- Close your eyes.
- Think of somebody you really don't like.... hate even.
- Go love 'em.
I hate to ruin the surprise, but in the end you die, you go to heaven and live for eternity with Jesus. Merry Christmas, you won the lottery. Now, you might say to yourself, "No I won't. I'm not a Christian, and I don't believe all that stuff." In which case, you are right, but that's another matter. I'm talking to the Christians.
Brothers and sisters we know how the story ends. But do we appreciate how much power that gives us? What if I knew I wouldn't break my leg while skiing? Would I ski differently? Heck yeah, I would ski off every jump and berm and cliff I saw in the mountains. And if I knew I wouldn't skid out of control and possibly hurt or kill someone, I'd drive like a maniac too, I would put the pedal down and rip around every corner on my way home from work.
Seriously. We know how it ends. If I quit my job, I will live with Jesus for eternity. If I get home too late from work, I'll live with Jesus for eternity. If I offend someone, or shrink in fear of offending someone, I will live with Jesus for eternity. If I push the envelope or stay in a box. If I go to church or party all night. If I vote left or right, or give or keep or go or stay, I will live with Jesus for eternity. That is the inevitable answer. It's how it ends. There's not another ending.
So, what am I waiting for? What am I afraid of? Why don't I do the thing I want to do? Amazingly, I live in a prison of fear of what might happen, even though, no matter what happens between here and there, I will live with Jesus for eternity. So, this year, I am going to push the envelope, take the leap, and run off the edge.
If you don't leap, you can't fly.
First, let’s go back in time a little ways. Many years before college, or even high school, I started my first little business selling holiday cards. I was the only 12 year old I knew with a checking account which I used to pay for the cards that I later sold. Over the years since then, I’ve had many entrepreneurial ideas, but for the most part, I’ve been employed by others most of the time. Now, I’m over 40 and I’ve finally come across what may be my best business idea ever, but I’m too embarrassed to make it a success because I would be ashamed to make money with it.
Am I ashamed of making money? No! I actually have a relatively healthy income that puts me in the top 5% of the US, and I’m not embarrassed of that. I’m proud that I’ve worked hard and I fully appreciate that I’ve had many undeserved blessings that contribute to that financial success. I’ve had some windfalls and I’m not embarrassed of them either. I’m actually proud of how my wife and I have learned to manage our money to God’s glory and give money, time and spirit to do good works. Then what kind of business idea would I be embarrassed of making money?
Ironically, it is a message that is partially about how badly I managed money before and got myself into a heap of debt. It’s a message that could help save a lot of people from a lot of pain and suffering from debt to addictions, bad habits to bad relationships. So far, I’ve captured the story in form of a short novel (buy a copy of Pillows For Your Prison Cell for your friend today), but I’d like to reconfigure the message in all forms of media over time. Eventually, I believe it would make a powerful play for the stage, a fantastic feature film, an awesome interactive VR experience, and a fun children’s story book. I want to create weekend retreats to give people the opportunity to take the message and apply it to their own lives. I went to create sensational events with bands and multimedia to reach young people. I want to create workbooks for churches and small groups. I want to create curriculum for use in public schools. I want to get the message into the hands of college students across the country in campus-wide reading programs. In short, I want to create a thriving, profitable business that has a positive impact on hundreds or thousands or even millions of people. So what’s wrong?
I am so embarrassed of the possibility of making money doing this. I’m embarrassed to even admit that I’m embarrassed. The only reason I’m doing it is in the hopes that some of you reading this can help me overcome my ridiculous conclusion.
Somehow, in my mind, it would be perfectly acceptable to create a new hotel reviews website (another one of my ideas) and build it into a thriving business used by millions of people and sell it for a massive amount of money to Expedia or Priceline. Making $30 million with a software/app company would be fine. Not so with a book that aims to help people!
Is my hang-up tied to the notion that doing good should not, pay well? Look at what our society says. Consider teachers, very high on the doing good scale, very low on the pay scale. Counselors and therapists, same thing. Pastors, mostly same. Heck, the highest paid public employee in most states is a Football or Basketball coach!!! It’s ok to earn $1 million per year as the Football coach at the University of [any state] but it’s not reasonable to pay teachers a living wage.
At this point, I have to thank Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Tom’s Shoes and others that have paved the way showing that it’s perfectly fine to do something well and make money and be a blessing to others in the process. Earlier this year I decided that 2016 would be the year that I start seriously investing energy into this venture. I am taking a crack at this. I still have a day job, so this is a weekends and evenings kind of thing, but I’ve hired others to help me. If you are interested in helping me succeed in any way down this path, I’d love to hear about it. I’m looking for script writers, translators, artists, musicians, photographers, film makers, VR designers, and anybody that has a passion for helping people live the full, rich, and meaningful life that God designed us to live. If that’s you, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Oh, and if you’d like to invest in this venture, I’ll need that too.
Upward and Onward, Mark
I suppose there are three kinds of people. Those who serve a good king, those who serve a bad king, and those who are trying to be king. But is it possible that there is really just one kind of person? Wouldn't it make sense that everyone deep down in their core wants to serve a good king rather than the other two options? Then why don't they?
Consider the one who is serving a bad king. Why do they do it? In the Chronicles of Narnia, there were beasts who served the White Witch, and of course, in the recent making of the film those beasts were as ugly as could be, making it all the easier to hate them. But why did they serve the White Witch? I suspect it was fear and historical momentum. Fear is how it started and historical momentum is how it was maintained. We are by nature creatures of fear. Fear is an incredibly powerful force and we submit ourselves to it daily.
When the White Witch took over initially, she did it through an exertion of power, by using her magic to turn creatures into stone. This would no doubt elicit a large amount of fear which allowed her to manipulate a larger and larger population. Once those creatures who were so afraid of her began to do her bidding, they formed habits and established a pattern of behavior that would have been passed to their families and communities. Before long there was a whole army of creatures serving an evil monarch. I don't believe anyone really wanted to serve her, especially once they got to know her. But once inside her circle fear and momentum ruled the mind and therefore the actions of her servants.
Now consider the one who wants to be king. Why be king? What does a king get that a subject does not? Power is the first thing that comes to my mind, but power, like money, is by itself is useless. It is only a means to an end. So, what end? If you boil it down, all the things one can get with power or money serve to make a person either comfortable or excited, or both. Think about it. Sex, food, toys, adventures. They all comfort and excite. So what if there were a good king who would provide everything necessary to be comforted and excited without all the stress of being in control of an empire? This brings us back to fear, because if I fear that such a king doesn't exist or won't provide those things for me, and I don't want to serve another king, then my only choice is to become a king myself.
I believe the White Witch wants to serve Aslan, but she is paralyzed by fear that he won't love and provide for her. And the wolves want to serve Aslan, but they live in fear of the White Witch who is here and now, and don't know Aslan who was not present for so long. Aslan, the true ruler could force both of them to serve him, but he chooses not to. He allows them to make their own choice. And some, like Edward and Eustace, he chooses to love in such an overwhelmingly present way that they could choose no other path than to serve him.
It all comes down to fear. Think about that the next time you see a "bad" person, whether it's at work, on the road, in the news, or in the mirror. What does he or she fear? Might you be the one to introduce them to Aslan?
On my best days, I'm trying to serve the one true good king. But when I'm weak, I'm prone to try to be king. What about you? Do you find yourself more likely to serve the wrong king or to try to be king?
NOTE: This essay was originally posted on Facebook on my Mark D. Bullard Author page on Sept 9, 2014.