Getting Out From Under the Clutter

Today, the world’s tallest skyscraper opened in Dubai. It is 2,684 feet tall, with 160 floors. The building has space for 1,044 apartments, 49 floors of office space, as well as an Armani hotel. Supposedly, the 160 floor tower can be seen as far as 59 miles away.

The building was designed by a Chicago based firm. According to one structural and civil engineer with the firm, “We thought that it would be slightly taller than the existing tallest tower of Taipei 101. (Emaar) kept on asking us to go higher but we didn’t know how high we could go. We were able to tune the building like we tune a music instrument. As we went higher and higher and higher, we discovered that by doing that process… we were able to reach heights much higher than we ever thought we could ”

No doubt this building will receive the attention of a lot of people.

Today, is the first Monday of the new year.

Most of us are not beginning the year with a grand opening nor are we making headlines in some way. No, most of us are beginning the week doing the ordinary. We got up this morning and made a cup of coffee just as we do every day. Most will go to work and expect an ordinary day.

Yet, we might use this rhythm of time (this New Year) as an opportunity to pause for a moment and think about the way we have been living (2009) and the way we intend to live (2010).

One question to consider: Do I live in clutter? dubaitower.jpg

Maybe you know what it’s like to have a home that is cluttered. (No, I haven’t seen your garage.) In the house there might be stacks and piles of things: papers, magazines, and all sorts of gadgets. Rarely is there anything thrown away. Perhaps you have an office. Maybe there are stacks of papers or books on your desk.

Perhaps such clutter is not even an issue for you. Yet, there are many people whose lifestyles are very cluttered. Sometimes we find ourselves so busy that we feel like our lifestyles have become cluttered. When our children were growing up, they were involved in all kinds of extra activities and team sports. There were times when it just got to be too much. They (or we) has said “yes” to too many things. Does this sound familiar?    

Some of us may be constantly on the go. Yet, we may not be experiencing any depth at all in our lives. We simply skim the surface, bouncing from activity to the next. People have described such a lifestyle as: “… frustrating; like I can’t breathe; I feel like I’m under constant pressure; whatever I’m doing I feel like I should be somewhere else; I feel trapped; I hear the clock ticking; life is zooming by and I’m missing it.” In his book Margin, Richard Swenson writes:

People are tired and frazzled. People are anxious and depressed. People don’t have time to heal anymore. There is a psychic instability in our day that prevents peace from implanting itself very firmly in the human spirit.  

Beware of a cluttered mind that has no sense of purpose or mission.

Peggy Noonan wrote a terrific piece in the Wall Street Journal regarding the problem with organizations and institutions that have lost their mission or purpose:

And as all these institutions forgot their mission, they entered the empire of spin. They turned more and more attention, resources and effort to the public perception of their institution, and not to the reality of it.

Everyone gave their efforts to how things seemed and not how they were. Press secretaries, press assistants, media managers, public relations experts—they abound more than ever in our business and public life.


When have you recognized that your life had become cluttered with too many activities, projects, etc.? What was helpful to you in addressing this problem?

Before You Move On With Another Year

Yesterday, Charlotte and I spent the day in Austin. Much of the time was spent looking for another car. (My Ford Explorer was pronounced “near death” by our local auto repair shop.) We also spent time wandering through various stores, just enjoying the day. At lunch, we enjoyed a delicious pizza at Mandola’s Italian Market, a wonderful place to eat. It was an enjoyable, leisurely way to close out the year, the end of 2009.

So today is January 1, 2010

Before you continue on with life — pause for a moment.


I know. There is nothing magical about a New Year. Yes, we talk about New Year’s resolutions and how those are often broken shortly after we make them. At the same time, the New Year is a wonderful time to pause and reflect on the past (2009) and consider the future (2010). The New Year is a part of the rhythm of our lives. Perhaps this is why I use this time each year to reflect on my life, both where I have been and where I seem to be going.


I would love to hear your response to either/or both of these questions:

*What are you especially thankful for, as you reflect upon 2009?

*What is one of your prayer concerns as you anticipate 2010?

Dear Son/Dear Daughter

In just a few days, we will begin a new year.


Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Yet, I love the beginning of a new year. For me, it is a good time to think about my life, both the past and the future. It is a time to think about where I have been and where I am going.

A few days ago, I wrote the following for a young friend of mine. She graduated from college and is embarking on a new time of life. She is also, like the rest of us, beginning a new year. I write to encourage her. Perhaps you will find this encouraging or useful. You might even think of these thoughts as words for a daughter or son.   

1. Look in the mirror and know that you are just right. You do not have to look a certain way, dress a certain way, or have a certain amount of money in order to be fully human. Look carefully at Jesus and you will see what it means to really live a full life, as a complete human being.

2. Cherish your character. Do what people with great character do. Make decisions that you think people of high character would make, even if you feel like you are the only person trying to do what is right. You will never, ever regret doing the right thing but the reverse can’t be said.

3. Enjoy being you. You don’t have to look like others or talk like others. In fact, you don’t have to meet the approval of others. You are worth knowing, worth loving, and worth being treated right. Don’t settle for anything less.

4. Be friends with people who take the high road. Yes, these people may be harder to find. There are far more people who are content to just get by. There is always someone around who will drag you down. There are people who have no shame and very low standards. Choose to be with people who really want to live right and who appreciate someone else who desires the same.

5. Live a significant life. Having a life that is significant or important doesn’t come by having lots of money or by having a glamorous job. A significant life belongs to a person who serves other people and makes a positive difference in someone else’s life.


Which one of these five statements might be especially important for a younger person to hear? Why?

If I Could Do It Over . . .

What would you do differently?

The year has almost come to an end. Can you believe this?

Sometimes I think about what I might do if I could start the year (or years) over. There are some things I would do differently.

As a teenager, I used to play golf frequently at Tennison Golf Course in Dallas. I remember one of the first times I ever played. I hit a terrible drive and someone said, “Take a mulligan.” Mulligan is just another word for “do-over.” I remember taking a lot of mulligans at the golf course. There is nothing like a do-over!

As I think about 2009 and even earlier years, I wish I could have some do-overs. Yes, I know I am forgiven and am in a loving relationship with God. At the same time, I would like to go back and handle some situations differently. I would like to make some different decisions.

How about you? Do you ever wish for a do-over? Here are some do-over’s I would take if I had the opportunity.

1. I would enjoy the moment more. Far too often I have been anxious about the future instead of living fully in the moment. Can you relate to this? I remember once being on vacation. At the time, I was so concerned about some future event that it was difficult for me to enjoy the moment. Not only did I waste good energy on worry and anxiety, but I also missed the present moment which could have been fun.


2. I would laugh more. Yes, we all experience difficult, frustrating, and anxiety-producing times in our lives. Yet, there is something to be said for laughter. A few evenings ago, I sat on our living room floor against a chair and watched an old Andy Griffith program on TV Land. Black and white. Old. Yet, for those few minutes, I laughed and laughed. It did me good! Charlotte and I once knew a woman who cut out cartoons from the Kansas City Star newspaper and posted them on the refrigerator door just to encourage her family to laugh. I am drawn to people who make me laugh. Such people often poke fun at themselves or tell stories that simply describe the lighter side of life.

3. I would spend less time worrying about people who choose to be miserable. I once thought that if a person did everything just right, then the people around him/her would be happy. I did not realize that there are some people who enjoy being miserable. There are others who have chosen to have a foul attitude. Yes, these people need ministry. However, such people can drain you dry if you get entangled emotionally with them.

4. I would pay more attention to people who need love and less time worrying about why I wasn’t being loved, or encouraged, or appreciated. Many people wallow in self-pity. I’ve been there and been defeated by it. Self-pity does no one any good. Furthermore, wallowing in such pity typically does not make a person feel any better. How sad to be a person who spends a lifetime feeling sorry for himself!

5. I would focus more on loving my wife and children in very practical ways. In most areas of my life, I am dispensable. One day, long after I am gone, my name will be recorded in the congregational history, in the list of ministers who served this congregation. The only thing that will separate me from the next minister will be a comma. Not so with my wife and children! I am the only husband and father that my wife and children have. They need to hear and see this love in very practical ways.

Are you the mother of two children? Are you a professor? Are you an auto mechanic? Are you a university student?

No matter who you are, you have probably learned from your past that knowledge will make all the difference in how you live in 2010.


What do you wish to do differently in the future than you did in the past?

(I posted something similar to this a few years ago. Nevertheless, these are words I still need to hear and remember.)