Mistakes are the portals of discovery
Mistakes are the portals of discovery
We find a fascinating description of prayer in 1 Samuel 3:19. The writer describes Samuel as he grows up in the temple under the tutelage of the high priest, Eli. The scriptures say that, the Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.
So, apparently you can pray and have your words, fall to the ground. I wonder how many of my prayers have done so? I’m guessing enough to trip over, or even enough to be buried under. How many selfish and insincere prayers never make it to the Lord? Across my lips and straight to the earth.
Food for thought the next time you pray. Try to imagine where your prayers might be going – to the Lord, or to the floor?
Today is Labor Day, the holiday where we rest from our labors and honor those who work for a living. Here’s a couple of things I notice about people who labor. One, some people work harder for their money than others. Two, some people do really important jobs and yet our society pays them much less than they are worth. Others do what are in reality trivial jobs, but get paid massive amounts of money.
It’s easy to see. A great teacher, for example, is of much more value to the long-term health and development of a society than a great entertainer. However, a great entertainer can make 100x the salary of a great teacher in one year. Or how about those who fight our fires and protect our lives, as opposed to CEOs who depend on that basic level of safety to build and to make their companies profitable? Even lousy CEOs tend to be compensated at a much higher rate than excellent firefighters and rescue personnel.
As I read recently in this blog post by Seth Godin, our society does not always match money to contribution. Profitable is not the same as important. Sometimes it is, but often it is not. Think about it – who has influenced you the most profoundly in your life, a great teacher or a great entertainer? For most of us, it’s the contribution of the lowly paid teaching professional that helped set the trajectory of our life.
Today on this Labor Day, let us remember those who work in jobs that serve and promote the common good in our world. This day is for those heroes, regardless of how much money they make this year.
We find the story in 1 Kings 19. As Elijah stands outside his cave and waits for the Lord to speak, he first experiences a mighty rushing wind, near hurricane force. So powerful, this must be the Lord!
But the Lord was not in the wind.
Then, a massive earthquake. Surely, this is how the Lord sets foot on the earth.
But the Lord was not in the earthquake.
Next, a wildfire consuming the countryside. Of course, the Lord is like fire and everything He touches is lit ablaze.
But the Lord was not in the fire.
Then Elijah hears something soft. He turns his head in that direction. It’s an almost imperceptible brush against his ear, a quiet passing, merely a whisper.
It is the Lord. God is found in the whisper.
I love the way the Lord is so counter-intuitive. We think that when the Lord speaks He does so by smashing his way into our lives. God finds it better to whisper. We must listen, pay attention, cock our ear away from the noise of our culture and towards quiet places. Why do so many people find that they feel closer to God when out in the nature? Because it’s quiet. Learn to cultivate times and places of quiet, for it is there that we find the Lord.
I’m reposting this, my favorite speech, because it’s good to read these thoughts when we’re thinking about the independence we all value and the nation we so appreciate. Lincoln’s Gettysburg address…
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
November 19, 1863
Eric Liddell, the subject of Duncan Hamilton’s biography, For the Glory, was both an Olympic champion in the 400 meters and an exemplary missionary in China. Perhaps even more impressive is how he treated people throughout his life. Rich or poor, English or Chinese, he truly “did unto others” in the sense that Jesus meant.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Chariots of Fire, which came out in 1981 and told the story of Liddell and fellow countryman Harold Abrahams, as their running careers culminated in the 1924 Olympics. This book goes much deeper into Liddell’s family background and follows his life up to that Olympic moment, then on through his missionary career in China. Liddell’s faith in Christ and his devotion to others shines through in the book.
Liddell’s life story is wonderful and tragic. As you read you’ll discover a new hero in the faith, just as I’ve done. This is a splendid book for your summer reading and I encourage you to watch the movie if you’ve never seen it!
We were recently in New York City as Dawn and I visited our son, Matt, who is working at Fordham University. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Ellis Island, where loads of immigrants to the US first landed and were processed before moving around the country. A small island in New York’s harbor, right next to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island is a must-see for anyone visiting New York. Many Americans trace their ancestors arrival into the country back to Ellis Island. It’s an inspirational place to sit and realize the promise that America held to those making the difficult passage from Europe and ponder the hope that continues to drive immigrants today.
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I’ve been dealing with a great many “gatekeepers” lately. At one time, our cities were made safe by walls and the only way to enter was through a gate. I fell in love with the beautiful city gate found in San Juan, Puerto Rico, pictured here. The inscription above the gate reads, in Latin, Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini, which translates to, Blessed in he that comes in the name of the Lord. Isn’t that a nice way to welcome guests into your city?
The gatekeepers I’m dealing with are not protecting a city. They are people who’ve been given authority to safeguard an aspect of their organization. However, a little bit of authority often grows into an over-developed sense of control. There is a fine line between control that protects and control that harms. The gate to the city of San Juan remained open except in times of war or extreme danger. The gates to many of our organizations remain closed as their default position. While staying shut, opportunities pass by and entrepreneurial leaders who are denied entry move on to more welcoming places.
A leader keeps the gates open. A leader knows that new possibilities and strong partners and fresh ideas are outside the walls of the organization and it serves no one to keep the gates closed. If you’re in a position of “watching the gates” for your organization, take a good look at how hard it is to open your doors.
I’m reading in the Old Testament right now as part of my “read through the Bible in a year” discipline. I just read about Moses going to the mountain to meet with God and get the 10 commandments. While he was gone, he left Aaron, his brother and spokesman in charge.
You know the story. The Israelites freaked out when Moses was gone too long and revolted. Aaron responded by gathering gold and crafting an image of a calf, thus creating a new god to worship. Bull worship was common back in the day (and it still practiced in some parts of the world as the picture above demonstrates). Aaron crafts a common god to give the people what they want – something safe and familiar to worship.
There’s no indication that Aaron opposed this idea or stood against this move to idolatry. He folds under the pressure of the people. All this while Aaron and the Israelites stand at the base of a mountain engulfed with smoke and fire, literally looking at the miraculous presence of God.
Moses was a great leader. His brother, Aaron, a failure. Leaders are made, not born, and these brothers bear out that point.