No Man is An Island: A Guide to Intentional Christianity

One of the most uplifting and motivating minds of the last 30 plus years is Zig Ziglar. His methods, grounded in a deep faith and a spirit of charity have greatly impacted me as well as millions of others in sales and leadership alike. His stories draw you in, pull on your heart and push you toward the excitement of victory.  He is best known for his doctrine of success.

No Man is an Island - John Donne

No Man is an Island – John Donne (Photo credit: mark(s)elliott)

He says ” You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want”. Achieving awesomeness in life is not simply about productivity and execution.  There are a thousand different “takes” on balancing the key areas of life: work, faith, family, etc.  For the Christian, this must be more of a “centering”.

If God is not the center of our life, all the worldly success is useless.

 The anxiety of a wandering Christian is paralyzing, terrifying, and absolutely destructive toward the journey toward awesomeness.  Perhaps Ziglar was familiar with the 1955 Merton Classic No Man is an Island.  Tomas Merton, a Trapist Monk, known best for his autobiography The 7 Storey Mountain, writes on the virtues of contemplative prayer and the intentionality of the will.  Interesting and purely coincidental juxtaposition, I re-read this book a week after finishing Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz.  Miller, much less formal than Merton, shares a very real experience Merton wrote about over half a century earlier.  We can all relate to wanting to want to love God, but not always feeling it.  Merton articulates this challenge and posits a road to healing that we walk when we truly begin to face our relationship with God:

It is not enough to do the will of his because his will is unavoidable. Nor is it enough to will what he wills because we have to. We have to will his will because we love it.

Perhaps Merton’s theological version of fake it ’till you make it is best summed up in this thesis:

…since no man is an island, since we all depend on one another, I cannot work out God’s will in my own life unless I consciously help other men to work out His will in theirs.

Merton is laying out the opportunity for us to intentionally center ourselves on God.  First, he says we cannot simply run into God’s will. It doesn’t “count” if we accidentally do it.  The Feed America campaign at Target is nice, but doesn’t constitute an intentional act of God’s will on our part.  Also, going to Mass on Sunday because as Catholic’s we have to, is not enough.  To attain that desired relationship with God, we have to love the will of God.  Our intentions ultimately dictate our actions and our awesomeness. His second statement tells us how.  We must love others so much, that we consciously and intentionally help them find and achieve God’s will in there lives.  This is what Mother Teresa survived on for years in Calcutta. This is what drove Pope John Paul II out of bed for so many years through the pain of Parkinson’s. This is the new starting line on our spiritual journeys.  Helping others through our prayer and our physical actions.  Start here and God will lead the way.
Who are you going to help today?

Rocco

 

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I am a Rich Fool, Time to burn my Barn.

We love a good story.  These stories connect through emotion, humor, and related experiences.  Story telling is one of the common themes for the best blog articles on the internet.  Jesus Christ, was the greatest blogger of all time.  He currently has over infinity followers (although many are not engaged followers), and is still pushing great content. He tells a great story about a man seeking heaven.  In Mathew, chapter 19: 16-30, Jesus meets a young rich man who takes this opportunity to assure himself of eternal salvation.  Like many of us, this man feels like he is doing all the right things, but still lacks that assurance of salvation. “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”  Jesus tells him to obey the commandments.  Here, he gives a quick run down of the ten commandments.  The young man, feeling a little better, yet still unsure replies, ” All of these I observed. What do I still lack?”  Jesus, not mincing words replies with the following words that are clear as day, yet so difficult to understand.  He says: if you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”.  The man leaves, after hearing this.  He leaves in despair because he has many possessions.  Jesus, knowing human nature better than anyone, turns to his followers to clarify, ” Again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells  another parable of a  rich fool. Luke 12: 16-21, Jesus tells his followers about a rich young man so with so many possessions, he cannot possibly need them all.  He tears down his barns and builds bigger and bigger barns to store his stuff. God calls him a fool…:”for tonight your life will be demanded of you…thus it will be the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God”.

barn collapsing (5)

barn collapsing (5) (Photo credit: Eric Willis (superic))

God is too smart to buy into simple box checking.  He is jealous and wants is all.  Trusting in him looks different for each one of us.  Living intentionally involves a lot of personal accountability.  Sometimes, the 5 am cup of coffee in front of the computer is real lonely.  This sense of “me against the world” or at least “me against my unaccomplished goals”, gives me a false sense of empowerment.  Am I the one doing the work?  I must remind myself that it is not I providing the inspirations, the drive, and tools.  God is providing, so that I can ultimately achieve the main goal, and that is living a charitable life of trust and love, where I share my God given talents and treasures with the world and ultimately get to heaven. What good post on intentionality would pose an opportunity such as eternal salvation without at least scratching the surface of instruction.  Here is a list of the first 3 things to rid myself of being a rich fool.  Take these and make them your own.
1.  Be intentional about prayer.  Yes, I am actually scheduling prayer time twice per day.  Hoping for inspiration to pray is not a good strategy for me.  This will come later, once prayer becomes a bigger part of my life.  Tailor this to your needs.  If you already pray a lot, schedule more time to pray.
2.  Read the Bible.  Start small and realistic.  I am starting with Mathew and reading about 10 minutes per night.  Find what works for you.  The Bible is God’s instruction manual for everything “awesome”.  If you are reading this at the expense of Bible time, your priorities are wrong.
3. Go do something charitable.  Don’t just read or write about it, do something.  Go to a soup kitchen, thrift shop, local church, etc.  Actions are way more impactful than thought.
Time for a barn burner.  What treasures are taking space in your heart? What one thing are you intentionally going to change TODAY to fix this?
Rocco

Intentional Sinner

Things were easier when I couldn’t figure how to get things done.  I hadn’t discovered the power of the intentional life and could always put things off until tomorrow.  Nothing is more important to me than my relationship with the Lord.  I tell myself that everyday. I told myself this today as I slept in, read 30 pages of a fiction novel, watched 2 hours of baseball, about an hour of social media, and countless moments doing things without giving the Lord a second thought.  It’s certainly true that we can be conscious of God even in mundane everyday tasks, but that wasn’t the case for me.  It rarely is.  I’m fed up with being a mediocre Christian. I felt a tug on my soul today. Call it the Holy Spirit or call it indigestion, here is what the frustrated, not at all crazy, conversation with myself looked like:

Rembrandt – “The Return of the Prodigal Son

Rembrandt – “The Return of the Prodigal Son (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know what to do to get where I wanna be, honestly, I don’t even know where I want to be.  What does the vision of my family look like when it comes to a Christian life? Are we trying to be holy and struggle for perfection or are we accepting of God’s grace and celebrating him and that grace? My joy in The Lord is like a troubled child who is happy, even joyous, to receive Christmas gifts and maybe even a hug from his dad. That’s not enough. God calls us to have a pure, unconditional love for him…unashamed joy. A connection. I see how happy my son is just to have a hug from me. That hug doesn’t “recharge his batteries”, it simply brings him joy.  I DON’T feel that connection with the Lord. I know the problem is ME and not The Lord. WHY am I not able to connect with him? I don’t trust, I don’t give, I don’t commit…
Personal accountability to our values must be the driving force of our personal mission. If you struggle to simply make the bed everyday and get anything done, this post probably doesn’t speak to you.  We have a lot of work ahead of us. You have an excuse.  If you feel in control and are able to accomplish goals, but miss the boat when it comes to your relationship with the Lord, then welcome to the club.

Author and professor Steve Brown says we are so busy trying to be holy, that we end up being bad.  We miss the point.  He shares his take in his book, 3 free sins,

that we as sinners are forgiven with  the blood from the cross.  This is where to start.  God’s love.  Incorporating more intentional faith into our lives is no different than waking up early to work on our blogs, books, paintings, or any other passion we enjoy.  The motivation to grow our relationship with God should dwarf our other endeavors.  Start with a vision. Build your plan to take you to your vision.  You GOT this!

How are you being intentional with your relationship with the Lord TODAY?
Rocco De Leo

Intentional Perspective

Perspective is a valuable gift.  It is also a skill you can and must develop.

You have a purpose much greater than making more money.

Perspective (graphical)

Perspective (graphical) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That may be a goal, a side effect of your achievement.  As you inch toward awesomeness, or maybe just defining what your awesome looks like, you may hear whispers of self-doubt.  I wrote a post on this very subject.   One tool you must sharpen is perspective.  This morning, I received an invitation to attend an urgent conference call with my team.   Immediately I focused on myself. Who is on the call? Layoffs? Is this going to affect ME? It turns out a colleague tragically lost her husband in a car accident and that message needed to be properly delivered to the team.  Beyond the crushing sorrow I feel for my colleague, I was given the gift of perspective. While I balance the natural tendency to think of how things impact me first, I desire to be more outwardly focused. That will lead me to my awesome and will lead you to yours. Anytime I realize I have a weakness, I get intentional about working on it.  I have put together a small list to help develop the skill of perspective.  Start with these 3 things and move forward:

1. What truly matters:  For most of us, this is family, NOT work.  Family loves you, work doesn’t. Do something positive today with your family. A great side effect of achieving awesomeness and realizing purpose, is this perspective becomes much more clear as you approach your goal . If your “success” distorts this perspective, you are moving in the wrong direction.
2. God’s unconditional love: God loves you no matter what you do.  He suffered and died for you and would have done the same thing if you were to be the only person to ever exist. He wants you to be happy and has given you skills and desires to achieve great things.  God is a pretty connected kind of guy, so don’t ever doubt the power of prayer and his ability to partner with you for fulfillment.

The ultimate goal, after all, is does not have a zip code and as of yet has no LTE or wifi.

3. You have grown: I always enjoy looking at old pictures.  The ones of me as a kid are cool, but the ones that really make me cringe are the ones that are about 8 to 10 years old.  They aren’t too old to be a “lifetime ago”, but they are old enough to remind me of changes (good and bad) that I have made.  Look through some old pictures and identify 3 positive changes (lost weight, better haircut, prettier girlfriend now, etc).  Make sure you focus at least 2 to 1 on positive verses negative changes.  Make sure you celebrate the positive changes and decide if the negative changes need attention.

Unwrap the gift of perspective and realize your potential.  How has your perspective changed in the last year?

Rocco De Leo

My Failure to Act: A tale of doing nothing while asking for it all!

Digital Mission

Digital Mission (Photo credit: Benjamin Ellis)

Coincidences only happen by coincidence.  They have an unusual way of opening up windows in our hearts. I keep a growing list of books in my que to read.  I hear podcasts or interviews about books and I put them on paper.  Recently I was listening to Michael Hyatt talk about a book that made an impact on him.  A book called Chasing Daylight. A few weeks later, I went to order it and discovered that there were several books with the same title.  I could not remember for the life of me which book or why I had been drawn into it.  I noticed Erwin Macmanus’ version was published by Thomas Nelson.  Michael Hyatt was mentioned in the acknowledgements (as he was the CEO of Thomas Nelson). Voila, problem solved. I ordered the book and started reading it immediately after it showed up. The subtitle of the book is “Seize the Power of Every Moment”.  His purpose is to teach us all that we are given opportune moments by God to actively live our faith.  Some moments are larger than others.

The Sunday after I started reading the book, I was confronted by my hypocrisy (a recurring theme lately). Praying in the front pew after communion, I could see a little old lady struggle to walk back to her seat.  It was awkward as I was praying for humility and holiness, she was trying to lean against the front portion of the partition I was praying on.  Very distracted and unable to focus on my vast holiness, I got a little frustrated.  Someone from across the way walked over and helped her back to her seat.  This is where I should insert a sound file of a loud SLAP in the face, my face.  I missed a moment to let God answer my prayer that would also have provided a great example to my children and the poor woman who was struggling just to walk.

As Christians, prayer is a part of who we are.  I have written recently about intentions and the role they play.  If we intend on changing the world, we must act.  Christian or not, this speaks to you.

Whatever your change you must actively seek and seize opportunities.

This is a habit that we must work develop.  The more we “do” the easier it will be to “do” more.  If I had a habit of helping little old ladies, I would have jumped at that opportunity.  Today, I will go out, be intentional, and look for opportunities to hold more doors, say hello, and be helpful.  Tomorow, I will do it again. Perhaps next Sunday, I will help a little old lady to her seat.

Ironically, the version of Chasing Daylight Michael Hyatt was referring to was by Eugene O’kelly, not by Erwin Mcmanus.  Both books are well worth the read.
What will you do today to be intentional about becoming the person you want to be?
Rocco De Leo

God Doesn’t Care How You Finish

This is the season for the SAT test.  As I sipped my cofee Saturday morning waiting for my 17 year old daughter to finish getting ready for her second round with the SAT, I openned up Feedly to read Seth Godin’s post, Measuring without Measuring.  In his witty, and for the moment “timely” manner, he states that the SAT is the best measure to see how a person will do on the SAT.   In two weeks we will have results showing kids who showed up and “fell” into great scores, kids who showed tremendous effort and growth to get “average scores” and very smart kids who struggle through tests only to get bad scores.  What are we hoping to gain from making hundres of thousands of kids take this test?  Colleges want results. They want to stack the odds in their favor that accepting more freshman with higher SAT scores will provide better results (ie, grades, student involvement, graduation).  The measuring stick of our life is results.  This is not one of those egalitarian posts about giving every kid a trophy or the self esteem movement anyone in thier 30s can remember.  We must measure results because we are not God.  We get paid to deliver results.  God is all knowing and measures something greater because he is reading the entire story.  He measures intentions.  He knows your heart. He paid the price on Calvary 2000 years ago to guarentee the results. All he asks for is you to love him, to have faith like a child (Luke 18:17)

Praise God

Praise God (Photo credit: GlacierTim)

What God gives us that the rest of life doesn’t, is a place to put our heart where we are guarenteed success.

We can put our efforts on sales numbers, amount of blog posts, and the soccer score. Yet It doesn’t matter. The results don’t change the core of who we are. In a world that will accept results regardless of intentions, we will never accept intentions without results. Only God will do that. True purpose is aligning your results with your intentions. In other words, you are not only good at something, but you want to be good at it as well. As I push through the self doubt about my writing ( I am not good enough, not writing enough, etc. ) and my parenting (who am I to raise these kids?) and my work results (numbers are down again?), I am comforted by the true measure of who I am by my heart.  This fuels my ambition to take on the self doubt through intentionality and  consistently “showing up”.

 
Only you and God know your true heart.  What’s your intention with him?
 
Rocco De Leo

Guard your Heart

Français : Logo de Connecting Emotional Intell...

Français : Logo de Connecting Emotional Intelligence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the heart is the forked highway to heaven and hell. Proverbs 4: 23 says “with the closest custody, guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life”.  As human beings with dynamic and sometimes unpredictable emotions, we are drawn into many damaging “relationships”.  These relationships are sometimes with people, sometimes with things, and more often than not, they are ideas.  Guarding your heart means avoiding unnatural attachment to these things.  Attachment defined here is any feeling or sense of being drawn toward something that does not serve your purpose.  Some things may vary depending on your purpose in life.

The first thing you need to do is have a purpose.  This is the premise of Rick Warren‘s best  selling book: The Purpose Driven Life.  At least start with a goal. You can look at my post on goals for a quick guide on developing and writing down your goals.  Without a purpose, it’s hard to line up your behavior.

The second thing is to be hyper aware of your emotions.  Daniel Goleman’s land mark book on Emotional Intelligence discusses the importance of self awareness.  I am suggested that we must not only be aware of how we are affectING the world around us, but how we are affectED but the world around us.  You act different around different people.  You have social norms with one group of friends than others.  Why is it that you may drink and/or act contrary to who you really are (or who you want or think you are).  This is because your are affected by those around you.  Be aware of the people you are around.  Guarding your heart by avoiding these environments or  to the danger will provide value and offer you a level of integrity to your purpose you haven’t had in the past.  Since complete avoidance is usually not the case for those of us in the real world, a state a hyper-vigilance is important.  You can achieve this by knowing what your purpose and goals are and checking in on them regularly.

The third thing is to seek others who have the same purpose.  If you emulate those around you in a negative way, then you are bound to do the same for those in a positive way.  Find people  who have achieved or are seeking to achieve similar success in personal development.  Guard your heart of course from idealizing people and ideas.  Take your time and understand that this is a slow process. The difference between the new you and the old you is that you are aware and are working toward being better rather than simply wandering in the wilderness.

The fourth thing is to know your weaknesses.  This is similar to number two, but drills down to specific weaknesses and not necessarily just behaviors.  Do you have a lustful heart toward people other than your spouse?  Do you drink too much alcohol or take drugs?  Are you suffering from depression and seeking validation through your actions?  Do you wander off topic and find it hard to focus? Know your weaknesses and avoid occasions that can exploit those weakness.

Finally, know your strengths.  Books such as the Toms Rath’s Strengthsfinder teach you how to find your strengths.  The fact you are looking in the mirror and seeking your strengths puts you light years ahead of your peers.  Know what makes your great and focus much more on those things.

What are you guarding your heart from?

Rocco