Have you ever wondered, What do I have to do to live a stable life, to not be twisted with every fierce wind of opposition or pulled from what is right to what is ultimately degrading? How can I have the kind of healthy fellowship with God that will bring joy and fulfillment?
The Denver West Point Society hosted its first Leadership and Ethics Conference for high school juniors in Colorado. It was entitled “Living an Honorable Life.” General (ret) George Casey served as the keynote speaker. I had the privilege of hosting at my table six juniors—Amaya, Grace, Elias, Sandra, Caleb and Haley representing three different high schools and towns. We studied vignettes that featured moral/ethical dilemmas with the students working through ethical decision-making models to reach wise solutions.
Marianne got up out of the driver’s seat and left our van. I wondered where she was going and was amazed at what I saw. She walked about fifty feet away to a man pulling luggage out of his car. She grabbed his suitcase rolled it to the van and lugged it up the stairs before depositing it in the luggage rack. His bag was huge and she was probably in her sixties. When he climbed into the vehicle with the rest of his gear, he seemed embarrassed that this slight, gray-haired woman carried his heaviest suitcase.
2 Corinthians 7:5—In fact, when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest. Instead, we were troubled in every way: conflicts on the outside, fears inside.
There is an old proverb, “Misery loves company.” No one wants to suffer alone unless it is with a heightened knowledge that others are spared. Understanding that we are not alone when we traverse tough times can in many ways bolster our morale. This is yet another reason why Scripture is so powerful. It gives us hope when we are discouraged.
1 Chronicles 11:6—David said, “Whoever is the first to kill a Jebusite will become chief commander.” Joab son of Zeruiah went up first, so he became the chief.
Words definitely matter. So do our actions. On the surface, it appears that King David made a pretty smart decision. He needed to defeat the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem who had a successful history of repelling would-be conquerors. In fact, they told David, “You will never get in here” (vs. 5). David needed a general to lead Israel’s army so he issued the challenge in our verse for meditation. The king got what he wanted. Zeruiah’s three sons, Joab, Abishai and Asahel were all warriors and Joab seized the opportunity afforded by David’s challenge, and killed the first Jebusite.
I can imagine what happened. She had lived there too long. Over time, she grew increasingly used to the sleaze to the point where the vices probably no longer shocked her. No doubt she and her friends gossiped about the bizarre and strange conduct of the city’s inhabitants. Perhaps she was close to the two men soon to marry her daughters. Even her husband hesitated—unsure about leaving. In the end when the persistent angels grabbed their hands and pulled the four of them outside the city warning them to run and not look back, she didn’t get far before she turned away just once to see what should not be seen. That turning away made her a pillar of salt. (Gen. 19)
A home improvement con artist swindled a 100 year-old blind woman. He rang the woman's bell, unsolicited, to offer to do any repair work needed. The woman told him that for years she had struggled with a door that was difficult to open because it rubbed against the rug. To fix the problem, she agreed to pay the man $8,000, to jack up her house.
Recently, I was talking to John, one of our attendees at The Road Home who works at Gunderson, a manufacturing and assembly plant that makes cast steel parts. John shared how he and a team of workers had to travel to China to investigate why the parts they were receiving from the foundry in China were breaking. What they discovered was profound.
Nine young men sat on the hardwood court as I read to them a short sport story and then gave two applications. They listened attentively to the lesson on courage. After sharing I handed them each a copy to put in their notebooks. The practice was over but one player lingered to read the story on his own. Another stood silent as his dad animatedly discussed the paper with him. One of the mothers came and commented on how much she appreciated the character lessons.
We must have looked funny to the children and women watching us. Here we were, six men—each of us incapable of separating two plastic buckets. We tried twisting and pulling to no avail. One man used his pocket knife. I tried dropping the buckets on the floor. We could bend the plastic but we could not get one orange pail free from the other. It was like someone had super glued each set of buckets together. It felt like our manhood was on the line—this was getting embarrassing!
Acts 20:28--Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.
In my backyard are several fruit trees. Each one is shielded to some degree from the traversing sun by fir, cedar and maple that are older and tower above them. What is fascinating is how the apple, cherry, plum and apricot contort their branches in the best direction possible to capture maximum sunlight.
Five men camped along the Tulik River in the remote tundra of the Arctic Circle near the Brooks Range. Our intent was to hunt caribou and ptarmigan and fish for grayling. For many men, few things exceed the thrill of hunting. It is a great test of wit, skill, perseverance, and careful planning which, if executed properly, results in the successful acquisition of food. It was a time of camaraderie and challenge.
He rolled up to the sidelines in a wheelchair and I couldn’t help but wonder what thoughts crisscrossed his mind. Soccer is not a game for the lame. Yet he came out to watch perhaps wistfully at what he could no longer do, or at peace—able still to enjoy an event in which his friends were engaged. He reminded me of Bryan, my 12-year-old hero.
There are moments in life we never forget—life-changing encounters. One of mine came as a “firstie”, a senior at West Point. I asked an older friend known for his wisdom to meet with me to discuss the topic of serving. On the day we met, he looked me in the eye and said, “Danny, we don’t need to talk about serving, we need to talk about pride.” He then lovingly shared three specific examples of pride he observed in my life from one dinner conversation in his home.
The subway trains at SEATAC Airport run every two minutes connecting terminal to terminal. They are efficient, effective and psychologically comforting to those who dread the thought of missing their flight. After all, we live in a culture that does not like having to wait.
Across the table sat a man of large girth and hostile demeanor—one who formerly had served as his platoon sergeant. This noncommissioned officer faced legal charges that if successful, would eject him from the army dishonorably. He had been caught stealing equipment from his own soldiers, lying and shirking his duties. Now, less than a year later, enough charges had accumulated to bring him to trial.
There are few things which reveal a person’s heart so well as money. Consider the rich young man Jesus met (Matthew 19:16-22). He honesty wondered what good thing he must do to gain life without end. He had been faithful to keep God’s commandments. Jesus said, ““If you want to be perfect,”Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me” (vs. 21). Faced with the prospect of relinquishing his wealth, the rich man sadly departed.