The Wisdom We Seek

Wisdom We SeekThe older I have become the more I have realized that aging is not really a bad thing.  More importantly, I have realized more and more that many people we would classify as “old people” have a lot more wisdom than we would sometimes like to give them credit for.  Sadly, this realization seems to never come when we are young enough to benefit from it.  Perhaps it has only been a reality in my life, but I can look back on several moment in my life and think to myself, “Hmmm… if I would have only heeded [insert “old person’s” name]’s advice then I would not be in this awful situation.”  Sadly, it seems like we need life to kick the crap out of us in order to get a clue.

Remember being young and thinking about how much a plague it is to get old.  I mean, old people were so lame, and out of touch with reality, and for heaven’s sake they had no idea what it was like to be a modern day young person in this generation!  Therefore, anything they had to say to us was stupid, and at the very least warranted a massive eye roll.

Many of us might read this and think this obviously applies to our kids.  After all, if you have kids then you have countless stories of all the times they have disregarded your advice because they thought they knew better.  However, there are still plenty of times that we are still guilty of this.  The older I get, and the more continuing education I acquire the more I have learned one thing in particular… you could fill numerous Grand Canyons with amount of information I do not know.  I would like to consider myself a smart person, however, there is still a lot that I do not know, and many things I have little to no experience with.  Because of that I have grown to learn that when I inquire about things from people who have “been there and done that” it usually ends up working out better than when I try to figure things out for myself.

For example, I love my wife and I desire to be married to her for the rest of my life.  I know that marriage takes a great deal of work to ensure that it flourishes.  While I have read numerous books on marriage, I still went to quite a few older couples that have been together for many decades asked them, “How you guys make it work?”  I knew that hypothetical knowledge could not replace experiential understanding that I did not have.  This is also true for pretty much everything else.  Of course age does not guarantee wisdom, but there are still several people older than us that know more than we do about things we are super ignorant about.  Tap into that resource while it is still available to you.

I Had a Secret

I Had a Secret
What’s the hardest thing you have ever done? For me the answer is simple… it was a conversation I had with my wife. About 5 dates into our relationship we were already both very confident that we would marry each other. Because of this I mentioned on that particular date that I want for us to have a talk at some point in the future before we were married where we confessed everything about ourselves to one another so that we did not enter marriage with any secrets. In my mind when I brought this up I had no specific date of when I thought this should happen so I guess I had it set as a hypothetical undetermined date. What my wife said next kind of shocked me… she asked if we could go ahead and have that conversation at that point. So much for that hypothetical future date!

What followed was hands down the hardest talk I have ever had with another human being. While I am not the worst of people, and had nothing overly villainous to confess I still have things about my past that I am ashamed of, I regret, and I did not really want anyone else to know about. Also, while I know I am not defined by my mistakes, let me tell you, to do a rundown of all the things I wish I had never done was pretty brutal. At one point I felt like I was playing right into the devil’s hands where I was willingly condemning myself. I felt so bad while doing this that I broke down and began to weep uncontrollably.

However, on the other side of that talk I felt liberated. Two things happened in that moment that moved me from “hardest things I’ve ever done” to “the most free I’ve ever felt.” I got to listen to my future bride say that the things I just confessed did not matter, and that she forgave me because she knows that is not who I am anymore. Also, I got a real tangible picture of how Jesus feels about me. To be His means that regardless of how bad your sin is His grace covers it all. It was the weirdest transition from feeling terrible to feeling liberated in a matter of moments.

The point I hope I am making with all of this is that secrets within marriage are terrible! I wish I could confess to you that after that conversation with my wife I have never been tempted to keep a secret from her. Unfortunately, that temptation still rears its ugly face. It is hard work to fight against it, but knowing that we are completely open in our marriage helps us trust one another and stay close and strong. I know we are not perfect at it, but I also know there are a lot of couples that hold fast to secrets, and it pains me to see that do damage in their marriage. I encourage you to have hard conversations and rid your marriage of secrets.

Happy Father’s Day

Father and Son

Note this was written earlier this week by Jeff, I’ve been out of town and didn’t set up my posts! Megan Lee

Father’s Day is just around the corner. I feel like for better or for worse the significance of this day is heavily affected by our personal biases we have acquired as result of our relationship with our individual fathers.

Translation:

Good Dad = Yay Father’s Day!

Not so Good Dad = Meh… just another Sunday

Now, I could use this space to go into an illustration of how my father and I historically did not have the greatest of relationships, and therefore Father’s Days were always kind of awkward (and truthfully if this were a few years I would probably do just that). However, this year’s Father’s Day is going to be different, and it is forcing me to have a totally new perspective. Exactly one week before I stood on a stage in front a couple hundred of my closest friends to marry my beautiful wife, I stood on a different stage in front a different crowd of people to deliver a sermon of remembrance at my father’s funeral. Talk about a roller coaster of emotion over a week’s time

I cannot talk about my relationship between my father and I without confessing the reality that we did not have the greatest of relationships. As I got older this is something that always bothered me, and this frustration was only aggravated by failed attempts to repair our damaged relationship. Fortunately, my father and I were making great strides in reconciling our relationship at the time of his passing, but there are times where I am left wondering what could have been if we would have worked harder at making our relationship better. If anything, the whole point I am trying to make is that being on the other “what if” is not pleasant. When you are left with nothing but regret and doubt it does not do anything to assuage the soul. If you have a great dad, tell him just how great he is and how much you love him. If you have an opportunity to make things right with your dad, then I implore to seize that opportunity while you still can. Life is precious, and so is your dad!

Happy Father’s Day everyone

Communication

Communication

In the movie White Men Can’t Jump, the two main characters get into a philosophical discussion about one of the character’s inability to hear certain music even though he really enjoys listening to it.  The argument that is presented is that presented is that just because he is “listening” to the music does not mean he is “hearing” it properly.  The argument is lost on the receptor because in his mind he does not discern any distinguishable difference between hearing and listening because they define the receiving of an auditory message.

I bring that illustration up because I think in one sense the writers of that script were on to something.  However, when it comes to the the way we communicate with each other I believe the above scenario has it backwards.  I think we are really good at hearing things that are said to us, but perhaps listen to what was said and interpret it correctly is where we all fall short.  If we were to define communication I think we would all have a general sense of the process and be able to explain it well.  That is why when I share this upcoming definition of communication you might read it and think to yourself, “Duh… obviously!”

How would you define communication?  Dr. John Trent, president and founder of StrongFamilies.com says it is a process that is best understood and analyzed in its 5 parts:

  1. a message from on person or group
  2. is sent in verbal or written form
  3. to another person or group
  4. who receives the message
  5. and understands its meaning in a certain way

Do you agree or disagree with his analysis?  Was it similar to your definition?  So, what do I want us to do then?  Good question… instead of just reading the definition and saying “Yes, I know that” think of a time where you have had a miscommunication (with your spouse, parents, siblings, friends, boss, co-worker, customer, etc.).  Think about that time and try to locate where in the spectrum of communication there was a breakdown.  If I had to guess, I would say that the miscommunication happened in step 5.  People say things to us all the time.  We hear/receive those messages all the time.  However, the mishaps in communication happen when we understand the sender’s message incorrectly.  I submit to you that this happens when we fail to fully engage and listen to what is being said to us.  I think all too often we, for numerous reasons, just assume that we know what the other person is trying to say, and therefore we do not bother to understand outside of what we want to understand.  And even though we know what happens when we assume… we save time… all the saved time in the world does not mend things that get broken by miscommunication.

We all know how important communication is.  We all know the value of keeping the lines of communication clear and open.  If we know how critical communication is, why then do we treat with such flippancy?  I challenge us all (myself especially) to spend more time listening to what is being said to us, and having the humility to ask for stuff to be clarified when we do not understand what is being communicated.

Being Wrong

 

Being WrongYou know that saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Lets be honest, we do that all the time. I know I did it the first time I ever heard of the TED Conferences. When I was introduced to them I was only told it is pretty much a conference of geniuses! My instant thought was, “Conference of geniuses eh? Who is this Ted? I went to elementary school with a kid named Ted… and it better not be him because used to eat glue as a child.” As I have read speeches and watched videos from the conferences over the years I have learned that there are some wonderfully brilliant people who speak at these things, and I have learned a lot from their wisdom. In fact, I even learned from one speaker that I have been tying my shoes wrong for about 30 years! If you are laughing at me then watch this to see if your timetable for shoe tying wrongness is longer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAFcV7zuUDA

While not everything that I have read or watched from these conferences has been applicable or noteworthy, one thing I recently watched piqued a great deal of my interest. It was a speech given by Kathryn Schulz on being wrong. I found the subject very intriguing because after being around academic communities for a very long time I have encountered numerous people who will go to verbal war with you in an attempt to defend why they are completely right and your adverse opinion is wrong. For further evidence of this phenomenon just hop on Twitter and watch people go back and forth arguing with each other. You have to admit, if you have spent any time around people then you have noticed there is something about us that really does like being wrong. The argument Miss Schulz gives is that being wrong is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, being able to admit we are wrong propels us on the right path to greater success.

During her speech, she validates the feelings we get when we discover we’re wrong in that we feel embarrassed or dreadful. However, she also points out that realizing we are wrong can also be revelatory. She goes on to say that we have been trained since grade school to interpret being wrong with making mistakes, which lead to bad grades, which lead to failure. The truth of the matter is, being wrong helps to realize that we are not perfect; that we are prone to make mistakes, and because of this there is room for improvement. Think about it… if we (all of us) were genuinely right all the time then we would all think the same, there would be no diversity of thought, and we would all be perfect (thus rendering this entire topic moot).

I think we all can assent to the reality that everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. However, for many us to admit that is true about ourselves in given circumstances is nearly impossible. The reality of the matter is this… every mistake is an opportunity for growth. Every time we are wrong we are given a chance to learn. Being wrong is not a curse, it is an opportunity for improvement. I challenge us all (including myself) to admit – to ourselves, spouses, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, and God – that we are wrong, and then seize our opportunity and grow from it!

Kathryn Schulz’s speech can be seen here:

http://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong

 

My Faith In…

 

My Faith InI do not know who “they” are, but they say that you never forget your firsts. I am sure there are exceptions to this, but for me I know for a fact that I will never forget the first wedding I ever performed. I had the privilege presiding over the wedding of my cousin and his bride. The wedding was held in what could be considered an unconventional setting… it was in an airplane. The recession where the party leaves the ceremony setting was also unconventional to say the least. We did not walk away from a stage with triumphant music playing… no, I pronounced them husband and wife, and then we all jumped out of that airplane.

For the bride and groom this was nothing new as they go skydiving frequently. I asked my cousin before we got on the plane if he was ready and he responded, “Man, this is nothing. I do this all the time… getting married is what’s on my bucket list.” For the minister presiding over this wedding (me) there was a completely different mindset. All I could think was, “Why am I doing this? Do I have to jump? Who packed my chute? What if the worst happens? How many times has my tandem guy jumped? Whatever that number is will it really settle me down?” I imagine that many people who have gone skydiving for the first time have encountered a similar bout of brain disturbance prior to jumping. Truthfully… I think any sane person would experience something like that because in the moments between jumping out of a perfectly good airplane and the parachute opening you are quite literally plummeting towards your death! With that in mind it is crazy to think of how amazing it is that this hefty piece of fabric packed tightly in a backpack is what helps you moderately defy gravity to prevent disaster. My cousin said of his parachute rig, “I love this thing. It’s the only investment I’ve made that has literally saved my life every time I’ve used it.”

Think about that parachute rig for a second (trust me, you will think about it a lot before you jump out of an airplane). While the percentage of successful versus unsuccessful skydives is extremely high on the side of successful, it is still not a guaranteed venture (as evidenced by the mountain of liability forms you sign prior to jumping). Because of this truth, you put a lot of faith in the proper functioning of that parachute to prevent things from ending badly. Furthermore, the parachute has to be packed right and opened at the right time or it will not operate properly. While many of us may not skydive as a hobby, we do rely on faith in a whole host of things for everyday life. Instead of parachutes, we put our faith in jobs, people, things, ideals, and religion to help us succeed in life. Sometimes we put our faith in the wrong things, and even if you are the most “unreligious” person in the world you still put your faith in something to do what you want it to do. Just like putting your faith in a poorly designed parachute can kill you, putting your faith in the wrong thing can derail your life too. My challenge to the reader of this is to seek wisdom in all things so as not to put your faith in the wrong thing.

P.S. Just in case you are curious… skydiving was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I’m glad I did it (and survived), but lets just say I am not actively seeking out opportunity #2.  Also, the picture at the top is of the happy couple and their first kiss as husband and wife!