I once stopped by our son’s dorm room unannounced. I was attending meetings in a nearby city and was passing through. He was either in class, hanging out in the cafeteria or lifting weights in the gym. He wasn’t expecting me for a few days so I wasn’t surprised by his absence.
Like any nosy parent, I spent some time glancing at the books and notes on his desk and assessing the vibe of his room. He had been using notecards for a speech class, so I picked up a blank one and wrote, “If you think you can or you think you can’t; you are probably right – Dad.” I taped it to the edge of his computer screen and continued to my meeting. I knew we would connect later as planned so I didn’t bother to track him down.
More recently (twenty years later), I stopped for a visit in his office at the church where he serves as pastor in Boise, Idaho. Taped to the screen of his desktop computer was the same card. “If you think you can or you think you can’t; you are probably right.” It’s a powerful concept, and I’m glad he keeps it in front of him and those who visit his office.
I believe every person is capable of achieving so much more than they think is possible, and exponentially more than most accomplish in their lifetime.
I just finished reading David McCullough’s latest book, The Wright Brothers. That’s no surprise to those of you who know me. I read a lot of non-fiction, especially biographies and autobiographies. Most assume I love history, but the truth is I love the lessons history teaches, especially the lessons about human nature. By means of reading, I’ve enjoyed the greatest mentors anyone has ever been blessed to experience. No one lives long enough to make all the mistakes necessary to gain wisdom. I’ve learned through the accomplishments and mistakes of historic people shaped by historic times.
The story of The Wright Brothers is a lesson in resolve, problem solving and clarity of purpose. Neither of them had a high-school education, let alone studied at a university. They were not children of privilege nor raised by a man of science or business acumen. Their daddy was a preacher, and their mother died of tuberculosis at the age of 58; Wilbur was 22 and Orville was 18 years old. But they never considered themselves as anything less than privileged. Wilbur wrote,
“We were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity. If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother and begin life in Ohio.”
They lived an intentional life. Noticing the growing popularity of bicycling and being mechanically-minded, they opened a repair shop. Soon they designed a new-and-improved bicycle of their own, produced it in their own shop and sold it nationwide. That success, and the money it generated, provided the momentum and means to pursue Wilbur’s dream of flying.
They spent years studying the failed equations of a German engineer who had flown a dozen different gliders before dying of a broken spine in a crash at the age of 48. The Wright Brothers broke ranks with conventional ideas and pursued a path all their own. They began watching birds especially those who soared effortlessly on currents with little or no flapping of their wings. Private and public opinion mocked them …if it paid any attention at all.
After much research to find the best place for prevailing winds between 15 to 25 miles per hour, the brothers settled on Kitty Hawk, a remote location on the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina. It was void of people except for those who manned life-saving stations for floundering ships. They lived in a tent, fought mosquitoes and the elements, and had to transport all their supplies 40 miles across the channel.
One of the men who ferried the brothers to and from the mainland to their camp summed up the prevailing attitude of the time. “Outer Banks people are pretty set in their ways. We believe in a good God, a bad Devil, and a hot Hell, and more than anything else we believed that same God did not intend man should ever fly.”
Despite discouraging opinions, both professional and personal, the brothers resolved to conquer the air as others had conquered the oceans before them. Wilbur explained, “If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.”
What about you?
What might you accomplish if you knew you could not fail? What needs to be done in your life or in the lives of those God has placed on your heart? It may not be finding a cure for cancer, but it might be fighting a just cause for someone who needs you. It may or may not be saving a company on the verge of collapse, but it might be rescuing an addicted friend from self-destruction. What needs to be done that is worth doing beyond punching the clock on the routine life you are living?
Paul urged Timothy to help others understand their purpose when he wrote,
“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Winston Churchill understood Paul’s advice. He said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Don’t expect it to be easy. Although Wilbur was speaking about the laws of physics, I can’t help but think about the deeper meaning of his observation, “No bird soars in a calm.”
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4
- Are your thoughts mostly positive or negative?
- How important is regular exposure to great truth, great people and great ideas?
- What is your next big thing in life?
When it comes to accomplishment in life;
A. I think and rarely do.
B. I do but rarely think.
C. I’m always working on something to improve my life or the lives of others.
Click here to take the survey and take a moment and leave a comment in the space provided.
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Good and gracious Lord, “INCREASE MY FAITH!” Help me to recognize both Your great love for me and Your great power to accomplish extraordinary things through very ordinary people. Open my eyes to see the opportunities life provides every day to do something significant. Prompt me and encourage me as the loving Father that You are, so I might embrace the challenge and “take hold of life that is life indeed.” Through Jesus my Lord; Amen.
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There are 1000s of decisions to make while raising children. Choosing where your children go to school is an important one. Not only do you want the best education, but you want them surrounded by adults who have the same Christian values as you. We encourage you to come discover St. John School serving children from 2 years old through 8th grade. Schedule a tour or request more information about us today.
What? You missed Summer Sessions earlier this month. Don’t miss it when it returns on July 12 at 10:45am. Great morning for all rising 5th graders through 2015 high school graduates to hang out, have some fun and worship together!
Find out about upcoming programs and events at St. John Church.
Stephen Hower, Pastor
Challenging the status quo to awaken an appreciation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Phil. 3:13,14 (and to lower my golf score)
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