Say what you want, but Betty Nesmith Graham made her fortune because of me.
Betty is the mother of Michael Nesmith from the hit 1960’s band The Monkees. But she is probably more well known, if not by name then by her invention, as the founder of Liquid Paper. Betty worked as an executive secretary and wanted to find a way to more easily fix her mistakes. At the time, computers were a thing of science-fiction instead of real life and typewriters didn’t have a good way or correcting mistakes. Being an artist she took the lessons learned from her artistry and applied them to her work. She was quoted as saying, “…an artist never corrects by erasing, but always paints over the error.” She applied that to her work by creating her own paint solution and thus Liquid Paper was born! I still remember the first time at school I was asked to write with a pen. It was exciting! And a bit nerve-wracking. Not being able to erase my mistakes bothered me. If I made a mistake, I wasn’t the kind to just keep going. I would stop. Erase it as best as I could (sometimes ripping the paper I was trying so hard). And make the corrections. But with a pen, that wasn’t possible. Until Liquid Paper. What a Godsend that was! Make a mistake? No problem. Just “white it out.” Sure you’d have to wait a few seconds, but it looked so clean and neat afterward. I can’t remember when it happened, but one of my teachers (I think it was Ms. Logan in junior high) told us she didn’t want us using Liquid Paper. Or erasable pens. Or pencils. She said, if we made a mistake, just cross it out and keep going. Seriously? That bothered me. If you’ve got something why not use it? It just looked ugly crossing things out. The first time I did it, there was this one section where I basically crossed out nearly an entire paragraph. It was actually just one sentence I had to keep re-writing because I kept making mistakes, but it looked like a paragraph it was so long. But I learned an important lesson from her. If I wanted to improve, I had to take the time and be intentional about what I was doing.
Intention provides direction.
Richard Branson wrote, “A day without intention is a day wasted. It doesn’t matter if you want to get some exercise, write an essay, or start a business; without intention, there can be no productivity, and in turn no success.” Living a life of intention helps to guide us and give us a sense of direction, a sense of purpose. It also provides a space between impulse and reckless abandon. How many times have you said something rash or did something out of anger or spite? How many times have you maybe said what you were thinking and wish you hadn’t let that little nugget out? If we’re honest about it, at one time or another we probably have all done that. But wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t? I find my life turns out for the best when I live a life of intention, and I think that’s the kind of life God wants us to lead. Now, that is not to say we have to live a regimented life or a life devoid of spontaneity. One of my favorite lines in the movie The Sure Thing is when Alison tells Walter, “Spontaneity has its time and its place.” But that’s not what I mean at all. You CAN be spontaneous and still be intentional because being intentional means being purposeful. It means directing your life in a certain direction. If all we are is regimented, if all we can do is live by a specific plan, then we won’t know what to do when something surprises us as life often does. Being intentional doesn’t mean we have to plan for everything. Being intentional is a matter of being and of thought. Intentionality is a matter of spiritual discipline.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Think about such things!
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” That’s the kind of life God wants for us to lead, to focus on the aspects of life that are good and true and to leave everything else behind. Paul teaches us that when we are able to do that, when we fill our minds with the excellent and praiseworthy, we will have the peace of Christ in our hearts. Paul is writing to the people in the church at Philippi. And to hear these words from him at this time in his life is pretty astonishing. Paul is writing from prison and yet he is full of hope. Instead of seeing failure, he sees opportunity. He talks about how he is reaching the prison guards with the good news of Jesus and anticipates he will be released. But even if not, even if this is where he will die, Paul is satisfied. And that’s the kind of life he is writing about to this church. He encourages them to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27).”
For us to grow in our faith we have to be intentional.
We have to be intentional in our prayer life. We have to be intentional in our reading of the Bible. We have to be intentional about seeing the world through the eyes of Jesus. Of loving the unlovable. Of reaching those furthest from God. Of looking for opportunities to share the love of Christ. It’s so easy to become “too busy” for God. But that’s what happens when we are not intentional about putting God first. We drift away and pretty soon, we don’t even realize how far we have left the path. There is a passage from the Gospel of Matthew that sticks with me constantly. “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them (Matthew 13:14-15).’” It pains me to think that so many people in the world have eyes to see and ears to hear, but neither see nor hear God in their lives. But couldn’t the same be true of us? Aren’t there times we drift away from God and become lackadaisical in our faith? Being intentional is a discipline and one if we aren’t careful to cultivate easily slips away from us.
Intentionality is the key to life.
You’ve probably read those guides to a healthy marriage. Almost every single one says to carve out time for your spouse. Seems obvious. But most marriages suffer because they forget this one simple rule. And from this one simple rule an entire host of problems happens. Lack of communication, feeling lonely, working at odds with one another, feeling unwanted. Which of course leads to even worse problems and which often leads to divorce when we aren’t even looking. But that’s the problem isn’t it? We aren’t even looking. Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” We don’t want that to happen to us, especially in the areas of our life that are most important – our spouse, our kids, our faith. But that’s what happens when we let things slip away.
Andy Stanley gave this great example once.
He gave the example that we often sacrifice family time because of work or school or other obligations, but that you can’t ever get those moments back. He was pointing out how important it is to be intentional with your family, to carve out time for them and not let life slip away from you. It’s not like you can gather up your family on Sunday morning and say to them, “Okay, I know I said I’d be home to have dinner with you all week, but I wasn’t able to do it, so here’s what we’re going to do. On the way to church this morning, we’re going to stop by Waffle House and have some pecan waffles and hash browns scattered and smothered! When we’re done there, we’ll drive over to Denny’s and eat the Grand Slam. After that we’ll head over to IHOP and have all-you-can eat pancakes, okay? That will make up for all the meals I missed this week and we can have this great family bonding time and everything will be okay.” It just doesn’t work like that.
If we aren’t intentional, we will lose focus and our lives will be just a long string of events.
But without any real meaning. In a world of growing choices, it’s easier and easier to drift from one thing to another and not really think about what it is you can contribute to the great tapestry of life. It’s too easy to let your gifts become squandered as the little things eat up your time, your money, and your attention. When I go to visit my mom, she tells me about all these great shows on TV. Some of them we watch together like Dancing With The Stars. I swear I’d never watch that show. I mean who cares right? A bunch of 2nd rate celebrities trying to grasp that gold ring one more time by doing a dance competition? But Cassie started watching it, too. And even though I came down hard on it, I couldn’t help but find myself watching it with her. This week, I just entered the Dancing With The Stars Fantasy League where my pre-season pick was Debbie Gibson to win it all. It’s hard to bet against Terrell Owens though as football stars tend to do really well. And Drew Scott from Property Brothers is my dark horse to win. If he has a sense of rhythm, he could go all the way! See that? How easy it is to just get sucked into it all? I’ve been watching it religiously for six years now! And every time I visit my mom, she tells me about another show I need to watch. My mom’s retired so it’s okay, but for me, it’s so easy for me to lose focus and binge watch an entire show from beginning to end. But all that time gets lost when I could be doing something else. Life is a series of choices, and the choices we make are important. When we get go down a rabbit hole sometimes it takes a long while to get back. To avoid that we have to focus on what’s really important.
God shouldn’t take a back seat in your life.
There was a great line from the very first episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip where these two characters are talking about how topsy-turvy everything is on the set and one of them says, “do we let Jesus be our co-pilot?” And the other one responds, “My mom used to say to me, ‘If Jesus is your co-pilot, you should trade seats.’” Be intentional. About your family. About your marriage. About your job. About your faith. Take time for the things that are important and don’t let time escape you for the things that aren’t. Make sure to avoid the rabbit holes and bunny trails that so easily divert us from what we intend to do. The truth is, none of this is anything you probably don’t already know, but if we don’t remind ourselves once in a while what’s important, we can lose everything of any real meaning. Our lives are not written in pencil. They are written in ink. And there is no Liquid Paper to correct some of the mistakes we make if we are not careful. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off