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Losing Sight of the Goal

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were watching Family Feud. If you are familiar with the game, you will know that two teams, usually families, play survey answer puzzles to win the chance for the $20,000 Fast Money round. The winning family picks two players for the Fast Money round. The goal is to win the money.
On the show we were watching, the winning family chose a teenager as one of the bonus round players. This round is fast paced and takes fairly broad life experiences and fast thinking to win. To me, it seemed that a teenager would not be the best choice for a player.
I began to think that the family’s goal was for the teenager to have fun. But the goal is to win the $20,000. Needless to say, the family did quite poorly. I may be wrong, but I think they lost sight of the goal.
This reminded me of a couple of other glaring instances of losing sight of the goal.
I was enrolled at Brookes Bible College, early into my Biblical Counseling and Pastoral Care Certification. I was talking with my father about some difficulty I was experiencing with one of my professors. I thought he was wrong about some point he was pressing. My dad reminded me that the goal was to finish the courses and get my certification. The goal was not to prove my debating abilities.
I had lost sight of the goal.
The other instance was with a very smart man I worked with. He was looking for another job because he was too smart to work where we did. He told me about an interview he had with a company where he could practice his specialty. “Man, the guy interviewing me didn’t even know the job. I had to correct him a few times…” he told me.
He didn’t get the job. I told him that he had lost sight of the goal.
In relationships, most often the goal is to have loving, or at least peaceful communion. Needing to be right about everything is a sign one has lost sight of the goal.
Most of us can think of at least one time where we missed out on a great opportunity because we lost sight of the goal.

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Overextended

I thought seriously about titling this column “Too Far From Home” or “Too Far From the Body .” The subject will fit in those contexts, too.
One of my responsibilities at work is to write out crane lift permits. I have to review the crane capacities, the weight of the load, height of the lift, etc. Sounds simple enough, but certain variables, such as the angle of the lift and the center of gravity of the load, will significantly reduce the crane’s strength and cause it to lose balance.
What really brought this home to me was setting up a lift using a 28 ton crane. Under the most extreme conditions, a crane that can ideally handle 56,000 pounds will only safely lift 4,350 pounds – roughly a 92% decrease in strength.
What is the situation which causes this decrease? When the boom is extended as far as it can go away from the crane. The best practice is to keep the load as close to the crane as possible.
The same principle can apply in our lives in at least two ways. First, the further we reach away from our bodies, the less strength we have. We can create some serious disadvantages in our lives when we reach beyond our intended scope.
The second context is when we physically stray too far from our base of strength. Most of us can see this in our relationship to God or the Church. When we get too far from the body, our strength is diminished. The same can hold true for our family morals and ethics. When we get too far from “the way we were reared” we find ourselves unable to bear some of the loads we pick up.
We can become spiritually, emotionally, or even physically weakened by overreaching. There is a good reason some things are out of reach. As well, we are not designed to lift some loads.

Ginsu Knives

If you remember the late ’80s into the ’90s, you may recall the rise of infomercials. The Ginsu Knife was one of the hottest sellers. Claiming to have the longest lasting edge of any knife ever, we were told it never needs sharpening.

“Watch this!,” the actor would scream. “Look how easily it slices a tomato. And slicing bread is a breeze.”

“But that’s not all!,” he would continue, excitedly. “Watch how the Ginsu Knife will cut a penny in half, and still slice bread. And, you can even cut a nail. Look, it still has no problem thinly slicing this tomato.”

On and on it would go. “Our Ginsu Knife will cut through anything.”

Once or twice… This is me talking now.

Were Ginsu Knives designed to cut pennies and nails? No. They were created to cut foods, fruits and vegetables. The show of cutting pennies and nails was twofold. First, for the viewers to see the durability, and second, to deceive us into believing the knife could be eternally misused, and still maintain its edge.

If you take nothing else from this column, understand that continual misuse or improper use of anything will render it useless for its intended design and purpose. To help young people understand this concept more clearly, I used to use Ginsu Knives in presentations.

I would go through the infomercial spiel. Then I would pull out a two by four with about twenty nails I had hammered into it. The more nails I sawed with the Ginsu Knife, the less smoothly it sliced tomatoes and bread.

The point was this. We are not created and designed to do some things that we insist on doing. We might get away with cutting a nail or two, but if we keep cutting nails, our edge will get dull. (You know what your nails are.) Once dull, we are unable to perform the tasks for which we were created.

And only the creator can put a new edge on a your knife.

Security Locks Both Sides of the Door

While I do understand the need to protect property from those who would break in and steal, some people would do well to do a real risk assessment. There may be threats to our loved ones’ and our personal wellbeing, but how often do we go too far with the security? Is the threat we are trying to protect from legitimate? Is our perception or fear rational?
Too often we allow news reports to create a subtle paranoia in how we perceive what’s actually going on around us. The result is being “too secure.”
What do I mean, “too secure”? We have all heard reports of someone dying in a fire because they were locked in the house and couldn’t get the door open fast enough. Have you ever locked yourself out of the house when you ran to the car or mailbox? Have you ever looked all over the place for something you were trying to hide from someone, and inadvertently hid it from yourself? Here’s a good one. How many times do you have to click “Forgot Password”? Those might be examples of too secure.
Now for the life correlation. Is your life too secure?
We justify and explain it by saying we are just very private people, when actually we build extra walls, put up security bars and doors, renovate and have “safe rooms” added. All to keep people from getting too close. Keep people at arm’s length is one description. Well, just as in the examples I mentioned before, our security can backfire on us in our lives.
Security locks the door on both sides.
We have no close friends. We carry needless pains and burdens because we have no one with which to share. This is unnatural because human beings are designed to live in community with one another.
Are you familiar with the saying, “If you keep your hand closed tightly, no one can take anything out, but neither can anyone put anything in.” The same holds true with our lives. We miss out on some very meaningful relationships because we are too secure. We can all think of someone to whom this applies because they are the extreme. How true of us, though, to perhaps a lesser degree?
Our security keeps people out, but it locks us in, as well.

An Effective Tactic

…can re-define victory for you.
If we do well with a specific tactic, that tactic may become our entire battle plan. We refine our skill using that tactic. We become less interested in and less effective at the other valuable tactics in our arsenal. If you want to become a boxer, a prize fighter, and you discover that the jab or the knockout punch is your best tool, you will soon learn that you cannot win every fight only jabbing, or waiting for the knockout shot.
On the positive side, many intended fighters have become medal winning weightlifters, bodybuilders, and coaches because they are good at it. Many running backs have become great quarterbacks through effective throwing on trick plays.
I have been sitting in my office working on the Worship Bulletin and sermon for Sunday for a couple of hours. I come out to get some coffee and I overhear the television. The View is on and the hosts are discussing a young lady who shared, on the show, that she had done some pornographic sex scenes to help pay for law school. I don’t know if the young lady was a guest on the show, or if the hosts showed a clip of the lady discussing her decision. But doing pornography was one of her tactics.
Although this is not why I brought it up, let me make my stance very clear. I am diametrically opposed to pornography. I do not believe God is in any way pleased with the pornographic industry. Far, far more evils come out of pornography than good – even if it is said that a husband and wife may enjoy looking at it together. There too many implications of sin and moral failure in: 1. Who is the couple making the movie, and are they married? 2. Is it OK for someone to watch them? 3. Is it OK for a husband or a wife to get pleasure from looking at someone other than their spouse? There are so many other murky issues to wade through, but that is not my point, today. I am encouraging you to have the conversation with your children, youth, and young adults, though. We live in a world where every person with a smartphone could have an x-rated theater – and video camera – in their pocket.
Back to my point. Earning what she would for each scene, it was determined that she would need to do close to 250 scenes to make enough money. One of the hosts said that the young lady now has a line of lingerie and “other things.”
I am going to make an educated guess that this young lady will soon, if she has not already, re-define victory to be a porn star, rather than a lawyer.
Be careful of how you determine what is an effective tactic.

Overcompensating

This is a natural progression from the last two columns because my emphasis tends to lean more towards adjusting behavior to make the strongest changes in our lives. Remember my mantra. “You can’t think yourself into acting right, but you can act your way into thinking right.”

As we think about overstating, overcompensating is in the same family.

There are some very legitimate reasons people overcompensate. I am thinking of “over-correcting” when your car begins to slide out of control on ice, or if an oncoming driver crosses into your lane. You may react in a panic and overcompensate to avoid the danger. Often this over-correcting or overcompensating introduces new and different dangers.

If your home has been broken into, those who have not had the same experience may think you are overcompensating when you get an alarm, video surveillance, electric fencing, street lights all around your property, mace, a gun, and hire your own security company to patrol your driveway and yard. I’m being facetious, but you get the point. Some of our overcompensating is legitimate.

A few more examples are with someone who has been in an abusive relationship of any kind. They may opt to never get into another relationship or friendship. They may choose to never get married. Look at all of the benefits of life they miss out on. Someone who has been misled or hurt by their church may opt out of ever connecting with a church body again. Someone who lost a loved one too soon, or at the hands or wheel of another person may become angry with God and cut off that relationship. This overcompensating to insulate from hurt again may seem legitimate, but will ultimately be more harmful in the long run.

Fear of being unprepared or not measuring up may cause some to become lifetime students, never venturing out into the career world.

If you find yourself overcompensating in a way that is unhealthy, stop, think about the situation rationally, weigh the pros and cons, and find a balanced approach.

Overstating (part 2)

Two of the earliest recorded incidents of overstating, or exaggeration, and misstating can be found in Genesis 3:3 and 3:4. Adam likely overstated, Eve repeated it, and the serpent misstated.

I have come to believe Eve quoted exactly what was told to her by Adam. I also believe Adam added a little bit to what God told him in order to make an impression on Eve of how important it was not to eat that fruit. We do the same thing. We exaggerate because we want to impart how important something is to us, and we want it to be just as important to whomever we are sharing this with. We want them to feel what we feel and think what we think.

A quick recap: God told Adam that he and Eve could not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Somehow between Adam telling Eve and Eve recounting the command to the serpent, the phrase, “neither shall you touch it,” got added. I sort of think Adam added the extra line to emphasize what God had said. I also believe that when the extra was added, it became untrue – it was not what God had said, and the untruth lost the power of the truth. (That is a theological discussion, but I wanted to throw it in there.) The overstatement or exaggeration, “Neither shall you touch it.”

Then in 3:4 we have the serpent twisting the meaning of God’s statement. The serpent said, “You shall not surely (immediately) die.” God had said, “You will surely (ultimately, eventually) die.” The serpent told the truth, but it was deceptive truth in that he wasn’t talking about what God was talking about.

There is probably not one person alive who could claim to have never exaggerated or misstated something. Even in our most mature adult lives. We all have used deceptive truth. I lived in St. Louis and worked in Illinois, about 15 minutes from my house. When I was asked to come in on overtime, sometimes I would say, “I will be out of town.” I lived out of town from my job, so I was not telling a lie, but I was being deceptive.

The intent of overstating, exaggeration, misstating, and deceptive truth is to avoid telling a direct lie. The judicial system understood, long ago, people’s ability to unconsciously stretch the truth or leave something out. In life we ought to strive for the Court’s expectation – “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Overstating

In this era of hyperbole and exaggeration in news broadcasts and political coverage, I have long thought about how we overstate some things. Then there is the conscious misstating we must contend with. All of these seem to be for the purpose of vying for our attention or to keep us feeling the way we feel.

Notice I didn’t say, “thinking the way we think.” Most people make choices and find our social, theological, and political standings in the way we feel, as opposed to giving serious thought and weighing facts. This may be because facts are hard to come by with all of the overstating and misstating going on.

I notice this so much but I couldn’t think of an immediate example. So, I went and turned on the 2nd most popular 24 hour cable news show. In less than one minute, I have an example.

The story: Some prison inmates in some state want to get married. The law apparently doesn’t address this issue directly, so the warden is saying no until a court decision. The news reporter has pundits on to argue about whether is is legal to deny these inmates “a wedding.”

The hyperbolic misstating? The discussion is about marriages, not weddings. The play on words is either intentional, or the news editors are derelict in their responsibility to frame discussions accurately.

To remind us how early we begin using these tactics to stress a point, win favor, or garner attention, I want to throw out just one phrase which we all will recognize. Then next week, we will delve more deeply into the subconscious thought processes behind our overstating.

Infinity times infinity… Infinity basically means endless. Just one infinity is enough.

Be careful of overstating.

Busy Does Not Always Equal Productive

Today, I had a conversation with a long-time friend about the difficulty our Denomination is facing. This is not unique to the CME Church. Statistics indicate that the vast majority of churches and denominations are seeing serious declines in membership and attendance. Yes, some churches are growing, but this is not indicative of the general status. One of my comments struck me as applying to more areas of our lives than just the church.

Busy does not equal productive.

When we take an inventory of our lives and see our progress and growth waning or stagnating, rather than surveying our methods, we tend to simply work harder. Perhaps the strategies which got us this far are not applicable for continued growth.

An example. When I was very into exercising, I was trying to lose weight and tone up. I did not seek any professional advice or a trainer. I just started running and lifting weights. As I reached my goal, I decided I wanted to buff up a little more. So, I began running more – up to 10K every other day – and lifting weights on the alternate days. I did this for several months and saw no changes.

I reached out to a trainer an the center where I worked out and he informed me that while I had an excellent ethic and was exerting plenty of energy, but I was not working towards the goal. I was busy, but not productive.

Running is aerobic exercise. Weight training is anaerobic. This means I was combining two primary ingredients into one recipe, but those ingredients literally worked against each other. Running is to lose weight, so I had to stop running if I wanted to buff up, which requires gaining weight.

In much the same way, many of our organizational practices or business practices are very effective, but perhaps not for our intended goal.

The normal human instinct is to choose a plan that we are certain works. We (consciously or subconsciously) eliminate the components we do not have the passion for, don’t understand, or seem too difficult right now. Then we get busy. It doesn’t work for us like we see it working for someone else, so we re-double our efforts.

We might need to re-think our strategy. Busy does not always equal productive.

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