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Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.” – Proverbs 24:3-6 (NIV)

Yesterday Dustin Johnson, the thirty-year old, highly successful professional golfer at the top of his game, announced that he has decided to take a break from golf to address personal issues in his life and seek outside professional help.

Today the news is that drug use is the issue. It’s being rumored that he is being suspended for six months by the PGA for being tested positive for cocaine.

So the sporting world is facing a new challenge for one of its star performers. Even so I can relate to where Dustin is at just now.

Being a film-fan I always enjoyed a good western movie. In the great westerns of yesteryear you could generally count on the US Cavalry coming to the rescue in desperate situations. When the peaceful, hardworking homesteaders on the frontier got surrounded by the enemy and all hope was lost, the US Cavalry seemed to arrive just in time to save the day!

Life has a way of landing us in trouble that we can’t squeeze out of unless someone from outside comes to the rescue. The problem is that we often don’t know how much trouble we’re in before we call for help. I don’t know about you but it seems that in my life I keep having to learn lessons the hard way. All too often pain seems to be the best teacher.

In the early days of US television there was a famous western series called “The Lone Ranger.” It featured a masked man who, along with his trusty Native American sidekick, “Tonto” would rescue people out of hopeless situations.

In my generation, it was every boy’s dream to be “the Lone Ranger.” Strong, independent and reliable were subliminal code words we seemed to inhale with every episode.

For most of my life I preferred “The Lone Ranger” to “The Cavalry”. I wanted to be able to solve my own problems and meet my own needs without having to call in anyone else to help. For more years than I care to admit, I never sought out a mentor, although I often heard that it might be a good idea.

Unfortunately in the real world pride makes small men even smaller. Proud men dislike outside help. Hollywood, fueled by pride and competition, doesn’t preach that sermon.

In reflecting on Dustin Johnson’s situation I can’t help but think back to the beginning of Tiger Wood’s problems in November of 2009. He was in deep trouble long before the news hit the media. Although many of his problems may be resolved he’s still working his way back to prominence in golf almost five years later. He was in a deep crisis way before the Cavalry arrived.

The verses quoted above from Proverbs direct us to a much different pattern of life  – people who are wise, successful and productive in life have “houses” (i.e. lives) that are built on understanding, knowledge, strength and guidance from many advisers!”

The best leaders are also people who are led, most of time by the people they intentionally and willingly choose to follow. They are team players, not Lone Rangers! They rely on key outsiders and even disgruntled customers to speak into their lives and situations.

People who are growing and influential are vulnerable and connected to others. They welcome feedback because they know they can learn from it. They seem to know who they can trust. They confide in those people, seek their input and make mid-course corrections. Generally everyone wins from that type of behavior.

Because of our natural self-protection and blind spots we often don’t know we are in trouble until someone on the outside gives us a clue that we are not in a good place and that we need wisdom beyond our own boundaries.

Several years ago when facing a personal crisis I finally started to stop trying to be the Lone Ranger and start calling in the Cavalry. It made all the difference in my own life and new life patterns of dealing with problems emerged.

Often our own pride blinds us to see God-given advisers all around us. The truth is that we can’t watch ourselves travel through life – but others around us can. Many of them are smarter than we are and have pretty keen eyesight and life experience.

Look at your own life. I’d say that your “Cavalry” is all around you. They can be friends, spouses, small group leaders, pastors, teachers, church leaders, business consultants, coaches, doctors, specialists in a field of interest and the list goes on.

Now that I’m a little wiser I continually update my list of “Cavalry” members God has placed around me. I’m grateful for a growing number of key people near me whom I can call in to help before the crises of my life get out of hand. It’s like heeding the warning signs of cancer as soon as they appear – and doing something about them before it’s too late.

My hope is that at age thirty Dustin Johnson hasn’t left his decision too long before seeking help. If things go well for his recovery he’ll be the real winner in the long run.

Now when I see a crisis brewing I’m quicker to spot my foolish pride and call in my own Cavalry because in reality Lone Rangers finish last.

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“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.” – Philippians 2:5-9 (NIV)

I’m not really sure why the concept of “vulnerability” keeps smacking me in the face everywhere I look. It could be that for much of my life it’s been a hidden theme lurking in the background.

In the spring of 1980 I took an intensely practical week-long course in graduate school entitled “Applied Leadership and Teambuilding.” All the participants of the class went to a conference center and broke up into teams. In addition to reading and lectures we went out on practical teambuilding exercises. Each team member had the chance to lead the group in an exercise at least once during the week. By the end of our time together we had come to learn a great deal about each other – and ourselves!

Our small group leader, Bob, happened to teach Leadership and Psychology at the US Air Force Academy at the time. He was gifted in many ways but was an especially keen observer of human nature. At the end of the course he invited each of us to a private session where he gave us his observations about our strengths and weaknesses. I was obviously more interested in my strengths!

“You’re not very vulnerable. You don’t give much away,” Bob observed in our interview.

I confess at the time I didn’t really have a clear idea of what he was talking about, but I took it by faith that being more of an “expert” in personal relations than I, he must be speaking the truth.

Since that time I have come to learn much more about vulnerability and why I put it to death for so long in my life. It’s a scary place to go. I’ve tried to reflect on what it actually is and why I avoided being vulnerable for so long.

Vulnerability, if you look it up in the dictionary, actually means “open to attack.” When you stand up for who you really are, what you like and dislike, share your opinions, etc. you are subject to being loved, hated, cherished, despised, or any number of other responses.

When you look at the person of Jesus Christ, you see a vulnerable man. He never hid who He really was and was comfortable being who He was. As mentioned in the verses above, being God He was willing to empty Himself of Divine privileges and come to earth as a humble human. He faced suffering and death for who He was, but He also was exalted to the highest place of honor in the universe.

There’s something very powerful and humble about vulnerability that we dare not miss.

Some of us close up, myself included, so that we can avoid or escape the potential criticism or judgment of others. I’m finding now in reading the research on vulnerability that we close off the potential for life and growth, connection and relationship when we take that approach to life.

Looking further back I think vulnerability died very early in my childhood and was never significantly resuscitated until recent years. Painful childhood experiences can shape us in many ways.

When I was either in Kindergarten or first grade I recall a little square dancing exercise we did in class. Boys and girls would cross arms and hold hands with each other, couples standing in a circle. When the music started we began skipping around the circle to the music. It was something about the tile floors in the school or the shoes my parents had me wear, but I kept slipping and falling on the floor whenever we really got going around the circle. My obvious reaction was “I’m not doing this! I’m not making a fool out of myself for the sake of this dumb exercise!”

I still recall the feeling of shame and vulnerability of that experience and internally I probably recognized that I would rather die that visit that place again.

The rebirth of vulnerability has been a gradual reawakening in my life in recent years – with some dramatic steps forward at times. I’m finding now that it takes courage to be vulnerable and to avoid it stems from fear – particularly fear of “what would others think of me.” It took some cataclysmic life experiences of personal failure and the love and rejection of others to allow vulnerability to be reborn in my own life. Painful but intensely productive!

As Easter Sunday approaches this year I’m reflecting once again on the beauty, humility and yes vulnerability of the Lord Jesus Christ. It took immense courage for Him to do what He did – even though He was God in the Flesh.

In humility, love, openness and courage Jesus Christ shared His very life – and death – with a hurting and broken world. Perhaps that’s what He calls His followers to do as well.

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But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things” Philippians 3:13b-15a (NIV)

I must admit I find it easier to look back than to look forward.

I suppose I tend to be a more of an introspective, reflective and reactive person rather than a forward-thinking, proactive individual. As I approach my sixtieth birthday on the 8th of January 2014 here are some of my reflections at this fairly advanced stage of life and a few aspirations for the future.

My natural reaction to turning sixty is, “I never realized it would be this difficult.”

Over the Christmas break we enjoyed a visit from my son who now lives in Holland and his new wife, our first daughter-in-law.  During the few days they were here at our home in Ireland she asked if she could see our wedding photos, which my wife happily dug out for her to browse through. I found I was taking a closer look at them myself. Our wedding was over thirty-eight years ago and it’s fascinating to see what we looked like as a pair of twenty-one-year-olds making serious life choices on that day in 1975.

I was struck by several things in our wedding photos. Obviously, at the time we looked much younger than we do now, and thinner too – at least I did! But I was captivated by one thing and that was how “happy” I appeared to look in the pictures.

Now that I’m turning sixty, I never realized at the time of my wedding that it would be so difficult to maintain a happy, positive attitude throughout life.

I think the potential is always there for us to be happy and positive, but all the pain and suffering in life takes its toll on us, at least it did on me. Even though our marriage started out well, we actually had a car accident on our honeymoon that was my fault because I didn’t take time to check the brake fluid on the old car we were driving!

During the course of our marriage, we have had many joyous times and abundant blessings, but we have experienced almost every family problem and tragedy one can imagine. We have had a blessed life and marriage, but not without major challenges and suffering. From parents and siblings dying to having all sorts of accidents and other issues with our six children through the years we have had our share of hard times.

I never realized how much these things would cumulatively affect my life and attitudes but I also never realized how they would shape and mature me either.

I also never realized that it would be so difficult to maintain reasonably good spiritual and emotional health and physical fitness over the long haul. For a season of life when we were raising our children and also heavily involved in ministry and church life, my personal fitness regime went totally by the wayside. I also let my emotional life get into free fall as problems seemed to mount up one after the other and my responses to them did more harm than good.

I never realized that caring for myself in appropriate ways would actually be a gift to my family and others around me who might actually benefit from a healthier “me.” Thankfully over the past few years I’ve begun to do better about appropriate “self-care” in most respects – spiritually, emotionally, relationally and physically. I never realized that this would be such a vital priority and that I would have to intentionally work at it!

I also never realized that being faithful to my wife, my children and my calling would require so much effort and would require so much of me. I think for a season of life I grew weary in many respects and perhaps lost focus of what was most important. Seeds of becoming a workaholic started to bring up some shoots. I had few dreams but only hopes of recognition from peers or those I considered “significant authorities” whom I felt had to approve of me and my work in order for me to feel good about myself.

I’m learning now to be much more process oriented and see growth as a lifelong project that we were designed to enjoy along the way, even with its suffering and apparent setbacks.

Going forward I think I’m trying to live a much simpler, more joyful and expectant life. I want to return, in some respects, to the man with the happy smile in my wedding photos. In order for that to happen I see a few important truths I will have to live by going forward –

  • Gratitude must become a daily reality and be as natural as breathing
  • Life will continue to be challenging and suffering will be part of the process
  • Listening to God and learning from Him and those He places in our path is vital for our health and growth. We were never intended to travel the road alone
  • Proper self-care is not only a gift to ourselves but also to our loved ones

Recently I had some extended time to talk with a friend of mine who has been a caring pastor of a growing congregation for over thirty years. We both agreed that in the church we find “grumpy old men” and we both agreed that we don’t want to become one of them.

I never realized how dependent I was on the grace of God Almighty to avoid becoming grumpy as I age and how completely I would have to trust and cooperate with Him.

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Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed– not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)

Seems like summer is a good time to catch up.  We may find that a change of pace in these summer months gives us opportunities to get to things we don’t have time for the other weeks of the year. Perhaps one can take time to kick back and relax especially if one is so blessed with good weather and time to spend with family and friends or perhaps take a vacation or “holiday” as it’s referred to in some places around the English-speaking world.

Personally speaking I can recall not being able to relax at anytime during the course of the summer or  the year.  Several  years ago I was under intense stress that had steadily grown from month to month and year to year.  It became a toxic force in my life and I would not be surprised if others out there are suffering the same malady.

Some of us can be so driven that the thought of relaxing or backing off of a busy schedule is anathema to us. I wonder why that is?

I’ve never been a fast runner, but I have been in a few footraces in my time. I’ve always despised the feeling of seeing all the other guys running past me and not being able to “catch up” regardless of how fast I ran.

One day I stopped running.  I just had to stop and rest because I found myself constantly under pressure in my life and career to catch up with people whom I perceived where running the same race as myself but were far, far ahead of where I was.  In stopping I started assessing. In assessing I found some answers about how I was living that weren’t pleasant, but helped me find answers I really hadn’t been looking for.

In the passage quoted above the Apostle Paul instructs the followers of Jesus to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  I take it that it’s our own salvation we’re meant to be “working out” without comparison to how other followers are performing. I came to realize that I had been running my “race” in comparison to and in competition with others of my choosing instead of in relation to the One I was meant to be worshipping and serving.

For followers of Jesus the only race to be running is the one in partnership with Him, not in competition with other followers.  I think there’s a lot of us that have issues with that.

The Apostle also says in the context, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  I see a clearer picture here that as we focus on our own walk with God He’s the one calling the shots and working in us to accomplish His purposes through our faith and obedience.

I do know that races are won by those who focus on their own plan of action and take their eyes off of the competition, especially during a race. Some races are lost by those who start looking over their shoulder and fearing those coming up behind them.

Maybe this was in the mind of the author to the book of Hebrews who said  “… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ” Hebrews 12:1b-2 (NIV)

It was long time before I realized how committed I had been to a plan that wasn’t energized by the Author and Perfecter of my faith. Fortunately, He is at work in all who follow by faith and are willing to lay every burden on His shoulders.

When our focus shifts from the One we’re meant to be following to others in the race, we begin unfair comparisons that skew our perspectives.  There’s no “catching up” with the One who’s in charge. He’s always in the lead and is always meant to be in focus.

Let’s shift our eyes back to the One we’re meant to be following in the first place and enjoy the pace He sets for each of us. The winning prize goes to Him who ultimately set up the race in the first place.

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“For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) 

There was a man in the middle years of life who one day found himself in deep despair and desperation even though few people who lived with and around him knew of his plight. He seemed to have everything a man could want – a lovely wife and family, a seemingly fulfilling career and many of the fruits of his labor which many in this world can only dream of having. One night in desperation the man knelt by his bed and begged God to give him some indication as to where in his life he had missed the fulfillment and joy he had hoped for.

Even though he hadn’t been sleeping too well as of late, that night the man fell into a deep sleep. He dreamed of standing before a blank canvas, something like a mural on a wall. He saw on a small table a variety of jars of paint and brushes. At the same time he envisioned the art work of many of the master artists of the world. He loved and admired the stunning beauty of their work. Even several of his friends were advancing artists and were producing wonderful works of art, which, if he were honest caused envy to surface in his heart. He wondered if he too would be so fortunate as to create something with his hands that might be of beauty, wonder and substance. Perhaps even a masterpiece capable of bringing glory to his Creator.

The man looked up and before him stood a famous Master Artist who seemed interested in the opportunities that lay ahead for both of them. The Master said, “I will help you create something beautiful on that mural if you will trust me.” The proposition seemed good to the man as he was a mere novice but knew something of the integrity and skill of The Master.

The Master Artist left the man with all the supplies and some basic instructions and assured him that regardless of whether he sensed his presence or not He would always be with the young apprentice as a guide and mentor.

So the man got to work. He followed the instructions of The Master Artist. He used a variety of paints and brushes. He brushed one stroke after another on the canvas as The Master had instructed. After a time he stepped back to look at the canvas and it seemed to have no discernible pattern or captivating beauty. On one level it seemed that perhaps The Master did not understand the objective. The aspiring artist wanted to create something special which reflected his own skill, but also drew the admiration of others, just as other artists had produced.

The man still trusted that The Master knew best and followed the instructions, occasionally taking time to step back and reflect on what was being produced.

Then one day the apprentice artist grew impatient. He began to doubt that The Master really any personal interest in him at all. He also wondered if the Master had simply duped him. Feeling as if he was a deserted apprentice he grew anxious, angry, frustrated and weary. He was tired of working on a project that no one might ever notice and admire, especially one that did not measure up to the great works of art others had produced at The Master’s instruction.

One day out of desperation the man decided to dip his hand into a jar and indiscriminately throw paint at the canvas. After all, if The Master wasn’t there to give more specific instruction then he might as well trust his own skills and see what would happen. He stood back and looked at the canvas. The splashes of multiple colors didn’t seem to fit with what had been created up to that point, but then it didn’t seem to detract from it either. So he continued to follow the same process – tossing one color after another at the canvas and hoping that the result would sooner or later be positive.               ‘

After a time the man again grew frustrated with his own efforts. The multiple running colors and chaos on the canvas obviously made an awful mess. He longed for The Master to return and give him a refresher course on the original plan. One day he cried out in desperation and suddenly The Master reappeared.

To his astonishment, The Master wasn’t at all surprised at anything he had experienced. It seems that all aspiring artists have trouble trusting The Master Artist and following His instructions. He reassured him, “I usually leave apprentices to their own devices at times until they learn to trust Me and together we develop something of enduring substance and beauty.”

The aspiring artist found his encounter with The Master was the turning point. As he learned to trust The Master and form a more dynamic partnership he was no longer throwing paint haphazardly at the canvas, but adding strokes of value at the Master’s instruction. He even stepped back from the canvas and saw that his foolish antics even blended into the masterpiece, representing a time when he sensed The Master was merely a distant and aloof advisor.

When the man snapped out of his dream he awoke to the reality that there is an intentional life to be lived in harmony with The Eternal Master and a confidence in His care and skill more than the seeming beauty or chaos of his life as it unfolded.

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“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” – Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

This Easter weekend is a good time to reflect on the message of Jesus and the life we can have in relationship with Him. As the followers of Jesus celebrate Resurrection Sunday I think this is an important time to focus on the reality that a life worth living is one that is rooted in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

In today’s world we have many voices that capture our attention. I realize more and more that I have been a product of the culture I grew up in. I didn’t recognize until the past few years that many influences on my life shaped me into a person with a strong desire to be productive and successful in life. You might say that results really matter to me in almost every walk of life.

This may be helpful in many respects, but when we come to living the Christian life we can very easily approach too many things with a “results” mentality. Many of us love to see the fruits of our labor and will do almost anything to see it happen.

Particularly as followers of Jesus we just naturally assume that living a fruitful and productive life is something that is pretty much expected of us. The critical thing is what the fruit may look like and the process we undertake that will produce it.

In recent years, I’ve begun to realize that for a season of my life I didn’t focus enough on developing a healthier root system in my life because of an overwhelming desire to see fruit that I wanted put on display perhaps before it ripened.

Jesus, our Master of growth, gave us many lessons from everyday, observable life in God’s creation.  At one point he said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.” Obviously there’s much to observe in the natural world that God has placed there to teach us lessons for spiritual and emotional growth.

The Apostle Paul in his words to the Colossians (above) told them to be rooted in Jesus Christ, to see Him as the source of life, growth and development.

In the natural world what’s the relationship between roots and fruit? Roots are hidden underground and fruit is observable above ground. Roots go deep and anchor a plant while fruit generally falls off the tree and is either consumed or decomposes. Roots are essential to the health and vitality of the entire plant and fruit will not be healthy, or edible, unless there is a healthy root system at the foundation level.

Our responsibility as followers of Jesus is to partner with Him in going through a process of developing our roots and leaving the results (fruit) to Him. I think we start to spin out of control when we start looking for quick results and fixes and neglect our root system. I believe this to be the case because I’ve experienced it and lived to tell about it!

When I look at Jesus Himself, He seemed to be much more focused on the process of life rather than looking for immediate results. For one thing, it is a well known historical fact that Jesus did not begin His public ministry before He was 30 years old. There was a season of development in Jesus’ life that took place before His public ministry. Even when Jesus did choose His disciples, He took them through a process of growth that never really ended but had many layers of ongoing development.

This spring why not begin to examine the root system in your life. Where are you focusing your time and energy? Is it trying to grasp for more fruit or developing your roots under the guidance of Jesus Christ?

A friend that regularly reads the correspondence I send out to my prayer partners noticed something recently. After I redirected my focus onto the roots and the process of growth she unexpectedly told me that she noticed a different and positive tone change coming through my writing. Something had shifted and she noticed it but couldn’t quite describe it.

I have little doubt that when we sink our roots into Jesus those around us will observe a noticeable change in our attitude, direction and behavior.

As in nature, the root systems in our lives are developed in the quiet, unseen life that we live with Jesus when no one else is watching. By sinking our roots deep into Him perhaps we will soon find the fruit bursting forth in ways we never imagined. 

 

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“But he answered his father, `Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.'” Luke 15:29 (NIV)

Disappointment in life normally comes from not getting what we expected.

A friend a few years my senior used to say often with tongue in cheek, “Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he will not be disappointed!” Unfortunately, we in the developed world have many expectations and when they go unmet we are left with disappointment and frustration.

At this stage of my life I have begun to realize that many of my aspirations of where I thought I would be at my age will not materialize, at least  not in the short term.  I often live with more disappointment than I’m willing to admit.

In the classic tale of the prodigal son Jesus told in Luke chapter 15 it is interesting to note the contrast between the two brothers in the story. As we know, the younger son  expected his inheritance early and upon receiving it, squandered it. But in doing so, he found the reality that a better life was to be had back in his father’s house. 

When the younger son returned home he received a very unexpected welcome – his waiting father ran to meet him and threw an extravagant celebration in his honor.

We usually don’t focus on the older brother who stayed home and saw himself as “slaving” for his father.  His life was full of disappointment because he must have felt that his commitment to keeping the rules would reap rewards down the line. Discipline and duty would surely gain him an advantage over his foolish, rebellious younger brother.

It is easy for some of us, yours truly included, to live life that way. We keep to a performance regimen so Dad will be proud of us. Maybe He will notice our exceptional behavior and give us whatever we want – when we want it. Unfortunately, we end up disappointed with that orientation toward life.

In recent years I’m learning much more about the way God designed us to live in relationship with Him by focusing on the process, or the daily walk with Him, rather than living with high expectations of what might result from my peak performance. It’s the difference between learning to enjoy the process as opposed to focusing merely on results.

Think of a skill or hobby that you really enjoy. It could be anything from learning a musical instrument to playing a sport or developing a new skill. It doesn’t take much to motivate you when you enjoy the process of learning even when you don’t see immediate results. The moment you switch over to focusing on the results the process becomes more laborious. Often the harder we try to do something the more ineffective we become.

A better quality of life emerges when we live a life of faith in God and let our expectations rest with Him. Accepting the results that come our way with a grateful heart may reap greater benefits in the long run than anxiously focusing on the results that seem beyond our grasp.

The words of the older brother in the story reveal that he expected  a certain level of attention from his father as a result of his good behavior. When the younger brother expected rejection and was willing to be put on the level of a servant, the father not only ran toward him but reinstated him in the family.

The broader implication is that we can expect our Heavenly Father to rejoice in us, to desire a relationship with us, to demonstrate love and generosity to us, to rejoice whenever we move toward Him.  Maybe, when we experience disappointment it’s because we are focused on the wrong expectations.

Perhaps the lesson that we need to hear is that duty and discipline when launched from the wrong motives will never win any credibility before a loving God who cares deeply for us and desires us to enjoy our relationship with Him. Moving in His direction will always reap unexpected benefits.

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Make the Process Your Priority

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV)

We’re seeing more warnings all the time. Our mobile phones are demanding our attention most of our waking hours. We’re quickly learning that they can be dangerous instruments when driving, walking, and performing many other everyday tasks.

It seems obvious to me from this new reality that we humans are not designed to focus for very long on more than one thing at a time. I have been reading reports on “multitasking.” The term describes computers – not humans.

It reflects on a life-lesson that I have found to be of critical importance.  A life of growth toward being a productive, intentional person only becomes a reality by focusing on the process rather than the results. It’s either one or the other. There’s a very subtle but significant difference between them. Results flow from a process. Regardless of the endeavor, we are much more effective as people when we focus on process and let the results flow from there.

As a student of the Bible I see it in Psalm 1. The Psalmist says that the person who desires a life of substance and prosperity focuses on a process. The process is simple, but profound – -spend less time with people who will drain your spiritual and emotional resources and all your waking hours meditating on God’s truth.  He outlines the process that will produce positive results. The person who focuses on the process will, in time, be like a tree “which yields its fruit in season.”  

It may not seem like much to you but this principle has made a radical difference in my own thinking, and behavior over the past several years. I think most of my life I was taught that “results” mattered more than the process by which they were attained. Maybe that’s just what I wanted to hear and filtered the messages. Or perhaps my own impatience for results in my life and work predisposed me toward that conclusion.

This principle is a constant in the world of sports. In almost any sport the participant or team who can focus on the process more than the result most often ends up on top.  In fact when a player gets consumed with the results more than the process that’s when they tend to freeze up and fall apart.

I saw it just this past weekend at the Ryder Cup in Medina, Illinois. The US team had a large lead after two days play and completely went into meltdown on Sunday, giving the tournament to the Europeans. Who was focusing on the process and who on the results? My take on it is that the Americans started looking too much at the fear of losing (results) and abandoned the process that was working for them the first two days. On the other hand, the Europeans stuck to a team game plan (process) and came out on top.

Some years ago I worked closely with some people who had struggles with depression and addiction. I found that they had some positive progress in recovery if they stuck diligently to a plan.  There were some who became more complacent with their new-found results and stopped following the plan that brought them there.  That marked the end of recovery and the beginning of a relapse. When the process was not in focus the results were sacrificed.

In almost everything we set out to do – diet, exercise, learning new skills, or developing a closer walk with God the process should be the focus. If the process is wholesome and healthy the results are most likely to be positive. Whatever goal you may be pursuing in life, make sure the process is your priority.  Who knows, it may just lead to true prosperity – for you and for those you love.

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