Practical Applications & Tips: The way to a good life is not through “being happy.” Rather we need to learn to live in grace and stay connected to the vine of Christ. God doesn’t promise we’ll always be happy, but he does promise that we will always be loved and cared for, as well as be able to endure whatever comes at us.
You’ve probably encountered people in your life who live entirely for themselves. They are tight with their money and time. They take advantage of others and aren’t the most ethical people. List the names of three people you know who are like this and make a commitment to pray for them every day for at least 30 days. At the end of the 30 days, look at your own life and list the blessings you experienced during that time.
Make a list of five people you are aware of who need some sort of help that you have the ability and resources to provide. You don’t have to know these people well, but just be aware of their specific need. Within the next 30 days, provide all you are able to each one, addressing their specific need. If they need money, give them money. If they need food, buy them groceries. If they need clothes, take them shopping at Goodwill. If they need transportation, offer to drive them to and from places they need to go. At the end of the 30 days, look at your own life and list the blessings you experienced during that time.
Tree Facts - The tallest documented tree, at 365 feet tall, is in Eureka California. It is a redwood. They are the fastest growing trees in North America, and can maintain their growth rate for a very long time. It is not unusual for them to live hundreds of years. If they are growing in a good location they will grow rapidly and survive well into their second century. Full grown redwoods have thick bark which makes them resistant to fire. Sequoia sempervirens is unique among conifers in their ability to sprout from the stump using the existing root structure even when damaged by fire or knocked over by a violent wind.
Life Principle – The principles of fruitfulness also encompass leaving a legacy. “A Good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children. We are expected to create fruit that will last more than our lifetime. We are to be fruitful and to multiply.
Redwood trees grow best in deep, well drained soils. They develop well in flat areas and along streams, as well as on coastal plains, river deltas, and moderate westerly slopes and valleys that open toward the Pacific Ocean.
Their seed quality is directly associated with weather conditions. Flowering usually ends in late January. Trees begin to bear seeds between the ages of 6 and 15 years. Seed viability appears to increase with the age of the tree, and each tree produces abundant seeds each year. The seed viability in redwoods is time sensitive and they do not store well. Their dispersal may be spread over various periods of time. Rains will hasten their dissemination but since the wings on the seeds are not very efficient, they fall fast and closer to their seed bearing parent. Redwood forests are highly productive. They put on large amounts of volume for more than a hundred years. It is not uncommon for redwoods to grow to heights of 200 feet. They grow well in dense stands which contributes to their high yields. One acre of redwood forest can yield up to forty thousand board feet of lumber in just one hundred years.
The United States is oftentimes fixated with speed and preoccupied with immediate and instant results. Fast food! Instant weight loss! Rapid pain relief! Accelerated degrees! Liposuction on your lunch hour! Zap your dinner in the microwave! FedEx, fax, and e-mail! There are so many things appeal to our desire for instant results.
The frame of mind for preparing for a fruitful lifetime harvest is counter to the common mindset. A legacy takes a lifetime. There is no such thing as instant success. People who achieve “instant” fame, celebrity, or fortune are often the quickest to burn out. Their life skills are not up to the challenge. The media can point to hundreds of celebrities who, having achieved “overnight” success, find themselves on the rock pile of drug addiction or relationship devastation. Many multi-million dollar lottery winners end up penniless.
They were not grafted into the Vine. They are standing alone and poisoned by the pestilence and decay that preys on fast fortunes. It was estimated that MC Hammer, the multi-platinum recording artist had purchased over thirty vehicles and was supporting a retinue of nearly 30 people. It was gone in a flash. It takes being able to apply godly advice and wisdom to succeed for the long term.
Here are some principles that will work for everyone.
Think big but act small.
Every goal develops through the dream stage as you flesh it out, think it through, and talk it over with friends and confidantes. If the dream never takes a step it will remain a dream. No one else is going to plant your fruit and nourish it until it grows. Yes, you can enlist people who will help you, but you have to take the first step.
I majored in writing at the University of Arizona but I wanted to make movies. I took a class in editing, learned how to splice footage together. I took hours of photography classes learning about proper placement of subject in the camera lens. I studied the films of some of the world’s top film directors. I even did a screenplay adaptation of The Tin Drum by Günter Grass during my senior year. I was ready.
Tree of Heaven
Imported from China, it can be found in the U.S. and Europe. A hardy tree, it is adaptable and even thrive in cities on very little soil. It grows big and scatters seeds freely, even to the point of becoming a pest in some areas.
owever, success is not instantaneous. God in His wisdom kept me from easy success. A screenplay I wrote was optioned, but the option was never exercised. I traveled to New York and Hollywood in search of producers and financing. I met a few Hollywood agents, attorneys, and a few film producers as well. I spent thousands of dollars at copy centers making copies of my scripts and sending them out by express mail.
When my first script didn’t get produced, I traded a grand piano to an artist. He illustrated the story and we developed it into a small comic book and printed up 10,000 copies. I turned a treatment I did for Walt Disney who had been interested in optioning a film into a book called “Gods of War” and published 4,000 copies. I turned my children’s screenplay “Donkey Ollie Adventures” into recorded musical cassettes and printed up over 10,000, distributing them to children who came to visit my Mickey Mouse collection at Abba’s Acre of Antiques. When something failed to hit in a big way I found a small way to keep it alive.
The principle will work the same for everyone. If your dream is to own a catering company, then invite your family and friends over for a “catered” meal. Take pictures of the food and their expressions, and get their comments on video and in writing. Use the photos, video, and comments to promote what you do. If your goal is to have a career in law, then get a job at a law office; any kind of job. If you can’t get a job in a law office, then get a job as a process server or courier. Take the small steps necessary to push your dream forward. If you can’t afford law school, buy some law books and begin to teach yourself; volunteer at a legal aid clinic. Eventually if you do what you can you will find that God (the Vine) will give you the resources to do what is in your heart.
I am not saying to hold on to each and very dream and drag it around. There are dreams that are good ideas and ones that are bad ideas. Ask God for wisdom and discernment so you will know the difference.
Have a backup plan a backup goal. Don’t stop cold.
Trees throw off hundreds of seeds. Some get caught on the wind and some get carried by small animals to various locations to take root. To get an abundant harvest, you need to sow a lot of seed.
Prior to having my antique store, I worked as a piano tuner and later a piano dealer. After I finished my room service waiter job, I walked door to door with flyers advertising a $19.95 piano tuning special. If someone needed their piano tuned I pulled out my appointment book and signed them up right there. I handed out hundreds of flyers. I also sat down with the Yellow Pages and called school districts and churches as well as concert halls. I landed a job tuning 50 pianos twice a year for Grand Canyon College and tuning for the Celebrity Theatre and the Sun City Sundome. I tuned for Wayne Newton, Ferrante and Teicher, Lawrence Welk, Huey Lewis, and Prince.
I was heading for my goal in life, but I had a backup plan. I recorded my first album titled “Orphans in the City” using some well known musicians and marketed it at festivals, bookstores, and tradeshows. My backup plan was to keep working on pianos, tuning them, selling them, and repairing them until my music could support me. It was a good thing I had the backup plan because in spite of a modest hit with my song “Carry Me,” the album barely sold two thousand heavily discounted copies. Nonetheless, through the piano sales an opportunity opened up to me to open my first antique store with the back half full of pianos.
Did I give up my dream of being an artist? No! I just took a more realistic approach. I didn’t want to always be a starving artist sleeping on friend’s couches. I knew my dream would require financing and I accepted my success as a piano salesman as an omen from God that he would provide through my God given talents.
God has given talents to everyone. God expects us to use them or lose them. Are you good with your hands? Use them! Sharp witted? Use it! Good with numbers, children, music, gardening? Put those talents to use! It is all part of God’s plan for your success and fruitfulness.
The one certain thing is change.
When you come to terms with the reality that situations, economies, and people change, then you will be prepared to change and adapt as well. I had a friend whose grandfather had a business called the Hoover Company, which made bridles and other items for horse-drawn carriages. With the advent of the Model T, her grandfather failed to recognize the change coming to transportation. He was sure that the automobile was a passing fancy and continued servicing those with horse-drawn carriages, until he was out of business.
My great, great grandfather was a cobbler. He supported his family making and repairing shoes, boots, and other footwear and leather items. While this was an honorable profession, my grandfather did not pursue it. He knew that the demand for the services of a cobbler would diminish, and he went into printing and publishing.
Today, there are fewer and fewer TV, radio, and VCR repair shops. Why? Because it’s become almost cheaper to get a new TV, radio, or VCR than to have an old one repaired.
Sometimes our dreams need to be modified as the times change. Being too tightly focused on achieving a single goal only one way will blind us to other opportunities. Plus, we need to learn from our experiences so we can make better decisions later.
The first book I published was called Light in the Darkness. I was able to sell 15,000 copies through a small distributor who had racks of Christian books in grocery stores. I wasn’t able to get them in the larger venues that were locked up by major publishers such as Dell, Bantam, and Harper Collins. It was six years before I published another book titled Gods of War. I hired the best artist I could find to design the cover and opted for a small first run of only 4,000 copies. I tried getting it picked up by a major publisher but was turned down. However, I was able to place them with airport distributors who were more flexible than the major grocery and drug store chains. Yet, collecting for them after the books sold was problematic and I realized that a book publishing company with only one title out every two years was doomed for failure.
I knew I would continue to write books, but I kept my day job (the antique store) where I was able to hone my writing skills through other means. Also, the day-to-day interaction with customers helped me develop a better ear for dialogue. I self-published the novels I wrote and gave away hundreds of copies. Some pop up from time to time for sale on Amazon.com’s used book section. I was maturing and our eclectic store gave me exposure to a much larger world than I had ever imagined existed.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
Of all the traits that can destroy your life, being a know-it-all is one that will bring you to destruction the quickest. As human beings we can only see what is in front of us, hear what is near us, and touch what is within our reach. We are limited creatures with limited abilities. There is a time when a child feels they know everything, but we all know that passes with age. I believe it lasts from about two-years-old to 18. Benjamin Franklin stated we could learn from our own mistakes or the mistakes of others, but learning from our own was the most costly.
It will always be easier to do something and accomplish something when someone else is showing you how. When I was only 15, I would go to Rich Reising’s house and he would show me how to play difficult songs on the piano. Once I tuned the piano for Johnny Rivers and learned “Rockin’ Pneumonia” from his keyboard player. As humans, we are designed to learn and we are designed to share what we have learned.
Our success improved at our charity, Car Angel, when we followed the advice of honest auction managers, as well as the advisors at eBay and PayPal. They guided us in following the best business practices that served us and our clients well. Whenever we are looking to do something new and different, we make it a point to get advice from those who have been there before us and have experience.
Prior to putting up a billboard, we were advised by Clear Channel, the billboard company, what type of billboards would work and what wouldn’t work. Our advertising representative explained to how to be effective on television and radio. Our Internet and web people told us what would work and not work on the Internet. Getting advice and guidance is a sign of wisdom and will help you avoid unnecessary pitfalls.
We produced a series of children’s animated stories and hired a talented director named Doug Aberle. We gave him the sound track and he sent us the character designs and the storyboards. We didn’t second guess him when it comes to timing of shots, color, and many other issues. He worked at Will Vinton studios for years where they spend an average of a million dollars a week producing half hour shows. I knew that he was the expert. Of course, I was involved and gave specific feedback on issues, such as the appearance of the characters. But I didn’t get in Doug’s way since he was the expert we hired to do the best possible job!
Pick those whom you want around to help you and make it easy for them to help you. Don’t fight and argue with them and insist on your own way. People who become bullheaded and know-it-alls oftentimes just dig their own graves. Their manner wears on others and tends to drive them away.
Think your decision through.
Haste makes waste is a great slogan and so true. If you are in a rush to get rich, you very likely will become poor. There are many people who want what they want and they want it now. They don’t stop to count the cost.
For example, maybe you’re in a hurry to travel to another city and in your haste neglect to check the oil, something you’ve not done in quite awhile. As a result, you break down on the highway with repairs costing far more than a simple oil change or top off.
When I was in college, a friend and I decided to go to Mazatlan for Spring break. There was only one problem – we had no money. We made it down to Nogales where we hitched a ride on a fruit truck and then we headed down on a bus to Mazatlan. A trip that should have taken six hours took us well more than 20. When we arrived, we had nowhere to stay and my friend got arrested sneaking into a hotel where some girls from Sioux City Iowa had agreed to let us sleep on their floor. Eventually, we were able raise enough money to bail him out, but the lesson stuck with me: Don’t travel without money or without preparation.
Many endeavors fail for lack of finances. People rush into things without counting the cost. They don’t take into account all the expenses they could incur, both personal and business related. A large number of new businesses that open every year are closed in a matter of a few months due to poor planning.
As you think though your ideas, you also need to recognize the potential risks and lay out contingencies for mitigating them. Risk can be spread around. When I launched my record label, Blinding Light Records, we rented a booth at the Cornerstone Music Festival in Illinois. It cost nearly $1,000 plus our travel expenses. The festival was a yearly event and attended by nearly 40,000 people.
In addition to the CDs from my own label, I had invested in additional product. We had a little known collection of CDs by Evermore of modern day rock Psalms. These were virtually unheard of, having had very little radio exposure. We also had racks of stylish sunglasses in our booth, an item everyone needed on sunny days! As people came by and tried on the glasses, we would play snippets from the rock Psalms, as well as our own recordings. We didn’t sell a zillion copies of our own CDs, but we sold enough. Plus, the other CDs and sunglasses brought in enough to more than cover all our expenses. Without these “extras” we would have been in trouble!
This is called cross-marketing. Many businesses will ride the coat tails of another that is already successful and has a built-in audience. Movies will feature their toys at McDonald’s and Burger King. Wendy’s and Starbucks will open up inside established grocery stores. Large malls are often dotted with the kiosks of independent merchants. Even professionals will start their careers in a similar way, beginning as assistants. Once they’ve fully learned the ropes, they leave and start their own enterprise, or are some times invited on as a partner.
Ask yourself who would benefit from your services. When I started my antique store I was in the back of a large warehouse. For my customers to find me they had to walk down an aisle full of beautiful antiques owned by my landlord. It was only through God’s grace and mercy I survived, but I survived and eventually all the antiques in the warehouse were mine. I hadn’t planned on ever taking over the entire 30,000 plus feet of retail space, but I had planned on an alliance with his operation and with following his success with my own.
When all else fails, pray.
Jesus was the Son of God, and He took time out of his busy daily schedule to pray. He even instructed us how to pray. We will never know how many disasters could have been avoided if we’d only prayed! Or how many times we were spared when we did pray. We will never know how many opportunities we missed because we didn’t pray. Or how many were opened to us because we did pray.
So often we think to pray when things have already gone sour. It is much better to pray before a situation is hopelessly entangled. To pray for wisdom and guidance over one’s finances is always better than to pray for a financial miracle after mismanaging one’s money.
One day we will look back on our lives and ask ourselves why we did not take greater advantage of God’s help and provision. Why were we so ignorant of his great mercy and power to change each and every circumstance had we just asked him? But why wait to ask that question later, when you can ask God now? No matter if you are 15 or 50, praying daily over the circumstances in your life will have a profound affect on your fruitfulness.
It’s important to keep God’s character in mind. He revealed his character to us through his dealings with people over the centuries, as well as through the nature of Christ. An examination of Christ’s character will give you a full revelation of who God is and how he can provide for our needs.
When Jesus was born, he was presented with material gifts from the wise men, the Magi, who had followed the star to find him. He was given myrrh, frankincense, and gold. These very precious gifts were provided, in part, to sustain Jesus, Joseph, and Mary as they fled into Egypt to escape danger.
We can also expect God to provide all we need to reach our goals in life. Asking daily for God’s help and provision should become as habitual and natural as breathing.
We can ask God.
As I look back over many blessings and accomplishments of my life, I can see many answers to prayers. I can see specific instances of provision and wisdom. I can see how God has both used natural circumstances as well as supernatural circumstances to provide for my life.
A while back I found myself complaining about many, many things concerning the day-to-day tasks of running the Car Angel and Boat Angel charities. The problems were pressing in on my spirit. I was becoming more and more negative in my attitude, outlook, and speech.
Finally, I’d had enough of myself and decided it was time to change. I wrote down every problem confronting me, and then searched Scriptures for answers and wrote them down as well. I also turned the problems into opportunities to pray for blessings. For example, instead of complaining about issues with a vendor, I prayed, “Thank you Lord, for [vendor] and bless them as we work together.” I made each prayer specific to the issue.
I wrote out all these issues, Bible verses, and short prayers on a piece of paper. Every day I pull this paper out and pray it all out loud. During the day, as each issue comes to mind, I pray for wisdom and blessing on all concerned.
My attitude is better and each problem has become much lighter. The pressure is much less. I am aligning myself with the vine. I am acknowledging my commitment to fulfill the unique calling placed on my life. I am committing to doing my part and reminding God that he has to do his part.
Now it’s your turn! Pray this prayer as a start:
“God thank you that you want me to do great things with my life thank you that your are increasing my ability in ______________(insert your wish) and that the gifts you have given me shall open doors for me and result in a great blessing for many on this earth.”
Practical Applications & Tips: Keep these principles in mind: Think big but act small. Have a backup plan a backup goal. Don’t stop cold. The one certain thing is change. You don’t know what you don’t know. Think your decision through. When all else fails, pray. We can ask God.
What is your current dream? What do you want to accomplish? Write it down and then list 5 small things you can do toward seeing your dream come true.
Until you fulfill your primary dream, what else can you do in the meantime? Or what can you fall back on if times get tough? List 5 back-up options.
Think about the most significant changes you’ve experienced so far in your life. How well did you respond to each one? What lessons did you learn?
How often have you asked for someone else’s help? Is this easy or hard for you to do? If it’s hard to ask for help, why? How can you change your attitude to me more willing to seek help when you need it?
Do you tend to rush into action before thinking through what needs to be done? Or do you spend endless hours contemplating every possible contingency and delay action? What steps can you take to find a balance so that you take action thoughtfully but also in a timely manner?
Think back to times when you cried out to God to help you with a situation. Had you prayed before you took steps or after you were enmeshed in a situation? How often do you pray before you plan, asking God to direct your steps? Is prayer a natural, daily occurrence? If not, why not?