Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

I ended yesterday’s blog writing that I would pick up today with a look at the causes of a mid-life crisis.  As I began thinking about the causes I realized that it could be summed up in one word: EMPTINESS;  Or at least a sense of emptiness.  It is that gnawing feeling that there is something out there better than what I have experienced to this point in my life. 

Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, who, despite his reputation for being the wisest man to ever live, had what seems to be a mid-life crisis; see if Solomon’s pattern doesn’t sound familiar. Like most people, Solomon wanted certain things out of life: happiness, love, success, and meaning. And like many young adults, his search for truth and meaning directed his attention to the study of philosophy.

He read the great writers of the day and contemplated the great historical ideologies. He pitted one world view against the other and dissected them all. He studied the prevailing explanations for the purpose of life, and when he had thoroughly examined all the textbooks and theories and arguments of the day, he concluded…  “So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.” Eccle. 2:17

He’s not saying that philosophy has no value, but the wisest man in the world (which is how the Bible describes Solomon) took philosophy as far as it can be taken and concluded that he will never find ultimate soul satisfaction in the pages of a book or in another man’s opinion of the meaning of life. “It’s like chasing the wind,” he says.

He crossed philosophy off his list and turned his attention to self-indulgence and self-gratification. Ecclesiastes 2 reveals how Solomon pulled all the stops in pleasure seeking. He drank only the best wine, he built gardens and parks and ponds in order to surround himself with beauty and splendor; he hired the best musicians in the world to perform for him at his request; he assembled harems of beautiful young women so that he could live out his sexual fantasies. He sums it up by saying… “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure…yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 2:10

He tried philosophy, he tried pleasure, and next, he tried possessions. He built mansions for himself–one took 13 years to build that had precious stones in the foundation walls. He accumulated large herds and planted the forests and vineyards. He collected art and treasures from all over the world. In spite of all he was able to accumulate, he came to the conclusion that it is all meaningless.

Next, he poured himself into his work. It wasn’t long before he realized that this too was meaningless. He said, So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety?  Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 (NLT)

For the next ten chapters of this book, Solomon discusses his search of happiness, love, success, and meaning–yet that gnawing sense of something missing would not go away.

I began by summing up the cause of mid-life crisis with one world, emptiness.  Let me end with a one word cure for mid-life crisis:  CONTENTMENT.  Take a little while each day to stop looking over in the neighbor’s yard at how much greener his or her grass is and enjoy your own.  Besides, the greenest spot in my yard is over the septic tank and drain field!  What does that tell you?

In the end, Solomon experienced the ultimate benefit of a mid-life quest. His search for “something more” took him down several dead end paths, and he finally realized what was missing. In Ecclesiastes 12:13 the wisest man in the world came to this conclusion: Fear God, keep his commandments; this is the whole duty of man.

The most important discovery you can make, at mid-life or any time of life, is that the meaning of life can be found in a relationship with God–fearing him and keeping his commandments.

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A few years back USA Today quoted Dr. Michael Jazwinski of the LSU Medical Center as saying, “some people who are now living may still be alive 400 years from now.” In his study, one hundred top aging experts were interviewed and many believe that “based on the expectation of manipulating a manageable number of human genes that control aging, 400 to 700 year life spans may be possible in few decades.”

Who knows how I will feel about this at ninety-nine, but I’m just not sure I really want to live that long. I’ve got crow’s feet, I wake up with a sore back, and I can’t remember where I put my glasses half the time and I make about seven trips to the bathroom each night.  Imagine what kind of shape I’ll be in on my 400th birthday. If I died at the age of 400 they certainly wouldn’t let me donate my body to science. They wouldn’t even let me donate my body to science fiction.

Did you know that in the year 1900, the average life expectancy in this country was only 47 years? Today it is 75 years, which, statistically, puts the “mid” point in life at about 37-38 years of age. Generally speaking “mid-life” covers the years between 35-50, give or take a few. In fact, if you’re wondering whether or not you’ve reached middle age, here’s a few guidelines. Mid-life is…

…when you stop criticizing the older generation and start criticizing the younger generation.

…when you’re sitting at home on Saturday night, the phone rings, and you hope that it isn’t for you.

…when you’re more interested in how long your car will last than how fast it will go.

…when you begin saying things like, “When I was your age…”

…when the one telling you to slow down is a doctor, not a policeman.

During this mid-life time there is a phenomenon called a mid-life crisis that often strikes people as they pass through this particular season of life. First of all, let’s look at…

TIP #1. What is a mid-life crisis?

One morning I was walking around before the Sunday service meeting new people. I approached a young lady, maybe 20 years old, and said, “Hi. Is this is your first time here?” She said, “Yes it is.” I said, “Glad you’re here. My name is Billy Ready.” She said, “Nice to meet you,” then looked at my picture on the wall of pastors, then looked back at me and said, “Oh you’re the pastor? I didn’t recognize you from the picture. You’ve aged.” I graciously smiled, thanked her, and hobbled to my seat. If I wasn’t quite at the point of crisis, her remark pushed me over the edge.

I recently read of a survey of “40 somethings” that was conducted. One of the questions I was “What is a mid-life crisis?” Here are some of their answers.

“It’s realizing that your life is half over and you haven’t accomplished enough–not enough money saved, no outstanding career accomplishments…may you’re not the winner you always though you would be.”

A man who said he feels he’s currently experiencing a mid-life crisis wrote, “I find myself starting to think about all the decisions I’ve made in my life and if I made the right ones. Is there still time to fix the mistakes? Or is there no turning back now?”

Another person described a mid-life crisis this way, “It’s a point in your life when you realize that your youth has passed and you begin to feel regrets about your past and fears about your future.”

Someone else wrote, “It’s when you ask yourself, ‘Is this all there is?’ I don’t even really feel grown up and yet I’m already old.” (Here’s one I can still relate to!)

Mid-life is that period between 35 and 50 and it is inevitable. You can’t avoid mid-life anymore than you can avoid adolescence. If you live long enough, it’s a passage you will go through. However, a mid-life crisis is not inevitable. Some people enter and pass through mid-life without any trouble at all. Others find the transition to be very unsettling. Regardless, the undeniable fact is that between the ages of 35 and 50, changes do take place…

  • Physically–less energy, graying hair, health problems.
  • Vocationally–you’re likely to reach the peak of your professional life, and you have to accept the fact that this is far up the ladder as you may ever go.
  • Relationally–your children get older, they move away, you may even find yourself caring for your aging parents, and statistically the chances of going through a divorce increase.
  • Financially–as you close in on retirement you may not be as comfortable financially as you thought you would be at this point.

When a person has two or three of these stresses occurring at the same time, well, mid-life can easily turn into a mid-life crisis.

Here’s a stereo-typical mid-life crisis scenario: a man in his early forties–bald, got a bit of a belly, stuck in a job he doesn’t like, going nowhere in his marriage, up to his neck in debt, and completely “locked-in” to his place in life–goes to his 25 year high-school reunion and suddenly begins to evaluate his life. He says, “My life is half-over. At best I’ve got maybe another 30 years left. I’ve worked my fingers to the bone and lived at a hectic pace, and what do I have to show for it? Why am I so unfulfilled? What is the meaning and purpose of it all?”

When we’re young we feel invincible, but one day reality comes crashing in on us and we realize that we’re not getting any younger and that life is slipping away from us. The disillusionment can be devastating.

Tomorrow I want to pick up with what causes Mid-Life Crisis.  Let me do something that I don’t do often enough,  thank the people who have poured this information into my life.  I am nowhere near smart enough to think these tips up on my own.  You know who you are (and may be wondering if I ever have an original idea!).  Thanks.

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I am picking up where I left off yesterday with two more traits of a true friend that I would suggest you consider.

2. A Friend Will Say What Needs To Be Said

A friend will say to you what needs to be said, even if it hurts a little bit. With a true friend, both of you know that the words are really not intended to hurt, but to help. This is why Solomon said…

Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

I’m a songwriter. My songs have appeared on Grammy and Dove (Christian Music’s equivalent of the Grammys) nominated albums; for a while there my royalty checks were substantial but now they have dwindled down to a point to where I can blow the whole thing on a couple of trip to McDonald’s. When I first started writing seriously at the age of 25, I began approaching publishers in Nashville about using my songs. I remember one in particular. I got into his office and played my demo. As he listened, he kept saying, “These are good. We can do something with these. I think you’ve got something here.” He was friendly, charming, and encouraging. When the meeting was over, he said, “Leave your tape and your phone number and I’ll get back with you.” I left his office on cloud nine, convinced that my songwriting career was about to blast off. Later that week I dropped by his office again and asked the receptionist if I could see him. Their office building was small, so she stepped into the hall and said in the direction of his office, “Billy Ready wants to talk to you.” He said, in a condescending voice, “Tell him I only talk to people with talent.” He paused and said, “Oh, what line is he on? I’ll get rid of him myself.” She said, “He’s not on the phone. He’s in the lobby.” There was a very long pause, and he said, “Then tell him I’m busy.”

I left his office absolutely crushed. Not because he said he didn’t have talent—I had already heard that before. I was crushed because he had been so friendly during our first meeting. He pretended to be my buddy, he said such nice things, he acted like he wanted to help my career, and he didn’t mean a word of it. Solomon’s words are true: An enemy multiplies kisses. This means someone who isn’t your friend will say whatever is easiest to say at the time; a true friend will be honest enough to say whatever needs to be said.

I don’t want to give the impression that a friend says only negative things. That’s not the case at all. A friend offers encouragement and support. A friend says things that build your confidence. A friend can be counted on to give worthwhile, uplifting advice. Solomon said…

Proverbs 27:9 …the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.

When choosing friends you need to ask yourself, “Is this a person I can turn to for counsel? Does this person have the capacity to say what needs to be said?” And you need to ask yourself, “Am I willing to be that kind of friend?” A friend says what needs to be said, out of a desire to help, hot hurt.

3. A Friend Will Bring Out the Best In You

Solomon warns us to be cautious in choosing friends, because your friends’ character rubs off on you. He said… (22:24) Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.

The people you share your life with have the ability to influence you, so make sure you share your life with people of good character.

Remember Don Johnson of Miami Vice? When his career began taking off in the early seventies he got caught up in the Hollywood lifestyle and spent a decade taking drugs, abusing alcohol, and “living it up.” In 1983 he finally got his life straightened out and got sober. He was asked once if he had any regrets. He said, “Yes, I regret wasting lots of time with a bunch of jerks that I wish I hadn’t spent 10 minutes with now, let alone ten years.”

How many times have you heard the phrase, “He got mixed up with the wrong crowd”? It happens too many times. Like it or not, we tend to be chameleons. We tend to act like the people we associate with, and sooner or later we tend to take on their values. In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul warns us… Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character. (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Whoever you become close to, whoever you bring into your inner circle, will have an influence on your life. So, seek out friends who can bring out the best in you. Choose friends with qualities you admire, qualities you want to see in your own life. Their character will ultimately rub off on you. Solomon said…

Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

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Posted: August 2, 2010 in Advice
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Probably a better title would have probably been TAKING ADVICE because getting advice doesn’t lead to wisdom.  Those with wisdom know how to seek out the right kind of advice, and have the ability to take advice.

Actually, getting advice is easy. All you have to do is go to Wal-Mart with a baby. People will stop you and tell you how to raise it. In mid-July they’ll say things to you like, “I can’t believe you brought that baby out without a coat on!” or “If you let that baby suck her thumb like that she’ll get buck-teeth.” You get the idea.

Another easy way to get advice is to coach a little league team. Even though the team has won two consecutive championships, there are always more than a few people who think they know better how to put a winning team together. (Their advice usually involved more playing time for their kid.)

The point is: There’s tons of advice out there, and plenty of people more than willing to offer it to you. The problem is this: most unsolicited advice is worth what you paid for it. And taking the wrong advice can get you in trouble.

If you are in the process of getting it together and keeping it together, you will need to fine-tune the art of taking advice. Everyone needs advice, and the book of Proverbs tells us it is absolutely essential to take advice in order to succeed in life. Solomon said…

Proverbs 19:20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.

I offer three pieces of advice (couldn’t resist) that will help you know how to get good advice and use it. First of all, when you seek advice, you have to…

1. Be Selective.

Proverbs 14:7 (NLT) Stay away from fools, for you won’t find knowledge on their lips.  In other words, stay away from people who want to tell you how to run an area of your life that they’re unable to manage themselves. For instance, you don’t ask me how to do home improvements. Before you go to someone for advice, this is what you need to look for…

a. Look for someone who’s “been there, done that”
Find someone who faced the same kind of challenge you’re facing now—and faced it successfully. And then ask them how they did it.

b. Find someone who has your best interests at heart.
When you ask for advice, you are putting yourself in somewhat of a vulnerable position. You need to be sure this person has your best interests at heart, that he or she isn’t advising you with a self-serving, hidden agenda.

2. Be Receptive.

One of the main reasons we hesitate to ask for advice is that we are afraid of hearing what we don’t want to hear.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon said… It is better to be a poor but wise youth than to be an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. Ecclesiastes 4:13 TLB

The biggest mistakes I have made in my life are the decisions I made unadvisedly. The greatest challenges I face right now can be traced to a stubborn refusal to seek good advice. Solomon said… The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.

When you seek advice, you have to be completely open to the advice you’re about to receive. Be willing consider the counsel even if you don’t want to hear. When it comes to getting advice, you need to be selective, you need to be receptive, and thirdly, you need to…

3. Be Objective
You’ve got to understand that no one person in the world has all the answers. There’s not one human person you can go to for advice on everything, all the time. Besides, getting advice isn’t about letting other people make your decisions for you. Getting advice is the process of getting an objective view of your problem so that you can make the right decision. The decision you make belongs to you. Even if you follow someone’s advice, it doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for your actions. It’s your decision. You’re the one that has to live with the consequences. So you better make sure you have an objective view of your situation.

You have to live with it. You have to face the consequences and/or reap the rewards. So make sure you get an objective view of the problem.  

As you can see, going to a counselor or asking a friend for advice is just about the greatest compliment you could offer someone. So, make sure the person is deserving of the compliment.

I urge to seek advice before trying to tackle any major problem or decision on your own. And when you seek advice, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

• Has this person “been there done that”?
• Does this person have my best interests at heart?
• Will this person tell me what I need to hear, not just what I want to hear?
• Can this person be one of a group of trusted friends to help me develop an objective view of my life?

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