Live out loud, but quietly

 11Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

In this era, of the 24 hour news cycle, paparazzi, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, iPads, iPhones and so on and so on, it is increasingly difficult to live a quiet life, and not know the details of everyone you know. I don’t have a problem with social media. I utilize it. However, where is the line drawn?

In business, in ministry, in friendships, it’s critical to communicate, network and promote. Today, a 12 year old with a laptop can make themselves famous, or infamous, with a single 30 second YouTube video available to the entire world. 

I recently crossed the scripture I used to open this post. I’ve read it before, numerous times. But this particular time, it hit me in a profound way. So many of us live our lives in complete contradiction to these verses. So many people live their lives on such a loud scale, they become a nuisance. You know what I mean. Like the car with the stereo so loud, you can hear the exterior of the car vibrating. The occupants of the car seem to think that we all need to hear the song to which they are listening. In truth, all we hear is the annoying pounding of the bass in the subwoofer. There are those who literally believe everyone needs to know their every thought and action in a given day. Yet, it doesn’t take long before all that the rest of us hear anymore is a pointless boom-boom-boom

And how many people get swept away by living vicariously through the perceived excitement of someone else’s life, rather than living their own? But that’s another topic for another day.  

As with all things, moderation is the key. I use a lot of tools to connect, network and promote. But I have seen the damage that can come by becoming obsessed with them. 

When I read these verses again recently, I thought of the people in my life I respect and admire most. Some of them use social media tools. None of them are controlled or dependent on them. Their greatest and most significant accomplishments happen outside of the self-created limelight. They don’t need accolades. They don’t need applause. They don’t even want any of that. They are not busy-bodies, prying into the lives of others. They are not gossips. They are not attention seekers. They are simply good people of strong character, even when no one notices.

There is something profound in living a simple and quiet life. You can still live a full and exciting life while being quiet. When I think of quiet, I think of how keen my senses are to my surroundings. Like being in nature, away from honking car horns, sirens, construction sites, and the tumult of 21st century living. When you get away from it all, you hear the birds singing. You can hear the gentle lapping of the water at the lake’s edge. It’s peaceful. 

“Make it your ambition,” means it has to be a choice. Determine that you will put less of your effort on broadcasting your life, and instead, live it in a way that pleases, honors and reflects the attributes of the One who breathed life into you. Be a person of strong character. Do good even when no one else will ever see or hear of it. 

The more you promote yourself, the more dependent you become on the accolades of others, and you lose their respect. The more you seek to do good solely for the eyes of God, the more respect you will have for yourself, and the ones who matter will soon follow.

Who controls the room temperature?

I have found it to be true that circumstances don’t change who we are, but they reveal who we are. As of today, there are 99 days remaining in 2010. As an introspective guy, I find myself assessing the previous 266. It has been an eventful year in some ways, rather uneventful in others. Only God knows what lies ahead, but I pray that the things I’ve experienced in my own life, and the things I’ve observed in the lives of others, serve to prepare me for what, to me, is unknown.

Life is simply a collection of events that happen from the time we’re born, to our final breath. Many of the events are conditions of our decisions and actions, and many events pop up in front of us without any warning or provocation. In either case, we have to face them. Do we let them change us, or do we stay the course. 

The difference between a thermometer and a thermostat is that one reports to you the temperature, while the other controls the temperature. I know so many people who had difficulties growing up. Many of them are thermometers, living their lives as victims. Their actions and ongoing drama are perpetual reminders of the conditions that surrounded them when they were younger. This is also true for those who had good upbringings, but their adult lives have woven a pattern of underachievement. As thermometers, they let their conditions dictate their lives.

Yet, others are thermostats. They live their lives choosing not to be a victim. They live their lives looking to make a difference. They see obstacles as opportunities. They don’t wish their lives to be difficult, but rather than wallow in pity or self destruction, they strap on their armor and get after it. 

There are 99 days left in 2010. In the days, months and years that have led to this moment in your life, have you been a thermometer or a thermostat? If you’re feeling challenged to stop being reactive, and become proactive, you have to make a choice. Don’t let one more day go by being a slave to your circumstances. Don’t let 2010 go out with a whimper. God didn’t create you to be a slave to your past. He didn’t create you to be a victim. He created you to be an overcomer!

Even the strongest in mind and spirit get worn down. But as Isaiah 40:28-31 says, your strength will be renewed when you place your trust, your reliance, and your hope in God. 

I don’t know about you, but I needed this reminder. I have stretches where I am on fire and empowered. But I also have stretches when I find myself in a funk. These periods are sneaky. You don’t realize you’re there until you’ve been there for awhile and you take time to stop and assess things. 

Today is a new day. Strap it on and get after it! Don’t allow yourself to be controlled by circumstances. Choose to see this as an opportunity to overcome and get over the things which would either hold you back, or stand between you and your goals!


The REAL Ground Zero

On this, the ninth anniversary of the most horrible event any of us have ever witnessed, I find myself conflicted. On one hand, I’m compelled to saturate my consciousness with the images of that day. I need to remember. I must not allow myself to become complacent about how I feel about my country. I must remember so that I can reflect on where I’ve come from, and how our country has changed since that day. I must process these thoughts and feelings in order to keep my life and my priorities in their proper perspective.

On the other hand, I’m disgusted with how divided we have become as a country. 

September 11th is a day of memorial. It should be a day of reflection. It should be a day to count our blessings. It should be a day in which we are reminded that the freedom we have to disagree with one another, and even our government. Yet, it is so hated by some that they would attack innocent people within our borders in hopes of decimating our way of life.

Little by little, the corrosion of evil that pierced America that day has been eating away at our foundation ever since. Instead of September 11th being a day of unity, of reflection, of humility, of sadness, of pride, it has become a day self-serving, attention craving fools use to further an agenda. September 11th has become a pile of feces on the ground into which they rub the noses of those they hate.

Ground Zero will always be synonymous with the footprint in which the World Trade Center towers once stood. However, that is the tangible, geographical place. The real ground zero is intangible. Nine years later, our focus has shifted from the nearly 3,000 lives lost, to ideology. Faith. Religion. Today, we have a knucklehead in Florida who stirred up controversy and rattled national security by threatening to burn copies of the Koran. We have the ongoing debate over the mosque, or “Islamic Cultural Center” being erected on property so close to where the towers stood, it was damaged by flaming plane parts from the attack. 

This morning, I read the account of a local man I met who approached two Muslim women yesterday. As a Christian man, he found it appropriate to tell them that the kook in Florida did not represent the beliefs we uphold as believers. We do not hate. We don’t share their beliefs, but we love them. It is not our desire or mission to antagonize them or attack that which they hold as sacred. One woman responded with a simple and gracious “thank you”. The other lashed out at him and said that the explosion and devastation in San Bruno was God’s punishment for the threat of the Koran burning. 

Ground Zero.

As time moves forward and I’m pounded over the head by those who claim we’re  intolerant, I choose to stand for what I believe. I choose to practice what I believe. You don’t have to believe as I do, but you cannot, and will not deprive me of doing so. Nor will I seek to deprive you. I am an American. I am a Christian. Like it or not, America is rooted in Christianity. It is no surprise that both are under attack. Those who would like to destroy us do not hate us. They hate what we believe. They hate what we stand for. 

The real Ground Zero. May we never forget. May we have the courage to defend it.