Archives For perspective

“I just want people to take a step back, take a deep breath and actually look at something with a different perspective. But most people will never do that.”

Brian McKnight

When you always look at something from the same angle, you almost always see the same thing.  When you look at something from a different vantage point, you see something different.

Going on a short-term mission trip gives you the opportunity to see things from a totally different angle.  The different angle will cause a change in your perspective.

For many people, this idea can be quite terrifying.  “I’m too scared to see life from a different angle.”  “I might not like what I see.”  “I might even be convicted to change things in the comfortable life I live everyday.”

For many other people, this idea can be downright unnecessary.  “Why do I even need a different perspective.  After all, my perspective is the correct perspective.”

Regardless of where you are in life – your age, your economic status, your employment condition, your health, whatever, you need the perspective provided by putting yourself in another person’s shoes.

One of the reasons I value my short-term mission trips is that I always come home with an adjusted perspective.  For one, I have learned to appreciate the material blessings in my life, and I’ve learned to hang on to them much more loosely.  This comes from seeing how many people live on so little.  Secondly, I’ve learned that contentment in life can truly come without the hurried pace of life that seems to exist in many parts of the United States.  The mission trips I have experienced have also taught me that I actually have more to give.  Life is not just about me.  It’s about giving; it’s about sharing; it’s about spreading God’s love through words and actions.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve found it easy to slip back into the rat race of life.  One of the reasons I write so frequently about short-term missions and about my experiences in Guatemala is to make sure the perspective changes stick.  I do not want the positive perspective changes that have come as a result of going on a short-term missions trip to be a short-term thing in my life.

A short-term missions trip can change your long-term perspective if you let it.

“Perhaps nothing helps us make the movement from our little selves to a larger world than remembering God in gratitude. Such a perspective puts God in view in all of life, not just in the moments we set aside for worship or spiritual disciplines. Not just in the moments when life seems easy.”
Henri Nouwen

How has your perspective changed as a result of serving someone?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

6 ESSENTIALS FOR FINDING MEANING IN YOUR LIFE

What is the meaning of life?  This is a question people have been asking themselves for ages.

Meaningless.  Meaningless.  Chasing after the wind.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.  “Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.”  Ecclesiastes 1:2

Too many of us go after things in life that really are meaningless.  When we step back and look at it from a different perspective, we realize that we had our ladder leaned up against the wrong wall, and we’ve been climbing to the top only to realize that we were climbing against the wrong wall.

This week I received some tough news that reminded me that this life is fleeting – it’s short.  And we will endure problems, trials, and illnesses, and we will eventually come to a realization that a lot of the things we are pursuing in life really don’t matter when it comes down to it.

I don’t know about you, but I want my life to mean something.  I want to pursue things that matter.  I don’t want to waste my time doing things that won’t add up to a hill of beans.  I want to be intentional with how I live my life – on a day by day basis and on a moment by moment basis.

Our perspective changes as we go through life.  We see things through different lenses along the way, and sometimes I think that we go through trials in life to re-calibrate us – to reset our vision.  I think this might be happening through my experience this week – in the tough circumstances that I’m wrestling with in my own mind.

What are your priorities and what are you doing about them?  Do you know them?  Have you stopped long enough to pay attention – to really process the priorities that you have in your life? 

Is it work?  Is it achievement?  Is it notoriety?  Is it fame?  Is it your family?  Is it your faith?  Is it financial freedom?

All these things are okay, but are they really your priorities?  Have you stopped long enough to really analyze what matters most in life?

Once you know your priorities, it’s important to map out how you’re going to get there.

What are you going to do?  How are you going to change your life to live in light of those priorities?

I cannot answer that question for you.  This is a question you need to answer for yourself.

I just finished listening to a new book, Living Forward, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, and they challenge readers to consider writing their own eulogy.

What would you want people to stay at your funeral?  If this is what you want people to say, how are you living your life to prepare for this?

I don’t know how everything is going to work out with the situation I’m facing, but I do know I have the opportunity to really analyze my priorities and shift some of my perspectives.  And just maybe I will come down from the ladder that I was climbing on to make sure I have it positioned against the correct wall.

This is the challenge I leave you with today:  Is your ladder leaning against the correct wall, or are you chasing things that are meaningless?

Live a life that matters.

Pursue your priorities.  Carefully consider your priorities.  Gain new perspective, and live your life with intention. 

More importantly, what I’m learning through this experience is the importance of relationships.  You can pursue all kinds of achievement and accolades and everything, but the reality is the relationships that you have with others matters so much more than those career positions and promotions, those super-large portfolios, and those trophies.  Take time today to connect with those who matter most in your life.  And then repeat every day for the rest of your life.

If you want to find meaning in your life:

6 Essentials for Finding Meaning in Your Life

  1. Look in the mirror.
  2. Determine your priorities.
  3. Live intentionally in light of your priorities.
  4. Plug into key relationships.
  5. Above all else, seek God first.
  6. Repeat for the rest of your life.

What is the meaning of your life?  Knowing this, how are you living your life?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

 

fresh perspective

When I was really young, my parents took us to a church where they did communion every once in a while (I think once every three months).  Then we moved from Illinois to New Jersey where my family attended a Presbyterian church.  Here had communion once a month (always the first Sunday of the month).  At my current church in Pennsylvania, we take communion every Sunday.

Communion is meant to be a special time to remember and reflect on the sacrifice Christ made on the cross – breaking His body and spilling His blood.  Paul instructs us In I Corinthians 11:27-29:

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man out to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgement on himself.

I think I may have fallen into a position I don’t want to be in.  I had become so used to the routine of communion that I missed out on the important and special nature of this meal.  Yesterday, my pastor who was introducing communion took some time to share the importance of communion, and he did it in away that woke me up to the numbness I was probably feeling regarding communion.

I thrive on routine.  It’s helpful to have habits and systems, but it’s not good if we forget the importance of why we do the thing in the first place.

I wake up everyday at 4 AM to read God’s Word, to exercise, and to eat breakfast.  These are important to keeping me spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy.

I take communion every week at my church to remind me of the sacrifice Christ made and to keep me centered correctly.

If I forget this, my routine means nothing.  I am simply going through the motions.  As Paul shared in his first letter to the Corinthians, I am called to examine myself each and every time I take communion.

Maybe it’s time you and I step back from our routines to reflect on what is really important – to look inside – to consider our heart and our motives.

Today, I want to challenge you to take a step back.  Look in the mirror.  Why do you do what you do day after day and week after week?

Thanks, Matt Silver, for helping me to renew my perspective on communion and on my other routines.

How do you keep a fresh perspective on things that are routine in your life?  Tell me your thoughts in the comments.

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Perhaps nothing helps us make the movement from our little selves to a larger world than remembering God in gratitude. Such a perspective puts God in view in all of life, not just in the moments we set aside for worship or spiritual disciplines. Not just in the moments when life seems easy. 

Henri Nouwen

In the picture above, it looks like I’m holding a giant pencil.  In reality, it’s the Washington Monument held by my strategically placed hands.

Perspective is an interesting thing.  We all come at life looking at things from a slightly different perspective.

In the world today, people seem to be convinced that perspective drives truth.  Or better said, “Truth is based on my perspective.  If you don’t see life from my perspective, you’re wrong.”

Absolute truth has essentially been thrown out the window, because today’s “truth” is based on our own perspectives.

There is something wrong with this when taken too far.  If you think I can hold the Washington Monument between my two hands because of the picture above, you would be wrong.  You don’t see the whole picture.  I think this is true for many aspects of life especially in today’s culture.

The only way to truly have the correct perspective is to keep searching for the truth.

Readers could argue that this is my perspective, but I’m convinced that absolute truth comes from a perspective build on God and His Word.

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

John 8:31-32

What’s your perspective on truth?


OnTrack3dCover04132014

5 more days until the release of On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field!

A simple act of kindness can shift your perspective. [Click to Tweet]

Earlier this week, Leanne and I were out at lunch time as we were dealing with the aftermath of her accident.  As we entered the nearby Subway to grab a quick bite to eat, there was a lady in front of us getting ready place her order.  When we joined the line behind her, she immediately let us go in front of her which initially caught me off guard.  From there, Leanne and I ordered our sandwiches.  Just as we were about to pay for our lunch, the same young lady handed Leanne a coupon for a free sandwich.

She asked for nothing in return.  She simply provided a small piece of generosity that brought a huge shift to my perspective.  You see, we were so focused on the accident and the details related to how it impacted our family.  Honestly, I wasn’t thinking of other people at the time.  But this young lady changed my thinking.  We had an opportunity to thank her as she was getting her drink from the self-service beverage dispenser.  As we briefly exchanged words, we all agreed that the world needed more people who offered this type of simple kindness.

Late in November of last year, I wrote about starting a Pay It Forward Revolution.  I shared that the idea may be utopian, but I’d love to see it work.  The response to the post of okay, but it wasn’t overwhelming.  I suppose I had resolved myself to the fact that this idea was stupid – or just too idealistic.  Maybe I really didn’t believe it could work.  After Monday’s lunch, I changed my mind.  I don’t know if this young lady was part of the Pay It Forward Revolution or not.  I do know that it felt refreshing to be on the receiving end of such simple generosity.  It felt reassuring that it just may work.  Her simple action reminded me that I can do my part through simple Pay It Forward actions every day.  Perhaps, I can make a difference for one person today.

Describe a time when your perspective has been shifted by generosity.  How can you make a difference in someone’s life today through simple kindness?

Last night, our H.O.P.E. group was supposed to be serving at The Good Samaritan Shelter in Phoenixville, PA.  We were scheduled to paint and clean a couple of rooms at the shelter with our group which typically meets twice a month to serve other people.  It didn’t happen though.

In the middle of the day, we received news that the shelter was closing their offices early due to the inclement weather.  We received a few inches of wet snow yesterday which doesn’t sound like a lot for those in the some parts of the country.  For some reason, the first significant snow fall put everyone in our area on high alert.

And so our regularly scheduled program was interrupted.  The interruption came with mixed feelings.  My wife and I were a little sad, because we had a big group scheduled to help out.  We were excited to have our whole H.O.P.E. group along with a few guests lined up to put a dent in the shelter.  It’s challenging to reschedule activities like this, so cancelling this event brings an unknown as to when we’ll be able to serve again with this ministry.

On the other hand, our family has an extremely busy schedule this week with activities scheduled for each evening.  The break last night was somewhat of a blessing as it gave us the opportunity to be at home for the evening.  We were able to eat together, read, and relax after a busy day of work and school.

Sometimes an interruption can be a good thing.  I don’t normally handle interruption all that well.  I don’t like change, and I don’t like it when my schedule or routine is compromised.  So what can I learn from last night’s interruption?

  1. Interruptions happen.  It’s a fact of life. You and I need to get used to the fact that things come up that will interrupt our lives.
  2. Embrace the interruption.  Sometimes an interruption can be just what we need to get us realigned.  Besides, pouting and grumbling over the impact of an interruption is a waste of energy.  My kids enjoyed the opportunity to play in the snow.  Perhaps, this was their way of embracing the interruption.
  3. Evaluate your interrupted activity.  What was I doing when I was interrupted?  What part of my schedule was interrupted?  Do I need to return to that activity, program, conversation, etc.?  Or do I need to move on?  I hope that we can reschedule this H.O.P.E. serving opportunity, but it will be important for us to evaluate how this fits into the schedule for our group and for our family.
  4. Expect interruption.  Interruptions are a good reminder that we need to build in margins into our schedules and into our lives.  Margins give us space to breath, to think, and to react to life’s interruptions.
  5. Be considerate when you interrupt and when you are interrupted.  It’s going to happen.  You will need to interrupt someone else and their regularly scheduled program, and you will be interrupted by someone else who really needs your attention.  Learn to respect other people.  Respond in grace.  Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
  6. Trust God when your life is interrupted.  Sometimes interruptions can be far more than an inconvenience.  Sometimes an interruption can be like shoving a stick in the spokes of a moving bicycle.  Maybe it’s a health crisis, a job loss, or a death of a loved one.  These kinds of interruptions can rock our worlds.  In times like these, we need to remember to trust God.  He may be the only thing we can hang onto when an interruption shatters our lives.

When was the last time your schedule was interrupted?  How was this interruption a good thing?  How has interruption in your life STRETCHED you?

Solitude Reflections

May 16, 2012 — 8 Comments

Yesterday, I shared that I was taking some time for solitude – some time away from my normal routine to listen for God.  I’d like to share my reflections on this time.

As I sat on my front porch yesterday morning, the skies were still fairly dark and the water was still dripping down the gutter drain pipes after a night of rain.  It’s a challenging this to clear ones mind of all the distractions and thoughts.  For some reason, I kept repeating the phrase “Seek first the kingdom of God” as I tried to center my thoughts away from me and onto God.  Over and over again, “Seek first the kingdom of God.  Seek first the kingdom of God.  Seek first the kingdom of God.”  And that’s when it happened.

God sends his messengers of nature to speak into my life.  As I was sitting on my porch trying to quiet my mind, I first heard the loud droning of bull fogs in the pond across our front lawn.  I heard the garbage trucks in the distance as the morning sky began to brighten.  I tried to block out the distractions of life – what will I blog about next, what do I need to do at work today, what will I eat for breakfast.  And then it appeared – a simple sign from God.  A buck walks slowly across my front lawn.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon —from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42

These are the words I needed to hear this day.  God is the only “stream” that can satisfy the longings, cravings, and desires of my heart.  I strive after so many earthly things, but God alone brings refreshment and contentment.

I’m not sure that I’ve been depressed, but I’ve certainly been discouraged by the onslaught of headaches and lack of energy over the past few months.  I have sought all kinds of human remedies to alleviate these symptoms, but I wonder if I’ve failed to truly give these things to God.  Do I get it that God loves me and that God wants what is best for me?  It seems so easy to depend on things that I can control.  In reality, I need to give these things to God.

My time of solitude was refreshing.  It refocused me on God – where my life should be centered.  “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”  Thank you for the reminder.  May I always seek the only Water that satisfies.

Any thoughts to add?  How has God been speaking to you?

What’s your favorite drink?

Stretched Perspective

February 9, 2012 — 14 Comments

I don’t like change.

I’m a man of routine and discipline.  I get up at 4:40AM.  I spend time in God’s Word.  I read.  I blog.  I exercise.  I eat a bowl of cereal.  I shower and get ready for work.  I drive the same way to the office.  And my day continues.

It drives me crazy when things get switched around with the patterns that exist in my life.

I came home from work last night excited to see my family and hungry for dinner.  We were having leftovers which doesn’t bother me at all.  In fact, I like to eat the same things we ate earlier in the week.  (I usually eat the same exact thing for lunch every day – yogurt, cheese stick, granola bar, and two pieces of fruit.)

When we sat down for dinner, I was “directed” away from MY normal seat at the dinner table to a new seat.  My wife said I needed a change in perspective.  I’ll admit that I was reluctant to sit anywhere besides MY normal spot at the table.  But I have also come to realize that a change in perspective can STRETCH me to experience new things, to see things that I would normally miss, and to walk in other people’s shoes.

My “new” spot at the dinner table wasn’t all that bad – except for the glass of water my son spilled on me.  We joked that my new perspective was a wet perspective.

How can you change your perspective today?  How could a change in perspective change things for you?  How could this change STRETCH you?