Friday, November 30, 2007

Two Houses

Probably the most unwelcome interruption in life is a funeral, hopefully not our own. This unscheduled event is not without benefits however. In fact, it always provides a much needed jolt in perspective. The world is quickly passing away along with all the things that so easily consume us. No wonder our lives are compared to withering grass and short lived vapors.

A funeral forces us to focus just for a moment on the eternal, before returning to fast-paced often temporal pursuits. The house of mourning has a way of readjusting our attitudes and priorities. Sobriety and reflection suddenly replace our eat-drink-and-be-merry mindset. We tend to walk away wiser.

Ecclesiastes contrasts two houses. Note the more profitable one. "It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning: but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."

The advice of Solomon is to consider our behavior in light of life's brevity. "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Moses also reflected in Psalm 90, "Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Spying pen

Saw an add on craigslist for a ball point pen the other day, but no ordinary pen. It looks innocent enough, but it comes with a hidden camera able to see in detail up to 30 feet, or was it 300? It is also able to take video and relay it to wherever. Security when out of the room evidently. Some gift idea, sort of! When no one else is there, the pen sees.

The hidden camera concept reminded me of our responsibility to give an accounting of our stewardship to the One who sees at all times. We may pause to think twice about being viewed on security cams, but how much more to consider Him who said "nothing is hidden that shall not be revealed." "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good."

Monday, November 19, 2007

A really bad elevator ride

Imagine yourself at the county court house. You're expected to appear before the judge as he is requiring from you an accounting of some important information. You definitely want to make a good impression.

As you enter the building and step onto the elevator, you are joined by several people. They are then forced to listen while you begin to complain about the great inconvenience of your appointment. Furthermore you begin to unload every criticism you have ever had about this particular judge with his many harsh verdicts. The ride to the judge's floor seems to take forever. All the while you don't cease voicing your dissatisfaction with your lot in life, as if somehow everything is the judge's fault. The more you vent, the angrier you become.

The elevator door finally opens and your captive audience goes their way, certainly glad not to have to hear anymore of your rants. Then as you approach the place of your appointment, you suddenly notice to your horror that the man standing at your side in the elevator just a moment ago is the judge you are scheduled to meet! Your incriminating words are history, and their damage has been done. It's too late to retrieve them, for they have been heard by the judge himself.

"The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. Therewith bless we God, and therewith curse we men." (James 3:6,9)

"Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door." (James 5:8,9)

"Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." (II Cor. 5:9,10)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Career in Perspective

Any career in the fast lane demands total commitment. Excellence always requires time, energy and the eliminating of competing interests. Sacrificing for success is part of what defines it. The problem is balance, priorities and perspective. Crossing the finish line isn't the only assignment, and winning the prize isn't everything.

Once we have found our lane we tend to go all out and press for that mark with eyes only on the goal. The thinking is "People don't care if Jack is a dull boy. His work made him what he is, and it is worth every sacrifice!" Well, Jack happens to be who he is, and he is not his work. Not only is Jack greater than his work, but he is also more important. The quality of a person will define his work, not the reverse. Hard to grasp is the idea that the better the person is, the better his work will be.

In the obsession to achieve success, we must realize that the most successful and fulfilled competitors have been running in more than one lane for a long time. Life does exist outside of universities, office buildings, practice rooms and concert halls. Each facet of life has its race, and the success of one part is dependant upon the success of the others. A career is a long time to have only one focus. Fulfillment seems to involve giving our best to all that has been put before us.

It's Not So Far Away

That job we set our sights on as college freshmen seems a lifetime away. Still emotionally in high school, we don't realize the importance and brevity of 4 or 6 years of study. Once the excitement of our "freedom" wears off, we see the reality of that job market looming closer. It seems to gain speed as it races in our direction. What is done in preparation now has a huge impact on our effectiveness after graduation. It all matters.

Looking back just eight years or so, it was Suzuki violin, piano lessons, the odd trumpet lesson, playing together as a family on occasions, recitals and the usual agenda in junior and high school grades. Then some extra private lessons, summer music excursions, chamber music opportunities, and before we knew it an audition for Curtis and Cleveland Institute. Almost over night we left behind boyhood, and saw a competitor fast getting ready for some terrific opportunities.

Then in just a couple of days it all changed. The horizon suddenly jumped miles closer. Next year was college! Bills began, along with many "classrooms." Those classrooms were much more than academic. Such is growth. Life is more than the practice room and the concert stage. Preparation for that had also begun years before. As was mentioned by a good friend to his son, "You're the ship we have been building. Now we're sending you out to sea to see if you can float." Gee thanks, Dad!

Fast forward in a blur just 4 years plus a couple of months and that future job horizon is here! The little fellow spilling cereal on purpose and improvising improvements to those Suzuki songs is now ready to leave college to take his first job in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra viola section. After being one of the top 2, Wes played one week with them and was selected to take up his belongings and assume his first job beginning this May.

We blink, and it all changes so fast. We can't control the approaching horizon, but we can do our best to prepare.