Begin with the end in mind…

Stephen Covey wrote the words, “Begin with the end in mind.”

I remember very little of anything that he wrote before or after that statement. But those specific words, “Begin with the end in mind”, have remained with me since the day that I read them.

When I read these words, there was an instant understanding of their worth, an illuminating insight of their application, and a permanent change within my mind and spirit. It was one of those few moments in life when you intrinsically know that your eyes have been opened to a timeless and invaluable truth that will change everything that you do from that moment forward.

I use these words in all areas of my journey.

Allow me to rephrase that…I use these words in all areas of my journey in which I am capable.

These words are intended to be used as a plan. They are a strategy. They can be employed to assist me in the ordering of my thoughts, my goals, my decisions, and my processes. They can be employed to assist me in managing my emotions as I begin the journey towards “the end”. This strategy, however, is conditional. I must know where I want to go or what I want to do or what I hope to accomplish BEFORE I can use it.

Take child-rearing for example. How many parents have determined that the raising of their child(ren) will be intentionally purposed on particular long-term goals; such as, I want to raise an effective parent, I want to raise an effective spouse, I want to raise an effective citizen, I want to raise a life-long learner, and/or I want to raise a child of the faith? I don’t know the answer to that question. I can say, though, that I have determined that I am going to strive to be one of those parents.

So, if I have decided from the birth of my child that I am going to “begin with the end in mind”, and I have determined what “the end” (or ends) are going to be; what then? I commit to that. Come hell or high water, I commit myself to those ends. No matter the circumstance, the challenge, or the feeling, I strive towards that end (those ends).

I cannot describe the empowerment these words have brought to my journey as a believer, a learner, a husband, a parent, a minister, and a friend. They have been an anchor for me in the storms of life as I press forward and keep my eyes on the target. They have held my faith intact. They have affirmed me when no one else could.

These words are timeless. They are invaluable. They are, in my opinion, pointing us towards the real goal of this journey; to finish the race that is laid out before us. To press on, no matter the circumstance, and to receive the closing statement from The Word, “Well done.”

A Monday note about works…

Good morning child of God,
It is my hope that you are opening this in the morning. Why? Because it’s Monday. And though Sunday is technically the first day of the calendar week…our culture traditionally treats Sunday as an ending and Monday as a beginning. Even my Microsoft Outlook calendar currently has Saturday/Sunday squeezed into one square block on the calendar while Monday through Friday are large and amply supplied with space for noting and organizing my tasks, appointments, etc.
Monday is the launch pad for our week’s destination and goals. Most of us set out on our personal journeys to face our schedules and tasks on Monday. Dependent upon your role at home or the office (or both), you either create your own goals and tasks or they are created for you. Or if you’re like me, it’s a combination of the two. Suffice it all to say, Monday is where “work” begins for most of us and we are going to occupy the greater part of our time on those particular days accomplishing the “works” that are there to be done.
No matter how your week is reflected, you and I both will invest a considerable part of our lives in “works” this week. Our jobs/roles provide the purpose and goals for the use and investment of our time on any given day, week, or month.
Ponder this verse with me:
We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Now, did you catch all of the information that is in that one verse of holy Scripture? If you did, does it make you look any differently at your calendar? Your goals? Your “works”? Look again.
-‘You are God’s workmanship.’
‘-You are created in Christ Jesus to do good works.’
‘-God prepared good works in advance for you to do.’
Earlier, I called you a “child of God”. That is significant. You are no longer a child of this world. If you find the time today, read the entire 2nd chapter of Ephesians. It speaks of this exact thing prior to the verse I have noted in this email. If you don’t have your Bible at work, visit this site: www.blueletterbible.org. It is a great resource that I use often.
As you go about your “work week”, remember that you are the workmanship of God. He imagined you, sketched you, built you, created you, and He did so with specific works in mind for YOU. He did it in advance. There is a God-made calendar for your day, your week, your year, your life.
When Hewlett Packard places its workmanship on the shelves of Circuit City, we know what the purpose of the product is. We read the place card or the specs on the box, etc. and we know the “works” for which this product was made. In general ways, we are the same. We are a product. And we have our own spec sheet. Spend a moment today reflecting on your day, your week, and your life. Speak to your Designer. Ask Him what He has for you to do. It is noted on His calendar and He will be pleased to share it with you.
In closing, remember that this world as we know it now is fading away each passing day. It is similar to a sand castle and the tide is rising. It is temporal.
You are a citizen of the world to come! It is eternal. Praise God!
Be about the works of God as you continue to walk your current path. There is a way to work and live on this planet that invests in the world that is coming.
We are blessed to know Him,
Jason

 

Just another day…

My beginning portion…

The alarm sounded at 6:00 AM. Another day had begun.

I stumbled to the bathroom, nearly blinded by sleep and darkness, and hit the on/off button on the white iPod/radio alarm clock set beside my sink. I considered my form in the mirror…hair messy, light stubble on my face (do I need to shave this morning? Maybe not.), that extra “10 pounds” that I loathe. I turned to head towards Ellis’ bedroom. It was time for him to begin his day, as well.

“Get up Ellis. It’s time to get ready for school. Go brush your teeth and put on your clothes. Okay? Okay?”

“Yes, sir.”, a groggy and unaware, yet obedient, reply.

“You’re a good boy.”

I head back to the bathroom I vacated earlier.

This morning routine is unattractive, devoid of reflection, and is tightly timed. There is no room for stray distractions. Get up, turn alarm clock off, get Ellis up, tell him he’s a good boy (why I do this every morning, I have no real insight nor the time to think about it), get a shower, dress for my morning workout, pack a gym bag with clothes that are appropriate for the day’s upcoming events, go downstairs, collect my office bag, get Ellis in the truck, head for the parking lot to catch the bus before 7. Monday through Friday with rare exception.

My office portion…

A vocalist is waiting for me to let her into the office so that she can download some worship music she will be learning for services. We exchange pleasant conversation.

I enter my office with gym bag and office bag in hand. I open my laptop lid, log into the network, quickly check email, look for ways to post our church’s worship songs on-line for singers and band members, and head to the gym.

I run 4-miles with a friend. We discuss church, politics, our wives, church, and the Second-coming of Christ. Wow, was I working out hard enough if I could discuss all that AND run 4 miles?

I head back to the office. There is a meeting on my schedule for 10:00 with my drama director and an actor from our drama team. I have about an hour before that meeting. I continue my on-line search for ways to make our songs available to our musicians through web.

The meeting hour arrives. The three of us meet in the WD conference room to discuss ways to improve our actors’ skills. It was a good meeting. Hopefully it will result in something good and useful.

From that meeting, I head to a meeting I was not expecting. In this meeting, I am less than hopeful. It is a meeting regarding the use of our drama and dance teams. Without going into detail, suffice it to say, I serve a conservative Southern Baptist church led by conservative Southern Baptist pastors. Dance + Drama + Southern Baptist Church = meeting(s).

The rest of the day has been uneventful. Lunch with a friend at Olive Garden. A meeting with the choir manager. All good.

My ending portion…

I have not executed this portion as of this writing. But I would guess that it will consist of helping Ellis with homework, watching a few episodes of “Frasier”, maybe posting some pictures on-line from my recent trip to Hong Kong, and then to bed as I await the 6:00 AM bell that signifies another day.

 

Happy Birthday to my wife…

Dear Vince,
I know you’re thinking, “Jason has lost his mind” as you read
this.  But after 13 years of serving (and surviving) the church and 11
years of marriage (plus 2 years dating), I feel led to take a moment
right now, stop serving the congregation for about 3 minutes, and give
thanks to and for you.
Today is the annual recognition of your first birth.  I thank God
for that.  I thank God for you.  I thank God that He placed you in my
life just shortly before calling me to serve His church.  I thank God
that I was present for your second birth in Boone, NC.  I thank God
for the lessons He has taught me through your patience, through your
tenacity, and through your strength.
While we have journeyed and served together through many and
varied circumstances in the church, in our home, in our community, and
in our families, you have been a faithful wife, an honest friend, and
a loving mother.  You have brought a richness to my mental, emotional,
and spiritual life.  You have served as a refuge to me when times were
tough and you have served as a motivating force when my inspiration
was low or my thinking off-center.
I personally do not believe that everyone in marriage ends up
selecting the spouse of God’s choosing.  However, for several reasons
none of which I will share in this note, but all of which you and I
are aware, I do believe He ordained our marriage.  My life and our
ministry would be entirely different without you as a part.  You
define “help mate”.
So, to a portion of the congregation that we serve, I wanted to
publicly say to the one that gets little to no recognition, “Happy
Birthday!  I love you!  I thank God for you!”.

Your biggest fan,
Jason
 

 

 

 

Buddy Freeman…blessed are the peacemakers

 

On Sunday, April 15, my step-father, Buddy Freeman, died.  His passage from this life into the next was as peaceful as many could hope for themselves.  He slipped willingly from wakefulness, to sleep, and from sleep, silently into peace.

Buddy married my mother, Pam, 8 years ago.  She met him after surviving a dark and dangerous relationship with her first husband.  Buddy met her after surviving the excruciating loss of his first wife to cancer.

The resulting marriage of Buddy and Pam brought  meaning  back to Buddy’s life and it broke bondages within my mother’s.  Buddy was able to turn the tide that was threatening to wash away the small potential for happiness remaining in my mother.  My mother was able to defeat an oppressive loneliness in Buddy.  In eight too short years, two people were able to help each other to a place of peaceful, simple contentedness.

Buddy, though you will be terribly missed during my visits with Mama at the house; I will always remember you for the fact that you left that house in an order it had never known.  And in doing so, you turned a structure that had previously hidden shame into a structure that embodies warmth, fellowship, and good life.

God bless you, Buddy.  May you rest in the same peace that you lived and created.

 

Betrayal…

My nemesis, Betrayal, and I have met again.

Merriam-Webster defines betrayal as:

1 : to lead astray;
2 : to deliver to an enemy by treachery
3 : to fail or desert especially in time of need
4 a : to reveal unintentionally <betray one’s true feelings> b to disclose in violation of confidence
intransitive verb : to prove false

I cannot fully describe the resulting emotional roller-coaster.  It has consumed my thoughts, my energy, my days, and my nights.  It’s arrival during this season of my life was prophesied to me in January.  I could see its impending arrival a little over a month ago.  I tried to avoid experiencing it by seeking truth but the blind spouse of Betrayal is Trust.  I chose to hold onto her.

Betrayal’s wound hurts deeply because it attacks the one thing we hold onto so strongly; trust.  I know this feeling of grief will pass.  And, I will be the stronger for it.

My hope is that I will not fear to trust nor trust to fear.  If I do, Betrayal has won.

 

The Goldilocks Worshipper…Consumer Church

We’re all familiar with Goldilocks and the three bears.  The little girl enters a vacated home and begins to look for things that fit her tastes.  She finds the dinner table set for a family of three.  She decides she’s hungry and begins to partake in a meal not prepared for her.  She finds one bowl of porridge too hot, one bowl of porridge too cold, and the final bowl of porridge just right.  Once her appetite was satisfied, she begins to explore the home.  During her exploration she finds chairs and beds, too big, too small, too hard, too soft, and just right.  You know the rest.

This little story struck me recently as I was reviewing congregational feedback which I receive on occassion.  The comment cards stated things such as, “The music was too loud.”  Or, “The music was too soft.”  And, yes, “The music was good today.”

Though I am a big proponent for designing worship that is relevant to the culture, I am tempted to ask myself if the pursuit of relevancy carries the risk of feeding the self-centered ego of human nature.  Have we raised up a group of Goldilocks worshippers in Christ’s church?  Do our worshippers enter the house looking for their tastes and desires to be satisfied?

In some versions of the little story, Goldilocks was chased from the home of the bears.  In other versions, Goldilocks was eaten by the bears.  In either case, the bears were angry to have found their premises and possessions used for selfish reasons.

I have to wonder if we ever tire of leading lives that produce little else than empty porridge bowls, used chairs, and unmade beds rather than lives that display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?