Posted by: Don Linnen | 30 November 2018

The Hard Part

1 Corinthians 13 is a favored bible passage read at many weddings. It’s the “love” text that many starry-eyed people claim to believe. I’m not sure they really think about the hard part in the middle.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

There’s that word “endure,” a synonym for “persevere.” It applies to all of life, not just to love. A Jack Miller devotional in November contends the Corinthians passage begins with patience and ends with perseverance, as if to say, “Don’t quit in-between.”

You start a race fresh. You grind it out in the middle. You end it happily tired and satisfied – especially if you’ve prepared. If the contest affects yourself or others, it may be more important. If you win a seven-overtime football game, there may be more positive consequences – for the time being. 

But a 5K race or a 5-hour football game are just short simulations for the time from our birth to death. The hard part is somewhere in the middle. The first 20 years. The middle 60 years. The last 5 years. Don’t quit in between. 

A recent tweet by Jack Gross listed 10 Qualities All Successful People Share (That Have Nothing to Do With Talent).  Those qualities are:

  1. Be on time
  2. Work ethic
  3. Effort
  4. Body language
  5. Energy
  6. Attitude
  7. Passion
  8. Being coachable
  9. Doing extra
  10. Being prepared

Good stuff. Maybe click bait. Nevertheless, a worthy list. But I don’t see endure or persevere anywhere on the list.

I don’t see persist, continue, carry on, go on, keep going, struggle on, hammer away, be determined, follow through, keep at it, press on, be tenacious, stand fast, hold on, go the distance, stay the course, plod on, stop at nothing, leave no stone unturned.

Can you really do the 10 things to succeed on that list when the going gets tough – or boring – or uncomfortable – or unhappy? Can you do those things when you suffer?

The very good news of the gospel tells us to rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint those who receive God’s love.

There will be a grind. A word to reflect how you handle it needs to be added to your list for success.

 

Posted by: Don Linnen | 31 October 2018

Something New?

Over a month ago I admitted I didn’t know everything.

Pause. Friends and family are now rereading the first sentence and considering the possibility that my site has been hacked by Russian trolls.

In Arrogance of the Old, I briefly wrote of my surprise at learning something new. It occurred on a retreat to Lake Kiowa with a small group of good friends and respected coworkers. On one day in August I was exposed to various personality types of the Enneagram.

The Enneagram identifies nine ways we can see and experience the world. A search on the web for “Enneagram” reveals 5.62 million results. Maybe I’m the last to find out about it. But few of my old friends have heard of it.

It’s a “curious theory of unknown origin” according to Cron and Stabile, coauthors of the book and podcast, The Road Back to You. There’s no scientific evidence that the Enneagram is a reliable personality typing system. Yet my brief exposure to it revealed valid insights into what makes me tick. Some things I liked (confirmation bias?); some, I didn’t. For me, the uncomfortable but accurate latter insights added to its credibility.

“Know thyself” is a maxim – and literally a search – that began with the Greeks long, long before the internet. Today there are nearly 14M hits on a search for “know thyself.”

As you begin to understand yourself, you begin to understand others. It seems that many on our small planet – certainly in our nation – aren’t even trying to understand each other. Can we change that trend one person at a time? Will the Enneagram help?

There’s a lot to explore in the Enneagram. There’s a lot to explore in each of us. I hope you’ll consider some self exploration.

If you choose to use the Enneagram, please resist the urge to take a quick online test to determine your personality type. Spend some time learning about it. Especially resist the urge to tell someone else what type you think they are. Learn about yourself first.

Know yourself. A Clint Eastwood line or a quote from Augustine of Hippo may remind you of that importance.

“You’re a good man lieutenant. A good man always knows his limitations.”  – Harry Callahan, 1973 AD

“Grant Lord, that I may know myself that I may know Thee.”   – Augustine, ~425 AD

Choose one or both, but choose to know yourself.

I look forward to your “aha” smile of understanding when learn my Enneagram type.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 30 September 2018

Peace Instead

I was going to say something in this post about what I learned a few weeks ago. Instead, it seems more timely to speak of peace.

It’s been a rough week for our nation. Conflict is a mild description for what’s going on between multiple groups of otherwise civil people. Buffalo Springfield said it well: “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

My pastor, Bryan Dunagan, spoke today about the seventh beatitude – blessed are the peacemakers…

He said that conflict is not the enemy – it’s what we do with it that counts. Avoiding conflict is not the same as making peace. Like first responders – or marines running towards the fire – we must not run from conflict. We have to move towards it.

Jesus specifically said “peace makers,” not “peace lovers.” We have a responsibility, if you consider yourself a child of God, to make peace, to take the high road, to go the extra mile. And even to turn the other cheek.

In our culture of hyper competition, it’s not cool and certainly not competitive to say, “I’m sorry.” It’s much cooler and makes for a better action flick to listen to the dark angel on your shoulder urging you to get even because you got hurt – reminding you that payback is not just okay, it’s expected. Cheek turning makes for bad ratings.

So now it comes down to your choices. You can raise your voice in outrage or you can pray for peace.

And if you choose the latter, you can pray for the other side to finally see the light and agree with your side – or you can pray to be an instrument of peace. Saint Francis said it best:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

Choose wisely.  

You can see Dunagan’s excellent sermon here when it’s available.  

Peace out.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 3 September 2018

Arrogance of the Old

I was never as smart as I was when I was fresh out of college. Now I thought I knew it all as a teen ager. But I was really convinced I knew it all at the ripe old age of 22.

Every year after that I learned something new – sometimes A LOT new. And every year I realized how much more I really didn’t know. Gulping from the fountain of knowledge to wash down humble pie can do a lot to remove arrogance. For me, it took a lot of red Solo cups to wash away my know-it-all attitude.

So it came as quite a surprise last month when I dutifully but disdainfully sat through one more personality analysis. After so many years of these assessments (8 Myers-Briggs, 2 DISC, and probably 5 other appraisals), I was not thrilled at the thought of doing this  O N E   M O R E   T I M E   during our team retreat.

But, the millennials on the team really wanted to do this – and I quietly reminded myself that since they haven’t been around that much, they probably need to do more of this touchy feely introspective stuff. I’ll just be quiet and listen while THEY learn.

The arrogance of the young man had returned to this old one. At least I disguised my condescension well enough to not need more than one Solo cup during the retreat. (Thank you Magic Marker.) I listened and actually learned.

It is SO GOOD to learn new stuff. And so important to be reminded I’m not too old to learn.

Stay tuned for what I learned. I’m still processing.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 31 July 2018

Doubt

We all love confidence. Admire it in others. Wish for it ourselves. Sometimes have to fake it. Often miss the fact that others are faking it.

Is doubt a bad thing? Historic tales – both fiction and nonfiction – may have you believe it is. Certainty implies action.

G.K. Chesterton said that “every act of will is an act of self limitation. To desire action is to desire limitation. In that sense, every act is an act of self sacrifice. When you choose anything, you reject everything else.”

Therein lies the rub. Deciding on one thing to the exclusion of all else. It’s one thing if you’re deciding on the color of your new road bike or the direction of your business. Entirely another if your decision affects your soul throughout eternity – or the fate of a nation for a few decades – or centuries.

As a young Air Force officer, I served under a few senior officers infected with “great leader syndrome” – they refused to change their mind even when presented with better, more current information. They didn’t want to appear to be a weak leader. Ironically, their refusal to even consider new ideas made them appear weak.

No one ever connected the word “weak” with Winston Churchill. Yet author Anthony McCarten, in his story, The Darkest Hour, wrote of an essential Churchill quality:

“…there was perhaps a more surprising ingredient than any nation in grave crisis might wish to find in its leader: doubt.

The vital ability to doubt his or her own judgements; to possess a mind capable of holding two contrary ideas at the same time and only then to synthesize them; to have a mind not made up, and so remain in conversation with all views.

This contrasted with a mind made up which could remain in conversation with only one person: the self. Britain had little use for an ideologue in these days. What it needed was a 360° thinker.”

Doubt is a characteristic of thought; a nutrient for the mind. Strong trees grow slowly. Strong minds do as well.

So dear Zadie, my counsel for you, your sister, and your closest cousin: it’s okay to doubt. Believe but question.

Think about the big questions, and let honest answers surely lead to your true beliefs.

A little doubt is a good thing.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 30 June 2018

Simple Answers

In a world that seems to get more complicated by the day, simple answers are especially appealing.

If false, they can be dangerously misleading; if true – they’re like nuggets of gold.

Christianity – easy to grasp for a child – quickly gets complicated as you age and gain life experience in a less-than-perfect world. But I know a guy with answers.

The guy is Jesus. I believe he is who he says he is – and that’s based on a belief that is certainly not childlike.

My friend John Maisel says there are just two things Jesus wants you to know. Maisel calls these things “truths” – actual “bedrock reality” for our lives.

What are the two truths? Imagine a sit down with Jesus and him looking you in the eye and saying:

All I want you to know is I love you. Trust me.

You got it. The last five words – just 19 characters. Pretty simple. Really true.

Take those nuggets with you anywhere.

Even better, go share them.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 31 May 2018

A Mash-Up of Hope

Here’s a new mash-up: Jim Denison, Os Guinness, Shane Parrish, and Barbara Tuchman. Not too far out there since they’re all smart people, but rarely considered in the same breath.

After the Minnesota Miracle in January, Denison wrote a blog post that many may have missed. That’s understandable if you’re not big on football, Minnesota, or Jesus. But read a little deeper into his words, and you’ll find both concern for division in our country today and encouragement that we are alive “for such a time as this.”

Denison pointed me to Guinness speaking at The Colson Center’s Breakpoint. There Guinness traced the current division of views in America to “the heirs and allies of the American revolution (1776), where faith and freedom went hand in hand; and the heirs and allies of the thinking of the French revolution (1789), where faith and freedom were mortal enemies.”

Guinness continued (thanks to Denison for the full text): “The current crisis [in America] is a tale of these two revolutions. Both cry ‘freedom,’ but their views of freedom are diametrically opposed. They have: 

  • different roots (the Bible versus the Enlightenment), 
  • different views of human nature (realism versus utopianism), 
  • different views of change (incremental versus radical), 
  • different views of freedom (the power to do what you ought versus the permission to what you like), 
  • different views of government (protective versus Progressive), 
  • different views of accountability (‘under God’ versus without God), and 
  • different views of righting wrongs (repentance and reconciliation versus reparation and revenge).”

Now we’re just talking about freedom and living together. Imagine that. An argument over one word and a basic concept. An argument 230 years ago.

Parrish recently tweeted the principles for his excellent Farnam Street blog:
1. Direction over speed 
2. Live deliberately 
3. Thoughtful opinions held loosely 
4. Principles outlive tactics 
5. Own your actions

Meaningful. Substantial. Simple. 15 words on living a good life.

If thoughtful opinions were held without a defensive posture. If principles were followed for the long run. If actions coupled with accountability. Folly might be avoided.

Tuchman wrote the book on folly. The March on Folly is her comprehensive study of “wooden-headedness” from 670 B.C. to 1973 A.D. She asserts that wooden-headedness, the source of self deception, is acting according to your wishes “while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.” Folly is often a “matter of ordinary men walking into water over their heads” without a set of principles to follow. 

Sound familiar? Tuchman published the book in 1984. For some reason John Meacham felt it important pen another review in 2018.

So here’s the mash-up. Folly is nothing new. Smart people are available now – and have been for a few thousand years – to share principles and encourage critical thinking. History offers good and bad, universally teachable moments. And no matter how bad things look, we are indeed alive “for such a time as this.”

Posted by: Don Linnen | 30 April 2018

Wisdom from Al & Jane at 70

Our dear friends, Al and Jane, are approaching their 70th wedding anniversary. 

Married for 70 years – that means they have been married for 25,550 days. Wow!

Put another way, had those two adventurous kids decided to constantly make epic trips around the world in 80 days, they would have circled the globe 319 times.

We are so glad they didn’t! It would have been too hard to catch them to glean their nuggets of wisdom. My wife and I caught them as often as possible. 

Al and Jane have been our double dates for more than one of our own anniversary dinners. They are fun to be with, and they are a TERRIFIC source of marital advice. Here are a few nuggets of their collective wisdom:

  • Our thoughts determine our actions, and those determine our lives.
  • Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. And if it’s a story about the wild west of Spur, Texas, you can be even slower to speak. 
  • Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid and don’t get discouraged. 
  • Let your light shine before others. Everybody needs a smile.
  • Where your treasure is, so will be your heart.

Their words reflect not just their lives well lived but the sources of their wisdom – from a guy named Sol, and some other guys named James, Joshua, and Matthew.

Their goal has always been to be encouraged in heart and united in love (coincidentally similar to one written by a guy named Paul). That goal is not just for themselves, but for everyone they brush up against. It actually does rub off on others.

We cannot count the times we’ve heard Jane say: “that was the best party…the best dinner…the best pie…the best wedding…the best trip…the best time we’ve ever had.” 

For most of those “best evers,” we’d think to ourselves, ‘yes, it was good. But the best?? Jane’s just being nice.’

But Jane really means it. She really believes it.  

The rest of us might say after a careful look at the Al and Jane of 70 years – “that’s the best marriage ever.” 

And we’d really mean it. We really believe it.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 31 March 2018

Cold Heart

“The hardest sin to confess is my pride – my stubbornness and coldness of heart.”

That first sentence in Jack Millers’s devotional for the 20th of March hit me in the gut and made me look at my heart. I’ve wondered in the past if sometimes my heart was too warm or too tender. Never have I wondered if it was too cold.

I look with dismay at others when they make snarky comments about the human condition locally, nationally, or globally. Naturally, only being snarky some of the time, I think I have most things figured out and believe I’m able to admit it when I just don’t know.

I set myself apart from those who only feed their minds – and beliefs – with information that confirms their biases. I define intellectual integrity as the willingness to admit uncertainty, to look at all sides of an issue, and to willingly examine long-held opinions given new evidence.

I claim to be different from those others on the far right and far left of our political divide. Those others who stubbornly dig in their heels and yell loudly at anyone who slightly disagrees with them. I claim intellectual integrity with a certain amount of pride.

As Hamlet said: “Ay, there’s the rub.”

Miller reminded me that “sin makes us inherently self centered and unteachable.” 

Am I self centered? I want my own way. Am I unteachable? I want to be right. I may be embarrassed to be wrong (even unwilling to admit my embarrassment).

Is that why so many tribes are fussing and fuming with each other these days? They’re unwilling to admit they might be wrong? That their leaders are wrong? That their ancestors were wrong?

Am I unwilling to admit I might be wrong. Or am just I proud to not be like “those other” people? 

The hardest sin for me to confess apparently IS my pride – sadly, my stubbornness and coldness of heart.

Looks like I need to add pride to my list of sins – things that displease God.

Sure am glad Jesus died so that our sins can be forgiven.

Sure am glad for Easter.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 28 February 2018

Long-Term Thinking

My savvy friends at MarketSmart raised a good point about nonprofit fundraisers competing with Apple for discretionary dollars. They said:

“The newest Apple iPhone costs about $1,000. In the past, it was about $600. Some 80 million people bought the iPhone X so far. Maybe more.

“That means… in the past few months, charities around the world lost out on 80 million opportunities to get about $400 bucks.

“Apple outflanked them! This is all about ‘share of wallet’.

“You’re not just competing against other charities. No! You’re competing against anything that provides value to your supporters.

“So, the question you need to ask yourself is this… What are you doing to outflank Apple?”

Asked another way: does your nonprofit offer more value than an iPhone upgrade?

Now I love my iPhone (most of the time). Every few years I do yearn for the latest and greatest, fastest and coolest. At first glance, the question is clearly a provocative apples and oranges comparison. But look at the question for longer than a glance.

What if the value your nonprofit provides is not something that needs upgrade in 2 years; slows down in 4 years; needs replacement in 6 years; and just quits working in 10 years? Competing for that $400 is relatively easy when involved with donors who think in the long term.

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” – 1 John 2:17

Forever is pretty much long term (and my desire for a flip phone has certainly passed away).

“…for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.” – Proverbs 27:24

Solomon didn’t mention iPhones, but he was on the right track. 

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” – John 6:51

Hmmmm.  Living bread or new iPhone?  Forever or a few years?  

You choose.

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