Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Nature of True Success

I think about success frequently. I mean, I want to live an excellent life and therefore succeed at what's really important. And here's what I've found: Success is being on the right path. (Actually I learned that from Earl Palmer. the pastor during my college years.) Success isn't fame, fortune, and position (although those may be nice). Instead, success is being on the path that aligns with how God has created us. That's where true happiness and hope are found.

I just spent a week with poor farmers in Honduras, working alongside a team that provided a loan so that these folks could ultimiately pay back the loan, own their land, and, in the process, farm more effectively. Ultimately the goal is that they could break the cycle of poverty where they only make enough to pay the farmer who owns the land that they farm. During the week, I wondered what success meant to them. I know there are fewer options for their life. It’s not a choice between studying at Princeton or Berkeley. It’s not, “What kind of job do I want?” but it’s “I’m thankful that I found work.” Nevertheless, I’m convinced that being on the right path is still the way to success for them too--loving their family, working as a community, living in faith, hope, and love. It even made me wonder why we get so easily distracted by the shiny objects of fame, fortune, and position.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Today Show, Take Two

This year I was asked again to perform the yearly, live wedding for The Today Show. I got the call a week before and the confirmation four days prior to the event. It was a bit of a whirlwind tour, but oh, so fun. This year I was able to go with my wife, Laura—which was fabulous—and that leads me to the first of my two observations.

Laura and I attended the reception (at the Boat House in Central Park). The band (whose name I can’t recall) was amazing—a soul-infused funk machine. We couldn’t help but dance like fiends. Appropriate fiends, I’m sure. But I think the sight of a pastor, fully in love with his wife, grooving to a slamming rhythm was a little atypical. At one point during the reception, another guest came up to us and exclaimed, “I’ve just had a religious experience. Whatever church you’re a part of, I want to be there!” That was a great compliment—that somehow we embodied a joy and celebration of life, the kind that Jesus so often proclaimed. After all, he was frequently accused of being too much of a party animal. So that’s good. But it’s also sad that that kind of celebrating stands out as something unusual for Christians. Are we really so dour all the time in the eyes of the world?

Number two was a conversation directly after the wedding with Ann Curry who came up to Laura and me, under the scaffolding, on the way into the studio. After offering some praise for the wedding message, and especially its realism that could really help couples, this TV celebrity continued by telling us that the reason for going into media was to make a difference, to report stories that would be what I would call redemptive. The moment was powerful. I also realized that she wanted a blessing, wanted me, as a “man of the cloth,” to affirm that media people can do good in this world. And so they can. And so, in a way, I did by affirming that I appreciated her vision and would pray for her.