This past fall Carol and I took a couple of weeks to celebrate 30 years of marriage. While traveling we visited ancient Olympia. This is where the first Olympics were held. They took place every four years from the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D.
The athletes actually had some amazing facilities for their time. This was before electricity and running water to be sure, but ingenuity ruled the day. There was an indoor gymnasium, an outdoor stadium with a track, and bath houses. Also, there was a temple to Zeus right in the middle of the sports complex.
The early games consisted of events like running, wrestling, and horse and chariot races. In today’s Olympics the site changes every four years, and athletes come from all over the world.
When they show up it is typically to participate in only ONE event. The fact is, it is very difficult to compete and excel in multiple sports. Swimmers swim and runners run. Ice skaters skate. And if the ice skaters decided to run, they would be considered failures. But as long as they skate, no one will notice that they cannot run very well. Stick to their ONE thing, and they look exceptional.
We admire people who have chosen to excel in ONE thing, yet we fall into the trap thinking that we can excel in several things.
As great an athlete as Michael Jordan was he never could excel at baseball, even in the Minor Leagues. So he wisely decided to stick with his ONE thing, basketball.
Now you may be asking, What is my ONE thing?
This is not an easy question to answer. It involves a number of things like honesty, clarity, understanding, choices, and time. There is no magic formula.
Olympians get this. Think about it.
1. Honesty: They start out being very honest about their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Clarity: That brings clarity as to what they will work on. Hint-It’s not their weaknesses.
3. Understanding: Over time they understand how to excel, improve, and increase their skill level.
4. Choices: They learn to say yes to some things and no to others. It may be saying no to TV and yes to fruits and vegetables. Those are hard choices for many, but not Olympians.
5. Time: In due time others notice their high level of skill, sponsors step in, and their journey to the Olympics begins.
These five things do not represent five easy steps. They simply illustrate that sometimes finding your ONE thing is not as easy as it sounds. But it also illustrates that you can begin the journey.
What’s your ONE thing? Why not start the journey today?
Wouldn’t it be nice if our character was like that? What if we could develop courage and never think about it again?
What if we could learn to love really well and then put that one to rest?
We know that is not how life works. On the other hand, are we daily pursuing the development of our character? It’s actually harder than you think. On the other hand it’s not, in that we have daily opportunities to build upon our character.
Let’s take a look at several aspects of our character.
Courage: every day we are faced with choices between convenience and courage. Paul reminds Timothy that God has not given us the spirit of fear. 1 Timothy 1:6.
Discipline: this is doing today so you can have what you want tomorrow. Just like the boxer trains for the next match so we must do things today with tomorrow in sight. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV).
Delayed Gratification: sometimes we just have to work for something or wait on God’s timing. Jesus faced this in His own ministry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3 ESV).
Contentment: being thankful for what we have is always a challenge while we are on the journey to attaining or accomplishing more. But godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6 ESV)
Perseverance: the test of your character is what it takes to stop you. This phrase has been repeated countless times. The apostle Paul was able to come to the end of his life saying, I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)
Love: this is not to be understood as a noun. It is a verb! That means it takes work just like all the other aspects of character. This one goes right up at the top. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Realize you will never be done. You can’t work on one and then go to the next one. No. You must work at spinning all the plates at the same time. Daily you will have opportunities to continue construction on your character.
How’s the building coming?
A few years ago I went to downtown Charlottesville and bought a guitar. I am not even close to a musician. So why did I do that? Because I thought I should work on a weakness. Who knows, perhaps if I could spend hours upon hours and learn how to play a few chords I could make a difference. Fat chance!
When I was in college I was not a fan of literature. As a result, my lack of interest led to me getting a ‘D’ in the class. My professor called me in to see if she could uncover the problem in my life. I was straight up with her. I told her I did not like literature. Not trying to hurt her feelings, but I was being honest.
So she proceeds to ask how I was doing in my other classes. Hated to break the news, but I had ‘A’s in all my other classes. Why? Because I loved those classes. They all centered around my major, my main interest, my strength if you will.
In the end I got rid of the guitar. Buying it was a huge error on my part. I have since given up trying to work on my weaknesses. Forget about those areas you get a ‘D’ in. Focus your attention in the area(s) where you get an ‘A.’ That’s where you are truly gifted. Stir it up as Paul says.
Have you identified what gift or strength you need to stir up or improve upon?
In my last two posts I talked about the NFL Playoffs regarding your passion and personal discipline.
Today let’s move to your workplace.
What do the following have in common?
Lack of motivation.
Answer: Poor attitude. We can spot it from a distance. We despise it in others, yet we tolerate it in ourselves.
Attitude, the third and final part of your personal PDA, is all important.
Yet all of us are susceptible to a bad attitude. Actually it can happen in an instant.
Life has a way of doing that to us. Our car breaks down or we get a cold right as we are beginning a vacation. Yes, things like this can happen at the worst possible time.
Our attitude affects us, those around us, our view of the future, our assessment of the present, and how determined we will be in facing new challenges.
Our attitude is one of our greatest assets. You know that already. If you could choose between two people with whom to work, little skill/great attitude, or highly skilled/bad attitude, my guess is you are going with the great attitude.
Skills can be taught. Attitudes not so much.
Your attitude is either helping you or hindering you.
The good news is you can choose your attitude.
Choose wisely and live at a higher level. You will be happier and so will those around you!
Once again let’s gain some insight from the NFL Playoffs. Let me start by saying that everyone knows that Peyton Manning continually attempts to get the defensive line to jump with his unique style of calling signals.
In the San Diego/Denver game I’m sure that was talked about among the coaches and players. Easy enough. Or perhaps not so easy.
During the game the defensive line jumped into the neutral zone bringing upon themselves a five yard penalty. Not once, but several times.
Why? Lack of discipline.
Actually the game turned out to be decided by just seven points, one touchdown.
In a close game those multiply penalties absolutely kill you.
As I said in the last post just lacking in one of these areas in your personal PDA can kick your butt. Someone said, “If if could kick the person responsible for most of my problems I wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week.”
The defensive line still may not be sitting down!
This is not always as easy as it sounds. Typically there are several things in our day or week that we simply are not fond of doing.
That’s why it takes discipline.
We know what we need to do. San Diego knew they needed to be aware of the hard count and not jump.
Discipline is doing what needs to be done even though you don’t want to do it, so you can eventually do what you want to do.
Had San Diego not jumped off sides, they may be still playing. That’s what they wanted to do.
Discipline, or the lack of discipline kept them from their wants.
Today, identify just one thing that needs your attention and go out and do it.
Before you get the idea that I am a little out of date, I am not talking about digital technology. Plus most of us have converted to using our phones as our PDAs.
I want to address three huge issues in all of our lives. As you know I often draw life lessons from the sports world, and while watching this past weekend these three stood out and were difference makers.
If one of these three is missing you may wind up beating yourself.
Let me illustrate.
P is for Passion. Even sports fans have little desire to watch games that lack passion. It’s not unusual for NBA fans to skip most of the regular season and only tune in for the playoffs. I confess, I fit into that category.
During the San Francisco/Carolina game Steve Smith brought the passion in the first half. However, after he got banged up he showed less passion. As his passion subsided so did the teams.
It’s not unusual for one person on a team to fuel the passion for the rest of the team. During the second half as Carolina’s passion weakened the game eventually got away from them.
A high level of passion would have made a difference in the second half and perhaps changed the outcome of the game.
Passion alone can sometimes make all the difference.
So when you head out the door take passion with you. Take it to work. Take it to your next meeting. Take it to your next conversation.
Passion; How is the first trait of your personal PDA?
In many ways January is the height of the losing season. College football games, the NFL Playoffs, and personal reminders about 2013.
After all, that’s where New Year’s Resolutions came from. Failures or losses from the previous year are acknowledged and drive us into a new year.
Losses. Sometimes that’s where our focus is. Losses happen. If everyone won all the time there would be no inspiration to change.
Many losses sting for a long time. Whether it’s a championship game or a marital breakup or the loss of a job.
You can’t just shake it off in five minutes or five days or even five months.
Let’s admit it hurts. But let’s not quit playing.
5 Ways to Comeback After a Loss
1. Expect some horrible days. That’s normal.
2. Don’t take it personally. Yes, you experienced a loss, but that does not mean you are a loser. Auburn lost the National Championship game. Trust me. They are not a bunch of losers. Neither are you unless you pack it in and quit.
3. You may have to forgive someone. He missed a tackle, your spouse forgot it was your anniversary, or someone forgot to pick you up from the mechanics. Forgive and move forward.
4. Lose the guilt. We spend too much time focusing on what we did to contribute to the loss. The truth is you alone were likely not responsible for the loss.
5. Get back in the game. Never forget that others are watching. Your kids, your coworkers, and your teammates. Write down on a piece of paper what you think a winner would do after a devastating defeat. Then go do that. You know what to do.
Fascinating. You already know what to do. You already know the answer to the question, How do you come back after a loss?
How many of us charge into the New Year determined that this year will be different?
So we set off and begin setting goals, some ambitious but unattainable. Some marginal but uninspiring. Some too far in the future and unclear.
Nonetheless, we set out writing down how this year will be different.
Weight and physical fitness. Check.
Get out of debt. Check.
Date night once a month. Check.
Stop smoking. Check.
Now that we are one week into the New Year are we satisfied that we are on track?
Or is it possible that we have overlooked the most important of all?
What about some Soul Resolutions? Quite simply, these have to do with seemingly intangibles of life. Although in many respects they are not.
How many of us have addressed our irritability with the proper resolution? Oh sure, we say things like, “This year I am going to be less irritable.” And that’s it. We have done nothing to address the issue other than simply “Say it.”
For the record go ahead and add to the list things like moodiness, pride, obnoxiousness, resentment, and anger. I can’t tell you how many people I know who will continue to struggle with these unless their soul changes.
All of us will continue to damage our own lives and those around us if we neglect our soul.
With that in mind let me give you five quick hits for your soul.
1. Spend fifteen minutes a day reading your Bible and praying.
2. Pray for people you know who are hurting and serve them in any way you can. Sometimes all you can do is pray.
3. Connect with others regularly in order to share your burdens and also allow them to share theirs.
4. Give regularly and generously to the church you attend. Yesterday at New Hope we heard the testimony of a family who began tithing two years ago and how it changed their lives.
5. Pray for those you now who do not attend church and invite them when appropriate. Once again, at New Hope I am starting a series January 12 entitled, Faith in the Midst of Pain and Suffering. At the core it is a message about the soul. And it will be very helpful for anyone you know.
Those five things are not hard to do. They do not take a lot of time. The downside is you cannot measure the health of your soul in a week’s time or sometime a year. As I mention earlier, we have a family that now two years later one of their soul resolutions is very visible.
As the New Year gets underway in earnest this week, and you look over your aspirations for 2014, ask Am I Missing Something?
Following the interview, guess what? He had to wait. Waiting turned into anxiety and worrying.
Now his question:
All I’m doing is sitting around worrying. What do I do about that?
No doubt we all have our questions, our unanswerable questions.
What if I don’t get the job?
Will my kids ever get on track?
Can my marriage survive?
Now let me be candid. I would love to have the answers at my fingertips. But if I did, I would most likely simply be blowing smoke.
I’m not sure why Moses had to herd sheep for forty years.
Why did God allow Daniel to be thrown into the lion’s den because he faithfully prayed three times a day?
Life is filled with uncertainty and we don’t always get the phone call we wanted. Wouldn’t we all like to have everything work out all the time?
Here is what we can do. This comes from one of Jesus’ talks on worry. Actually it seems like He is having a case of ADD. In Matthew 6 verse 25 Jesus essentially tells us that we must trust in the providence of God.
And in the middle of His talk, He says, “Look at the birds…” Sounds like something we would say when we get distracted. But Jesus was not distracted. He simply wants us to realize that if God is concerned about these small creatures how much more does He love and care for us.
The birds don’t just fly around and expect food to magically appear in their nests. They do their part. But they are not worrying about their sustenance.
So how do we overcome our anxiety? Simple, but not easy.
Accept that you have done all you can do. You have gone through the interview. You have prayed about the situation. You took the necessary steps.
Believe that God has your best interests in mind. Our desires are not always the best.
Commit it all to the Lord.
With that said, does that mean the anxiety will leave? Sometimes no, because we allow uncertainty to make us anxious.
Perhaps the best way to sum it up is like Jesus did. “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) Devotion to God is a prerequisite for the peace that we long for in the midst of uncertainty.
Put God first and you will have no reason to worry.
Why worry when you can trust God?
The events of the past week illustrate that we tend to do things if no one is watching. When the bombs at the Boston Marathon went off, one of the first comments I heard was, “With all the cameras in place, and all the cell phones with cameras, it should not take long to identify the perpetrators.”
I wonder if the two brothers, who were quickly identified and pursued, even thought about the abundance of cameras. I wonder if they thought about the consequences.
It all reminds me of the verse in Numbers 32:23 (KJV) which says, “…be sure your sin will find you out.” Sobering.
God’s camera is always on. He never misses a thing. When you displayed a bad attitude at work or towards your boss, He saw it.
Sure, you may pull off your sinful act, and you may even attend a party that evening, but you will never get away. Oh, perhaps for a time. Maybe for a long time.
But one day you will be exposed, because God’s camera is always on!