Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a book in which the main character, Amir, is haunted by those things; haunted by his words and actions and, even more so, haunted by the impact that those words and actions had on people he loved.
The book starts as a story of an idyllic and peaceful childhood. Yes, it was a childhood full of questions, as they all are, but it was a time of peace. Then fear and worry begin to creep in. Realizations that the world doesn't necessarily view things the same way his twelve year old eyes do. And a realization that his eyes would have to change.
Turning into a coming-of-age story, we begin to see how Amir will be forced away from the peace of his childhood. And then things change dramatically with his actions. With his words, he forces away some of those he loves -- those who offered him the majority of his support system.
At the same time, his country, Afghanistan, is thrown into chaos ... and Amir begins spiraling downward, all the time seeking redemption but unsure of his ability and strength to gain redemption in the eyes of man.
Full of twists and turns, this book pulls you from one chapter to the next. I normally read books fairly slowly, catching a few snippets of time here and there to spend with them. But this book forced me to keep reading, completing it in just a few days.
I have for some time been taken by reading and learning about eastern cultures. I am not sure what it is. I think it is because you can see that "fight from a position of principle" concept in them, often until the more western "fight from a position of strength" philosophy comes in and overwhelms all else.
I suppose it's natural, though. Our country was founded on principle, not strength but, as any society or culture develops, people begin to see that strength will defeat principle ... on this earth.
The Kite Runner is a powerful and astonishing story. It is at times a horribly painful story to read because of the strong voice presented by the main character. But, in that, you see an honesty and a candor ... a genuineness ... that we all can relate to.
I was looking at the obituary notices the other day, and came across one that struck a chord with me and not just because I'm a golf junkie.
Gay Brewer was one of the top golfers of the '60s and '70s and won the 1967 Masters golf tournament. The year before he lost the Masters in a playoff with Jack Nicklaus and then lost the following week's tournament in a playoff with Arnold Palmer. Those losses made Brewer realize that he needed to pay more attention to the mental aspects of golf.
That's when he turned to Norman Vincent Peale's book, "The Power of Positive Thinking," which I consider one of the top motivational books ever written. I had the privilege of playing in a pro-am with Brewer some years later, and he told me how he even scanned sections of the book before winning the 1967 Masters.
A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health and success. Whatever the mind expects, it finds.
Dr. Herbert H. Clark, a psychologist from The Johns Hopkins University, discovered that it takes the average person about 48 percent longer to understand a sentence using a negative than it does to understand a positive or affirmative sentence.
This is confirmation of something every successful person knows: The secret of good communication is positive affirmation. It is not what you can't or won't do that interests people, but what you can or will do.
The famous inventor Thomas Edison used to say his deafness was his greatest blessing -- a blessing because it saved him from having to listen to reasons why things couldn't be done.
Once upon a time a man watched two masons working on a building. As he worked, one of the masons continually frowned, groaned, and cursed the nature of his labors. Asked what he was doing, he replied, "Just piling one stone on top of another all day long until my back is about to break."
On the other hand, the other mason whistled as he worked. His movements were swift and sure, and his face wore a glow of satisfaction. Asked what he was doing, he replied, "Sir, I'm doing far more than just making a stone wall -- I'm helping build a cathedral."
Notice he said "helping." He wasn't trying to do it on his own, but he was putting his best effort into a project for which he would eventually get very little personal credit. No one would ever really know which stones he laid. Yet it was important for him to see his role in this enormous venture. A positive attitude translated into a spectacular building to him.
One of my favorite aphorisms goes like this: Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
This gives you a choice, a positive or negative path. Clearly, the positive path will lead to a more rewarding, more contented life.
What that means to me is that if you think positively, you will be more inclined to speak positively. Your positive words will spur you to positive actions. If you get used to behaving in a positive way, you will form good habits. And your habits will help define the kind of person you are. That will lead you to your destiny: what you will eventually become as a person.
And isn't it enough to be yourself and believe in your own powers and be willing to risk failure to put those powers to the test? You may think of a thousand reasons why something is impossible; it only takes one reason to decide it's worth a try.
By all means, surround yourself with positive people; support each other when the urge to be negative threatens.
As author John Gardner said, "We need to believe in ourselves, but not to believe that life is easy."
There once was an old man who had many troubles. Life seemed to hand him one difficulty after another, but he faced each obstacle with a smile and a cheery disposition. An acquaintance of the man's finally asked him how he managed to stay so happy despite his hardships.
The old man quickly answered: "Well, the Bible often says, 'And it came to pass,' but never once does it say, 'It came to stay.'"
"...preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." 2 Timothy 4:2
Exhort – When you read this word, “exhort,” what comes to mind? Do you have images of a coach on the sidelines, pushing his players on with animated gestures? Do you think of the crowd along the road, cheering on the marathon runner? Do you think of the general, imploring his troops to push over the ridge? Our word, exhort, usually comes with plenty of emotionally charged pictures. It’s a cheerleading kind of word. Even when it is done quietly, we still think of “pat on the back” kind of actions. But the Greek is far richer.
Parakaleo is made up of two words, para (along side) and kaleo (to call). This word covers the range of aid, help, assist, encourage, comfort and beseech. In its paradigm use, it is the root behind one name for the Holy Spirit, the Paraklete, the Helper, the Comforter. For God, parakaleo is a very big deal. It is precisely what Jesus did when He responded to the call for redemption and restoration. If the leader of the flock is going to fill this criterion, it will usually be costly, but it will always be exactly what we need at precisely the right time and place. Parakaleo is divine, just-in-time delivery.
The Christian leader of the flock is not the one with the uninterruptible schedule. She is not the one who just doesn’t have time for you right now. She is the one who knows what it means to deliver the right word, the comforting touch and the encouraging, tangible assistance when it is needed. Exhortation is not always vocal remonstration or emotional pleas. Exhortation is aid in an emergency, consolation in sorrow, assistance when required and supplications when necessary.
I know what you’re thinking. “Good leaders all do this. So, what makes the Christian leader any different?” The answer is found by looking at Jesus. Here’s a clue. The Christian leader is usually fulfilling the characteristic of parakaleo under the radar. That means this kind of leader doesn’t look for any credit. In fact, if you want the best story of parakaleo in action, read the story of Jarius’ daughter. Jesus heals her after a major interruption, and then slips out the back door before anyone can start the media frenzy. A Christian leader knows that none of the credit for all these virtuous acts falls on him. It belongs to God alone.
(Memo to self: Never start emails with bizarre greetings because no one will read beyond that.)
"This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.' "
This week, Chris challenged us to be willing to accept and pursue things that are new. In particular, God may be leading us to some new places and new things in order to reach more people for Him. I am on board with that. I think it is setting the stage for some pretty awesome things in the coming months. Sidney First UMC is an exciting place to be right now. Anyplace where God is moving and shaking is exciting.
It all keeps bringing to mind for me a question I read in Perry Noble's blog last week -- If you knew that you could never fail, what new or big thing would you do for God? If you're not doing it, are you being held back by a lack of courage or a lack of faith? Believe me, that question is really rolling through my mind.
Had a great point of celebration today, though bittersweet it is, in that one of our small group members has gotten so busy in his own mens' and youth ministries that he is having to drop out of our group. We will miss you, David. But God is so awesome in you and we so enjoy watching the wonderful things you are allowing Him to do through you!
We continued to work on our new fence this weekend along with our good friends John and Tiffany. They are much better at these home projects than I am and they have taught me so much. It has been neat working with them. An added benefit is that, in return for all of their hard labor and great camaraderie, we will be supporting them on their mission trip to Haiti in early 2008. Every time we work together, I thank God because I know that this fence project will be impacting lives in a meaningful way through John and Tiffany rather than us just pay some "fence guy" to put in the fence.
God is good.
I have noticed that as well.
It brings up the question for bloggers -- why do you blog?
My blogging goes in spells. Sort of like my reading actually. Perhaps the two go hand in hand. Reading results in blogging for me.
I have times when I feel creative and I really do want to share my thoughts with the world. Other times I don't feel so creative.
But most of the time I blog simply as a way of keeping a journal -- keeping track of things I think about. As I age, I find that is more and more important.
I have read of of some bloggers getting caught up in their stats. How many people are reading them, how many are looking at their profile, where are their readers' from, how long are they staying, etc. For me, that would be torture. I can be a bit O-C so it is best I never go the direction of worrying over my blog stats.
Sometimes my blogging is more spiritual than others. I have been going through a bit of a dry spell in that regards lately. I would like to say that I am listening for God rather than trying to talk over Him right now, and there would indeed be a fair amount of truth to that but, fact is too, I simply have really been immersed in real life to a degree that I have not been paying enough attention to my spiritual life lately. I know that isn't good but I do not know how to stuff more into a day or week than I do and yet I feel great responsibility to so many people to complete the work currently before me.
Wow ... that could be several blog posts of its own ... when I have time.
Why do you blog?
Over the years, Johnston has tackled many difficult subjects with sensitivity. Parents passing away, mid-life crisis, broken romances, homosexuality, Alzheimers, other illnesses, working moms, pets who pass away -- these are just a few that come to mind. Tackling these real work issues and having her characters age in the process has given me a sense of growing up with the Pattersons.
I will miss her daily new material but look forward to seeing whatever she does bring to us.
It makes me wonder though. For thirty years she has been creating a new daily strip. As much as the Pattersons are a part of my life, they are much more a part of her life.
This has to be a very difficult process for her. I have to imagine that each day she will think up new stories and ideas, only to realize that she will never really be able to live (or draw) them out. I trust though that she will handle it with the same grace and sensitivity which has hallmarked her comic strip.
Does your Mission stand as that beacon for those already involved with the organization -- a litmus test for performance? Or does it stand out there to tell prospective customers what you're all about?
It is a fine line between the two but a line nonetheless. Certainly the intent of your Mission is the same regardless of what audience you craft it toward. The difference, though, is in the voice, tenor, and attitude of the Mission. Those things make a big difference in how someone receives and processes a Mission Statement when they read it. In the case of "insiders," that can make a difference as to whether they are spurred to supportive action or lulled into complacency. For "outsiders," that nuance can make the difference whether they check you out or not and, if they do, what attitude they come with.
I was speaking to a good friend of mine recently for whom I have great respect. He owns a business with his brothers. They have a Mission statement but he is pretty blunt in telling everyone not to expect a lot of strategic verbiage from themselves beyond that. This is because they set the overriding goal out there, hire good people, and let them explore and figure out how to be successful.
I like that.
But the question still remains as far as with what "voice" a Mission Statement is written. Any ideas? This topic is worthy of a lot of fleshing out, I think.
I am really struggling, though, with Lisa Moore's cancer struggle in Funky Winkerbean and what appears to be her inevitable death. I know it seems odd, and perhaps I need therapy to help me work through this, but I feel very close to the characters in that comic and Lisa's loss is very real to me.
I do not know the details but my understanding is that Tom Batiuk, the cartoonist, has had his own cancer struggle. That has undoubtedly made his voice very clear and strong on this subject.
Do you read Funky Winkerbean and, if so, are you being affected with an overwhelming sense of sadness for these ink-on-paper people? While many bloggers I have read are very dismayed by the way Batiuk is handling this storyline, somehow, I think that we can all come out stronger on the other end of this story.
If you don’t want to be messy, clean every day.
If you want to get a pet, do your chores.
If you want to learn, then listen.
If you want to be a millionaire, then get a job.
If you don’t want to be messy, organize!
If you are afraid, make yourself comfortable.
If you want your brother to listen, speak kindly.
When you’re afraid, get a bowl of ice cream.
If you don’t want to play soccer, just play with a good attitude
If your room is messy, get a sweeper.
Don’t judge someone by how they look.
If you want to live forever, ask Jesus into your heart. (This one was Evan's.)
If you want to go to sleep quicker, relax and close your eyes until you go to sleep.
If you want to make friends, do not be shy and play with other people that you do not know.
This past Wednesday was one of my favorite days of the year. National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Normally, it's a good day for having a bit of fun around the office. But this year I was out of the office to attend an industry meeting on the subject of "Developing A Test Protocol To Determine The Air Permeability of Metal Roofing." I know,I know ... you're very envious of me because I get to go to riveting meetings like this. Sorry about your luck.
Oh, how I wanted to test my Pirate Speak in the meeting this week. But, when I told people of the importance of this auspicious day, they looked at me like I'd lost a third eye in a sword fight, they did. Arrrrrr.
But here's how the meeting could have gone ...
Me: "Avast ye scurvy scalawags. We have work to be done. Lay your swords down. We're all in this together, mateys."
John: "Um, yeah. So, how do you all think we can best develop this new test protocol?"
Me: "Arrr, I have a few ideas to run up the flagpole, if you all will so allow."
Scott: "Sure, Todd, go ahead."
Me: "Arrrr ... well blow me down just like a metal roof won't. If we be busy about checkin' the permeability of a product with da main sail beneath it, and then we compare without da main sail, there will be a big blow right through, there will."
Joe: "Okay, then. Well, does anyone else have any ideas?"
Me: "Arrrr. Now just a darn minute. You haven't heard me out on this yet. Ye be havin' to walk da plank if'n you're gonna behave like this. I didn't get this peg leg for being stupid, you know."
(Ken cautiously glances under the table.)
John: "Now, just a second. We didn't say you were stupid, Todd. We're just looking for ideas."
Me: "Arrrr. That's Cap'n Todd to you, squire! I'm telling you, if we lay down the mainsail and point her into the sunset, these arsephalt shingle guys will be rollin' over and turnin' da business over to us. Their products are as air permeable as Davey Jones locker, I tell ye!"
Ken: "Todd, I don't have any idea what you're trying to tell us. Does anyone know what he's saying?"
Me: "Arrr. Ken. What's wrong wid ya? Ya been forgettin' to eat yer limes every day?
I'm telling you mates ... the arsephalt shingle guys be throwin' the white flag soon if we can just work together and do as I say!"
(On second thought, maybe it was best that I didn't talk like a pirate during my meeting.)
There are few sacred times here in Ohio. But, of the couple that exist, they are incredibly sacred. Things you don't mess with. Times when (almost) every man, woman, and child in the entire state is cemented firmly in their family room, glued to the television. Times that no man dare interfere with lest he bring upon himself the wrath of his fellow man accompanied in all likelihood by a dose of pestilence thrown in for good measure.
Those times are ...
First and foremost, any Ohio State football game and ...
A distance but still crucial runner up ... the Bengals and Browns game.
Any man who interferes with one of these events ... well, God bless his poor soul. He might just find himself tarred and feathered or run out of town on a rail.
Are you guessing where this is leading?
This past Sunday afternoon found us not inside watching the Bengals - Browns game but instead in our back yard with some good friends digging post holes for our new fence.
Until about 3:30 ... which equates to about the middle of the third quarter of ... the Bengals and Browns game.
We hit a television cable wire. Not just our own cable but one that serves many neighbors as well. Plunged into football darkness, all of them. The end of one of Ohio's sacred times.
It wasn't long before neighbors started showing up in our yard. They knew that we were digging. They knew we were the culprits. Oh, in broad daylight they were being nice enough alright but I had visions of them showing up under the cover of darkness that night with pitchforks and hoods.
And, yes, we called before we dug. But we hit the wire anyway.
I called the cable company. The soonest they could get there would be Monday. This was Sunday. Not good. I was concerned that one of my neighbors might need to be taken to a stress center if the outage continued that long.
Fortunately one of the friends who was there was much more handy than I and, within an hour, he had made a temporary splice in the cable wire that returned Sunday afternoon NFL normalcy to our neighborhood.
Except the game was over.
I resisted but I had an overwhelming desire to break into the back of their ambulance, grab an I.V. stand or something, and drag it into the store while screaming "I can't believe you two left me in the back of the ambulance to die while you came in here and ate lunch!"
The beginning of the school year is one of my favorite times of the year. Though it's been years since I was sitting at a desk in a classroom, I get a little nostalgic when I see a school bus. I still take every opportunity I can to learn . . . and to teach.
So I was really flattered to get a letter from Professor F. Bailey Norwood at Oklahoma State University who is teaching a class in the Agricultural Economics Department. She is requiring all her students to read my book, "Pushing the Envelope."
Over the years, I've been contacted by a number of professors who use some of my books as textbooks or required reading for their classes. Many choose my first two books, "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive" and "Beware The Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt." Still others choose my networking book, "Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty." It's very gratifying to hear from students who have studied my work and have embraced the opportunity to learn from my successes and especially my failures. In education, we are striving to teach you not to make a living, but to make a life.
Professor Norwood asked me if I would write a letter to her class to "provide them encouragement and practical advice." She stressed how she wanted her "students to feel special, like they are more than just another tuition-paying student. This makes them work harder for me, which subsequently causes them to learn more."
Her letter was full of concepts I've written about, and I was delighted to fulfill her request. Education is an investment and never an expense.
The first thing I suggested to these students was not to just read "Pushing The Envelope." Study it! Underline it! Highlight it! Use Post-it notes!
School is a building that has four walls with tomorrow inside. And you must remember that unlike in school, employers don't pay off on effort, they pay off on results. And the best way to get results in any field is to know that knowledge does not become power until it is used . . . and ideas without action are worthless.
How can you improve your probability for success? Here are several points to consider:
No one can do it alone. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. If you study successful people, a large percentage of them had mentors along the way. And remember, mentors change over a lifetime. There are more people out there that are willing to help you than there are people asking for help. Bottom line ... never say no for the other person, which means don't be afraid to ask for advice and counsel.
If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I've met over a lifetime, I'd say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts. Networking is an art form and can be learned by anyone.
People don't care how much you know about them once they realize how much you care about them. Your chances of success increase dramatically if you work on your people skills.
My definition of teamwork is a collection of diverse people who respect each other and are committed to each other's successes. It's amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit.
There are two times in life when you are totally alone—just before you die and just before you make a five-minute speech. If you doubt the concept of eternity, try making a five-minute speech. You have three kinds of vocabulary—reading, writing and speaking. You cannot become a leader without being an outstanding communicator. I believe no one should be allowed to graduate from college without a course in public speaking. Whether you are talking to one person or 1,000, you are selling ideas.
I have never met a successful person who hasn't had to overcome either a little or a lot of adversity in his or her life. Therefore, there are three things in life that you must always remember:
Never give up.
Never give up.
Never give up.
Mackay's Moral: Have a great year and remember the 10 most powerful two-letter words in the English language—If it is to be, it is up to me.
The Raddison was nearby, looked nice enough, so I stopped in. And, sure enough, they had rooms, and the guy on desk duty was more than happy to set me up with one.
It was a nice enough place except for the fact that the folks in the room above me apparently decided to have a small parade in their room from about 3 - 5:30 a.m. A most peculiar time for a parade.
So, at 5, I decided I might as well get up and get working on some things. That was when I realized that there were a lot of mirrors in my room. A whole lot. 43-year-old people don't necessarily like mirrors, especially not at 5 a.m. when all of the wrinkles and bumps are still firmly pressed into our faces. There were eight mirrors in this hotel room. No, it wasn't "that kind of place" but there were eight mirrors. Isn't that odd? Why does a hotel room need eight mirrors?
In any event, I recently was in Madison, WI. It was the first time I have been there since Evan was born so I stopped by the airport gift shop to look for a keychain. Normally I like to find keychains that have something on them that the city is known for.
In Madison, here are the keychains I could choose from:
1) A plastic mug of beer that said "Wisconsin" on it.
2) A wedge of plastic cheese that said nothing on it. I liked the cheese but it said nothing about where it was from. I suppose one could assume it was from Wisconsin but, still, that bothered me.
3) A picture of a bunch of bears sitting at a bar, one who has recently fallen off of his stool due to drunkenness. It did say something about bears and Wisconsin that I really didn't understand.
4) A small plastic cow that squirts fake poo out its backside when you squeeze it. (If you know anything about nine-year-old boys, you know that they need absolutely no encouragement when it comes to things involving bodily functions.)
The end result: My son did not get a keychain from Madison ... not this trip at least.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:11
Peaceful Fruit – Is God interested in your happiness? Sometimes it doesn’t seem so, especially when we are in the midst of discipline. Then it seems as though God is only interested in obedience, no matter how painful my life will be. Happiness is not a word we find often in the Bible. But there’s a good reason why happiness is one of the least important biblical themes. The reason is this: happiness is a by-product of something else. It is not a worthwhile pursuit in itself, because chasing happiness is like chasing the rainbow. You can’t catch it. But you can discover that happiness catches you when you chase something else – peaceful fruit.
God wants you to be happy – but only as a result of the peaceful fruit that comes from spiritual discipline. Any other form of happiness is an end in itself, bound to leave your ultimate desire unfulfilled. That kind of happiness has a bad aftertaste. But when you stop chasing what can never satisfy, and let God do His training, you discover something sweet. In Greek, the words are karpon eirenikon.
Karpon is fruit. Here, of course, it is the fully nourished product of a healthy tree – you. The crucial word is eirenikon. It comes from eirene (peace). But we are not to understand it in the classical Greek sense. The Greek idea of peace is simply the “absence of war.” In the Greek world, war is the normal state of affairs. Peace was just the time when strife took a vacation (not very often, by the way). The New Testament does not consider peace as a derivative of war. It views peace from the Hebrew perspective – the equivalent of the Hebrew word shalom. Therefore, peace (shalom) is the intended and normal state of existence under God. The fruit of peace is wholeness, health, well-being, prosperity, good will, tranquility and right relationship. War upsets all of these intended characteristics of the fruit of discipline. In other words, war is a result of the lack of discipline.
Unless we think carefully, we fall into the trap of believing that tough times and hard battles only bring chaos and conflict. We start thinking like Greeks, and we pine away for the days of tranquility – the absence of war. But the biblical view is just the opposite (it usually is). Conflict is the mortar that God uses to build a house of peace. Discipline is the way to shalom, to peaceful fruit. The moments of discipline are designed to nourish and strengthen us so that we will not only experience good fruit, we will also discover that good fruit is good for us.
I am fortunate in that, despite my weight, I stay relatively healthy. My blood pressure, especially when I am away from the office for a few days, goes down to about 120/60. My cholestrol could be better but is not horrible either. So far, no diabetes though diabetes does worry me since there is a lot of it on both sides of my family. I have had some knee problems but I really feel those are more the fault of fibromyalgia than my weight. I struggle with fatique but there again that goes along with the fibro and Chronic Fatigue. Though I get sick of it in other ways, I am still "blessed" (if that is the right term -- okay, it definitely is not the right term) to be able to consistently work 70 - 80 hours each week.
But, try hard as I can to hide behind these things, there is no escaping the fact that I have a weight problem.
So far, this post has gone a very different direction from how I intended ... let's try to get back on track.
I really am not an over-eater though I do not always eat the best things. Sometimes I have fallen into a horrible habit of "justifying" the bad things I eat by thinking to myself "Sure, I had that ice cream cone but at least I didn't have those potato chips, too." I know how bad it is to think that way but sometimes that is what I do. I justify my poor eating habits on the basis that they could be worse.
The really bad thing about my doing this is that it is a pet peeve of mine. I see so many people, either in the workplace or their personal lives, justifying their poor behavior on the fact that they are not as bad as someone else. And that just drives me nuts.
Since when is it okay to not strive for all we can be -- all God intended us to be --just because someone else doesn't? This sort of self-justification really makes me crazy and I see it so often.
You may ask why I work 70 - 80 hour weeks. It may seem crazy to you. Yet I know that those kind of hours are necessary if I am going to come anywhere close to completing the work ahead of me. So, I become self-motivated to rise to the occasion and get the work done. If I don't want to do the work, then I need to change my situation. That is easier said than done but the point is that once I have accepted a task, I must rise to the occasion, not justify my poor performance on the basis of another's poorer performance.
When we justify our behavior by comparing ourselves to others, we fall into a pit of mediocrity ... we perpetuate a downhill spiral of mankind and behavior. Again, this applies to the workplace but also to our personal lives and behavior.
I know that I can justify my shortcomings just as quickly as anyone but we all really need to guard against it. They need to teach kids this stuff in school. It bothers me a great deal that, as a society, I see us declining in this area. There seems to be less and less respect for personal accountability and responsibility.
And that is not a good thing.
And yet I get nervous when God calls my name and bids me to do His work.
God is always there for us ... even when we have messed up.
God's Word endures forever -- it is a constant by which we should run our lives.
God is always watching over us and ultimately He is in control.
The real difficulty in defining a Christian conscience is that it is neither collective nor individual. It is personal, and it is a communion of saints.
From the point of view of prayer, when I say conscience, I am talking of this consciousness that is deeper than the moral conscience. When I pray, I am no longer talking to God or myself loved by God. When I pray, the Church prays in me. My prayer is the prayer of the Church.
This does not apply only to liturgy: it applies also to private prayer because I am a member of Christ. If I am going to pray validly and deeply, it will be with a consciousness of myself as being more than just myself when I pray. In other words, I am not just an individual when I pray, and I am not just an individual with grace when I pray. When I pray, I am in a certain sense, everybody. The mind that prays in me is more than my own mind, and the thoughts that come up in me are more than my own thoughts because this deep consciousness when I pray is a place of encounter between myself and God and between the common love of everybody. It is the common will and love of the Church meeting with my will and God's will in my consciousness and conscience when I pray.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their desires; 2 Timothy 4:3
Tickled – Has the time come when church members only want to hear what pleases their sensibilities? Have we stopped listening to God’s heart of compassion, His demand for holiness, His distress over the lost and His unwavering expectation of sacrifice? Unfortunately, all the evidence seems to say, “Yes.”
You know the statistics. What happens among Christians (so-called) is simply a mirror-image of what is happening in the world. In an effort to be relevant, Christians are no longer different. We have the same rate of divorce, the same kinds of addictions, the same family disintegrations, the same career obsessions, the same views on justice, education and politics as our cultural icons. Universally hated, systematically ridiculed, evangelicals have turned to the theology of conformity in an effort to be accepted. We eat the same, drive the same, talk the same, walk the same, play the same as any number of “good, moral” non-believers. Today, the church is just an institutionalized advertisement for proper manners and correct cultural roles. Our ears have been tickled until they are raw from scratching.
Knetho is the Greek verb for itching, scratching, scraping and tickling. All those images fit. We had an itch to make God into our success genie. We scratched that itch until we arrived at the idea that Christians should be models of worldly power and prestige. We scraped and clawed our way into political and economic influence. And we are now tickled pink. We made it. We can proudly drive a Mercedes, own a vacation home, enjoy a luxury hotel and fit right in on the golf course – while the rest of the world can quite literally go to hell.
It was so subtle. First we were taught that charity begins at home. Then we were given instructions that God loves to shower us with material blessings. Then we stop talking about sin. Then we adopted theological nationalism (you know – being a “good American” stuff). Finally, we gave in to our desires for glory (and left behind the “take up your cross” verses).
Paul anticipated this collapse. Actually, it is a constant truth of every generation. I can’t pass along salvation to the next generation. Neither can I pass along the commitment to discipleship. That’s what’s missing. I am quite sure that God doesn’t care one bit about your jet ski, your car, your house or your IRA. I mean that He doesn’t care if you have them or if you don’t. What you possess is not the issue. Why you possess them is critical. A disciple knows that the way of the cross is hard. It demands foregoing what I legitimately could have in order to reflect the heart of a God Who gives. Motivation is everything. If I have in order everything to preserve myself and my life, how am I exhibiting dependence? If I have everything in order to achieve success, how am I demonstrating sacrifice? If I have everything in order to be accepted, how am I proclaiming His holiness?
In this world, you can be tickled to death.
As you all may recall, I wrote a book last year based upon my trip to Israel in March 2006. It was accepted for publication but, in my typical fashion, I have felt the overwhelming need to give it one more "go over" before it goes to press.
I know it's silly because the publisher is just barely a step above a vanity press but I still have wanted to do one more edit.
And, in my typical fashion, doing so has been back burnered for months. Until now ... the publisher is making it very clear that I need to get my act together and get the book to them quickly.
So, I will be spending time on it for the next several days instead of blogging.
Be back soon though. I promise.
Alderbrook is a very old property recently revitalized by new owners who, as I understand it, are "Microsoft Millionaires". In fact, right next door to Alderbrook is a "compound" of houses and other buildings owned by Bil Gates' parents and I have been told that his mother has something to do with the management of Alderbrook.
I just want to say that Alderbrook is a wonderful place. Beautifully decorated and designed with attention to quality and customer care at every corner. It has been a very nice place to visit and I would encourage you to check it out the next time you are in the Pacific Northwest.
Don't be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They'll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they're animals. Stay clear of these people.
These are the kind of people who smooth-talk themselves into the homes of unstable and needy women and take advantage of them; women who, depressed by their sinfulness, take up with every new religious fad that calls itself "truth." They get exploited every time and never really learn. These men are like those old Egyptian frauds Jannes and Jambres, who challenged Moses. They were rejects from the faith, twisted in their thinking, defying truth itself. But nothing will come of these latest impostors. Everyone will see through them, just as people saw through that Egyptian hoax.
You've been a good apprentice to me, a part of my teaching, my manner of life, direction, faith, steadiness, love, patience, troubles, sufferings—suffering along with me in all the grief I had to put up with in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. And you also well know that God rescued me! Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there's no getting around it. Unscrupulous con men will continue to exploit the faith. They're as deceived as the people they lead astray. As long as they are out there, things can only get worse.
But don't let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers—why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother's milk! There's nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us- yes, establish the work of our hands. - Psalm 90:17
Many of us begin our careers with the goal of achieving success. If we haven't entered our work as a result of God's calling, we will eventually face a chasm of deep frustration and emptiness. Success flatters but does not provide a lasting sense of purpose and fulfillment. So often we enter careers with wrong motives-money, prestige, and even pressure from parents or peers. Failing to match our work with our giftedness and calling is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. If that happens over an extended period, a person crashes.
At this time, many make another mistake. Workplace believers think that beginning a new career in "full-time Christian work" will fill the emptiness they feel. However, this only exacerbates the problem because they are again trying to put another square peg into a round hole. The problem is not whether we should be in "Christian work" or "secular work," but rather what work is inspired by gifts and calling. If there is one phrase I wish I could remove from the English language it is "full-time Christian work." If you are a Christian, you are in full-time Christian work, whether you are driving nails or preaching the gospel. The question must be, are you achieving the God-given calling for your life? God has called people into business to fulfill His purposes just as much as He has called people to be pastors or missionaries.
It is time for workplace believers to stop feeling like second-class citizens for being in business. It is time workplace believers stop working toward financial independence so that they can concentrate on their "true spiritual calling." This is the great deception for those called to business.
Significance comes from fulfilling the God-given purpose for which you were made. Ask Him to confirm this in your own life.
But, in any event, as a marketer, I have been looking at social networks for their marketing capabilities more than anything. Social networks are not going away. Increasingly, they will be a way to form contacts and spread the word about goods and services.
At the time, I felt frustrated for the little guy. I felt like I was really seeing first-hand where the term "bird brained" came from. But, as I thought about it, I admired the bird. This hummingbird could not see anyplace but "up". Amidst a situation of great stress and frustration, it always looked vertical, not out or down or within.
Wish I could be like that.
I remember a few years ago when the word "process" started to be bandied around all over the place, as in "he's a big process guy" or "we must define the process". It took me awhile but eventually I figured out that "process" really wasn't anything more than what we had started using the word "system" to mean 20 years prior to that. And we thought we were all "cutting edge" when we did that, too!
I think that sometimes we become our own worst enemies, convincing ourselves that we are smarter and more advanced than those who went before us.
That is a dangerous place to go if you ask me but human nature and pride do so want to take us there.
That is a fault of mine.
I am sure that ultimately this crosses gender lines but I have read many times that it is often the root cause of a major disconnect between men and women.
Like I said, it is a fault of mine. I want to fix things.
I recently read "No More Christian Nice Guy" by Paul Coughlin and most of the book drove me nuts. He spends about 80% of the book explaining what a Christian Nice Guy (CNG) is and what the negative results of being a CNG will be. He explains the things in our childhood that can shape a man who is a CNG and he also explains how the contemporary church has tried to shape men to be CNGs.
I saw myself in a lot of this. Especially in the things from our childhood that can shape us to be a CNG. I did not see a lot of emphasis in our church on this.
But as I read this all, I just wanted the answer. I wanted the quick fix. I want to find the switch from being "nice" as Coughlin calls it to being "good," which he says is a preferable state.
It bothered me greatly that ultimately he didn't tell me where to find that switch from nice to good.
But it also made me think.
Coughlin paints the "nice" guy as being weak and ineffective ... afraid to confront fears, afraid to stand up for what he knows is right ... whereas the "good" guy sheds those fears and better lives into being the man God calls him to be.
Ultimately, I still struggle with the differentiation. I want to be both "nice" and "good". Or I want to rename the "nice" guy to be the "ineffective" guy and the "good" guy to be the "effective" guy.
Maybe I am trying to avoid the truth but I just don't see the cut and dry difference between "nice" and "good" that Coughlin sees. I think that God calls us to be nice and gentle and caring but ultimately, certainly, He calls us to be effective. He calls us to be forceful when we must be and firm with the Truth we know, but yet "niceness" can help guide how we do this (in my opinion).
Guys -- I am not saying to "not" read this book. In fact, I would love to hear others' takes on it. It was just that the book fell sort of flat for me by not giving a clear cut path from "nice" to "good" and ultimately that left me really second-guessing the very validity of his premise.
God never gives up on us. We must be prepared to run the entire race for Him.
Do not worry about "how" God might use me. Don't get caught up in wondering about my gifts and talents. Instead, just be prepared and follow Him however, wherever, and whenever.
Do not lose hope if results are not immediate.
Lord, you have given me much trouble…
You have obligated me to decide if the Kingdom of God is what I truly desire, or if it’s just the Christian religion I really want after all.
Good night Lord. Amen.
This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. 2 Thessalonians 1:5
Plain Indication – What is the most obvious indication of your faith? That’s the question Paul answers in these few verses from his letter. But before we see his indication, we need to pause and reflect on our own lives. What is the plain evidence that you are in the service of Jesus? The Greek word (endeigma) is the actual evidence, the real, tangible demonstration obvious to anyone who looks. Notice that it is evidence for anyone who looks. That means that your unbelieving friends and neighbors, your skeptical colleagues at work, your apostate relatives, even people that you do not know, should be able to point to clear evidence of God’s hand in your life.
Have you determined what fits the criterion for you? Then, you are ready for Paul’s answer. The plain evidence of God’s righteous judgment over you is suffering! Look at verse 4. Paul exhorts the Christians at Thessalonica to see their suffering as the plain mark of God’s choice. They are counted worthy of the kingdom because they are walking in Jesus’ footprints, the same bloody footprints that lead to the cross.
What a damning critique this verse is for most contemporary, middle-class Christians today! We have been seduced into believing that the mark of a Christian is success, comfort, peace and prosperity. We run from suffering as though it is the epitome of the enemy’s frontal attack. Our perspective has been so twisted that we are on the wrong side of the fence without knowing it. Jesus said it plainly. “If you love me, the world will hate you.” But we act as if He was mistaken. We think that being a good Christian means that God will insure that the world loves us. How ridiculous! If you stand for the vision and values of the Lord of hosts, everything under the control of the prince of this world stands against you. The call to every believer is to come, suffer and die – not to come, enjoy and succeed. If the clear evidence of suffering for the kingdom is not found in your life, then how are you any different from those who don’t believe? If your goals are to achieve the American dream, or any other form of peace and prosperity, then where is the plainly obvious difference between you and the legions in league with the enemy? You can’t have it both ways. If the plain evidence is missing, then there is something wrong with your value system.
Does this mean that we should pursue suffering? Not at all! God is not interested in suffering for suffering’s sake. Paul is simply pointing out that if you are suffering because of your obvious stand for Jesus, you should not be surprised. You should be thrilled. This is the plain evidence that God has chosen you to be worthy of the kingdom.
So, take a look! What’s the obvious evidence in your life? What does it shout to others? Oh, by the way, if you happen to be suffering as a result of God’s choice, why are you complaining?
A story has been told about Luther sitting at his table at mealtime, and Luther's dog was also there. Luther's dog was almost always there. The dog's name was Topol. The kindest translation of that name would be "rascal." As the dog was there, Dr. Luther was eating and Topol was very carefully watching him eat his meat, and the dog was hoping for a morsel from Luther's hand. Luther said, "Ah, if I could only pray the way that dog looks at meat. All his thoughts are on that morsel. He thinks, wishes, and hopes about nothing else. But my heart fails because it cannot hold to prayer without wandering."
I don't know about you but I have wondered a lot over the years about Bono's faith and beliefs. Though it has been out a couple of years, I have never read his autobiography; I didn't even know it existed. (I may add it to my reading list.) However, you can LINK HERE for an interview with Bono that appeared in Christianity Today which sheds some insight. I am not sure that I yet fully understand his faith but I do now know why Pope John Paul II was wearing Bono's sunglasses.