Death by Living by N.D. Wilson

N.D. Wilson is one of the most creative writers that I have had the privilege to read. His mastery of vocabulary and story-telling ability are an absolute pleasure. As I read this book, I was often swept away into the places he described, learning the lessons that he was teaching.

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Death by Living is reminder for some, a revelation for others, that we are both “tiny and massive.” We often tend to think of ourselves as the main actor on center stage when in fact we are but one of a multitude of supporting actors. And despite our insignificance, we have meaning and value because we have been created by the Author.

Wilson says it like this:

We are nothing more than molded clay given breath, but we are nothing less than divine self-portraits, huffing and puffing along mountain ranges of epic narrative arcs prepared for us by the Infinite Word Himself. Swell with pride and gratitude, for you are tiny and given much. You are as spoken by God as the stars. You stand in history with stories stretch in out both behind and before. We should want to live our chapters well, but doing so requires that we know the chapters that led up to us in our time and our moment; it requires that we open our eyes and consciously begin to shape those chapters that are coming after.

Life is a story. We will contribute to the story regardless of how we live. But how?

Hopefully by living for others. By dying to self. By giving rather than hoarding. By making memories for those who come after us and savoring the moments. By living ever moment in gratitude that the Author has both loved us and redeemed us, and has given so much that we can’t possibly hope to count it all.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

When God Writes Your Story

I’ve heard it said, and perhaps you have too, that we shouldn’t plan our lives because we will under plan them. Rather, in order to realize your full potential and fulfill your purpose, allow God to plan your life. This simply stated, not easily practiced principle, has proven true over and again in my life. There have been times that I have shot for the moon hoping to hit a star, not realizing that God wanted to give me the sun. I only had to wait for Him to write the story.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time:(Ecclesiastes 3:11).

It’s not always easy to give up the pen and allow Him to write. I think I know what’s best for me. I need to know the plan. I don’t have time to wait. And I have found that when He is writing, I often don’t see much more than the next step of faith. When He is writing, there are often unexpected plot twists and turns in the road that leave me overwhelmed and saying, “I didn’t see that coming.” When He is writing, I’m not in control, I’m under His control. And I have to constantly fight the urge to take the pen from His hand and write in characters and scenes where I think they should be.

So I fight every fleshly urge to know the future, to be in control, to speed up the story, and I allow Him to write.

Because when He is writing and unfolding His masterpiece I find true peace. When He is writing I realize that I have every thing that I need. When He is writing I face and overcome all of my fears. When He is writing, everything in me that I am ashamed of rises to the surface and He takes it out. When He is writing, I become the man He wants me to be.

I am just learning to allow Him to write the story. And over the last few months He has written exciting adventures that I could have never planned and He has penned in beautiful people who have changed my world forever. He has filled my story with a love that exceeds every expectation that I ever had for human love and companionship. In doing so, He has answered prayer requests that I have prayed for years and given me my greatest earthly blessing.

And I can truly say, it was worth waiting for the story to unfold. I wouldn’t change a thing. And I am full of anticipation for the chapters ahead.

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart (Psalm 37:4).

Chick-fil-A Leadercast: Part 3

Chick-fil-A Leadercast Conference 2010

Speaker #1: Connie Podesta

Speaker #2: Jim Collins

Speaker #3: Tony Dungy

Speaker #4: Mark Sanborn

I have been sharing some of the wonderful nuggets that I received at the Chick-fil-A Leadercast Conference 2010.  I hope you have enjoyed it so far.  This is a great way for me to process my notes and share what I learned.  For this post, I am going to cover two speakers and try to be very brief…enjoy!

Speaker #3: Tony Dungy – Retired head coach for the Indianapolis Colts & Author

A lot of what Mr. Dungy said can be read about in more detail in one of his books; Quiet Strength and Uncommon.  I have read both books and would recommend them, especially to young men.  For the sake of brevity, I would like to share the one thing that Mr. Dungy said that was, for me, the biggest “takeaway” lesson of the whole conference.  It is a poem that one of his  coaches taught him as a young player.

Talent is God-given, be thankful.
Praise is man-given, be humble.
Conceit is self-given, be careful.

My guess would be that we all need to hear one of those three lines about 90% of the time.  Powerful.  Truth.

Speaker #4: Mark Sanborn – Best-selling author of The Fred Factor.

Mr. Sanborn spoke to us about the power and importance of “story” in our lives.  Our lives are full of story and we cannot afford to be passive actors in the story of our life.  We need to understand other’s story.  We need to learn the story of our teams, and understand that leaders don’t just tell a better story, they make the story better!

There are  3 Levels of Story:

1. Stuck – Many people are stuck in their story and they need someone or something to give them a nudge.  They need to be resold on their value and the value of their story.

2. Struggle –  Struggling with your story is not necessarily a bad place to be.  Struggling is how you get unstuck.  Afterall, there would be no heroes, no victors,  if there were no struggles.  People who are at this stage need to be reminded that no one is exempt from struggling.  They may need to have their definition of failure updated as well.   Failure is something that happens to you, not something that defines who you are.

3. Shaped – At this stage we must look for the lesson and the destination.  Ask yourself, “How does my story impact others?”  I may add, “How does my story impact eternity?”

Be a shaper of stories.  How many “Happily Ever Afters” will you be a part of?

Epic

I love epic tales of adventure; stories full of trials, struggles, battles, victories, defeats, and triumph.  I am easily caught up in classic epics like Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, and yes, even Star Wars!  Stories like these have so many parallels into the very real “plot” of our lives.  When I read (or watch) these stories I tend to imagine myself as one of the characters.  I relish in the adventure lived vicariously through heroes like William Wallace, Benjamin Martin, and Maximus Decimus Meridius (Braveheart, The Patriot, and Gladiator).  Yet, more often than not, I fail to display the same courage which I admire in these characters when faced with reality.

Rather than stand in the face of adversity and uncertainty, I tend to complain and doubt.  All too often, my problems and my worries knock the wind out of me and rob me of my fight.  In all reality I must admit, if my life was an epic tale, there would probably be no young men admiring me and imagining that they could be so heroic.

Why do I fail so often to bravely face life’s difficulties and my failures?  Because I forget that my life is part of and Epic Story!

All too often, I forget that the story of my life is only a small part of the reality of Him.  My view of my life narrows and becomes limited to my years on this earth.  I forget that one day, I will ride in behind the King, surrounded a great host, as he subdues all of His enemies!  I will reign and rule with Him in His Kingdom for 1,000 years!  And when He defeats the final enemy at the end of that 1,000 years, I will dwell in Heaven with Him forevermore!

When I think about that, I realize that every day, every moment in this world is a preparation for (and a part of) this great adventure!  All of a sudden, my problems and worries don’t seem like that big of a deal.  My doubts and fears  no longer hold the same power over me.  After all, I am on the winning side!  Truth shall triumph!

Epic.