Greg McKeown is the author of an excellent book entitled essentialism. Greg contends that the disciplined pursuit of less is a major key to success. Lin Yutang says, “The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” From this premise, McKeown lays out a compelling case which helps us understand why it is important to: say “no” and not overextend; prioritize our lives; exercise the power of choice; discern what is important; know when to make tradeoffs; know when to play and to sleep; know what to select and what to eliminate; set boundaries and focus; etc.
Have you ever wondered, What do I have to do to live a stable life, to not be twisted with every fierce wind of opposition or pulled from what is right to what is ultimately degrading? How can I have the kind of healthy fellowship with God that will bring joy and fulfillment?
Some of the most passionate people on the face of the planet are those who believe they are invested in an important cause. You, like I, have probably encountered those who are zealous about taking care of the planet. Their message against pollution and warnings about callously disregarding the land, sea and sky are noble. We should be good stewards of what God created.
Others are zealous for same-sex rights, prolife or prochoice. Still others crusade against guns or for the right to bear arms, against drunk drivers or for the right to smoke weed, against corruption in the government or for laws ensuring all children are vaccinated.
On my way to Kuwait, Kathleen dropped me off at the Colorado Springs airport. As I prepared to go through security I realized I forgot to pack my laptop. Quickly I calculated how long it would take Kathleen to get home and retrieve it. I then checked with security and the United ticket counter to see how much time I actually had before the plane departed. Fortunately, despite heavy traffic, my wife was able to get my computer to me and I arrived at the gate seven minutes before it was supposed to close. Ironically, the flight was delayed.
The cockpit of a C17 military transport aircraft is amazing. As the two young Air Force Captains went through their preflight checklist, I was astounded by all the instruments they and their crew chief had to monitor and operate before we could taxi down the runway in Stockholm. While I watched from my rear perch, I listened on headphones to the tower. The chatter from the air traffic controllers to incoming and outgoing aircraft was virtually nonstop. As our pilots were busily engaged the tower called their call sign and passed instructions. The male captain asked his female copilot if she heard what was said and she nodded no. Because I was undistracted and heard the message, I was able to convey what they missed. Each time they received instructions they repeated them back to the controller to ensure the transmission was accurately understood. This was a great fail safe for everyone involved and reinforced how important it was to listen.
I make it a habit to read the Bible daily because I want to grow in my relationship with God and I need the wisdom His word gives to help me live in a God-pleasing manner. Sometimes Scripture jumps from the pages and slaps me. Such was the case recently when reflecting on 1 John 1:3,4.
This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” without keeping His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
I’m sure you have noticed that the news seems to be getting worse by the week. Tonight I ate dinner with Ken and Brenda and their sons in Charlottesville, Virginia. They were telling me about all the people who have lost jobs in the Richmond area and how thankful they are Ken still has his job. Ken said it hasn’t been this bad in this area since the early 70’s.
It must be difficult to be a professional basketball coach. It seems with each passing year that an increasing number of players are disrespectful to their coaches, referees, other players and the fans themselves. What should be a poetic team exercise of unselfish sportsmanship has turned into a circus of “I-isms” where a player’s attitude and action state, “It’s all about me.”
It must be difficult to be God. Daily He observes unruly, disrespectful children who seem more than willing to grieve His Spirit, ignore the commands of His Son and disdain His appointed leaders. What should be a marvelous demonstration of unity and fruit-bearing instead is the First Church of Me.
Have you ever felt sorry for yourself? I have and I’ve noticed something quite interesting. Whenever self-pity is at work it’s because I don’t have something I want. Self-pity is the logical result of a self preoccupied with expectations that may or may not be realistic or even right. I have also noticed that the solution to self-pity always comes from a reminder from God that He is all I need. Usually His prompts are gentle. He speaks through His word, or His Spirit brings to mind the blessings He so faithfully provides. I don’t believe I have ever had an extended, self-pity party. God is too awesome and nothing good ever comes from stewing, sulking, brooding or moping. Even the sound of those words should make us want to avoid them!
Each year senior military officers attending the Army War College choose a gift to present to the school. Because of differing tastes, this exercise of selecting a gift proves to be the most contentious challenge each class will face. Typically, students pick a reputable artist and commission that artist to paint a historical event the class chooses. Civil war themes are by far the most popular and sell the most prints. One year when the artist revealed his sketch, one southern student on the selection committee complained that there were no confederate soldiers present. Another member objected that no black Americans were depicted. So they sent the artist back to his canvas. Imagine their surprise when the clever painter produced a beautiful portrait of black Union soldiers guarding sullen Confederate prisoners!
Before I write about self-control I must share a disclaimer. I struggle with this area personally. I wrestle against impure thoughts. I don’t always use my time wisely. I say or do things I shouldn’t. In short, I have a long way to go to be like my hero—Jesus. It is recklessly foolish to think I can control myself by my own doing. My sin nature guarantees the impossibility of self-earned perfection. What is a fallible man to do?
There is a long stretch of freeway between Fayetteville, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia, that is mostly flat and lined by lush green pine trees. It’s the kind of drive where hundreds of miles can all look pretty much the same.
Dennis Rodman of the Chicago Bulls, is arguably the most controversial basketball player to ever lace up his shoes and play. Despite his reckless behavior off the court on the court he was one of the best rebounders of all time—few came close to hauling in as many rebounds per game as Dennis. This running tattoo-covered athlete pounced on loose basketballs like pumas pounce on their prey. His singular focus and drive to snare a bouncing ball propelled him to the top of his game on a team whose superstar, Michael Jordan, was the consummate example of dedication to being the best in the sport.
2 Corinthians 6:3-10—We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (NIV)
It is my goal to read 24 books each year. Part of this discipline involves choosing books that cover a wide range of subjects. There is no end to the number of good books one can read. Scientists tell us we use so little of our brain. I discovered how little my brain was when I journeyed into the realm of Probability and her cousins Electrical Engineering and Thermal Dynamics. But I also learned how much greater my mind could be stretched than I would have dared imagine. It is better to be challenged in what is difficult than to be difficult about being challenged.