In “The Good and Beautiful Life” by James Bryan Smith, the author mentions a summer he worked as a chaplain at a retirement home, and one of the residents confessed to him that he had lived a wonderful life… he was the richest man in his state and his employees looked up to him and politicians wanted to be his friend. He lied and he cheated and he stole in the pursuit of greater wealth. He treated people poorly all his life, and now in the retirement home years there was no one who cared about him.
The author was also given the chance to meet his hero, legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who brought his team through many winning seasons and broke records which no other team may ever beat. Although he is known for his success as a coach, his Christian principals have made him who he is. He taught his players courage, honesty, and hard work. He taught them to master the basics, and to discipline themselves so that others won’t have to.
Rock or sand. Both of the men the author met lived the same life, yet the one man built his life on a metaphorical foundation of sand and it fell apart because he only cared about his wealth, and the other man built his life on a metaphorical foundation of rock and it was a life he was very proud of. Everyone is seeking a meaningful life full of happiness, and joy, and contentment, and prosperity, but sometimes we go about it all wrong.
“Both were exceptional in their own ways. But you and I are no less exceptional. Each day we make decisions that move us closer to a life of virtue or vice. We face decisions whether to be greedy or generous, self-centered or self-sacrificing, condemning or forgiving, cursing or blessing. While Ben and John were not average, everyday people, their souls are no different than ours. No matter who we are, we must choose the narrative we will practice daily.”
Romans 1:18-32. We forget to give honor to God for all he does in our lives, and we invest our time into false idols such as money, or a nice new sports car, or sex and pornography. These luxuries are only temporary and will leave us feeling empty inside. The life that Jesus shows us throughout the bible is everlasting!
The soul-training exercise for the chapter mentions how Ben wrote his daughter a letter asking for forgiveness and the two of them reconciled. She saw a changed man in her father’s last years of life, and so the chapter asks us to write a letter to God. Acknowledge a mistake you have made, but focus more on what a beautiful life would look like to you! It might involve a major life change, or a new set of friends, or changing some old narratives and habits. Feel free to dream big, and tell God about your greatest hopes.
Okay, so I’m a photographer, I take photographs, and I’m a carpenter, I’m always looking to fix things, and I’m also the occasional crazy person, I’m willing to do something crazy as long as I see some value in it. I work as a cashier in retail, and unfortunately my store chooses to stay open for the “Dark Thursday” sale on top of “Black Friday” every year and it takes people away from their families on Thanksgiving. Those people were thankful the one day, they became greedy by that afternoon and the next day, and it left some of them regretful the day after that, standing in a long line at customer service. One good thing that came of all the chaos is the Associates Black Friday 25% discount. I decided a few weeks ahead of time that since I wasn’t looking for a whole lot this year, I would just fill up a cart with canned goods and donate them to one of the food pantries.
We get very tied down with material things around the holiday season, and that’s not supposed to be the focus of Thanksgiving or Christmas. We should be Thankful! Christmas is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and spending time with family!
I bought a few things that I wanted, and then I headed over to the grocery section and started looking at things I could get on the cheap. I had to fill my cart up all the way. If I only got out of there on $25 I wouldn’t be making much of a sacrifice. I had to spend at least $100 on donations. Hopefully it helped someone. The joy from that was a permanent emotion because I was doing work which benefited my community, and I wasn’t just buying a material object that was going to sit in a corner somewhere.
When you build upon yourself, it not only benefits you but the people around you. I started off when I was 17, 18, 19, and 20 working long summers for the school district, where my bosses were very particular about getting things done correctly, and even today working in retail I like to think that seasonal job was the foundation I’m building my life on. I built a work ethic that made me a decent employee, and I always hope more people can get into that kind of a work pattern.
2016 was full of good and bad, and I decided to end it off by making one pursuit that was not selfish. My final grades are in and they look like A,A,B,B,B, which means I will be taken off academic probation and be able to walk the stage in May 2017.
I had to prove to the world that I still want to be here.
The thought of graduation sounds scary, I’ll have to pray for the journey!
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