Sunday, January 27, 2013

Process vs. Event - Chapter 2


Chapter 2

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Lao-tzu

In John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, he discusses the difference between an event and a process[i]. Consider the following:

Event                                       Process
Encourages decisions              Encourages development
Motivates people                     Matures people
Is a calendar issue                   Is a culture issue
Challenges people                  Changes people
Is easy                                      Is difficult

Being event-minded is short-term. It has sizzle. It can draw a crowd. However, without substance (or process) the crowd will quickly fade away.

We Americans love to eat. For the most part eating is an event. We stuff food down the pie-hole to keep our stomach from feeling hungry. It has not always been this way. One of my favorite movies is “Kate and Leopold.” It is a great illustration of clashing cultures. In one scene they are eating dinner prepared “American style.” After complaining about the quality of the meal Leopold reflects on his culture.

Please understand. I am used to a different sort of preparation. Where I come from a proper meal is the result of reflection and study. A recipe is merely a theme which an intelligent cook can plan each time with variation.

Several courses are served. Menus are often prepared days in advance, timed to perfection. It is said, without the culinary art, the crudeness of reality would make life unbearable.

This is a very different approach to our throw-the-pre-packaged-meal-in-the-microwave-and-eat-it-on-the-way-to … Event vs. process.

            If this much effort is expended on a meal should one not put forth much more effort planning our life? In reality we do a great deal of planning in many areas of our lives.

A wedding is an event for those who are invited guests. They arrive, witness the happy union, enjoy a little refreshment, and then off to their own life. The couple getting married see the wedding as the grand culmination of months, or even years of planning and preparation; definitely a process. Even getting to the point of being engaged is a process. You meet (event), you date (multiple events), you fall in love (result of a sequence of events), and then you decide that this is the one! That is a process!

Divorce is an event. It is the result of the process of a failed marriage. An unrepentant spouse, an abusive spouse, a lack of respect; all can be dealt with when they occur. If left unchecked it becomes a process that leads to the event: divorce. Unfortunately divorce is in itself a process. You don’t walk out of court with everything resolved. It will affect everyone involved for the rest of their lives.

Our culture is sold on the quick fix. “Buy a lottery ticket, win big, and get out of debt.” “Take a pill and end depression.” “Get an abortion to eliminate an inconvenience.” Even our spiritual lives are not immune. We go to an altar for someone to zap us into a relationship with our God. All of these are looked upon as events. One and done. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Unfortunately, none of these “events” solve anything. Life is not an event.

Let’s examine some of these so-called “events” and try to learn something about human nature that gets us into these circumstances. If we can learn how minimize our dependence on the quick-fix our lives can have a much deeper meaning and significance.

Debt does not happen in a day. Getting out will not happen in a day. Just as it takes repeatedly making bad choices with money, it will take repeated actions of making wise choices to get out of debt. This process is not nearly as much fun as winning the lottery, but much more certain to get the desired result.

Depression normally does not come in a day. By living with problems, allowing them to build day after day without resolution will cause us to become depressed. A pill will not eliminate our problems. It simply masks the symptoms of depression. True relief from depression comes from taking on the problems, making difficult choices, and taking decisive action. This is a process.

            The most important relationship we can have is with our Creator. The charge we have from scripture is this: “he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” Philippians 1:6 (KJV). This speaks of a growing relationship; one that begins on the day we are saved, but continues the rest of our life. You do not get this at an altar. Instead, this comes from time spent in prayer, Bible study, worship, and fellowship with other believers. Truly we are born again in an instant (event), but we are being saved for the remainder of our time on earth (process).

You see, if we will take time to consider the end result that we desire (e.g. financial stability, sound mental health, relationship with God, etc.) we can better manage the events in our life, knowing that instead of living for an event, we are living out a process. As we relate to our spouse in marriage we understand that we must repent when we wrong our mate. We value them as a person, not an object to be abused. We treat our husband or wife with respect. In living out the process of marriage the event of divorce is never even considered an option.

By viewing life as a process we can better manage bad experiences, knowing that life will continue, tomorrow will arrive, and we will survive. If all we see are events, it is very easy to have our world shaken by a bad event. In an event-driven mindset we can get blown off course easily. A process-driven mindset will remain on task, moving toward the goal, taking the bump in the road in stride, knowing that better things are in the future.

Choose today to look for the process, not the event.


[i] John C. Maxwell, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Thomas Nelson, 1998).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Process vs. Event: Chapter 1

Greetings! For years I have had thoughts of writing a book. I actually have started several but seem to run out of steam before making much headway. A friend suggested that I try blogging just to get in the habit of writing, plus to get feedback. The following is a first draft of Chapter 1 of one of my many attempts. The working title for the book is "Process vs. Event." I would greatly appreciate you taking time to read it. And then if you will, e-mail some of your thoughts to ibworshipin@gmail.com. Thanks in advance for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


                    “No man is an island,
                     Entire of itself.”
                  John Donne

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? That question is often posed for the purpose of launching one into deep thought, eventually losing oneself in the abyss of mystery as to the origin of things. I did not have to think long before answering. It had to be the chicken.

First of all I will tell you that I am a Christian. As such I look to the Bible for answers to life’s questions. There it tells me that God created the animals, including chickens. He did not make eggs!

         However, I can answer this question without believing in creation. Think about it. An egg without a chicken to keep it warm until it hatches is only good for one thing; an omelet! A chicken had to come first in order for the process to work. Laying an egg is just an event. Hatching a chick is a process. Hence, the chicken had to come first.

Just as an egg is of no use without the chicken, an event is relatively useless without the process. The more important question to ask is “Which comes first, the process or the event?”

Our lives are filled with events, and those moments are vital to our existence. Birth, for instance is an event. We celebrate our birthday. We count our age from that day forward. Our death is an event. We mark our tombstone with both of these dates. It’s the bookends of our experience on earth. These are certainly “events,” but upon closer inspection we see that even these “events” are the result of a “process.”

Our birth event was the direct result of another event: conception, when the sperm joined with the egg. The event of conception actually started a process: the creation of an embryo. It continued to grow until you were fully formed in your mother’s womb. Then another process brought about your birth event; it’s called labor. Labor is also a process, ending with the birth of a child.

So you see, even the events of our life are for the most part the result of processes. Birth and death are two events in our life, but we really have no direct control over either of these. Everything in between these two “bookends” will determine our life experience. That is where the remainder of this book will focus. Do you live for the process or the event? The choice is yours for the most part. Choose wisely!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Little Foxes


I heard a story about some mischievous seminary students. They decided to play a practical joke on a friend.

One day while Jim was in the shower, his roommate took his car key to the corner hardware store and had a duplicate made. Returning the original before being found out, the pranksters began their plot.

Each day when Jim would drive to campus and park one if the pranksters would move his car. At first they simply moved it a space or two. After a week or so they began moving it to the next row. Next, they moved Jim's car to the next lot.

Jim never said anything about his car "moving." They continued taking the prank further until they were moving his car completely around the block from where he had parked.

One day after class Jim remained in his seat with a puzzled look on his face. The professor asked what was wrong. He looked at the prof and said, "I have no clue where I parked my car."

The friends owned up what they had been doing. Jim was so relieved to learn he was not losing his mind, although he did shower with his keys from then on!

You see, a little change is hardly noticed. We adjust quickly assuming it was just a slip. As the change increases we adapt to the new lifestyle of “looking for the car.” Eventually we get to a place of total depravity and a hopeless state.

There’s a saying that has been attributed to many. Regardless of the origin the truth is still applicable. “Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and will cost you more than you're willing to pay.” Song of Solomon 2:15 tells us that it’s the little foxes that spoil the vines.

What “little” thing have you let slip today? You could lose your car!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Crossroads


Without getting too technical I want to talk to you about graphs. You know, those things you probably hated to do in math class. When you get into a little more advanced mathematics it’s important to know if a graph is planer or not. That’s p-l-a-n-e-r. In other words, do all of the connectors on the graph lie in the same plane with no overlapping connectors.

Our lives are not planer. We have to interact with others. It’s called life. It’s the place where change occurs, decisions are made. When you met your spouse, that moment became an intersection for you. The two of you were travelling different directions. The dynamics at that intersection were strong enough to take both of you a different direction.

Sadly, many live their lives trying to avoid the intersections. They order the various aspects of their life with as few intersections as possible. This is not how God created you to live. Others think they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of what others may think; go any direction they choose without thought of who or what may be in their way. This is not how God created us to live.

Dr. Seuss is an amazing theologian. He wrote a book about Zax.

One day, making tracks In the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax And a South-Going Zax.
And it happened that both of them came to a place
Where they bumped. There they stood.
Foot to foot. Face to face.

“Look here, now!” the North-Going Zax said, “I say!
You are blocking my path. You are right in my way.
I’m a North-Going Zax and I always go north.
Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!”

“Who’s in whose way?” snapped the South-Going Zax.
“I always go south, making south-going tracks.
So you’re in MY way! And I ask you to move
And let me go south in my south-going groove.”

Then the North-Going Zax puffed his chest up with pride.
“I never,” he said, “take a step to one side.
And I’ll prove to you that I won’t change my ways
If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!”

“And I’ll prove to YOU,” yelled the South-Going Zax,
“That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax
For fifty-nine years! For I live by a rule
That I learned as a boy back in South-Going School.
Never budge! That’s my rule. Never budge in the least!
Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east!
I’ll stay here, not budging! I can and I will
If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!”

Well...
Of course the world didn’t stand still. The world grew.
In a couple of years, the new highway came through
And they built it right over those two stubborn Zax
And left them there, standing un-budged in their tracks.

by Dr. Seuss
 From The Sneetches and Other Stories
When we’re born, we have a pre-disposition to go a certain direction, the way of Adam. Jesus came to be an intersection in our life. He forces us to make decisions, to change direction. Jesus comes to us to show us “The Way, The Truth, The Life.” We now have a choice to make. Do we continue to follow “our” path or do we choose His way for us?

This is where the phrase “cross roads” comes from. You see, the roadway system is not planer! In the early days of automobiles there were some strange procedures developed to ensure you did not have a collision at intersections, or cross roads. You first had to stop the vehicle and shut off the engine. You then sounded your horn to indicate your presence. If there was no response it was suggested that you then fire a shot with your gun to indicate you were about to enter the intersection; very different than today’s driving.

if you notice, there’s always traffic control devices at cross roads. It’s as simple as a stop sign, or as complex as multiple direction traffic lights. These are all designed to keep us out of trouble.

The same is true when you begin your journey on the path of Christ. Our spiritual “traffic controller” is the Holy Spirit. That is why it is so important to learn to hear His voice. He speaks to give us information that will help as we traverse the non-planer graph known as the Christian life.

Communion is one such “cross roads” that we must choose to encounter. It’s a built in rest stop on our journey where we can take opportunity to rest our souls, check the tires, see if there’s anything that is going un-noticed on our vehicle, and deal with it. Paul said to “consider the Lord’s body” to see if there’s anything unclean in us. It gives us a chance to adjust our course, check our map to see if we are still on track with the Holy Spirit, pursuing the destiny that we took on when we encountered Jesus at the “Salvation Cross Road.”

It is not ironic that the symbol of our faith today is a cross. As a matter of fact, it is the very reason Jesus came from heaven to earth. He came to “cross” our path to introduce us to the Father. What will you do with your “Cross road” moment? Let’s choose well. Let us choose Christ.