Husbands, Love Your Wives

Husbands, Love Your Wives

Guys, do you remember those courting days, when you and your wife-to-be couldn’t get enough time together?  Remember when saying “I love you” to your sweetheart was as normal a part of your life as waking up each morning?  Remember when she could do no wrong and everything about her was new, wonderful, and invigorating?  Remember the laughter, the fun, and even the silliness of those days when a note, a call, or a text absolutely made your day?

And do you remember that special day, when you stood before a crowd of friends and family, and made this pledge: 

“I take you to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”

Well, if you’ve been married any amount of time since those days, it’s possible, if not likely, that the routine, burdens and grind of life has served to distort and distract all those initial thoughts, feelings and beliefs.  You may have even forgotten the words you enthusiastically recited as you began your new life together. 

Lori and I have been married for nearly 37 years and, while we have had our share of disagreements, and things have not always been rosy, I thank God that our love and commitment remains strong and unwavering.  Yet, over the years, I’ve had a number of close friends confide in me that their marriages were struggling and that the “D” word was even coming up in conversations with their spouse. Many guys I’ve known have expressed their discontent, anger, frustration and second thoughts about the lady who they felt 180-degrees differently about just a few years earlier. 

So what changed? How is it that something that was so hot became so cold; something that was meant “till death do us part” could now so readily be concluded?

There are a myriad of reasons and explanations for each one of these marital challenges.  But one thing that might be missing in most, is the choice to love. And that choice to love is illustrated beautifully in these verses in Ephesians 5:25-29:

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.”

Note that inherent in Christ’s love of the church is a choice that He made: to give up His life and to care for His church.  No one could doubt Christ’s commitment to love.  But as great as that commitment was and is, what is even more astounding is the object of Christ’s love, the church.  Consider that the church is full of broken, sinful men and women, who routinely fail their Savior and turn their backs on Him. Yet, Christ’s love remains constant and immoveable, in spite of our frail and ugly selves.  

Now, using the illustration of Christ’s love for the church, we husbands are commanded to “love our wives.”  Period.  That command has no qualifier, other than we are to love her as our own bodies.  Furthermore, because of the illustration of Christ giving up His life for the church, we can also conclude that a husband should exhibit an unwavering commitment to sacrifice on behalf of his wife, even unto death if it were required.  But since it’s unlikely most of us will be called to actually die for our wife, perhaps we should just strive to love her when she might act unloveable, which might be possible.  (Of course, what’s more likely is that we husbands might be even more unloveable than her.)

Now this may be an odd sort of article coming from a guy who loves to write about politics, government, culture and philosophy.  But if you believe, as I do, that as the family goes, so goes the nation, then there is no more important topic than marriage and the family.  

My heart often grieves for the state in which we find our nation, cities and culture.  Sadly though, I believe that we are reaping the severe consequences of what we have sown via our rejection of God and His founding values upon which our nation was built.  And certainly there is no more important value than marriage.  

So if you are a guy who is struggling in your marriage, and if you seemed to have lost the love and commitment that you once had for your wife, I encourage you to reconsider, recommit and begin to evaluate the kind of love that Christ showed for you. If you will do this, and then find someone you respect to walk alongside you as you seek to restore your marriage to what it was always meant to be, then there is hope.  And where there is hope, there is potential that, with God’s help, and your willingness to follow His leading, your marriage can be healed.  

So keep keeping on. Do right until the stars fall. Love your wife. And look to the ultimate example of love.  Christ chose to love you, even while you were unloveable.

The Impact of Broken Families on our Economy

The Impact of Broken Families on our Economy

If you’re 50 years old or older, you might remember an era when Home Economics class was a normal part of school curriculum. While boys were attending Shop Class, the girls were busy in Home Ec, learning about sewing and cooking. It was good practical info that many girls used later in life as they began their own families.  

Today though, the term Home Economics has a very different meaning, as presented in the book,Home Economics: The Consequences of Changing Family Structure by Nick Schulz.  In the book, Schulz lays out a detailed and documented analysis of the deterioration of the American family over the last five decades.  The statistics are not only alarming but undoubtedly have contributed to much of the social breakdown we have seen in our nation since 1960, as well as rising government budgets.

Consider these troubling statistics, comparing 1960 to today, which sadly, in every instance, represent human lives:

*  Fewer people are marrying.
*  Those who do marry will marry later and divorce more frequently
*  Births to unmarried mothers have climbed dramatically. In 1960 they were just 5%. Today the number exceeds 40%. And in the black community, out of wedlock births account for 70% of all newborns.
*  The percent of children raised by single parents in 1960 was 9%; today it is more than 25%.
*  Married family households earn 40% more than single parent households.
*  Only 5% of married family households are considered poor vs 30% for single parent households.
*  Poor children are two times as likely to climb the economic ladder if their parents are continuously married versus the children of broken or single parent homes.
*  According to the Brookings Institute, if young people finish high school, get a job, and marry before having children, their chance at landing in poverty is only 2%.  But if these factors are not in place, three-fourths of young people will enter poverty.

Of course, politicians, social scientists, and many media pundits can quote these statistics at length.  But the problem isn’t knowing these numbers, but rather quantifying them, and then identifying real solutions to address this undeniable national crisis.

AMERICA’S FOUNDATION

As we think about our nation’s abundance, and the extraordinary success we have had over our 200+ year history, there is little doubt that our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, extraordinary documents, contributed to our nation’s greatness. But I would suggest that they do not singularly account for our exceptionalism.  

Foundational to these two documents was our Judeo-Christian values, and in particular the Family — an institution that undergirds any thriving society.  

Recall that “In the beginning…” when God created the heavens and earth, He created man and woman, and He told them to be fruitful, multiply, and become one flesh.  And several thousand years later, Jesus, the Creator, entered our world as Jesus, the Redeemer, and He affirmed the institution of the Family when He shared these words, in Matthew 19:4-9:

“And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

So God established marriage and the family, consisting of one man plus one woman and their children (which sadly today we must now define what a family is).  In addition to the Family, God also ordained the Government & Church.  But the fundamental building block of any society and nation is the Family.  Because of this, we  can conclude that “as the family goes, so goes the nation,” establishing a correlation between the strength of the family and the strength of a nation’s economy.

FISCAL IMPACT

There are two numbers that create a direct correlation between the decline of the family and our nation’s fiscal woes.  They are:

$757,000,000
$112,000,000,000

These two numbers come directly from a study entitled “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing” that was issued in 2008 using data from 2006.  That report, conservative in its estimates, found that the cost of family fragmentation for ONE YEAR in Tennessee was $757 million and nationally was $112 billion. Even using these 10 year old numbers, we can calculate a 10 year cost to taxpayers of over $1 trillion for family fragmentation in America.  

Are you shocked? Don’t be. Note this quote from the report that attempts to identify the far reaching impact of a broken home:

“Divorce and unwed childbearing create substantial public costs, paid by taxpayers. Higher rates of crime, drug abuse, education failure, chronic illness, child abuse, domestic violence, and poverty among both adults and children bring with them higher taxpayer costs in diverse forms: more welfare expenditure; increased remedial and special education expenses; higher day-care subsidies; additional child-support collection costs; a range of increased direct court administration costs incurred in regulating post-divorce or unwed families; higher foster care and child protection services; increased Medicaid and Medicare costs; increasingly expensive and harsh crime-control measures to compensate for formerly private regulation of adolescent and young-adult behaviors; and many other similar costs.”

As I was doing some research on this topic, I came across a statement from former Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge, the late Bob Moon (in Chattanooga, TN).  Note his highly relevant remarks from several years ago:

 Government will never solve the inner origins of crime, or gangs or reverse the complex origins of the problems. The primary source of the problems is the family and inside the homes where government cannot go or control without a search warrant or responding to a crime after the fact.  In fact, the closest that government usually gets inside of the home for assistance is a sustenance check or food stamps in the mailbox.

Government can do some things and some programs are commendable, but in the big picture, gangs and juvenile violence can only be reduced by committed and responsible parents, teachers and our community working consistently together.  

The focus should not be just on money, programs, gang czars, summits and speeches.  The focus should be the one that mothers, fathers, teachers and community leaders should be placing on themselves individually.

Marcus Aurelius succinctly stated that “All great nations fall from within before they fall from without.

FAILED PROGRAMS

In the past, our ancestors utilized various ineffective approaches to treat diseases and injuries. In particular, blood-letting used to be a common medical practice. The idea was that by cutting a patient and releasing amounts of their blood they could heal the individual, believing they were “bleeding” a person to health. But after 2,000 years, the practice of blood-letting was finally abandoned. It likely killed many more patients than it ever healed.  Yet, it was the commonly accepted practice.

Fast forward to 2017. For over 50 years now, we have seen the American family continue to decline while rates continue to skyrocket for births out of wedlock, percent of children in single homes, percent of children in poverty, divorce rates and more. Yet, bureaucrats, social scientists and entire political parties, believe government programs can fix the problem. But these programs seldom if ever focus on the root of the problem.  Instead they seek to put a bandaid on a festering wound.  

It’s time to try something new rather than continuing to bleed red ink in our state and federal budgets. Taxpayers have a right, and an obligation, to weigh in on family policies since they are footing the bill to the tune of a Trillion Dollars per decade when marriages fail.

So what should our response be? Should we only be concerned with this issue because it affects our wallet via our taxes?  Or are there bigger reasons to motivate us?  Can we reverse the dangerous and destructive trend that we are seeing as it relates to the Family in America?

SOLUTIONS

I think so and here are just a few quick ideas.  While they may seem small, remember that every structure is built upon a solid foundation that is made up of individual bricks.  And there is not one of those bricks that is not important.  So consider these ideas:

Marriage —  Is your marriage strong and will you commit to keeping it strong? When you said your vows, “in sickness or health, for better or worse, ’til death do us part” did you mean them? Will you vow to never abandon your marriage… and children?  Will you allow your marriage to demonstrate to others what the family should look like… and what Christ can do in your relationship if you are a Christian?

Encourage others in their marriages.  Come alongside other couples, particularly if they are young and struggling. Show them the way to work through the bumps that we all have along the way.

Don’t buy into the false narrative that the family doesn’t impact our economy.  The fact is, our families drive our economy. Broken families equal a broken economy. Be willing to speak out when the opportunity arises.  

Embrace programs that are really making a difference in the inner city, where the marital statistics are at a red-alert level. One such program in Chattanooga is the Y-Cap program, that my friend Joe Smith and his son Andy have given thousands of hours to.  Their inner city boxing program comes alongside the most vulnerable children and broken homes to provide tutoring, mentoring and life skills.  Additionally, they train young boys in the art of boxing.  In fact, one of their shining examples, Ryan Martin, just fought his first fight in Madison Square Gardens on HBO last week and successfully defended his WBC Continental Americas title.  And he credits Joe and Andy Smith for much of his success. This is the kind of program that truly makes a difference in the lives of boys and girls who are otherwise destined for a life of poverty and likely crime.

Be willing to educate your friends and family on the two numbers that were shared in this article, since they likely have no clue about the dramatic costs of broken families on our budgets:
     $757 million: the annual cost of family fragmentation in Tennessee
     $112 billion:  the annual cost of family fragmentation in America

Challenge your church to step up to support the family, particularly broken ones.  Too often government will assume what the church has abandoned.  And for many years, the role of the church, as pointed out in James 1:27 has been lost: “to visit orphans and widows in their trouble.”  We have an epidemic of orphans and widows, via our single-parent homes where daddy has gone AWOL.  Sadly the church has gone AWOL as well.  So are we surprised that big government is waiting to step in with their big government programs, that are certainly capable of running up a big tab, but are incapable of producing permanent good results?

Remember, government is seldom neutral.  If it is, it won’t be for long.  So government is fully engaged in this issue.  But do they have the solution?  My belief is they do not.  So unless you speak up, the failed solutions of the last decades will continue to be the failed ones of the future.

Ultimately, there is no political solution for a spiritual problem.  And this is at the heart of this issue.  What God created as a spiritual union, cannot be replaced with government programs.  So the only genuine solution will occur when we see hearts transformed in America.  And as they are, and they are turned back to God, only then will we see the family restored, and our nation made great again.

“If the foundations are destroyed…”

Knowing the Facts is Easy but…

Knowing the Facts is Easy but…

Knowing the Facts is Easy but...

“Knowing the facts is easy. Knowing how to act based on the facts is difficult.”  Han Feizi

A good friend and mentor shared the above quote with me this last week and it got me thinking…  In this age of Google and Siri, it has become commonplace to find out the answer to nearly any question we have.  No longer do we need to go to a bookshelf, pull out a volume of the World Book encyclopedia, to find out the answer to a problem we might be having. 

Case in point.  A couple days ago I was struggling to remember the name of the runner from Jamaica who just won gold for the third time in the Olympics in the 100 meter race.  So I picked up my phone, and asked my digital assistant: “Siri, who is the world’s fastest man?”  In just moments I had the answer along with more facts than I ever asked for:  Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man.

Yet, with our 21st century capacity to know the facts on nearly any subject matter known to man in mere seconds, what has not changed for mankind is the ability to know how to act based on the facts.  In fact, it remains just as difficult today as it was for our ancestors thousands of years ago.

The truth is, it matters not whether we are talking about our personal life, business, political choices, moral dilemmas, or spiritual quandaries, we often know the facts of a matter, but struggle to make the right choices based on those facts.

Uncertainty

There are times when we know the facts, but the proper response to the facts is difficult to discern.  It may be that the proper choice is not totally clear.  Or it could appear that there are pros and cons to all the various options.  So discerning which is the best option can be difficult. 

This can occur when we are too close to the matter, or our experience with the facts at hand is limited.  When this happens, a second set of eyes, a new perspective, greater wisdom, or even a personal coach, can bring clarity to the matter, resulting in the proper choice coming into focus.  So we should never hesitate to bring mentors, counselors or trusted advisors into the picture, whether in our personal, business or spiritual life.  

Conscience 

We’ve all heard the phrase, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  Well, so is a conscience.  Our God-given “inner voice” can serve as a guide in leading us to the proper decision in a matter.  While this is true, at times we choose to ignore or question the voice.  We know what we ought to do, but we resist doing so.  The sad reality of this scenario though is that if we do this often enough, at some point our conscience will grow weaker and weaker, to a point that it no longer serves as a voice of discernment in our lives.  And what was designed into us as a guide can over time lose its influence, and even grow silent.

There’s a passage in Romans 7 that speaks specifically to this quandary:

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate… I want do do what is good, but I don’t.  I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.”

Situational Ethics

We’re all familiar with the philosophy “the end justifies the means” and most would likely reject it. But the truth is that many of us will at times embrace this reasoning when it can benefit us personally.  The opening quote of this post says, “Knowing how to act based on the facts is difficult.”  If I were to re-write the quote I would revise it to say, “Knowing how to act correctly based on the facts is difficult.”

Situational ethics can frequently lead us to a justifiable option, but it may be the wrong choice.  My set of facts may reveal that I am broke and don’t know how I’m going to put gas in my tank.  While I’m in the break room at work I find a $20 bill laying on the counter.  No one is around so I justify taking the cash because no one will ever know, “finders keepers, losers weepers” or some other rationalization.  I need to put gas in my tank to get home to my family, so I’m ok with doing the wrong thing.  So that $20 is now mine.  Simple.  The end justifies the means.

We know better but we justify our decision, and thus we act based on the facts, but our action is flawed and incorrect.  James 4:17 addresses this particular dilemma quite succinctly:  “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

At the end of the day, it’s critical to look beyond the facts and seek to respond to those facts in the correct manner.  Whether we seek out a coach or mentor, or we respond to the truth we know to do, or we resist the temptation to justify inappropriate behavior, if we want to succeed and grow in life, we must all too frequently make the tough but difficult choice.

Are there other ways you’ve found to do what is right but difficult?  If so, send me an email or post a comment below and let me know your thoughts.  

Mark

Your Business and Marriage: The Urgent vs Important

Your Business and Marriage: The Urgent vs Important

Your Business & Marriage

 

Last year I wrote about the importance of marriage in “An Entrepreneur’s #1 Partnership,” emphasizing the need to prioritize your marital relationship above your business.  But it’s easy to write about doing so, and quite another thing to actually live it out on a daily basis.

Entrepreneurs and employees are often tempted to focus more of their attention and energies on their business or job than the relationship with their spouse.  As an entrepreneur, I can affirm the struggle this dilemma often presents.  And if you’ve spent any amount of time in business, you know exactly why this is. 

Our businesses present a constant set of opportunities, challenges, and other “urgent” matters, that demand our immediate attention.  If you’re like me, it’s all too easy to allow these demands to overshadow everything else in life.  Whether it’s our relationship with our spouse, our kids, our personal health, or perhaps even our spiritual walk with God, it seems that all too often, the urgency of the immediate drowns out the preeminence of the important.  

Granted, there are instances when a scenario is truly urgent in nature, requiring our immediate focus or else catastrophic consequences could ensue.  These rare instances are not what I am referring to.  Rather, the “urgent” issues I am referring to are the unlimited number of lesser demands that present themselves on an all too frequent basis.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we can see this reality clearly, both in our own lives and sadly in the lives of others.  But in the heat of the battle, it’s easy to ignore that internal nagging voice that continues to remind us that the urgent is once again supplanting the important.  And when it does, it can result in our cancelling that special dinner with our spouse, or missing our child’s ball game, because a last minute “deal” demands we do so.  

So how do we overcome this temptation so that we properly address the urgent without sacrificing the important?  There are at least three truths we can embrace to overcome this “urgent versus important” dilemma:

  1. Involve yourself in an accountability relationship with someone you trust implicitly, whether individually or in a small group. Be honest and transparent with this individual in a manner that allows him to provide honest feedback.  It is a rare person who can critique his own actions and choices in such a manner that he will self-correct and recalibrate his life when he veers off course.  An accountability partner will provide that much needed correction to help us bring the important back to a priority over the urgent.  The book of Proverbs affirms this truth when it reminds us that “…in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

  2. The urgent will always be clamoring for immediate attention.  The unexpected and unplanned seem to show up on a regular basis, and too often at the most inopportune times.  And when the urgent rears it’s head, it seems all else pales in significance.  You can likely identify this reality playing itself out over and over in your own life, if you think about it.  So it’s critical that we begin to identify when the urgent has arrived and that we be prepared to counter this temptation with a predetermined course of action.  Whether it’s one that you’ve devised on your own, with your accountability partner, or perhaps one such as the Eisenhower Decision Principle (named after President Dwight Eisenhower), have a plan ready to deploy when the urgent shows up and seeks to derail the important.

  3. As hard as we try, there will be times when we succumb to the urgent despite our best intentions.  One truth that we know about ourselves is that we often fail to live up to our own standards and expectations.  It may not be that we intended to, but old habits die hard and we frequently revert back to our old self.  But this is just another instance when we must simply acknowledge our frailty, both to ourselves and our spouse and/or family, and then recommit ourselves to steps 1 and 2 above.  Meet with your accountability partner, evaluate your actions, and then learn from your mistakes.  

I trust that you and I will continually remember these truths and we’ll take whatever steps we need to take in order to insure that we don’t wake up someday and realize that, while we were successful at accomplishing the urgent, we failed in the truly important areas of our life. including that most important relationship, our marriage.   

Mark

13 Hours: Warriors Aren’t Trained to Retire

13 Hours: Warriors Aren’t Trained to Retire

America-America-Banner3

This last week I had the opportunity to view the newly released Hollywood movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Having followed the tragic circumstances surrounding the loss of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, I was eager to view the movie. The film tells the true story of four Americans killed, including our Ambassador, during an attack by Islamic jihadists at a US compound in Libya, as a security team struggled to defend the lives of several dozen Americans.

While there were several scenes and lines that stood out to me in the film, one in particular is the subject of my post today. The main characters in the story, Jack Silva and Tyrone Woods, were retired Navy Seals and long time friends.

In the relevant scene, the two are sitting on the rooftop of one of the building in the compound they are defending, following an intense battle in which they and their small team had just survived one of what was to be several waves of attacks from dozens of heavily armed Islamists. As Jack recounts his frustration with having left his wife and children behind in the US to sign up for another stint on the security team, he expresses his bewilderment at what drives him to continue to return to the battlefield. In response Tyrone explains that, “Warriors aren’t trained to retire.

If one isn’t paying attention in the movie, it would be easy to miss this line that succinctly explains the behavior of these Navy Seal warriors. But the line, “Warriors aren’t trained to retire” is also a statement that bears examining for possible application to our lives.

No matter where you are in life, the concept of retirement is one that has crossed your mind. In our culture, it’s commonly accepted that all who work will eventually retire and begin a life of leisure. Typically the word retirement is tied to two variables: age and economics. And it generally looks like this. A person will work 40-50 years, create sufficient assets and related income, so that when they are 60-70 years of age, they can “retire” and live happily ever after.

The “happily ever after” can change from one person to the next, but for most it ranges from moving to Florida, playing golf several times a week, traveling, or a host of other R&R type activities.

But this “conventional” approach would seem at odds with the point Tyrone was making to Jack, that warriors just don’t know how to retire because it isn’t something that is taught, or perhaps more importantly, even contemplated. While becoming a warrior involves training and know-how, to be an effective warrior it also requires a certain type of spirit or mental attitude that never quits. A warrior understands that there is always another mission and his skills and know-how are not expendable; rather, they are desperately needed by others.

When thinking of your own circumstances, I’d like to challenge you to consider what you will do with your life once you are no longer gainfully employed. Many eagerly await that day, believing that punching out that last time will be the start of all things new and better, anticipating that the grass is greener on the other side.

But I’d suggest that if we are working today to simply stop working tomorrow, we are overlooking one of life’s greatest purposes. Despite our 21st century way of thinking, the world hasn’t always considered that when one reaches a certain age or economic status, he can then simply turn his attention inward, seeking to devote much of his waking hours at that point to his own fancies and pleasure.

To the contrary, I would suggest that at the point one leaves the office for the last time, it is then that one’s experience, wisdom and perhaps even passion have likely reached a crescendo. And if we believe the truth that “to whom much is given, much is required” then we will be compelled to share the wisdom and life experiences we have gained with others in need. Those “others” could be a young man who is just beginning his family and career, or a woman who is facing a difficult midlife challenge, or even an organization that is in desperate need of our expertise.

I have a friend who is an honorably discharged twenty-three year combat veteran of the US Army who beautifully exemplifies the idea that warriors don’t retire. Rather than head for the golf course or sandy beaches, Bob in his post-retirement years launched a new non-profit organization with a two-fold, synergistic mission: “To support military veterans by training and employing them in schools as classroom volunteers, tutors and mentors.” And today, Bob and his colleagues are making a huge difference in the lives of veterans and school children in my community.

So what about you? No matter whether you are in the first half of your career, or approaching those final years in your job or business, it’s never too early, or too late to be thinking about and planning for life after employment. I encourage you to seriously consider how you will invest into the lives of others in a way that will have deep and lasting impact for good… because “warriors aren’t trained to retire.

Mark

Leaving a Legacy: The Day After

Leaving a Legacy: The Day After

Leaving-a-Legacy

As this year winds down, many achievers and leaders begin to think about big picture issues. What did they accomplish this last year? What are their goals for the coming year, both personal and professional? What are their strategies to achieve those goals? But one area that oftentimes we forget to evaluate is just what kind of legacy are we leaving behind for those we love and care about?

Legacy

While this is a word we are familiar with, we oftentimes spend very little time focused on it. What is it that we want to leave behind once our days come to an end? Perhaps the reason our legacy oftentimes gets such little attention is that too often we act as if our days are unlimited, or at least we don’t see them coming to an end anytime soon.

Teach us wisdomBut if we are honest with ourselves, we can think back over the last year or two and we can name at least one person and perhaps several friends and/or family, who were with us then but have now passed on. And it’s likely we can also identify young friends who believed they had many more years to live. Yet they too have passed on.

Our days are numbered. For some, that will mean that 2016 will be the year in which their days wind down. For others, it will be further into the future. But for all of us, that final day is sure to come.

Now my intent is not to be morbid or to cause us any discomfort. Rather it is to simply recognize the obvious and to plan for the day after our final day. You see, the day after our final day on earth will be the day our legacy will be revealed. But the days leading up to that final day will be the days in which our legacy is created.

In order to create a legacy, though, there are several steps one must consider.

Be Intentional

To create suggests intentionality. It infers that there is a plan with a desired outcome. Intentionality is a trait that is found in the most successful leaders of our day. And so it stands to reason that when it comes to our own legacy, we must give thought to what it is we desire to leave behind. What are the qualities, attributes, and values we desire to communicate to our loved ones and sphere of influence that will impact them in a manner that will outlive our life? We must identify those values and then begin to make choices that prioritize and advance them.

Start Now

It’s a mistake to think that one must be older in life to focus one’s attention on their legacy. The truth is one is never too young to begin to establish their legacy and we never know when our legacy will be permanently etched. I recently read of Sergeant Dennis Weichel, a 29-year-old soldier with the Rhode Island National Guard, who gave his life to save a young Afghan girl. He was described as “the living embodiment of the Army’s core values: courageous, selfless and loyal.” In his short 29 years, Sergeant Weichel established a legacy that most of us would be honored to leave behind.

Re-chart your Legacy, if needed

While it’s true that now is the time to start one’s legacy, it’s also true that it’s never too late to re-chart one’s legacy. Too often in life we find ourselves down a road that we never intended to travel, yet one choice after another leads us to a destination we regret. Thankfully, so long as we are breathing, we have the opportunity to reverse course and re-chart a new destination. And as we do, we can begin to redefine our legacy.

I’m reminded of the criminal on the cross who hung next to Jesus on that seminal day for all of mankind. We have no background on the two criminals who hung there with Jesus. But we do know the ultimate outcome of both. And literally billions of people since that day know of the decision made by the one criminal who addressed Jesus with these words: “Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” While no doubt this man’s past was one of shame and failure, with that one final choice, his legacy was established not only for the rest of recorded time but more importantly for all of eternity.

If your past is checkered and one you would rather forget, refocus your attention on the here and now. Make a decision today to change your legacy and begin on a new path of victory and success.

Find Legacy Role Models

Oftentimes the best way to achieve success is to find someone else who is succeeding and duplicate what they have done. Similarly, there is no shortage of men and women who have passed on but who left behind glowing legacies for us to follow and duplicate. I think of one such man, my father-in-law, Terry Morgan. Terry passed away nearly ten years ago and was someone who, from the world’s standards of financial abundance, would never be written up in any business journals. However, as Lori and I celebrated his life in the days following his passing, we were not only amazed but encouraged beyond words as person after person approached us and shared with us how Terry had impacted their lives. His consistent service to others because of his love for God, had such a broad impact on so many that there is no question that Terry left a glorious legacy, eternal in nature. And I’m certain that Terry has served as a role model for many he impacted.

As we wrap up this year and begin to think of the new one, let’s not overlook the importance of our legacies and what it is we want them to be. I trust the above steps will assist you as you seek to establish a legacy that will shine years into the future and influence many for good.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Apostle Paul

Mark