Thursday, August 31, 2006

Is Talent Necessary?

In my post dated July 20, I spoke about having a passion in life that stirred your soul. Today, I find myself wanting to build on that, partly because of a story I read, and partly because of events happening to me personally. Since the events are personal and I respect the other individuals privacy, I won't share them. But here's the story:

Ted Williams was a legendary baseball hitter, some say the best ever. Apparently, he was once asked to coach a rookie who just arrived from the minor leagues. As Williams watched the rookie swing unsuccessfully at a few 95 mile per hour fast balls, he called out, "Just watch the stitches."
The rookie replied with a puzzled, "Huh?"
Williams repeated, "Just watch the stitches."
"What stitches?", asked the rookie.
"The stitches on the baseball!" Williams shot back, and then proceeded, in detail, to describe how the rotation of the stitches influenced how the ball behaves between the pitching mound and home plate.
In disbelief, the rookie asked, "You can see the stitches?"
Other players who commented on that story say that a 95 mile per hour fast ball is a blur for the first 10 feet after it leaves the pitchers hand and for the other 50 feet and 6 inches it is invisible! His teammates asked him what else he could see on the baseball to which he replied, "On a good day I can read the commissioners signature."
Ted Williams gave that advice in all seriousness, not knowing that he possessed a talent no one else did. It's what made him a great hitter, above all the others.

Obviously, he had a passion to play baseball, but his talent made him great at it. I believe all of us have a talent like that; something that comes easy to us, something we may not even think about, like seeing the stitches. It's that talent, that when used in conjunction with our passion, enables us to excel at something, do big things, help others, make a mark on this world, have a meaningful life.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that is obsessed with weakness. Just let a student come home from school with a report card that has 4 A's and 1 C. What do you think the conversation will be about? And we can all probably recall a coach or teacher or parent who pointed out our lack of talent in one area or another. And too often, those kinds of things make such an impression that we spend the rest of our lives trying to prove someone wrong instead of pursuing what we're good at.

My favorite sport in school was football. I was a running back in high school, not the fastest, but I enjoyed that game more than any other, you could even say I was passionate about it. Now I'm not a big guy, and football is a physical sport, one that requires a bit more mass than I have. (though I seem to get more as I get older) I could have let the passion I had for that game take me down a path that led to ultimate failure as I competed with bigger, stronger, faster, more talented athletes than myself. Fortunately for all of us, that didn't happen.

My point today is that passion without talent is merely a dream. Most of us don't give our talent, whatever it is enough credit. In fact, many of us are simply naive about our talent because it comes easily and we don't really give it a second thought. We can rattle off a list of the things we don't do well, but identifying what we are truly good at seems more difficult. So, building on the post I mentioned earlier (What Stirs Your Soul, July 20), here are a few suggestions to help you identify your talent:
  • What stirs your soul? The thing that makes you feel like you're doing what you were born to do. You feel fully alive when doing it, and could do it all day long.
  • Real talent can't help but show off. Even if you don't value your talent or don't intend it, others will notice. Perhaps not full-blown excellence, but glimpses of greatness that point to underdeveloped talent. It's that something (seeing stitches) that sets you apart from the rest of the pack. Practicing that talent is an effective strategy for making your best contribution in life.
  • You will be able to learn quickly in the area of your talent. In areas you aren't talented in, learning is a struggle. This is a good clue to identifying your talent. Again though, our culture too often chastises for us for not "toughing it out" or "hanging in there" even when it's obvious there is simply no talent for something.
  • In the area of our talent, we are both willing to grow and capable of continued development. We don't grow weary of using our talent. This is why professional athletes who are paid millions of dollars for their talent still show up for practice and hire personal trainers to help them get better. I believe we are practicing for eternity when we practice our talent.
  • Other people can be a great source of affirmation and confirmation if we will simply listen when they begin telling us what we do well. I can't stress enough how our society has brought us to a place where we obsess over negative feedback and simply blow off anything positive. This is a recipe for continued mediocrity at best. It attaches our productivity to problems and is very demoralizing. Newsflash: it's okay not to be good at everything.

And on that last note, that's what makes us human. That's what makes us need one another, an idea God has for us. I need your talent to fully experience what God has in mind for my life, and vice versa. Today, I'll answer my own question: talent is definitely necessary. Have you found yours?


Thursday, August 24, 2006


Well my daughter is at the dorm, and after a lonesome first night, seems to be finding her place among the community there. And so begins her college education, which many of us would equate with learning. But are you aware that one of the best ways to learn is to unlearn.

College professors know this, which is why I cautioned my daughter about being challenged at college. Her professors, as well as some of her peers, will challenge the things she thinks she knows to be true. However, until an idea is tested and proved to be true, it is merely a theory. So, many times in order to really learn something we must unlearn some things we believed to be true, that when tested prove not to be.

Just ask the Apostle Paul. He was a Pharisee ( a religious expert, if you will) who believed that the messianic kingdom (the coming of the Messiah) would occur at the end of time. He also believed that only the righteous were to be raised from death. His beliefs led him to assume the role of an early church persecutor, condemning and even killing those who claimed Jesus had been raised from the dead and was the Messiah. All done in the name of defending the faith.

His box of Hebrew understanding was challenged and broken when he was confronted on a road one day by Jesus, an unrighteous man long dead mind you, or so he thought. Jesus simply asked Paul why he was persecuting the Messiah (Himself), someone whom Paul was actually waiting for. At that point Paul had a choice: he could dig in his heels and stand on what he "knew", or he could open himself up to unlearn a thing or two and change his life. I'm happy to report that he chose the latter.

Life is full of opportunities for learning and I like to consider myself a lifelong learner. But this I know: it doesn't happen just by taking in more and more information. There must be times when I have to be willing to unlearn in order to learn. I've found it true that some of the things I held dear, have been things that kept me from moving and growing. Actually, in hind sight, those things usually just kept me comfortable.

Are there things in your life that you need to unlearn? Are willing to do that? I'd love to hear about them.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

In Addition...

In addition to the last week's post, I'd like to submit the following:

Change is hard. You may find that a rather obvious statement, but don't discount it's truth.

Case in point: my daughter goes to college tomorrow. She will be staying in a dorm room on a campus some 300 miles away. This is a change I've been watching approach for 18 years. I've prepared the best I can, am entirely "ready" for it, yet it is hard. And this pain I feel, the emotions that I wrestle with, are precisely what I'm talking about. That's what makes change hard.

Certainly we are all adaptable enough to function in different situations, but the way we deal with how we are feeling about it will make all the difference. Whether your personality is that of a thinker or a feeler, we all have emotions. And many times it's those emotions that cause us to act certain ways. If we don't like someone or something, generally we stay away from that, conversely those things that make us feel good get our attention and time. Emotions are powerful motivators for human kind.

The point I'm trying to make today is that it's okay to feel bad during change in your life, I happen to know it won't last. Unless you ignore how you're feeling. Dismissed feelings tend to leak out and demand attention at the most inopportune times. The most benign moments become times of drama because of unresolved issues, related or not. The key is to give those feelings a voice, find a way to express how you feel about the change. It may be to your spouse, a close friend or professional counselor.

A word of warning here: it won't stop the change, but it will help you move with it. I would never consider stopping my daughter from leaving home to go to college just to make myself feel better, yet that's exactly how some of us try to deal with change in our lives - "If I can stop it, I feel better." Here's another - "I'll pretend it's not happening and convince everyone, including myself, that everything's fine." Unfortunately those common responses are both unhealthy and unrealistic.

So today, I'll continue to let my daughter know how much I love her and how much I'll miss her when she's gone. I'll shed a tear as I think about not being able to hug her when I want and "fix" things for her......and it will be okay. What about you? How are you dealing with the change in your life?


Friday, August 11, 2006

Patience or Preparation

I must confess that I wrote this yesterday but due to technical difficulties it never got posted. In fact I'm having to recreate it from what I remember. My writing style is "stream of consciousness", and once it's out there, recapturing it may prove difficult....I'll do my best.

Here's the thought I was having - I know some folks who I'm watching go through change in their life. They can see a glimpse of the future, what it may hold, etc.; but it hasn't come to pass yet. Many get frustrated with the lack of detail on how to get from "here to there", others find an odd comfort in a place of "patience", simply waiting on things to change.

I'd like to suggest that either response is lacking. What if the time between a glimpse of the future and the time it comes to pass is intentional? What if, in the bigger picture, it was meant to be that way? What if that time was for your benefit? I speak from experience here, I happen to know that unresolved frustration can lead to anger, an emotion that is often more destructive than constructive. And why would anyone want to be patient? I mean, isn't that the word they use for sick people? I jest...but just a little.

Try this: prepare. If you have a view, dim or otherwise, of what's facing you - why not use the interim time to prepare? Position yourself to take full advantage of what's coming. Simply stated, be ready when it arrives. Frustration will lead you to digging in your heels, resisting change. Patience will leave you surprised by the change when it comes. Only preparation will make the transition merely a stepping stone along your path of life.

I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. The constant in this relationship has been change, and I don't always get all the details up front! But I have learned that I usually get a sense of the direction we're heading and I have time to prepare for our arrival. The journey, or preparation is seldom easy, but it's so worthwhile. In fact, discomfort is often a sign of movement. And remember, you can't follow anyone without moving.

So whatever you're facing, and we're all facing something, we have a choice. What's yours?


Monday, August 07, 2006


The following was taken from the Meriam-Webster online dictionary:

com·mu·nion Pronunciation: k&-'myü-ny&n
Function: nounEtymology: Middle English, from Latin communion-, communio mutual participation, from communis
1: an act or instance of sharing
2: a capitalized : a Christian sacrament in which consecrated bread and wine are consumed as memorials of Christ's death or as symbols for the realization of a spiritual union between Christ and communicant or as the body and blood of Christ b : the act of receiving Communion c capitalized : the part of a Communion service in which the sacrament is received
3: intimate fellowship or rapport: COMMUNICATION
4: a body of Christians having a common faith and discipline

As you can see, the Christian faith has laid claim to this word. Not a bad thing, in fact it's a wonderful thing when the ritual sacrament is done in conjunction with the root meaning of the word. Look at meanings #1 & #3: sharing, intimate fellowship, rapport. That's it, that's what I'm talking about here.

Don't get me wrong, I love the sacrament of Holy Communion as practiced by the protestant faith. It is a wonderful time of rememberance with beautiful symbolism, and one of the most important acts that take place inside church buildings in my opinion. But if that's the beginning and the end of it, I'll pass.

I just returned from 3 days "away" from my normal life. Just a little country retreat away from phones, computers and my usual routine. Let me tell you, it was 3 days of communion. And it was extrememly spiritual. No, it wasn't a monestary retreat with self-imposed silence broken only by mantras chanted in monotone; it was communion in it's purest form.

With my family, the people I love the most - who know me best (and still love me!), surrounded by God's creation (Texas Hill Country, some of His better work), a farm full of beautiful animals and wildlife, and times to sit and ponder along with times of exhilirating activity; I was intimately connected with God. I sensed His presence and shared each moment with Him, marvelling at all He's done and is doing. Truly a time of communion with my Maker.

What's my point? Glad you asked. Don't wait. Don't wait for the Sunday that your particular church celebrates Holy Communion, though I hope you'll be there for it. Each moment of each day is an opportunity to connect, to share, to have intimate fellowship with the One who holds it all in His hands. In nature, in people, in life itself. Each breath is a reminder, and can be an act of rapport with the God who gave it to you. Enjoy.