Thursday, January 29, 2015

It Would Be Easier....

“lest hand or courage be dulled by disuse…”
Augustine – Confessions

There are times when it would be easier to do little or nothing.  There are times when it would seem easier to do just enough to keep from getting in trouble, just enough to pass the class, just enough to keep the job and nothing more.  It would be great to come in exactly at 8:00 and leave exactly at 5:00.  There are times when it would be nice to watch TV or play an online game or surf the Internet instead of working on one’s Purpose.  More specifically, and more personally, there are times when it would seem easier if the Muse hadn’t selected me to do what she asks me to do.
It would seem easier…but it’s not.  It never is.  It’s less effortful, but it’s not easier.  To ignore my Muse makes my life harder.  To ignore her means to ignore the possibilities that life offers.  To ignore her means to ignore – and miss – opportunities for a better, happier, fuller life.
Forget easy.  There’s no such thing.  What there really is, is a choice, to pay now or pay later.  Paying now can be less convenient, take more effort and planning, and force us to stay focused.  But it also creates a sense of joy and enthusiasm.  Tonight, for example, I worked on something for work, that I absolutely did not have to do.  And it’s possible that no one will appreciate what I’ve done.  I worked on it when I didn’t have to do so.  And as I did so, I felt joy, enthusiasm, and an excitement for my work that I haven’t felt in a while.
The principle of paying now is very simple, very basic, not original with me, and stated more effectively elsewhere.   Sir Isaac Newton says that bodies at rest tend to stay at rest.  But too much rest becomes ennui, apathy, and entropy.  Eventually, it becomes a spiritual, emotional, or physical death. 
Here’s a very simple way to look at it.  When I get home at night, I have some choices to make.  I can put my clothes away or drop them on the floor.  I can wash the dishes or leave them in the sink.  I can get the morning coffee ready or I can do it in the morning.  Whatever I delay eventually has to get done.  Otherwise I create stress, more stress than if I just do it now.  I also create a disorderly environment and this wears on me after a while.  I have more tolerance for disorder than some (translation:  I’m a bit of a mess sometimes), but sooner or later my soul requires order.  It’s always better when it’s sooner.
So we write or work or create when we don’t have to, when it’s not always convenient or (initially) easy.  Eventually, our lives revolve around this, because it is the reason we are here, or at least one of the reasons.  The ability to Get Started and to Keep Going is one of the reasons I’m here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Am I on the Right Path?

“Am I on the right path?”
            This is a difficult, if not impossible, question to answer.  Whether one is looking at faith, career choices, education, or personal choices, there always seems to be room for doubt.   Have we made the right choice or choices?  Are we doing the right thing?  I don’t mean morally right, but the most correct and most direct way to reach our goal or goals.  For that matter, have we even chosen the correct goal?  In Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy says we are drowning in a sea of good choices.  And even if we do choose the correct way, have we chosen the correct way of reaching it?  Here are some other questions to make things more complicated.
Why do I want this?
Is the reason for wanting what I want valid?
Why is this taking so long?
Are there signs that tell me if I’m doing the right or wrong thing?
What do I do when two people I trust have different opinions about my goals?
Why do some people seem to be immediately successful while others struggle for months and years and some never seem to find success at all?
Why is it so hard sometimes?
I don’t have the answers to all these questions, but I have some guidelines that have helped me.   These are guidelines not rules.
First, how does it feel to have that goal?  Does it feel good?  Does it create enthusiasm, a sense of direction, and peace all at the same time?  For example, when I think about my house on the beach and what I want in it, I feel all of those things.  It’s not just the house itself, but what it represents to me – the culmination of all my current goals and the beginning of new goals.  
I have often used my initial feelings to help me clarify what I want and don’t want.  If, without thinking, I feel excitement for something, it’s probably worth pursuing.  On the other hand, if the idea makes me cringe then, though I might try to talk myself into trying to feel otherwise, it’s probably not a good idea.
Another indicator is the ability to deal with difficulties that arise on the way to reaching a goal.  Difficulties can be indicators that we have chosen the wrong path.  Or they may be tests of our resolve.  What am I willing to endure in order to reach my goal?  How long am I willing to wait?  How much time will I put in?  What am I willing to give up? 
In the book of Job, after the title character was hit with more troubles in one day than most of us will experience in a lifetime, including financial ruin, health problems, and the death of all his adult children, Job’s “comforters” said his troubles were a sign of God’s displeasure.  God was indeed displeased – with the simplistic thinking of Job’s friends, but not with Job himself.
On the other hand, troubles can be a way to cause us to seek God and the right path.  After 9/11 church attendance went up significantly…for a while anyway.  I knew a man who had trouble finding work for several months.  One day he went to his pastor and his pastor told him that he had strayed from God and needed to start walking in faith again.  This rang true for the man and he started reading his Bible again.  Three days later he got a job. 
Normally a story like that would drive me crazy, because it’s too pat and too simplistic, but sometimes the answers really are very simple.  Sometimes.
Even good events aren’t always signs of being on the right path.   Once, when I thought I was supposed to go to China to teach English as a missionary, I got a postcard from a student in China saying they needed American teachers.  This card came the very next day after making the decision to go.  This was, to me, a sure sign that God wanted me to go.  How could it be otherwise?  Things turned out differently.  The missions group that was pursuing me so enthusiastically suddenly stopped calling.  I finally had to call them to find out that they didn’t want me after all, and I never really knew why.  I know now that this rejection may have been best, but it was confusing and painful at the time, especially because the signs seemed so clear.
Other people aren’t always helpful either.  A decision to move forward in life can create different responses from those we love. We assume that our closest friends want the best for us, but when two close friends have opposite responses, it can be confusing at best and painful at worst. 
In the end, my final decision comes down to just that – a decision.  I decide that to take a certain path and to not deviate from it, no matter what.  So, despite fear, doubt, less support than I’d like (but the right support from the right people), despite waiting, despite a busy schedule, troubles, or fatigue, I Get Started and I Keep Going.  I still want my house on the beach.  I still want to spend my life with my Muse.  This is what feels right, and though I have had troubles, they haven’t felt like signs of God’s disapproval.  They have felt like tests of character and resolve.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Requirements of Purpose

If you have chosen a goal, to be an artist, a writer, to get a promotion, to buy a house on the beach, to be a better parent, or anything that will make life better for you and for those around you, the following is required:
A clear, concrete, and developing visualization of goals
Written goals
The ability to choose what is necessary in order to reach your goals
The ability to eliminate or reduce what is not
Daily attention
A schedule
Attention to detail
Supportive relationships
The ability to be alone
More studying
Control of your emotions
An ordered outer world
An even more ordered inner world
The ability to politely, yet firmly say “no” to just about everything that doesn’t align to stated goals
The ability to take anything and make it part of your work
The ability to discipline your thought life
Still more studying
Dealing with distractions as quickly, kindly, and as effectively as possible
A sense of fellowship for others who are doing their work
Compassion for those who aren’t
Reliance on God
Love for your work
And yet more studying
Peace, outer when possible, inner as much as possible
A mentor or mentors
The ability to accept or ignore criticism
The ability to accept or ignore being ignored
Still a little more studying
The determination to do your work even if you don’t have all of the above
The ability to Get Started and to Keep Going.

Friday, January 23, 2015

I'm a Prince

“Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the children of God.” 

1 John 3:1

Today has been…. What?  A challenge?  Difficult?  I’m not sure what the word is, but I also know that whichever word I choose has a lot to do with what I focus on now.  In the end, things were resolved.  That makes it wonderful. 
Here are some more wonderful things:
·      I have the app on my phone that plays the sounds of rain and thunder and classical music.
·      I have books to read.
·      I have quiet and a good working environment.
·      I have my health.

And here’s the best news:
I’m a prince. 
That’s right.  A prince.
The son of a King.
I am a son of God.
Not the Son of God.  I’m not Jesus. 
But I’m a son of God.  And so is everyone else who wants to be.  Everyone else can be a son or daughter of God.  We can all be princes and princesses. 
This doesn’t make me better or smarter.  It just makes me more responsible.  Authority and power are not given to the weak, the fearful, or the lazy…not for long, anyway.  Authority and power, when given by God, is a sign of His trust and love.  But, it is, as I said, a responsibility.  I have, we all have, a responsibility to use the gifts we are given.  My Muse puts it like this:
“I’m sorry, but you don’t have any option.”
She has said this to me many times.
What does it mean? 
Does it mean I have to write?
Does it mean working when I get home from work and on weekends? 
Does it mean always thinking about how to do more and how to be more?  
Does it mean that my time really isn’t my own?  
Does it mean my life really isn’t my own?       
Actually, yes, it means all those things.
I have often said it is fear that drives me to keep writing, and it’s true that I struggle with the fear of giving up.  But more accurately, it is compulsion that drives me.  I don’t feel like I have any other choice.  The good news is that I don’t want or need any other choice.  I’m happy to be here writing, fulfilling part of my Purpose on this planet…because I’m a prince.
What does it mean to be a prince or a princess?
Besides fulfilling the royal calling we have been given, it means that our behavior, our words, and our attitudes should always be that of someone with a high calling.  It means being held to a higher standard.  It doesn’t mean sitting in a castle and looking at others from afar.  It means being with others so that your example can be seen.  But here’s the thing:  we are supposed to behave, think, and speak like royalty, but we’re not supposed to announce it.   Our royalty is a secret.  Here’s why:
First, no one will believe us.  We will appear ridiculous at best and insane at worst.  When Dan Akroyd said, “We’re on a mission from God,” in the movie, The Blues Brothers, people just laughed.  It was meant to be funny.  Yet, it was the truth.  It’s the truth for us, too.  We are on a mission from God, but this mission is so important, that He would only entrust His children with it.
Second, our royalty is not the most important thing.  Our mission is.
Sadly, not everyone chooses to embrace his or her royalty or responsibility.  It’s not my job to judge those people, but I think they’d be happier if they did embrace their destiny. 
So, though today had some difficulties, they have passed, as all difficulties do.  What hasn’t passed is my Purpose.  It won’t pass until I get a new assignment.  So for now, I Get Started and I Keep Going.  I’m on a royal mission.  I look like an ordinary person, but I’m a prince.  No one has to know that, but I cannot allow myself to forget it.