Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. – Albert Einstein
This morning I decided to start a new book (like I need to be reading ONE MORE concurrently with the four I’m already reading!) “Jolt: get the jump on a world that’s constantly changing” by Phil Cooke. I read his “The Last TV Evangelist” a few years ago and loved it.

I didn’t know why I had the need to read this until a few pages in. On the 5th page of the introduction, I ran into the quote above. It was exactly what I needed this morning.  I made a sign of it, printed it out and pasted it next to my monitor on my office wall.

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” I’ve read quotes like this before, heck, I’ve made quotes of my own like this for sermons. But the preceding words brought this thought into focus for me. “Out of clutter, find simplicity.” Man is my life cluttered right now. The church is in a state of flux. I have a Masters degree to finish. I MUST finish the graphic novel for Rick Via before the 3rd quarter of this year. My son’s are looking at colleges. Luke gets his full drivers license in a couple months. I have to get his van on the road (and find the money to do the repairs). The shed needs cleaned out. The audio room at the church needs completed. The water system needs replaced there too. Ben starts high school baseball next month (and all the travelling that entails). And I have to loose 80 pounds, get off my blood pressure meds, learn to decompress, write more, draw every day,  pray for my congregation and read my Bible. And I’m trying to read through the Harvard Classics this year.

Clutter in the life of a habitual multi-tasker is an invitation to ineffectiveness. I find it difficult to concentrate on one task long enough to complete it even when I only have one thing to do. The twisted mass of tasks I encounter each day sometimes freeze me. I find myself unable to complete even the simplest job because I am worried about the 100 others that go undone while I work on the first one.

“Out of clutter, find simplicity”

Its time I took Jerry Falwell’s advice to heart. Learn to tell the difference between what’s important and what is merely urgent. Do the important things, don’t worry about the urgent ones. They usually are not nearly as important as they seem.

“From discord, find harmony.”

Man is there discord in my life! Being a pastor, for those of you who do not know, is a series of troubles, sporadically interrupted by moments of total warfare. Everybody gets mad at me at some point. And no one has a clue what its like, or why a pastor does what he does, until they take on the spiritual, emotional and physical responsibility of being a pastor for themselves. Now I take the burden willingly, it is my calling. But to find harmony in the discord, wow, that would be awesome.

So I come to the last part of the quote: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

This is hard to accept, but I know it is more true than I can comprehend. Most great advances in human history have come through difficult times. The American Revolution, Edison’s 1,000+ failures making the light bulb, Steve Jobs being fired from the company he created, Lincoln loosing every election he ran in until the presidency, Jesus falsely accused and executed…

But in my difficulties, in the heartache and pain, in the disappointment, uncertainty and fear of loss, there is opportunity. Sometimes God has to shake you violently to get your attention. Two years ago He sent me a medical problem that I am still hesitant to talk about. In November He put my wife in the hospital. Last month He took my friend Rob to Heaven. But I have to admit that though He got my attention, it quickly faded each time. Perhaps because I failed to see the opportunities that each situation presented.

Now I find myself in yet another difficult situation. Personally, professionally, spiritually. Pray for me that I will see and seize the opportunities that arise through my problems. I know, I am convinced that the best days of my life and the life of my church are just ahead. I want clarity to see the opportunities, not just the problems.