Monday, July 27, 2009

Who Inspired You?

What person – or persons – providing inspiration for you earlier in life? Who strongly influenced some area of your life – career, interests, beliefs or values?

A pastor asked this question during his sermon this week. He suggested noted individuals like Mother Teresa, Thomas Edison, Michael Jordan, Helen Keller, Rosa Parks and Winston Churchill as possibilities. No question, these are people many of us have admired for various reasons. But in reality, the people that touch our lives most significantly often are those who never attract national attention.

For me, educators made a tremendous difference – Mr. Mazzocchi, the fourth-grade teacher who informed my mother that I had “college potential”; Mrs. Looser, my freshman English instructor who told me that I had potential to become a writer; Dr. Clarke, my first journalism professor who introduced me to the craft of writing a news story.

My uncle, Joe Tamasy, taught me the value of initiative and hard work; Johnny Miller was the first pastor to show me the practical, down-to-earth relevance and application of the Scriptures. Duane Jacobs took a chance by providing my first opportunity in full-time vocational ministry. Ted DeMoss and many others served as examples of what it means to be totally committed to serving God, both personally and professionally.

But I think there is a question greater than who it was that inspired us: Who are you inspiring? Whose life has become – or is becoming – better because of your investment in them?

Approaching the end of his life and ministry, the apostle Paul issued an amazingly bold, yet honest challenge: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice” (Philippians 4:9).

Would you have the confidence to write or say something like that to someone in your life? If not, why not?

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Moon and Marriage

Today marks a momentous anniversary: 40 years ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first touched the surface of the moon. But for me, today commemorates an equally significant event that occurred five years later: My wife and I got married.

I hope it does not seem too self-indulgent to compare the moonwalk with 35 years of marriage, but both are wondrous and perhaps, miraculous.

It took much of mankind’s ingenuity, intelligence and initiative to transport astronauts to the moon, enable them to walk on it and get them home safely. But marriage is an incredible journey as well – joining two very different human beings to a lifetime partnership. Sadly, about half of these partnerships fail.

Like flying to the moon, forging a strong marriage demands hard work, dedication and determination. It requires accepting one another’s shortcomings, as well as capitalizing on each other’s respective strengths.

Love is a key part of the equation, both for space exploration and marriage. For everyone at NASA it was a love of the unknown, of going where mankind had never gone before.

The love needed to sustain a marriage is not the warm, tingly feeling we see depicted in romantic comedies or “The Bachelorette.” It’s a love 1 Corinthians 13 describes as patient, kind, not envious, boastful, or proud. This love is not rude or self-seeking, not easily angered, nor does it keep a record of wrongs. It rejoices in the truth, protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. This love honors the vow to accept the worse with the better.

How is such a love possible? By our own efforts, I don’t think it is. But for Sally and me, marriage has confirmed that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). And it’s just as exciting as flying to the moon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why Are We Here?

It has been my privilege to consult with two companies that have well-thought-out, clearly stated mission statements. These written documents answer two questions for them: Why are we here? What do we do?

As individuals, it’s important that we can also answer those same questions. Last week I was discussing this with several professional people. Some of them admitted that, caught up in the frenetic pace of the typical workday, they rarely pause to consider, “Why am I here?” or “What am I doing?”

For followers of Jesus, however, the Bible directly provides us with the answers for both questions. We know from the Scriptures that we cannot earn God’s acceptance. His grace – or unmerited favor – comes to us as a gift. But that does not mean what we do is not important. In fact, work is a big part of why we are here.

Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” And after we read that the Word of God “is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:17 tells us, “so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

From the beginning, as recounted in the opening chapter of Genesis, God’s plan was for humankind to perform work on earth, to “fill the earth and subdue it” – which theologians describe as “the cultural mandate.”

Each day, whether we sit at a computer, build cabinets, practice medicine, teach a class, run a company, or perform countless other tasks, God is calling us to good works, performing them in ways that honor Him and serve others. Not to earn His love and favor, but because we have His love and favor.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Joy in the Unexpected

I spent last week in Nebraska on business, expecting to see cornfields, cattle, and lots of flat plains. One thing I did not expect, however, was riding a seven-passenger motorboat on a lake. Lakes in Nebraska? (The lake was manmade, but a lake just the same.)

The evening came to a picturesque climax with a beautiful sunset I was able to capture with my digital camera (see above). Another happily unexpected event.

Some of life’s greatest joys are not those things we most anticipate, but unexpected surprises we encounter without warning. Like the time I was driving home from Valley Head, Alabama and literally found the end of the rainbow.

While meeting with several people to gather information for a book I was working on, I had noticed storm clouds gathering. As I drove north toward Chattanooga, the clouds let loose their contents. My serendipity occurred because was the rain was cascading in front of me, but the sun was shining brightly behind me. As beams of sunlight bounced off the raindrops, they created not one but numerous rainbows spanning the northbound lane of Interstate 59.

One of these miniature rainbows actually spilled onto the roadway and I was able to drive right through it! Sorry to disappoint you, but I can attest from firsthand knowledge there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

For me, such occurrences are one of the delights of being a follower of Jesus Christ. God is the God of surprises, so I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. In fact, in Jeremiah 33:3, He declares, “Call on Me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” I think in the original Hebrew, the Lord is saying, “Child, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”