiences with Him, would be sorely lacking. Unless I had been willing to walk through those barren wastelands, I would have never seen God’s ability to bring such abundant provision in my desperate lack. My faith was built up, my trust was properly anchored and my life story was enriched, all because of a desert trip. How grateful I am that many times God has led me into a waste-howling wilderness, to be tempted, tried and tested. At times I failed, but even in my failure I still learned valuable lessons that changed my life forever. The truth is, I would not trade those experiences for any amount of money or fame, because they made me, and my family, what we are today.

Right now, are you looking at a dry, sandy landscape, where there is no water and everything looks dead? Are you feeling alone in a barren landscape, with no clear answers, and you wonder where God is in all of it? If so, let me suggest to you that your current condition is actually designed by God to change you in ways you don’t yet understand. He is simply doing with you the very same thing He did with Jesus. What a privilege that is!

You need to walk it out, one step at a time, and pray with an honest and pure heart. You need to get real about your weaknesses until you find the place of rest in God. Once you are open to change and ready embrace your own weakness, you can then exchange your whole, weak mess for the strength God offers. Until then, you will find yourself a desert dweller. Perhaps this is your time to finally change and fully embrace the truth about who you really are. Once that’s been done, you can move on. Never forget that today’s wilderness is the perfect foundation for the God-ordained life you will walk in tomorrow !

Moments Of Delay

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I had an interesting thing happen to me not long ago as I was on the way to my office. In front of me was a massive bank of dark, cool weather clouds that were moving into the area. In meteorology these are called “scud” clouds. These are low, ragged, wind-torn cloud fragments that are often associated with a cold front or what is called a wind gust front. They are very common in our area as seasonal change happens during late August.

What I love about this type of cloud is how different they are as they settle into an area and seem to have an almost solid quality about them. These dark, heavy looking lumps just hang there in formation as the wind pushes them along. They blanket the atmosphere and move across your view creating a very distinct formation called a “scud line”. This line produces a stark difference between the bank of clouds and the clear blue sky that is just in front of it. It is this amazing contrast that always grabs my attention.

What hit me that day was that I missed seeing this distinct line as it passed by. The sky was already over-run by the invading clouds and it looked like someone had thrown a huge box of dark grey cotton balls into the air. From horizon to horizon there was noting but ragged puffballs being pushed along by a gusty northwest wind. As I drove west and considered the cool day that was to come, I noticed the road ahead was blocked and I’m sad to say my attitude took a nosedive. I was annoyed and irritated that I was so close to my destination yet would now be needlessly delayed because of someone else.

A huge 18-wheeler was trying to make an impossible right hand turn onto a narrow side street. In my mind I was wondering why in the world the driver had tried to do such a stupid thing. Didn’t he realize he would block traffic and delay every other vehicle on the road? The funny thing is, it was clear that I was the only other vehicle on the road. So, I sat there and waited rather impatiently and the minutes dragged by. Each missed attempt, and need to back up, added to my irritation. Finally I was able to pass by the monstrous rig and was happy to make some headway.

And then it happened… the entire mass of clouds was suddenly lit up from underneath by a brilliant yellow-orange light. When I turned to see what was causing this, the image that hit me was amazing. There, just above the eastern horizon, was the unmistakable, knife-like scud line. It formed a clean break between the cloudbank, a single ribbon of dark blue morning sky and the tree line. However, perfectly framed within that ribbon was the early morning sun, rising in all it’s glory. Brilliant beams of yellow-orange light streamed out and hit the underside of the clouds with an almost overwhelming intensity.

Everything around me was immediately transformed. The land was washed in a hundred different hues of pink and orange. Instead of viewing dark heavy clouds, I was now staring up into what looked like massive heaps of yellow-orange cotton candy. The entire scene was almost unearthly and it simply took my breath away. All I could do was sit there and gaze up into the air in awe and wonder. A moment later the color faded  away and it was over. The sun was obscured behind the advancing cloud bank and that magnificent masterpiece of art was gone.

Why am I mentioning this? Because I could have missed it all! Had I continued on my merry way and not been delayed, I would have been in the wrong place at that very time. I would have been seated at my desk, busy organizing my daily events and never seen any of it. However, because my plans were interrupted, and my progress was held in check, I ended up being perfectly positioned to see something absolutely astonishing. All I had to do was stop, look up and take it in. I realized it was this moment of delay I had experienced that made it all happen.

Several years ago a friend of mine was in his car at a stoplight. His wife and three little children were with him. He is typically impatient and always in a rush, so the moment the light changes he is the first one gone. However this time he hit the accelerator and to his frustration, the vehicle immediately, and unexpectedly stalled out. A moment later another larger vehicle flew right through the intersection at very high speed. Had he not been delayed his vehicle would have been in that intersection and “T boned” by the speeding vehicle. No doubt some of the family would have been killed and others badly injured. He is forever grateful for that moment of delay. My question is, what about you?

Have you had your plans disrupted lately? Have you set things in motion only to discover that something else got in the way and stopped your forward progress? Were you prevented from reaching that all-important goal, and then became frustrated and irritated because of the people who caused it? Could it be that such delays are really hidden opportunities given to you for your benefit? The very thing that is keeping you in place right now might actually be there so you can slow down and get a clear vision of something even greater. Perhaps it’s even saving you from making an unseen, life-changing mistake.

Take the time to relax and enjoy each moment of delay. When you think about it, that’s what really makes this life so exciting. It is often in those unexpected delays where the real treasures of life are uncovered. In those times when you are forced to wait, begin to look up and discover what is magnificently unfolding all around you. Who knows, if you keep an attitude of gratitude you just might see something that takes your breath away.

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?

What Do I Really Value?

Every person I have ever met says with great conviction that they hold certain things as valuable in their life.  For some it is people,  others say a job, a hobby or even a prized pet. However,  when I really examine what they do, it becomes painfully clear exactly where  their real priorities are focused. You see, what we value in life, I mean what we honestly hold dear,  is always reflected in where we invest our time and money. Whenever there is a discrepancy between what we say and what we actually do, trouble will be like a massive storm that is right on the horizon.

In doing marriage counseling over the years I am always amazed when a husband says he loves his wife but he just can’t understand why his wife and marriage are doing so poorly. Yet when we look at his track record of time and finances it only takes a moment to see where his real priorities are. Yes, he did take his wife out for dinner on their 10th anniversary and he even bought her a card. That was a wonderful investment of perhaps $60 and 2 hours of his time. However, when you compare that to the $1200 he spent on a new deer rifle or the endless hours he and his buddies sat watching football while his wife sat alone, it becomes abundantly clear what he really values in life.

What about you?  Is there a genuine connection between what you say has value and what you demonstrate is valuable? When our words and actions don’t line up we are usually the last one to recognize this for what it is. We think we are doing great and just setting the world on fire when those closest to us can see it’s just not so. What we all need is a wake up call, a reality check from time to time. It needs to come from someone we genuinely respect and will actually listen to. Unfortunately, many people live life on the surface and have no such sounding board in their life. The end result is that we tend to live a selfish, self-absorbed life that works for us, but it is silently killing those around us.

For me, it’s my wife Esther. She has the perfect mix of strength, love, honesty and truthfulness that grabs my attention. Her words, on more than one occasion, have been the voice of reason that got right in my face. When I was distracted or disconnected from what was really important, she has been there by my side. Especially when I lost sight of those landmarks which we both hold as truly valuable, her voice helped me find my bearings once again. My question for you is, do you have such a person in  your life, and if you do, do you really appreciate their ability to keep you focused on what is of genuine value?

If you have wandered without clear vision, if you have gotten bogged down in a swamp of unfruitful activity, perhaps it’s time to consider something. When you strip all else away, who is it you turn to in those times you need to be absolutely honest? What one person, or couple, on planet earth do you know who will be painfully truthful when you need it most? If you can answer that question you really are blessed!

In case you don’t realize it, these my friends, are the most important people in your life. They hold the key to that which really has value for you. Let me encourage you to connect with them on a regular basis. Allow them to do their work, as painful as it is, and they will help you keep your life compass pointed in the right direction. Trust me when I say you’ll be much happier for it, and so will everyone around you. The bottom line is quite simple; life is way too short to be lived in any other way. Pursue those things your really value and everyone, including yourself, will be much better off for it!