Effort > Success

swim1He slapped at the water and flailed his way across the length of the pool. Kasen tried out for the Lake Jackson Swim Team back in May and didn’t make it. He just couldn’t breathe properly and struggled with swimming the required 25yd distance without a few dog paddles. It was the first time he didn’t immediately excel in a sport. He cried and didn’t understand why he didn’t make the team. He talked about quitting and giving up.

Miranda and I didn’t really mind the fact that he didn’t make it and I sort of thought, “Well, our summer won’t be consumed by swim meets.” However, when Kasen responded this way something inside me felt differently. I don’t want my kids to think it’s OK to just give up or quit when something is difficult. As a matter of fact, I really believe just the opposite. When something is hard and they have to work at it, I will be even more proud of them. Sometimes effort is more impressive than success. Success may be a result of effort, but the effort/struggle is what grows us and strengthens our character. I don’t want kids who are just successful. I want kids who know how to work and earn their success. Kids who understand that pushing themselves makes them stronger – makes them grow.

For the next 2 weeks, I drove Kasen to the pool every day after school. We hired another swim coach to work with him. (Thanks Andy!) We set goals and worked toward them. Some days went well. Others didn’t.

swim2After two weeks, he tried out again. He made the team. At the first meet in his very first race, he placed 1st in backstroke and got 1st place on his freestyle that day too! For the rest of the regular season, he was never beaten in backstroke. He didn’t have his best race, but still got 6th in the final State meet! For a kid who couldn’t swim the length of the pool only a few weeks earlier, I was really proud. Proud of his effort, not his success. Happy for success, but proud of effort.

Romans 5:3-4 – We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient.  And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady.” – The Message

PRAYER:
LORD, May this lesson follow Kasen throughout his life. Help him to remember to persevere. Help me to be an example to him of a hard worker, and as a man who doesn’t give up on things that are important, even when they are hard. Give us strength (physical, mental, and spiritual) to endure. Help us to recognize your presence with us and teach us to trust in your strength when we don’t feel like we can go on.

PS – This is why everyone loves the movie, “Rudy.” He was admired by his teammates for his effort – not his success. They were willing to sit out and make sacrifices for him because he was such a hard worker.

Better

treadmillMr Mahoney was an older man (maybe early 70s) who worked at Sears in the sporting goods department. He was always smiling and would be the first employee to jump on the treadmill and start running to demonstrate the product to his customers. I was in High School, but hoped I’d be active like him when I reached his age.

I didn’t work in sporting goods and so I had a pretty casual passing-in-the-stockroom-type  relationship with him. When I’d see him, I almost always said, “How’s it going?” He always answered, “Better.” I never really gave it much thought, but one day Mr Mahoney didn’t come to work and the word around the store was that he had been admitted to the hospital for some sort of cardiac treatment. We wondered if he’d ever return, but after a month or so, he did.

He didn’t really run on the treadmill like he had done before, and we all wondered if he’d be able to keep up with the job. As I passed him in the stockroom later that week, I greeted him with my usual “How’s it going?” As soon as it came out, I felt guilty, but his response was still the same. “Better.”

That particular day, we had a little more time and so he went on to explain that every day was better than the one before. Even if things were looking down or not going so well, he knew that he was a stronger man and would grow through whatever circumstances he endured. He knew that each day prepared him for the next and that he was a better man each and every day in spite of his circumstances.

I think I became a better man that day too.

Philippians 4:12b-13 “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…… I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Romans 5:3b-4 “….suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.”

The Bridge

Over the years, the valley had grown wider. All the storms (big and small) compounded and made it tough to traverse so . . . we built a bridge.

I had a great Spring Break! Miranda, Kasen, Kesleigh, and I spent the week in Livingston with our good friends (we consider them family) the Godbolds. We also got to spend time with the Bowles, Leitschuhs, and Dale Googer’s. It was incredible! We spent the week as bridge builders.

We built a bridge over a little creek on the property, but there were also other bridges built. Since the time we moved away from Tomball, we have felt separated from our friends, but bridges were built. I watched my children meet new friends and learn new things – bridges were built.

Bridges were built with discussions around the fire. They were built as we reminisced. They were built as we shared stories and laughed. More bridges were built as we sang old songs and even as we reflected in the silence.

Livingston – this place – the people it represents – the memories – all of it reminds me of who I am and challenges me to remember who I want to become. This is a bridge. Livingston is a bridge between my past and my future. I’m grateful for this bridge – for this place – for my friends – for my God.

The years had worn on them – torn the banks.

We built a bridge.

Livingston is a bridge.

I want my life to be a bridge.

Quote: Success includes Play

“If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.” – Albert Einstein

I love that Einstein includes “play” in his formula for success.

Play = work + play + keeping your mouth shut

I think our culture doesn’t value “play” enough. Although I’ve always believed play was important, as a father, I’m beginning to recognize it even more. My children are becoming who they are as they play. They learn how to interact with each other as well as how to interact with the world around them. When they play they develop their creative sides and grow their imaginations. They become inventors who search out solutions to problems and discover how things work.

If adults valued play more, I wonder how many would become innovators? If we “played” at our jobs instead of “working” at them, I believe our attitudes would be different and we’d even be more productive. We’d also have more friends at our workplaces.

If you’re interested, here’s another article I wrote on this subject: http://stevecorn.com/2008/03/play/ 

It just so happened. . .

Ruth
Check out Mark Driscoll's sermon series.

I’ve been studying the book of Ruth lately and it’s been speaking to me in huge ways. Here’s one way:

Ruth 2:3 says “it just so happened” that Ruth was in Boaz’s field. What??

“It just so happened” that Ruth decided to go glean in the barley fields.
“It just so happened” that the young single poor foreign girl was in the rich single Godly man’s field.
“It just so happened” that he came to his field that day.
“It just so happened” that he noticed her.
“It just so happened” that he had already heard of her sacrifices and her character.

Hmm. . .”it just so happened?” Really?? It was all accident??? I’m not buying it. I think there was something else going on. The original Hebrew language does too. God was at work. His invisible hand of providence was working overtime.

Here’s another story about the time I got my first full-time youth ministry job in Tomball.

“It just so happened” that I was realizing music education wasn’t my calling and knew I needed to find another path.
“It just so happened” that the choir director at my church signed me up to go to Choir Camp.
“It just so happened” that the choir camp people lost my registration and offered to let me stay if I would work with the elementary kids.
“It just so happened” that I was placed in a cabin with some kids from Tomball.
“It just so happened” that I worked with another adult from Tomball. (Susan Bryant)
“It just so happened” that Tomball needed a youth minister.
“It just so happened” that the pastor called me during my prayer time where I was seeking God’s guidance.

I can look back on the situation and see that God made “it just so happen. . .”

After Miranda and I come through the other end of this crazy insecure “not-sure-where-our-ministry-is” time in our lives, I’m sure we’ll use that same phrase. “It just so happened” that . . . . . I’m just wondering which moments we’ll be referring to when we say it? I’m keeping my eyes focused and my ears attentive – looking for God.

These are scary times. These are moments where we get the opportunity to exercise our faith. These are exciting times. These are times when I’m grateful for a God who works behind the scenes so that it can “just so happen.”


PS – If you’re interested, I’ll upload the commentary that I’ve been putting together on the book of Ruth sometime soon. I’ve got one more chapter to go.

A Quarter

Week 8 – Well, I guess I’m a quarter of the way now. Down to 227.5 lbs. I have lost 12.5 lbs of the 50 lbs that I need to lose – that’s a fourth of the way – 25%!! Since this is a lifestyle (and lifelong) change, and I’m only 9 weeks in, I figure I’m doing pretty well.

Last week was interesting. I didn’t eat well at all! I was on a mission trip with our youth and I ate anything and everything that I felt like eating. Sometimes (but not always) there were more healthy choices, but in general, I still just ate what I wanted. I knew that I was working hard and sweating like crazy on the work sites for large portions of the day, so my hope was that it would somehow balance out. Luckily, I was right. Even with the bad eating habits, I ended up losing another lb and a half. That puts me @ 227.5 lbs now. I wonder how much I would have lost if I had done well with the eating part too???

No pics this week – something is wrong with the camera. 🙁

Worship by Sweat

dustan
Dustan sweated through the make-up with the kids in Mexico.

I was exercising this morning and started thinking about an old friend of mine. Dustan Thrift was a “sweat worshiper.” He once said, “If I didn’t sweat then I didn’t worship.” We had been talking about worship in our small group and had decided that worship was simply “honoring God.” Hebrews 12 says that worship is “offering our bodies as living sacrifices.” Dustan had a real servant’s heart – he was the first guy to move chairs (or skate ramps) or do any physical labor that needed to be done in order for our ministries to run smoothly. He was an awesome guy to have around!

Anyway, today I was sweating as I exercised and realized that my sweat was actually worship. God has called us to be good stewards of the things He gives us and He gave me my body. That means that when I take care of it, I’m honoring Him – and that, my friends is worship!

Of course you can sweat to make things happen that honor other things too.That sweat is worship too – it’s just worshiping the wrong things.

Anyway, I just thought it was worth sharing. Each little droplet of sweat can be like an offering to God. Hmm. . . I wouldn’t want to be the one to collect that offering!!

PS – Today I’m gonna help a friend move. As I try honor God by helping my brother in Christ, I’m sure I’m gonna experience a little “sweat worship” myself.

Carry Your Cross Cartoon

This is a fun little cartoon that I received as an e-mail. It’s taken a few years to figure it out, but I finally know who the author is:

Dong Haeng – http://www.donghaeng.net/english/main.htmV

Luke 9:23; Matthew 16:24; and Mark 8:34 all tell of Jesus’ call for us to deny ourselves, carry our crosses, and follow Him. It’s too bad we want our crosses to be “light.” Matt Redman wrote a song (Way of the Cross on the album The Friendship and the Fear) with a lyric that says, “I’ve crafted myself a more comfortable cross.” Anyway, this cartoon reminded me of all of this stuff.

Play

Everyone seems to agree there are fewer true leaders in the world today than in any other previous generation. I wonder why? Here’s my BIG thought: I wonder if the lack of leadership is somehow connected to the lack of “play” in the world? Let me explain.

It’s has always been a pet-peeve of mine that kids today don’t know how to play. They are good at wasting time with TV or video games, but “play” is a whole different thing. You’ve gotta be creative to play. You have to use your imagination to play. (By the way, in the Scriptures, the very first characteristic God chooses to reveal to us about Himself is His creativity. Then He says we’re made in His image.) Play revolves around creating stories and scenes and situations. You’ve gotta be willing to look foolish if you’re gonna “pretend” anything – and what is play without pretending something? Remember when you used to play hide-n-seek. I remember imagining that I was the good guy who was hiding from the dreaded evil enemy. I remember playing football and pretending to be the radio announcer as the game winning touchdown was scored.  My parents didn’t look down on me for those days. They didn’t think I was foolish. They laughed and enjoyed my creativity. They encouraged my imagination. They imagined with me. In play, we learned about the world. We began to understand how it worked. We developed deep friendships – in some ways they were probably deeper relationships than our current ones.

What if leaders began to “play” more? What if they imagined and weren’t afraid of looking foolish? What we created a culture of “play” where everyone was a part of it and no one really felt intimidated to join in on the fun? When we “play,” we don’t have to feel insecure, ’cause it’s just for fun anyway. If we taught our children to play more (by playing with them) would their generation have more leaders? I think it would.

If our leaders were allowed to imagine more, dream more, how many of us would dream with them? If they were allowed to “play” with stuff until they figured it out, what new innovations would we have?

In his book “Soul Tsunami,” Leonard Sweet says:

He (Jesus) displayed a genius for never growing up. He didn’t have much use for work. In fact he attracted his disciples by calling them from work: ‘Let others work, even bury their dead. You follow me.’ (Matthew 8:18-22)

Ask someone born before 1964, “What do you do?” and you will find out where they work, what their title is, what they “do” for a living. Ask someone born after 1964, “What do you do?” and you are as likely to find out that they dirt-bike, mountain-climb, net-surf, sea-kayak – in other words, they define themselves more by “life-first” than “work-first” commitments. . . .

If you want to make a violin sing, do you “work” at it? No, you “play” a violin. It takes a lot of “practice,” but the “practice” leads to “playing” the instrument. I want my marriage to sing. That’s why my wife and I don’t “work” at our marriage; we “play” at our marriage.  . . I don’t want the Scriptures to “work” in my life; I want them to “play” in my life.

Erwin McManus says:

People don’t get “burn out” from too much work, but from not enjoying their work.

Anyway, leaders should learn to play and play hard – not just when they’re away from the office, but even while they’re in it. Work should never really be work – it should be enjoyable – going to the office should be like entering the playground where you are free to express yourself (within the boundaries) and imagine and create and dream and get others to join you in it all. When you leave, you might have some dirt to clean off, but you’re still excited about coming back to play again the next day.

PS – I have watched children and on the playground, it’s the ones who imagine and dream and are willing to look foolish who end up leading the other kids. Leaders play. Players lead.

Using my Gifts

Another assignment was to write about how we can more effectively use our gifts and God-given personality in our lives.

Family
I should begin playing guitar and singing more often around the house. Maybe even write some songs for Kasen. Miranda has been after me for years to play more often and specifically wants me to play for Kasen. I’ve just gotten lazy about getting the guitar out, so this is one area that I could easily make a change in.

Church
I use my gifts and talents all the time in church. I teach Bible Studies, lead groups, step out in faith on certain  projects, and I lead the congregation in worship on Sunday mornings with the musical abilities God has given me. My personality comes out in everything I do. I often wish I had more opportunities to teach outside of the youth program. I could certainly be more effective in using my gifts if I could arrange for some other people to help in the areas where I’m not gifted. This has been difficult, because volunteers are hard to come by, but I will make it my goal to find some help with attendance, finances, organizational/administrative stuff. This would free me to do the things I’m gifted in – looking into the future with faith, teaching, leading/training others, thinking creatively, etc.

Work
As a youth minister, church is my work.