A Heritage of Steps

February 17, 2013

I have been given the privilege of spending huge quantities of time with my grandson Colt, who is now 19 months old, and learning at an astonishing rate. He is a sponge, absorbing like a sponge and wanting to interact with his environment. We—his aunt (the baby is her brother’s), my wife, and myself—are practically rearing him. That is quite a handful for the 3 of us—my wife and I are in our early 60’s, and our daughter is 34, is unmarried and has no children of her own (yet).

Truth be told, Colt is really my “step-grandson,” or actually the son of my stepson, and his aunt is my stepdaughter. They “married into” our family when I married their mom over 13 years ago. But at this point, I’ve probably had more interaction with them than with my own son and daughter—I was often so busy with work and other things while they were growing up that I missed a lot of interaction with them. Yes, I loved them, and I was a good father, by most standards—not the best, but considering the fathering I had, not bad. I had to learn fathering through on-the-job training, so to speak.

What is interesting to me, though, is that looking back into my more immediate ancestry, I find at least 3 instances of step-fathers entering into the picture in ways that significantly impacted who I am and how I handle life. The first was my own step-father, who had issues with alcoholism and abuse toward his family in ways that created an image of how I did NOT want to be as a father or husband. Indeed, one of the most valuable lessons of wisdom is in learning who we are not, so we can become fully who we are meant to be. So, though I wish the relationship had been better, still I grew from it, and I am thankful for that.

The second “step” was my biological father’s step-father. I knew him as “Paw-Paw.” His name was DB, and he was always distant when my younger sister and I were small, but he changed through an event we were responsible for. Since we stayed on weekends, we asked my grandmother to take us to church, and they eventually took us to a small Baptist church near their home in Belmont NC. Somehow, he got radically saved, and from that moment on, he was a changed man. Before, when my mom had come over, he would literally leave the house until she was gone, and he had little to do with us while we stayed; after this experience, he wanted to interact with us. He wanted to share with us what he was learning—how many verses and chapters there were in the Bible, what the middle verse was, and all the trivia and other things that were impacting him. He died when I was in my early teens, so I never got to know him from an adult perspective, but I still remember the passion he had for his new-found faith.

The third “step” was my great-grandmother’s husband, on the maternal side (my mother’s maternal grandmother). All I know of my great-grandfather was that he seemed to have been a rough man, but the man my GGM married the 2nd go-round was a preacher. She was a member of a small Methodist church in the mountains of Tennessee, in a little town called Maryville, near Sevierville, Gatlinburg, and Knoxville. I used to sleep with my GGM when I was a young boy of 4 or 5—she lived in a garage behind her son’s house that had been converted into a one-room home for her. The place was piled high with all sorts of things, the way mountain people store up to help through hard times. I slept in a feather-bed where you would sink into the middle, and I think I remember her praying and sharing her faith with me—but at the very least she lived it out. She was so deeply committed to her faith that she would not even drink root-beer, even though it was non-alcoholic. One other thing I still remember—she brushed her teeth with a twig off a certain type tree that would splinter to make bristles like a toothbrush.

Both husbands were gone by this time, so I never really knew him, but the fact that he was a preacher meant something to me, even then. And I’m sure that his faith was reflected into and added onto her faith. So, in that sense, I shared in his heritage.

I say all this to say that I have come to realize that I have a “step” heritage. Colt to me is the grandson I have not had the opportunity to have. I have 3 granddaughters, the oldest graduating this year [2013] from high school—but I don’t get to spend much time with any of them. But I have not had a grandson—until now. The past few days, I have started taking him down to put him to bed by rocking him while he takes a “bob” (bottle) and twirls the tassels of his “blankie.” He is usually out within a few minutes, and I sit there in amazement and joy, worshiping or praying, and sometimes even teary-eyed. He is such a joy to me, and I am amazed at how I feel toward him. I feel like I’m one of the most blessed men in the world, and I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything.

Scripture says, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3) and “Grandchildren are the crown of old men” (Proverbs 17:6). Our heritage doesn’t always come in ways we expect. I’m glad to have recognized this one in time to enjoy it.

Do you have a heritage that you haven’t recognized yet?

“A Rock Feels No Pain…” BUT

February 3, 2013

I woke early this morning with the final lines of old Simon & Garfunkel song “I Am A Rock” playing in my mind—the part they play slowly at the end: “…and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries”—an appealing thought to many in our society, especially when the pain has been great, and the tears many.

Still, not feeling pain can be a bad thing, as lepers and paralytics know—it can lead to physical damage to body parts that fail to respond to stimuli, and can result in infections, sickness, even gangrene and death. (I know this personally from the death of my first wife, but that’s another story for another time.) And never crying can lead to psychological constipation and emotionally stunted growth, and who knows what else. Pain and trauma internalized can be tragic.

But even more tragic are the things that are missed. A rock never gives birth to a child, an idea, or a business. A rock never experiences the pleasures of life or the blessings that pain can sometimes bring. An island cannot cry tears of joy either. A rock never moves or grows or changes. An island doesn’t multiply, or grow families, or have dinner with anyone.

I don’t want to be a rock, eroding slowly, almost eternally, only becoming sand after eons. Not for me the eternal life of the Cumaean Sybil, who forgot to ask for eternal youth, shriveling up until eventually she was placed into a jar.

I want to live and breathe and laugh and cry. I want to feel pain enough to know what true joy is. And one day I want to die gloriously, even if it’s in my sleep. Meanwhile, I want to know people to the fullest—even those who fail me, intentionally or not.

And if I am not remembered in a hundred years, what I have done that is good will still live on in the lives of those who followed, and those whom they blessed and carried on.

I love stories of people who find encouragement in some of the bleakest circumstances, who take lemons and make lemonade—and then set up a stand and sell it, or even give it away. Aron Ralston, who spent 127 hours with his arm trapped by an 800-pound boulder, and who had to cut it off to escape. The rugby players who endured 72 days in the Andes and had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Corrie ten Boom’s sister Betsie, who, in the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, was able to be thankful for fleas—simply because it meant it kept the guards out, and allowed them to pray, and sing, and fellowship, and to be safe for a moment. She died before getting out—but Corrie lived to tell. The stories like those in Ben Sherwood’s book The Survivors’ Club. Victor Frankl’s story in Man’s Search for Meaning. Bill Strickland’s Making the Impossible Possible. The list goes on and on. I love rambling through the archives in the caverns of my mind.

Life is good. All of life. Somehow. Some way. I know there is a lot of bad—but life IS good! And feeling—and feelings—help make it so. I’m not a rock—thankfully. To re-paint Descartes, “I feel, therefore I am.”

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

–James 1:2,12 in THE MESSAGE [Peterson]

Attitude Determines Destiny

January 30, 2013

Attitude determines direction. Direction determines destiny. Therefore, attitude determines destiny.

More and more, I am coming to realize that our attitude (a term commonly used by motivational speakers to describe our predisposition, the underlying and seldom-questioned presuppositions, and general focus of our being) determines the direction we take. If we expect positive results, and act in accord with that presupposition, we more often get positive results; if we expect negative, we get negative. And the process is self-replicating: More positivity breeds more of the same; more negativity leads to a downward spiral.

I just finished reading a book that brought that to the fore in my realizations more clearly than I had ever verbalized it. The book is titled The Brother of Jesus: The Dramatic Story & Meaning of the First Archaeological Link to Jesus & His Family by Herschel Shanks & Ben Witherington III (2003). It is a well-written book (each writer writes half), based on the discovery around the year 2000 of an ossuary [a limestone burial box] inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” The authors do an excellent job of making their case, Herschel considering the archaeological authenticity and Ben focusing on the theological and historical authenticity and the ramifications they imply.

At the end of the book, Ben makes the point that historically there have been three primary stances on the relation of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and James that have been associated with major religions [it would take too long to explain these adequately, and is not relevant to my point here], and that, if indeed this box is authentic, only one can be true. In addition, he asserts that early on, the correct view got preempted with the incorrect ones over several centuries by biased agenda that church leaders came to the table with and consequently skewed the data and even falsified it in some cases.

This was a huge insight for me—not theologically, but internally. We have been dealing with issues in trying to take our business to the next level, and a few days ago, I had come to the realization that one of the key points in how we were differing was based on our prior assumptions. If we assume that a particular employee is self-serving, cutting corners, and scamming the company, then we look for data to back that up. If, to the contrary, we assume that he has the company’s best interests at heart, we look for data to back that presupposition up.

And we do that in all of life. John Eldredge, in his book Waking the Dead, indicts the present-day manifestations of most forms of Christianity for assuming that our hearts are evil, based on a few scriptures like Jeremiah 17:9. The result is a negative, self-flagellating form of Christianity that discourages almost everyone, including the one practicing it. However, to take the opposite position, if we assume that, when we are “born again” our hearts are renewed (having had the old, dead “heart of stone” taken out and replaced with a renewed “heart of flesh” per scriptures like Ezekiel 11:19 & 36:26), then we believe we can actually do good works without being duplicitous or hypocritical, that we can live a life of joy and expectancy, that life is worth living, and passion is worth having.

In a word, where you start determines where you finish. And how.

Motivational speakers sometimes ask, “What would you do if you believed you could do anything?” Definitely food for thought. What we more often ask ourselves is, “Why can’t I get through the day?” And the answer is that we see a metaphorical Great Wall of China, a Mount Everest, before us.

I heard tell of this recently from a guy well-on in years who moved into our area a few years back, took on the chairmanship of a newly-created visionary organization focused on where our county could be in 2025 (www.PickensVision2025.org), and was promptly told by locals that there was no way he could raise large sums of money. He (and others who believed) raised over $100K, some of which is still being used to operate on today—and it is time to take that too to a new level.

Maybe it’s not always true, but if I believe the worst, most of the time that’s exactly what I get. Conversely, if I believe the best is possible and worth pursuing, at least I’m far more likely to make it happen. I’m reminded of a small-town service-station attendant (in the days when there was no self-service) being asked by two different couples at different times what the new town they were moving to was like. In each instance, he asked them what the town they came from was like. The first couple described it negatively, the second positively. He told each, “That’s what you’ll find here, I’m sure.”

We carry our own baggage with us for the journey we’re on.

Jesus, in His image of separating the sheep from the goats, bases the judgment of their response to His attempts to move them on their attitudes toward those who unknowingly represented Him. Each side either saw or didn’t see Him in the poor, naked, needy people who came their way, and were judged accordingly. Interestingly, neither had at the time recognized Him in them—but their predisposition to be looking for Him (even in “the least”) was telling.

Attitude determines destiny. We go toward what we focus on.

Where are YOU pointed? What are YOU focused on? It matters.

Some Mistakes Endear Us

January 29, 2013

A few days ago, my stepson texted me to let me know he had made a serious and potentially dangerous mistake on the job. He had dropped a piece of metal strut through a knockout into a live 480/277-volt electrical panel. Fortunately, the piece blew itself off the lug and welded onto the metal can housing the panel, and no one was harmed, nor was any equipment damaged. A little time and peace of mind was lost, and the piece of metal ruined—but that is peanuts compared to what could have happened. (He had previously had cardboard on top, but had moved it for some reason and neglected to put it back.) At first he was hesitant to share with the foreman (who was away at the time) and cleaned it up.

But because he has seen me make serious and sometimes costly mistakes (one that cost our company insurance $16K when the entire gross on the job was only $5K; another where I drilled into a water line and damaged the customer’s drawings which had to be presented the next day, causing him to spend the night re-configuring, and costing us over $1K for his time), he was willing to tell me. (And after sharing the first comment below via text and speaking with him shortly thereafter, he did go on to tell the foreman, who in turn told me some of the mistakes he had made.)

Almost immediately, I had a thought: Sometimes our mistakes make us memorable to those who care about us, give them compassion, free them to share their own mistakes, and ultimately create positive memories as they bond us together. I made a very costly mistake a few years back based on bad judgment of someone’s character, and we are still re-couping. And just yesterday, our bookkeeping department found out (after agonizing calculations) that we had overcharged a customer about 3% on a huge job, which we are crediting back on the next invoice, along with an honest explanation of why.

Ultimately, we will be known by at least two things: our successes, especially in relationships; and our mistakes. But sometimes what appears to be a mistake can be a blessing in disguise—consider, e.g., “Seward’s Folly,” the purchase of territory which is now Alaska, surely a blessing to the USA in many ways. King David’s mistake of adultery with Bathsheba (and murder of her husband Uriah) gave us Solomon, who comparatively for his day was probably wealthier than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined, and whose wisdom is beyond legendary; the Lord even gave Solomon a special nickname, Jedediah (“beloved by Yah”), and David’s subsequent humility was another blessing, resulting in many of the Psalms being written (notably Psalm 51).

And the mistakes of others can allow us to forgive, which is a blessing of release of bitterness: As someone has wisely said, “Holding onto unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Bitterness undealt-with will eat away at us like battery acid, and can ultimately kill us.

It can be argued that not all mistakes are blessings, and I think that may be true on a microcosmic scale. But from an eternal perspective, they must somehow all be blessings, since “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NAS) And the Old Testament patriarch Joseph was able to tell his brothers his matured perspective on their perfidy in selling him into enslavement in Egypt, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20 NAS) Even the devil serves God’s purposes, albeit unwillingly and unintentionally—as in the case of Job’s trials and both Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness and his betrayal by Judas, to bring about salvation through the crucifixion—surely one of the greatest travesties in history.

The greatest determiner on the microcosmic scale is whether we can somehow advance toward the macrocosmic—whether intentionally or not, over time, and in light of eternity. How we view mistakes determines whether they are good or bad, beneficial or harmful, in the short term.

So how are you viewing your mistakes? How about those of others?

I told the bookkeeper, “It’s NOT a mistake. It’s a chance to operate ethically and do what is right. Ultimately, it will bring in MORE business, not less.” And I truly believe that.

January 28, 2013

Joel’s 5th point below lines up with my heart for Christians in particular (but really anyone with a heart for it) to fight abortion by 1) adopting, fostering, or in some other way being available to care for the unwanted ones; 2) work toward a change of society’s heart so that it is more rewarding NOT to abort–by developing attitudes and long-term solutions that make women WANT to bring the child to term so it can have a blessed life.
People like Mother Teresa, George Mueller (orphanages in the 1800’s) and Heidi Baker (present-day Mozambique, Iris Ministries) are leading the way and providing WONDERFUL examples–as are many others who get little or no recognition or credit. Let’s all do our part–even if it’s “only” praying toward this end!!!

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

Here are a few thoughts I’d like to share with you on this important day.

First, here is a link to the short video report of the visit I made to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in November 2011 with two pastors and their wives. I hope it will give you a sense of what I was thinking when I stepped into one of the gas chambers, saw a crematorium and walked the grounds where the Nazis exterminated more than one million Jews, as well as many others. Also, here’s a link to a blog I wrote about our trip to the notorious camp in Poland.

Second, please be praying for the Holocaust survivors that are still living today, and their families. Pray that the Lord comforts and heals their hearts, and draws them close to His own heart. Pray that He provides for them and cares for them in every possible way —…

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Letter to Roby on Becoming the You You Were Meant to Be

January 18, 2013

(Below is the last part of an email I wrote to a friend this morning. What preceded the first comment was my explanation of an accomplishment I’ve done that he admired in his email to me…)

I don’t encourage people to do what I’ve done. You have to find what sparks your imagination and do that. You are a totally unique creation God designed specifically to be and do what you are called to be and do. As the old Mission Impossible statement says, “Your assignment, should you choose to accept it…” is to find out what that is, and do it excellently, just as you do your accounting. That is why you are unhappy with yourself–I know, I was there for the better part of 55 years (I’m 60 now)! It IS doable.

Here’s are the rubs that are keeping you from getting there (I thought of 1, then another, so not sure how many I’ll list here):

1)     FACT 1: Our culture does NOT encourage contentment, satisfaction, or real joy. They SAY they want you to be happy, but if you think about it, NOTHING sells unless there is DISSATISFACTION! The entire premise of advertising and marketing is CREATING DISSATISFACTION! (Read Romans 12:1-2 in this light, and you will see that by and large, Christianity in our culture has bought into being “conformed to the world” rather than being “transformed” into the Glory they were meant to be!)

2)     FACT 2: Christianity as taught ant practiced typically says “Our hearts are BAD, and we can’t trust them.” And there is a truth there, but it’s only a partial one. Scripture also says that when the Lord comes in, He gives us a NEW HEART, one that DESIRES to serve Him, to love Him, to worship Him. If we really believed that, and lived it, it would transform our lives into lives of PASSION and DESIRE–but DESIRE THAT IS GOOD AND WHOLESOME AND AWESOME IN THE WAY IT IS LIVED OUT! And THAT, my friend, is what Jesus was willing to DIE for (“for the JOY that was set before Him, endured the cross…” etc.)

3)     FACT 3: NOTHING EVER GETS DONE OF ANY SIGNIFICANCE WITHOUT DESIRE AND PASSION! Think about it: All of us do the very things we WANT! We may even sabotage and kill ourselves doing it, but we MAKE time for what we FEEL is valuable! It IS ultimately about the FEELING, and only when you get passionate and on-fire for something will you invest the time and energy to make it work. Millionaires become so mostly through this–it’s the one keystone that mentors and positive thinking teachers and motivational speakers build their careers on!

4)     FACT 4: You are UNIQUE, and NO ONE can tell you exactly how to find that PASSION and DESIRE! Most of our society, sadly, spends all its time trying to be something they are not, were not designed to be, and never will successfully be! It’s true, but it doesn’t have to be this way. BUT in order to escape it, you have to become YOU! No one else can do it for you. It may be a pain-full process, but ultimately, it is well worth it! (See #3 above.)

5)     FACT 5: You don’t have to do it alone–and yet you do. There are people out there (like me) willing to help you get there–but you have to put the rubber to the road. And as one of the mentors I listen to says (if you like, I’ll send you a link), you have to have 4 kinds of people in your support group: teachers, doers, pushers, and cheerleaders. Usually they are NOT all combined into one person who “speaks into your life.” That’s one of the values I see in this group we’re in–and I’ve not had that kind of thing for most of my life.

6)     FACT 6: You won’t get there overnight. As the saying goes, an “overnight success” most likely has put in decades becoming that. BUT DON’T LET THAT DISCOURAGE YOU! If you do nothing, 5 or 10 years will STILL pass, and you’ll be at least as dissatisfied as you are now. Charlie Tremendous Jones said, “The only difference between the you now and the you you’ll be in 5 years is the people you meet and the books you read.” Lot of truth in that statement. There are other factors in it too, but basically, you have to commit to a PROCESS! As Steven Covey says, “Start with the end in view.” (With this advice, he advocates picturing your funeral, with 4 people who knew you in different ways [family, friend, co-worker, and one other–can’t remember right now]–and ask yourself, “What do they say about you? What would you want them to say?” Then begin consciously, conscientiously, and persistently to work toward that vision of yourself at your own funeral. Good exercise.

7)     FACT 7: Books are one of the easiest ways to gain wisdom–but you HAVE to pick the right books! You have limited time, limited energy, and limited passion–so use them wisely. Someone said, “An intelligent man learns from his mistakes; a wise one learns from others’ mistakes.” In that vein, I’ve attached an Excel spreadsheet of a book I recently read and thought enough of to encapsulate in this chart. One of the authors is Jack Canfield, of “Chicken Soup” fame, and his story is in there too. The book is titled YOU’VE GOT TO READ THIS BOOK! but the subtitle says it all: 55 stories by people telling what books changed their lives. Jack is one of the people; Covey is another. Yes, some of the books are NOT Christian, and could lead people into Buddhism or Stoicism, or “New-Agey” thinking–but I’ll take that chance. One of the books mentioned is the Bible, and God’s Word CAN and WILL stand the test–it really, as Roy says, is the “Book of Best Practices,” not only for business but for ALL of life! And I firmly believe that the principles Christianity is solidly based on (e.g., faith) are actually laws in the sense that gravity and inertia are laws: They operate on their own, by God’s design, whether we acknowledge them as coming from Him or His Word or not! Think about it: Every time you turn on a light switch, or the ignition switch for your car, you’re operating in faith!

I’ll stop off here. I would suggest you begin by making a list of 10 books you want to read this year. I can suggest some if you like, and even lend you some (though I really recommend you INVEST in them, as that will make them mean more to you, and you can then annotate them, a valuable exercise in itself). And I can suggest some other things to get you on track of living that ABUNDANT LIFE Jesus promised as we go along.

I’m glad to get to know you. Thanks for being someone I can invest my talents into!

Blessings,
Ken

Reality Is and I Am

January 11, 2013

Descartes’ famous line, “I think; therefore I am,” can be interpreted at least two ways. Most probably Descartes meant, “Because I know I am able to think, this means I exist, since ‘obviously’ I had to exist before I could have the capacity to think.”

However, I think (here meaning that I am simply observing something about this statement <g>) in our times, we tend to interpret it an opposite way, something akin to “I think myself into existence,” or, closer to what is often said, “My thinking is what creates my reality.”

And it may be that we have a reality that we create by our thinking. But, again, “obviously,” there must be a Reality (I’m capitalizing it to distinguish it from the “reality” I can—if I can—create through my thinking it into existence) that has an existence outside me. Some simple examples might be the existence of Japan as a country or gravity as a principle of physics. I can deny either, but that does not deny the Reality—however, it WILL affect my interaction with that Reality. If I choose to disbelieve the Reality of Japan, I may not believe it possible to literally travel there; I may carry it further and refuse to recognize the existence of people I meet who claim to be from Japan, and cut off communication with them when they try to convince me. And I could even carry it further into absurdity in ways that might force others to have to act—if, say, I try to eliminate anyone who claims to be Japanese. Similarly, if I simply believe gravity doesn’t exist, it may not matter, but if I believe enough to act, I may fall off high places, resulting in injury or death.

You can see the point here, and apply it in countless ways. Belief determines action. What I believe does not determine Reality, but it does determine reality, how my “reality” interacts with other Realities. And to be honest, we cannot act without believing something—we believe that a light switch or car ignition will “work,” that a chair or a set of stairs will support my weight, etc. I’m not a philosopher, so I’m keeping this on a simply basis here.

Now, without going deeply into philosophical or theological issues, I want to apply this principle briefly to the concept of evolution and Christianity’s historical opposition to it on root-level concepts, in a simplistic way. At the root, the idea that evolution is espousing is that “things” ultimately get better. Christianity comes closer to what is called scientifically the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or in “Bubba-speak,” Murphy’s Law: Ultimately, things fall apart, break, break down, fail. [In a larger context, however, Christianity comes closer to evolution’s thinking, in asserting that ultimately God WILL redeem everything and make it better than it ever was. This is reflected in Romans 8:28, “ALL things work together for good,” and other places in the Bible.]

My point in all this is not to “diss” evolution, but rather to say, again, belief determines action. If we believe evolutionarily (if that is a word), we may miss important factors that can cause us to crash and burn. If we go too far on the negative end (“all is vanity”), we may become fatalistic and refuse to act (which is itself a form of action, but a downhill one).

I choose to believe that I have the God-given capacity to choose, and therein lies my responsibility. What do I do with the talent(s) I am given? That is what I will ultimately be judged on, by others, by God (the Ultimate Reality), and even by myself (I can, e.g., cause damage to my body by how I act on what I believe, and my psychological well-being will definitely prosper or suffer based on how I act on what I believe).

Christianity has a long-standing image, a word-picture, that captures this basic idea of Reality: a rock. In one place in Scripture, Jesus pictured Himself as “The Rock,” and Peter as “a rock.” In another, He said, “Whoever throws himself on this Rock will be broken, but whomever It falls on will be crushed.” We get the choice: Do we allow ourselves to be broken in small ways by the Reality we face? Or are we choosing to head toward being crushed by it? We choose, in the here-and-now, by multitudes of small choices we make.

Is It Ever Okay To Evangelize?

December 5, 2012

Is It Ever Okay To Evangelize?.

Unique, and Great At It

November 21, 2012

When I first came up with my original title for this (“The Unfathomable Value of a Unique Life”), I left the entire document blank, and I thought about posting it that way. If indeed, the value of a unique life IS unfathomable, then no amount of description, no attempt to paint a picture is inadequate, and might as well be left unsaid.

In all honesty, it should be blank.

Still, we can explore, and muse, and be inspired by something unfathomable—the intricacies and inspirations we keep finding from ocean depths, e.g., or the farthest reaches of the mysteries of the universe.

I just finished reading a 6-book biography of a little-known figure who is so unique and astounding that it gave me a different perspective on how that box could be mused upon. And, interestingly, it brought more peace into my heart about who I am and what I am called to be.

When John the Baptizer was challenged by some petty thinkers that Jesus and His disciples were baptizing more than John, he showed not a lick of envy. And having read this bio, I felt the same way about this man, whose life is so uniquely stamped with the authority and gifting of God that it could easily create envy in some. Who is this man? Before I reveal that, let me give some statistics on the creation of this hidden jewel of a biography.

The author, Owen Jorgensen, was first drawn to write this bio at the age of 18, but waited almost that long again because he felt so unqualified. After the 17-year wait, he then spent another 17 years logging an average of 12 hours a week, some 10,000 hours total, researching and writing 380,000 words—and still felt he hadn’t done justice to the task. The content is so readable and believable, and can easily be documented, according to the author, from writings and audio recordings. Who then, is this figure?

Most people have never heard of him. Those who have heard of Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn have no idea that this man paved the way for the acceptance of their ministries by his amazing and often-verified accuracy of miracles and revelations in his ministry. His name is William Branham. The books are titled SUPERNATURAL: The Life of William Branham, and numbered 1-6, each with a subtitle describing the person and an aspect of his ministry.

William Marrion Branham was born in a two-room cabin in backwoods Kentucky April 9, 1906. Even his birth had more of the supernatural to it than most people see in a lifetime. The cabin had no windows except a hinged wooden section in the door. Around 5 am, when he was born, there were 5 people (parents, aunt & uncle, grandmother) in the cabin, and they opened the “window” to allow some light in. A ball of light entered the cabin, hovered over the baby for quite a few minutes, and then exited. Immediately, a dove lit on the ledge of the “window,” cooed several times, and flew off. Though none of the occupants were religious or church-attendees, they wondered what would become of this marvelous introduction.

Several times in his youth, even at times when having to help his father make moonshine during Prohibition, young William had supernatural encounters that were unexplainable, and he was told early on never to drink or smoke because of the call of God on his life. Eventually he felt called into ministry and learned how to deal with these supernatural encounters in bringing healings and even resurrections from the dead. He became an evangelist with such an amazing array of miracles, accompanied by 100% accuracy in the revelations he was given, that he was saddened and angered at the attempts to emulate him that often left people disillusioned and discouraged. In addition, his entire life seemed to be an uphill battle in learning how to discern and utilize his gifting, how to express it effectively, and how to leave a legacy that impacted the Kingdom of God in the way he felt called—a forerunner of Jesus’ second coming as John was a forerunner of his first.

And yet in all this, his humanness shines through because of Jorgensen’s ability to paint a flesh-and-blood person. He is seen to be an amazing huntsman, almost always able to kill squirrels with a single .22 shot. In Book 6, he was given a vision about what would happen when he went on his annual fall hunting expedition in the Rockies. He saw someone measuring an unusual rack from a caribou and saying that it measured 42”. He also saw himself killing a huge silver-tipped grizzly with a single shot. Both happened, and the dressed skin of the grizzly weighed 300 pounds; it became his prayer rug! In fact, after reading all 6 books, I felt I had come to know Branham as a person in such a way that I found myself grieving at his sudden and unexpected death in 1965.

***

Branham’s life was so unique that I found it encouraging in a surprising way: it dawned on me that I was not meant to be someone like him. The callings and visitations he experienced were not something he could have wished for or conjured up in his wildest imaginings—obviously, since they began at his birth. Knowing this uplifted me in that I realized that, if He had wanted, God could have caused me to have such kinds of revelations, visions, and supernatural experiences. He chose not to, and so I have some other purpose in life to fulfill.

My own life is unique, and more and more (I am now 60) I value that uniqueness. I was not called to be a William Branham, nor a John the Baptizer. I was called to be me. (I guess to be grammatically correct, I should say, “I was called to be I.”—I can even enjoy my own self-analyzing awareness!)

And YOU should value your own uniqueness. Each of us should, and in turn, we should value the uniqueness of each person we come into contact with. I like Matthew Kelly’s concept that we achieve the greatest happiness and sense of fulfillment when we help each other become the “best version” of who we were designed to be, called to be, chosen to be.

And part of my calling, my design, is to help others see that. That is why I write. Like St. Paul and Martin Luther, I can do no other. One of my most important goals in life is to move people a little closer to seeing the unfathomable value in themselves and in others, the unique contribution each of us alone has to offer. When you succeed at trying to imitate someone else or to be something you’re not meant to be, you’re making two mistakes: 1) You’re getting in the way of someone else being the unique gift they were meant to be; and 2) You’re leaving your own spot of uniqueness unfilled, undone.

Samuel Johnson said, “No man was ever great by imitation.”

  • Be different.
  • Be outstanding.
  • Be unique.

Be great. You were meant to be.

Was God the Original Montessori Instructor?

October 29, 2012

We are currently spending a lot of our time keeping our 15-month-old grandson, Colt. His aunt Erica, the daddy’s sister, lives with us, and the 3 of us tag-team to interact with this little bundle of joy and neediness to bless his life, and have ours blessed in turn.

Last night, Erica was researching on the internet some pointers on interacting with Colt, and came across some items about how it is done in the Montessori system. One of the things they do is to try to “get onto their level” by keeping things low, having their sleeping mats on the floor, 15-inch-tall work-stations for them to play and learn at, having adults get down onto the children’s level to relate to them, etc. A short while after she told me this, it dawned on me: That’s exactly what Jesus did: He came down onto our level.

So, I thought, in what other ways does God operate in the Montessori model? I looked at the Wikipedia article, and here are some thoughts about possible parallels:

  • “Mixed-age classrooms”: God puts “baby” Christians in with “teen-age” ones and “mature” ones. Each different “age” learns lessons both from the other age-groups, and from the interacting.
  • “Student choice of activity within a prescribed range of options”: How true is that of our lives! Each of us has choices, but not unlimited ones. And how we grow is determined by how we apply those choices. And in the final analysis, though the range of our choices may appear to be very different depending on who we are and where we come from, ultimately, our choices about the things that matter (values, ideals, etc.) are very similar.
  • “Uninterrupted blocks of work time”: In the final analysis, each of us has to deal with our aloneness. No one can take it away from us, just as no one can experience death for us. We are given our aloneness to learn to “work” with the One who gave it to us.
  • A “‘discovery’ model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction”: How often have we wished God would just make things clear??? Instead, we have to learn from the “materials” we are given to work with—the people, the circumstances, the challenges, the limited revelation over time…you fill in the blank—what are the “materials” you’ve been given to learn from?
  • “Specialized educational materials developed by…[the] instructors”: Perhaps in eternity we will see just how “specialized” the “educational materials” are that have been developed by our Instructor Himself! It is obvious (to those with eyes to see) that we are being taught in unique and individualized ways, learning things that are so precious to us that they can only be shared with our Teacher, coming to know our “hidden name” as something precious, to be treasured.

The emphasis on “independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development, as well as technological developments in society” sound similar in scope to the relationship with our Father and the challenges of developing our individual and unique giftings within the context of the historical situation we are placed in.

Whether Maria Montessori knew Father God or not I cannot answer, but it appears she certainly was able to tap into His heart in developing her program!