lightenload

Come with me on a spiritual Journey!

Delivering Kindness

They say no news is good news.  The same can be said about the mail at times “No mail is good mail.”  How many times have we walked to the mailbox only to find bills?  Common sense tells us that we can’t blame the mail person who delivered our mail.  In fact isn’t it good that we received our bill and know that we owe it?  Wouldn’t it be a bad thing if we came home on a blustery winters day only to discover that our power had been cut off?  The people that deliver the mail are like the offensive linemen in football.  We take the job that they are doing for granted.  The times we pay attention to the mail service is when we are expecting something.  When we feel that a delivery is slow that is when we question the functionality of the mail service.  Otherwise we expect to get our mail promptly whether it is a bill or a check or something in between.

Assorted pieces of mail on a plain background

When I was a kid people always looked forward to seeing the mail truck come by.  We had quite a few older people in our neighborhood and the sound of the mail truck could be uplifting to them.  Back then people actually wrote letters to each other.  We didn’t  have Email usage to instantaneously talk.  Calling someone on the phone when they were out of our area code could get pretty expensive.  Even though it was slower people wrote and received letters.  These letters along with other mail items broke up the boredom for a lot of families in my neighborhood.  When the mail truck passed you would see people going out to their mail boxes.  It was almost like they were patiently waiting for the mail to add excitement to their day.

Everyone had a mail box in our neighborhood and they also had a garbage can.  The garbage cans back then were not the big dumpster type we get today.  They were aluminum little silver cans that would fit maybe 2 or 3 bags of garbage.  We had a dog back then and he along with all of the other dogs hated the garbage man.  The garbage man would actually get out of his truck and pick up your little can and dump it in his truck.  We weren’t required to put the can by the road either.  The garbage man would walk right up to our house and get the can.  Of course the dogs caged up in their pens thought that the garbage man was stealing good stuff.  Our dog would give his angriest low voiced bark to express his displeasure as the garbage man did his work.

The mail person was virtually ignored by the dogs in the neighborhood.  Very rarely did they have to get out of their truck.  The dogs just accepted them as passing traffic every day.  Unlike the garbage person mail deliverers are usually giving us something.  I have found that as a whole the mail people are some of the most friendly people I have met.  Although we usually don’t get to know them completely they seem to always be happy and in a good mood.  If we happen to be out there when they arrive they are always open to conversation.  They realize that they have a job to do but don’t take for granted the people that they are serving.

Mail Truck

I have a friend who had a very unusual experience with his mail carrier.  Unlike most mail carriers his was always grumpy.  He didn’t go out of his way to be of service either.  If there was just a little snow blocking his mailbox or if a car was parked somewhere close to my friends box his mail didn’t get delivered.  This is very unusual behavior for the mail service.  Although it may be inconvenient they know how important the mail is and have compassion on people who haven’t shoveled the latest blizzard completely.  It was frustrating to my friend whose mailman’s grumpiness and unwillingness to make the effort delayed his mail.  He tried to be nice but it got to the point where he concluded the mailman didn’t like him and didn’t treat him right.

One morning on a cold snowy day my friend heard a loud motor sound on the street in front of his house.  He looked out the window and saw the mail truck.  The truck wasn’t moving like normal.   It was stuck and no matter how hard the driver was pushing on the gas pedal he could not free it.  My friend looked out the window.  I’m sure the thought went through his head that “it serves him right for treating me badly all of the time.”  After watching the mail truck struggle for about five minutes my friend said a prayer.  “Lord, send someone to help  the mailman get unstuck.”  As he waited for someone to arrive he had a strong thought.  He knew that it was the Lord talking to him.  “You go help him!”  But Lord, you know how bad he has treated me and you know I’m comfortable here and don’t want to get cold.  “YOU GO HELP HIM!”  Reluctantly my friend put his coat and boots on and headed out.  It was a struggle but he was able to free the mail truck from the snow.

From that time on my friend and the mailman had a good relationship.  His mail was delivered on time through all of the obstacles.  Not only that but he had a smile on his face when he saw my friend.  The mailman got comfortable with my friend and told him something that none of the other customers knew.  “About three months ago my wife passed away.,” he stated.  “Since then it has been hard for me to carry on.”  “I’m in my seventies and I wonder why I am still doing this job, but I know I have to.”

It’s easy to judge someone by their actions but seldom do we try to get to the heart of the matter.  My friend reluctantly helped his mailman and with that kindness he found the key to understanding him.  Unlike my friend, most of us will never know why people do what they do.  What we need to realize is that God loves everyone, whether they are treating us good or bad.  He asks us to deliver love to them and be kind and compassionate  He wants us to love them as they are.  After all that God has done for us is that too much to ask?

 

 

 

You Are Right But You May Be Wrong

A couple of weeks ago I was delivering some mail to another department in another building.  I tried to open a door to the office but it was locked.  I heard voices in the office so I knocked on the door.  When nobody came I knocked a little louder.  Suddenly someone from the office came out another door and in a mean tone told me that they don’t use that door.  After making me feel like a complete idiot she walked away only to turn around and ask what I wanted.  I handed her the envelope and before I could get away she called “this isn’t ours”.  I have to admit I was very upset at the way she treated me.  I guess she figured that I was wrong so she could make me feel small.  The fact is I was wrong on two counts.  I knocked on the wrong door and I was in the wrong place with the mail.  A person who I have befriended from other visits to the building heard the whole exchange.  Little did I know that she would report the incident to the employees supervisor.

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The reason that I told this story is to make a point.  I am sure that many of you have faced the same type of circumstances.  Maybe you felt belittled because someone raised their voice or got upset at you.  Maybe like me you were wrong.  Or you may have even been in the other persons shoes.  Maybe somebody annoyed you in some way because they were completely wrong about something.  Maybe it upset you that someone could act or think the way they do or totally disagree with you.  Maybe you could easily prove your point on GOOGLE which is how people try to settle arguments in today’s world.

I remember growing up there were two kids named Pat and Lloyd that had constant arguments.  Look out if they saw each other because they would start right in.  It didn’t matter what the topic was.  If Lloyd was for something Pat was against it and vice versa.  With voices raised they tried to make their points as to why the other one was wrong.  It was kind of comical listening to them.  Their encounters  were entertaining and funny but nobody really won.  They were always a continuing series that picked right back up the next time both were together.  Through all of those arguments I never heard one of them say to the other “you are right.”  To them admitting they were wrong would be giving power to their opponent.  In their minds it would be admitting defeat and neither wanted to do that.  At the time Lloyd and Pat were just kids.  Unfortunately these endless attempts to always be right divide us adults today.

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Many times someone will make a mistake in driving.  I have made the mistake of turning wrongly onto a one way street.  We have a lot of one way streets downtown and if you are unfamiliar with them it could be easy to do.  Did the other cars plow into me?  No, I realized right away my error and quickly righted myself.  I’m sure that someone could have enlarged my situation and laid on their horn for all to realize what I did.  Fortunately they just gave me a chance to turn around.

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I remember years ago there were guys that would take the Gospel into their own hands.  They would pick a spot on campus and start preaching to all who would listen.  Their message though was not a message of love.  It was always quoting verses in the Bible and telling everyone in no uncertain terms that they were doomed to Hell if they didn’t come to God.  Of course the students would be on the defensive and would come out firing questions to their accuser.  It turned into an argument that nobody would win and created bad feelings all around.

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Maybe these examples of bringing on arguments and hurt could be turned around.  Perhaps kindness, compassion, and a caring voice could have helped my situation. What if that lady sweetly said to me with a smile “I’m sorry, we didn’t come to the door. Actually we don’t use this door anymore.  How can I help you?”  Instead of being happy that I was in the wrong place what if she stated with compassion “Oh I hate to have you walk all the way up to the fourth floor but this is actually for another department.”  I would have said with a smile “Oh dear, I must have got my departments goofed up.  No problem, thank you for your help!”  It wouldn’t have taken much of an effort to be nice and compassionate which helps everyone feel better about the situation!

Years ago I was attending a church where a drifter came in and started disruption.  He showed no compassion as in a Sunday School class he stated that people were not healed because they lacked faith.  Of course he had Bible verses to prove his point.  His attitude and accusing comments touched a nerve with the pastors wife.  She was suffering from serious breathing problems and had been praying fervently along with the rest of the church for her healing.  After a couple of weeks the drifter left and never came back.  He stayed just enough to cause discourse.  On a side note it was discovered a long time later that the parsonage was spewing poisonous air which was causing the pastors wife to be sick all of the time.  Once that problem was solved so was her sickness.

Many of us even as Christians are spewing bad air.  We are making others literally sick with our attitudes.  Many times we can justify it by stating that we were right.  I have learned that being right is very overrated.  There is an old saying that states “You can draw more flies with sugar than with vinegar.”  Be kind and compassionate.  Think about how you would feel if you were walking in the other persons shoes.  Look for the good in people and show love always even if they are totally wrong.  If you do that you will find that not only will they be happier but you will be too!

If you're wrong in the way you're right, you're wrong even if you're right. - James MacDonald

 

 

Let’s Hear It For The Noise!

There are sounds in life that most of us just love!  The sound of a soft rain, the sound of a baby laughing, the sound of a beautiful song, and the sound of someone telling you that you just won the lottery.  OK I just threw in the last one.  It surely would be a pleasing sound and yet probably is a sound relegated to our dreams.  We cannot limit the wonderful sounds of life to a short list.  They come at us from everywhere and make little things better if we take time to listen.

I have been paying closer attention to sounds as I take my walks.  I’ve noticed that when I focus on my hearing I hear the wonderful sounds of nature.  I’ve been hearing the birds in all of their different voices.  I’ve been hearing the sound of voices in normal conversation.  I’ve heard the sound of the wind and the sound of the cars going by.  All of the sounds of life that are mostly taken for granted have been on my mind lately.  It is truly a blessing to be in this world and enjoy the sounds of life.

What If Someone Walks Away from Restoration?

Through this journey into listening closely I have come to certain conclusions.  For instance most people do not really pay attention to the sounds of life.  In fact I am most people because very rarely have I truly appreciated them.  I think the reason most of us don’t is that we take them for granted.  We tune them out and concentrate on our problems at hand.  Our mind is on things that we think are important at the time.  We may be worrying about some situation we have no control over.  All of these things keeps us from thinking about the sounds of life around us.  We treat the sounds like white noise which means it is background stuff we hear but don’t listen to it.  We are so busy fiddling with our phones that we ignore the beauty of the sounds of life.

I find this white noise phenomena interesting.  I am one of those people who like a little noise when I sleep.  Usually it is a TV but some people cannot sleep without a fan being on.  It is just the noise in the background.  Even when not paying attention it can be nice to have the TV on in the background.  Maybe that kind of thing trains us to ignore certain sounds.  Even now at work if someone turns off the copy machine it gets deathly quiet.  I don’t like that quietness.  It feels kind of eerie to me.

Years ago Neil Diamond wrote a song called “It’s A Beautiful Noise” which describes how I feel when rediscovering the sounds of life.  It came unexpectedly as Neil was with his 2 little daughters and he had promised one of his future band members that he would write a song.  The song was to convince the guitarist to work with Neil.  As they were in a New York Apartment on the 4th floor a Puerto Rican parade went by on the street below.  With the windows opened they heard the beautiful music full of rhythm and joy.  One of his daughters said “What a beautiful Noise.”   Suddenly Neil knew what the song would be and the words flowed.

What a beautiful noise
Comin’ up from the street
Got a beautiful sound
It’s got a beautiful beat

It’s a beautiful noise
Goin’ on everywhere
Like the clickety-clack
Of a train on a track
It’s got a rhythm to spare

It’s a beautiful noise
And it’s sound that I love
And it’s fit me as well
As a hand in a glove
Yes it does, yes it does

What a beautiful noise
Comin’ up from the park
It’s the song of the kids
And it plays until dark

It’s the song of the cars
On their furious flights
But there’s even romance
In the way that they dance
To beat of the lights

It’s a beautiful noise
And it’s a sound that I love
And it makes me feel good
Like a hand in a glove
Yes it does, yes it does
What a beautiful noise

It’s a beautiful noise
Made of joy an of strife
Like a symphony played
By a passing parade
It’s the music of life

What a beautiful noise
Comin’ up to my room
And it’s beggin’ for me
Just to give it a tune

As you can see some of the sounds he writes about are not necessarily pleasing to the ear.  I was talking to a fellow worker about an unpleasant sound we were hearing.  Actually it was more about me complaining.  I think it was the sound of a weed whacker or a lawn mower.  The message that they mentioned back to me was something I hadn’t thought of.  “I like the noise” it was stated.  “It is the sound of life and people living.”  It is in contrast to the term I mentioned earlier “deathly silence.”  So I’ve concluded from this rediscovery of my listening that the sounds of life are a beautiful thing.  Of course the sounds that we always loved are beautiful, but also the unpleasant sounds say something.  They say that I am alive and a part of life.  I am in the game, much like when I saw my first baseball game and the sounds of the fans, the crack of the bats, and the pop of the gloves was so pleasing to my ears!
Baseball Player, Shortstop, Infield, Sport, Playing
We live in a world of noise and it is easy to turn off some of the noise around us.  Invariably we treat it like white noise. It is also easy to turn off God’s voice when he is trying to talk to us.  It may be a thought that we have to do something that gets ignored.  Many times we have a feeling that we should help someone or reach out to someone.  If that feeling gets any kind of root many times we dismiss it as not being practicable, convenient, or timely.  It’s true that God usually does not talk to us through our ears.  More often than not it is through our heart.  When we follow through with what he is telling us we start seeing lives getting changed.  When we don’t it is like the white noise we so often ignore.  When we ignore that sound we are missing so much.  Listen to the sounds of your heart.  It is like my rediscovery with listening with my ears.  It truly is a beautiful noise!

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Juan and Gabby

Juan Marichal

 

He was called the Dominican Dandy.  Juan Marichal came to San Francisco Giants  with a blazing fast ball an array of off speed pitches that would fill up a restaurant menu.  The beautiful part of his pitching however was his leg kick.  I can still see it in my mind as he lifted his leg over his head before delivering his pitches.  Behind that leg came the ball which made his arsenal almost impossible for the hitter to read.  The impossible became even more difficult because of his pin point control on all of his pitches.  During the 1960’s he began his winning ways.  During the 1960’s he won more games than any other pitcher in the major leagues.  He also struck out more batters than anyone else.  Yet for two years after his retirement Juan was not voted into baseballs hall of fame.  That omission no doubt was because of an incident that happened way back in 1965.

John Roseboro was the Los Angeles Dodgers catcher during the 1960’s.  He was a man of few words and for that reason his teammates called him Gabby.  He was a tough team oriented player who his teammates loved.  He let his actions speak louder than his words.  Sandy Koufax, the great hall of fame pitcher noted that Roseboro was one of the greatest Dodgers catcher in history.  Koufax in fact credits Roseboro with much of his success.  “I never felt alone with him back there”, Koufax stated.  Roseboro was only 5 foot 11 and weighed less than 200 pounds but he was the leader of those Dodger teams.  He wasn’t the greatest hitter but made up for it with his all out hustle and handling of the Dodgers pitching staff.  Nobody messed around with John. Roseboro’s competitive edge and all out effort to stand up for his team was in full display on that day in 1965. Roseboro was part of the Juan Marichal incident too.  He was the one the fans felt was the victim.

The Giants and the Dodgers brought their bitter rivalry from the east coast where they were the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.  In 1958 the franchises moved to San Francisco and Los Angeles.  They might have moved across the country but their intense rivalry never changed.  In 1965 there wasn’t a playoff system or even divisions.  Each league was represented by the team that won the most games in their league and the rest of the teams were left to wait until next year.  The date was August 22, 1965 and both the Giants and Dodgers were competing for the pennant.  They were literally within a couple of games of each other.  To say that both teams wanted to win badly would be an understatement.

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It was the last game of a four game series at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.  Both teams were pitching their aces Marichal for the Giants and Sandy Koufax for the Dodgers.  In those days brush back pitches were used.  A brush back pitch was a pitch inside on the batter that if they didn’t move out of the way quickly would hit them.  The purpose of brush back pitches was to not let the hitter get too comfortable at the plate.  The first batter for the Dodgers was Maury Wills who was a skinny speedy shortstop.  Maury dragged a bunt for a base hit.  When Wills came back up in the third inning Marichal threw a high brush back pitch.  Wills flung himself out of the way by violently falling backwards to the ground.  The next batter was Ron Fairley and Marichal again threw a brush back pitch.  Down went Fairley barely getting out of the way.  When the Giants came to bat their best hitter Willie Mays was on the ground as Koufax zinged a pitch that almost hit Mays in the head and ended up hitting the wall behind the plate.  At that point with both teams on edge the umpire warned both managers that the next time a batter got knocked down would be a cause for ejection.

On the bench while his team was batting Roseboro formulated a plan.  He didn’t want Koufax thrown out of the game but he did want to give Marichal a violent scare.  The next time Marichal came to bat (the pitchers batted) he would not have Koufax throw at him.  His plan was to throw the ball back to Koufax so close to Marichal’s head that if it hit him it would look like an accident.  When Marichal came to bat Roseboro delinerately blocked the ball behind where Marichal was batting.  When he threw the ball back to Koufax Marichal claimed that it clipped his ear.  Marichal turned to Roseboro and wanted an explanation.  Hateful words ensued and Marichal completely lost his composure.  He took his bat and raised it and brought it down on Roseboro’s head.  Both benches emptied and both sides pushed each other around for the next 14 minutes.

 

https://tht.fangraphs.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2014/05/John-Rosengren-Cover-Crop.jpg Roseboro’s head was bleeding and it looked worse as the blood was running down his face.  Willie Mays who was a friend of Roseboro’s reasoned with him to get some medical attention.  In the wild atmosphere he was the one with a voice of reason.  After Roseboro was off getting his wound treated the madness slowly calmed down.  Sports Illustrated had the violent scene in it’s next issue of Marichal with his bat overhead.  The press made it seem like Marichal was the meanest man in the world.  Roseboro took the next couple of games to recover and then he was back in the lineup.  Marichal was fined $17,500 which was a lot back then and suspended for 10 games.

Since a pitcher only pitches every three or four days Marichal missed 3 starts.  The way Marichal was pitching that could easily have been three wins.  For whatever reason when he came back from his suspension he was not the same pitcher.  He won three games and lost four the rest of the season and the Dodgers won the pennant by 2 games over the Giants.

Roseboro was furious about Marichal’s allegations that  he instigated the brawl by clipping Marichal’s ear.  After thinking it over Roseboro sued Marichal for $110,000 which was an enormous amount back then.  He ended up winning the suit but for a lot less namely $7,500. An immediate public apology did not soothe Roseboro’s attitude.  He stated that Marichal did it through the press and not to him personally.  Then he stated that even if Marichal did come to him personally he would feel the same way.  “I wouldn’t have been impressed, because apologies, in my book, don’t make up for the original deed. There are too many people in this world who do terrible things intentionally and feel they can ease out of trouble with an apology.”

In 1975 Marichal signed with the Dodgers.  Many of the Dodgers fans were outraged that the Dodgers would sign their worst enemy.  Roseboro who was in retirement asked the fans to give him a chance.  Marichal made an agreement with the club.  If he was healthy he felt he could help the team.  But if he wasn’t he would retire.  Although his arm was feeling fine it was his back that betrayed him.  With his back hurting the way it did he could not help the Dodgers and true to his word after two starts he retired.

The years past like they always do   Marichal was up for the Hall of fame after 5 years out of baseball but he was denied.  Roseboro was outraged that a pitcher who was clearly one of the very best was ruled out because of one incident.  It was clearly a change of heart that apparently had been going on for some time within Roseboro.  In 1983 Marichal finally got enough votes to enter the Hall.  No doubt Roseboro’s opinion did not hurt the vote!

There was an Old Timers Game between the Giants and the Dodgers and both Marichal and Roseboro were invited to go.  For years they had went their separate ways but that day they talked.  As they talked they realized that deep down they truly liked each other.  The hatred had long passed from Roseboro and for the rest of his life Juan was someone he called a true friend.  Juan invited Roseboro to go to the Dominican Republic with him and Roseboro quickly accepted.  They had a wonderful time there and it only cemented their friendship further.

When John Roseboro passed away in 2002 it was very clear who his family wanted to give a eulogy, none other than Juan Marichal.  He stated words that were very powerful.  “Johnny’s forgiving me was one of the best things that happened in my life,” “I wish I could have had John Roseboro as my catcher.”  He didn’t but he did receive something much more valued, his friendship.

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I Believe In You

One of the best things as a parent that you can tell your children is how much you believe in them.  We see it beautifully stated in the graduation programs at our University.  Proud parents leave tributes for their graduating seniors and it is wonderful.  Many times the tributes mention how much they believe in them and how proud they are of them.  This belief they speak of goes to the heart of the word.  I believe that you will be a great success they might say.  I believe that you can accomplish everything that you want.  In other words the belief is that they are sold that their son or daughter is great already and they will succeed in whatever they do!

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Years ago we traveled through Kentucky and Tennessee.  It was just a week or two after a major tornado had hit down on the area.  We happened to stop at a store and were talking to the cashier about the incident.  We were told that most of the people there did not bother to heed  the warnings.  “We get warnings all of the time here”, they mentioned to us.  I’m sure that their belief was shaken and although they believed a tornado was sighted they didn’t believe it would affect them.  Sadly there were injuries and fatalities because the trust factor wasn’t there. Photos: Storms Cause Death, Damage In Kentucky, Tennessee

In Acts chapter 16 verse 31 Paul and Silas were asked what they must do to be saved.  “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved and your entire household”.  Many times when people are asked if they are a christian or they think they are going to heaven they reply “yes I believe in God”.  However the Bible meaning for believe is far more extensive than just the belief that there is a God.  When Jesus said believe in me he was talking about believing in what he said.

Can you imagine a husband saying that he believes that he has a wife?  Wouldn’t you think that if he is married that would be a crazy statement?  In the same way just believing that there is a God in itself does not mean we have a relationship with him.  That would be the same as the parents in those tributes saying that they believed that they had a son or daughter.  If you think that just believing that there is a God will get you to heaven consider this fact: Even the Devil believes that there is a God and we know where he will end up.

'Okee-dokey... Let's just see how your diagnosis and treatment plan compare to what webMD.com has to say...'

In James Chapter 2 starting with verse 14 we are told that faith without works is dead.  It is like those tornado victims that might have believed that there was a tornado but took no action.

Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without [a]your works, and I will show you my faith by [b]my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is [c]dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

It is useful in reading the Bible to substitute the word trust when you see the word believe.  Sometimes in the translation from the original Greek the words get watered down and they lose their meaning.  It doesn’t make sense that if we merely believe that there is a God that we are saved.  It is as obvious as that husband that states “I believe that you are my wife.”  The determining factor in that marriage and in our relationship to God is not the fact that they exist but learning to trust them and truly believe in everything they are about.  That belief on our part will lead us to follow the path given to us trusting that our Lord and Savior has a plan and purpose for our lives!

The Cain Way

Usually by reading the Bible we can get a pretty direct interpretation.  However there are times that we need to dig a little deeper into the passage.  I’m thinking about the story of Cain and Abel.  They were brothers parented by Adam and Eve.  Cain was a worker of the soil while Abel was a keeper of the flocks.  Both were much needed and necessary.  When they both made an offering to the Lord Cain brought his vegetables he had grown while Abel brought his firstlings of his flock and of the fat therof.  And Jehovah had respect onto Abel and his offering but to Cain and his offering he had not respect.  And Cain was very wroth and his countenance fell.  Genesis 4 verses 3-5.  To help me understand what that last sentence meant I looked up the words wroth and countenance.  Wroth means intensely angry, highly incensed, Wrathful.  Other synonyms of wroth include fuming, hot, furious, and outraged.  Countenance has to do with a persons face or facial expression.  So Cain’s facial expression changed as he became angry.  Now I can see the picture of someone who is upset, mad , and furious and his face telling the same story even without words.

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I used to think that Cain’s offering wasn’t respected because it was not a blood offering.  We know in the old testament the sacrifice of blood covered people’s sins.  However nowhere in the passage is this offering described as a sacrifice.  This was an offering unto God.  Logically God wouldn’t have expected Cain or Abel to offer something they didn’t have.   Cain was a worker of the soil so what he had to offer was the vegetables he grew.  The other misconception I had after my blood sacrifice theory that went up in smoke was the thought that Cain didn’t give his best vegetables.  We know that Abel gave his best because the passage suggests it.  But it doesn’t say anywhere that God was not happy with Cain because his offering was rotten or worm infested or he gave the smallest worst ones.  On the contrary I believe that Cain gave his best too.

We are not told why Cain’s offering was not respected.  However the passage doesn’t just mention his offering.  It states that Cain and his offering were not respected.  It also states that Abel and his offering were.  Now maybe we can find some clarity there.  Could it be that both offerings could have been respected and the real answer lies within the brothers?  Could it be that because Cain’s heart was not in the right place his offering was viewed as bad too?   Cain’s offering was something that Cain had to work for.  He had to til the soil and do all of the hard labor that it takes to grow things.  Abel’s offering had nothing to do with Abel.  He just offered something that God had given to him.  In reality Cain’s offering was given to him too but could it be that Cain was proud of what he did?   We know that God looks at the heart in anything we do.  That is why the poor widow who only gave one small coin in the new testament was commended by Jesus of giving more than all of the other people who were giving.  While the others it was explained were giving just a portion of what they had the poor widow gave all that she had.  It was a heart gift that went way beyond it’s man made monetary value.

To further the argument that Cain’s problem was a heart thing instead of the actual offering that he gave I offer this.  Cain was truly disappointed that his offering was not accepted.  It states that his head which was probably raised in pride for the things he had grown was now dropped in sorrow.  In life we are going to have disappointments and it is OK to feel that way.  However it is never OK to be bitter and worse to stay that way.  It doesn’t state anywhere that Cain asked God why his offering wasn’t accepted.  Wouldn’t you think that it would be the logical question to ask especially if you were trying to please God?  Cain did not ask the question because it was obvious to him what the answer was.

God knew Cain’s heart so it was no surprise to him how Cain reacted.  Cain reacted in anger and hate.  Have you ever heard it said that it doesn’t matter what happens it is how we react to it that counts?  In this example we can almost see through Cain by how he reacted.  He was furious and it mirrored what was on the inside. It wasn’t enough for him to be upset though.  He could have asked God how he could make it right but he wasn’t interested in that.  He was upset because God knew the condition of his heart which went far beyond the offering that he gave.

I’m going to draw a few conclusions from the passage based on human nature and the evidence of the story.  Cain did not love his brother Abel.  To him it was a competition of who did the most important thing.  Cain thought for sure that God would be more pleased with the offering he worked so hard to get. In his mind Abel job was just leading animals around.  Cain felt like his offering was special and he was proud of the results that he was able to produce.

Isn’t that the way of the world today?  In our world a persons worth is associated with what he or she accomplishes.  This is the Cain way of thinking and is totally against God’s way.  In God’s way it is a matter of the heart.  Why do we do the things we do?  Do we do things to get praise from the world?  If Cain had seen the error of his ways and had been sorrowful and had repented I am sure that God would have been pleased.  However that was not Cain’s attitude.

So what does Cain do?  He is so bitter and angry that he calls his brother to come into the field with him.  I contend that this was not the beginning of this hatred.  I don’t think that Cain loved his brother from the start.  In fact I think he hated his brother from the beginning.  If he loved Abel he would have been happy for him that God accepted his offering.  On the contrary his anger showed how selfish he was.  In his mind it was Abel’s fault that God did not accept his offering.  This hate had probably built up over a long period of time and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.   Abel probably thought that his brother wanted to discuss something.  Never in his heart did he think his brother meant harm.  I believe that Abel loved his brother and had a loving heart.  Cain murdered his brother and buried him.  Later God asked Cain where his brother was?  Cain answered that he didn’t know…”am I my brothers keeper?”, he stated.

A man with his hands covered with mud

The fact is we are our brothers keeper.  We should be concerned about others because we love them.  God is the only one who can put that love into our hearts.  He looks into our hearts for our true motives.  Our accomplishments in this life mean nothing without God.  Cain didn’t come to the conclusion that everything that he grew was a gift from God.  He was in the human mindset that if he worked hard he would produce results.  God was not in his equation.  Cain’s heart was filled with hate and felt he was the one who determined his own success.   That is called the Cain way and is totally against the word of God.  When we accept Jesus into our lives he puts a loving spirit inside.  Now we start doing things in love not because we have to but because of the desire to do so.  Now there is a new purpose in our lives when we realize that everything that we have or ever will be is a gift from God!  Everywhere we look we see the Cain way in action.  It is the attitude that we are our own God and we control our success.  If you feel that way come to God and he will get down to the heart of the matter!

A Fly In The Eye From The Rooftop

The title of the sermon was called “God Already Knows.”  Of course we all think well of course he does because he is God.  Yet we sometimes pray like God doesn’t know anything and we have to explain everything to him.  There was a story that happened to him that week that he was almost hesitant to tell us.  He was thinking that it was kind of gross and he let us know that he may or may not include it.  The sermon went on and the point kept coming back to however big or small our problems God already knows.  To add to that it was stated that not only does he know the problem he already has the solution.  Jesus instructed in the book of Matthew to not say vain Religious prayers repeating the same things over and over.  In Matthew 6:8 he states that “Our Father knows what we have need of before we ask him.

The sermon was concluding and my pastor had been waiting for the spirit to tell him whether to include the story.  The answer that he got was yes so he proceeded.  This past week he was riding his bike with his son.  He often rides his bike as a way of exercise and the fact that he just enjoys the process.  Suddenly without warning  he felt a sharp pain in his right eye.  Right away he knew what happened.  A fly had literally flew into his right eye.  Not only was there the initial pain but the fly was trying to get out but was trapped behind his eye.  They were not far from the church so they stopped there and he flooded his eye with water from the sink sprayer.  He tried repeatedly to wash the fly out but to no avail.  He was tempted to go to the emergency room but he felt that God had the answer.  He prayed “Lord, I don’t know why this has happened but I believe that it will work out for my good.”  He quoted Romans 8:28 which states that all things work for our good if we love him.  It took a couple of hours of waiting but suddenly little pieces of the dead fly began to come out of his eye. 

Finally all of the fly was gone but there was another problem and potential fear.  First of all his eye was swelled up like someone had punched him.  Secondly there was a thought that some damage to his eye had been caused.  Again he went into prayer.  “Lord”, he said “I ask you to take this swelling down and make this eye just like it was.”  A couple of days later all of the swelling was gone and his eye was perfectly normal.  I was glad that he told us this story.  It illustrated the point that God knows and he already has the solution to our problems.  Most of us would probably had gone to the Emergency Room and tried to solve our problem that way.  We might not even think about praying and trusting God.  I don’t know what the purpose of this happening to him was.  However I can tell you that it made a big impact on the congregation when he was able to give God the glory over his recent trial.  God looks down almost as if he were on a rooftop and see’s our needs!

This eye thing was kind of a big problem.  God is interested in our big problems and our smaller ones too.  Sometimes we might think that God is too busy to care about the smaller things and that we should only pray for bigger problems.  The fact is that God is interested in our whole lives, the little as well as the big.  The roof on our house was 25 years old.  It had not given us significant trouble but it was time for a new roof.  This spring I started exploring what the price of a roof would cost.  Naturally this was not a job that would be cheap.  Besides that we needed someone who would do a good job.  I made some phone calls and mostly got answering machines.  After leaving a few messages that morning I took my son out for lunch.  We stopped at a place called Taco Bob’s and as we were done ordering and had sat down Adam from our church walked in.  We were surprised to see him and quickly let him know that we were there.  He happened to be doing work in that area that day and was glad to sit down and eat lunch with us.  I asked him if he knew anyone that he would recommend doing my roof?  I told him I had been calling around this morning.  He said he had the perfect guy for us that did great work!Image result for rooftop worker picture

I ended up hiring this guy after I had gotten another quote from a bigger company that was far more expensive.  The guy did a fine job and even replaced face boards on our house that were rotting.   I was so happy with his work that I have been telling others  I took a picture of my new roof and let people see the before and the after.  It is truly an amazing difference!  Now I know that my situation wasn’t of the fly in the eye variety but it was important to me.  God truly wants to be a part of our lives whether it is a little thing or a big thing or nothing at all.

I was talking to Adam at church the other day.  I showed him the picture and told him how great of a job his friend did!  “You know”, Adam said “I never go there.  I just happened to be working in that area on that day.”  Could it be that he was placed there for my benefit without even knowing it?  Could it be that God had the answer to my problem before I asked?  When God blesses us we are to shout it from the rooftops.  In my case I haven’t been literally climbing up on the roof to do so but seeing the new roof every day reminds me of how much he loves us!

Matthew 10:27 (NAS) “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.

Exit Stage Right

I guess the hardest thing for a famous actor, actress or celebrities to do is get off of the stage.  This is especially true when they know it is their last appearance. I remember seeing Johnny Carson’s final show.  He had the forethought to give his audience notice in advance that this would be his last show.  It was expertly planned with a combination of the here and now and highlights from shows past. Watching the show brought laughter and tears to his audience as they enjoyed the memories of the past while also realizing that there would be no new memories.  It was a time of reflection and Johnny was at his best.  He was candid, funny, and very reflective of the 30 plus years that he was the host and star of the Tonight Show.

Image result for johnny carson last tonight show

Muhammad Ali was a Heavyweight Boxer the likes that nobody had seen before.  He had speed like a lightweight and he developed a style of hitting without getting hit.  It was his quick reflexes as he could pull his head back just as his opponents were trying to throw their knockout blows.  Almost all of the time they ended up only hitting air.  In 1967 Ali was banned from boxing for refusing to be inducted into the army.  His Heavyweight Title was stripped and for 3 and a half years he was not allowed to fight.  Then in 1970 he was given a license to fight in Georgia.  Ali was still good when he returned but he wasn’t the fighter he used to be.  Subsequent matches he started to get hit.  When he fought Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight crown in 1971 he was hit like never before.  No longer was he able to get out of the way every time.  Joe knocked him down in the 15th round and kept his Heavyweight championship.

Ali persevered after that fight and for 3 years he chased another chance to claim the Heavyweight Title.  Finally in 1974 he got his chance.  George Foreman was now the Heavyweight champion after defeating Frazier the year before.  Ali was a big underdog but he used his ring savvy to tire Foreman out and get his title back.  Ali had hinted before the fight that this would be the perfect way for him to leave the stage.  Ten years after winning the title to regain it against such a powerful foe.  However after he won he wouldn’t quit.

Ali fought Joe Frazier for the third time in 1975 and although he won the fight it took it’s toll on both him and Frazier. It was finally time to get out with his health in tact but Ali kept fighting even though his best days were long passed.  He was getting hit and was lucky enough to barely keep his title in some controversial decisions.  In 1978 he fought a rookie boxer named Leon Spinks who had 8 professional fights at the time.  Ali had not trained properly for the fight and Spinks won the decision and the title.  Later that year in a rematch Ali won his title back from Spinks.  Finally Ali retired and left the stage.  Ali loved the limelight and surely he missed being the center of attention.  The next year he announced that he was coming back to get his title.  The fight with Larry Holmes didn’t go well.  Ali was hit like a punching bag showing none of his old talents.  He fought one more time and lost again before he finally admitted that he was through.  It was sad watching him fight at the end when there was nothing left but the memories of what used to be.

Like Ali we are given a time in the spotlight in life. Ecclesiates chapter 3 mentions that there is a time for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3 New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

One of the hardest to deal with is the time to die.  When Carson walked off of the stage for the last time he knew that his time in the limelight was up.  He dealt with it by planning his show and making a great memory at the end.  Unlike Ali at the end we only remember the extraordinary talent that he had without a slippage in later shows.  The same lesson can be learned from the end of life.  Although we will be missed we have the power to make it more of a joyous occasion instead of a sad episode with no hope.  As Christians we need to remember that this is not our home.  When our time is up there is no need to keep fighting.  That is why so many people die very peacefully.  They know that they are going to a place far better!

I have a friend whose mother was dying.  At Christmas time all of the family decided they would write her a letter telling her how much she meant to them.  Later my friend mentioned that the thinking was all backwards.  They should have had her write a letter to each of them.  It would be a letter like the letters somebody used for the meaning of the B I B L E which was Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

bible page on gray concrete surface

Planted By The River

There are many mysteries in the Bible and one that comes to mind is found in Mark 8:21-26.

Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida

22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into[a] the village.”

Image result for jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida picture

The question is Why didn’t Jesus heal the man right away or did he?  One of the answers that is interpreted is that he was healed gradually basically for his own good.  It was like going from total darkness to the bright sunlight.  Many times it is compared to salvation and how God let’s a little light in to draw sinners to the righteous path.  When they see some light he reveals more light as they seek him.

The other interpretation that I heard recently was that perhaps the man was given a vision in the spiritual realm.  We see things in the natural with our natural eyes but behind the scenes there is a spiritual world.  It’s like our computer system at work.  We are operating on what we see on our monitor.  Behind the scenes things are happening inside that computer that we don’t see.  Sometimes we concentrate so much on what we are seeing that we forget that there is the unseen world.  It’s only when things go awry with our computer that an expert has to manipulate things behind the scenes to make what we see go back to normal.

It is interesting that the man saw figures like trees but they were walking around.  We aren’t told how he lost his sight but he obviously could see at some earlier part of his life because he knew what trees looked like.  The Bible talks about trees many times and how we are like trees.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 New International Version (NIV)

This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
    they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
    in a salt land where no one lives.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Image result for picture of a tree by the water

We all know that to live trees need water and sunlight.  The sunlight part is usually the easy one.  Very rarely will a tree die from lack of the sun.  What could kill a tree is if it isn’t planted in the right place and is unable to be deep rooted/  Deep rooted trees can extracts water from the ground that it needs to live.  Ideally  a tree with deep roots that is planted by the water has everything it needs.  The verse mentions that these trees never fear the heat.  It’s leaves are always green.  Why?  Because it is drawing water from the water of life.  It also mentions that it has no worries in a year of drought.  Why?  Because the weather may be dry on the outside, but there is living water that it draws from!  It never fails to bear fruit.  Why?  Because the tree is lacking nothing.  It is operating as normal in good times and in bad because it is connected to that living water.  Like the computer example it is operating well behind the scenes.

Growing up we had a big tree in our front yard.  To this day that tree is there living a healthy life.  It is much bigger than it was back then and it was big then.  The reason I know it is even bigger is because we used to climb it as kids.  There was one branch maybe 5 or 6 feet off of the ground that we would jump up and grab and start our climb.  I know the tree is bigger because that branch is now about 12 feet off of the ground.  There is no way even now that I could i get started climbing that tree.  My sister and I would climb that tree all of the time.  Now kids are probably discouraged from climbing trees. This was before the video game rage.  Back then kid had to entertain themselves.  It never entered our minds the danger that was there.  That tree provided enormous pleasure and a lasting good memory of growing up.  One famous picture that we looked at for years was taken by my mom of the tree with both of us in it.  We were way up in the tree and that picture became a find the kids in the tree game.

That tree was definitely in the right place for us.  It was far enough away from the house where it could grow long roots to extract water deep in the ground.  Unlike our tree there are some trees that grow wild.  We have had many experiences around our house of trees that just start sprouting up.  It is important to keep these wild growing trees under control or they could cause damage to the house.  Trees can be a great benefit if they are planted in the right places for the health of the trees and the enjoyment they can provide.

I was reading about the benefit of trees.  Here are eight reasons we need well planted trees.

!.  Trees cool down neighborhoods

2. Trees fight air pollution

3. Trees and greenery may boost lifespan

4. Trees ease depression and stress

5. Tree loss hurts health

6. Trees reduce Asthma’s toll

7. Trees support better sleep

8. Trees offer heat stroke protection

When the blind man first got his sight could it be that he saw people the way God does in the spiritual realm?  Like a tree we need water to survive.  In the spiritual world that water is the Holy Spirit.  By being deeply rooted and well planted in him we get all of the nourishment we need.  Just like the trees when we are deeply rooted in the Holy Spirit there are benefits for our neighbors and people we come in contact with.  Our presence can cool down situations, fight evil ways of thinking,  help to give depression and stress relief,  give our neighbors peace of mind and help them see things in a different light.  The most important thing we can do is show them the reason for our health and hope.  We can show them how they too can be like trees planted by the water of love, strength, health, and happiness!

Image result for kids climbing a tree picture

Can You Top This?

Many years ago I bought the Guinness Book of World Records.   As you probably know it is a book that lists many different categories and the records in each one and the person who made them.  I remember talking to a friend as we thumbed through the book trying to figure out a record we could top and have our names in there.  The most amazing thing about the books contents were the extremes that people would attempt just to get into it.  The records were so out there that they were not worth our time and effort.  How could having my name in that book change my life in a positive way?  The commitment, time, and ability to set one of those records would almost assuredly wreck someone’s life.  Yet there is that desire we have to beat someone’s record.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/46/6764_Guinness.JPG

We start at a young age with the sports we play.  Until kind of recently the games were always scored and of course winning felt a lot better than losing.  I remember my first year in little league we were losing the game and in the last inning one of the kids on my team struck out.  He started crying and the coach was left to console him and tell him it was alright.  It was one of those moments when the coach was also a counselor, a friend, and a brother all rolled into one.

We learn in life that sometimes we win and sometimes we lose but we must keep trying.  We also learn to compete.  Competition is a good thing because it brings out the best in us.  As long as we are willing to take our wins modestly and our losses with respect for the person or team that beats us we have no problem.  Sometimes though the competition and desire to win takes too big of a part in our lives.  That competition can occur even over things that don’t matter.batter swinging

There used to be a show that came on when I was a kid.  It was on channel 50 out of Detroit.  In those days cable TV was just 5 or 6 extra channels, not the variety we get today.  Getting Detroit from my home in Portage was a special thing.  Anyway the show was called “Can You Top This?”  It had comedians come on and tell a joke to a live audience.  They would compete with each other with the gauge being what they called a laugh meter.  The highest score they could get was 100 and after the joke was over the meter was shown on our TV as an arrow and digital numbers going to it’s highest point according to the sound of the audience.  To show you how ridiculous the show was I remember one of the jokes that got 100 points.  It was a joke about a kid that was crying and his father was with him.  “What’s the matter”, his father asked.  The kid blurted between tears that all of the other kids called him fat.  The father comforted the kid telling him he wasn’t fat, he was pleasantly plump.  Now put on your hat and I’ll roll you home.

Image result for can you top this game show

Amazingly that joke took the high score for the night.  More amazing is that of all of the jokes they told on that show it was the only one I remember.  As silly as that is there are many people that are playing the can you top this game today.  We used to see it in the old neighborhood saying “Keeping up with the Jones’s.  If Jones got a new mower maybe we would get a better one.  If Jones got a new car maybe we got a newer one.  These kind of competitions were silly and many times had nothing to do with needs.

There is another type of competition that many of us get involved with.  It is the competition to always have the best story or the most exciting experience.  If you tell someone a story they instantly come up with something that tops yours.  It is like they are hardly listening to you as they are thinking about their experience that was truly a bigger thrill or a scarier tale, or a funnier experience.  We should stop that because it makes the other persons experience feel not very important and they may not tell us but it makes them angry.  Everybody wants to feel important and it is important as Christians to make others feel important.  We should listen to their story and laugh, be amazed, or whatever the story calls for.  In other words we don’t always have to win.  Let them win the story game and let them feel  important.  By desiring to listen without competing we silently say that we care and value their experiences!

 

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