Monthly Archives: June 2019

Our Choices Determine Who We Become

I have listened to graduation speeches and wondered, “What would I say if I had the opportunity and responsibility to speak?” In all seriousness, this is what came to mind.

I am neither Fork in the roada genetic nor an environmental determinist.  In plain terms, though I recognize that the way we are “wired” and what we have “experienced” impact us tremendously,  I ardently believe our choices determine who we are and who we will become during our lifetime.

It saddens me when I watch people run from the opportunity to take responsibility for their lives. Too often they seem to possess faulty perceptions, wallow in woundedness that circumstances and people have inflicted on them, or passively rely upon the well intended though misguided over-involvement and support of others. In essence, some surrender their lives to self hatred, pain, or dependency. Life for them becomes a crippling captivity rather than the adventurous journey it is meant to be.

Viktor Frankl decisively contends that the surrender to a living death is indexa matter of personal choice. As a holocaust survivor, he saw and learned much from personal experience about the nature of humanity.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl states:

We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offered sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of Viktor-Frankl-quote-2circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

…in the final analysis it (became) clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Pg 75

Most people have heard of Stephen Covey’s life changing book,  Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Few, I think, are aware of its subtitle: Restoring the Character Ethic. In this work, Covey builds upon Frankl’s compelling argument for personal responsibility as an advocate of proactivity.

Just as the great philosopher Plato stated that “an unexamined life is not worth living,” Covey challenges each of us to scrutinize our lives, our motives, our principles, and our paradigms—all as a part of embracing responsibility, truth, choice, and character. In doing so, we intentionally make them a part of who we are.I want to challenge you to do the same.

Covey states: The more we are aware of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions, and the extent to which we have been influenced by our experience, the more we take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view. Pg 29

This is not a call to turn your back upon all that you have lived and believed to this point in your life. To the contrary, it is about seeking truth that liberates and eradicates the lies that enslave us. We must be vigilant in determining what principles we will live by and die for. Principles inform and guide our decisions; they impact our choices, and consequently determine Good enemy of bestwho and what we will become in this life.

As the famous author, Emerson, declared, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I cannot hear what you say.

None can pretend forever. What we truly choose to become will not be hidden forever. We can be sure the truth will find us out.

So my charges to you, the reader,  are these: Become a person of strong character. Live proactively, take responsibility for your life, your choices, and who you will become. Resist the temptation to live a mean, self centered life and passive existence. Pursue truth, truth that establishes the maps through life and teaches you how to live it effectively. Find the answers to the big questions about life’s meaning and why God has put you here.

I sincerely wish you the very best of God’s blessings.

We humans have an aversion to reading books others have decided are “good” for us. (Bet it goes back to an innate desire to make our own decisions—wiring (free will and fallen nature) — and post educational trauma =) Therefore, I will indulge myself only to inflict a suggested reading/viewing list. I could go on for pages, but will stop at these. I can only hope you will experience the life changing “lift” offered by the truths within these works if you choose to consider them and break free from the “drag” of experience and genetics.

Isaiah 40:28-31
Books:Atlas Shrugged                                                                                                                                                Boundaries by Cloud &Townsend                                                                                                                        Safe People by Cloud and Townsend
Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning
Covey’s 7 Habits of highly Effective People
C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity
McGee’s Search for Significance
Peacemaker, by Sande
Works by Os Guinness and David Noble

Every Loss is a Wake- Up Call

Every loss is a wake up call to the potential we possess to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

For those of you, who like me, lost precious friends this year, here is something to ponder. It was sobering for me 3adjto admit that even if I had the power to bring them back, I would not because of the joy and wonder of heaven they would be denied due to such selfishness.

Having admitted this, my focus shifted to speculations regarding the interaction between all those I love and value that have gone before me. It made me smile to think of them meeting and swapping notes and sharing stories in heaven much as those of us left behind do. A major difference, however, being their story is written and they have set a bar for us. We have a race to run ever mindful of their example.

I thought about the nature of their legacies. Some have left me cautionary tales, others models of inspiration, recollections of warmth, images of loving expressions, words of encouragement and insight, and most important– an abiding sense that we brought something meaningful and worthwhile into each others life.

Yes, every loss is a wake up call to the potential we all possess to make a difference in the lives of those around us. We can no longer impact those who have gone before us, but we can take what we learned in our times together and use that wisdom to produce high yield investments with eternal value.

Photo by Ken Hughes

Joe Axtell, an Example of a Life Well Spent With Ongoing Returns

A very good and decent man died recently. Just one look at the response to his unexpected death was a sermon in itself. A good friend had hit the floor running in the middle of the night to be at his side. The home was immediately overflowing with people who wanted to be there for the inconsolable wife and heartbroken sons and daughters. Calling hours saw long lines and broken schedules. There was no facility in the community large enough to hold all who wished to attend the funeral. Overflow rooms at the church had to be created because that was the best they could do. It was something to behold.

Even more interesting is that the man at the center of all this was not some powerful dignitary, influential business man, or famous entertainer as one might assume. The man at the center of all this was a small town pastor named Joe Axtell. Joe had been a farm boy who came to the Lord at 15, went to a Christian college, married, and supported his family as a stone cutter. Nothing terribly remarkable in all that. What was amazing was the consistency with which Joe invested his life and how God blessed it.

Joe was passionate about bringing his life changing faith in Jesus Christ together with the people in his world. It was obvious in how he chose to invest his life and the kind of return he pursued. Joe invested with his smile, his laughter, his work, his hunting and fishing, his preaching and teaching, his counseling, his sense of humor, and his friendship. Joe was not a perfect man, but one who estab11021412_10152329962322325_3930044982391770320_olished an enormous warehouse of good will with people. So much good will existed, in fact, that forgiveness was not so difficult when he did stumble.

Joe made a difference with the decisions he made and the way he chose to relate to people. There is now a congregation of men and women equipped to do God’s work where there had once been none. There is an intact family where each member knows what it is to be loved and valued. There is a wife who knows she is loved more now after 33 years than the day they met. These are precious and increasingly rare lifetime achievements. None of this happens by accident.

The kind of life Joe led was intentional, the result of choosing to put God and others first. In doing so, he cultivated a life time filled with a positive outlook and memorable encounters with others that reflected what truly mattered to him, being used by God to change lives and bring joy to others.

Joe’s example of a well spent life has stuck with me more than any sermon I heard from him. It has made me think long and hard about the return I may or may not be getting on how I am investing my life. Have I been a good steward of the opportunities God has put before me? Am I faithful, available, and teachable? What kind of choices am I making? These are sobering questions. A well spent life is no accident and Joe’s passing was no doubt part of a much bigger plan.

God is an agent of change. It is something Joe firmly believed. Furthermore, he sensed change was coming and regardless of what it was, he preached that he trusted the Lord was doing it for good.

God’s choice to take Joe home was a game changer. It will no doubt trigger a series of choices amidst everyone impacted by his death. Some will be called to step up to things they had hoped to avoid or never dreamed of doing. Others will have to do what they have long been called to do, but do it that much more diligently. For a few it will be about stepping aside to make room for other, possibly painful, changes God has in store. Pruning and refining is unavoidable. None of this is easy. None of it will go ignored by the enemy. All of this will be about more change and more choices as God finishes what he has started for the sake of accomplishing some well hidden good.

I have no doubt that recalling the image of Joe’s big smile and good natured ways will keep many motivated and encouraged during the hardest times. It is one way we know that God isn’t done using Joe even yet. Some might say Joe has residual returns coming on his life well spent.

What Love Is and Is Not

What Love Is and Is Not

People often confuse love with no limits,
so let me clarify.

Being patient does not mean I am inviting continued attack.
It means I am creating opportunity for improvement.

Being kind does not mean I am a fool.
It means I am trying to motivate someone to do a little better.

Going the second mile does not mean I have nothing else to do.
It means I care enough to come alongside
a bit longer to create time for healing.

Biting my tongue does not mean I have no cause to speak.
It means I am waiting for someone to be able to hear.

Putting someone else’s interests before my own
does not mean I believe I don’t matter.
It means I have chosen to invest the margin in my life
with someone with little or none.

Any behavior, however, ceases to be loving,
when it ceases to move us toward being more like Christ.

When mercy feeds the monster in another’s soul,
justice must be allowed to do its work.004