John Longwell's Blog
08/01/2018 10:23 AM
|How to Make Your Dreams Come True|
First, embrace the truth that you aren’t special and you can’t do whatever you want! If you’re still actually reading this, wow! Good for you. That’s a hard one for most to swallow, but vital to acknowledge if you really want to make your dreams come true.
You see most of us were raised to believe that we are super-duper special and that we can become whatever our little heart’s desire. To this, I say, “HA! What a crock!” It’s just not true. I’m not saying this to be mean or because I’m a pessimist, it’s just a statistical fact. If it were true, we’d all be billionaires living in mansions, married to super models and driving exotic cars. So what does this mean? Do we just throw away our dreams and stop trying? Not exactly, and before I share some suggestions about what we should do, let me first outline what this present path will definitely yield without a little course correction.
First, let’s see why we believe and inevitably try to live our lives according to this inflated and hyped standard. We come from a generation where competition was squashed and everyone was told they were a winner, regardless of the effort they applied. Merit was given where it was not earned so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. In an effort to safeguard our perceived vulnerable sensibilities, we sent a generation of young people into adulthood unprepared to face the harsh realities of life. This generation polished their image on social media for all too see while they sat at home, alone and friendless. The only thing they knew was that as long as you looked good, you were good. However, they only felt good when others “liked” or cheered them on. In the absence of this praise, no one knew how to function.
When they got jobs, they perceived that the same half-hearted effort they applied as children would yield the same praise. Sorry, Charley, no one congratulates you for doing the job you were hired to do, that’s called a paycheck. When you are taught that competition is bad, difficulties, learning curves and constructive criticism is inferred as a personal attack, instead of an opportunity to stretch and grow.
We were told that our potential is limitless and our opportunities are endless. Reality dictates that we excel in the areas to which we are most inclined. Most of the time the job we secure isn’t necessarily the one we want, it’s the one available at the time we applied. We are taught that desire is our only limiting factor. In truth, our potential is most often explored when we take advantage of the opportunities around us. Opportunities are dictated by the availability of options within your market, which varies depending on location and economic climate. What does this mean? It means that there are walls all around us, limiting our options, without any ill intent. This is not personal. It is reality.
Well, shucks! How then am I to escape the gravity of this world and soar high to achieve my dreams? Adjust your dreams. But they are my dreams (we scream inside)! Are they really your dreams, or just a lot of nonsense you were told to pursue after so you could feel good about yourself? There are a million ways to feel good about yourself that have nothing to do with you achieving your dreams. Your dreams may be the very thing that is causing you so much heartache and disappointment.
In the Bible, the book of Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Hoping for what we cannot attain creates anxiety and leaves us with regret. However, fulfilling a simple desire (an achievable goal) is life’s true wisdom. Dreaming is great, but by definition is not real life (it’s a dream, an imagined non-reality). Dream all you want, just make the steps of your life concrete.
Set realistic, measurable and attainable goals. In so doing, every time you meet or surpass a goal, it fuels you to set bigger and higher targets (dare I say, even dreamlike plans). The highest skyscraper ever built was first secured deep in the ground. The same holds true for us, we first must be grounded in reality before we can even measure our actual potential. Only when we know our potential can we begin to push beyond it.
03/22/2018 02:21 AM
|Leverage Your Life|
Recently, I had to make a difficult career decision between two very good job opportunities. Regardless of which option I chose there would be a sense of regret over the option not selected. I’ve made my decision and am now second-guessing and struggling to find peace with my choice. A part of me is relieved that the decision has been made as I’ve been in limbo between these two jobs for nearly eight months and I’m ready to move on and dig in to what my future has in store.
Tonight as I went to Calvary Chapel’s Expound service with Pastor Skip Heitzig, the Lord gave me a message I’ve entitled: Leverage Your Life. This sermon is a challenge to me (and to anyone that may hear it in the future) to take inventory of my life to see what things can be trimmed and streamlined in order to maximize my effectiveness for God.
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
The first thing God challenged me to do was to focus on Him. It is very hard “to run the race set before us” when you aren’t looking at the road in front of you. When I become consumed with my own issues I’m no longer looking to God or His Word as a guide for my life.
Psalm 119:105 reminds us that “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”.
It’s not that God doesn’t care about my issues or feelings, it’s that He wants me to deal with them as His Word instructs.
1 Peter 5:7 tells us that we ought to be “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”.
Now that I’m finally focused on God, it’s time to eliminate distractions. Distractions steal focus from God, requiring me to go back to step one and re-focus. Distractions can be deceptive because they often feel important. In reality we may just need to organize our life better. Terms like “crisis management” and the “tyranny of the urgent” reflect a life that is ruled by chaos. Recently, my wife told me that by simply making the bed in the morning we establish order to our day. On the days I’ve tried this, I can honestly say I am more purposed about the things I do. Creating simple “to do lists” and praying over your day before you rush into it can help you wrangle the busyness that may otherwise overtake you.
Psalm 37:5 reminds us to “commit your way to the Lord; trust also in him, and he will do it.”
The last, like the first, is to simply maintain focus on God. It’s one thing to re-focus our gaze but another thing all together to keep our eyes fixed upon Him.
Proverbs 24:4-6 instructs us to “put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.”
It’s easy to get sloppy and go with the flow around us, especially when it comes to our conversations. It’s natural to want to fit in and without even noticing it we can find ourselves becoming negative and often joining in when others speak sarcastically or even destructively. If we can become more self-aware in how we speak, we will gain the upper hand in controlling the direction of our lives.
James 3:2 says, “for we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”
When the police or SWAT tries to open a locked door to arrest a criminal they wedge their pry bars into a small crevice of the doorframe. In so doing, they establish a leverage point from which they can force the entrance open. Likewise, we can also leverage our lives for God by focusing on the little areas the Father reveals to us that need attention. By attending to these small details we slowly gain a foothold over the areas in which we struggle. As they daily become more manageable, we will eventually overcome them and establish victory after victory.
2 Corinthians 3:18 declares, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
If we truly have our focus on the Lord, than like Moses who saw God’s glory, we too will reflect the glory of the Lord in ever increasing degrees as we leverage our lives for the King.
02/22/2018 12:50 AM
|I Don't Want to Be a Beatle Anymore|
YouTube is a time capsule of amazing conversations from by gone days. Today I saw an interview with George Harrison (lead guitarist for the Beatles) on the Dick Cavett show from years ago. George still had the long hair and a beard so it wasn’t long after his time with the Fab Four. Dick asked George questions like “Why did the Beatles break up?” and “Are you sad that the band is no more?” George said without restraint that there were a lot of problems with the band and he was glad that season of his life was over as it was time to move on.
I found myself pondering George’s answers. It’s easy to look into the lives of others and see only what we want to see. In this instance, I’ve always imagined that all of the Beatles had it all simply because they were a Beatle. They reached pinnacle status as young men and could basically ride this wave for the rest of their lives. In my mind they had it made, the underlying phrase here “in my mind.” I was amazed to hear George utter his words of relief that the band was no more. He rhetorically asked Dick, “What would we do for the rest of our lives if we were still together but just play the same old songs over and over again?” This was not the future George imagined for himself. I could just see a 2018 tour with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, everyone in their 70’s and 80’s singing their golden oldies with Jagger and Lennon joining together for the big finale compilation “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction/All You Need is Love”!
At the end of the day, the Beatles are still just people with struggles and problems. Apparently, George’s problem was that he was in a band that he thought had run its course. Today I also heard an interview with Emilio Estevez where he said the worst thing you can do is type your name in Google. He said it was very hurtful the things people say about you. Emilio even agreed with some of the statements that said some of his movies were not good but also added that he wished people would remember that he too was a person that had to provide for his family, and sometimes this meant taking the work that came along. It’s so easy to judge those that are in the limelight and forget that underneath it all they too have feelings and emotions like us. As Shakespeare said, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” In this case we might reword this and ask, “If you post it, will they not read?” We should be mindful that perception is not always reality. The real lives of others are just as fragile and vulnerable as our own and we should exercise care before we share our opinions. As some wise sage once said, “Opinions are like armpits (revised for all audiences), everybody has them and they all stink.”