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Friday, February 11, 2011

Survive or Thrive?

Recently I visited a church where my family were past members and worshipped regularly. We went back to hear Dr. David Swanson who was the youth minister when we were there and now is the Senior Pastor of the largest Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida. Just as he was over twelve years ago, David – Dr. Swanson delivered a needed and well done sermon. After the service, I wanted to speak to him and pick up a copy of his new book – Vital Signs: Discovering the Keys to Abundant Christian Living.

Although I have just started the book, I am convinced that the theme of his book is exactly the message most of us need to hear. Abundant living in this day and time? Is such a thing possible? This thought reminds me of one of the key principles in Dr. Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Dr. Covey describes the different paradigms from which people see things depending on whether they view the world from a position of abundance or scarcity. A more simple analogy might be viewing the glass as half empty or half full.

If we view the world from a paradigm that there is only so much “stuff” to go around, we will act differently than if we feel that the world is blessed abundantly. Paradoxically one can have tremendous worldly possessions and still see the world with a scarcity paradigm. And often those with little material possessions feel rich beyond measure.

Are we surviving or thriving? There are thousands of answers to this very simple question. The answer depends on who “we” are. It depends on the day to day circumstances that each of us face. It depends on the frame from which we view the world. If measured by the message proclaimed by the talking heads, the media, and the politicians – we are surviving. We are just hanging on.

If we view the question historically or from a position with a longer time line, we are probably doing ok. Some would argue we are thriving. We have clothes to wear, food to eat, cars to drive, etc. We are still better off today than those that lived much differently than in times past.

I am worried these days. I worry because we seem void of real leaders. We have a leadership deficit in this country and in this world. Our elected officials for the most part seem more interested in getting elected and staying elected than really providing real substantive leadership. The issues facing our country today are not that different than those faced before. But today, it seems that those in leadership positions are regularly abdicating the responsibility that came with the office.

As far as community leadership is concerned, we need improvement. In a time when local resources are not what we are used to having, we are fractured and unorganized as to efficiently using resources. In good times having multiple forms of governance may be ok. It may deliver desired results. But in times like these, should we study and discuss new ways of governance in order that we are as effective and efficient as possible.
I would argue that every business in the Greater Dalton community as restructured because of today’s economic reality. They have looked at every program and every cost to validate its existence. Public entities must do even more than there private counterparts. Each and every expense should be reevaluated annually to insure that resources are invested appropriately.

In these very difficult times, how we relate to each other and whether we collaborate with each other is critical to our ability to thrive vs. survive. We should explore every possible opportunity to partner and build each other up. Working in silos and competing for resources will not work. The old adage is still pertinent – a rising tide floats all boats.

Merely surviving is not an option. Not only will we survive, but if we work together, we can begin to thrive sooner rather than later. We must be able to talk to each other civilly. We must partner to utilize fewer resources more effectively. We must work to build each other up which in turn will build up our community.

I really appreciate being on the email distribution list of Varnell Mayor Dan Peeples. Those of you that are equally blessed know what I am talking about. His regular emails to the citizens of Varnell are upbeat and promote a sense of excitement and pride. He is working regularly to promote his City in such a way that is uplifting and energizing. And it seems to be working!

I will leave you with words that a recent senior pastor at my church regularly used as his benediction - Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:13-14). If we will bind together in a spirit of community, we will begin to thrive again realizing an even greater future than we enjoyed in our past.

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