Monday, August 13, 2012

3 Keys to Taking a Mulligan in Life

Many years ago, I was able to golf fairly often and therefore, became fairly competant. Sadly, many days have passed since then and my game has gotten quite rusty. Recently, a friend asked me to join him one morning for a round on the links, and so with a bit of apprehension I met up with him at the first tee.

It didn't go well.

I hit my tee shot very solidly… and very far left. It's never good when the starter (who sees every tee shot of the day) says, "You won't be finding that one."

Fortunately, my friend believes in "mulligans".

You may not be familiar with that term. A mulligan is golf lingo for a "do-over". Many golfers use them on the first tee of the day, but some choose to save them and use them later in the round. I've been with some golfers who have not just used mulligans, but have also invoked hooligans, shenanigans, and doagains. The beauty of a mulligan is that you can pretend like a bad shot never happened. You simply do it again, and don't count the first one.

Wouldn't it be great if we had mulligans in life? What if we could sometimes just eliminate a bad choice, do it over, and pretend like it never happened? Would your life be in a better spot today if you had taken a mulligan or two?

Here's the bad news: Mulligans aren't allowed in real golf.

See, if you lose a ball off the tee and then hit another one, your ball may be in a good place now, but that second tee shot counted as your third shot. In real golf, if you make a mistake, you get penalized. You can still start over, but there is a price to pay.

That's pretty much like life. You can always start over, but that doesn't mean you don't have a price to pay. A new start may help you mitigate the long term consequences of a bad decision; but it probably won't eliminate all the ramifications. In most of life, you can have a "try again" but there really aren't any "do overs". What you've already done, can't be undone.

But, that shouldn't be depressing. This should be inspiring!

If we can't eliminate our mistakes, we might as well embrace them and learn from them! If we have to pay the piper for our errors, we might as well get our money's worth. Rather than bemoaning the sad state of our life, we can choose to figure out what went wrong and then take steps to ensure it won't happen again.

I know everything can't be boiled down into a formula or reduced to a couple bullet points… but I sure like to try. If you truly want to grow from your mistakes, consider these three important elements of "trying again": 1. Determine Exactly What Went Wrong 2. React By Fixing the Problem 3. Act Wisely to Avoid the Same Mistake

Determine Exactly What Went Wrong

Don't settle for a general excuse of why you failed. Figure out the exact decision, action, or conversation that caused the problem and determine exactly how the problem you now face was caused by that source. If you can't pinpoint exactly what went wrong, you'll never make it right.

React By Fixing the Problem

Fixing the problem may be easy, or it may be very difficult. It might be as simple as replacing a faulty part or finding a missing screw. And it might be as difficult as humbly apologizing to someone and admitting your error. If the problem was an accident, clean up the consequences; if the problme is systemic, fix the system.

Act Wisely to Avoid the Same Mistake

You've probably heard the definition of insaity often attributed to Albert Einstein, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If you want to avoid the same mistake, you have to change your life. Go different places, do different things, form different habits, develop different relationships, read different books, etc. Consider what needs to change, then do things differently.

Life gives no mulligans. But if we are willing to learn from our mistakes, we don't need a do-over, we just need to pay attention.



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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Learning to See Both Sides of Myself


If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. (1 John 1:8 NLT)

How silly we are when we claim or consider ourselves to be sinless or without fault. This is not something I like about myself, but it is still true; on a regular basis, I fail to represent God appropriately. That's a sin. Every time.


One of the things I love about the Bible is that it doesn't paint anyone in a righteous light (except Jesus). We see all the warts of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, etc. This is not something we talk about a lot, but Jesus' disciples were also very conflicted. These men changed the world more than any other group in history, yet they were far from "consistent" characters.
  • Jesus called Peter a "rock". Yet it was Peter who denied his knowledge of Jesus because he was afraid of a servant girl.
  • We know Thomas as a doubter, but he was the one in John 11 who said, "Let's go too– and die with Jesus." No doubting there, for a moment he was the most ardent believer in Jesus.
  • John is known as the disciple of love. He refers to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" and his book, 1 John, has the most straightforward teaching about love in the church of any book in the Bible. Yet consider this story about John which was told by Polycarp and Ireneus:
    John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within."
Perhaps that's not how we understand "love" these days!

Truth is… We are more multi-dimensional than we perceive ourselves to be. If we think we are completely good and righteous, we don't understand the depth of our sin. However, if we are constantly beating ourselves up because of our sin, we don't fully understand what it means to have been given the righteousness of God.

Truth also is… Others are more multi-dimensional than we perceive them to be. If we see someone as a godly, upright man or woman who does no wrong; we need to remind ourselves of Peter and his fearful denial. On the other hand, if we see someone as nothing but evil and wickedness, it might be good to remember the boldness of Thomas.

None of us are always what we seem to be sometimes. Thus we must all learn to give ourselves and others grace. But also we must take heed of our sin, least we fall.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I Shall Have My Revenge


I shall have my revenge

I'm not sure I have the quote exactly right, but in the movie Gladiator, Russell Crowe's character says something to the effect of, "I am husband to a murdered wife, father to a murdered son and I shall have my revenge in this life or the next."
I am typically not a big fan of vengeance. It's not usually a wise course of action. However, yesterday this quote came to mind while I was delivering some money to a friend (wisdom side note: never loan money to a friend. Give it to them. If they pay you back, you still have your money but if they don't you still ave your friend). I thought to myself, "the person who is giving this gift isn't expecting to be paid back, but they will be… In this life or the next.

In This Life or the Next

Sometimes we live as if we only believe in this life. We make no provisions or plans for the next life. Sometimes we are so focused on taking care of ourselves in this life, that we forget that we can't really take any of it with us into the next.
Tainted wealth has no lasting value, but right living can save your life. (Proverbs 10:2 NLT)
  • The accumulation of wealth is one of the greatest indicators of success in this life… But not in the next.
  • Wealth in this life can be gotten by inappropriate means.. But not in the next.
  • Our comfort and security is often connected to our wealth in this life… But not in the next.
  • Others often evaluate our worth by our wealth in this life… But not in the next.
Many of the things that you chase in this life will not transfer to the next. Possessions, popularity, power, and praise are all short-lived. Especially if you have to compromise your integrity to pursue them.
Consider this, you WILL receive all that you earn, in this life or the next. Why on earth would you want to receive it now?
Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:2 ESV)


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Friday, August 10, 2012

Don't Let Your Life Become a Money Pit!


Penny-Wise and Pound-Foolish

Avoid the Money-Pit.
My grandfather used to say to me, "Don't be penny wise and pound foolish." (I'm guessing this expression dates back to mother-England and their monetary standard, "the pound) I think he was telling me not to waste all my money on baseball cards. Common wisdom in those days was that if I started saving that money at the age of 8, the compound interest would make me a millionaire by the age of 23…

I have a lot of baseball cards.

I've seen the penny wise/pound foolish phenomenon played out on a larger scale as well. People find their "dream house" for an incredible price, only to discover it's actually a nightmare money pit. High school grads choose to jump into the workforce rather than go to college because they can be making $12 an hour instead of paying to sit in class… 20 years later they wonder why they are only making $12.25 and hour.

Undoubtedly, we can all look back at decisions we've made which have seemed "penny-wise" at the time, only to learn later that they were certainly "pound-foolish."

4x6 Decision Making

One of the most important things you can do whenever you make an important decision is to consider the consequences not just in the near future, but also the distant future. I like to call this the 4x6 method of decision making. Before you make any significant decision, consider the potential consequences in:
  • 6 minutes
  • 6 weeks
  • 6 months
  • 6 years
Then… decide which of those potential consequences is most important, and press foward.

Don't Be Stupid. Be Wise.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Don't Be Stupid: Embrace Criticism

Dont Be Stupid. Allow people to correct you.

"Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. (Proverbs 9:7, 8 NIV84)

What is your first reaction when someone suggests you have done something wrong? Do you argue? Become defensive? Pout? Or do you give them a hug?

It is very difficult to respond well to a person who corrects you. Even if we know they love us (and if we know they are right), it still hurts to feel that we don't measure up.

Ironically, most of us would embrace the idea that we are sinful people who have missed the mark God has set for us. Yet, for some reason we are more sensitive to the idea that we fall short of other's standards than we are about the expectations of God.

The Mocker

Four main characters play the starring roles in the book of Proverbs. The wise man, the simple man, the fool, and the mocker are symbolic figures who serve as representatives of different types of people and/or four behaviors to which we all are prone. Of these four, the mocker is the "villain". According to Proverbs, the mocker should be punished, ignored, and "driven out". One verse even suggests that God laughs at the proud mocker. Of all the wicked characters in the Bible, the mocker is one of the worst.

Here, the mocker is identified by his reaction to correction. His response is violent. He insults, abuses, and hates anyone who suggests he has done something wrong. Proverbs doesn't paint a very pretty picture of the mocker, but it is probably a fairly accurate picture of us.

Criticism

No one likes to be criticized. No one likes to be confronted. No one ever wants to be told they are not good enough or that they have missed he mark. However, our response to criticism (even when it may not be warranted), is a demonstration of our wisdom or lack thereof. Criticism is, then, an opportunity for growth; but only if we choose to use it well.

The Wise Man

It's actually very simple. Love the people who criticize you. Welcome correction. Allow confrontation to shape you not to anger you. View criticism as a growth stimulant. Choose to appreciate those who correct you.

Reacting in anger to those who confront you is stupid. Don't be stupid.



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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

7 Stupid Things You Can Do To Sabotage Your Life


I've been thinking about writing a lot more about Proverbs. It's a great book, and has been very helpful for me over the past couple years. I may title some of these posts Don't Be Stupid.



I'm going to start with a list (because I love lists).

7 stupid things you can do to sabotage your life.

  1. Follow the convenient road instead of the path of wisdom.
  2. Satisfy your cravings instead of your needs.
  3. Hold yourself to a lower standard than that to which you hold others.
  4. Believe the first thing you hear.
  5. Lie.
  6. Pursue popularity.
  7. Expect to always receive exactly what you've earned.
There are lots of other stupid things you an do as well. But these ones seem to be pretty common… At least they are for me. I would recommend you seek to avoid them.


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