Monday, May 28, 2012

The Real Stars - Article by Ben Stein

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV, but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists. We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but who guard the nation on ships and in submarines and are anonymous as they live and as they die.

There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament. The police men and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive. The orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery. The teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children. The kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards . . . all of these are stars, and so are the teachers and social workers who cast their mortal spans into the struggle to make something of our troubled youth. Or, think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center to rescue men and women coming down as the towers collapsed, and you have my idea of a star.

There are a few rules I have learned to keep my sanity, and I just want to say them here to help you keep your sanity and keep you in the running for stardom. The main one is that we are puny, insignificant creatures. We live as God directs that we live. We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important.

God is real, not a fiction, but real—and when we turn over our lives to Him, He takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves. In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and allow God to be the director. When we trust in God instead of in our own frail selves, we triumph; and when we try to control events, we suffer. When we try to do God’s will, we are stars. When we do our own will, it is pathetic.

Or, I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier, or even close . . . or as good a comic as Steve Martin or Martin Mull or Fred Willard, or even close . . . or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman, or even close . . . or as good a writer as Fitzgerald, or even remotely close. But I could be a devoted father to my son and husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. And this became my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son and pretty well with my wife, but well indeed with my parents (with my sister’s help). I cared for them and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father (and my sister did, too) as he got sick, went in extremis, and then into a coma—and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms. And this was the only point at which my life touches the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only life that matters, and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life that God has devolved upon me, to help others God has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

As so many of you know, I am an avid Bush fan and a Republican. But I think that the best guidance on living my life I ever got was from the inauguration speech of John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, in January of 1961. On a very cold and bright day in Washington, he said words that should be the wisdom that can make any of us into stars: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth . . . asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.” Or, as I like to say, the work that we ask God to do is the work He asks us to do.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

More good thoughts for ministry and life.

From a conference advertisement. Wise words:

Distraction has become the new norm. 
We get caught up with what happened yesterday and are preoccupied with what may happen tomorrow. Our attention is too often focused on what is happening "out there". In the same moment, we are talking on the phone, replying to an email, updating our status and checking the latest headline. We commit to be in too many places at once. And those right in our midst are hurting. Brokenness exists all around you. Right now. 

As leaders, we must be present. It's our responsibility to embrace what God has put squarely in front of us, and take action where we are. 

Being present requires time, space, and place. Eye to eye focus. Undivided attention. Messy moments of inconvenience. A willingness to lay down everything else to pay attention to who is in front of you. Listening, caring, and loving. Putting down roots in a specific place. Leading where you are. 

We need more presence. With our Savior, our families, our friends, our neighbors, our city, our teams, our circle of influence. We must show up and be in the moment.

Lead now. Influence big. Change the conversation. Your presence matters. God desires to use you for something momentous today.

Lead well. 
Be rooted. 
You are responsible.

Be present.