John George graduated into heaven recently. He was a man for whom I will eternally be grateful. At a time when I was a cocky senior at West Point, he accurately confronted me about pride and forever changed my life. John knew that the Bible warns us in Proverbs 16:18 that “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” His exhortation scared me to death that God would not use me for His kingdom.
James 4:13-17--Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.
Exodus 23:5—If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, and you want to refrain from helping it, you must help with it.
If I see that my enemy, Joe, is in trouble, my natural reaction is to think, “He is getting what he deserves for his poor behavior and attitude!” and to walk past him without providing assistance. Basically Joe’s misfortune is deserved because of past, poor behavior and I should not interfere with his karma.
General Vladimir Sukhomlinov was the Russian Minister of War from 1909-1915. He was a cavalry officer and a war hero during Russia’s war with Turkey in the 1870s. Unfortunately, Sukhomlinov decided that he knew everything that there was to know about warfare. His decorations, record and position bolstered his self-importance despite the fact that Russia lost territory and huge numbers of dead and wounded to the Japanese from 1904-1905.
Michael "Mikey" Weinstein allegesthat while a cadet at the Air Force Academy (AFA) he was psychologically harassed, faced anti-Semitic slurs, death threats, and “two incidents of hazing where he was ambushed, beaten, and in one case hospitalized.” Both of his sons who also attended the AFA, also experienced Christian proselytizing and derogatory statements directed at their Jewish heritage. Weinstein decided that the best approach to eliminating anti-Semitism and Christian proselytizing was to launch the Military Religious Freedom Foundation(MRFF),“formed as a watchdog organization to protect religious freedom in the military in accordance with Department of Defense Directive 1300.17, Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services.” MRFF was nominated on five occasions for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Imagine if a few influential leaders suggested that traffic lights are too restrictive. They offend a percentage of drivers who feel trapped and forced to conform to other motorists. Three-way lights are insensitive to the needs of the color blind and old fashioned. Either do away with them or give each driver leeway to determine whether to brake or accelerate. Of course, if this really happened there would be an outcry by safety-minded drivers for the ruckus and accidents that would ensue.
Robert Lawless was born February 10, 1949 in Wheatland, Wyoming. His parents abandoned him when he was six months old along with his 18 month-old sister and 3 year-old brother. They were left in an apartment alone for two weeks and near death when Child Services found them. After spending several weeks in a hospital a Nebraska family named Lawless adopted Bob and his brother. He would never see his sister again. His new parents moved them to Salem, Oregon and then they divorced. At the age of fourteen, Bob went to live with an aunt and uncle. As a teenager his life was full of wildness, jail time and repeated failures.
Job 6:24—Teach me, and I will be silent. Help me understand what I did wrong.
As the manager of a midsize division, Lu was responsible for millions of dollars of merchandise and about a hundred employees. The CEO was impressed by her tenacity and creative mind in fixing problems. The board saw her as a rising star so almost everyone was shocked when she resigned. She gave her new boss Calvin virtually no advance notice of her intentions and left at a time of major restructuring. Lu had accepted the offer of a smaller division within the same company but located in another state. She felt the job, though less prestigious, was a better fit for her skill set and it was much closer to her family.
Across the parade field spanning more than the length of a football field, flags of every unit fluttered in the breeze. Though the July temperature was chilly, the sun broke through as if to announce this was a joyous occasion. Soldiers moved in unison to snappish bugle commands. The crisp roar of measured cannon fire honored the presence of I-Corps' three-star commander. When the band played it was not hard to sit up straighter and admire the formations of men and women sworn to defend their nation's Constitution.
Luke 10:15—And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will go down to Hades!
In his book, Follow Me, Pastor Jan Hettinga wrote, “Has your ‘right to yourself’ felt the ax? That’s what salvation is designed to accomplish. True repentance and faith ego-proof us. Our independent self-rule is broken at the cross.” Humility can be measured by the air we exhale. Self-focused leaders constantly inflate their glory balloons. If they are not puffing up, they blow away any who might disagree or question them. Their need for grandeur is always tethered to insecurity.
There is a slang term in the English language, brown nose. It means to seek favor in a fawning manner. For example, someone may pay you a compliment to make you feel good about yourself while in reality what that person wants is simply to gain your favor. People brown nose to gain a higher standing. Those who observe people brown nosing, often ridicule them directly or behind their back because the action smacks of flattery and a lack of genuineness.
Brian came over and sprayed Crossbow on the Rubus fruticosuson the field behind my house. About two thirds of the plants died. So I sprayed the remaining plants three weeks later, waited a few more weeks, then rented a brush beater to cut the dried stalks at their base. Later I raked the dead plants off the hill. Incredibly, there are new shoots growing and it is apparent my work is not done! Because of their thorns, deep root system and amazing rate of growth, I have to destroy those blackberry plants or they will take over the hill.
The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest single day in the history of the United States. On September 17, 1862, 23,110 casualties littered the ground fought between Confederate and Union Armies. Antietam is a small river in the state of Maryland close to West Virginia and Pennsylvania. As I walked the battleground today, I could not help but think of all of the lives lost and the folly of a leader who could have ended the Civil War but instead prolonged it.
In twelve years of living in Tigard I don’t ever recall a snowfall that lasted more than two days. This is day five and the yard is still covered! Roads are slushy and in parts treacherous. Of course our cousins in Minnesota and North Dakota laugh at our frailty. They live with such conditions for months at a time. In the newspaper I read a woman’s bewildered commentary. Her husband was cursed and mocked by many passersby for shoveling the driveway—a time honored tradition in the Midwest. Evidently snow and ice bring out the best and worst in Oregonians.
A small crowd of perhaps a hundred gathered for the tree lighting. Four strands of multicolored lights ran up the 40-foot fir. The air was festive and the mood light. Christmas songs were sung off-key while boys and girls eyes roved frantically for Santa. One after another dignitaries walked forward and gave their remarks. Then the emcee asked the Chaplain to give the blessing.
Vanadium stared at the brawny sweat-laden arms of Dowson as he slammed the pick repeatedly into the soil. All she wanted was a nice hole. But he was getting nowhere. Finally, frustrated and tired he motioned for her to come outside. “It’s no use! This hill is made of granite. Are you sure we can’t put this feeder somewhere else?”
Sometimes for relaxation, I will sit down and watch the fish in our aquarium. Their territorial battles, peculiar habits, and beautiful coloring make for interesting (albeit slow) entertainment. We purchased our 60-gallon tank in San Diego and had it for over 12 years. Then one morning I awoke to find the water level had dropped. Horror of horrors, the glass zoo had sprung a leak. Now it sits in our backyard and holds plants and the occasional frog we happen to catch.
James Hewett, in Illustrations Unlimited, tells the story of an Irish priest, who, newly arrived in New York City, decided to visit the Bowery—a haven of homeless alcoholics and other derelicts. While walking the streets he suddenly felt a gun against his ribs. Then he heard a raspy voice: “All right mister, gimme all your money!” As he quickly reached for his wallet the holdup man noticed his clerical garb. Overcome with shame the thief said, “Forgive me, Father. I didn’t know you were a priest.” The priest replied, “That’s all right, Son. Just repent of your sin. Here, have a cigar.” The robber replied, “Oh, no, thank you, Father, I don’t smoke during Lent.”
I don’t know about you, but I personally find it a challenge to submit my reputation, rights and responsibility to God’s authority. When wronged by someone else, my instinct is to seek retribution. For most of my life I’ve possessed a fierce need to defend myself. If my family, friends or teachers pointed out flaws in my conduct or character I was adept at making excuses. Of course all of this posturing can be explained by one word—PRIDE.