Sunday, January 30, 2011

Partnering with Others

During this first month of the new year I have been exploring ideas for experiencing a great year. As we close out the month one additional thought has been bouncing around in my head. The people we choose to partner with in life have so much to do with our success and enjoyment in life.

One of the things that is so clear to me is how dramatically our lives are impacted by the people we spend time with in work, in family, and in our friendships. My Mom and Dad were right when they told me to choose my friends carefully. As a kid I often resisted their counsel, which almost always caused me some serious disappointment.

The people I work with are a rare combination of passion, practicality, and patience. They bless my life beyond what I deserve but I am so grateful. My partner for life, my wife of 37 years, is the most remarkable person I have ever known. Her insights about how life really works in this world have kept me from some great disasters. Her gentle and respectful way of talking to me about my life and our life together is an amazing gift. My friends are a mixture and odd brew - they are as different from me as any human beings could be but they challenge me with their ideas, their dreams, their deep convictions about what really matters.

When I talk with people often one of the first troubling topics is who they are partnering with in life. I remember a conversation when someone told me with great candor, "Everyone I work with is a crook. They lie and cheat as a way of life." I thought when they said that, what a miserable daily life.

I tell people who describe themselves as lonely to not trade loneliness for a coalition with persons who will bring you misery and pain. As difficult as it is to find good friendships and relationships, it is well worth all the time and effort.

One of my favorite stories is the love story of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman Gresham. Lewis was a successful and a much acclaimed writer, teacher, and lecturer, whose unique way of presenting the essence of the Christian faith made him world famous. Lewis was a lifelong bachelor and showed little indication of changing but then his friendship with Joy blossomed into a deep love and marriage. In many ways, C.S. and Joy were nothing alike but their partnership which was tragically cut short by her death, changed Lewis forever. His writing after her death was some of the most amazing and challenging of his life. He became a caring and compassionate Father to her children, which seemed very improbable for a very private man like Lewis. Lewis titled one of his books, Surprised by Joy, a book about his early life and his journey to the joy of Christian faith. Not long after it was published, another Joy came into his life - Joy Davidman Gresham, another remarkable "surprise" that would have a dramatic impact in his life.

This year focus on partnering with the people who will call you to the very best in your life. And have a great year!

Just thinking, Steve

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Something New

This month I am exploring some ideas on enjoying your best year ever.

One of the most invigorating choices you can make is to try something new. Life can quickly become stale and boring if you are unwilling to explore a new venture in your life.

Over the years I have found that attempting something new has a way of activating creative thinking and living like nothing else. The challenge of learning something brand new at any age is exciting. Years ago I was a regular runner but I had never run in a road race - so I gave it a try. A 5K first, then a 10K, later a Half-Marathon, which led to 26 Marathons and several Ultra-Marathons and Trail Runs from coast to coast. I had no idea that just trying something new would become something that brought me so much joy in my life.

Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote Seabiscuit, also wrote a remarkable account of the life of Louis Zamperini, a great Olympic runner and Italian immigrant to the USA, in her newest book Unbroken. The book is not for the faint of heart because it details some of the most horrid events of Zamperini's life when he was shot down during WWII in the Pacific and remained in the water for 47 days only to be captured and imprisoned and brutalized in a Japanese concentration camp. Amazingly he survived it all and is now 93 years old. The years after his terrible ordeal during the war were not easy - he was tormented with horrible dreams, heavy drinking and an obsession for revenge. His dramatic turn to God not only saved his soul but it saved his life as well. He became a gracious and forgiving man who opened a home for troubled boys.

One of the things that was so amazing about his story was Louis Zamperine's willingness to try something new - even in his later years. There is a picture in the book of him on a skateboard at 81 years old. He became an avid mountain climber and was willing to try something new with great passion year after year. Instead of being imprisoned by his desire to get revenge, his Christian faith empowered him to forgive and he met with some of those who had held him in prison, making peace with the past.

I challenge you - try something new - something positive, something that interests you and calls you to change and grow.

Enjoy the journey!

Just thinking, Steve

Monday, January 10, 2011

Right Now Thinking

This month, as we begin a new year, I am exploring some ideas on how to experience your best year ever.

One idea that has truly had a personal and positive impact on my life is what I call "right now thinking". The concept is to see clearly and embrace what is happening in your life right now.

I spoke with someone who has cancer and is taking treatments right now. They said something so important: "This is not a dream - this is my reality at this time. The question is how do I live in this reality - how do a talk to people about it, how do I handle my fear, my anger, my grief - this is my life right now - I don't want to waste this time and not learn and grow and live."

Sometime ago, I talked with woman who had just told her adult daughter that she had to move out and live independent from her Mother. This is the first time in 25 years that she has not had a child living in the home. She is finally an empty nester. She asked, "What do I do now?" I told her it is time for some "right now thinking". It is not 1986 - the year the first child was born - it is 2011 - how do you live a meaningful and productive life now? What do you want to learn? How do you long to use your time and your talents?

One guy I know is counting down the days until his retirement - even though it is about 5 years away. All his conversations tend to be about when he retires he plans to do this or that. Right now thinking keeps us from falling into the trap of missing the life we are now living. There is nothing wrong with setting goals, making plans for the future, but remember the future is never a given - we have no idea what the reality will be in 5 years. Real life is best lived in day tight compartments - don't get stuck in the past and don't just fantasize about the future.

Right now thinking is not flying by the seat of our britches - no hopes, no dreams, no plans. It does remind us of the daily nature of real life - The Psalmist said it so beautifully, "This is the day that the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)

Psalm 90:12 says "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

Just thinking, Steve

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Your Best Year

Happy New Year to all! During January I plan to offer some ideas to encourage you in the pursuit of your best year ever.

One thing that has helped me approach each new year with enthusiasm and new hope for personal growth and success will sound rather strange - the ability to forget.

I know that learning from our mistakes and using what we learn is critical for growing as a person - in fact, I have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes. So how can forgetting be helpful? I am referring to the emotional and cognitive ability to let go of the past and move forward.

If you want to have your best year ever you cannot carry the weight of past failures or the distraction of past successes into the new year. The ability to forget is the experience of letting go - there is nothing that frees us more.

Paul used this expression in Philippians 3: "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what is ahead."

Dwayne told me that he and a college friend had not spoken in 25 years because his friend borrowed some money and never paid it back. When I asked him if he ever sought to resolve the conflict he said no. So I said, "you chose to ignore the conflict, lose a friend, and carry this baggage for 25 years." He looked at me as if I had just doused him with a cold bucket of water - it was time to forget and move on and he knew it. What conflict is worth 25 years of your life? Later that day, he called his college friend and planned a time to have lunch and talk.

So as you begin this new year with all the challenges that are before you, employ your "forgetter" - let go of the baggage that can slow you and discourage you as you embrace the opportunities of a new challenge, new hopes, and new dreams for your life.

Check in each week this month for additional ideas to help you experience your best year in 2011.

My sincere hope for you is that this year will be your best year, with the help of our gracious God!

Just thinking, Steve Yates