Creativity

creativity

Today’s quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”

While those few words could take a thoughtful person in many directions, I’m content with one simple illustration. In recent years the creativity of pastors and people in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has resulted in the origination of numerous parachurch ministries, including:

  • Best Practices for Ministry – “A FREE conference for those who love the local church, the unchurched and the LCMS” – https://www.facebook.com/BestPracticesForMinistry/
  • Pastor 360 – Making life and ministry better for pastors, congregations and families –pastor360.com
  • Mission of Christ Network – Making known the light, love, and peace of Jesus Christ to people around the world – https://missionofchrist.org
  • J2e3 – Jesus to…Everyone. Everywhere. Everyday. – j2e3.com
  • Five Two – Christian entrepreneurs passionate about reaching those who don’t know Jesus – fivetwo.com
  • MinistryFocus – Making student loan debt repayment grants to professional LCMS church workers – ministryfocus.org
  • Dwelling 1:14 – Joining Jesus on His mission – https://dwelling114.org/

There may be other newly created ministries. These are ones with which I am familiar, all begun within the past several years by someone in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Although the one acorn reference in the quote above might not fit exactly with these examples, I thank God for the thousands of people (thousand forests?) whose lives are touched by the creation of these ministries and of additional ministries that will surely follow.

St. Paul wrote: “I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Cor. 9:22-23)

Achievement

leadership

Here’s the quote for today: “A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he has done.” – Cardinal Newman

My way of saying that is: “Leaders always disappoint someone!”

It took me a while to figure that out. In my initial days of leadership I thought it should be possible to please everyone with my achievements. I soon discovered the fallacy of that thought.

If one does nothing, he displeases those who think he should be doing something. If one does something, he displeases those who think he should be doing something else.

Jesus displeased people in the church of his day. Luther displeased people in the church of his day. They both achieved results that even now impact life for time and for eternity!

In our day, Pastors displease people in the church and politicians displease people in the country. It’s not wise for leaders to go out of their way to displease their followers. But displeasure often goes hand in hand with courageous leadership and frequently precedes significant achievement.

So here’s my advice, dear fellow leaders. Put on your big boy britches, buckle up your boots, get on your knees in prayer, exercise your God-given gift of leadership, anticipate disagreement and disappointment from those around you, and achieve much for the world and for the church!

Sufficiency

bernard-baruchFor centuries many famous and quite a few not-so-famous people have uttered words of wisdom. At least several weeks I plan to share with you some of their observations, counsel, humor, and musings. At times I might offer a specific application that connects these words to a scriptural or spiritual principle. On other occasions I may simply let the quote speak for itself.

Some but not necessarily all of those I’ll be quoting are Christian. Wisdom and common sense are not possessed only by those who confess the Christian faith. Here’s today’s quote:

“There is not much difference, really, between the squirrel laying up nuts and the man laying up money. Like the squirrel, the man—at least at the start—is trying to provide for his basic needs. I don’t know much about squirrels, but I think they know when they have enough nuts. In this way they are superior to men, who often don’t know when they have enough, and frequently gamble away what they have in the empty hope of getting more.” Bernard M. Baruch (1870-1965)

Baruch also said: “To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am.”

God bless your day!

Groundhog Day

groundhog_day_punxsutawney_2013-2

February 2 is observed annually in the United States and Canada as Groundhog Day. In addition, this date will always be remembered in our family as the anniversary of Terry’s first hip replacement surgery last year. Thanks be to God and to her wonderful orthopedic surgeon, she is doing quite well. We even danced last week, for the first time in a long time!

But let’s get back to Groundhog Day, adopted in the U.S. in 1887. Wikipedia says: “Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby is the name of a succession of groundhogs in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The town of Punxsutawney holds the largest Groundhog Day celebration, honoring the legendary groundhog with a festive atmosphere of music and food.”

“During the ceremony, which begins well before the winter sunrise, Phil emerges with his “wife” Phyllis and “daughter” Phelicia from his temporary home on Gobbler’s Knob, located in a rural area about 2 miles southeast of town.”

“According to tradition, if Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, he has predicted six more weeks of winter-like weather. If Phil does not see his shadow, he has predicted an early spring. Punxsutawney Phil became a national celebrity thanks to the 1993 movie Groundhog Day.

Here at our home in Georgetown, Texas, the day I wrote this article the temperature reached a high of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If this is the kind of winter Punxsutawney Phil predicts will last six more weeks after today, I say bring it on!

Perhaps I should feel a bit guilty enjoying this kind of weather the first week of February, especially in light of having spoken this week with dear friends who live in Gunnison, Colorado. They reported a temperature of -37 degrees Fahrenheit. Lord, have mercy!

Whether Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction proves accurate remains to be seen. And even if our 75 degree temperature plummets precipitously, I’ll still thank God for the privilege of enjoying his gracious gifts of health and happiness, family and faith, life and love, freedom and forgiveness!

I hope you’ll agree!

Lost Words from Our Childhood

childhoodGod willing, this Sunday will be Terry’s and my 51st wedding anniversary. I thank God for this wonderful woman whom I dearly love! She has been and continues to be a huge blessing to me, our children, our grandchildren and lots of people, many of whom she has never even met!

We were married on my 23rd birthday. Remembering our anniversary is not a problem. Agreeing on which event we should celebrate on January 29 is a challenge. I say anniversary. Terry says birthday. Although both a bit strong-willed, we usually come up with a workable solution!

Both of us are also chronologically mature enough to recall words and phrases used in our childhood but mostly absent from the vocabulary of our children and grandchildren. Here are some that came to my attention not long ago:

  • Heavens to Murgatroyd! (Spell check didn’t even recognize the word!)
  • Let’s get in the old Jalopy and go to town.
  • Don’t touch that dial!
  • Be sure to make a carbon copy!
  • You sound like a broken record!
  • Put on your best bib and tucker!
  • Straighten up and fly right!
  • Heavens to Betsy! Gee Whillikers! Jumping Jehoshaphat! Holy Moley!
  • Oh, my aching back!
  • Kilroy was here, but he’s long gone!
  • Pshaw! The milkman did it!
  • Go ahead! It’s your nickel!
  • Knee high to a grasshopper.
  • Well, Fiddlesticks! Don’t take any wooden nickels!

There are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter has little liver pills! Those of us past the midpoint of the chronological arc remember at least some of these words and phrases that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage and now are heard no more, except in our collective memory. It’s one of the profound realities of aging experienced by every generation.

We were in like Flynn and living the life of Riley, and even a regular guy couldn’t accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill. Not for all the tea in China! Gone are the days of beehives, pageboys, spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes, and pedal pushers.  Shucks, I don’t even remember some of those things.

Well, I hope you’re Hunky Dory after you read this article. See ya’ later, alligator! After while, crocodile! God bless your day!

Inauguration Day

inauguration

Tomorrow, January 20, is Inauguration Day in America. Donald John Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. However, some may question that number.

Actually, Grover Cleveland is counted as both the 22nd and 24th President. He was elected, then lost, then won again four years later. The factual way to count U.S. Presidents is to say Donald Trump will be the 45th President but only the 44th person ever to take the oath of office.

Nearly one million people are estimated to be in Washington D.C. to witness the event in person. Tens of millions will view the ceremony across the country and around the world.

Interestingly, crowd size estimators use aerial images from satellites, helicopters and balloons, plus basic math. Three pieces of information are needed: the total area of the space, the proportion of the area that is occupied, and the density of the crowd. But I digress.

More important than the number of people who witness the inauguration, whether in person or via electronic media, is the meaning of the event. In many countries around the world, leadership transitions are less than peaceful. Historically, nations of the world have experienced change in leadership following a decisive battle, a horrific insurrection, or a regal beheading.

Not so in America. Notwithstanding protests from individuals and groups regarding the legitimacy of this presidential election, the fact remains that tomorrow we will witness the non-universal phenomenon of a mostly peaceful transition of presidential power.

Of course we’ve been told to expect demonstrators. That’s nothing new. We’ve also seen news reports predicting thousands of motorcyclists known as “Bikers for Trump” who are expected to provide unofficial security at the event. That’s not quite as common.

Tomorrow will come. Tomorrow will go. Your life and mine might not be discernibly different, at least for now. But like it or not, change will occur. Some change will be good, some not. It’s not a simple task to lead what is arguably the most powerful country in the world.

Regardless of whether our new president views prayer the way most Christians do, the best suggestion I can offer today is that we hold our new leader and our country in our prayers. Here’s one suggestion from Lutheran Service Book’s Prayer for Responsible Citizenship:

“Lord, keep this nation under your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve you faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

 

“Only God can do this!”

clemson-football

A January 10 article by Dr. Jim Denison: “What impressed me even more than Clemson’s win” (https://www.denisonforum.org/columns/cultural-commentary/impressed-even-clemsons-win/):

In what’s being called “the best title game in college football history,” the Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide last night on a touchdown with one second left in the game. It was one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen and Clemson’s first victory over Alabama since 1905.

For years to come, Clemson fans will be discussing the feats of quarterback Deshaun Watson and diminutive wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who caught the game-winner. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts nearly won the game for Alabama before Clemson’s last-minute heroics.

As great as the players were, the coaches impressed me even more.

Clemson’s head coach was born William Christopher Swinney. His older brother Tripp started calling him “That Boy,” which became “Dabo,” the name by which he has been known his entire life.

His childhood was more than challenging—his father became an alcoholic; his oldest brother was severely injured in a car accident and has battled alcoholism for much of his life. His parents eventually divorced, and he lived with his mother in a series of motels, apartments, and friends’ homes. Swinney was nonetheless an honor roll student and football star in high school.

He enrolled in Alabama in 1988 and eventually won a scholarship on the football team. His mother, who had recovered from debilitating polio (including an iron lung and fourteen months in a knee-to-neck cast), shared an apartment room with him while he was in college. He earned a bachelor’s degree and MBA at Alabama and eventually made his way to Clemson, where he has been head coach since 2008.

Swinney became a Christian at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting. He is so public about his faith in Christ that the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to sue him and Clemson, but they could not find a player willing to file a complaint against the coach.

Alabama’s legendary coach Nick Saban is also a strong Christian. He attends Mass before football games and is a regular at his parish church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He and his wife are founders of the foundation Nick’s Kids, which has raised more than $6 million to help children in need. Last year, they built their sixteenth Habitat for Humanity house to honor Alabama’s sixteenth national title in the school’s history.

Both coaches say that winning titles is important, but what matters most are the young people they coach. One of Saban’s players said of him, “He doesn’t get enough credit for teaching guys how to become men.” When players from Saban’s ten seasons at Alabama gathered last year, one of them spoke for all: “Coach, you changed everybody’s life, no matter if you knew it or not.”

Similarly, Swinney says, “My driving force in this business is to create and build great men.” The most rewarding experiences of coaching, he says, have come when former players tell him he made a positive impact on their lives.

In our scientific age, it’s hard to value intangible souls more than tangible success. But of all God created in the entire universe, human beings are the only creation he made in his own image (Genesis 1:26–27). Investing in people is clearly your best way to leave your mark on eternity.

According to national champion coach Dabo Swinney, “The value of life is measured in relationships, not results or riches.”

I wholeheartedly agree and am thankful that men such as the coaches in this article are spending their lives and dedicating their careers to the development of leaders based on more than simply fame and fortune. May their number increase!

At the conclusion of Monday night’s national title game, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said: “Only God can do this!” While I’m not convinced that the God of the universe really cares about which football team wins the national championship, I’m thankful for Coach Swinney’s public testimony of faith, giving credit and thanks to God for this significant achievement.