One Bite at a Time

st pauls cathedral 

LECTOR SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE

Reader, if you seek his monument – look around you.

  • Inscription on the plain stone tomb of Sir Christopher Wren (d. 1723)

 

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

 

You may not know Christopher Wren, but if you’ve been to London you’ve seen his work. He was regarded by no less than Newton and Pascal. Educated at Oxford with a penchant for physics, anatomy, astronomy, geometry and of course math. But his real talent was architecture. His works include some of London’s most notable cathedrals and monuments. In fact, he is credited with over 50 of them in all. His masterpiece is St. Paul’s Cathedral, seen above and completed in 1710. He is known as the “Architect of London.”

On a plaque at his pedestrian grave at St Paul’s, his oldest son had these words inscribed:

Underneath lies buried Christopher Wren, the builder of this church and city; who lived beyond the age of ninety years, not for himself, but for the public good. If you seek his memorial, look about you.

I first heard those words at a Presidential Campaign speech in 1992. That candidate, observing the “art” of that day expressed dismay (in 1992!). He contrasted that to the works of Sir Wren and observed of America, “if you want to see what comes from moral decay, look around you.”

Those words haunt me almost every day.

It’s easy to live in Northern Colorado – associate with great people, be involved in community, work hard for a righteous cause and sacrifice that which remains for family and friends – and respond to the above admonition, “I look around me and I see beauty!” And that may indeed be true.

But that’s not all.

What do people see when they “look about you”? What will be our “memorial?”

High rates of divorce. Increasing rates of children born out of wedlock. Millions of abortions. Substance abuse. Porn addiction. Poverty. Illness. Treachery. Despair.

What will our legacy be when generations far removed are asked?

Perhaps that is far too great an imposition to place on any one person. Then let’s ask ourselves this: how does change happen? Or as they ask in Texas, how do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

I can’t possibly change the world, but I can get to know people around me and have an impact on their life. I can’t eliminate homelessness, but I can volunteer at a shelter. I don’t even understand the root cause of poverty, but I can help those in need.

I can either rail against unwanted pregnancies, or I can support organizations like Lutherans for Life who help women facing crisis pregnancies.

In other words, I can’t boil the ocean, but I can dedicate some time to make a cup of tea for a worthy cause.

So be a catalyst for good. Let the world say of us, when they “look around” much later from now, that our memorial was one built from love.

-Gavin

The Inner Kid

Children running on meadow at sunset

So guys, or as they say in Texas, y’all… I’m going to challenge you today… but first…

I remember the feeling as a kid of running full out in the back yard playing army with my buddies. I would run, splash through the mud, army crawl on the dirt to get closer to the “enemy,” build forts, and do all sorts of things without a worry or fear. And later in life… camouflaged, sneaking through the woods trying to get close enough to a deer so I could use my bow and arrow… and yes even the inner kid thinking what it must have been like in the pioneer days. No worries, just pure enjoyment and focus on the thing and challenge at hand. Testing the boundaries and getting an understanding of who I was and what limits there were… all in the midst of the joy and freedom of the experience.

So… I’d like to you to recall a similar time in your experiences. Recall a time that you had no fears, worries and were totally enjoying the moment. A time when the inner child could experience the awe and wonder… the sheer joy of living. What were the feelings you experienced? Now I know that’s a challenge for guys… to talk about feelings… but what were they? Joy, peace, exhilaration, accomplishment?

Have you ever thought about the children of today? Are the same opportunities as available to them? In this day and age of having to be protective, diligently watching what they do, monitoring who they hang out with, limiting what they experience on their digital devices, and attempting to control where they go and what they see… not even talking about the enormous pressure to compete and perform… it’s much more difficult for them to experience the joy and freedom of childhood.

So what does that mean to us as men, dads or not?

I have to be honest… I struggle to answer. But… here’re a few thoughts I had:

  1. We can provide safe environments for kids to just be kids. An environment where there is no pressure to perform but encouragement to explore. An environment where there is no rush or hurry to get something completed, to learn something, or to get to the next thing. Go to a park and let them run, play, and experiment… even let them get dirty… they’ll wash.
  2. We can also model this in a positive way… showing that you can explore, you can unplug the digital devices and clock and just be. Take fishing for example… when was the last time you went fishing with a kid to just enjoy it… celebrating catching fish but also celebrating not catching fish… taking on the challenge of a tangled line with joy… just enjoying the experience regardless of the “success?” No work, no phone and no expectations except to experience what happened.
  3. How about this… and if there are any moms reading this, hold on… let a kid try something even if he might get a road rash or fail. Then, help him learn from it in a positive way.
  4. Be the great news of Jesus to your kids. Teach and show them how God has worked in your life to protect, comfort, lead and dispel fear and doubt. Teach them the life of following Jesus… a life of joy and freedom even when it’s tough because of His work on the cross.

You see, God speaks about life His way and it’s a full life.

John 10:10 (NIV) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

One without worry.

Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Because of Jesus, we have been adopted into God’s family… we are the sons and daughters of the Creator Himself… and we can live freely, joyfully, and without worry knowing that God is in control and a very real presence. Do you let yourself experience this or have all the worries, fears and challenges got in your way?

How can you re-experience being the child of God living the full life He has for you?

How can you help the kids in your life experience the fullness of life?

-Gerry

February 2017 Newsletter

Retirement Greetings! I began a new job in January. So, recently I’ve been signing up for all of my benefits. And, that includes investments, an ESOP, and 401k. That got me thinking about retirement. It’s not something I’ve put a ton of thinking into. It’s 20+ years down the road. But the last 20 years are any indicator, the next 20 will go quickly. So, I’ve found a few articles and resources on the topic of aging and retirement. Give them a look and think about how the fit your idea of aging and retirement.

Read

Aging Gracefully, With Greater Age Comes Greater Sorrow, With Greater Age, Comes Greater Joy, Greater Age Brings Greater Responsibility, and Aging Brings Life-Shaping Decisions.

Every day, we are all building the house we will live in when old age comes. Some of us are building a beautiful palace. Some are building a dark prison. What are you building?

Now that I’ve hit mid-life, I’ve been thinking about getting older, retirement, and aging. Coincidentally, Tim Challies has written an excellent series on aging.

Success to Significance – Gerry Harrow

I beg of you… please choose a life of significance sooner than later! You don’t have to quit your job, take a vow of poverty or become a full-time pastor. Put your trust in God alone… first. Choose His ways… first.

This is one of our top blog posts. Gerry shares one very important lesson that he’s learned along the way in life.

Why Retirement is a Dirty Word. Michael Hyatt

Retirement has always been used as a way for people in authority to induce behaviors in others for their own purposes.

Is the American dream of working until retirement and then vacationing until death the right way to approach life? That’s the traditional sense of retirement, but it appears to be changing. Many people are seeing themselves working well past “retirement” age and not just out of financial necessity, but because it brings significance to themselves and others.

Listen

Retirement KillsFreakonomics Radio

The study showed that for every extra year of early retirement, you lose about two months of life expectancy. And I should say, this is not the first study to show there’s a fairly strong relationship between early retirement and earlier death.

Retire early, die early. Wow. Why? Cardiovascular issues, more smoking, drinking, worse diet, and exercise. But there appears to be a mental health link too.

Watch

Jared Diamond: How Societies Can Grow Old Better

Paradoxically nowadays, when we have more elderly people than ever before, living healthier lives and with better medical care than ever before, old age is in some respects more miserable than ever before. The lives of the elderly are widely recognized as constituting a disaster area of modern American society.

This is a fascinating TED talk contrasting how traditional societies treat the elderly and how modern Western societies do.

So the takeaways for me? 1) It’s time to look at what the next stage of life hold for me. 2) Value the experience and relationships of those who have gone before. 3) The prevailing societal sentiment regarding retirement needs to be questioned.

Stay Sharp!

Matt

I am Going to Offend You!

I get the onerous duty of picking my kids up from school each day. It is a mess of cars and students in a tiny parking lot with not much room to maneuver. So,  humans being humans everyone is trying to find a way to beat the system. Some park in the middle of the lot blocking other cars from leaving, others park in the no

parking areas, while others wait dutifully in line. I am a righteous dutiful line waiter. I get to the school a full 20 minutes before the kids are let out to get a good spot in line. So I watch these line jumpers and traffic blockers fuming as much as the car in front who hasn’t had an emissions test in 20 years. What should I do?

Being offended has become a national past time for Americans. We march, we riot, we post on facebook, we tweet snarky comments about others, we listen to radio shows and podcasts that feed our offendedness. We easily find reasons to be offended. Why? I think because it feeds our self-important sense of righteousness. “Everyone is dumb except for me!”

Here’s an example. I’m a former cop. I live within a half mile of 3, 3! round-a-bouts. I probably drive through one of those merry-go-rounds for vehicles 6 or more times a day. So not only do I have the letter of the law, I know the spirit of it too. And let me tell you, everyone and I mean everyone who drives through those when I do is a moron! They wait too long, they don’t wait long enough, they go too fast, they go too slow. But, I! I always get it right and I let my passengers know.

So what’s wrong with being offended? Plenty. We lose compassion for those who “offend” us. We are distracted from life when we constantly feed our anger at others. We lose sight that we have been, will be, and are just as offensive.  Jesus didn’t call us to be offended, he called us to love.

Here are three things to know about not being offended:

  1. You were just as offensive as everyone else. Romans 3:23 tells us, “For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us.” MSG and Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” We can’t be offended at others because we are in the same boat!
  2. You have been forgiven, just like everyone else. In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the story of the debtor who was forgiven of millions of dollars to only go back and throw the guy who owed him $10 in jail.* Don’t be that guy! Realizing that you were given so much grace and mercy obligates us to give others that same grace and mercy.
  3. Stop feeding your offendedness. Easier said than done sometimes. So here’s a tip. Stop watching the news, stop feeding it with facebook and twitter. When you starve your offendedness it will go away, believe me.

So what happened with the school pickup line. Well, I thought about writing an email to the administration detailing the problem and offering a solution of life in prison for those who blocked my way. That seemed like a lot of work. But, I eventually came to the realization that my anger wasn’t productive. I either had to stop being offended or do something. So, I come to school 15 minutes after school lets out. I don’t spend all that time in line, the traffic has thinned out, and my kids get to hang out with their friends instead of frantically looking for me.

Stay Sharp,

Matt

*From the MIV (Matt’s International Version), currency equivalents are approximate subject to inflation and the fact that rocks used to weigh money to set value and not some omnipotent politician in the Fed.