Posts Tagged ‘uniqueness’

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.

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LEGACY 15: The Value of Our Quirks, Foibles, Weaknesses and Uniquenesses

May 28, 2018

(In the initial writing of this, written 5/1/15, I used people’s full names, but here deleted them to maintain their privacy. Otherwise, it is posted as originally written with only minor corrections for clarity and time passage. Geneva Anderson [www.genevaanderson.orgdid go to Las Vegas and was a finalist, but did not win. She passed away this past December, but left a wonderful legacy with stories like “Light the Pink Candle,” which I may share in a future blogpost.

The story of my wife happened the last day of 1998, around 2 p.m. She passed away at 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Having been a business administration major, and managing the financial aspects of our business, it was almost as if she had planned it that way. I treasure that thought as part of the memory.)

Mostly, we do not get to choose the unique qualities in our makeup that differentiate us from others. We often disparage them, wish them gone, rue their bane in our existence. But sometimes, in our striving for, and reaching, greatness, we are able to capitalize on them and make them truly our own in a powerful way.

I think of Gary S., a member of a networking group I’m in, sharing about the death of a former member before his time in our group, finding out to his horror minutes later that it was the mother of the member, and that she may not have even died. We all felt his pain—we’ve all been there, and are glad when are only watching. I think of Janie V’s eyesight problems that necessitate using a magnifying glass to read up close and require having a driver to travel—yet she has successfully created her thriving own real estate brokerage. I think of Geneva Anderson’s two-decade battle with cancer, her decision a few years back to launch out to become a professional speaker and coach, leading to her second state championship in Toastmasters with a speech about that journey that was both humorous and poignant. (She’s headed to Las Vegas in a few months, hopefully to become the national champion).

We mostly fail to realize how memorable our quirks, foibles, and weaknesses make us to those who know us, and how much they endear us to those whose lives we impact. I think of Joseph B., a successful business coach and Biblical counselor, whom I invited to a men’s prayer breakfast. His 20-minute testimony of his life’s journey included the story of his father’s valor in World War II, which he did not learn of until 2 decades after his father’s death, in the settling of the estate immediately after his mother’s death. He also shared about the success of having funded and founded 2 schools, left them still impacting kids, and embarking on another career—only to be betrayed by having a past accusation of which he was exonerated brought to light, and being forced to resign. He was moved to tears sharing these powerful stories. Of the 10 other men at that breakfast that day besides him and me, 3 of them came up to me, shook my hand, and thanked me for inviting me. One stated that it was one of the most moving times he had seen in the breakfast group, which has been in existence for almost four decades.

And I could tell many other stories like this that have caused me to smile with fond memories.

For me personally, the most memorable is the story of my final interaction with my wife of 25 years, who died suddenly on New Year’s Eve 1998, in a manner that almost seemed eerily planned—she had been a business major and the CFO of our business—a CPA could not have structured it better for uncomplicated tax returns. She had gone into the hospital the first week of December, had already had 6 major operations, been in intensive care the first and last weeks, and was headed into what would prove to be her final operation at 2 pm that day.

Lying on the gurney in the basement beside the elevator of a hospital, with plastic draped over some construction areas adjoining, she said to me, “Get that dog over there.”

I said, “What dog?”

She said, “That dog over there.”

I walked over a few feet, acted like I was doing something, came back and said, “OK. I took care of it,” or something to that effect.

She looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t lie to me, Ken Stewart!”

Stunned, I stood immovable as the elevator doors opened. They took her, and those were her final words to me.

I still laugh when I remember them.

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

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.

Relationship with God: “Job ONE”

March 15, 2012

Remember the old Ford commercials? “Quality Is Job One.” The idea, of course, is that nothing comes before striving for quality. More and more, I am coming to see that relationship with God is our “Job One.” The goal of our whole existence is to learn to relate to him. Every good and wholesome human relationship in some way pictures the potential for relationship with God, and even the evil and destructive ones have lessons pointing us toward the right kind of relationship he longs for, and we cannot thrive without.

PARENT-CHILD: We are created into a relationship for his pleasure, we are told—he WANTED to make us, in much the same way that would-be first-time parents want to increase their joy by bringing a child into existence, “creating” it, birthing it, nurturing it, relating to it and having it learn to relate to them.

MARRIAGE: We are wooed into a bridal relationship, courted by the eternal God who longs to bring us into the intimacy pictured in marriage, even to the point of loving us, as he instructed Hosea to do, through our infidelities and selling of our souls to other loves.

FRIENDSHIP: Early on in the Bible, God calls Abraham “friend” and speaks of how he longs to let him in on the secret plans of his heart. The whole theme of Scripture is that we needed the revelation of God, that salvation is not something we could accomplish on our own, apart from his entrance into our existence. Thus the Incarnation is the initiation of the greatest of friendships, the willingness of the very God of the universe to die for his own fallen creation—us.

BROTHERHOOD: Being bonded together even beyond the level of friendship—becoming related by mingling of blood—that is the depth of the level of friendship God wants. Human culture over the centuries has longed to bring those who are not literally related into “blood-brother” relationship—even children become enamored with this concept, making slits in their fingers and rubbing them together.

ADOPTION: Being adopted into full family status is a picture of the kind of acceptance we long for in the natural when we have been abandoned, betrayed, or isolated. The outcast is made a son, and the prodigal, who has made himself an outcast, is given the sandals, robe and ring that are appropriate for one fully vested in the family.

We could go on and on listing other relationships that picture ours with God and his with us. But you get the idea. The title really doesn’t say it all, because what God desires is more than just our striving in a occupational way that excludes the rest of our lives. He wants total immersion in himself, total absorption in who he is and how he is related to us, not on a conscious level, but in a way that permeates our being and saturates us and makes us “into his image” (a phrase that, alas, still doesn’t convey the depth of what he longs for).

How that happens is as unique and individual for each of us as each of our fingerprints, our histories, our entire make-up. To recreate any one of our lives in exactness would be an astronomical feat—and we are literally multiplied billions of uniquenesses. But that only reveals the incredible depths of the wisdom and knowledge of God, that he would create such a vast number of unique individuals with whom he longs to relate, and place them into an even vaster number of relationships, families, clans, tribes, and nations—all of whom he similarly longs to relate to on each level corporately. But it all starts on an individual level. Jesus did it alone, and he calls us to follow. He came to save the world, but he did it all starting only with himself as he grew in the specific unique relationships he was placed into, and fully accomplishing in a short 33 years, the epitome of what relationship with God is meant to look like.

What is required on our end? Nothing—and everything. Nothing, because we have to first recognize that the calling comes from outside us, and originates in the God who longs for relationship. Everything, because once we begin to answer that calling, it will indeed bring all other relationships and our very beings into the alignment we were created for, transforming us so radically that we may not even recognize ourselves. How it plays out is not our call—but it is our calling.

Relationship with God is Job One, and more. It is our very lives, our existence. Once we come alive in relationship with God, all else pales, and our hearts begin to cry with the saints through the ages, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” because the totality of what we are called into is so far beyond anything we can understand or assimilate. We cast our crowns at his feet because we don’t know what else to do. We are overwhelmed in the presence of One so much more than we are, and yet we are drawn, like moths to the flame, to the point of being consumed in him, losing our very awareness of a separate existence, like moments of such ecstasy and flow that nothing else matters.

And then those moments of rapture fade, and we come back into “reality”—but begin to realize that what we call reality is not the reality we long for. And so we keep coming back to him for more. As our spiritual hunger and thirst is slaked, it deepens, so that, paradoxically, we are more satisfied while at the same time hungrier and thirstier! And we come back again and again, and satisfaction deepens and the yearning for more intensifies.

And that is what he wants—for us to so long for him that nothing else matters. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, that is what we have wanted all along, maybe from the very moment of our conception and—who knows? (only God)—before!