My son Bryan was invited to share his story at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He was one of two featured speakers on a night when almost every participant in the room shared some kind of disability. Disabilities included Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), asthma, depression, cancer, arthritis, etc. Each person was asked to write a poem about their challenges and to highlight what was bad as well as what was good. Then, throughout the evening, volunteers could come to the front of the room and share what they wrote.
John the Baptist was discouraged. The imprisoned forerunner to Jesus was unable to personally witness Jesus at work. He begin to have doubts as to if Jesus truly was the Messiah. So he sent his disciples to ask the Lord, “Are You the One who is come, or should we look for someone else?” It was an honest question from a godly prophet.
Luke 7:22--He replied to them, “Go and report to John the things you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.
There is a popular phrase passed along by leaders, “Always praise publically, criticize or correct privately.” Unfortunately, this gets violated all too often in organizations where insecure or unthoughtful people publicly criticize employees, family members, or co-workers. I once had a fellow team member complain to the program director over his offense at some of my closing remarks. Rather than just come and tell me, he went “over my head.” When the director mentioned his complaint to me I was surprised and lost respect for a fellow leader who prides himself in leading yet was unprofessional by not speaking directly to me.
AC Stein fought as an infantryman in the Korean War. During one ground battle AC was pinned down in a trench under severe artillery bombardment. His comrades were dying all around him when suddenly the man next to him was shot and mortally wounded. In great fear, AC recited the only Jewish prayer he could remember from his childhood. As he looked up at a bare tree above him he saw an angel sitting there. The angel said, “AC, you will live. Just stay down in the trench.” As it turned out he was the only man to survive that heavily-attacked ditch.
The word eristicis of Greek origin and refers to those who argue simply for the purpose of winning, regardless of the reason. The word animus comes to us from Latin and means strong dislike. We know this as animosity. While these two words share nothing in common, I believe that the former can lead to the latter causing the two to become intricately linked.
Do you remember growing up hearing the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!?” The intent of that couplet is to steel us against teasing and badgering but, the reality is, words can internally leave nasty marks. Cruel, mean-spirited, or foul comments may inflict enduring damage and color the way we view the antagonist.
Professor Richard Wisemen set up a website where users could submit jokes and then rate the funniest one. The winning joke goes like this:
"A couple of hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing, and his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls emergency services. He gasps to the operator, “My friend is dead. What can I do?” The operator says, “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy’s voice comes back on the line. He says, “OK, now what?”
Often each week I focus time in prayer for my family. Specifically, I ask that every one of my children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews would faithfully walk with God and that they would have a deep love for Him. I am thankful that my parents pray the same thing for me! Living for God is never something we can take for granted. The reality, as you already know, is that we live in a temptation-laced world. Our wills constantly grapple with God’s will. So easily we can be enticed to embrace, chase, proclaim and invite into our lives earth’s delicacies that look appealing, yet leave us sick and empty. How many people wander away from God simply because no one is praying for them?
Coach Lou Holtzwas quoted as saying, “Never tell your problems to anyone...20% don't care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” Holtz has a great sense of humor; let’s just hope his findings are inaccurate! Most people don’t want to spend their time listening to others complain. As I write this, I recall a person I used to avoid taking phone calls from because his pattern was to grumble at great lengths about his circumstances. By the end of the call I was irritated. This person never seemed to be happy feeling only bad things were afoot.
We sang in worship this morning a song that included a desire to present to God an inside that was both clean and committed. It reminded me of the words of another song, “Cleanse my heart O God.” I’ve probably sung that song a hundred times without dwelling on the fact that unless my focus is heart-centric cleansing is superficial at best. In any area that I have not surrendered to God from the core of my being, I continue to struggle. For example, I know that when my wife is talking to me I should listen. Yet, because I am intent on getting my work done or enjoying my activity, I do not give her my full attention. Mentally I ought to be able to fix inattentiveness and focus on what Kathleen is saying but without a surrendered heart it is just not so. The problem at the core is I am more concerned with my things than with her things.
You could hear them screaming at each other five offices away. Heads poked out to see what was going on—I was afraid words would escalate to blows, but fortunately that did not happen. Don looked like he was going to have a heart attack, his face was beet red and he was shaking. Rich’s jaw was clenched and his palms rolled into fists but with three of us coaxing we managed to get them separated and back into their own offices.
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.
In his book, Lincoln on Leadership, Donald Phillips quotes Abraham Lincoln in a conversation with the Assistant Secretary of Navy, Gustavus Fox, “A man has not time to spend half his life in quarrels. If any man ceases to attack me, I never remember the past against him.” Earlier in October of 1863, Lincoln sternly reprimanded Army Captain James Cutts, “No man resolved to make the most of himself, can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper, and the loss of self-control.” President Lincoln had little patience for arguments. Rather than let himself get bogged down by incessant disputes he chose to live above the fray. At a time when America was deeply divided in war, his personal conduct created the path to restoring union.
In the Philippines it is culturally considered embarrassing to be asked a question and to not know the answer. So, if I am out driving and I ask a bystander for directions, I may get directions even if the person has no clue what the correct way is. Therefore, one must always beware of heeding advice and acting on it without getting a second or third opinion. Filipinos do not like to say “I don’t know.”
Every evening at sundown, 78 year-old Don Brittain stands on his back porch, places his trumpet on his lips, and plays Taps. At the first sound of the 24 notes his neighbors stop what they are doing and walk outside to stand at attention. Most of them have never served in the military. Nor has Don who suffered polio as a child. Yet, like this aerospace worker who chooses to honor our military veterans, they are gripped and inspired by the solemn music he so carefully plays. And as much as his ritual is for the military, it is also for his neighbors. Lyle shared reporter Steve Hartman’s story with me and you can view and listen as well if you go to
Acts 2:36,37—“Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” When they heard this, they came under deep conviction and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”
Luke 22:36-38—Then He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money-bag should take it, and also a traveling bag. And whoever doesn’t have a sword should sell his robe and buy one. For I tell you, what is written must be fulfilled in Me. And He was counted among the outlaws. Yes, what is written about Me is coming to its fulfillment.”
“Lord,” they said, “look, here are two swords.”
“Enough of that!” He told them.
Four of us were enjoying an informal time of fellowship when the topic came up of how we identify with Christ around others. One of the men pulled out his cell phone and showed how it had an icon of Christ as his background photo. Ron said he had also had a picture representing Christ on his phone. He pulled it out to show us, but all we could see was icons of missed calls that blocked the picture underneath.
Curiosity is a powerful thing. If you are in a group and happen to notice two people whispering to each other don’t you have an urge to know what they are saying? We don’t typically like it when people keep from us secrets. Nor do we appreciate it when those who are in charge withhold information we would like to know. I remember the stress on Matt and Angie, our neighbors, when Nike was getting ready to lay off hundreds of employees. For weeks they were in suspense as to whether they would keep their jobs. Fortunately they both did, but the stress of not knowing weighed heavily on them.