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Are You Constantly Trading Up, or Living in the Moment?

August 7, 2009

I have been thinking a lot lately about excellence. Not just at work, but in every area of my life — as a Christian, husband, father, friend, church volunteer, Board member, Starbucks customer… Do I truly aspire to excellence in the work I do? In the relationships I have? In every-day interactions with strangers?

I guess this sudden conviction is a result of the convergence of many different coincidental situations, conversations, blogging comments, books and bible readings that ultimately leads one to hear that “still small voice.” Or, in my case it is more like a divine ass-kicking, with God telling me what I should already know by now. Which is a message that says:

“Stop striving. Take a look around at what’s right in front of you, and give it your best. And then trust God for the future outcome.”

That’s actually from a page right out of my journal. I went back to read it a few days after I originally wrote it, and it was like God was punching me in the gut with those words. “Uh, yeah, Bradley – Hello?” Bam!

You probably already know by now that I tend to get caught up in “What’s Next.” The next big exciting deal or promotion or position or recognition. It’s like I can’t function without having some huge ambitious goal looming in the horizon, calling out to me, luring, pulling and compelling me towards some “better” future. It’s like a mental illness, really. I guess I’ve been hard-wired that way for quite a while now, and in many ways it has served me quite well because I got a lot accomplished over the past few years. But I’m getting a little older now, and God is giving me a very distinct message that says “Whoa, boy. Settle down. Deep breath. Good.”

“Now, look.”

Quite literally, just like that. “Look.”

And when I stop, and breathe, and look, what I see is this: my wonderful family that I love so desperately, with a beautiful and intelligent wife and two exceptional teen age girls; a terrific job with great people to be working with; a beautiful church community; many other wonderful friends that I share work with on Boards or committees; and I would even include the interesting and caring group of new friends that I have found online through my Blog and other Blogs and websites discussing this strange concept of living our faith in our careers.

It’s not that I have been ignoring or neglecting all of these relationships up to this point, but I wonder if I’ve been fully present. Have I really, honestly been giving them my best? Have I been excellent? Or, have I been thinking more about what I will get out of this? Or, what will this look like on my resume? Or, am I sitting in that meeting thinking, “What am I going to have for dinner tonight?”

I’m constantly trading up, rather than engaging fully, completely, in the moment.

So, I was reading the Psalms yesterday and I came across a verse that I never quite caught on to before. It somehow capped this message that I was getting from God. It’s the last verses of Psalm 60, verses 11 and 12, and it says:

Give us help from trouble,
         For the help of man is useless.
Through God we will do valiantly.”

That word “valiant” seems like a quaint old 14th century middle-English word that doesn’t really belong in a Blog conversation. Certainly not a word that we use very often today. But it conjures up in my mind thoughts of bravery, courage, victory, boldness… and excellence. So, after reading this, I decided that instead of driving myself mad scheming about the future, I am going to apply myself, fully, valiantly, with God’s help, towards the things that are in front of me right now. Truthfully, this might mean cutting back on some obligations and committees to do only the few things that I can realistically excel at. It may be that I rearrange my priorities at work so that I am focusing on the things that are the highest and best use of my time, talents and abilities. It definitely means that I am giving myself more fully to the people and conversations I am having, with a clear focus on their needs and interests, rather than my own.

I am learning that God is the God of now. He wants me to do the best with what is before me, and trust Him for the future outcome.

Through God, we will do valiantly.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2009 10:27 am

    it means
    that we do not know what it means until we are there in that moment and God tells us or shows us what it means.

    you are a forward thinker.
    but, you are still in the moment.

    to be more into the moment and paying attention…
    i found it helps a lot to look into the eyes of the people around me.

    what helps you?

  2. Vinny permalink
    August 7, 2009 2:51 pm

    Bradley, I can definitely relate to this post. I am working hard to become better at being patient and more content in life. Although I have a LONG way to go, I find work to be less stressful (relative), I’m less concerned with what the “Jones” have, and most importantly, I believe I set a better example for my kids. One of my favorite passages related to this is Hebrews 13:5
    Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
    “Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you

  3. August 7, 2009 6:08 pm

    You’re giving more of your best than you realize. Look at the comments. Encouragement is a good thing — and it’s living in the moment.

  4. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    August 7, 2009 9:58 pm

    Nancy – That is a great tip – to look into the eyes of people – I can see how that would slow you down and really see who is in front of you. I find that I must stop and pray from time to time – to actually “step out” of the moment, to realize I am in it.

    Vinny – What a great verse. I haven’t seen that one in a long time, and it provides some kind of big-picture security that we so often need.

    And Glynn – Thanks so much for your encouragement. You and Nancy are definitely two of those friends I have found through blogging. It means a lot!

  5. August 10, 2009 3:06 pm

    I’ve never been much of a five year plan kind of person, and with a large busy family, we kind of live day by day.
    But I’m kind of a downtime and relish the moments person, especially with anything in the Creation realm. Nature, weather, people, music. I can’t function in the fast lane of that stuff.

    I think you are engaged, or you wouldn’t question your integrity at all.

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