Category Archives: perseverance

Mountains and Valleys and Rivers, Oh My!

I was surfing through YouTube for some background music while writing when I found myself in the mood for the soulful voice of Michael McDonald. I came across his rendition of a famous Motown song, and even though I’ve heard this song many times, I was struck by the simple, yet profound words of the chorus (I’ve linked MM’s version for your listening pleasure): 

Ain’t no mountain high enough

Talk about perseverance. 
There is no stopping this person from getting what he wants. He is not focused on the heighth, depth, or width of the obstacles in front of him; his main focus is on what he wants, and nothing — no mountain, no valley, no river — is going to make him quit.
That takes an uncommon strength. 
We all have things we want. We have goals. We have dreams. But if we don’t become practitioners of perseverance, we won’t realize them. 
Perseverance is that spiritual ingredient with oomph. It’s got that extra kick in it that pushes us forward. It’s a combination of endurance and the absolute assurance that what we want is going to happen. 
Let’s take a lesson from these lyrics.
If we are to persevere, we must first know our purpose. We need to have a goal in mind. No goal means no direction, and then we wander aimlessly in the desert of our minds. 
We must also be passionately committed to what we want. Passion fuels us, giving us the strength and courage to power through to the finish. No passion means no purpose, and then when the winds blow, we are tossed about, when all along we could have harnessed that energy to set sail.
Once our purpose is fueled by our passion, we must remain positive. Our positive self-talk assures us of our success. It minimizes the enormity of any obstacles that try to get in our way. No positive self-talk means no passionate or inspired action, and when that happens, we fail even before we try.
Perseverance allows us to see those mountains, valleys, and rivers from a new perspective.
Instead of seeing the mountain as something separate, large, and looming over you, see yourself as that mountain. A mountain never wavers despite being shined upon, rained upon, snowed upon, or stuck upon by lightning. Stand tall and strong as the mountain.
Instead of seeing the river as something that you could never swim against or navigate across, see yourself as that river. A river flows continuously; it cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence, as Jim Watkins reminds us. Flow with the river.
Instead of seeing the valley as something that is a low point that leaves you wide open and vulnerable, see yourself as that valley. A valley contains some of the most fertile soil; it is rich with nutrients. Harvest your strength from the valley.
Heed the words of Alexander Graham Bell when he says, “What this power is, I cannot say. All I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when you are in that state of mind in which you know exactly what you want and are fully determined not to quit until you get it.”

It’s time to finish unfinished business. Think about a project that you have abandoned because the work just got too hard, or you simply got tired of it. Dig it out of the closet or the basement or wherever you left it, and approach it with new eyes. Maybe it’s that novel you’ve always wanted to write. Maybe it’s the renovation you’ve never completed. Maybe it’s the exercise program that you quit because you hit a plateau. 
Revisit it and renew your commitment to it. There is a reason why you started it in the first place. Somehow you got the idea to do this, but this time go back to it with the understanding that your idea came to you as a gift. Now it’s time to honor it by seeing it through to completion. Think of it as your gift back to Spirit since Spirit endowed you with the skills and talent to accomplish it. 

Saving Sin


What images pop into your mind when you hear that word?

What feelings emerge?

If you are like most, you cringe at the word and feel some guilt. It’s one of those “holy” words that strikes fear into you.

Sin is a word that has been greatly misinterpreted and misunderstood.

According to Christian teachings, we have been born into “original sin.”

Some people would say, Well, what the heck does that mean? 

It’s a phrase used to describe the collective state of humanity. In other words, the condition of humanity is not perfect. It has some flaws.

Let’s examine this.

The word for “sin” in the ancient Greek (in which the New Testament was written) is “hamartia” (ἁμαρτία), which transliterated means “miss the mark.”

Think of an archer aiming for the bullseye. Ready. Aim. Miss! What does the archer do? He grabs another bow, takes aim, and fires again. He keeps firing until he hits the mark. He perfects his technique until he is able to hit it accurately. Will there be times he misses? Sure. But as long as he keeps his eye on the mark, he’ll hit it more often than not.

Over the centuries, the word sin has collected a lot of cultural and religious baggage. It was held over the heads of people to scare them into what churches (some, not all) and society considered “proper” behavior. It has been misused, abused, and taken out of context.

During the Dark Ages and Medieval times, most people were illiterate and uneducated; only priests and very wealthy people were educated, and because of this privilege, they were able to control (and manipulate) the masses for their purposes. And more often than not, they missed the mark by abusing their power by using statements like, If you don’t do this or that in the name of God, you’re a sinner! You’ll be damned and go straight to hell!  You’re made to feel guilty by others.

It’s no wonder people began to fear the word (and God for that matter).

So, when we strip away all of the baggage and misinterpretations, we have a word with a simple definition that points toward an inherent condition. Because we are human, we are born with some abnormalities, some dysfunction if you will, thus the term “original sin.” We are born into ignorance. And if we are not careful, others will capitalize on that ignorance to bring out the worst in us or to keep us under their thumbs…sneaky sneaky.

When we sin, we miss the mark. Missing the mark means to continue in ignorance. It means to suffer and to cause suffering because of continued ignorance. It means missing the point of human existence.

But that doesn’t mean we have to remain in ignorance. We have the ability (and free will) to make choices to better ourselves so that we can live our lives more authentically. The biggest sin, therefore, is remaining ignorant and blind to your authentic self by letting your flaws (and others) hold you down.

We can take a lesson from the archer when it comes to sin. He doesn’t feel guilty for not hitting his target; he doesn’t beat himself up; instead, he tries again. And again. Until he gets it right. It takes practice, patience, and perseverance.

With practice, his aim gets better. With patience, he learns from his mistakes and makes corrections. With perseverance, he progresses toward his goal until he reaches it. He doesn’t give up. He knows he has flaws, but he doesn’t let those flaws define him, nor does he allow them to deny him what is his. He lives the life of an archer, true to himself because that is who he is designed to be.

Who are you designed to be? And what will it take for you to make your mark?