Let dig back into the archives. Way back. I still remember watching the NFC Championship Game in 1967 (at the time it was the National Football League) with my dad. Ray Scott and Jack Buck, two of my all time favorite sportscasters, called the game.
I will spare you the details, but the game came to be known as the Ice Bowl. Look it up. The weather conditions were beyond brutal.
However, the Green Bay Packers were coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi, and the Dallas Cowboys by the legendary Tom Landry. It was a tight game. The score was Dallas 17 – Green Bay 14 with just seconds remaining. However, Green Bay had the ball at the one-yard line (sound familiar?). Actually it was a little less than a yard to go for a touchdown.
It was third down and Bart Starr, the quarterback, was able to sneak it into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. That play was played over and over. It became a defining moment. Now no one knew that at the time. But that’s the way defining moments are. You don’t realize them until later.
But that touchdown secured Vince Lombardi’s place in football history. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if Green Bay had not scored, today’s Super Bowl winner would not be receiving the Lombardi trophy, but the Landry trophy. That’s how big that play was.
You too will face defining moments. My dad faced one when he came home with an unusual job offer. He took it, and it continues to define his life. It was a wise decision.
In my own life I made a decision to buy a piece of land in a split second. That quick decision became a very positive defining moment in my family’s life.
In the business world, Stephen Covey wrote a book in his fifties entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.” That book became a defining moment in his own life.
But let’s go back to football and the recent Super Bowl. Seattle had the ball at the one yard line; however, unlike Green Bay, they did not score. As a result New England won the game and Tom Brady became a four-time Super Bowl winner. Even though he was not on the field for the crucial play, that win has forever put him in the conversation of “Best Quarterbacks of All Time.” The play at the end of the game and the win became defining moments in his life. It didn’t hurt that he had an incredible fourth quarter while on the field.
A defining moment may be on its way into your own life. You may not recognize when it comes, but there will be one. The best way to prepare is to start making wise decisions today so when the defining moment comes, you’ll be ready to make the decision that defines you.
In the Old Testament a boy named David made a decision to take on the giant Goliath. That decision became the defining moment in his life. But his earlier decisions led to that decision.
Once again, a defining moment is on its way. I hope you’re ready. It may define you for years to come.
Are you ready?
We have just begun a new year. Many have set some ambitious goals. Turned over a new leaf. Added this and subtracted that. But as we go through the various lists, something appears to be missing. Play Time.
We have even taken it out of our educational system. Recess seems to be a thing of the past. Play time is no longer valued. It’s missing in my own life. Perhaps one reason is that I grew up with a dad who thought play was a curse word…almost. My dad was obsessed with work, efficiency, and production. But deep down in my dad’s soul was a yearning to play.
In fact, one memory of working for my dad stands out. It was the day the unthinkable happened. It was a cold morning one winter. Four of us were up on the building: my brother Mark, Mike, Scott, and me. Out of nowhere, dad climbs off the ladder and comes walking across the building. Familiar sight.
And then it happened. Dad stunned as with his first words. We should have been sitting down. He said, “Let’s go skiing.” Our jaws dropped. Dad never, never, never, had fused work with play.
Well, needless to say, that day will never be erased from my mind. That day the five of us hit the slopes. While I can’t remember what happened the next day at work, I promise you we were more creative, more productive, happier, less stressed, and no doubt, even had a better attitude.
Perhaps like me, you, too, struggle with play time. But what if play actually made you more productive, more creative, better at anticipating and making decisions? Wouldn’t that inspire you to play more?
Today everyone has heard of Google and Pixar. What you may not know is that they have intentionally incorporated play into the company’s culture. Maybe they have learned the value of play. Perhaps I need to stop working and go play.
Even Jesus had his disciples get into a boat and spend some time away.
What do you say we stop for a moment and schedule some play time?
Especially if you are a believer. I mean, wouldn’t you begin to question God? Where is He? How could He allow this to happen?
I’m not sure Daniel was awakened from his sleep. He may have been taken during the daytime. But he was captured along with three of his friends and taken to Babylon, the ruling power of the day.
No matter how you cut it, they were teenagers! You will need to read the story in Daniel 1. As you are reading ask the following questions.
* So where is God?
* Has God lost control?
* Couldn’t He have kept this from happening?
* Now what?
What I find fascinating about Daniel 1 is that God is the chief actor! Specifically God does three things.
1. God is the one pulling the strings when the Babylonian army invades Jerusalem.
2. God is the one pulling the strings when Daniel receives a special exemption.
3. God is the one pulling the strings when Daniel and his three friends outshine their classmates.
And just think. Many were thinking, “Where is God?” And He was right there all along. Right in the middle of the action. In fact, God was the main actor.
In your own life have you found yourself questioning where God is? Perhaps one day you will realize that He was there all along, right in the middle of it all!
Even if the new habit was formed earlier there will still be a critical point in the life of the habit.
That was the case for Daniel. About 400 years earlier King Solomon had suggested that if anyone was living in exile that they might pray facing Jerusalem. Daniel liked the idea and adopted the habit. So three times a day he opened his window and prayed toward Jerusalem.
So far so good…
Until a conspiracy was formed. Some of his colleagues simply wanted Daniel out of office. Who knows exactly why.
You’ll need to read the entire story in Daniel 6.
The point is Daniel had to decide if he was going to continue the habit. He could have prayed with the windows closed. But no doubt Daniel felt that to not pray as he always had would have been a betrayal against God.
How many of us consider our spiritual habits in a similar light?
Think about some of the basic habits we have:
You can add a few more perhaps. But how seriously do we take those habits? Yes, I realize that none of these bring instant gratification. Which can make it easier to let one slide.
But should we abandon those habits, would we consider it an act of betrayal towards God?
Daniel certainly did.
That’s why we read in Daniel 6:10, But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. (NLT)
Your spiritual habits matter.
But those same habits which strengthen you in the tough times, also cause you to betray God if you choose to abandon them.
Are there any spiritual habits you need to reclaim?
After all, this is the year that your productivity is going to reach new heights. It will be your most productive year ever!
And so the guilt trip begins. “I’m not being as productive as I could be.”
So we cut some downtime and fill it with more productive tasks. We take less breaks during the day so we can be more productive.
We’re convinced that if we just upped our intensity longer we could be more productive.
But is that really true?
And are we all the same?
Is it a sign of laziness to schedule downtime to refresh ourselves mentally and renew ourselves physically?
In the football world it’s well established that defenses get tired if they are on the field too long during the game. Actually they become less productive.
So before you give into the productivity guilt complex and rush into a new high performance program, make sure you allow for and schedule some necessary downtime.
Yes, you may feel a little guilty, but you will be more productive!
It’s been over fifty years now since my grandmother told me Bible stories from the book of Daniel. After my grandfather passed away, she lived with us for a while in the lower level of our split-level house just outside of Tyson’s Corner, VA.
You have probably heard of “Daniel and the Lion’s Den.” Or the story of the three Hebrew guys who were put into a fiery furnace.
What you may be unfamiliar with is Daniel’s personal devotional life.
You can’t read the book of Daniel without noticing its impact on his life, and, ultimately, his influence on succeeding generations.
It not only impacted Jews in the second century who were being severely persecuted, but also my grandmother in the 20th century, and now me.
What was the secret to Daniel’s ultimate influence?
His personal devotional life. It is the KEY to his life and his influence. (Daniel 6:10; 9:20ff)
Now, Bible reading and prayer usually top the list of things discussed every New Year. You don’t know what the new year holds, and you want to have a good one.
But Daniel wasn’t focused on just the current year. He kept his mind and heart eternally focused.
As a teenager he was ripped from his home by a foreign army, the Babylonians. But that didn’t cause him to throw in the towel and try something new the next year. He stayed committed to prayer and the Scriptures even under threat of death.
As the book unfolds you notice his influence, his stability; and it is all influenced by his personal devotional life.
Sure, as we begin a New Year there are always headlines like “Have the Best Year Ever,” “Reach Your Goals in the New Year,” “15 Ways to …,” and “The Do’s and Don’t of Getting Leaner.”
And no doubt many of those are helpful.
But what about thinking beyond this year, or even beyond the next decade?
In a sense I am asking you to make a New Year’s Resolution, but not for this year.
A resolution is simply something you resolve to do.
When Joshua challenged the people to “Choose this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15), he didn’t say “…for this coming year, and see how it works out.” He challenged them to make a resolution that would give their lives purpose for generations to come.
Daniel himself purposed in his heart a course of action (Daniel 1:8), and it impacted his life along with countless others.
He influenced his coworkers.
He influenced his friends.
He influenced my grandmother.
He has influenced me.
That’s what I call Ultimate Influence.
And the KEY was his personal devotional life.
What will be the KEY in your life?
I’d have to disagree with that sentiment. What is actually being said is that apologizing is hard. Submitting to the ideas of another is hard. Missing a must-see football game is hard.
So in reality if the other person is apologizing, submitting to my wishes, and giving up something for my benefit, then marriage is easy.
However, what appears to be making marriage hard is self-centeredness. Our next five letters attack that selfish mindset head-on.
I – Intimacy. Let’s break this word down as follows: Into-me-you-see. This is all about honesty as we talk about our feelings and heartfelt desires. Guys tend to struggle more with sharing their feelings than women, but healthy marriages are characterized by complete openness and honesty.
J- Joy. Recently I attended a play in Richmond with Carol. Typically, plays don’t make it on my radar–actually to be more accurate, plays never make it on my radar. So does that mean I was in a foul mood all night? Was there no joy because it wasn’t my choice of activities? Not at all. My joy came from being with her the entire evening.
K – Kindness. This alone may be the key to a great marriage. Kind marriages simply do not fall apart. Do something kind today for your spouse. I promise you that it will elevate your marriage. You simply cannot ignore this principle.
L – Love. The verb, not the feeling. This is all about intentional acts. I’ve heard couples say they don’t love each other any more. Amazing! I know they are talking about feelings. But feelings tend to follow action. So what they are really saying is I’ve quit doing intentional things that will lead to a more loving marriage.
M – Manners. So what actually happens when you don’t get your way? Do you pout? Does rudeness raise its ugly head? Do you retaliate in unseen and less obvious ways so you can score a win? That’s not a marriage. That’s a competition. God put a couple together to compliment one another, not to compete against each other.
These five principles tackle self-centeredness head on. These five are doable today. So do them today! That was easy!
Let’s continue looking at 26 principles to help your marriage go to another level. Of course, you will need to hang with me for all 26 letters of the alphabet since the letter Z represents a real game changer. Trust me on that one.
Today let’s look at a few more letters.
E – Eros. Perhaps you familiar with the word erotic. The words are similar. It’s a word for love with the focus in on the romantic, passionate side. Typically eros is high during the dating period and the early days of marriage. But then life kicks in, and eros begins to slide. It all happens so innocently. We quit saying nice things to and about each other, we allow our grooming habits slide, we make less eye contact, and we may even put on extra weight. All of these things have an affect on our eros.
F – Fun. Why do couples quit having fun together? When we were dating, fun was what it was all about. So schedule fun things, do fun things, and keep having fun together.
G – God. Marriage is more about Him than you. When God created Adam and Eve, He made them in His image. They were to mirror Him. Yet, way too often marriage becomes more about my needs and my wants.
H – Humor. You really can laugh your way to a better marriage. You can’t afford to quit laughing. Laughter is good for the soul and extremely good for your marriage. In Victor Frankl’s classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he talks about surviving imprisonment during World War II. How did he survive? Humor. Never underestimate the power of humor. Bill Cosby said, If you can find humor in anything you can survive it.
Keep laughing, never forget God put you together, plan fun events, and keep the home fires burning!
Without a doubt a couple tends to put more time into planning a wedding than they do their marriage. Now I totally understand. In one sense they assume they are completely ready for what’s coming. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Now I don’t want to add to the bad press that marriage gets. I only want to point out that we can do better.
However, that does not mean that marriage is destined to be hard and difficult. Could it be that too many of us make it more difficult than is necessary?
One exercise that I encourage and find helpful is to simply take the ABC’s and come up with 26 helpful principles that will add value to the marriage.
So here is a sample. But I would encourage you to come up with your own.
A – Attitude. We all know that our attitudes can change for the worse quickly, even over small things. Just getting cut off in traffic can ruin our whole day. It shouldn’t. Chose to maintain a positive attitude. You will be glad you did.
B – Books. I once heard someone say that they had never encountered a problem that they could not read their way out of. So read some good books on marriage. Before you have problems. Keep one on the night stand next to your bed.
C – Communication. Some have called this the KEY to a great marriage. The reason this is sometimes difficult is that men communicate facts and women communicate feelings. Those are very different. But the only way to understand your spouse is to communicate.
D – Dream. Together. Plan your next vacation. Have a bucket list of things you want to do together. Start planning next summer’s vacation today. Why wait? I love doing this with Carol. She is better at some things. I am better at others. I can plan schedules, driving distances to be covered, and where we need to stay. Carol fills in the details, those things I forget about. And she is better at packing cars and suitcases. Marriage is better together.
In my next post we will look at more of The ABC’s of Marriage.
Are you ready to write your own list?
Now we can talk.
In 1940 a film version of the book The Grapes of Wrath hit the big screen. The movie was about the downside of living during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. You might say that it portrayed American life in a bad light. Not the kind of film you wanted people around the world to see.
Yet it was prohibited from being shown in Russia. I thought Russian leaders wanted people to think that life in America was not all it was portrayed to be.
But there were problems for them in the film. Poor people had trucks and cars and were able to travel wherever they wanted. There was too much freedom in America, and Joseph Stalin couldn’t let that be known.
Did anyone question his true motives? The truth was poor people in America had it much better than those in Russia.
I’m not suggesting that we go around and question the motives of all. But do we really believe that all of our politicians have our best interests at heart? Or could it be more about getting the money and the votes they need to retain power.
In the Old Testament (2 Samuel 2-3) there is a fascinating story that illustrates this. Briefly, there was a civil war going on in Israel. A commander by the name of Abner was being chased by Asahel. Eventually Abner killed Asahel in self defense. Of course this did not sit well with his brother Joab.
As the civil war came to an end Abner and Joab became joint commanders. However, in a moment of deception Joab killed Abner, apparently to seek revenge for the killing of his brother Asahel.
That is the obvious reason, but is it the whole reason? I mentioned that both Abner and Joab were joint commanders. Prior to this you might say Joab was on the winning side, as King David was gaining more power.
Could there have also been an ulterior motive? What about envy? Was Joab more concerned about the death of his brother or his own personal power?
Now it’s getting personal. What were the real reasons I had to buy that new car, new clothes, or bigger house? Why did I offer to pay for everyone’s lunch? Why were the drinks on me?
Was it because I truly wanted to serve my friends, or did I do it for personal recognition and appreciation, or to close the next deal? Hurts to even think about it.
Does Joab still live on in me?