Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Old Man "Can't"

Old Man "Can't"

The little girl was frustrated and in tears when her grandfather came upon her outside by the well. The family had no running water in their Carolina home and mother had sent the young child to the well on a hot day to fetch a couple buckets full of water.

(pictured: My wife Robin and Dr. Williams at Robin's graduation from Azusa Pacific)

It was a difficult task for an eight year to draw the water into those empty buckets and then lug the heavy load back uphill to the house. She was understandably struggling to complete such a challenging task.

"What's the matter, baby girl?" the grandpa asked the upset child. "Oh, Grandpa" she sighed, "it's so hot and these buckets are so heavy. I'm too little to do this kind of work. I can't cart these heavy buckets all the way back uphill to the house. I just can't..."
"Now wait just a minute," the wise old man replied. "Old man "Can't" died about two thousand years ago. You can do all things through Christ who gives you the strength."
Those words, taken from Scripture, (Philippians 4:13) found their way deep into the heart of the child. Over the decades that followed, her belief that "I can do all things through Christ" fueled her progress.

Although she began life as a poor girl in a sharecropper's family, Helen Easterling -Williams was forever changed by her Grandfather's words. His confident assertion that "Old Man Can't" passed away for good on the day Christ rose from the dead fueled her considerable accomplishments. She reasoned that, as a believer, His power in her could make all things possible - and she acted on that faith.

She continued her education and began her rise to positions of influence and impact. Not only did she complete high school but she went on to earn her undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees.

Today, Dr. Williams is the Dean of Education at Azusa Pacific University - the institution of higher education where my wife, Robin, became acquainted with her during her own studies there. On the several occasions I have met Dr. Williams, I found myself in awe of her radiant spirit, deep faith, and affirming, empowering presence.

It's amazing to think that it all began for this most remarkable woman on that hot day by the well when a faith-filled man shared the good news that "Old Man Can't" would never keep her from her God-given course if she would simply believe that she could "do all things through Christ" - and never stop.

I wonder what stories you will tell as you apply those wise and timeless words to your challenges and opportunities?

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Sinkhole and the Mountain Part four

"You have to think differently".

That's the theme we've been mining in my Gracelets weekly e-newsletter over the past several issues.

Thinking differently requires ALL FOUR of the following:

* Grace
* Mental Discipline
* A Compelling Vision or Purpose
* Close Relationships With "Mountaineers"
(those who organize themselves around God-given vision, purpose and imagination)

A Compelling Vision or Purpose

The "sanctified imagination" is one of the most powerful engines of transformation on earth. Put simply, we will "be" what we "see".

Our preferred future begins as a seed of thought and imagination inside of us. At that point it either languishes unnurtured, undeveloped and unacknowledged within or it begins to take shape as we invite grace to give it life.

This is not merely a matter of changing roles or jobs while remaining the same inside. It is better understood as a "metamorphosis."

The Greek word "metamorphasis" literally means: a comprehensive change in form. It is a distinctive sort of "extreme makeover" that is driven by forces within the person or thing that is being changed. At some point, these forces are powerful enough to alter outward appearance and influence.

The Apostle Paul contrasts "metamorphosis" (transformation from within) to the exterior remolding that a given object undergoes when exposed to powerful external forces of heat and pressure. These forces may succeed in outwardly "conforming" the object to a predetermined mold but, for Paul, this is not how believers are to be changed. Instead, he writes, we are to be "transformed" by "the renewing of your mind."

The Strong's Lexicon describes the word for "renewing" in this text as a: "renewal, renovation, complete change for the better".
We will change as we renovate the way we think until it completely changes for the better.
While this is undeniably a work of grace, it is a process with which we are called to engage, cooperate, and actively fuel.

Glory to Glory

The word metamorphosis appears again in Second Corinthians, chapter three. Here, it is used to describe a transformation process that is rooted in a visionary way of seeing ourselves anew (see II Cor. 3:18).

This new way of seeing is energized as we gaze deeply into the "glory of the Lord" in a manner similar to the way we look at ourselves in a mirror.

The longer we behold His glory and the more intently we concentrate on its features, the more we began to resemble what we see. In this way our own self image moves "from one degree of glory to another" (RSV) as the Spirit propels this continuous process of change.

Gazing into the Sinkhole

How sad, then, that we spend so much time gazing intently into our sinkholes.

Sad because the longer and more intently we gaze into our faults, fears, limitations and anxieties the more we become our faults, fears, limitations and anxieties. "You are what you eat" it used to be commonly said. Well, in fact, you are what eats you.

You have to think differently.