If Hillary can do it…

Mount EverestOn 29 May 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalesa Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers confirmed as having reached the summit of Mount Everest.  What most people don’t know is that before Hillary achieved this monumental goal, he had failed in an attempt the previous year.

The story goes that after his failure in 1952, Hillary was invited to be honored for his attempt.  Afterall, this bee-keeper from New Zealand had come closer to achieving the task than any man to that date.  As he took the podium to thunderous applause, Hillary turned to a large photo of Mount Everest and shook his fist at the mountain.  “You beat me this time,” Hillary told the mountain, “but I’ll beat you next time.  Because you’ve grown all you’re going to grow and I’m still growing.”

That story has always inspired me for the simple fact that the next year Hillary kept his vow…he defeated Mount Everest!  Failure is a part of life for people who dream big dreams and set lofty goals.  I have come to see that failure in itself is not all that bad IF we learn and grow.  Yet so many people that I see are scared of failure and it is that fear that keeps them from stepping out in faith to chase those Mount Everest size goals.

If you have failed recently in something you set out to do, learn from Sir Edmund Hillary.  Shake your fist at your goal and say with conviction, “You beat me this time but I’ll beat you next time because you’ve grown all you’re going to grow….but I’m still growing!”  Then go out there and climb your Mount Everest!!

Are You Getting Enough Sleep

by Rich Nilsen,

If struggle with getting refreshing sleep on a regular basis, you are hardly alone. Approximately 70 million Americans regularly suffer from insomnia each year, and it is 1.4 times more common in women than men. On average fifty-eight percent of adults in the U.S. experience symptoms of insomnia a few nights a week or more.

Do you sleep great?Forty-four percent of U.S. adults are considered “problem sleepers.” About one-fifth of those in a clinical survey used drugs to counter-act insomnia at least once per week, and nearly 24 percent “depended” on sleep medication. Consumer Reports magazine found that 38 percent of those who had taken medication in the past month had been doing so for a minimum of two months. Who wants or needs that?

Consumer Reports also reported in their findings that the most common cause of insomnia was stress. Respondents worried about issues such as money, health, job security and family.

In 2001, 38 percent of adults were getting a minimum of eight hours sleep each night. Within only seven years this percentage had dropped to an alarming 26 percent. Ouch!

Just how many people are affected by sleep issues? A survey in February 2009 by the National Association of Home Builders, which included builders and architects, predicted that over 60 percent of custom-made houses would have dual master bedrooms by the year 2015. That is a sad state of affairs for America’s marriages.

It’s an epidemic in this country and around the world, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Sleep is so vital to our overall well being and health. How can we be productive on the job or at home with the family if we are not fully alert? We might be able to succeed in the short term, but sleep deprivation always catches up to the person suffering from sleepless nights.

The question to ask yourself is how many nights per week do you not get a sound sleep? How many nights per week do you struggle to fall asleep or wake up much sooner than you want? Do you awake in the middle of the night and can not fall back to sleep?

If your answer is more than one night than you are suffering from sleep deprivation. There are several steps you need to take to begin to right the ship. For starters, turn off your electronic leash – iPad, blackberry, laptop – at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. This will be one of the hardest things to do for many people, so I figured I would throw this out there early.

We’ll dive more into the steps you need to take in next week’s blog installment. In the meantime, power down and get some rest!


The Black Horizon

Black HorizonIt is April 14, some years back, and the ocean cargo ship Californian has almost completed her journey from Liverpool, England to Boston Harbor.  After a hard journey, the crew sleeps peacefully as the Californian rocks rhythmically for the night.  It is near midnight, as Second Officer Herbert Stone bounds up the Californian’s steps to report for watch duty on the bridge.

Reporting for duty, Stone finds his apprentice seaman—Charles Grove—glued to a pair of binoculars, starring motionless toward the black horizon.  Grove has spotted a ship in the distance … just 9 miles out. While some details of the ship are obscure, the ship is close enough that Grove can make out the ship’s masthead, cabin lights, and the glare of white lights on her afterdeck—a freighter by all appearance.

Stone asks Grove to try to communicate by means of the Californian’s bright signal lamp—similar to what I would call an airport spot light or search light.  Grove flashes a bright beacon signal, but no answer from the steamer.

“Will that be all, sir?”  Grove asks.  Stone nods, and Grove leaves to make a note in his log.

Now Second Officer Stone is alone on the bridge.  Glancing idly over the peaceful waves, the boat on the horizon catches his eye.

Grove returns to the bridge and Stone requests further communication attempts through the signal lamp.  Grove employs the beacon signal once more, but still no reply from the steamer.

Lifting the binoculars to his eyes once more, Stone observes three flashes like fireworks in the sky, but now his attention is drawn to the steamer’s cabin lights.  They seem to be disappearing, as though the steamer were sailing away.  The movement is easily dismissed as routine sailing as the steamer makes its way through the night sea.  By 2:40 a.m., the steamer’s lights vanish into the night.

Neither the second officer nor his apprentice interpret the white flashes as cause for alarm.  The event is dismissed by all as curious, but nothing more than a slight oddity.  After all, the steamer had never replied to the Californian’s repeated messages sent through their bright beacon lamp.

But things are often not as they seem.  For the officers of the Californian had—unbeknownst to any of them—been front row for an unimaginable drama.  You see, the steamer they had been watching had launched its rocket flares into the night sky as distress signals, and the Californian—only nine miles away—might have easily rushed to her aid, but the crew on the Californian never interpreted the flares as an emergency signal.

In addition to the flares, the steamer was sending out distress calls by their radio.  And the Californian was well within the range of those messages… but her radio operator was asleep.  After all, the Californian’s officers believed that a hard working crew needs its rest.  So the Californian’s fledging radio operator—fresh from training school—was fast asleep in his cabin.  And that night the ship’s second officer and his apprentice, from their vantage point on the bridge, watched the sinking of the Titanic, and didn’t even know it.

Let’s all watch our horizons for signals.

Fear Itself

Climb A MountainOne of my favorite film series is the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Tolkien crafted a wonderful story centered around an ordinary hobbit named Frodo Baggins.  Frodo wasn’t the biggest, fastest, most skilled, nor most educated.  He wasn’t that good with the sword nor the bow.  He was given an impossible task…journey into enemy territory and destroy the “evil” ring of power.  In one powerful scene in the first movie, while all the more “qualified” people debated about how impossible the task was and who was going to take the ring, Frodo stood up and shouted, “I will go.  I will take the ring!”  And he did…and we watched (through 9 hours of movie) as Frodo and his companions braved all dangers (even the dangers within themselves) to achieve their goals.

None of us are going to have to achieve such a fantastic goal.  We don’t have to battle orc, and evil wizards, and Sauron the great, and Nazgul.  But all of us who set out to achieve big dreams and goals must fight that same inner battle with the forces that shackle us and keep us in our comfort zones.  The biggest obstacle that most of us have to overcome in achieving our goals is fear.

Fear, in my opinion, is the single biggest contributor to mediocre lives.  In my position as minister, I see people every day who are stuck because they don’t take that first step toward their goals.  Some don’t even set goals for fear of failing.  That’s not the way we were created to be.  When God made Adam and Eve, they had no fear.  They walked in perfect harmony and peace with God and with his creation.  They were so at peace that they were naked.  Fear does not appear until they break God’s only rule and eat from the wrong tree (Gen 3:10).  Then fear sets in and we’ve been battling it ever since.

How many people are crippled by a fear of public speaking?  How many people would be incredible singers but they’re afraid to sing in front of others?  How many people could have the dream job they wanted but they’re afraid to apply for it or to leave the job they have?  As humans, we tend to find comfortable spots in our lives and stay there.  “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” wrote Henry David Thoreau.  Why are the majority of men and women living lives of frustration and mediocrity when they have it in themselves to be so much more?  Fear!

We all have dreams and goals.  If fear is the one thing keeping us from stepping out and pursuing them, then fear has got to go!  Most people do not realize that the most frequent command in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.”

In Psalm 56:4, David writes “In God I trust, I will not be afraid.”  He wrote this when he was a prisoner of his enemies, the Philistines.  Ever since he was a young man, David showed the ability to face fear and overcome.  While Saul and the whole army of Israel cowered in fear from Goliath, David was the one that stepped out with a sling and a few stones “in the name of the Lord Almighty” and brought down a nation’s biggest fear.  Was David without fear?  No, he feared just like you and I.  In Psalm 56:3 he wrote “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”  David’s philosophy was simple, when he was afraid, he took his focus off the fear and put it on God and did what he was afraid of doing.  That’s something we all can do!

So what are you afraid of?  Start attacking fear today so that you can achieve big things tomorrow!  Write down something of which you are afraid.  Now go out, face your fear, trust in God, and do it. Only by doing this will you see how big your God really is!

So How Goes the Resolutions?

New Years Resolutionsby Rich Nilsen,

New Years’ Resolutions – you got to love them. We all have great intentions when we begin the New Year telling ourselves that we are going to do this and do that. We are going to finally get this project done. We are finally going to overcome that vice. We mean well.

I think we all know by now that when it comes to resolutions very few people make it past the first couple of weeks. It’s a sad testament to our lack of discipline and focus.

Well, it’s been almost four weeks into 2012 so that is ample time to evaluate how it goes. The great news is that is not too late to get back on track if we have fallen off course.

Some years I don’t think I even made any resolutions. This year I made several, and overall, I’ve done a pretty good job sticking to the plan. Here are the two keys that I have found helpful:

  • Write down your goals for the New Year
  • Every day review what you have written down

It’s hard to get too far off track when every day you look at reminders about your 2012 resolutions and what your plans are for this year.

There are over 11 months remaining in 2012. Let’s evaluate where we at so far, get back on track if necessary, and stay the course for the new year.

Good luck!

Letter to Satan

Letter_to_SatanDear Satan,

It’s me, the man you know so well.  I don’t talk to you much, but I sure do see you a lot.  Everyday, I catch a glimpse of you in the mirror.  Every hour, I hear you scratching at my door.  Every second, your thoughts chew in my head.

Do you chase everyone like you chase me?  Am I really that important to you?  Do you want me so much you’ll try anything and never give up?

I wonder if you do this because I lead you on so.  I do let you in at times.  I do return your catching glance.   I admit it freely.  But make no mistake, you and I are at war.  For even though at times I call you my friend, I am not proud of those moments.  They capture me at my weakest, my most shameful, my ugliest.

Do I love you?  No, for even though I am commanded to love my neighbor and even thought I see you in my neighbor, you are too distant to be my neighbor.  Do I hate you?  No, for hate would give you power, and power is something you have plenty of.  Do I feel sorry for you?  Yes, for I know even you could rest in peace if you took the warm embrace of our Father’s arms.

I am sure we’ll be seeing each other again, very soon.  Just so you know, I’ll be the one fighting to turn away from your glance, and though you may catch it for a moment, you will find yourself holding something you cannot keep—my soul.

In Christ’s name I pray,

James Hale

— James is a porter.  He helps people carry their loads along life’s journey.  He is author of the All Star Press book “Quiet Spaces:  Hearing God’s Call in a Noisy World.”

What is holding you back?

by Rich Nilsen,

what's holding you back?Aspiring writers, what is holding you back from meeting your goals as an author? That is not only the question of the day, it is the critical question for all writers who are simply not getting the job done. Why isn’t that manuscript you always wanted to write finished by now? Why haven’t you started on that great idea for a book?

Possible obstacles may include:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Failure to get started
  • Wasting time on social networks
  • Watching television
  • [Insert your own obstacle here]

Before you do anything else today, stop and think. Just what is it that is weighing you down as an author? You know what it is, so address the issue. In an overwhelming majority of cases, the solution is going to be fairly simple: do the opposite, gain valuable time as a result…and then get started writing.