23 February, 2017

Forgive and Let Go

This morning I woke up very early, just after 4:00 AM and could not get back to sleep. I came down to my office and was browsing the net and I read a quote from Lewis Smedes that I've seen or heard at least dozens of times before, but today it set the wheels turning in my head. Smedes said: "Forgiveness is like setting a prisoner free... and then realizing the prisoner is you!" 
Now, as I've sat here drinking my coffee and watching the sun come up (sort of... winter in Illinois does not mean you actually "see" the sun) my thoughts have gone back to that quote over and over. Sure, it sounds like the Christian thing to do when we say "forgive and forget"... but let's be honest here. It's just not that easy. It's not like you can just hit the delete button and all memory of pain is gone. Yes, forgiveness is a needful thing, a beautiful and precious thing... but if most of us would be really honest, forgiveness does not come without a fight. We can say the words, and I believe, truly mean it when we say, "I forgive you", but it's that forgetting thing that is hard. I won't try to throw this off on anyone else... maybe it is just me, (but I doubt it) but there are plenty of times when I really think I've forgiven something, and then I find myself getting angry or hurt all over again when it all comes flooding my mind somewhere down the road. Often times we think of forgiving someone who has wronged us, but there is a great struggle in actually putting forgiveness into practice. I believe that one of the reasons we struggle is that even though we know that we shouldforgive, somewhere deep inside we don't feel like that person (or persons) deserve our forgiveness. Truthfully, sometimes they don't deserve it! But I have come to learn that those who deserve forgiveness the least, actually need it the most! It's pretty easy for us to say, "they hurt me... they cost me... they put me through so much... I need to get even with them!" But that's a trap. The only people that we should ever try to get even with are the people who have helped us! You'll never get ahead as long as you are trying to pull someone down. Instead, pull yourself up to a higher level. As long as we are trying to get even, trying to pull someone else down, we will never get any further or higher than we are now.
Forgive and forget? That's not very likely. We generally tend to remember things. It is forever locked in our minds. Rather, I say, "forgive and let go."  You know something? I've learned that often times the person that I'm hurt at doesn't even want my forgiveness. They are trapped in the gall of bitterness too, and when you forgive... they may not even be willing to receive it. They may want to fight some more. But when we choose to forgive and let go, while it may not set them free... it sets YOU free. It's like taking the shackles off or opening the prison door. But you have to choose to walk out of the prison once that door is opened. One of the problems for many of us is that when we choose to forgive, yet the other person refuses to let it go... we tend to stay in that prison, trying to "fix" things that may never be fixed. You can only choose to forgive. You have no control over what the other person does. It only takes one person to forgive, but it takes two to be reunited. If that other person chooses to stay in the shackles of bitterness, it does not mean you have to do the same. Forgive, and let go. Move on.
One last thought. Forgiveness does not mean that we must tolerate. To forgive someone and that person continue to do the same hurtful things, say those same words or commit the same grievous actions against us, that is abuse. We don't have to stay there and take it. I can hear someone saying that Jesus said to "turn the other cheek."  Yes he did. But while the Bible may not say it, I do not believe that Jesus was implying that we are to stay there and be beaten repeatedly. Forgive, and let go. Move on and learn. Forgiveness not mean that you have to subject yourself to continued abuse. Some of the most powerful times of forgiveness have happened in my life when I've said to someone, "I forgive you... but we are done."  But you have to mean it. You can't just say the words, you must truly forgive. For when we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, it eats at us like a cancer. It is a surrender of our destiny, because we will keep falling back to that same place, no matter how high we climb. When we have unforgiveness in our heart, it is like a magnet that always pulls us back to that place of hurt and pain. It's just not worth it. When we forgive, we win.  Forgiveness will set you free from what holds you to your enemies. Forgive... and let go... and be free!

22 February, 2017

Receiving By Faith

I've been talking with someone for awhile who has been going through a fairly rough time and they are a bit beaten down and lacking faith right now. I can understand that as I've been there plenty of times myself. This morning as we were talking I was feeding her scripture after scripture, trying to fuel her faith but it was almost like she was rejecting each passage I gave her with her questions about "how", "can this happen for me", "why is this happening" and on and on. Finally, I asked her why she was having such a difficult time accepting the biblical promises for her and her response hit me like a ton of bricks because, in her words, I think I actually heard the words of many other people that I had just never put into that context. She said to me, "I hear the promises and I want to believe... but it just does not make sense to me." Bells and whistles went off inside my head as this just resonated within me... people trying to walk by what the can see, feel, touch... control. Faith does not really work that way. If you can wrap your brain around it and figure it out in the natural, then there is no need for faith. Faith is the key to our spiritual life and walking in the spirit rather than the natural. God's promises are not spoken "to make sense" but they are spoken to produce and release faith in us. The miraculous will not be released until we stop "figuring it all out" and walk in the realm of "I'm putting my faith in and trusting you, Lord."

14 February, 2017

How Do We Define Success? (Revised)

I originally posted this entry on May 26, 2010, but I was thinking on this topic last night and this came to mind, so I looked it up and decided to repost it, with a few additional thoughts tagged on at the end. 

How Do We Define Success?
I was just reading a story on Fox Sports website about how the man pictured here, Jamie Moyer is about to take ownership of a record that no one would really want.
The record?
He will be known as the pitcher who gave up the most home runs during his career.

At this moment, he has given up 501 home runs, just 4 shy of the all time record. Sounds like a dubious record that smacks of failure, doesn't it? But is that really what this says of Jamie Moyer? I don't think so. To me, it points to a marvelously successful career of this man. Consider what that record indicates. This man has been good enough that despite giving up more than 500 home runs in his career, the Phillies are still willing to keep him around on their team, and in fact pay him 6.5 million of dollars to pitch for them! Consider that at the age of 47 he is still playing the game kids half his age star in and is still winning games. That's pretty amazing to me. And consider this: The man who currently holds the record, Robin Roberts was considered one of the best in baseball in his era and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, as are the men who hold the number 3, 4 and 5 spots... Ferguson Jenkins, Phil Neikro and Don Sutton. Mr. Moyer is in good company, if I do say so myself!

As I was reading the article and thinking about the company he keeps, I recognized this fact, all 5 of these men all had long careers, all of them pitching into their 40's. Only one of them (Moyer) has pitched on teams that would be considered "great" teams. While each of them may have had one or two years where they really seemed to excel, the fact is, that for most of their careers, they were not "superstars" but rather were steady and consistent over the long haul.

That last fact really jumps out at me and got me to thinking about how we define success. Sadly, more times than not, we define success by what "wows" us... often times a flash in the pan. I've been a huge baseball fan since I was a small child, and I've seen some guys burst on the scene and take the attention of the baseball world by storm, only to just as quickly fade away. Guys like Mark "The Bird" Fidrych who burst on the scene in 1976, winning rookie of the year while pitching for the Detroit Tigers and winning 19 games, despite not even pitching an entire season. He was dubbed "great", "superstar" and so on, but when he retired just 4 years later he had only won 10 more major league games in his career. Bud Smith burst onto the scene midway through the 2001 season as a Saint Louis Cardinal going on to win 6 games with one of those games being a no-hitter. He was labeled the next superstar and was a key component in a huge trade between the Cardinals and the Phillies that brought Scott Rolen to the Cardinals. Rolen had been labeled a trouble maker and was hated in Philadelphia. We know how Rolen did in Saint Louis... but what about Bud Smith?  Smith won only one more game in his career before quitting the game. I could go on and on with such examples. The point I'm trying to make is that success should not be judged on a moment, or a season, but rather, by looking at the long haul. Would you rather have a spectacular game or season, or a steady career where you've been consistent for 2 decades? I'll take the later.

Now, I've said all this to bring us face to face with a glaring problem that we have in the Body of Christ. We are quick to elevate people to "superstar" status because they can preach a great sermon, hold a good revival, or they start a church that explodes with growth. Or you have an individual or family who "show up" at a church, and they "explode" on the scene. They want to be involved in everything. They make a great display as to how "spiritual" they are. They are loud and in your face about how great their love for God is... and many people are sucked in by their theatrics. But I've been around long enough that I've seen it way too many times. These new people are almost always a flash in the pan, and if they don't get enough attention and power, they blow on to the next church to bless them with their presence. This is one reason why I seldom allow new people to get involved in any position in the church until they show me that they can submit themselves to leadership. A person who cannot submit themselves to a leader is themselves a mark of a pitiful leader.

It's the same with these flash in the pan ministries. How many times have we seen these people blow in and blow up? Men and women are flashy, successful (by man's standard) and they are thrust in front of the camera, they write books and make the circuit riding the wave. The problem is that way too often, when it all is said and done, we see preachers having affairs, using drugs, homosexual activity, and other scandals surface in their ministry. I've seen guys start churches and in a very short period of time they have that church running 300, 500 or more, only to see that church in bankruptcy 2 or 3 years later.
Again, how do we define success?
Is it bursting onto the scene to the cheers and applause only to fade away or fall, or is success found in the man or woman who spends a lifetime as pastor in a small town making strong disciples within his church of 30, 50 or 80? I have to say, some of my heroes are men whose names may never be known by the vast majority of people. My father is one of them. He spent years pioneering churches across Missouri and Iowa, and once that church was established he moved on to another town to do the same. Some would call him a failure because he never pastored a large church. I call him my hero. And there are hundreds like him. There are men I know here in Illinois who have spent more than 20 years at the same church, and the churches are not large by any stretch of the imagination, but they have some of the most dedicated, loyal Christians and church members that you will ever meet. They know the Word of God because they've been taught and instructed in the way of righteousness. Again, I cannot speak for anyone else, but I would call these men a success long before I'd call a "superstar" on TBN a success. Money and fame does not equate necessarily equate to success, nor does it exclude success.

My point is don't get caught up in the hype and hoopla of a moment or a move... keep your eye on the big picture. Success to me is not a flash in the pan or a big event... it is the steady, consistent walk that matters.  In the local church, everyone wants to focus on the new family that blows in. People make over them, celebrate them and inflate their egos... and then are hurt when the flash dies and the true person is seen as they move on to their next show. I choose rather to celebrate the ones who have been with me through thick and thin and remain faithful to God and their church. Others may impress men... but I have a sneaking feeling that God is smiling, not at the latest dog and pony show, or the person who has to be seen and heard, but by those who are faithful, consistent and true to their walk with God and faithful to their church week after week, month after month, year after year.  YOU are the true giants. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9 that we should run the race to win!

To those at The Oasis Church of God who fit that last category (you know who you are) I celebrate you, and want you to know that God celebrates you too!

07 February, 2017

Where Is Your Passion?

I'm a people watcher. What I mean by that is that while I do in fact listen to what people say, I watch them and I pay far more attention to what they do. You see, as the old saying goes, "Words are easy but actions speak louder than words." As a pastor, I'm really not impressed with the person who "puts on a show" around the church house or the church people. I'm impressed by the actions I witness when they don't even know people are watching. The person who acts the part in the church house but then becomes a "secret agent" Christian when they walk out the door betrays their true heart. And it's not me... God views things pretty much the way I do. If you doubt that, try reading his word, because he says so. People can "say" how much they love God and they want to see the Kingdom of God advanced, but then they spend far more time, energy and money on their hobby than they do with God. I don't have to go any further... let's let the words of Jesus address this from Matthew 6:19-21:
"Don't store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will always be where your treasure is."

Jesus clearly says that your heart will be reflected by what your passion is. Some people's passion is in doing good works, and they try to say they do this for Christ, but the truth is that they do it for personal recognition and gratification. They have deluded themselves into thinking it's all for God, but they take all the glory and God's word says that he will not share his glory with anyone or anything. Some refuse to give to the church saying that they prefer to do good themselves so that they know where "their money" is going. That betrays their heart because number 1, it is "their money" and number 2, the reason truth is that they want the emotional rush of giving to someone so they can feel good, and they know that someone knows what they have done. Just as important, they are saying, "I don't think the pastor and the church have the smarts nor the heart to do the right thing like I do." That shows their heart loud and clear.

Let me ask you today... where is your passion?  How much time do you give to your favorite tv shows... your hobby, your golf, your music, your reading (or whatever it may be). Now how much time do you give to reaching the lost? How much time do you give to your church? Oh, I know... that's the pastor's job.  Is it? Check that one out in the word of God and let me know what you find.

Where is YOUR passion?

18 January, 2017

Special Moments That Make It Matter

A few moments ago I had one of those moments that just automatically turn on the faucets of tears. I'm sick right now and have been pretty much off of my feet since Sunday night. I've been on antibiotics since Monday and still feeling pretty rough. Anyway, early this morning I received a call from a young mother in town who I've met with and counseled through some trying times. She said she'd heard I was sick and wanted to check on me. We talked for a few moments and the conversation ended. So, just a few minutes ago, I received another call from her and she said, that she had left something for me out on my porch. She said she did not have much, but she wanted to show me some love in return for all the times I'd been there for her. I went out on my porch and there I found a plastic container of chili with a handwritten note that said, "You are loved!"

Right now, sitting here eating that chili, I feel the best I've felt in awhile.

16 January, 2017

Not Perfect, But Forgiven

I was having a conversation with someone earlier today who has only been a Christian for a relatively short time. This person was speaking of some of their struggles in their Christian walk and how it seemed like no matter how hard they tried, they kept blowing it and they felt like giving up. The said they were trying so hard but just could not get it right. They told me that they were just going to have to try harder, but that they were getting so frustrated and wondered if they could ever make it to Heaven. I almost had to laugh, not because what this person was saying was in any way funny, but that this sounded exactly like me when I was just starting out in my Christian journey. What I related to this person is what I want to write about just briefly tonight. 

For those who don't know me, I am the son of a pastor and my grandfather was also a preacher. I was raised in church most of my life. I knew (or thought I did) what was expected of Christians. The reason I say "thought I did" is because what I understood was basically a list of do's and don'ts. To make this shorter and straight to the point, I had learned a lot about religion, but I did not understand anything about having a relationship wit Christ. I knew that as a Christian I was supposed to "live like one", which meant, we did not cuss, smoke, drink, steal... you get the idea. So when I gave my heart to Jesus, I tried to stop all that. I tried to make myself into a "good person" who lived a clean life. But I kept failing. I'd find myself lying and using language that was laced with profanity. I really tried... and I kept falling. I was at the place where I was starting to believe that I just could not live as a Christian. I thought maybe it was just my lot in life that I was going to die and go to Hell. Then one day as I was reading the Bible, I stumbled upon the words of Paul where he wrote about how he struggled with the same thing... and it changed my life. He wrote in Romans chapter 7, " I don't understand why I act the way I do. I don't do what I know is right. I do the things I hate."  A few verses later he goes on, "I know that my selfish desires won't let me do anything that is good.  Even when I want to do right, I cannot. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong. And so, if I don't do what I know is right, I am no longer the one doing these evil things. The sin that lives in me does them. The Law has shown me that something in me keeps me from doing what I know is right. Then Paul says the words that unlocked the chains that had held me captive for so long. He says,  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin."

There is something in that last sentence that will transform your life, just as it did mine. Paul tells us that the secret is KNOWING (this takes faith!) that the blood of Jesus has set us free and saved us, even though out bodies may not know it yet! This is not meant to give us an excuse to continue in sin. Far from it. What it says is that when I give my life to Christ, I'm as saved as I will ever be from that moment on.  Our flesh is still subject to the natural... but our spirit is free! This is where the battle between the flesh and the spirit begins as we take authority and persevere and overcome those things... but we are saved already. Never doubt that!  The work of Christ is full and complete and saves us to the uttermost from the second we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives. You will never be "more saved" than you are right then. But you and I have to get that issue settled in our spirit-man because the Accuser will be right there every time we fall telling us we are lost, never were saved and telling us what scum we are. If we don't know what the Word of God says we may forfeit that salvation and walk away from it. That's his goal! We must at that moment KNOW we are safe and secure in Christ and tell him to take his lies down the road. If we don't, most likely we will return to our old ways and continue living in sin. 

There is a vast difference in committing a sin and living a lifestyle of sin. What Paul is describing in Romans 7 is crucial to us. Notice he says he does not want to do those things anymore. The Holy Spirit makes us aware of things that grieve the Spirit and this is where our job begins... that of sanctifying ourselves. Separating ourselves from the things the flesh desires. This battle is a life-long battle as we beat this body into subjection. Again, this does not make us "more saved" but it does deepen and enhance our walk with the Lord. Satan's aim is to so batter us with guilt and shame to the point that we doubt our salvation. The most difficult aspect of all of this is getting beyond the question of being worthy of salvation. We're not... not one of us. This is the beauty of this whole thing. Romans 5:8 says, "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." It has nothing to do with us being good, faithful or deserving at all. It only as to do with God's wonderful grace!

15 January, 2017

I'm Back

I've taken a little while away from writing because 1) I've been very busy, and 2) because my focus was distracted by the political drama that has unfolded surrounding the election of Donald Trump and the crying and protesting by Democrats. I'll say this and move on. Suck it up and deal with it. He is our next President. I did not like it when Obama won in 2008 or 2012, but I accepted the will of the voters and moved on. So, let's give the man a chance and see what happens.

Now, as I begin writing again this year, I want to focus much more on those things that matter, primarily with spiritual matters and family. So, in the coming year, it is my goal to not write about political issues at all, unless it is a MAJOR story or that political happening has a spiritual connection or will impact Christians. I look forward to connecting with many of you again.

30 December, 2016

People You Need to Walk Away From and Leave In 2016

Can you believe that we are at the end of 2016? This year has flown by in the blink of an eye. In fact, for most of us, it seems just yesterday we were all awaiting the crash of our computers as we crossed into the new millennium… and suddenly we find ourselves on the threshold of 2017. It hardly seems possible that 17 years have come and gone so quickly… but this reminds me that since time flies by so quickly, we need to count the days and make them matter.  I've come to understand that time is too precious to waste time on people who suck the life out of you. We need all learn that what we will accomplish next year greatly depends on the people you surround yourself with. Or, another way of looking at it is to say that it greatly depends on which people you decide not to surround yourself with.  With that in mind, I wanted to take a moment to write about ten types of people we ought to sever ties with and not drag them into 2017 with us. When the clock strikes twelve on December 31, 2016 and you step into 2017, leave some baggage behind and watch and see how much better the coming year will be for you.

So... Let's look at who you need to walk away from as you enter into 2017. 

1. The people who always manage to hurt you. 
People are people and we can (and do) all hurt others at times. But then there are some people really add little, if anything good to our lives and for the most part, only add stress and pain. The problem with this one is that the only reason that these people add pain to our lives is because they mean so much to us. They could not harm us if we didn't care and care deeply. So, the reality is that we tend to allow them to remain a part of our lives because we cannot bear the thought of them not being there. It's a catch 22. But if you have someone in your life who can’t manage to stop hurting you, it's time that you do yourself a favor and cut that person off. This is important… "Pain is only good if it teaches you a lesson." In this case, the lesson is to stop allowing others to use you as a punching bag. 

2. The people who don’t respect you. 
People who show respect deserve to be respected. That's simply how this "respect" thing works. Be we all know that we have people in our lives who seldom (if ever) show you the respect which you have given to them… it's time to kick them to the curb. Here's the thing… you have to have enough respect for yourself to never allow others to disrespect you and remain a part of your life. Forgiveness is one thing… being walked on is another.

 3. The people who use you. 
OK… let's be brutally honest here… the truth is that everyone uses everyone to some degree… and that is usually okay. I mean, the whole reason we socialize and interact with others because we find that it will benefit us in some shape or form. If we didn’t believe it would, then we wouldn’t find sufficient reason to interact with them. But we all know that there are some people in our lives who use us in ways that end up hurting us. While most people will use us and by doing so, either maintain or improve our wellbeing, there are others who are like parasites who use us and leave us worse off, sucking us dry.  It is this kind of person who we should not allow to have a place in our life. Throw them out NOW and do not drag them into 2017 and don't let them return later! 

4. The people who lie to you. 
Even though some will say they never lie, the fact is that everyone lies... at times.  For example, we pretend to remember someone, when In fact, we are clueless as to who they are and we are hoping something will jog in our memory banks as we blow smoke when the reality is we are lying and ought to simply admit we cannot remember and begin with a clean slate. These type of "lies" are generally harmless, but that all changes when the people who are lying to you are the people you trust... and you shouldn't!  Fill your life with trustworthy people and you’ll be far better off.
Find people who will speak truth to you and leave the liar in 2016 as you move forward. 

5. The people who bring more stress than usefulness. 
Contrary to popular believe, not all stress is a bad thing… in fact, it’s what you make it out to be. If you believe stress is bad for you, then it will be bad for you. But if you learn to use stress as the motivator it is, to motivate you to act, then stress can actually be a healthy part of our life. However, there is a very important rule of thumb concerning stress that we must come to terms with and hold fast to. Our goal should be that we are only stressed by situations… not by people. Here's the thing… If you have people in your life who constantly stress you out, that’s your mind telling you… trying to motivate you… to dump some weight from your life. For goodness sake, life is stressful enough on its own and none of us need people in our lives who continually multiply that stress!  

6. Two Faced People….
You know, those people who smile to your face and then talk about you behind your back. In my humble opinion, this type of person is the scum of the earth. They are untrustworthy, unfaithful cowards who don’t have the guts to speak their minds. These individuals enjoy pretending to be your friend while trashing you to the rest of the world. These people will ruin your reputation and in case you have not learned this, reputation matters! Walk away from these people and shut the door! 

7. Two faced people, part two…
These are the people who don’t care about you but pretend they do. We’ve all had people in our lives who act like our friends only when it’s convenient for them or they need something. This type person is a paradox… they can be a lot of fun to hang out with, and more than willing to accept help from you…  but when you need their help they’re miraculously nowhere to be found. These people are especially damaging to us because they give you the impression that you can lean on them for support, but when you reach for their shoulder, you fall over and hit the ground because they are nowhere to be found.

8. The people just taking up space. Everything in life is limited. Resources are limited and you had better learn... TIME is limited. What each of us can accomplish within a lifetime is limited. We can’t, and never will be able to, have it all, no matter how long we live or how hard we try. This is why you have to be very careful with not only what you choose to do, but with whom you choose to do it with. You can only maintain a handful of strong relationships at any given time. You just don’t have the time, energy or mental fortitude to handle more. Choose wisely.

If you’re filling your life with individuals who sap your time, energy, peace, joy, finances and happiness and give nothing back… you need to let them go. Simple rule of thumb… "If someone isn’t adding to your life, then, by default, they’re taking away from it." Leave them in 2016 and build a better inner circle in 2017.

28 December, 2016

And I Love You So

Today Libby and I celebrate 31 years of marriage. That's kind of hard for me to wrap my head around because in our minds we are just kids. But the calendar does not lie, and our son is now the same age that I was when we stood at the altar and pledged our lives and love to one another. It's been a great ride. People often say that we have "the perfect marriage." I say, there is no such thing as the perfect marriage. We've had our ups and downs, some struggles but overall we've had the time of our lives!
The Lord has blessed us, indeed.
No, we are not wealthy... far from it. But we are rich in other ways. We have a love that keeps us young. We have children who are of such character that any parent would be proud to call them their own, but they are ours and when I look at them, I say we are blessed. We have been blessed with so much that it would take volumes to list them all, but I just want to say, first to God, "Thank you for leading me to this woman who has so enriched my life" and secondly, to Libby, "Thank you for listening to God when he led you to marry me when you barely even knew me." People said we would not make it, but look at us now. The years have come and gone, the storms have tried their best to knock us down and tear us apart, but we've made it, and today, I call myself blessed because I've spent my life with you. You've given me so much love, joy and happiness... much more than I deserve. And the best things is... This ride is not over yet!

I'm reminded of one of my favorite songs from long ago. My life was so empty before you became a part of it.
Happy Anniversary my love!

And I love you so
People ask me how
How I've lived 'til now
I tell them I don't know
I guess they understand
How lonely life has been
But life began again
The day you took my hand 
And yes I know how lonely life can be
The shadows follow me
And the night won't set me free
But I don't let the evening get me down
Now that you're around me 
And you love me too
Your thoughts are just for me
You set my spirit free
And I'm happy that you do 
The book of life is brief
And once a page is read
All but love is dead
That is my belief 
And yes I know how loveless life can be
The shadows follow me
And the night won't set me free
But I don't let the evening bring me down
Now that you're around me 
And I love you so
People ask me how
How I've lived 'til now
I tell them I don't know

23 December, 2016

Letting Your Light Shine

Most everyone who knows me knows that the past year of my life has pretty much been defined by getting our church building restored after a storm in November of 2015 did massive damage to it. Thankfully, we are currently in the process of moving back into the building after being displaced for 13 months. Anyway, this past year, I have practically "lived" in Menards buying materials as we have worked on the building. I've gotten to "know" many of the employees on a casual level. So, last night I was out doing a little Christmas shopping, and one of the cashiers from Menards saw me and shouted out a greeting to me. We ended up standing in that store for more than a half hour talking. It started out as simple Christmas greetings and then took a turn as she began asking me questions. She commented about how a couple of weeks ago she witnessed another customer "lose it" and screamed obscenities at me for several minutes and she said that she was amazed that I took the abuse with a smile on my face and kept trying to defuse her anger. She asked if she could ask me a question, to which I said that it would be fine. She told me that some of the other employees had told her that I was a pastor and she wanted to know of that was true. When I told her that I was, she smiled and said, "I knew there was something different about you, but did not know what it was until now." From that, the conversation took on a much deeper tone as we discussed some issues in her life. After awhile I told her that I was going to have to go because my wife was waiting on me in another part of the mall. The last thing she said to me is something that has run over in my mind since then. She said, "You don't seem like a pastor because you are so approachable and down to earth." She spoke about seeing me come into the store in dirty clothing showing that I was working alongside the others and how I laughed and cut up with others. She said, "In my mind, that is how I see Jesus; hanging with the common folk."

I agree with her. Jesus did not walk around in $2,000 suits like he was above everyone else. In fact, when Judas brought the soldiers to the garden so they could arrest Jesus, he had to kiss him on the cheek to identify him to the soldiers. Jesus maintained his purity while walking amongst the common folk. So I encourage other Christians today, let your light shine without trying to elevate yourself above them.

22 December, 2016

Until the Flailing Stops

Right now I'm sitting back, helplessly watching someone I know systematically unravel his life over drugs. His marriage is gone, kids don't want to be around him, he's had several arrests, lost his business and is selling everything he owns for pennies on the dollar... and he can't see the problem. I'm not "judging" him... I've been there and got the scars on my life to prove where I've been. I find myself constantly wanting to reach out to him but I know that at this point it is futile. It's like something I learned years ago when I studied and became an Emergency Medical Technician/Ambulance... when a person is in the water flailing at the water, DO NOT go in there after them. If you do, they will wear you both out and both of you will drown. You have to wait until they stop fighting and flailing. And I know after more than 7 years working as a Substance Abuse Counselor and 25 years as a pastor that it is the same thing with the addict/alcoholic. You cannot rescue someone until they are ready to be rescued. All I can do is pray for him and his family at this time, but it is "killing me " to see his life go down the drain piece by piece, day by day. I pray he wakes up before it is too late.

16 December, 2016

My Stand on Profanity

I have a group on Facebook for Cardinals fans, and one of the few rules I have is that we talk civilly toward one another and that profanity is kept to a bare minimum. As I state in my rules, "dropping the 'f-bomb' is a quick ticket out of the group. I simply will not put up with it. People argue all the time that they are "adults" and "can use whatever language they choose". True... but NOT in MY group. Go somewhere else. Most of the nearly 6000 members of my group have expressed their gratitude toward me for keeping the site clean. But every now and then someone comes along who insists they have the right to challenge my rules and use foul language. That's why there are 70 something people who are blocked from my group permanently. Speak how you want... but not in my house. 
This issue came up again and the dude blocked is having a cow, messaging me and telling me that I'm a dictator, along with a lot of other names I won't repeat. For his benefit, as well as for anyone else who wants to know, I am going to share here for everyone just what my humble opinion is concerning the use of foul language. 
I believe that there is absolutely no value whatsoever in coloring your communication, whether spoken or written, with expletives. It is my opinion that the use of profanity typically boils down to an individual being guilty of having one or more of the following flaws:
  1. Lack of Intelligence: The English language offers us the choice of so many wonderful adjectives, analogies, abilities to paint word pictures and to use a variety of other descriptors, such that there is no need to substitute with expletives. The insertion of a four letter word for “emphasis” usually only points out the speaker lacks command of his/her vocabulary. Nothing flashes “stupid” like the use of profanity. Word of advice... Don’t make the mistake of appearing to be uneducated if you’re not.
  2. Laziness: We have all met bright people who swear. This usually means they either think they’re smarter than everyone else so people will put up with their use of profanity, or they have just fallen into a rut and are too lazy to work on improving their verbal communication skills. 
  3. Poor Anger Management: People who are not quick on their feet, or do not possess adequate conflict resolution skills, often revert to profanity as a safety net of sorts. If all else fails, people who fall into this category resort to attempting to intimidate the other party with the use of profanity (see # 4 below). People identified as having anger management issues typically don’t reach their full potential without learning better skills. 
  4. Insecurity: People who lack confidence in themselves and/or their abilities often try to bolster other people’s perception of them by using off-color language as an attempt to feign strength and power. Here’s a tip…it doesn’t work. Profanity won’t intimidate anyone (at least not any worthy opponent), and will likely only lessen your image with the audience you are so desperately trying to impress.
  5. Socially Inappropriate Behavior: The show-off, ego-maniac, substance abuser, the female trying to be “one of the boys” or the wannabe comedian are all examples of socially inappropriate behavior, which often times results in the use of profanity. Nobody likes a show-off, substance abuse is never a good thing, most people don’t find it appealing to associate with women who curse like the proverbial drunken sailor, and inappropriate jokes are more likely to get you a sexual harassment charge than a laugh. Even if you do elicit a brief chuckle from your audience, they will likely not be left with the impression you were hoping for. Here’s a clue for you: “when in doubt, remember vulgarity doesn’t add value.”
Bottom line…few things make an impact, or lack thereof, like the words you allow to flow from your lips. 
Regardless of your station in life, vocabulary absolutely matters… It matters to an even greater degree for those who desire to influence others or be in a position of leadership.