Preview TEN: How Would You Rate Your Life?
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Terry A. Smith has served as a lead pastor of the Life Christian Church for twenty years. TLCC is a nondenominational faith community in West Orange, NJ, serving the New York City metro area. Terry is a cofounder of the New York City Leadership Center and an instructor in its Leadership Fellows program. A gifted communicator, Terry speaks in a variety of venues nationally and internationally. He is passionate about challenging, developing, and encouraging leaders.
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Based on the tenth verse of the tenth chapter in the Book of John, Ten: How Would You Rate Your Life? (Higher Life Development Services, Inc) is a guide to living the life God dreams for us. “We can only know life in all its fullness,” he explains, “if we live the life God dreams for us. And part of the TEN experience is to try to figure out what that means for each of us as individuals.” Smith’s easy-going style of writing, coupled with his broad scope of reference, makes the book appealing to any reader wanting to create a richer quality of life.
- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: HigherLife Publishing (November 10, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1935245503
- ISBN-13: 978-1935245506
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
A really cool thing happened to me recently. I was at the ESPN Zone at Times Square for a Cotchery Foundation benefit. Th e Cotchery Foundation was founded by Mercedes and Jerricho Cotchery. Jerricho is a star wide receiver for the New York Jets. He and Mercedes are friends of mine, and I was at this event to support them and the causes they care about. Oh—and I’m a big football fan.
On this night, the Cotchery Foundation was raising a lot of money for several causes, but the primary beneficiary was Pride Academy Charter School. Pride Academy is located in East Orange, New Jersey. East Orange sits in the shadow of Newark and is plagued by severe problems in its educational system—problems all too common to urban America. Th e hope is that a successful charter school like Pride Academy will make a powerful difference in the future of many kids and the future of the community itself.
So I’m standing there in a crush of people, many of them fans who had donated in order to be there. They were given the opportunity to hang out with Jerricho, some of his teammates, and other celebrities. Lots of autographs were being signed.
A woman kind of forced her way over to me. Th e two beaming young girls at her side were about ten or eleven years old. “I want to meet you,” she said, “and these girls said that you were the celebrity they want to meet tonight.” I laughed. Politely? I thought I had been confused—again—for an old retired lineman. Big guy. Shaved head. Still eating to gain weight but not working out enough anymore. Celebrity? Ha! The last autograph I signed was the signature line of a personal check.
“No,” she smiled, “we know who you are.” Then the girls introduced themselves and started to thank me. They attend Pride Academy. The woman was the principal.
So what did this have to do with me?
Well, I am the senior pastor of The Life Christian Church in West Orange, New Jersey, a fairly prosperous suburb of Newark and New York City. A young woman named Rose Mary Dumenigo attends our church. Rose Mary says that she was so inspired by the message in my weekend talks that she decided—along with three other women—to create Pride Academy Charter School.
Rose Mary was a schoolteacher in Newark. She was pouring her life into kids, as do most teachers, but felt stuck in a system that didn’t work. She wanted more. She heard me say—over and over—that we have the God-given ability to create new realities. She believed me. She started a school. Kids’ lives are being saved.
Enter Jerricho and Mercedes Cotchery. In one of our weekend celebrations, Mercedes experienced a presentation about a serving opportunity at Pride Academy. She was inspired to get involved. She started RESH 180, a mentoring program where she teaches the students values that provide the foundation for life success. She has rallied many other volunteers to serve at Pride Academy. The Cotchery Foundation has raised a lot of money to help this school succeed.
And I got to be a celebrity—at least in the minds of two beautiful kids—for about sixty seconds.
But that’s not the point. The point is that I’ve had a lot of people, though usually in less dramatic ways, tell me that the message they hear me share again and again and again has changed their lives and the lives of people around them.
What is that message? Well . . . here it is. I hope it impacts your life too.
The future is in you now.
Most of us have some awareness of the future that is in us. We have moments when we catch our breath in wonder as we briefly glimpse possibilities vastly preferred over our past and present. We intuit something great and grand and from God percolating just beneath the surface of our lives.
We can become fully awake to this future. We can bring this future from the nebulous realm of the subconscious into the world of the conscious. We can move the mystery toward the intentional. Once we do, we can partner with God to create the tomorrow He has dreamed for us—the future we were made for. We can create our God-inspired futures.
God-inspired futures are futures that are better, best, preferred. But God does not force these futures on us. He allows us to choose whether to actualize them. We can cooperate with Him in the continuing act of creating the life and the world He envisioned. And we can experience more and more what He made in the beginning, before terrible human choices messed everything up.
I want this preferred future God planned for each of us and for those we love. I’m not only referring to future generations—opportunities that only our children or even their children will be able to experience. I am talking about imminent futures, eventualities that we can all witness sooner rather than later.
I want to help you conceive and birth the futures—yours and others’— that are gestating in you but are yet unborn. Countless lives are waiting to be changed. There are always new futures waiting to live.
Dr. Thomas P. Barnett, former advisor to the Office of the Secretary of Defense of the United States, was tasked with the burdensome responsibility of studying the future of the world. He writes about the need “to imagine a future worth creating” and to “actually try to build it.”1 He says, “I choose to see it as a moral responsibility—a duty to leave our children a better world.”2
If someone has the ability to imagine a better future and holds the power to create it, then he or she is morally responsible to do just that. We all have facing us incredible potentialities that can cause an entire new reality to exist. When we consider these possibilities, common and moral sense should direct us toward purposeful action.
We must take the actions necessary to bring about the promptings in our hearts. In the New Testament, James talks about the worthlessness of knowing the good we ought to do and not doing it. He says it is a sin (Jas. 4:17). If opportunities lie dormant in our minds and are never actualized, we are living inferior lives. Purposeful inaction is a detriment to the future of our world.
Donald Miller wrote a beautiful book about how to write a better story with our lives. He said, “A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it is the basic structure of a good story.”3 Profound. I think “living a good story” is a loaded proposition. One part of “good” is “interesting.” We should live interesting stories. The more important part of “good” is “moral.” It is not enough to live an interesting story; there must be a moral to our story. What great story does not have a moral conflict?
Who can say what is moral? What authority determines what is good? I am a Christian. My understanding of morality is premised on the Judeo-Christian worldview. Whether or not your worldview is the same as mine, I think we can agree that there is a difference between right and wrong, good and evil. And I hope you’ll keep reading. Whether you are a Christ follower or not, I hope that we can agree that we can create a “good” future together.
Anyone who thinks one thing should be done rather than another has acknowledged a “moral ought.” Keep the law. Help the poor. Save the trees. This “ought to” is rooted in the idea that better, best, and preferred must be practiced in a moral context.
There has been a common understanding of morality throughout time even though it has been expressed uniquely through various cultures at various times. I believe, as do other people of faith, that this implies the existence of a moral lawgiver: God—the Creator of conscience. He gave us the ability to discern right and wrong.
And I believe that the future we are responsible to create must be pursued with the idea of what’s right and what’s good deeply impressed in our minds. This guarantees that our stories will be filled with moral conflict. Good.
One of the greatest moral conflicts in American history was the struggle for the abolition of slavery. William Seward was a New York state senator (1830–1834), state governor (1838–1842), and the leading candidate in the Republican Party for the 1860 presidential nomination. He was defeated by the relatively unknown Abraham Lincoln. Seward, however, decided to continue serving his country during a time of tremendous moral crisis by accepting President Lincoln’s invitation to become secretary of state.
During his earlier years as a United States senator, Seward set a moral momentum toward ending slavery by advocating an allegiance to “higher law.” He acknowledged that some believed that the United States Constitution permitted, or perhaps ignored, slavery. In a famous speech to the Senate, Seward said, “But there is a higher law than the Constitution.” He then made a future-changing argument, based on moral law, against the inglorious institution of slavery.4
President Lincoln was influenced mightily by Seward’s concept of a higher, moral law. He coupled that philosophy with his own strong conviction that the basis of American independence—that all men are created equal—came directly from God Himself. The argument against slavery was essentially a moral argument for a better future for a nation and its people. This concept was anchored in God’s mandate for the equality of every human being, a partial motive for the Civil War, which won freedom for millions of formerly enslaved people and their progeny.
When Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederate States of America, fell to Union forces on April 3, 1865, Lincoln and his entourage showed up the next day. They walked dangerously through the streets of the city—now golden streets—echoing the voice of freedom as throngs of newly freed slaves flocked the vicinity of the defeated capital. The emancipated surrounded the Great Emancipator with such force and determination that the soldiers guarding him were helpless in keeping them at a safe distance. With great passion, this group sang the president’s praises, hailing him as their Messiah, shouting, “Glory, hallelujah!”
Lincoln knew better than to accept such acclamation. He responded, “Don’t kneel to me; that is not right. You must kneel to God only, and thank him for the liberty you will hereafter enjoy.”5 While Lincoln was used as an instrument to unfold the preferred futures of people who had never tasted the fruits of freedom, he knew that this better future came from God, the highest law.
So, the future is in us.
And not just any future. It is the future that God has planned for us and our world.
We are responsible to bring this future out of the realm of the unseen and into the world of the seen and lived.
And we can. We can create a better future for ourselves and others.
If we really want to.