LEGACY 21: The Legacy of Asking Key Questions

July 13, 2018

It’s been several weeks since I’ve written a blog myself, but the idea for one popped up this morning when I awoke. We (my wife and I) are on our way to northwest Ohio (a 12-hour drive) to wrap up the affairs of her 93-year-old father, who died (preferable in my book to the somewhat euphemistic “passed”) this past Tuesday. In his waning days, he asked a relative, “What is the purpose of life?” The relative, definitely younger and less experienced in life, was taken aback and, not knowing how to answer, didn’t respond. She said she wished she had known what was going on and said something. I’m not sure that was the important thing. Can we ever really know if we say the right thing?

So I found myself thinking, “What are the key questions we should ask?”

What prompts us to ask? What is the purpose of asking? Do we really want answers? Or are we looking for something attendant—Relationship? Mere information? Satisfying our curiosity? (Why is it that children are always asking WHY? and we as adults stop asking?)

There are 2 kinds of questions—unimportant and important. Key questions definitely fit into the latter. But there are probably a host of questions that are important but not key. So let’s keep delving down into levels of importance and “key-ness.”

There are questions that identify information that matters, as opposed to trivia. There are questions that help influence decision-making. And there are questions that change our lives. I’m not a philosopher, so questions of epistemology (the theory of the nature of knowledge) I’m not qualified to begin to answer. How much can be known? The answer is the Question of the Ages: Who knows? (and if you respond in pat theological certainty, “God knows!”—how do you know that? And the begging questions, “Are there things He doesn’t know?” And on and on it goes…)

In my little, often-unknowing mind, there are a few KEY key questions for sure. My father-in-law asked one of them: “What is the purpose of life?” It can be asked in other ways or with other nuances: “Why am I here?” “How can I find meaning/significance?” “What do I need to be doing with my life?” Viktor Frankl’s 1946 book MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING (according to a 1991 survey conducted by the US Library of Congress and Book of the Month Club, one of the 10 Most Influential Books in the US. See Wikipedia under the term “MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING.” A humorous footnote: The archived article, from the NY Times, has 13 total books listed. Five of them, including Frankl’s, are tied for 9th place. There is no actual 10th place book.)

Key questions revolve around key needs: purpose, relationship, legacy. What will I leave behind? (Why do I blog? What do I gain by it?)

My father-in-law was one of the most purposeful and effective men I’ve ever met. He lived a full and productive life and left a great legacy for his family and his world.

I wish I could ask him now, “What did you mean by that question? Do you have an answer? Was it the answer you expected? Is it the answer you wanted?” and “Are you still asking questions? If so, why?” And perhaps the most important one for me, “What question should I be asking right now?”

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“Deadly Poison (Ivy) Will Not Hurt Them At All”

June 30, 2018

(Bill Campbell, whose story this is, is 79. He has been my pastor for the past 21 years. The Holy Spirit has prompted him to write a book titled THE GOD OF PROMISES, which he is in the process of submitting for publication. This testimony of his healing from poison ivy is excerpted from the latest revision with his permission. If you’re interested in reading the entire book, let me know below.)

When we pray, the Spirit will illuminate any Scripture he desires in answer to our prayer. And, we believe that he will help us when we believe his words. For example: recently I was spraying weed killer on some poison ivy growing down the hillside behind our home. I saw some growing behind a large maple tree, and I had to stoop down and spray under the tree to reach it. A branch of the tree was in my way and I pushed it out of the way with my shoulder to spray back under the tree. While I was spraying the branch popped loose and was rubbing against the side of my face. When I looked at it I realized that the poison ivy had grown up the tree and out onto that branch and it was the poison ivy I was pushing out of my way with my arm, shoulder and the side of my face.

I have been very sensitive to poison ivy in the past and get seriously bad rashes and blisters. Not long after getting back to the house and washing up, the left side of my face and my left shoulder were already starting to get red and puffy.

I was praying, and I reminded the Lord: “You said that ‘by your wounds I am healed.’ This isn’t right – as your child I should be healed.” Then I heard in my mind, … when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all. I thought, “Lord, that is out of context.” I immediately heard again, … when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all. I was thinking this over silently, and I heard in my mind for the third time, … when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all.

I knew that the Holy Spirit has the right to take Scripture out of context and apply it to our circumstances even though we do not have that right without his specific guidance. So I said, “Lord, that is out of context, but if that is your word for me I receive it gladly, and I thank you.” That evening the rash got no worse, and the next morning the poison ivy rash was gone, healed. The Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is powerful and active.

LEGACY 20: The Legacy of Valuing One Soul Too Much

June 24, 2018

James Clavell has a chilling scene at the close of his epic novel WHIRLWIND, the story of a British helicopter company in Iran in 1979, amid the world-changing turmoil of the overthrow of the Shah by radical Muslims. He has an Islamic mullein on horseback looking down at the company from the top of a hill, saying to himself, “We will defeat you. Why? Because you value one soul too much.” (This may be a paraphrase. See also my LEGACY 9 blogpost.)

I can’t prove it, but this seems to be a uniquely Western Judeo-Christian core value. Most historically great or famous cultures—Chinese, Japanese, Hindu, Buddhist, Greek, Roman, Turkish Ottoman, French Revolution, Marxism, a slew of modern blood-lust dictatorships and tyrannies—you name it—all have devalued the individual and exalted some ideal. “Everyman.” [In case you’re wondering, I just finished the audio version of A TALE OF TWO CITIES.]

My pastor, Bill C., who is 79 and came to that calling mid-life, had a vision that brought him to that concept in the mid 1980-s. He says it happened when he had started going to Jack Hayford’s church in southern California. He topped a hill overlooking the sprawling city as the evening lights were coming on, and seeing a small but clear image of Jesus in his windshield. Jesus put his finger on Bill’s heart and said, “If you’d been the only one, I would have done it for you.” He claims this has happened to numerous people throughout history, radically changing their outlook. Something like it on a more confrontational personal level happened to Saul on the Damascus, changing him into the one of those who “have turned the world upside down.”

There are some books that historically document the radically world-changing nature of the selflessness such a core value can have—HOW CHRISTIANITY CHANGED THE WORLD by Alvin J. Schmidt, HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION (part of THE HINGES OF HISTORY series) by Thomas Cahill, some of Chuck Colson’s books (LOVING GOD, KNOWING GOD). War stories of inspirational speeches (Churchill) or sacrifices that have turned the tide of battle. Survival stories where someone laid down his life for others. Stories of great choices made that saved a plane (SULLY) or a city (KNIGHTS OF MALTA).

This is a legacy I want my children and grandchildren to know about. I’m only a small cog in the great mechanism of the universe, but my inner being cries out to be valued like that. Most of us do. We want to know we are significant. We want to know that our being here matters.

I want to leave a legacy of valuing one soul too much. It may cost us our lives, but I believe it lets us take our rightful place in eternity. Jesus keeps passing that mantle, and sometimes we put it on, even if only for one eternal moment.

LEGACY OF FRIENDS’S STORIES 1: Matthew’s Miracle

June 16, 2018

On Saturday evening May 26, 2018, our son, Matthew,

and I were praying prior to him saying goodnight. When we concluded, he put his arms around me and said, “My wallet slipped out somewhere. I hope that you can forgive me.” When I asked him when he had last remembered having it, he told me, “at the library book sale”–that was on May 6th! So I assured him that he didn’t need to apologize, that I was sorry that had happened to him, and we would buy him a new wallet. However, as he restlessly paced in his room, I realized that he was agitated and unhappy. I said goodnight to him and told him I would see him in the morning.

After I left his room, I began to pray, “Lord, where is Matthew’s wallet?” I believe that Jesus put the thought in my mind, “Check with the movie theater.” Well, he and his dad had been to a couple of movies in May, but this seemed unlikely. The following afternoon I detoured from our list of errands and stopped at the theatre. Matthew asked why we were there. I told him I wanted to ask if the cleaning people had found his wallet or if someone had turned one in.

I spoke with one of the managers, explained the situation, and was surprised when she admitted that a man’s wallet had been found. I also shared that Matthew had been at the theatre recently, but that he is autistic and doesn’t have a sense of timing. Thus, he may have lost it on May 24th or Friday two weeks prior. The manager began to ask questions to determine if I could identify the wallet, such as the colour, brand name, and contents. I knew there would be no ID card in the wallet, which complicated things. Eventually, after a number of questions, I was able to relay that there should be at least 2-$20 dollar bills in it, and pointed out that if Matthew could see the wallet, he would know whether or not it was his and would not say it was his if it wasn’t.  To reinforce that truth, I recounted that our son had recently found a wallet that was not his and had promptly returned the wallet to its owner.

As I called Matthew over to the office, the manager immediately recognized him and said, “He’s one of our regular customers.” She was holding the wallet in a way that we couldn’t see it and asked the names and times of the movies that Matthew had recently seen. I provided the requested information and she seemed satisfied. When she passed the wallet to Matthew, his whole countenance changed. He had been so upset and out-of-sorts. Instantly, he was smiling broadly as he shook the manager’s hand and thanked her for taking good care of his wallet and keeping it safe for him! The manager apologized that she had to ask so many questions, but she needed to make sure the wallet was going to its rightful owner. I thanked her profusely, pointing out that she had just made Matthew’s day!

Later, at the car, I said to Matthew that I had prayed to God about his lost wallet. I also told him that God put the idea in my mind to check at the movie theater. I said, “Isn’t it great that God helped them find your wallet and keep it safe for you, and did you say thank you to Him?” He agreed, and then he prayed, “God, thank you for keeping my wallet safe and getting it back to me. Amen.”

What a faith builder for both of us! Thank You, Jesus: This is the year of the favour of the Lord…” (Isaiah 61: 1-3)!  Hallelujah!

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk

Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)

LEGACY 19: The Luxury of Being Able to Choose Legacy

June 6, 2018

I am thankful for the luxury of having time to prepare a legacy, to have the choice, to think about and mull over and meditate on what I’ve done, what I wish I had done, and how I want to be remembered. Not everyone is given that.

I think of the 19-year-old young lady who slipped and plunged several hundred feet over Whitewater Falls just a little over a week ago. She was the 2017 beauty queen of the adjacent county, a dance aficionado who loved teaching young children, and looking forward to going to Clemson from the local technical college. Full of life and joy and vibrancy—and suddenly gone. No chance to look back, to think over what she wanted to leave as a legacy. She did leave one, but sadly through no choice of her own, did not get to leave a greater one.

It’s above my pay grade to know why. God in his infinite wisdom knows why she’s gone and we’re here, still trudging along and thinking about the trudging. But you are, for now, and I am, and I’m glad.

The older I get (approaching 66) the more I feel that life is designed to prepare us for the afterlife. The aches and pains and burdens and sorrows accumulate, and it’s easier to want to leave, to find that better place, to not have those any more. I think of the counsel of Ecclesiastes 12, where beautiful metaphors are used to compare aging to natural phenomena—dimming eyesight like shades pulled down on windows or rain clouds darkening your sky, hair turning white like an almond tree in bloom, “apple-blossom white,” (MESSAGE), teeth as servants stopping grinding, legs like guards trembling, “you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper” (NLT) [I went to bed last night at 7:30, and woke at 2:30 with the idea for this blogpost incipient, and so it’s not even 3:00 a.m. yet!]—see creatively paraphrased versions like Eugene Peterson’s THE MESSAGE or New Living Translation, or ones where it’s spelled out clearly like the Amplified Version.

The point of the comparison, the counsel, is to remember your Creator before it’s too late. When is it too late? Definitely when we’re dead and gone. And Solomon (supposing he is the writer) sees the danger of not having the faculties in old age to remember (e.g., Alzheimer’s or other diseases debilitating to the memory) and of having great regret for all the missed opportunities.

But my pastor, who’s 79, sees this as a time of great opportunity, of being able to look back and look forward and prepare. A time to grow closer to the Lord, to allow him to purge the past of pain by becoming more Present. I like that thought. And I’m learning to luxuriate in it. That is, for me, creating an eternal legacy.

And if I can encourage one other to do the same, I’m on it.

LEGACY 18: NOT Being AVERAGE

June 3, 2018

I think I found the point to the question my son raised about mm blogpost NOT FITTING THE MOLD, the question of what my point really was. My point was, and is, that I CHOOSE NOT to be AVERAGE. Gary M. (“Not Fitting the Mold”) is admirable to me in that respect.

Sometimes, we figure out what we want by realizing what we DON’T want.

Ironically, I found this answer become clear while reading an assignment for a mastermind group on Growth I’m in. (The entire quote is below, so you can read it if you like.)

I value differences (see my blogpost on Quirks), especially those which propel us to greatness, even if that greatness is not seen by many, or even not seen at all. Being extra-ordinary, “other than ordinary”, is great in multiple senses of the word. It is great in the common sense of “That’s great!” But it is also great in that it elevates us in the eyes of others (when seen) and elevates us in our sense of being significant whether seen or no. It creates its own grandeur.

Extraordinary is right. Extraordinary is good. Extraordinary is what brings change and growth and life and laughter and love. And being extraordinary requires a choice. It sometimes requires work, and sometimes requires swimming upstream.

My life has been very different than most. I would not trade that for anything. Being NOT AVERAGE in a great way is what I choose for my legacy. I choose being extra-ordinary.

******************************

“Average” is what the failures claim to be when their family and friends ask them why they are not more          successful.

“Average” is the top of the bottom, the best of the worst, the bottom of the top, the worst of the best. Which of these are you?

“Average” means being run-of-the-mill, mediocre, insignificant, an also-ran, a nonentity.

Being “average” is the lazy person’s cop-out; it’s lacking the guts to take a stand in life; it’s living by default.

Being “average” is to take up space for no purpose; to take the trip through life, but never to pay the fare; to return no interest on God’s investment in you.

Being “average” is to pass one’s life away with time, rather than to pass one’s time away with life; it’s to kill time, rather than to work it to death.

To be “average” is to be forgotten once you pass from this life. The successful are remembered for their contributions; the failures are remembered because they tried; but the “average,” the silent majority, is just forgotten.

To be “average” is to commit the greatest crime one can against one’s self, humanity, and one’s God. The saddest epitaph is this: “Here lies Mr. and Ms. Average—here lies the remains of what might have been, except for their belief that they were only “average.”

–Edmund Gaudet, as quoted in Chapter 10, “The Law of the Rubber Band: Growth Stops When You Lose the Tension Between Where You Are and Where You Could Be,” THE 15 INVALUABLE LAWS OF GROWTH by John Maxwell (Hachette Book Group, 2012)

LEGACY 17: The Significance of Productivity

June 2, 2018

My son raised a question about my last blogpost (about Gary M. and NOT FITTING THE MOLD), the question of what my point really was. And reading back through it, I realized I didn’t make that clear. I’ll do that in a later post, but for now I want to go on. I’ve committed to writing a post every day I can possibly manage it, so this is today’s.

Part of posting every day is being productive. And productivity is important to me. It adds significance to my life, makes me feel useful and valued, and in many cases, creates tangible results in other people’s lives. Our company does electrical contracting, and I like being able to look back at accomplishments that are concrete and visible: a Cracker Barrel, a Firestone Auto Care, retrofit lighting in some major buildings in the Greenville SC area (Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Brookwood Church auditorium, a Carolina Handling/Raymond facility, and others), a large generator installation at local assisted living facility (Capstone R&H in Easley), etc.

Personal and business connections are also a way of being productive. I can scroll through my memory and enjoy events, interactions, conversations that have added value. They are too numerous to even try to list—I’m almost 66, and having just completed 25 years full-time in business and 45 years doing electrical work (41 as a master electrician). But having just completed a celebratory event in which I listed a summary of accomplishments, I was surprised at the “long obedience” Nietszche spoke of

The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/816360

I have to say that the productivity that has resulted from my “long obedience in the same direction” has made MY life worth living. I think it has made others feel the same. I have said many times that my goal is to get to the end of my life, so far as the power lies within me, with everyone feeling that they were better for having known me. There will be exceptions, obviously. Life isn’t perfect. Mistakes happen. But to do the best you can, and do the best you can to correct mistakes, is the best you can do. (Kind of circular, perhaps, but true.)

I told my pastor and his wife a week or so ago that the one thing I would want as my epitaph, to be spoken at a ceremony celebrating my life when I’m gone, is that my life fulfilled the quote by St. Irenaeus: The glory of God is man fully alive. I want to have been fully alive. I want to be fully alive now. I want to continue to be productive until I stop breathing. “Retirement” is an opportunity to be more productive in more ways than I’ve been before.

I like slogans like “Life is good” and “It doesn’t get any better than this” (in the positive sense that “This is great!” rather than the negative “It’s all bad, and it just doesn’t get any better.”).

I want to make people laugh longer and more often, love more deeply and more fully, live more vibrantly and jubilantly. I want to be deep-rooted with good-tasting and abundant fruit. Producing significance in our lives is our calling, our mandate. It can be our greatest joy.

This I want to be my legacy.

THE LEGACY OF NOT FITTING THE MOLD: GARY M’S STORY

May 31, 2018

Not everyone fits the mold.

Gary M., my longest-standing friend, is a case in point. Gary is 66 (I’m 65, almost 66). I’m taking him to 2 doctor’s appointments tomorrow, so he’s on my mind.

We met in my 3rd year of college, in January of 1971 on a bus from Atlanta to Charlotte. I was headed back from Atlanta, Gary got on in Greenville SC, and we began to talk. Even though we’d been at college together (the college was another 100 miles past Charlotte), we’d never met there. Small world, but an even smaller bus. I offered Gary a ride from my house near Charlotte (I had a car, he didn’t) and he took me up on it.

A couple weeks later, he introduced me to my first wife Iris (whom I married 2 years after the intro, was married 25 years, and she died at the end of 1998—that’s in some other blogposts I’ve written). We lived in Columbia from 1978 to 1984, and Gary lived with us for a year while going to law school at USC-Columbia SC. He graduated and got his law degree (Gary had a great mind and loved thinking and talking theology, law, ethics—anything in those realms). He ended up not being able to make it as an attorney in spite of his brilliant mind, primarily because he loved the poor and downtrodden. He has ended up working at a number of jobs for non-profits and disabilities board-type institutions, at subsistence wages. He never married (though he had several women who wanted to) and cared for his mom in her feebler later years (she just died about 3 years ago). Ironically, one of the women who really wanted to marry him, had the same last name as his mom, whose name was Evelyn W,, and her name was Ellen W. Go figure.

Gary has a great heart also. He has wanted to foster and often ends up helping down-and-outs who end up being a drain on his patience and resources, and almost never meet Gary’s expectations in the relationship. Thus is life, at least Gary’s life. In the last few years, he’s had not only his mom but a number of other key people in his social network pass away. So he’s struggling. And busy as I am, I’m trying to fit more time and diligence into the relationship, just because.

I treasure Gary and his insights (even when I disagree). He is one of those people it’s hard not to like, even love. But it does take a lot of patience. Still overall, it’s worth it. You only get a few friends like that in a lifetime. He’s part of my legacy, and I want to honor him with that thought here.

THE LEGACY OF FRIENDS’ STORIES (Introduction)

May 30, 2018

Maybe it was because Monday (5/29/18) was Memorial Day. Maybe it was just because I was trying to figure out where to go after exhausting the 16 LEGACY blogposts I wrote 3-4 years ago and had made the commitment to try to post every day if possible. And maybe it was just because it was time.

In LEGACY 15 I had mentioned a story Geneva Anderson had told in her speeches as a coach and in Toastmasters competitions, called “Light the Pink Candle.” Then I read a story (on Facebook)of another friend about a miracle of faith in the life of her 21-year-old autistic son. So I emailed Geneva’s son (Geneva passed away last December) and messaged the friend on FB asking permission to share their stories on my blog. Both agreed. So when I get copies I’ll be posting them.

This is the introductory post for a folder I’ll call FRIENDS’ STORIES. With art, the sum of the works of all the great writers/musicians/artists in a generation is greater than an individual (think Elizabethan literature & Shakespeare/Romantic-era music & Beethoven/Impressionism & Monet or Manet). So the sphere of my legacy includes inspiring stories I’ve heard from and through friends and family, or even other sources as I go along.

This could well be a never-ending legacy.

LEGACY 16: The Value of Focus

May 29, 2018

(Originally written 10/12/15, but reading back through it, it reads like today, except for a few of the specifics being updated! I am at the point of revisiting my focus, re-focusing. Part of that has been a mastermind group on John Maxwell’s THE 15 INVALUABLE LAWS OF GROWTH: Live Them and Reach Your Potential.

Interestingly, though, as our company, Easley Electric Inc., celebrates 25 years of existence this month, I find that over the course of my life, I’ve been more focused in the long view than I had realized–45 years doing electrical work, 41 years being a licensed master electrician, 29 years in business with 25 of it full-time under the incorporated name, 5 years in a BNI chapter). And in marriage, I’ve been very focused also–one marriage of 25 years, ending in death of my spouse [I’d still be married to her, I believe, if she had lived], and coming on 19 years in the second. I like how Eugene Peterson, author of THE MESSAGE paraphrase of the Bible, titled his autobiography of his journey, using a phrase from Nietzsche: “a long obedience in the same direction.” The context reads

The essential thing “in heaven and in earth” is, apparently (to repeat it once more), that there should be long obedience in the same direction, there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living; for instance, virtue, art, music, dancing, reason, spirituality– …

So I guess, there is focus and there is focus. My life has been worth living. And that would be a legacy I could wish for everyone.

This is the last of the blogs on Legacy I’d written 3-4 years ago. Stay tuned for a new direction tomorrow!)

I have lost my focus. Again. It’s been exactly a year since I finished 13 blog writings in less than a month. In that intervening time, I’ve written 2, 1 in March, 1 in May.

Maybe I should say I had different focuses, other focuses. I decided to try to become a Life Coach in January this year, so I was devoting a lot of time to that. We were engulfed in a custody battle for our grandson that ended (abruptly and badly) in May. I was depressed after that. I tried doing a website for a tangent to the coaching (assessments), and that was a fiasco. Legacy was not even on my radar.

I was brought back by reading the section in Donald S. Whitney’s SIMPLIFY YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE: SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES FOR THE OVERWHELMED, the section on “Simplifying and Your Journal.” I was reminded of the legacy we need to work on consciously leaving. So here I am, back at it.

I’m getting some coaching myself, as well as coaching one guy, so I’m realizing the value of focus. I am re-committed to building the business in a more focused way.

Focus is key. Focus is primary. Focus is central.

Focus is critical. Critical to success. Critical to leaving a legacy.

Focus is a mindset. Focus requires perseverance, realignment, elimination, simplification. Focus requires focus.

Yes, that’s a circularity. (Maybe that’s not strictly the meaning in the discipline of logic, but it makes sense to me.) Focus begets focus. Focus encourages focus. Finding focus, ironically, encourages focus.

But it’s so easy to get off track. Life happens. Emotions waylay us, and we cave in to them. Situations arise, and we focus on them, and lose the bigger focus.

How do we stay on focus?

We keep coming back to it. We revisit it. We re-focus.

We remember. We remember being focused, the clarity, the sense of purpose, the rewards of being focused.

So here I am again.

Focusing.

And that’s enough for tonight. More tomorrow.