Thursday, July 16, 2015

Did you miss the big news? Did you catch the latest breaking story?

One of my all-time favorite columnists, Russell Baker, won a Pulitzer Prize for his autobiography, "Growing Up," but he's best remembered for writing satirical commentary and self-critical prose for the New York Times. Twenty summers ago he wrote a particularly biting column I've never forgotten. It was his gut-wrenching epiphany after returning to work post-vacation. 

Even though Russell Baker was a professional news junkie, he went cold turkey for the duration of his vacation. He didn't touch a newspaper, listen to radio, watch TV, or go online for three full weeks. His first morning back at the office, Russell buried himself for two hours all the newspapers he hadn't had an opportunity read yet. His searingly honest conclusion? "Little of consequence really happens in three weeks."

Those are rather sobering words in this day and age of instant communications. If you stop and look critically at any number of national news sources, it's amazing how much of what's hyped as news is quite trivial. Much has almost nothing to do with real life.

Russell Baker retired years ago, but I've never forgotten his alarming revelation. It's why I often ask myself, "Is anything I'm doing of consequence?" Thankfully, I often answer in the affirmative, but that's because I'm in a leadership role that's a good fit for my life passion, which is showing the relevance of Jesus Christ in each major sphere of life (Athletics, Business, Church, Education, Literature, Music, Nonprofits, etc.). 

Of course, not every job offers such opportunities, which is why I've happily commuted 2.5 hours to/from work daily for the past four years. Then again, we're moving from Portland to Salem two weeks from Saturday. What will I do with 2.25 extra hours daily? Anything of consequence? I honestly don't know. The best I can say, at this point, is I hope so. I honestly hope so... 

Monday, July 6, 2015

With the End in Mind

Marty Trammell, Ph.D., Chair, Humanities, Corban University.
Marty and I have been good friends since we were 12 years old.
Our promise? To always follow Jesus Christ and finish well. 
I’ve found it helpful to meditate on Kempis’s hauntingly beautiful question, “How do you want to meet God?”

Thomas à Kempis’s first book, The Imitation of Christ, especially the closing three chapters, speaks of the importance of beginning with the end in mind. That is, think deeply and often when alone about the day of your death.

To do this, not once, but as a habit of life, in union with several others, creates a sense of excitement and mission about all that we do. Our thoughts, feelings, energy, and choices matter.

Yet how many never give serious thought to the end of their life? Oh, they think they do so—they give thought, often excessively, to the way they would like to finish their years in some supposedly blissful retirement. Then, they tell themselves, I’ll do what I really want—live in a nice home, travel, write, invest, whatever. Yes, we must wait for all good things. But why wait until the end of life, when the body is frail and the mind may not be as sharp?

One woman, whose husband’s health was failing rapidly, lamented to my wife and me: “He promised we’d travel the world together after he retired. We’ve taken only one trip, and now he can hardly walk” and would soon be gone. Her sorrow over all that might have been shook me.

Ever since, I’ve made no apology of spending time with my wife, traveling, a day here, two days there, a week in southern Florida, two weeks in Europe, additional weeks trekking in the Alps, the Amazon, the Andes, the Sahara desert, the ever planning (not just dreaming) of traveling together again. We may not traverse the whole planet before my health is gone, but my wife won’t be able to say we didn’t try, throughout our life, not just at the end.

The same goes for other dreams, goals, desires—if they’re part of our mission, our life’s adventure, I see no reason to wait (until it’s almost too late) to go after them, heart and soul.

Pity the person who never decides to live, whose chief excitement is daydreaming, who never dares to passionately pursue his or her plans now, today, this year, the next five years, before it’s too late and our family and friends lament what might have been.