It's not unusual to hear folks say that they are pulled in too many directions, and that there are not enough hours in the day. It's not a good feeling and we've all experienced it. It forces us to try to do more ... to sleep less ... to take less care of ourselves. All of this in an effort to keep up with the demands of living in the 21st century.
I'm not sure there is an easy answer to any of this. Fact is, those demands will continue to be there and will even increase. Fact is, we do have certain responsibilities to family, jobs, community and our selves. Falling back on these responsibilities lessens our wholeness by making us feel guilty and, at its worse, even unfulfilled.
The key, and I am not very good at this, seems to be in prioritizing things -- getting the big rocks in first. If we don't get the big rocks into our buckets first, then the bucket fills up with sand and gravel and the important things must be left out.
But I think that, despite the importance of prioritizing, there's something more important here and that is realizing that our heavenly father loves us and yearns for us. As we seek Him and His direction on our lives, He will show us what our big rocks are -- what those things are that must be highest priority in our lives.
But, even bigger than that, He provides us our self worth. Once we know that our worth comes to us inherently and unquestioningly because the Creator of all things created us, we can begin to make sure that the things we do in this world are about helping others ... about making the world a better place. That's a whole lot different than doing things that are about making others happy.
Of course, there will be overlap between things that help others and things that make others happy but that realization and awareness that we do the things we do not because we want to serve our own egos but because we are called to carry God's love into the world -- the One who loves us calls us to share His love with the world -- things change. Our mindsets and paradigms shift when we operate in this crazy busy world from a position of doing it for ourselves to a position of being a conduit of God's love, mercy and grace.
May today we all find ourselves as that conduit -- that vessel -- that works in the world in which we're blessed to live with the calling that we're here to help and love on others.
God living in and through us changes everything.
Thursday, economists expect the Commerce Department to report the deficit on international trade in goods and services was $47.2 billion in July. That is lower than the $49.9 billion registered in June, because many analysts expect stagnating wages are slowing import demand.
Still too large, the trade deficit subtracted 3.4 percentage points from second quarter GDP growth, and threatens to derail an already weak U.S. recovery, throw the economy into a double dip recession, and dramatically increase unemployment.
Without the second quarter jump in imports-led by consumer goods from China and boosted by an undervalued yuan and export subsidies President Obama neglects-GDP growth would be close to 5 percent, hundreds of thousands of Americans would be finding jobs, and Democrats would be poised to retain their majorities in the House and Senate.
President Obama and Speaker Pelosi chose to ignore the undervalued yuan and other Chinese subsidies that result in an outsized trade deficit and millions of lost jobs across the industrial Midwest and South.
Instead, the President and Speaker of the House obsess about taxing the rich and social issues, and appease China on trade and the environment, as the United States sinks into an economic quagmire similar to Great Britain in the 1950s and 1960s.
Notably, Britain in 1950 was on par with Germany and France. Twenty years later, it enjoyed living standards half its continental rivals.
Each month, more and more Americans lose decent jobs, can’t find comparable employment, and then settle for lower wages, as Americans enjoy the British post-war folly of an overvalued currency and distracted leaders.
Simply, dollars that go abroad to purchase U.S. imports cannot be spent on U.S. goods and services. When those dollars do not return to purchase U.S. exports, jobs are lost and not replaced. A rising trade deficit slows growth and increases unemployment.
Free trade based on a balance between exports and imports helps nations specialize in what they do best, grow and prosper. Rising trade deficits, financed on borrowed money to cover profligate government spending, erode prosperity and compromise sovereignty.
But for the increase in the trade gap, GDP would have grown 5.2 percent, and unemployment would fall to 7.5 by early 2011, and less than 5 percent by 2013.
Oil and consumer goods from China account for nearly the entire trade deficit, and sustained economic recovery is not possible without dramatic changes in energy and trade.
President Obama’s efforts to halt offshore drilling and otherwise curtail conventional energy supplies-premised on false assumptions about the immediate potential of electric cars and alternative energy sources-threaten to make the United States even more dependent on imported oil.
Detroit can build many more attractive and efficient gasoline-powered vehicles now, and a national policy to accelerate the replacement of the existing fleet would reduce imports, spur growth and create jobs.
To keep Chinese products artificially inexpensive on U.S. store shelves and discourage U.S. exports into China, Beijing undervalues the yuan by 40 percent. It accomplishes this by printing yuan and selling those for dollars to augment the private supply of yuan and private demand for dollars. In 2009, those purchases were about $450 billion or 10 percent of China’s GDP, and about 35 percent of its exports of goods and services.
In 2010, the trade deficit with China reduces U.S. GDP by more than $400 billion or nearly three percent. Unemployment would be falling and the U.S. economy recovering more rapidly, but for the trade imbalance with China and Beijing’s protectionist policies.
In June, China indicated it will adopt a more flexible exchange rate policy, but that has not resulted in the needed realignment in exchange rates.
China recognizes President Obama is not likely to counter Chinese mercantilism with strong, effective actions; hence, it offers token gestures and cultivates political support among U.S. businesses like General Motors and Caterpillar who profit from investments in China.
President Obama should impose a tax on dollar-yuan conversions in an amount equal to China’s currency market intervention divided by its exports-in 2009 that was about 35 percent. For imports, at least, that would offset Chinese subsidies that harm U.S. businesses and workers.
Until the President tackles the root causes of the trade deficit, unemployment will remain near 10 percent and could surge much higher, and Americans face economic decline.
We talk about how, as Christians, we are called to be Jesus' hands and feet. Yet Jesus came to serve not to be served. He came with a focus on others and an unequalled selflessness. His thought processes and his wishes and dreams were not of this world but of God's Kingdom.
However, when I go about my daily business, which am I really more concerned about -- this world or God's Kingdom?
It is a huge shift to be more concerned abour God's Kingdom than our own kingdom. But yet when we live with the heart and mind of God, we operate on an entirely different level. When we take a God's Kingdom approach to things, frustrations and worries of this world are overshadowed by the glory of the next.
It's hard to imagine much more of a worse end to life on earth than what Jesus went through. Yet at the end of His life, sure He was troubled, but yet I don't believe He was frustrated. He knew that ultimately the pains of this world were not what He was to be saved from -- not what we are to be saved from. But rather He was being saved to and we are being saved to something far more glorious.
When our focus is on God's Kingdom over our own earthly kingdom, our attitude shifts ... our focus goes to serving others rather than having others serve us. And when we do that, disappointments and frustrations diminish.
As the following scripture points out, when we do the right things -- when we focus on building God's Kingdom rather than advancing our own earthly-bound desire, then things change ... not just for ourselves but for all we encounter.
Isaiah 55:8-13 and 56:1 (NIV)
8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed."
1 This is what the LORD says:
and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
I have been doing some reading through Isaiah recently. I usually try to read the whole book of Isaiah every week but I had missed a few weeks. (yeah ... right)
Anyway, what's pulled me back to it is a process we have been going through at work. We're trying to figure out what it means to be a "Kingdom Business" -- that is a business that realizes and consistently lives into the unique opportunity that God gives it to carry the message of His redemptive healing and restoring love and grace into the world.
Trying to live into that is pretty big stuff. I am sure we will mess up plenty but one way to help us strive and do our best is to keep this goal front and center. And, for me, one way to do that is to change the name of the company. Seriously. So, we have been considering options and one we're giving serious consideration to is Isaiah Industries. Our various division names would remain as they have been but they would be identified as being part of Isaiah Industries.
Why Isaiah? Because I love the message of restoration and hope that comes out particularly in the second half of his prophecy. As I look back on our company, without going into a lot of stories, restoration has been a common theme. Sometimes we miss opportunities but we consistently want to have a positive and healing impact on all whom we encounter. I think that it is part of the ongoing unique calling that God has placed on us as an organization.
In my recent look at Isaiah, I was stopped this morning by Chapter 51 ... a portion of which is below.
For me, Chapter 51 was a great reminder that no matter how small or weak we may feel as part of the body of Christ ... no matter how overwhelming this world may seem ... God is always faithful to us and we have His dynamite power. The God who parted the Red Sea ... the God who restores lives and even entire nations ... is the same God we worship today. His power, His faithfulness, His promise ... they are all unfailing and unchanging.
When we remind ourselves of this, does it not put a different perspective on our calling, our potential, and our responsibility?
1 "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
and who seek the LORD :
Look to the rock from which you were cut
and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
2 look to Abraham, your father,
and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
When I called him he was but one,
and I blessed him and made him many.
3 The LORD will surely comfort Zion
and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of singing.
4 "Listen to me, my people;
hear me, my nation:
The law will go out from me;
my justice will become a light to the nations.
5 My righteousness draws near speedily,
my salvation is on the way,
and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
The islands will look to me
and wait in hope for my arm.
6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment
and its inhabitants die like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
my righteousness will never fail.
7 "Hear me, you who know what is right,
you people who have my law in your hearts:
Do not fear the reproach of men
or be terrified by their insults.
8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever,
my salvation through all generations."
9 Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength,
O arm of the LORD;
awake, as in days gone by,
as in generations of old.
Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces,
who pierced that monster through?
10 Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made a road in the depths of the sea
so that the redeemed might cross over?
11 The ransomed of the LORD will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
12 "I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mortal men,
the sons of men, who are but grass,
13 that you forget the LORD your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth,
that you live in constant terror every day
because of the wrath of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction?
For where is the wrath of the oppressor?
14 The cowering prisoners will soon be set free;
they will not die in their dungeon,
nor will they lack bread.
15 For I am the LORD your God,
who churns up the sea so that its waves roar—
the LORD Almighty is his name.
16 I have put my words in your mouth
and covered you with the shadow of my hand—
I who set the heavens in place,
who laid the foundations of the earth,
and who say to Zion, 'You are my people.' "
My friend Ed Ball sent me this picture this morning. He took it along with others yesterday at the traveling Vietnam Wall which has been visiting Sidney when my son, Evan, and others from his school were there. The other boys in the picture are Ed's son, EJ, and also Jerrod Peterson.
How humbling it is to see these young men standing at the wall looking at names of men born about 50 years before they were born, many of whom only lived to be 6 - 10 years older than these boys are today.
While some folks may point to the cost of these lives ... and it was an enormous cost ... hopes and dreams and aspirations and abilities that were never fully realized on this earth, I look to the enormous value of these lives. How many people were portected, how was our society and the world shaped by what they did ... how many people were saved who then went on to realize their hopes and drams and aspirations and abilities?
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13, NIV)
While this scripture refers primarily to our Lord Jesus' sacrifice for us, it is also respectful of any times someone lays down their life for another. But let's keep in mind it does not mean just physical death ... laying down our lives comes also through our service to others ... through our selfless giving ... and through our sharing of God's redemptive grace and glory so that others might spend eternity with Him.
Whose life will I lay mine down for today?