Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
I like to run. I always have. Where I live now I have two courses I usually run. One is at Toccoa Falls College which is a beautiful spot to just enjoy a run. The second spot is a local cemetery. I know that sounds strange but there is something just peaceful about running there.
Over the course of many miles, I have had the chance to read many of the tombstones. One family plot really got my attention. This plot is a small section containing four headstones. Mom and dad are there. Dad lived to be 62. Mom lived to be 78. One interesting thing is the two small headstones next to mom and dad. Two children are buried here. The first is a son who lived for one day. Dad was 24 when his son died. Mom was 22. The second is a daughter who also lived for only one day. Dad was 23 when he lost his daughter. Mom was 21. There is no indication the family had any other children. I just stood next to the graves wondering about what this family had endured.
It is hard for me to imagine losing a child. Losing two children when you are in your twenties? That’s hard to take. Then going the rest of your life with no children had to lead to some deep feelings for both mom and dad and some interesting private conversations.
So, as we approach Thanksgiving why even talk about this? Here is why. Many of us have family members who are still living. Yet, we get caught up in non-stop work, texts, email, and other things that rob us from spending time with our family. We get so busy with the daily grind in our lives that we forget to tell our family how important they are to us and that we really do love them.
We forget to ask our kids what is happening in their lives and what is important to them. We forget to listen. We get into a routine that keeps us from spending time with our spouse doing something that is important to them. We don’t intend to let time get away from us but it just seems to happen. I would bet that the family who lost their two children would talk privately about how they would give anything to have their kids with them throughout their lives.
Many of us do have our kids and our spouse with us every day. They are gifts. Be thankful for them and let them know it this Thanksgiving.
For those who are not married or do not have children…you have others who care about you. Mom and/or dad, brothers, sisters, friends, etc. There is someone in your life who really cares about you. Let them know how thankful you are for them too. I bet someone in your life would love a phone call this Thanksgiving.
Go pick up a copy of my new book: No Compromise: Thoughts From A Christian College President. You can purchase it here…
Some of my thoughts today are from a book titled, Thinking For A Change written by John Maxwell. In that book Maxwell tells the story of two sisters. One sister just got word that she was accepted to the college of her choice. She was so excited to have earned the opportunity for a future career. The other sister leaned over to her mom and said this, I feel so sorry for my sister. She has to go to school four more years!
This story illustrates the underlying foundation of the book. Successful people think differently than unsuccessful people. In our story, one sister thought about the wonderful opportunity she had been given to attend college and start a career. The other sister thought about all the time, effort, and work it would take to get through four years of college…two totally different ways of thinking.
What do you think about every day? Do you even take time to deliberately think about the future or are you just trying to get through the day. Maxwell said this about the power of thinking.
- Unsuccessful people focus their thinking on survival
- Average people focus their thinking on maintenance
- Successful people focus their thinking on progress
If you aren’t doing it yet, may I encourage you to spend some time each day deliberately thinking? A good way to get started is to spend some time at the end of each day reflecting on your day. Examine what was successful in your day. What decisions did you make that led to successful outcomes? What decisions did you make that led to negative outcomes? How could you have made your daily decisions better? If you will take fifteen minutes at the end of each day and reflect on the decisions you made during that day, you will learn tremendous lessons that you can use tomorrow.
Some of you may remember an old movie called Groundhog Day. In that movie the main character continued to live the same day over and over again. I hope you aren’t trapped in a similar situation. If you feel like you are simply repeating your workdays, break free by thinking deliberately each day, learn from the lessons of the day that God is teaching you, and apply new ideas to your life.
Former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch once said this. 99.9 percent of all employees are in the pile because they don’t think. Don’t be one of many struggling in the employee pile. Spend some time thinking and live the exciting, creative life God has planned for you.
A few years ago John Maxwell wrote a fascinating book called, Today Matters. In that book Maxwell noted that what we do with our time each day will determine our future. I believe Maxwell is right.
According to Reuters News, Americans watch an average of nearly 35 hours of TV each week. That’s almost equal to a full-time job. In the average home, there are more television sets than people.
According to another survey by America Online and Survey.com, American workers are wasting 2 hours of every 8-hour workday, and that doesn’t include lunch or scheduled break time.
Specifically, this survey revealed 64 percent of employees visit non-work related websites every day at work. Of that group, 39 percent waste one hour or less each week, 29 percent waste 2 hours each week, 21 percent waste five hours per week, and 3 percent said they waste 10 hours or more each week.
The survey also revealed which websites employees visit most while they should be working. Any guesses? Facebook occupied 41 percent of those wasting time and 25 percent are shopping at Amazon while they should be working.
I suspect if you asked those watching 35 hours of TV or those wasting time surfing the Internet about their life plans, they would tell you that they always wanted to start their own business but just don’t have the time. Or perhaps they just don’t understand why they can’t seem to get promoted at work. I bet you would hear an endless stream of excuses for why these folks can’t seem to get ahead.
The answer is very simple and Maxwell is right. Here’s the answer again in case you missed it…Today Matters. How you spend your day each and every day will determine your future. You will never get today back again to repeat.
So what will it be? Watch TV or spend time with your family? Surf the Internet or think of ways to be productive and help your company advance? Check Facebook or read your bible? You see, your day really is yours. You get to decide how your day will unfold. Choose wisely because today really does matter.
I was recently talking with a friend who asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks. He said this: “When was the last time you went to church and really expected to meet with God?” Sure…most of us regularly attend church but do we actually prepare for church?
I know for many families our weekly list of tasks includes attending church on Sunday. At 10:30 AM we know we must be sitting in our seat at church. We have hurried to get our children dressed, get breakfast, keep our family moving out the door and get seated but have we forgotten the most important part? Have we even thought about preparing our hearts all week for what God is going to do in that Sunday church service?
When is the last time we got together with our families on Thursday night and talked about what we hoped God would do in our Sunday service? When is the last time we actually took time to prepare our hearts for an encounter with God at church? You see, this question from my friend made me wonder if we really expect God to do anything at all in church. This question made me realize that sometimes all of us expect the pastor to be prepared and the musical worship team to be prepared but we just sit and expect others to take care of our worship. Our encounter with God has become the responsibility of someone else.
So as the weekend approaches may I ask you to spend time in prayer preparing for what God has in store for you this Sunday? Will you take some time with your family and ask them what they are hoping God will do for them at church this week? Will you spend time praying for your pastor and the church service asking God to meet with the congregation in a miraculous way?
Don’t let church become another item on your to do list and simply check it off when the service ends. Become engaged in worship and prepare yourself and your family for what God has in store for you. What a shame it would be to miss what God has for us because we simply viewed our worship experience as another check off item on our list of tasks for the week. Make each worship service a time of awe as you have the joy and privilege of worshipping our remarkable God with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
With all that has been in the news recently about gun control, I began to think about a weapon we all possess that has done tremendous damage to others. This weapon has cut deeply into the spirits of others, has severed relationships, has left people devastated and in tears, has fired numerous shots, and can be re-loaded in an instant. What is the weapon? The weapon is your tongue.
The Book of James says many things about the tongue. In chapter three we read this, But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire…
Have you ever had your tongue set your life on fire? Have you ever said something and the moment you said it just wished you could take it back? Maybe it was something you said to your spouse this morning. As soon as you said it you could see the look of hurt in their eyes. Perhaps you said something cutting or hurtful to your child and saw a tear start to form. Maybe you made a careless remark to a co-worker years ago and now you are enemies seeking to cause trouble for each other. Once you say something you can never get it back. You may ask for forgiveness but the damage is already done.
As you go through this week remember that you possess a weapon that can truly set your life on fire as well as the lives of others. As you continue to seek and develop the character of Christ, don’t let your tongue get in the way of your example to others. When someone upsets you stop, take a breath, and think about your response before you engage your weapon. Refuse to simply fire randomly. Allow the Holy Spirit to help you perfect a Godly aim.
You can use your tongue to build up others, diffuse tense situations, develop wonderful relationships, and demonstrate the love and power found in Christ. So use your tongue to snuff the fires going on in the lives of others and refuse to allow your tongue to be the match that starts fires in those around you.
I am amazed at the number of folks who profess Christianity but chose to flirt with sin. They don’t actually cross the line but they dance on the edge. In other words, they see how close they can get to sin without getting burned. This is a very dangerous behavior because the bible tells us this will eventually draw us right into the middle of sin.
Psalm 1 says this, Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord.
There is a very subtle progression in these verses that warn us about playing on the edges of sin. First, these verses caution us not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly. In other words, don’t be enticed by sin in the first place. Stay clear and walk away. If you don’t walk away while you can, the next portion of this passage says we will find ourselves standing in the path of sinners. You see, we were enticed by sin as we walked in the counsel of the ungodly and now we find ourselves stopped, standing and engaged in sin. Finally, this passage tells us if we don’t choose to get away, we will find ourselves sitting in the seat of the scornful. We have now embraced sin.
By flirting with sin, by playing along the edges, we are beginning our walk down a path that will eventually lead us to sitting right in the middle of sin. We will follow the path described in Psalms. We will walk into sin. We will find ourselves standing in sin and eventually just sit down right in the middle of it. We have been enticed by sin, we have become engaged in the sin, and finally we find ourselves embracing the sin.
So what is the answer here? It’s simple. Don’t play around the edges of sin. Get away while you can and simply don’t be enticed in the first place. Next time you are tempted by something that is not of Christ, remember to stop, turn around and go the other way. Do not be enticed. Do not become engaged in the sin. Don’t embrace sin.
God has great plans for your life. Don’t allow yourself to sit and get comfortable in the middle of sin and miss what God has planned for you.