April 23

If you fail to succeed, remember…

strikeout

Success is failure.

Ever feel like a failure? Ever look around at friends or family and think, “So-and-so has it going on and look at me?” Ever look at someone’s happy selfies and family photos on Facebook or Instagram and feel like an utter, unmitigated, complete failure?

No?

Me neither.

(I will stop lying if you will.)

Successful people often make success look natural

It is easy to look at a professional athlete, a corporate CEO, a famous actor or musician and assume that the person is so singularly gifted, he must have always succeeded.

Success must have just come so easily to her. Look how effortless it looks.

It is easy to assume the star athlete doesn’t have to make terrific physical and mental sacrifices, denying urges, turning down invitations, getting up early and staying longer on the practice field than anyone else.

He is such a natural.

It is easy to look at the super wealthy, self-made world-beater and think making money to that guy is like falling off a log.

I started thinking about success last night after reading a terrific article about one of the heroes of my youth, the inimitable, indomitable, (I thought) indestructible Earl Campbell.

Football was Campbell’s salvation. The article reveals how Campbell was raised by a single mom after his dad died when he was in the fifth grade. He had 10 brothers and sisters. Imagine the hardship for that woman and her kids.

In the 1970s, Tyler, Texas was a town still divided along racial lines. The thing that most brought the people of Tyler together, the thing that transcended racial barriers and had blacks and whites sitting together, cheering together? High school football.

Earl Campbell, nicknamed “The Tyler Rose,” became the greatest football hero the city would ever produce. He would lead his team to a state championship. As a senior at the University of Texas, he would win the Heisman trophy. The next year, he would win NFL rookie of the year. He would be named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and listed among the greatest to ever carry a football.

Football, however, is a short-lived thing, even if you have a Hall of Fame career. There has to be life after football and Campbell found success there, too, with his meat company and signature Earl Campbell hot links.

If you assume, however, that Campbell’s story of success has been a bed of roses, you assume too much. As Brian D’Ambrosio shares in the Huffington Post article referenced above…

Earl Campbell was a glorified superhero of brute professionalism — and his body has paid the price of that violent absorption.

In 2009, Campbell was recovering from his fifth back operation after being diagnosed with a genetic condition called spinal stenosis — in other words, his spinal cord canal narrowed to the point that it compressed his nerves.

To mute the incessant pain, his doctor prescribed high-potency pain medication. Soon, he began mixing the Vicodin and Oxycontin with Budweiser.

Nothing about addiction is ever prettily orchestrated. Pain eases. Pain is tamed. But then the substances overwhelm.

Campbell began fumbling his words, alienating family, struggling to remember formerly familiar things, and squandering important business opportunities.

His two sons, Tyler and Christian, told their father one morning that they worried about his health, and that they would be admitting him to a rehabilitation center. That, he says, was without question “the lowest point in my life.”

He went along with the scenario. But at first, he was incredulous about his needing clinical help.

“I didn’t believe I belonged with people hooked on heroin, cocaine. But I began to see myself in all of their stories and realized that we were all fighting the same fight.”

The date of November 16, 2013, marked Campbell’s four-year anniversary of being clean of alcohol and painkillers.

“I am incredibly fortunate to have my family’s support and access to medical care and addiction treatment care. Other individuals and families who battle addiction aren’t so lucky.”

Campbell believes that God rescued him from the destructive throes of addiction.

“I thank God for the support of my family and fans,” says Campbell.

Successful people fail forward

John Maxwell, the noted Christian author/thinker/motivator, wrote the bestseller Failing Forward a decade or so ago. A few notable passages in the book can be gleaned to classify what it means to “fail forward.”

“Failure is an inside job.  So is success.  If you want to achieve, you have to win the war in your thinking first.  You can’t let the failure outside you get inside you.” -John Maxwell

In other words, keep failure in perspective.

Failing only makes you a failure if you fail to keep it in perspective. Extrinsic failure can be overcome. Letting it become intrinsic makes it chronic.

For decades, Hank Aaron was baseball’s homerun leader with 755. (Some say he still is. Steroids beat him.) He is also number 87 on the all-time strikeout list with 1,383. The all-time strikeout leader? Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. He is joined in the top five by Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa, Adam Dunn, and Alex Rodriguez.

Guess those guys didn’t think failing made them failures. They just kept swinging.

Another quote from Maxwell’s book is from Paul Meyer:

“Ninety percent of all those who fail are not actually defeated.   They simply quit.” -Paul J. Meyer

What was it Vince Lombardi said so succinctly and eloquently?

Oh yeah. “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

Roberto Duran was a fabulous, fierce boxer. But he has spent a lifetime trying to explain or explain away the time he threw in the towel against Sugar Ray Leonard. He. Just. Quit.

You cannot cry, “No mas! No mas!”..and win.

“One of the greatest problems people have with failure is that they are too quick to judge isolated situations in their lives and label them as failures.  Instead, they need to keep the bigger picture in mind.”

Now, here is an interesting−and common–problem. We too often label an isolated incident or event as a failure, when it is just a component of a larger event that ultimately succeeds. The late 19th Century New Yorker named Thomas Adams failed miserably when he tried to make tires from the sap of a Sapodilla tree. Then he saw a girl buy a piece of chewing gum made of Paraffin from a street vendor and, voila, he realized the substance was not the problem. It was the application. He converted his plant to a chewing gum factory and Chiclets chewing gum was born.

“The fight to take responsibility occurs within.  And rarely does talent, intelligence, or opportunity make the difference in whether a person wins that battle.  It calls for character.” -John Maxwell

How do you define character? Consistency? Honesty? Hard work? Dedication? Persistence?

Someone once said, “Reputation is what other people think you are. Character is what you know you are.”

If you do not respect or trust yourself, how can you do anything but fail?

Success IS failure!

Jesus wept.

He lamented in Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Jesus Christ, Son of God, God the Son, expressed a longing, a desire, that went unfulfilled and it broke His great heart.

He failed to gather them, but did He fail?

No. Failure was success. Rebellion would result in redemption. Sin would bring grace. Selfishness would be met by sacrifice. Death would open the door to life. Jesus would draw Jerusalem–along with every human in every generation–to a rugged cross on a skull-shaped hill.

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32

And so He was. And so He did. And so He does.

 

I know it is not cool in these enlightened, post-modern times to like simple poetry that has cadence, or meter, and rhymes. I don’t care. I still like it.

I have loved this particular poem from the first time I heard a preacher quote it. I was probably eight or so. I committed it to memory and repeated it many times from pulpits across the fruited plains. It reminds me that success is not the opposite of failure. Success IS failure…turned inside out:

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow,

Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

If you fail to succeed in an endeavor, remember this: You MUST FAIL to succeed.

Fail forward. Don’t quit.

Don’t you ever, ever quit.

April 22

The Christian’s Earth Day Celebration Guide

earthday1According to the liberal establishment bent on convincing mankind that the biggest threat to our existence is climate change, logging, and manufacturing, today, April 22, is Earth Day.

Really, it is just another day for propaganda and promoting leftist thought through education.

That is not to say, however, that a conservative or Christian or Christian conservative should ignore the plight of the planet or be less thankful for its bounty. The difference is that Earth Day is more in tune with neo-paganism and its earth-centric worship. It is a reverence for “mother earth” or “Mother Nature.” It is creature worship.

The Christian rejects this form of humanism and worships the Creator, not the creation.

I say it is neo-paganism, because it has its modern twists and proponents, but it is as old as man-made religion itself.

Paul addressed the fallacy of his “earth day” contemporaries in Romans 1:25

They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. (NLT)

So, how should a Christian celebrate Earth Day? The same way he celebrates every other day, but maybe with a more concentrated appreciation for all that God has provided in terms of our environment.

I. Acknowledge His Lordship over all things.

You alone are the LORD. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them. You preserve them all, and the angels of heaven worship you. (NLT) Nehemiah 9:6

II. Praise Him for the privilege of caring for His creation.

The Psalmist led a hymn for just this sort of praise and worship In Psalm 8

For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by a stringed instrument.a

1O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

Your glory is higher than the heavens.

2You have taught children and infants

to tell of your strength,b

silencing your enemies

and all who oppose you.

3When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—

the moon and the stars you set in place—

4what are mere mortals that you should think about them,

human beings that you should care for them?c

5Yet you made them only a little lower than Godd

and crowned theme with glory and honor.

6You gave them charge of everything you made,

putting all things under their authority—

7the flocks and the herds

and all the wild animals,

8the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,

and everything that swims the ocean currents.

9O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

III. Protect and preserve His Creation as a responsible steward.

Should Christians be concerned at all about the environment? This question was posed to the great evangelist Billy Graham. I think his answer is brilliant, biblical, and instructive:

Q:

Does the Bible say anything about taking care of the environment? I have some friends who are very passionate about this issue, but they don’t really believe in God or Jesus the way I do, and they even claim the Bible is anti-environmental. Are they right?


A:

I’m grateful for your friends’ concern for the environment—but no, they aren’t right when they say the Bible isn’t concerned about the environment. In fact, of all people, Christians should be the most concerned for the environment.

Why is this? The reason is because Christians know God created the world, and we are only its stewards or trustees. The very first verse of the Bible says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). When we see the world as a gift from God, we will do our best to take care of it and use it wisely, instead of poisoning or destroying it.

We don’t worship the earth; instead, we realize that God gave it to us, and we are accountable to Him for how we use it. After creating Adam, the first man, the Bible says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). God didn’t tell him to exploit the world or treat it recklessly, but to watch over it and use it wisely. Like a good ruler, we should seek the welfare of everything God entrusts to us—including the creation. The Bible says, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10).

Yes, we should take care of the environment. But most of all, we should take care of our souls. Is Christ the center of your life, and are you seeking to live for Him every day?

Happy earth day.

Or, let me put it a better way. Happy Lord’s Day. Every day is His day and every celebration is of His lordship, his goodness, His grace, His glory.

Even those who ignore Him in their revelry or deny him in their rhetoric, only celebrate because of Him. Today, every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that he is Lord. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess.

It is not about us. It is not about Al Gore. It is not about the ice caps, the rain forest, or the spotted owl.

It is all about Him. Always has been. Always will be.

But the LORD is in his holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before him. Habakkuk 2:20

 

 

 

April 17

Hey, Kids. History matters!

 

A football genius took me to task the other day for being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, who, as my tormentor pointed out, “Suck, man.”

I gently reminded the pigskin peanut brain that the Cowboys have made eight Super Bowl appearances and have won five Lombardi trophies.

The predictably tired and irretrievably ignorant retort was (of course), “That’s ancient history, dude.”

His team had enjoyed more recent success, which is what it is all about, according to him.

I was obliged to point out that, though his team’s success was very recent, it is now, in fact, “History, Dude.”

They are all history.

Every Super Bowl ever played is…history. Some are more recent history. Some are more “ancient” history.

If you watch the NFL Network or NFL Films, you will note that, perhaps better than any other sports league, the NFL has a real sense of the importance of their history.

It is gratifying—inspiring even—to see men persevering in sub-zero weather and subhuman conditions in a game forever known as the Ice Bowl.

There is the Immaculate Reception. The Hail Mary. The Catch. The Drive.

Any NFL buff knows the context of each of those terms. Where they happened. And when. They are etched, immortal, into the annals of football lore.

Want to know why?

History matters!

If it weren’t for history, I would not be currently sharing my thoughts via the technology of broadband WiFi on this miracle we take for granted known as the Internet. If it weren’t for history, there would be no texting, no Candy Crush Saga, xBox One, no interactive “smart, flat screen TV, no microwave popcorn. No Netflix!

In fact, I advised my challenger, if it were not for history and the possible mistake of his parents, there would be no him to make inane arguments about things that “suck.” I reminded him that it is ALL history. What isn’t happening in this very instant is either yet to happen or has already happened.

Forget football for a minute. Difficult to do, I know. But stay with me here…

The American Revolution.

History.

Two World Wars.

History.

The Roman Empire. The Greek Empire. The British Empire.

History.

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

History.

My point here is to encourage us not to be shallow surface dwellers, assuming the only thing that matters is what is right now. I make this point knowing that some minds are immutably set for “play” with no rewind button. Some souls have no cache. No RAM. They lack the ability to learn something new and they lack the depth to care about anything that is NOT new.


Armstrong, Louis - “There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t tell them.”


Cicero of Rome (another dude from ancient history) said, “To remain ignorant of things that happened before you were born is to remain a child.”

Yes!

Ol’ Cicero was onto something important. The immature mind of a child has no sense of history and no appreciation for its importance. But as one matures, he becomes interested in understand who he is, why he is, what he is. You have to work backwards to get those answers.

I am not suggesting any of us lives in the past. I am suggesting we seek to understand it, to appreciate it, to use its wealth of knowledge and experience to aid us on our journey.

I am also suggesting we not judge another human based on what we see at this moment. That wrinkled skin, thinning, gray hair, deeply furrowed brow, frail-boned body was not always what it is right now. You would do well to learn the story of that life. Rather than dismissing it as ancient history, appreciate the importance of the individual and realize where they are now, you are headed—and faster than you think, champ.

I suppose I could have pulled an Old Testament verse on my fellow football enthusiast, but I thought better of it.

Here it is…

Deuteronomy 27:17 - “Cursed be he who removes his neighbor’s landmark.”

In other words, do not disregard the life, accomplishments, property, and dignity of your neighbor. Landmarks are things that smack of ancient history. You may be tempted to discard them and think them unimportant because, “What have you done for me lately?”

What makes the New York Yankees the Yankees? History.

What makes America the “grandest nation on earth?” History.

What should we do with the past?

Learn it. Learn from it. Respect it. But don’t dwell in it. There is more history to be made.

As you are making history, do not be distracted or discouraged by the shallow souls who will dismiss it.

Some people bask in the sunshine without a second’s thought for the sun.

Shine on.


Gardner, John W. - “History never looks like history when you are living through it.”


March 28

…and give you peace

peace-of-god

Peace is always at a premium.

Whether it is world peace or inner peace, peace is not easy to come by, and a most prized possession to those who have it.

Outrage is easy. Just open Google News in another tab. I can almost guarantee you will find something outrageous. You may find yourself more than outraged. You may be enraged. If Google News is not enough to get you there, peruse Twitter. Turn on MSNBC. Listen to a government official explain how the lie he brazenly told was not actually a lie at all, and here’s why…

“Read my lips…”

“Let me be clear…”

Please.

Politics are important. Policies are important. It matters that you vote and how you vote. It matters that your voice is heard on issues that may bring the peace of God or His judgment upon our nation.

But peace does not fall along party lines.

 

Sports are exciting, dramatic, an escape, something to believe in and hope for…if only for a fleeting moment.

But peace is not found in a trophy made of crystal, a medal made of gold or a cup made of silver.

Peace requires perspective. Peace is not circumstantial, as most believe. At least, the kind of peace God offers is not.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

The peace politicians and crusading secularists offer is like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. It may hide the bleeding for a while, but it cannot address the damage.

They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6:14

Jesus did not come to bring Israel peace by conquering Rome, as many had hoped. That would not have been real peace. That was no way for His people to experience the peace of God. He did not offer a peaceful, trouble-free existence. He offered peace in tribulations, peace despite problems, peace as deep as the soul, peace beyond human grasp or comprehension.

Real, for-sure peace.

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Whatever your circumstance, whatever your challenge, whatever your burden or heartache or trouble, this is my prayer for you…

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thessalonians 3:1

 

Still true. Still does. Always will…hold in the midst of the storm…

and give you peace.