Tag: Failure

Foundations

I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life staring into a pit of red Virginia clay.

I was in between my junior and senior year in college and I’d stayed the summer to take some summer classes so BluePrintsI could graduate in December.

I was living in an apartment in Lynchburg and I was having dinner at a friend’s house.  He was a local contractor and was heading up the construction of a large building in the area.  

After dinner he was still talking about the huge project he was responsible for and was showing me prints and artist renditions of what the finished building would look like upon completion. It was obvious that he was so proud of the project and even though they were only three weeks into the project he asked me if I would take a ride with him to see the construction site.

Of course I said yes and soon we were on our way to see the progress of the project.

As soon as I stepped out of the car, I could tell something was wrong. There was nothing to see. No frame, no walls. No bricks, or shops. Nothing at all.

What had they been doing for three weeks?

“Unimpressed?” he asked.  (I must not have been hiding my feelings very well.)

“Aren’t you?”

“Looks good to me…What did you expect to see?”

“I don’t know…At least some framing. It seems like a long time to not have anything done.”

He looked back at me over his shoulder and smiled, but kept walking.

Basement Dug inHe led me over to a big hole in the ground in the center of the site. It didn’t look like anything, but he saw something different. He stopped and bent down, waving me over with his clipboard.

I was about to learn something that had led him for years.

I knelt beside him and looked into the hole. It must have been at least fifteen feet deep. And as I looked closer, I began to see it was part of an elaborate series of trenches forming a perimeter around where the building would soon sit.

He took a few minutes to explain how it all worked together and why this hole was different from the next. He told me they’d fill them with concrete and metal stakes that would secure the building in place.

When he was finished, he looked me in the eyes and said,

“You always have to build down before you can build up. You’ve gotta dig deep if you want to build high. Your most important work is the work you do before anyone notices or cares…It’s what makes everything else stand in the end.”

“I hear you, but isn’t this a bit overboard? Seems like you could have done less and be halfway done by now.”

“Maybe…but someday a storm’s going to come. They always do. And you gotta decide up front how big a storm are you going to be ready for. The time to prepare is way before it shows up.” 

Even in that moment, I realized he wasn’t just talking about the building. He was talking about what we build with our lives.  He was talking about how God can use us in this life to further His Kingdom.

I may not have fully understood at the time, but the years since have certainly made his point clearer.

The bigger your dream, the more you want to be used of God, the deeper you have to dig to make it happen. And it doesn’t matter how impressive things might seem above the surface. If the foundation isn’t solid, your beautiful building, or career, or life will end up crooked, sinking and failing in time.

It’s all about the foundation.  It’s about what’s underneath it all. It’s about how you’ll hold up in the storm.

The same is to said of your walk with the Lord.  Do you want to be used of God? Do you want to make a difference in this liFoundations1fe? Your walk must be formed with a firm foundation and the most important work is the work on your foundation you do before anyone notices or cares. Your foundation must be built on Jesus Christ. It is only that which has a strong and firm foundation on Him that lasts.

If I am completely honest, this is a very difficult lesson in life for me to write about. I am aware of the cracks in my foundation.  I am acutely aware of the failure in my life that can be traced back to the foundational weakness I had in my Christian walk all those years ago.

I have spent the last fifteen years of my life repairing those cracks in my foundation. There’s still so much work for me in the coming years. Even after all this time, God still shows me where He wants me to repair the foundation in my life.

Because a storm is coming. They always do, you know. And the ground beneath you must be able to support the weight of the hope inside you. Your life must be firmly set upon the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ.

But understand this… The bigger your calling, the deeper you’ll have to dig – the longer you’ll spend in quiet preparation before anyone seems to notice or care about what you’re building. 

Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. 

I Timothy 6:19

If your foundation is sure, pay no attention to what things look like today. Keep going – keep building. Brick by brick. Stone by stone.  And in time, you’ll find that what you once thought was impossible is now reality…it will stand against the storms of life.

And someday… you will be just what God intended you to be.

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Finding Purpose in Life

As I pass the five-year anniversary of this blog, I have taken some time to reflect over the topics I have shared since I started writing.  I have covered just about all aspects of my Christian walk and along the way I have told some personal stories from my life.  It is hard for me to write about someone or something that I do not have a connection with.  I have tried to be open and be “real” in the sense that most of the advice and experiences I’ve shared are things that actually happened to me.

I’ve talked about some things that I am not proud of and I have shared most of my failures and even some of my victories. If you take the time to go back and read the archives of the posts from when I started writing you would find me in a different place in life than I am today.  A mere five years ago, I was still very bitter and unforgiving of those that I felt turned their back on me when I struggled in life and my Spiritual walk. 

I struggled with losing my ministry and I struggled with the realization that I was the only one to blame.  I could not find peace and I could not forgive myself for the damage I had done to my kids, not to mention what I did to my relationship with God. 

Many people never really find their purpose in life as it pertains to their relationship with God.  They spend their life trying to find it and they viewed their “purpose in life” as something that they would find in their future. I found “my purpose” very early in life.  As a believer, when you were right where you were meant to be, doing exactly what God had intended for you to do it is easy to know what your purpose in life is.finding-your-lifes-purpose-3 Lose that and your life is suddenly in a free fall. This is what happened to me.  I lost my purpose and I experienced fifteen years of really dark times in my spiritual walk.  

I had lost my purpose in life as it related to my relationship with Jesus Christ.  I remember desperately longing to know my purpose and wondering if I was ever going to find it again.  For years, I couldn’t relax in my life (and otherwise) for fear that I was so off course and somehow I would never be used of God again. 

That is when I found my pen again.  I say “again” because years ago I would write and share my ramblings and perspectives of a young man trying to find his way through this life.  I have stashed away dozens of  those notebooks from that period of my life.  I have made sure that they will never ever re-surface or be read again… at least not while I am alive.  

Whether or not people read the words I write is really not that important.  God knows the words I write because they are the words that reflect my heart.  It has been a wonderful experience and I have no doubt that writing this blog was what I was supposed to do over these past five years.  It was my purpose in life.  It was what I was supposed to do and more importantly it was a way I could still share my faith and have a part in a ministry that could help others in their walk with Christ. 

What I have learned is that in spite of the failures in my life, God can still use me.  I have failed a thousand different ways over the years and when I came back to Him, He was faithful and true to forgive me and though I cannot be used in the same way He did years ago.  He still has a purpose for my life.

Probably that is the underlying theme of this blog.  It has been about trying to find “what the purpose in life” is after you have failed in your Christian walk with the Lord.  Can you relate?

How can you know and find life’s purpose?  I don’t suggest that you follow my lead in your journey trying to discover it because I know that God had a different plan for me and I am the one that took the detour from the original plan He had for my life.

But this is the truth I have discovered. The phrase, “What is my life’s purpose?” is one of the least helpful questions you can ask yourself. Why?   Because here’s the thing – it’s unanswerable. We’re obsessing over a question we don’t have the capacity to answer.  It is no wonder why people struggle with finding it. Purpose in life is not something that is found in the future.  Rather it is found in your words, actions and thoughts that you have today.

There is a better question for all of us, one that will help focus our efforts on today and lead us where we belong tomorrow.  We need to ask ourselves, “What is my purpose for today?”

This is the real stuff that makes a life. What is my purpose…today.

Today… am I passionately pursuing the things I know to do?

Today… am I listening to the stirring from God inside me that’s calling me forward? 

For years I was so worried about what my future “purpose” was going to look like that I missed what it was supposed to be today.  Will I have a great future moment in history? Probably not.  Will I do or say something someday in the future that will change the world?  I doubt it.  Do I know what my “future” purpose in life is? I have to say no. How could I?

What I do know is that I have to write this post today to release when I am done as planned.

Will I feel like I’ve “arrived” by having accomplished any of these things?  Will trumpets sound; will I receive an award? No. But by completing my purpose for today, I’m setting up myself for tomorrow. And by completing my purpose tomorrow, I’ll set up myself for the next day.

now is the timeIt may seem obvious, but look around. How many people in your life are waiting for some big revelation before they’ll start doing something for God? As we do the things we know to do (especially the hard things), we stumble into things we could never plan and in the process, we change our world in a thousand ways.

You have an ultimate purpose, and in the scheme of life, I’ll bet it’s something that God will be pleased in. Your purpose “today” will get you there.  How do you know what your next purpose is?  I can’t say for sure, but it starts today… not tomorrow.  Tomorrow never comes.  It starts with the needs of those who are directly in your life. Seems like a worthy place to start to me.

So maybe it’s time to give up trying to solve the unsolvable, time to give up what’s unknowable. Time to stop focusing on things that are unseeable.

Maybe it’s time to ditch the question, “What is my purpose in life?”

And replace it with, “What is my purpose for today?

For those of you that have played along over these five years and have witnessed the progression in my life, I want to say thank you and I hope that you find God’s purpose for your life … today.

Write On

Sometimes you just can’t win. 

Some well-meaning friends have taken a portion of their time recently to provide some insight into my writing.  It’s not that I am not appreciative of the input.  Like everyone else I like to be liked. 

Some encouraged me to write the same way I have been writing for the past few years.  Short illustrations of what God is doing in my life and trying to be an encourage people to live for Christ.  They tell me to write for the sake of others who are facing similar struggles and goals for their life. 

Others feel that I write too much about my relationship with Jesus Christ.  Even a few asked me to spare them the gruesome details of the failures in my life. They say,  “Don’t hang out your dirty laundry for all to see.”  They tell me that it is self-serving and it shows that I have not truly moved on in life.

Honestly, I don’t feel that I’m doing that.  But what do I know?

So, who do I listen to? 

I see the casualties in the blogosphere.  Dead, unfinished, incompleted blogs that were started with good intentions.  People who get the idea that they want to start a blog and start writing.  Some with the delusional idea that they even want to write a book.  It starts with the premise that they believe they have something to say, something that will be a help and will be an encouragement to another person.  It is done with all the vigor and excitement that they can muster.  The ideas are just flying all over the place. They sit down and empty themselves into a post and when that first post is revised a 1,000 times they finally post it and in many examples it usually isn’t that bad.  

Then the problem starts.  It doesn’t take them long to realize that writing is hard.  They spent so much emotion and personal information in that first post that they find,as they sit at the computer, they are staring at an empty page.   If they are lucky, they may post a few more and then it happens.  They quit. 

As it does for the vast majority of those that start a blog it sits empty and eventually deleted because of inactivity.  It is like the one-hit wonder of a rock band.  They get one good song and they can’t seem to get past it and eventually the creativity is just a rehash of the original song.  They all just start sounding the same. 

If anything I struggle with that.  I am open to the fact that my writings may be repetitious on some level.  I have fallen in to the cycle of being torn between wanting to quit or being compelled to continue on.  Then just about the time I am about to quit, I ask myself,Have I caused others undue heartache and pain through my actions in this life?”   Without a doubt!  Am I pleased about that?  Absolutely not!  “Do I want to correct the pain I caused others in this life?”  Of course! I have found that the only avenue I have to try to make these crooked paths I once walked straight again is to write.

There is no doubt that my failure in my life is something that is still not completely healed.  The pain of it sits just under the scar that I carry on my heart.  Sometimes the fog of life only lifts long enough to allow me to see the face of God, the Scriptures He left to be our lifeline or even the outstretched hands of family and friends.  I am thankful for those times when I see Christ so clearly but does one’s heart or spirit ever become truly immune and insensitive to heartache?  Immune in a sense but the pain still persists.

At times I am blinded by circumstances and need God’s healing hand lovingly applied to my scars that I carry.  The evidence of a scar does not always show the true damage that was done in a person’s life.  That scar we carry on our heart and in our life is only an indicator that the healing process has begun.  It is no longer an open wound but is still a long way from being completely healed.  I fear that some of the pain I carry will be with me until the Lord calls me home.

But this I know… in my heart,  I know that for every scar I carry and the pain that sits just below the surface, I am reminded that it is just another opportunity to tell another story.  

At this point in my life, I will listen to these promptings and I will continue to write!

So here I sit, baring my soul.  Some will be blessed by my comments, encouraged to know that they are NOT alone.  Others will be critical that I have been so honest and transparent.  Some will stop reading because all I talk about is my relationship with Jesus Christ.  For those that would stop reading because of my relationship with Jesus Christ I am honestly saddened.  It is not my intent to cause offense.

Because only the sovereign God knows my heart, my struggles, my joys,  my pain, my all. 

He knows why I do what I do. 

In the end, only God will be my judge and for now He wants me to “write on”.

And so I shall…

I Didn’t Fail, I Just Found Another Way To Do It Wrong

As I sat at my desk in the early morning hours, I was putting the final touches on my project.   Just a few more key strokes and I would be done.  I thought,  I have fulfilled a lifelong dream.  I had finally completed a project that I had worked on for over two years. I expected to feel elated, but instead felt numb.   Completing that project had been a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual marathon.   I felt as though every intelligent thought I’d ever had, I’d poured into that project.   I couldn’t think and I was sure that I didn’t have a single word left in my brain.

All I had to do now was to save the project and get some sleep.   I clicked on the save button and almost immediately the screen began to flicker and suddenly go blue.  The blue screen of death.    I felt the shot of adrenaline pass through my stomach and up my spine.   At first I was in denial.   I tried to convince myself that the computer just shut itself down and it would not be a major problem.  I hurriedly tried to re-boot my computer.  As I waited for the computer to come on,  all the hours of research, the countless pictures scanned and the 450 pages of  my project flashed in my mind.   My computer would not boot up.  The realization that I failed to save my project on disk sent another wave of sickening adrenaline through my system.  The sense of loss and the inability to blame anyone else weighed heavy on my heart.  I would find out later that morning that my computer had crashed and all of the information was lost and could not be recovered.

For the next three weeks, I struggled.  I have to admit, there were times I almost cried.  I tried every way I could think of to blame someone else for my situation.  But in the end,  I could not blame anyone else for my failure to back up my project.  It was my fault and I knew it.   I was now going to have to start over.  What had taken me over two years to complete, would now have to be re-written.   I did not have the desire nor the heart to start it again.  My failure had defeated me…for a while.

Failure.

Tomas Edison, after thousands of failures when he was inventing the light bulb, is quoted as to have said,

I Didn’t Fail, I Just Found Another Way To Do It Wrong

Now I am not sure that Edison’s perspective is right, but I do know that many people experienced epic failure before they were credited with success.


Failure is something we’d rather talk about after its overcome with subsequent success.  That’s unfortunate, because failure teaches us things we can’t learn any other way.   I have been told that the doorway to success is entered through the hallway of failure.    Lord knows, if that is indeed true, I should be the most successful person ever.

Are you learning from your failures?  If so…what are you learning?

Hallway of Failure

Maybe it’s just me…

But I believe that God is a Specialist.

He is able to work our failures into His plans…

I think that sometimes the doorway to success is entered through the hallway of failure.

Lord knows, if that is indeed true…I should be the most successful person ever… 

But then again, maybe it’s just me.