Monday, September 27, 2010

I Never Used Be A Fighter. But, Now...

I have a confession to make; I’m not a fighter. I’ve never really been in a fight, except once when I was around 8 years old. My combatant was pretty tough. She pretty much kicked my butt. Needless to say, I realized pretty early on that God didn’t wire me for physical combat. I’m ok with that. I trust that if there is ever a need for physical confrontation that I will immediately receive the strength, agility and intellect similar to that of a little shepherd boy named David.

Unfortunately, I have not been a fighter in other areas of my life. A couple of weekends ago, I made a decision to no longer be a passive bystander. I’m not going to take life as it comes without fighting for destiny. I have big dreams, but they won’t come to pass without effort, i.e. without a fight. I no longer want to just exist. I want to live a purpose driven life.

What has been my inspiration? One word…September 11, 2001. (Ok, not sure if that’s one word or not, but you get the idea.)

Recently was the 9th year since one of the most tragically memorable dates in American history. My wife and I watched a number of television programs and documentaries detailing this terrible date in history in which 2,982 Americans were tragically killed by enemies of the American Dream.

Why so much hatred for America? In my estimation, it is because of the American Dream.

James Truslow Adams wrote a book, The Epic of America in 1931, and coined the expression The American Dream. Basically, the expression conveys the idea that America is the “land of the free”, and ideally gives each citizen the freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. In other words, in America, you and I have opportunity to utilize the God given gifts and talents we possess in order to be happy, while making a positive impact on our country. (That’s why there are so many immigrants from other countries; they are pursuing the American Dream.) Enemies of America are usually from countries without the liberty and opportunity afforded to American citizens. Women in these countries are not given the same rights as men. Unwanted children are aborted according to state laws and not according to citizen’s choices. Men and woman are limited in the vocations they can pursue. In other words, they do not have freedom of choice. (I’m referring to limitations mandated by government entities, as opposed to social restrictions which do exist in America.)

What’s my point? It is this…I believe that with great power (or liberties) comes great responsibility. (I think some great philosopher came up with that expression. Wasn't it Spiderman's uncle?) I believe every American has the responsibility to pursue the God given American Dream intended for him or her.

Our founding fathers pursued emancipation from a tyrannical European government. President Lincoln pursued freedom for slaves. Martin Luther King Junior fought for the civil rights of all people groups. Carrie Underwood fought her small town fear and insecurity, and drove to St. Louis to become an American Idol. They each had a vision, a dream, and fought to see their dreams realized.

What is your struggle? Your struggle may not be to change laws, or cultures, or to become a celebrity. It may be to become a husband, wife, or parent. It may be to become a teacher; a musician; an artist. Or, it may be to become President. Whatever it is, it won’t happen for you and me without a fight. In fact, what reward actually exists without a struggle?

I believe America wants, and needs me to fight. Nearly 3,000 died on 9/11/01, and lost their opportunity to pursue the American Dream to the fullest. Enemies of America stole their opportunity to fully pursue the American Dream. I'm going to fight those terrorists by no longer relinquishing my own right to pursue the American Dream, whatever that includes for me.

One disclaimer; God has a plan for every human being, and for most it does not include living in America. My point is that America offers more "opportunity" in terms of social, civil, and general liberties than any other country, and it's our responsibility to utilize our liberties to the fullest.

In my next post, I will explain how I, a 6’1”, 165 pound man plans on becoming a lean, mean fighting machine. (Hey, Abraham Lincoln was 6’4” and 185 pounds, so I think there’s hope for me. Plus, I'm better looking than he was!)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I just need to vent, but then again...

Have you ever heard someone say (or, maybe you've said it) "I just need to vent"? Or, maybe it's been said like this..."I need to get something off my chest".

I have definitely been guilty of "venting", whether I've forewarned the listener or not. The funny thing is I usually never "vented" to anyone who had anything to do with the buildup of heat inside me. Weird how that works.

A "vent" is something that releases a buildup of heat or smoke. Kitchens, clothes dryers, and automobiles all have vents because of the inherent buildup of heat in each. My question is this: do humans have an inherent buildup of heat inside requiring occasional releases of steam? In other words, is there no way to avoid getting heated up, and thus we were designed to "vent" when necessary?

For example, do we have no choice getting angry when a driver cuts in front of us dangerously (or not) when driving in traffic? What about when we get laid off from our jobs unjustly (or justly)? How about when our children completely rebel against us? Is it healthy for us to "vent" each time something does not go according to our plans?

I am not referring to talking to a wise friend or counselor about difficulties beyond our ability to cope with. Everyone experiences situations in which we need help coping.

A definition of the word "vent" that I am talking about is this: to give free play or expression (an emotion, passion, etc.): to vent rage. ( In other words, it is what happens when we get frustrated and need to verbalize our frustrations with the first set of ears that comes along.

I remember a time a number of years ago when members of my church who had a key to the building were scheduled to lock up the building after services. Each person would have to stay until every soul left the building. We were scheduled to do this about once every two months. On one occasion I was scheduled to do this after a mid week service, which wrapped up around 8:30pm. Since I had to get up early for work the next morning, I was anxious to get out of there asap. Well, I walked through the building around 9:15pm and one of the pastors was still conversing with some folks. I said something to the pastor and he said "go ahead and leave. I'll lock up myself."

The buildup of heat inside me needed an immediate vent. I couldn't believe that I waited around for 45 minutes, and then was told I didn't need to lock up. I stormed through the building, venting the whole way. I slammed the front doors, and yelled at one of my best friends, who happened to be one of the pastors. As I said, I was venting.

The problem is, the buildup of heat inside me really had nothing to do with that particular incident. The fact is the pastor in question was actually ministering to someone in need. He wasn't casually conversing. I just had a stinking attitude back then, which meant I didn't like to do anything that inconvenienced me. I was often angry, unhappy, always complaining about this or that. (One thing I complained about was that no one wanted to hang out with me. Ironic, huh?)

The fact is angry people are destructive, emotionally, and sometimes physically. I really don't think I need to argue this point. I think everyone would agree with that statement.

I have learned that I can control the buildup of heat inside me by simply choosing to be joyful, or at least to be at peace most of the time. I try to focus on the positive, blessings in my life in every situation. I am not perfect, but I am pressing on.

In the last 3 months, I became unemployed after 20+ years with the same company, and my father passed away from cancer. As I said, I've not been perfect, but I have worked hard to remain thankful, positive and hopeful, which is the antidote to being anxious, angry, and bitter.

If you're a Christian, like me, you can remain at peace knowing God loves you and is in control. Like Joseph in the Old Testament, what some have meant for evil, God will turn to good. (Genesis 50:20) God has something up His sleeve, and it's good.

If you're not a Christian, you have the opportunity to be at peace knowing God loves you and is in control. I have lived both ways, the first 24 years of my life as a non-Christian, and I can tell you from experience the only way to avoid that buildup of heat is to release it to God before it gets built up. He can handle it. (He must have some awesome vents in Heaven.)

So, who's down with some air-conditioned, vent free living?