Tag Archives: Goal

The Person I Want to Be

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Praise the LORD!
Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
    who find great delight in his commands.
Psalm 112:1 (NIV)

I happen to be in the middle of a rather large project for a client. Our company has been helping them design, develop, launch, and implement a Quality Assessment (QA) program for their company. You know, the ol’ “Your call may be monitored for training and coaching purposes“? That’s a big chunk of what I do.

So it was this weekend that I’ve been deep in the weeds producing some training to introduce the program to my client’s front-line team members. One of the things I stated in the training is that you always want to build a QA program with the goal in mind, and in this case, the goal is to actually achieve the client’s corporate Mission and Vision statement.

Many years ago, as my life was emerging from the ash heap I had made of it, I happened upon today’s chapter, Psalm 112. I remember reading the lyrics to this ancient Hebrew song and realizing that it described the person I want to become and to be on this earthly journey. I remember thinking that day, “When this journey’s over and my number is up, I would hope that when friends and loved ones gather to celebrate my homecoming they could read Psalm 112 and say, ‘THAT was Tom.'”

“Blessed…” (vs. 1)
I have been blessed in so many ways, and never want to lose sight of that or fail to acknowledge it and be grateful for the grace given to me that my life doesn’t merit.

Children mighty in the land…” (vs. 2)
I want to leave a legacy, not of earthly accomplishments, wealth, and fame, but children, grandchildren, and descendants whose life journeys walk the path of Psalm 112, as well.

Wealth and riches are in their houses…” (vs. 3)
I never thought of this as a monetary blessing, but a spiritual one. Jesus said, “Don’t seek treasure on earth where it can be stolen, decay, and where you will leave it behind for all eternity. Seek eternal spiritual treasure that can’t be stolen. It doesn’t rot, and it will profit you through all eternity.” As a follower of Jesus, that’s the goal. That said, It also reminds me that if I manage my blessings and resources with the wisdom and the principles found in the Great Story, I will likely be just fine from a financial perspective. I haven’t arrived, by the way. I’m still in process.

Even in darkness light dawns…” (vs. 4)
They have no fear of bad news. Their hearts are secure, trusting in the Lord…” (vs. 7)
Their hearts are secure. They will have no fear…” (vs. 8)
As an Enneagram Type Four, my core temperament always fights pessimism. Ironic, then, that God led me into a career in which my monthly and annual income is an ever-changing sum and has never been a sure-thing that secured by a corporation, a government, or a union (even though even that sense of security is ultimately an illusion). Recently I told our daughter that I perpetually assume that I’m one day away from living in a van down by the river. These words from Psalm 112 have become a spiritual bulwark against my pessimistic personality. It gives me an anchor in life’s “Chain Reaction of Praise” moments. I haven’t arrived, by the way. I’m still in process.

“…for those who are gracious, compassionate, righteous.” (vs. 4)
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
who conduct their affairs with justice
…” (vs. 5)
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor…” (vs. 9)
Much of my life journey has been marked by a scarcity mentality. Along the way, I have come to realize that this has come from the perfect storm of my Type 4 personality, the realities of growing up as the youngest sibling, and growing up in a home in which my needs were always met, but there was never had a lot of financial margin. Psalm 112 and it’s repeated call to grace, compassion, generosity, and justice has been instrumental in helping me grow out of my scarcity thought-patterns and into the loving generosity that Jesus asks of me. I haven’t arrived, by the way. I’m still in process.

“…their righteousness endures forever.” (vs. 3)
Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.
..” (vs. 6)
“…their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.
” (vs. 9)
As I grew up, there was a period of time in which the women from my mother’s family would gather together. They would feast, laugh, share memories, and honor my great-grandmother, Grandma Daisy. Grandma Daisy Day made an impression on me as a kid. It revealed to me the legacy and impression that my maternal clan’s matriarch made on her descendants through her faith, love, grace, and generosity. She died pretty much penniless after a life dotted with tragedy and struggle. Her eternal bank account was full, and the legacy she left on her descendants was priceless. That’s the kind of legacy I’d like to leave behind, as well.

In the quiet this morning, I am celebrating the impression Psalm 112 has had on my life journey. It’s memorized, and etched in my soul. I have the song title inked on my right bicep, where it reminds me that my strength lies in becoming the person Psalm 112 describes.

It’s good reminder on this “reset” day that Monday is on a weekly basis and I’m heading back into life’s fray.

Have a great week, my friend!

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Driven to Distraction

They sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.
Nehemiah 6:4 (NRSV)

For the last couple of years our local gathering of Jesus’ followers have been encouraged to pray about and choose a word that will be a theme for their year. My word for this year is “focus.”

Focus has been an interesting theme as I celebrate my half-century in this life journey, as an empty nest offers increased margins of time and resources, and as I am meditating on the reality of being on the downhill side of this life journey. I am ever and increasingly mindful that while my margins may have expanded in the micro sense, in the macro sense I am working with slowly depleting resources of time and energy.

We’re now almost half-way through the year and I’ve been spending some moments meditating on how my focus is going.  I have to confess that it’s not good. As I think about how I need and desire to focus my time, energy, and resources I find that life serves up a never-ending stream of distractions. I am so easily distracted in a million different ways. Between social media, technology, entertainment, television, games and events there is an endless supply of good and fascinating things on which I can focus my time and attention.

In today’s chapter, Nehemiah is desperately trying to focus on the project he’s been called to complete. He wants to get the wall rebuilt and the gates in place. He’s close to having the job done. Now, he is repeatedly harassed by critics and enemies who want to meet with him. He’s attacked with slander and gossip which requires him to address the lies and rumors. His life is threatened and he’s urged to sequester himself in the temple to be safe. Distractions. Distractions. Distractions.

Nehemiah’s response to these distractions was consistent. First, he took everything to God. He prayed for the work on which he needed to focus, and asked for God’s strength. He handed his troubles and enemies over to God and relegated justice to higher authority. And, he stayed focused on the work.

At the end of today’s chapter:

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem; for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

Today, I’m thinking again about my focus. The great thing about having a theme or a goal is that it becomes a point of reference. I may get off course or distracted, but simply having “focus” as my word of the year keeps calling me back from distraction. I can’t do anything about what’s past, but I have a new day, a clean day in front of me. And, on June 21 in Iowa, it’s a long day.

Time to focus.

On a Roll

 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.
Joshua 11:23 (NRSV)

Joshua was on a roll. After the unexpected defeat against Ai a few chapters back, Josh and the Israelites were racking up the victories left and right. Five kings of the Amorites: defeated. Libnah and Lachis: defeated. Horam king of Gezer: defeated. Elon: defeated. It goes on an on: Hebron, Debir, Negev, Kadesh Barnea, Gaza, Goshen, Gibeon. Seemingly everything is going Joshua’s way.

Along life’s journey I’ve been blessed to experience particular stretches in which I was on a roll. Things fell into place. Good things just seemed to happen. What I attempted I succeeded. I have felt what it’s like to be on a roll. It’s a good feeling if and when it happens.  But, there are a few important lessons I’ve learned through these periods of time:

It never lasts. Solomon reminds us that there’s a time for everything under the sun. There is a time for victory and a time for defeat. Here on this terrestrial ball in the land east of Eden, there is no one who stays on a roll all the time. We are fallen people living in a fallen world. Shit happens. Enjoy the moment, Villanova fans. It’s sweet when your team rolls through March Madness and wins on a buzzer beater. No feeling quite like it, I imagine (Iowans have not experienced this). Trust me. Enjoy this moment.

It leads to distorted thinking. When you’re on a roll and everything seems to be going your way, there are all sorts of silly notions that begin to creep into your soul. “I deserve this,” for example. You may have planned well and worked hard, but life is full of examples of those who planned well and worked hard and things still didn’t work out. “I can’t lose,” is another tempting lie. Yes, you can. You will. Read the previous paragraph again. Being on a roll does not typically teach or produce humility in us.

It’s neither the purpose,  nor the goal. As tempting as it is to place all our eggs in that basket, perpetual victory was never God’s prescription for those of us on this life journey. Read through God’s Message and you will not find God telling us “win at all costs,” “make your aim to succeed at everything,” “reach for the American dream,” or “be rich and successful in the eyes of the world.” You will, however, find: “Consider it joy when you encounter various trials,” “Rejoice in your suffering,” and “godliness with contentment is the means of great gain.”

Today, I’m thinking about the times in life when things seemed to be on a roll. It was a good feeling. But, I can’t say that it made me a better human being. In fact, the opposite might be more apt. It is the times of struggle that are the most fruitful from a character perspective.

Last night before retiring for the night Wendy and I stood in our garage with the door open and watched the lightning and the thunderous spring storm. We discussed the storms of life in which we find ourselves in this moment. Things are definitely NOT on a roll right now, but that’s par for the course. I’ve found being on a roll is an elusive experience in this journey. This morning I am, once again, “Considering it joy” amidst life’s little tempests.

 

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featured image: marleahjoy via flickr

The Goal

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)

I got an earful. The tirade was marked by anger and came from a place of disappointment and hurt. The object of the vehemence was unknowing and undeserving. The accusations were all about an “i” not dotted, a “t” not crossed which had been blown into outrageous proportions. The goal of the rant was, from what I discerned, to project the injured’s own hurt somewhere else.

Along life’s journey I’ve been involved with many different groups of Jesus followers. Among every group I’ve encountered those Paul describes to his young protegé Timothy. There are always those who major on the minors; Those who immerse themselves in things that don’t lead to the goal, which Paul reminds young Timothy, is love.

As I read Paul’s charge to Timothy this morning, I thought about the person who gave me an earful. If the goal had truly been love, how would they have handled themselves differently? They might have started by going directly to the person they were complaining about rather than others. They might have asked this person questions and sought to understand rather than demanding to be understood. They might have considered Jesus’ command to love and forgive others a greater priority than advancing their own rights and needs.

Even as  I write these words I am looking back at a few past tirades of my own. I recognize myself in the person who gave me an earful. I have lounged in those loafers. I, too, have spewed righteous anger out of personal pain. Lord, have mercy on us both.

Today, I’m reminded of how simple and powerful love is, as Jesus exemplified it. Love is a goal to strive for. Love is also a litmus test for my own words and actions; A standard against which I can discern whether I am moving in the right direction. If my goal is truly love then it constantly forces me to choose words and actions that lead, not to places of personal right, justice, or satisfaction, but to places focused on others and marked by forgiveness, selflessness, and peace.

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Some Things Earned; Some Things Given

btw, Rev 5:5 is tatted on my right shoulder!
Personal Trivia:I have a Rev 5:5 tat!

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Revelation 5:5 (NIV)

Part of my business is the assessment of the quality of service that individual customer service agents provide over the phone to their company’s customers (e.g. “your call may be monitored to ensure quality service”). In the 25 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve come to find that there are some very strong opinions  and philosophies about the standards by which people should be measured.

My company has always advocated a high standard of performance because we believe that the ultimate test is a customer’s satisfaction. In my experience, most companies say that they deliver a high level of service, but when you survey their customers you find that relatively few customers agree. In order to differentiate yourself in the mind of the customer your service has got to be really good. So, we set the bar high and encourage Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) to work hard at delivering a consistently above average level of service. When CSRs reach their goal they generally feel a sense of accomplishment and pride.

In other words: Many olympians compete in a race, but only one earns the gold medal.

There are a lot of people who don’t like this approach. I’m constantly running into those who are advocates of setting the bar low enough for the vast majority to reach it with little effort. In this approach, it is believed that every CSR should get a perfect score on almost every call even if we have to water down the standards or obfuscate the measuring approach to make it attainable. Exceptionally good service is not what this measurement approach strives for, but simply avoiding exceptionally bad service. I find it to be the celebration “good enough.” Admittedly, CSRs do like this approach as they are largely rewarded for maintaining the status quo.

In other words: Pretty much everyone who shows up for the race should get a gold medal.

I have come to realize that these conflicting approaches have spiritual implications. Speaking of “only one gets the prize,” I found it interesting in the chapter this morning that only One was worthy of opening the scroll and the seven seals in John’s vision. The Lion of Judah, the Lamb who was slain (a.k.a. Jesus) was the only one worthy to open the seals because of the blood sacrifice He had made and the price He paid through His death and resurrection.

I have found that, in the Kingdom of God, there are things which are unattainable, things which are given, things which are sacrificed, and things which are earned. The key is to learn and know the difference; to understand which things are which.

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Three Indelible Life Lessons from the Game of Baseball

Last Saturday morning, Wendy and I went out to the local ball diamond to watch my good friend Nathan playing Little League baseball. I grabbed my camera to capture my buddy in action. Anyone who follows my blog knows that Wendy and I love the game of baseball (and our hapless Chicago Cubs). In fact, as time goes by our love and appreciation of the game only seems to grow deeper. We thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous, early summer morning watching Nathan play. It reminded me of all that is great about the game of baseball, and in particular I was reminded of three important life lessons that the game teaches me over and over again.

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1. “Everyone strikes out. How you handle it is what makes you a man.”

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.
-from “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer

When my young friend Nathan was just a few years old, Wendy and I gave him a copy of “Casey at the Bat” for his birthday and this was the inscription I penned on the inside cover of Ernest Thayer’s timeless classic. What an amazing word picture of life. The very BEST hitters in the big leagues will fail to get a hit 7 of every 10 attempts. Time and time and time again we will try and fail in life. Those who learn from failure, who dare to walk back up to the plate, who keep swinging despite overwhelming failure will eventually knock one out of the park. You’ll never know the thrill of driving in the winning run if you let failure discourage you from ever trying again.

2013 06 08 Nathan VL Baseball 012. It’s Not About Winning or Losing, but the Joy of Playing the Game.

Wendy and I watched and laughed ourselves silly on Saturday as we watched the young boys of summer doing their best to play and learn the Great American Pastime. I can guarantee you that at the end of the game not one of the li’l sluggers knew the final score of the game. But, as the team ran the bases together at the end of the game the look of joy on their faces was priceless.

I have known many a man who has wasted time, energy and resources in a manic drive to prove to who knows who that he is a “success” through winning every game, closing every deal, burying every enemy, and acquiring every needless possession. Never have I met such a man who experiences a deep, abiding sense of peace, joy, and love. The further I get in this life journey, the more I’m convinced that what is important is not winning every game, but loving every moment.

In similar fashion, those who love the game of baseball understand realize that the game itself transcends wins and losses. Win or lose, an afternoon or evening at the ballpark is time well-spent. As Chicago Cub great Ernie Banks is famed for saying, “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame….let’s play TWO!”

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3. The Point is to Make it Safely Home.

As we play the game of life, we will all make our share of errors. We all hit our share of foul balls. We all strike out. But as Yogi Berra said, “the game ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Every baseball fan can share stories of dramatic come from behind wins and walk-off “home runs” in the bottom of the ninth inning. In the end, the goal of the game is to arrive safe at home. Even the Prodigal Son eventually found his way home. Every funeral I’ve ever attended has included a recitation of the 23rd psalm (i.e. “The Lord is my Shepherd….”). The psalm ends with the words “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In other words, in the end the psalmist finds himself safely home. Baseball not only provides us a word picture for constant reminder, but even shapes home plate like a little house for added effect.

Our friend Nathan may, or may not, play baseball for long. Like millions of American kids (myself included) he may play a year or two of Little League only to hang up his bat and glove until his own children choose to run the bases. The love of baseball, however, lasts a lifetime, as does the life lessons baseball teaches each of us.