Do you want to live a meaningful life?
Do you want to do things that matter?
Do you want to make a difference in this world?
Do you really want to know the answer to these questions?
I think I may have the answer, and it’s actually pretty simple.
Are you ready?
Here it is:
If you want to live a meaningful life, serve others.
If you want to do something that really matters, serve others.
If you want to really make a difference in this world, serve others.
Be like my friend, Camela, who decided to serve her husband by giving him one of her kidney’s last week.
Be like my co-worker, Bob, who stopped to serve me by holding open the door as I was coming into the office the other day with my hands full.
Be like my friend, Mark, who is giving up his day off this Saturday to serve a family in our area as they move from one house to another.
Be like my friend, James, who is serving the poor and broken in Guatemala by providing medical care for the poor and powerless.
Be like my friend, Dave, who is intentionally serving widows and orphans in the village of Santo Domingo Xenacoj.
Be like my friends, German and Susie, who despite having little find ways to serve by opening up their home to feed the hungry in and around Xenacoj.
Be like my brother, David, who serves the inner-city youth of Milwaukee by providing discipline, guidance, and a caring shoulder to lean on at Frank Lloyd Wright Middle School.
Be like my friend, Sean, who serves my church week in and week out by setting out our signs early in the morning and picking them up at the end of our Sunday services.
Serving others can take a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, or the rest of your life. Serving others doesn’t require special training, a certificate, a specific formula, or an invitation. It simply requires a willingness on your part to focus on others instead of yourself. Along with the willingness, it takes a little action. Serving others can happen through a phone call, an email, a walk across the street, a drive across town, and a plane ride to a far away land.
If you want to change the world, serve others.
There is an audio version below.
This is a post I wrote just four weeks ago upon learning that a college classmate of mine had been placed on hospice. I received word Tuesday afternoon that she passed away. She was young (at least by my standards). From what I can tell, she lived her life to the fullest, and she lived her life with the intention of glorifying God even in these last four weeks.
I am reminded through this news of the brevity of life.
When we are young, we think we will live forever. We feel invincible. As we approach mid-life (where I am now), we begin to realize life moves pretty quickly. In talking to those twice my age, it doesn’t sound like life slows down at all as we get older. It just keeps going faster and faster.
I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption, of the choice we have. We must choose to “get busy living or get busy dying.” We all have a birth date, and we are all headed to a death date. I don’t fear my death date, but I do want to make the most of the time in between these two milestones. Some people refer to this as the dash. How will you live your dash?
This is a question we should all ponder today.
Let’s all decide today to make the most of our time here on the earth. Let’s do what really matters. Let’s honor God and bring glory to his name by how we live our lives.
Here’s the link to my original post – Teach Us To Number Our Days.
I would encourage you to head over to Kristie Rush’s blog to read how she processed her final days in this life. I think you’ll be challenged and inspired.
I spoke on the topic of leadership, delegation, and legacy to student leaders on campus at Grove City College. Overall, it went very well. I’ll try to post a video of my presentation when it becomes available.
I interviewed engineering students in the morning campus, and it reminded me how well Grove City does at selecting and educating students to contribute in a major way to this world after college.
I enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Rachel’s Roadhouse Grille with my wife. This was a favorite spot of ours while we were students at Grove City College.
Today, we’ll enjoy breakfast in MAP Cafeteria before we head home.
As I was thinking about our journey home and about all the things that await us when we get there, I was reminded of this post from a few months ago. I think it applies today just as much as it did five months ago.
We have a chain in our backyard. We use it to keep our dog from running away when he is outside. One end of the chain is attached to a stake in the ground, and the other end is attached to a metal loop on his collar.
The other night, I put Iso (our forever dog) on the chain. He likes to go out in the backyard to take care of his business and to sniff around for a while. I came back in the house for a few minutes while Iso was doing his thing.
When I went outside to bring Iso back in the house, he was gone. The chain broke, and Iso was wandering in the dark of the night.
My heart sunk as I feared I would struggle finding him in the dark. I quickly ran inside the house view the back patio door, and I quickly ran to the garage to get my shoes, a flashlight, and the box of Milk-bones. These are the tools necessary to go on a hunt for your runaway dog. Before I opened the garage door, I quickly looked out the mud room door. As I turned on the light, I was relieved to see our black dog standing at the side door steps with the other half of the chain following behind him.
I can remember panicking as a child whenever our family dog, Snickers ran away. She was a beagle, and her instinct to chase rabbits made it challenging for my parents to contain her even when she was tied to a stake in the middle of a fenced in backyard.
It’s amazing how dogs can capture our hearts.
I’m thankful Iso knew to come to the side door. He knew where is home was. He could have run around the neighborhood or even run away, but he desired the safety and comfort of home.
We all have a yearning for home.
Sometimes we don’t realize it. We run away. We chase after things that lead us temporarily away from home. But after our running and chasing, our instincts call us home. And when we get there, our loving Father is standing at the door waiting to welcome us home.
Are you wandering? Are you running away? Are you chasing after things that lead us away from home?
Turn back now. Your Father can’t wait to welcome you home!
Last week, I received news that two connections are facing the end of their time here on the earth. A college classmate was told the chemo was no longer working in her 14 year bout with cancer, and she is heading towards hospice. Another connection was told their infant daughter has an incurable illness that will lead to death within two years. On top of this news, my parents lost a good friend in Dallas, TX who was instrumental in helping my parents and my little brother feel welcome when they moved to the area several years ago.
These pieces of news left me a little down heading into the weekend.
Life can be tough, and it’s hard to see people suffering.
As I was participating in worship at our church’s high school youth group, the band began to lead us in Bebo Norman’s song, Nothing Without You. I’ve always liked this song, but it hit me a little differently this time when the band began to sing the final verse:
We don’t know how long we have here. We may live to 100, or we may not see our next birthday. Either way, we have a limited time left to live here on Earth.
What will we do with our days?
Will we waste them? Or will we use them to the fullest?
I want to glorify God with my days.
How about you?
These words lifted me up out of my melancholy. They reminded me of the hope I have, and they reminded me to make the most of my days. Sometimes we need a few words of encouragement. And sometimes these words come from simple songs like this one.
Seven years ago, a mentor of mine challenged me to study the life and character of Joshua. I’m in the process of preparing for a speaking opportunity in which I’ll have the chance to talk about leadership, delegation, and leaving a legacy. As I’ve been putting my thoughts together for my speech, I started thinking about the leadership path of Moses and Joshua, and I was reminded of this study. I think we can learn a lot if we take time to dive in and learn. Here’s what I learned by studying Joshua.
Joshua was the son of Nun (Ex. 33:11, Num. 11:28) from the tribe of Ephraim (Num. 13:8). He was born in Egypt into slavery. His name was originally Hoshea (Num. 13:16), and Moses called him Joshua which means “Savior” or “the person by whom God will save.” This name is equivalent in the Greek to “Jesus” which also means “Savior.” He lived for approximately the first 40 years of his life in Egypt in slavery. He lived in the wilderness with the Israelites for 40 years, and he lived in The Promised Land until he died at the age of 110 (Joshua 24:29). He probably lived during the late Bronze Age around 1200 B.C.
Joshua, then called Hoshea, was the commander of the first military campaign following the exodus from Egypt against the Amalekites (Ex. 17:8-16). Joshua was Moses’ right hand man. He was the only one who accompanied Moses on his visit up Mount Sinai (Ex. 24:12-13). He also was responsible for staying in the Tent of Meeting during the Israelites time in the wilderness (Ex 33:7-11). He was one of the 12 spies initially sent out to see Canaan (Num. 13:1, 8). He along with Caleb was one of the only two spies to bring back a positive report (Num. 14:6-8).
Joshua was appointed the leader of the Israelites by Moses after 40 years of mentoring in the wilderness, and he led the Israelites into the Promised Land (Deut. 31:1-8). He was also responsible for dividing up the land amongst the tribes of Israel (Joshua 13:8-21:45).
Joshua was reliable. This was obvious in the responsibilities that Moses heaped upon Joshua during his life and as he approached his death. Joshua was a strong leader. In Joshua 1:16, the Israelites committed themselves to following Joshua just as they had followed Moses. Joshua was a man of faith. Joshua’s positive report after spying in the land of Canaan provides an example of Joshua’s faith (Num. 14:6-8). Joshua stood up for what was right even if it seemed ridiculous as exemplified in the fall of Jericho (Joshua 5:13-6:27). He was dedicated to doing the right thing as was obvious through his response to Achan who disobeyed God’s instructions for the defeat of Jericho (Joshua 7:1-26). Joshua was humble before the Lord (Joshua 7:6-9; 8:30-31). He knew that God was responsible for his success and the success of the Israelites. Finally, I’m convinced that Joshua was strong and courageous. Multiple times Joshua is either told to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6,7,9) or he his encouraging the Israelites to be strong and courageous as they enter the Promised Land, and his final remarks even demonstrate this commitment to strength and courage (Joshua 23:6).
Joshua may have been a people pleaser. Despite God’s earlier instruction to completely destroy all the Canaanites, he caved into the lies and wishes of the Gibeonites and permitted them to live in the Promised Land alongside the Israelites (Joshua 9:1-27).
Overall, Joshua had a positive impact on others. He was the leader who helped the Israelites realize the promises originally given to Abraham. He led in a fair way and in a direct way.
(Obviously, Joshua had a negative impact on the Canaanites as they were almost completely destroyed by the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership.)
Joshua had a close relationship with God similar to his predecessor, Moses. Throughout the book of Joshua, it states “The Lord said to Joshua…” (Joshua 1:1; 3:7; 4:15; 5:2,9; 6:2; 7:10; 8:1; 11:6; 13:1; 20:1)
Overall, Joshua’s spiritual life seems to be fairly consistent. As indicated in the references above, he seemed to be in close communion with God. But Joshua was human, his spiritual life or connection with God seemed to be on vacation when he made the treaty with the Gibeonites. He relied on the feedback from his fellow Israelites instead of consulting with the Lord.
Joshua died at the age of 110 (which was considered the perfect age by the Egyptians – see the death of Joseph in Genesis 50:22-26). He provided a beautiful sendoff speech before he died (Joshua 23); however, he failed the Israelites by not bringing up a successor. Unlike Moses who apparently planned for what would happen when he passed on (Deut. 31:1-8), Joshua left Israel without a leader. This would soon lead to Israel’s decline and departure from God’s ways (Judges 2:10-15).
“As Josephus puts it in an editorial comment (Ant. 3.49) which has no biblical basis, Joshua possessed five crucial qualities: He was extremely courageous, valiant in endurance of toil, highly gifted in intellect, highly gifted in speech, and distinguished for piety in worshiping God. Again, when summarizing his qualities upon Joshua’s death (5.188), Josephus singles out four qualities – his supreme intelligence, his supreme skill in speaking lucidly to the multitude, his stout-heartedness and great daring, and his utmost dexterity in directing affairs in peacetime and his adaptability to every occasion.” (Feldman, Louis H. “Josephus’s Portrait of Joshua.” The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 82, No. 4 (Oct., 1989), pp. 351-376.)
Joshua, the son of Nun, from the tribe of Ephraim, was a military commander of the Israelites, faithful servant and apprentice of Moses, consistent leader of the Israelites, and a humble and faithful servant of the Lord. He left Egypt along with the rest of the Israelites after years of slavery, and he entered the wilderness with an anticipation of the Promised Land like few others. He patiently served the Israelite nation for 40 years as the right hand man of Moses. He succeeded Moses, as the leader of Israel, and he deliberately led the people of Israel into the land of Canaan destroying the Canaanites and establishing Israel in the land that had been promised to them through Abraham. He followed God’s commands directly revealed to him and directed to him through Moses and the Law of Moses.
I have learned several things by studying Joshua.
I’m glad I looked back at my notes.
Over the holiday weekend, I rented the movie, Chef, from our local Redbox. My wife and I saw the movie over the summer on one of our weekly date nights, and it was a movie that brought a smile to my face. In fact, I remember smiling throughout most of the movie. I knew back in the summer this was a movie I had to see again. When it came out on DVD, I knew it was time for another viewing.
(Let me warn you though, Chef is rated ‘R’ for the use of profanity.)
There was a scene in the movie that really made me think as I watched it again last week. In the scene, Chef Casper’s son just burnt his first Cuban sandwich. He was getting ready to feed it to some nonpaying customers when his dad quickly pulled him aside to have this conversation (there is no profanity in this scene).
There was humility, passion, and a desire to leave a legacy rolled up in this scene, and I think it flowed throughout the movie. In this particular scene, I was reminded that we don’t always get it right. In fact, we screw up more than most of us would like to admit. Despite this, we still have a desire, passion, and even a responsibility to leave a legacy by doing the things we love.
Chef Casper could make a mean Cuban sandwich along with the rest of his culinary creations. This was the love of his life, and he wanted to share it with others – especially with his son.
I want my kids and others to enjoy the things that make my heart beat. I want them to be passionate about the things they love to do. For my daughter right now, it’s running. For my son, it’s making music. These are gifts to them and to those around them. I hope they will share these passions with the world around them. And I hope I can make the most of the opportunity to share my passions with them. This is a legacy worth leaving.
On Monday, we said goodbye to my Grandma. During the funeral service on Monday afternoon, I had the opportunity to share some thoughts about her. Here they are:
As grandchildren, I’m sure we all have known the special touch of our grandparents. Each one of us (seven in all) was always made to feel special whenever we were around. (I was special, because I was born on Grandpa’s birthday.) What a blessing!
I’m fairly certain we all have very special memories of Grandma. She was certainly an amazing lady, and I’ll remember many things about her, but one thing stands out the most when I think about her special qualities.
Grandma was a woman of prayer.
When I was a young kid, I remember special times of prayer at the meal table. Grandpa might read from a devotional. We would look at a missionary card to learn more about a missionary or an unreached people group. And then, Grandma would pray. Her prayers were always soft-spoken. It was obvious to me that Grandma knew God, and she was simply having a conversation with Him.
When I was in college, Grandma and Grandpa were visiting our home in New Jersey. I was out late with friends while they were there one night. When I pulled in the driveway, the house was dark. My bedroom was in the basement of my parent’s split-level house, and Grandma and Grandpa slept in the basement family room during their visits. I unlocked the door and quietly walked down the steps. As I approached the bottom step, I heard voices. At first, I thought Grandma and Grandpa were talking to each other. Then I realized they were talking to God. I sat down on the bottom step and listened as they continued the conversation. Together they prayed for Norm and Candy (my parents), Max and Elaine (my aunt and uncle), Lauren (my cousin), Jon, Jane (my cousin), David (my brother), Tom (my cousin), Helen (my cousin), and Erik (my brother). They prayed specifically for each of us mentioning specific concerns and even praying for our future spouses. They especially prayed that we would have a relationship with Jesus. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. It was clear to me they prayed for us every night.
After Grandpa passed away seven and a half years ago, I had a few opportunities to visit with Grandma. These were always such special visits. After talking together for a while about my family, the Cubs, the Bears, our extended family, and about other details, we would always pray together before we said goodbye.
Last summer during my last two visits with Grandma, It was clear that her memory was starting to fail her. During my first visit in June, we talked for ten to fifteen minutes before she asked “What was your name again?” In July, she knew my name, but she couldn’t remember Leanne’s name. You could tell this was frustrating to Grandma who was always the smartest in the family. After spending a couple of hours together, we gathered in Grandma’s room to pray and say goodbye. I prayed, and as I said Amen, Grandma picked up the conversation with God.
In her final year, I understand it became more challenging for her to hold her thoughts together as she prayed. I’m sure this was a sign she was ready to go home to heaven soon. Nonetheless, Grandma would look up at the cork board hanging above her bed. It was here she displayed her family tree which included her two children and their spouses, her seven grandchildren, and her fifteen great-grandchildren. Even when she couldn’t hold her head up, she would pray for us as she looked up at her pictures.
Grandma will be missed by all of us. We will miss the conversations, the Swedish pancakes, and the Swedish meatballs. And I will miss hearing Grandma talking with her friend, Jesus. I’m so thankful for the faith legacy left by Grandma.
It was sad to say goodbye to Grandma this week, but it was great to be with family. And it was a privilege to celebrate the life of a saint – my Grandma.
Yesterday, the world said goodbye to Robin Williams. I wasn’t going to add to the chaotic rumble that is sweeping through social media, the news media, and various blogs following the news of his suicide. The mental health aspect of Mr. Williams’ departure hits far too close to home for me to comment further. I know he will be missed. He was a favorite in our house. In fact, my wife posted on Facebook yesterday that Robin Williams was by far her favorite actor. It’s so sad to see him gone.
Last night, we took some time to watch some clips from one of our favorite Robin Williams’ movies, Dead Poets Society. In this movie, Williams plays the part of prep school English teacher John Keating. He teaches his students to be true to themselves and to avoid the tendencies of conformity. There is much to ponder in re-watching these clips. And there is much to appreciate about the legacy left by Williams throughout his entire acting career. Movies like Dead Poets Society, Patch Adams, Awakenings, Mrs. Doubtfire, and so many others represent a career well spent. I’m sure Williams had a few duds, but we will remember the solid performances far more than the not-so-great performances.
There is one scene in Dead Poets Society that really hit me last night as we were watching the clips. Here it is:
The scene is a great challenge for all of us. Don’t waste your life. Don’t sit back and let it happen. Stand up and contribute. You have something worth adding to the play of life – a verse that needs to be heard. What is your verse? How will you contribute to this world?
This is something worth thinking about today.
Saturday night, I had the privilege of attending the Grove City College Touring Choir and Alumni Touring Choir Retirement Concert honoring professor and director, Dr. Douglas Browne. Dr. Browne is retiring after teaching at the college for over 30 years. The concert was truly amazing. It gave me a small glimpse into the beautiful sounds of heaven.
At the end of the concert, Dr. Browne received a very long (and well-deserved) standing ovation. I was moved by his deflection of personal praise as he commented that the praise belongs to God.
As we were standing in the lobby, a friend asked me about becoming a professor at Grove City College. This would be quite an amazing job, but I’m not sure I have the credentials for such a position. I responded how great it was to see someone being sent off into retirement with such fanfare.
After working at the same place for over eighteen years, I can say that I haven’t seen anyone sent off with such celebration with the exception of our previous branch manager who retired after working for the company for over forty years. Maybe I’m a little jealous realizing that my send off from my current employer will most likely be met with a retirement watch, a pat on the back, and a simple thank you.
Is this response legitimate? I think so. But it made me think a lot more about finding meaning in the mundane.
Don’t get me wrong. I like my job. I like what I do most days. I like the fact that I get to help people succeed every day. And I like the fact that I get to come in and help people make decisions that honor the company and our customers. But am I doing something that matters?
I think it’s important to have a perspective of humility when we think about leaving a legacy. With this in mind, I kept coming back to these thoughts that are essential to finding meaning in the mundane.
Are you struggling to find meaning in the mundane? I challenge you to look at what you’re doing with these three things in mind.
On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. Click the link below to get your copy today.
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This weekend, our family traveled out to Western PA for my wife’s 20 year high school reunion. As part of the celebration, her class was invited to a private art show held at her high school (Greater Latrobe Senior High School). Each year since 1938, students have selected and purchased a couple of pieces of art work for display in the halls of the high school. The art work hangs in the halls of the school as permanent fixtures. The artwork is a legacy left for future students and residents and visitors of the exhibit.
I was impressed that high school students would decide to save money to purchase artwork that would be left in the school as part of the Greater Latrobe School District Art Conservation Trust.
I wonder if they truly understood the legacy they were leaving behind. The more I thought about it, the more I thought about legacy.
According to Merriam Webster’s on-line dictionary, legacy is: