Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Transform The Way You View The World

On Sunday, Marie Rose shared some reflections from the past year. She spoke of how New Year's is more important in the Rwandan Church than Christmas because it it a time to look back on the past year and share with each other the stories of what God has done. And so Marie Rose told of God's faithfulness throughout her ordeal during the dark days of Rwanda, to the refugee camps and finally coming to Canada.

In the last few weeks God has really blessed MR for her faithfulness: she has a new day job that enables her to be with her nieces more, pays her better, and offers more challenging work given her gifts and passions. MR is so thankful and has such a heart of gratitude, it encourages us all.

Her story of offering hospitility for a family of six despite the limitations of her small apartment, and of continued dependence on God spoke deeply to all who were present. She thanked everyone from CoHo, because it is her new family.

Marie Rose gave us all a template for reflecting on the New Year. While self-reflection shouldn't be limited to a particular week or month, the ending of one year and the beginning of a new one is an especially inviting period to examine our goals, our priorities, our dreams, and our accomplishments for both our personal and professional lives.

Marie Rose could have had a story of regret, unhappiness, and feeling trapped, a story that is all too familiar for many people. People in that case limit their options and choices, often blaming circumstances "beyond their control" for their unhappiness when, in fact, their own fears and past hurts are the main obstacles to a more rewarding and meaningful life.

Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple Computers, spoke to the graduating class at Stanford University in 2005. Consider his words as you reflect upon your life.

Jobs began his speech by saying, "Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation." He then shared three stories from his life to capture three main points for the graduates to remember.

The first was about "connecting the dots."

Jobs described his reasons for dropping out of Reed College, noting, "After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

"It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor of friends' rooms. I returned coke bottles for 5 cent deposits to buy food...Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on."

Jobs offered an example of taking a calligraphy class at Reed College and finding it fascinating even if at the time he did not believe it would have "any practical application" in his life. "But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts."

Jobs noted, "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something--your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever."

Jobs gives us the one of the most succint explanations for the importance of reflection: "you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards." What is God showing you from the past year?

The second story Jobs described was about "love and loss." He recounted that at the age of 30, a year after the release of the Macintosh, he was fired from Apple. He asked, "How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating."

There are events in our lives over which we have little control. However, often we have more control than we realize about our attitudes towards these events, attitudes that will determine our future actions. Attitude is the minds paintbrush. What colors are you painting with in your thought life?

Jobs continued, "I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me--I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over. I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have happened to me...It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life."

Jobs used his energy to start a new company called Pixar, which created the world's first computer animated feature film, Toy Story. As the saying goes, "The rest is history."

Jobs reflected, "Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love...The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."

One is left to wonder what direction Jobs' journey in life would have taken had he not been removed from his position at Apple; I sense, given his positive attitude, he would have continued to ignite his passion, but in this instance the process was hastened by external forces. We can all strive towards adopting a more positive outlook even during dark moments. Interestingly, Jobs eventually was called back to Apple and has been immensely successful with the design and marketing of the iPod as well as new Macintosh computers.

Jobs refused to "run away". Instead he embraced the next stage of his life with abandon. Have you been hit in the head with a brick? Rejected? Jesus used the greatest act of rejection in history to restore us to a relationship with Him. What does God want you to do with your story of rejection?

The third story he related was about "death." Jobs said that a year ago he was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. "The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die."

Later that evening, a biopsy was done. "I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I am fine now."

Having been given a death sentence, even if just for one day, Jobs waxed philosophically, "No one wants to die. And yet death is the destination we all share...Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma--which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Eckhart Tolle has said, "Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world. You are withholding it because deep down you think you are small and that you have nothing to give." God has created you with inestimable worth and full of gifts to offer. Release them to the fullest and receive love from others.

Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck has suggested we take the "road less traveled" in our life journey. This road leaves complaining behind and may be difficult to locate. Even when we find it we may be faced with many obstacles, but the opportunity of forging a life filled with passion, purpose, and fun is worth all the uncertainty and effort we endure along the way. Plus, we never travel the road alone. We have a companion that never leaves or forsakes us...

Romans 15:13
I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.


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