When times get tough, we often turn to the words of a poet or a balladeer to give us hope, to soothe our angst, and sometimes, to crank us up. Many paint only a picture of an ideal. . . in essence, a dream. John Lennon gave us that in “Imagine.” Imagining away religion, patriotism, hunger and competition seemed to smooth away all of the ugliness of the world. After all, “with nothing to kill or die for” we certainly would live better lives, wouldn’t we? Imagine such a world as that.
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If I’ve just trashed your favorite song of all time, please stay with me for a minute.
In the later verses of the song, John Lennon writes of bringing the world together and sharing the wealth of the world. While we can dream of a time when that would happen, the writer makes it unlikely by entrusting that exercise to humankind without a higher power.
A dream of that magnitude requires a vision and definite action. While dreams can burn softly like candles, only true vision fueled by process can ignite the fires that bring change and progress. Our prolific Beatle has a point here. Too often, action and progress, framed only in mortal idealism, give way to greed, lust, and attempts at domination. Imagine if there was none of that.
But that same action and progress, when formed in the image of One who is greater, brings about what Lennon is really seeking . . . Heaven on earth.
Imagine walking side by side with that One. Imagine sharing and building together. Imagine loving each other as God loves each of us. At the very least, it gives us something to “die for.”
It seems more and more I find myself with a lot to say, but find no words that are adequate.
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I’ve experienced this for years when facing the loss of a loved one or a friend. Even the words that are true and right just don’t seem to express my feelings at a given moment. And so I sit in silence. Or perhaps I repeat the same neutral, void-filling phrase over and over again.
Other life events bring similar moments. When a friend or family member makes choices with less than positive circumstances . . . when a friend or family member ignores what I said when I had something to say . . . when . . . when things I have previously said have hurt or isolated or angered another — even when my words were absolutely correct.
Sometimes there is no event, no particular moment. Sometimes words can’t impact the most glorious of spontaneous, non-history-making instants. Sometimes . . .
I suppose the point is this,
“Almost” is easier than “Correct.” “Approximately” is quicker than “Exactly.” “Accurate” takes more effort and time. Yet, “Accurate” builds credibility, relationship, and trust. And if you have all of that, you’ll be included in what is really important in life.
In some ways, being accurate would seem to be the least taxing of all of our NEAT elements — Necessary, Effective, Accurate, and Timely. However, like most other essentials of personal relationship, accuracy — that which “is what it is” — gets sloppy in a fast-paced world that focuses on winning and changing others to our way of thinking.
Have you ever wondered, while watching the evening television news, how every pickup made by every automobile manufacturer can be the “#1 selling truck in America?” A logical person would conclude that can’t be possible. Somebody’s marketing spin must be inaccurate. But no one is really complaining. Why?
Because “accurate” has been made dependent on winning. Marketers spend inordinate amounts of money in search of the one thing they do better than anyone else. Then they market it to death. So, every pickup in America is the #1 seller in some particular niche. Political hopefuls pound on the things that make them seem superior and the policies that are winners for the voters. And we’ve been conditioned to accept pinpoint accuracy at the loss of overall accuracy and trust.
So, what can be done to restore accuracy and trust?
We must begin by reasserting our concern for accuracy. That begins with a number of “I” statements.
- “I don’t know.”
- “I’ll find out.”
- “I have personal, first-hand knowledge of this (beyond that, I do not know).”
- “I want you to know what I know.”
- “I want you to know what I do not know.”
- “I want to be transparent.”
- “I want to be fair.”
The difficulty with those “I” statements is the same one that got us into all the problems in the first place. Those open, context-neutral, curiosity-driven statements are not what we associate with winning. But they are the bedrock of personal accuracy.
Stop taking shortcuts with your communication. NEAT Communication requires significant investment. Be truly accurate. Create trust.
Nancy and I were honored to share Easter worship service with Judson. It was a special Sunday morning, because it was Judson’s first Easter.
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Two months old, Judson was a living reminder of new life and new energies. I spent much of the service smiling and watching and smiling and watching. But not every moment was a scene from a Hallmark movie.
Judson became a little restless, although I don’t recall a single tear or moment of distress. What I do remember with great emotion are the moments he became weary of his surroundings and began to doze off. Something peaceful settled on me as I watched this little one fade into slumber.
But it took a while for sleep to come. Even though a nap was what he needed, Judson fought it off as long as he could. His mother’s gentle rocking, the pacifier, and the touch of his blanket were worthy foes to his wakefulness. He was a gallant little soldier, yet sleep won out.
Judson’s efforts remind me of our own. Coming out of the difficulties and meaning of a Friday when our Savior is torn from us and the mourning of Saturday when our world is upside down, Sunday morning finds us reunited and hopeful and resolute to live life anew. Then, when things seem to be going well, God calls a timeout and places a needed rest — a Sabbath — in our way. And we fight it. We push it away despite its call to calmness and restoration. After all, this new life has lots of nooks and crannies to explore. How can we afford to lean back into His arms and rest?
How can we not?
The next time you are weary, leave it to God. Close your eyes and let Him take control. Your life will only be better. After all, it’s Sunday morning.
Death is a natural consequence of life We all have been touched by the loss of someone close to us. The initial shock of that loss begins at the moment the last breath was taken — a shock that can last for days, months, and even years. And then there are those milestone moments when, at a given day or time, we realize that we are facing those markers alone — without our loved one. After the crucifixion and death of Jesus on Friday, his family, friends, and followers awoke to a Saturday they weren’t prepared for. In this Saturday mourning, they found themselves with questions, wanting to believe in resurrection but faced with the harsh reality of a silent grave.
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This was a Saturday and a day of Sabbath for Christ’s followers that brought no rest. It was a day of doubts and fears. And, oh, such incredible sadness.
But Saturday mourning brought something else. A stirring experienced by even the strongest believers that plans should be made and new courses charted. The bits of uncertainty begin to clump together and the inner voices began to assert, “It’s all up to me. I am in control. Take charge and put aside all else.”
Yet, the message of Jesus’ life is one that says, “I am enough . . . Leave your burdens to me.” In the dark recesses of Saturday mourning, our earthly clinging causes us to desperately claw at what’s around us, demanding to understand, demanding to make things right, and sincerely pleading for all the broken pieces to be put back together again. And a stubborn determination to do it all ourselves.
Saturday mourning is a necessary part of the walk through the valley of death. For when we finally throw ourselves, exhausted, on the bed of our human frailty, we begin to see the outlines of sunrise on a new horizon. And in the waning moments of Saturday mourning, we begin to hear God’s voice, “It’s all up to me. I am in control. I am in charge and you need nothing else.”