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.
Have you ever been frustrated by something that should work and doesn’t? For the last several months I’ve had a rotten time trying to charge my phone. I purchased several charging cords but the connection always seemed to be an issue to the point where many times I would have to hold the phone and firmly push the cord to get a steady charge. I was just about to take the phone into the store and replace it when I had an idea. Taking a pin I probed the cavity where the cord connected and immediately all kinds of dirt and matted hair began to come loose. Honestly, I felt pretty foolish—no wonder the phone was not properly charging—it was plugged up with debris.
Sadie is amazing. Her body is constantly wracked in arthritic pain yet her countenance reveals mostly joy. She has more broken bones than most football players. Her abusive husband died leaving her penniless and with no insurance to handle her ever-mounting medical bills. Still, she does not complain. Her ’96 faded blue Ford Taurus won’t start so she must rely on the help of others to get around until she can find the money to pay a mechanic to fix it. Her son is addicted to meth and her daughter is in her fourth relationship with a man who is a total controller. If anyone was a candidate for bitterness it would be Sadie. Yet she is serene and confident in her faith. She consistently encourages others—an empathy distributing angel in a world of mean, selfish people. What is her secret?
Cabe and Rhonda are trashing their lives. He is an alcoholic and she is a spendaholic. While they love each other, their weaknesses create a bad spiral. Rhonda gets frustrated by the long hours Cabe works and so she rationalizes going on spending sprees. When Cabe gets the credit card bill inwardly he is so mad at Rhonda that he knows he will say things he will regret, so he gets drunk instead. Unfortunately what then comes out of his mouth is even worse. Sadly, both of them know God and inwardly understand that their behavior is unacceptable, but they will not be exiting their spiral anytime soon because of the way they are treated by fellow Christians.
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.
Colossians 3:5,8,12,13—Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry . . . But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth . . . Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.
Knowledge is the gateway to freedom. But my freedom may cause another to become shackled. When this happens, the fragrance that once surrounded my thinking becomes a stench before God. Let me give a hypothetical cultural example. From Scripture, I learn that I am to love people. In American culture, it is common and acceptable in most situations for a man to hug a woman. Let us say I travel to India where such action is frowned upon. Because of my knowledge of Scripture and my own culture, I have no problem hugging an Indian woman in the presence of my Indian brothers because I am free to express love with no sense of guilt or temptation. Now two things have occurred.
How fantastic would it be if we could read minds? Imagine if you could see the exact thoughts running through the brains of your family, neighbors, coworkers and even enemies! Perhaps it would not be such a great thing. It might be convicting, maddening, or massively discouraging. I propose that our behavior would be the main element that triggered people’s thoughts towards us and this would certainly heighten our awareness of consequences.
I was privileged recently to attend a gathering in San Antonio, Texas, of World War II veterans from the 104thTimberwolf Division. These venerable survivors gather each year to reminisce of war memories, catch up in recent events and celebrate each other along with any accompanying children affectionately known as “pups.”
Imagine you were stranded in a desert for a week eventually exhausting all supplies. Around the wadi comes a camel-striding stranger who sees your plight and says, “Here, let me help you.” He then pulls out a canteen and hands it to you. Grateful, you place the container on your lips and wait for life-renewing water. But the canteen is empty. “What kind of cruel joke is this!” you ask. The stranger smiles and says, “Ah, it is not the liquid but the thought of liquid that is sufficient.”
Major General T.K. Moffett walked back and forth in front of the assembled soldiers. The new boss from Mississippi had just finished his first day commanding the 104th Division and he elected to share with his soldiers his leadership philosophy:
#1. Do the right thing
#2. Treat others the way you would like to be treated
#3. Do your best.
I picked up the sports section of The Oregonian dated February 5, 2002 and read Selena Roberts article about a sixteen-year-old ice skater, Sarah Hughes. Selena wrote:
“You know Sarah Hughes? She flutzes.” The words usually have come in the form of a whisper in some back corridor of a rink, in the back alley of a figure skating competition, from adults turned adolescents . . .Who started it, no one really knows. Maybe an opposing coach, a certain judge, a chatty critic. But from every direction, Hughes is hearing and reading how she takes off on the wrong edge as she enters her lutz, making it what’s called a flutz.
While Kathleen was talking to me in my office, Stephen came running in and said a man at the door wanted to see one of us. We hadn’t heard the doorbell and to keep him from waiting long I hurried. It was a deliveryman from UPS. He asked me to sign for a large box and then went back to his truck to pick up an even larger one. As he returned to his vehicle, I said to my wife, “I think I will put these in the garage.” Almost to his truck, the deliveryman turned around and asked if he could carry them for me.
The popular television series “Hercules” extols the strength and prowess of the mythological half-man half-god son of Zeus. If television had existed 1100 B.C. Hebrew children would undoubtedly have watched their own super strongman—Samson. God raised Samson to lead Israel during a time in its history when it was harassed and oppressed by the Philistines. His father was Manoah from the tribe of Dan. An angel visited his mother before he was born and told her that he would be a Nazirite—set apart at birth for service to the Lord. His hair was never to be cut.
Have you ever assembled a piece of furniture? I recently purchased a home entertainment center knowing my limited construction skills would be challenged. I’m not very skilled when it comes to building things. I’d be a natural guest for Home Improvement in what not to do! But I figured as long as I followed the excellent by-the-numbers directions and had help from my good friend Dan, I’d be fine. I worked late into the night and was quite pleased with the emerging work of art.
It was in part what the President wouldn’t say that disturbed a nation. Liberty lowered her torch and sat on her pedestal of stone weeping from the bitter blow his pride struck. She cried because he lied. She sobbed because he robbed—he stole the trust of a nation to enjoy forbidden pleasures. Tomorrow she will rise and light her torch. But it will not burn as bright. Around her base swirls water blackened with the slick oil of deceit. It’s mixture runs downstream leaching through soil at an alarming rate. Her children are poisoned by this hazardous waste of rationalization that dares to call evil good and good evil.
No one likes to be manipulated. An individual may express an outward message that is incongruent with an inner motive. Once I placed a large order of cassettes for a music project I was working on. The sales person assured me of the solid reputation of this “Christian” company. He did not tell me the company was deeply in debt and about to declare bankruptcy. His motive might have been to help the company pull in more business. Because he withheld information, I made a purchase decision which resulted in losing my money and not receiving the products I’d paid for.
The most amazing thing happened while I was away recently on a trip to Japan. A small group of Americans were teaching a few Japanese, slang expressions we use in the U.S. I joined in the brainstorming to supply words like “rad”, “holy cow”, “get a grip” etc. About ten minutes later I left to return to my own workstation. My two Japanese coworkers were reading the latest copy of the newspaperStars and Stripes. They wanted me to explain what the word “bimbo” meant in the title line of a front page article about President Clinton and his latest woes with Ms. Lewinsky. The American Heritage Dictionary uses the following definition of the word bimbo.
Why is our civilization morally crumbling? Why is our country trapped in the quicksand of evil? Why is our society torn by the passions of selfishness? Why is our culture enamored with what is wicked? Could it be that we are adorned in the clothing of excuses to mask our responsibility for sin? Paul Harvey, the famous radio commentator shared a prayer, Pastor Joe Wright of the Wichita Central Christian Church gave at an invocation for the Kansas state legislature. Joe’s prayer was immediately denounced by the governor of Kansas and several legislators stormed out in anger. This prayer has much to say. I hope it will stir your heart as it stirred mine.