lightenload

Come with me on a spiritual Journey!

Archive for the category “Attitude is Everything”

Never Ever Say Never Again

He was who you went to the movie to see!  When he first made his appearance his debut was the same.  As a way of uniquely introducing himself he presented his card and said in his familiar voice “Bond, James Bond”…It was his signature statement and when we heard it we knew that action was soon to follow.  When confusion and depression about what happened  set in James Bond brought hope with those three little words!

Sean Connery played the first James Bond and did it for many years.  From 1962 to 1969 Connery played Bond in 7 movies. He defined Bond in how people thought of him.  His Bond had a Scottish accent and he had a mysterious masculinity about him  He also had many sides as he dressed in his work suit for business and his tuxedo for more formal parties.  Connery was also a quick wit who could bring fear to his enemies and love from the opposite sex.  The whole package with Connery was known when you saw his movies and his character. How he adjusted to different cases varied depending on how he decided to solve the mysteries.  Connery was very popular doing James Bond.  He had a good thing going it seemed but there was a problem.  Increasing tension between him and the producer was bringing him stress on and off the film set.  After awhile it just wasn’t worth it in his eyes.  He announced that he wouldn’t be doing Bond anymore and a replacement was brought in.  The actors name was George Lazenby and he did not fill the giant shoes that Connery had stepped out of.  In 1971 two years since Connery had played his last James Bond film, he was  persuaded to make one more James Bond movie.  It would be “Diamonds are Forever” and Connery made it clear that after this one he would never play Bond again.

Image result for diamonds are forever

Sometimes it can be a dangerous thing to say never.  I have a friend named Jeremy who is also my pastor that faced the temptation of saying never but didn’t succumb to it.  Not only is Jeremy our pastor but he is the lead singer of his band and every year they make a tour to England.  This tour through the years has resulted in many people giving their lives to Christ.  Since the trip takes several hours it is very taxing on their bodies but they make that sacrifice in hopes of reaching the lost.  One trip Jeremy was telling us about was an even more unpleasant trip than usual.  You see Jeremy was in the back of the plane right by the bathroom.  Apparently the toilet overflowed and sewage water flooded the back of the plane.  Jeremy was in the middle of all of that sewage and not only did his feet get wet but the smell was almost too much to take.  Although temptation came Jeremy would not say the words “I’ll never go on this trip again.”  His experience was totally unpleasant but he looked at the mission over his comfort.  He also preferred to look at the positive and the good results over this bad experience.

There are times in every day life when people say never.  It may be an isolated experience such as I experienced earlier this year. I was eating at a Japanese Restaurant with my son and a close friend.  I had never eaten at a Japanese Restaurant before and the food was delicious.  It was so good that I was trying everything on the plate and decided to eat this green stuff with a pudding like texture.  It stuck together and I ended up putting the whole portion into my mouth.  I discovered soon after what an awful mistake I had made.  I started gagging as my mouth and throat were on fire.  I had some water handy and tried to cool them off by gulping down the water.  The water seemed to make the burning increase and I was literally coughing uncontrollably as the tears started running down my cheeks.  It took a minute or two to finally recover.  I later found out that this dish that I had so quickly stuffed in my mouth was one of the hottest things you can eat.  It is called Wasabi and it is a Japanese horse radish. It’s name comes from the Wasabi tree that is grown in Japan. It was intended to be used for dipping very sparingly on the sushi part of my  meal.  This unpleasant experience could have made me say never again and I do think that never again will I eat Wasabi like I did.  However I can see us going back to this restaurant.  The food was delicious and I didn’t let the Wasabi incident ruin an otherwise delightful meal!

https://image.shutterstock.com/image-photo/wasabi-paste-on-ceramic-spoon-260nw-688121719.jpg

In Matthew 21 verses 29 through 31 Jesus told a parable involving two sons.   21:28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 21:29 The boy answered, ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart and went. 21:30 The father went to the other son and said the same thing. This boy answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go. 21:31 Which of the two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, tax collectors and prostitutes will go ahead of you into the kingdom of God! 21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Although you saw this, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” — NET Bible

This story tells us in short that actions speak louder than words.  Many of us in the past have stated that we will never do something again.  Often it could be warranted as my Wasabi incident would be.  Instead of stuffing the whole portion of Wasabi into my mouth I would be better served eating the stuff in small portions as it was intended.  Jeremy may have thought “never again” as he was breathing in the disgusting smell of sewage for hours on his trip.  He never let that experience overcome him and his desire to bring others the love of Jesus.

Sean Connery made his supposedly last Bond movie in Diamonds are Forever.  The movie was a huge success as Connery brought back the Bond character that was so endearing! True to his word he sat on the sidelines as others filled the Bond role.  After 12 years Connery had a change of heart.  I imagine that the enormous money deal he received was tugging at his decision.  That alone couldn’t have been his only motivation however.  He had turned down wealth before in refusing to play Bond again.  The truth is that things had changed on the set and his attitude was completely different.  The film was called “Never Say Never Again.”  The title was based on Connery’s own statement about playing the role.  The movie was a massive success and Roger Ebert in reviewing the film said it best!  “It has been 12 years since Sean Connery hung it up as James Bond, 12 years since “Diamonds Are Forever,” and Connery’s announcement that he would “never again” play special agent 007. What complex instincts caused him to have one more fling at the role, I cannot guess. Perhaps it was one morning in front of the mirror, as he pulled in his gut and reflected that he was in pretty damn fine shape for 53. And then, with a bow in the direction of his friend Roger Moore, who has made his own niche as a different kind of Bond, Sean Connery went back on assignment again.”

Never Say Never Again Movie Poster

Many of you reading this have made the never statement about forgiveness.  “I will never forgive them for that!”, you might have said.  It’s true that whatever happened might have had a stench comparable to Jeremy’s situation.  However, when we use the never word we resign ourselves to limited thinking.  It is not in God’s will for us to be unforgiving people carrying grudges.  It is his will for us to let things go and let people off of the hook.  The results are better for the wrong doers in our lives but more importantly they are better for us!  Now we can live in peace with the love of God moving freely in our hearts.  In the past you may have proclaimed the old never again slogan.  You may have meant it and are on a path to take unforgiveness to your grave.  Just because you said it though doesn’t mean it has to be forever.  A change of heart is far more powerful than to change your mind.  Words can come from an emotional hurt but heartfelt love  controls our actions going forward! When God tells us what to do our first response might be NO.   The blessings come when we do it anyway!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

I Did It For The Lord

I have a friend who had car trouble one day.  He was in the middle of a parking lot and his car battery was dead.  Luckily for him he noticed a Christian guy he knew of who was getting into his car.  My friend told him about his dilemma and asked if he would be able to jump his battery for him.  He had a set of battery cables and it would really help him out.  The Christian man had a sour look on his face.  It was like it was such an imposition to him to help my friend.  He did however agree to the process but not without more complaining.  It didn’t take long before my friends car was started and running fine.  Seeing how much his problem had affected the man who helped him out he offered to pay him.  The man looked at him with that sour expression still on his face and said with a voice that seemed to pain him “no, I don’t need your money, I did it for the Lord.”

Image result for battery jump cartoon

What powers the Christian walk is not a sense of obligation or need to follow rules.  It is the love that is in our hearts.  Jesus recognized the lack of love in a young rich ruler who came to get his favor.  In Matthew 19 verses 16-26 the encounter unfolds.

16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 Then he *said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man *said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be [a]complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  It wasn’t that the rich young ruler had not kept the commandments.  His problem was that love was not in his heart.  In his case he loved his riches more than he loved God.  He obeyed the commandments from knowledge rather than what was  really in his heart.  Jesus talks about this when he was asked what the greatest commandment is.  37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Image result for rich young ruler photo

Some of us fail to realize that it isn’t obeying rules that pleases God.  It is the love of his son Jesus in our hearts that pleases him!  When we love him with all of our hearts we will automatically have the right attitude with our neighbors.  We will help them with a song in our heart not because we have to but because we want to.  We will fellowship with our church and be a light to others not because we have to but because we want to.  What we see in Christians too often is that they try to please God in actions rather than with their heart.  The rich young ruler thought that Jesus would give him his total approval and tell him what a good guy he was and that he was doing everything right.  Jesus saw the same thing in him that he saw in the Pharisees of his day.  They worshiped God with their mouth and their actions but their hearts were far from him.  The Bible talks about cleaning the inside of the glass first.  Too many times we are trying to look the part of Christians instead of having the love of Jesus in us.

Unlike the parking lot experience that my friend had, Christianity isn’t about suffering to do the right thing.  It is doing the right thing out of love.  With love in our hearts it is natural to do good.  We should always listen to the spirit within us and help our neighbors out of love and not duty.  Instead of saying “I did it for the Lord”, we should say “I did it because of the Lord!”  There is a saying that goes “follow your heart.”  In our Christian walk it is so important!  When we allow Jesus to not only come into our heart but be our Lord and Savior, he will always give us a desire to love.

This Is A Test

This is a test. How many times have we heard these words in our lifetime?  Usually it comes from that crazy radio message stating “this is a test of the emergency broadcasting system, this is only a test”.  It is followed with a siren sound for ten seconds.  Then the voice comes back and tells us what to do if this were a real emergency.  It is kind of like the fire drill tests we got so accustomed to in our grade school.  Line up single file we were told as the alarm loudly went off.  Then we calmly marched out one of the exit doors and ended up on the playground far away from the school.

I have this recurring dream.  It is a dream that I am back in college and there is a class that somehow I have just discovered that I have.  I have missed the whole semester and now they are having a test on the day I walk into the room.  I am not prepared and fear starts to set in.  The nightmare continues as the professor hands out the test and I am totally stumped as I sit there in a cold sweat.  Needless to say this recurring dream is not fun and it seems to play into a fear within me of not being ready for a test.

As a student I recall many times the teacher would surprise the class with a pop quiz.  It was bad enough to get tested when you were given warning, but these pop quizzes seemed to be totally unfair.  Looking back I’m sure that there was a reason for these surprise quizzes.  Perhaps the teacher wanted to find out how many of their students were following the lessons.  How many were comprehending what was being said and were able to apply the lessons to their knowledge?

Image result for classroom college test photo

Looking back on those school day tests today I can see their value.  There has to be a time when the rubber hits the road.  There has to be a time when the teacher grades their students on what they have learned.  Being there and listening to the messages aren’t enough.  Maybe I was there in body but my mind was on the ball game we were going to organize after school.  Maybe my mind was on a million other things besides the subject at hand.  I may look like I was there all of the time but my test scores could tell another story.

In our Christian walk some people expect life to go smooth all of the time.  They might think that when we become Christians we won’t have anymore problems.  Like the teacher, God lets us go through tests.  We may be on the proverbial mountain at times but we also find ourselves in the low valley.  The valley is meant to be a temporary place that God lets us enter. When we find ourselves in the valley we sometimes go on an emotional roller coaster.  Why am I in this place?, we might ask.  It’s easy to get down and depressed.  This is not the will of God for us.  He wants us to be content wherever we are.  He wants us to grow while we are in the valley.  Have you ever noticed that mountain tops have no growth?  Down in the valley is where we find the healthy grass and beautiful flowers.

Image result for flowers in the valley photo

Life will take us to both mountain tops and low valleys. The test is in both instances.  How do we give glory to God when we are on an emotional high?  What is our attitude when we are in the valley?   Like the radio warning “this is only a test.”  When we are content and happy in whatever situation we are in it makes God happy.  It is not true that circumstances can totally make us happy.  We have seen miserable lottery winners and famous people that kill themselves.  The happiest that you and I will ever be is not based on outside circumstances but who is on the inside.

One time Jesus was on a boat with his disciple’s but he was peacefully sleeping in the back.  A storm came up suddenly and the boat rocked.  The disciple’s got scared and feared that they were going to die.  They woke Jesus and said Teacher don’t you care if we die?  Jesus stood up and rebuked the storm.  “Quiet be still”, he said and the storm subsided.  The disciples failed this test but the message is clear for us today.  When we have Jesus with us there is no need to be afraid no matter what situation we are in.  God loves us and like he calmed the storm he will calm the storm inside us when we put all of our trust in him.  Remember this is only a test!

Image result for jesus calms the storm photo

My Spiritual Exam

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

Just like I need a physical
to find out how I am
It’s time for me to ask my Lord
for a spiritual exam

He’ll ask me many questions
Can I be honest with myself?
Thinking that I’ve got it made
could be harmful to my health

Is my gear shifted into drive
or is it stuck in park?
Does my light shine on others
or do I leave them in the dark?

Is my salt being poured out
or is it all for waste?
Does it flavor when it’s poured
or has it lost its taste?

When he gives me the vision
to see how I can be
will I make excuses
or let the Lord use me?

Will my spirit be broken
so my life he then can mold?
Or have I pushed the button
to put the Lord on hold?

When I leave the great physician’s room
will I be better than I came?
Or have I made my mind up
to keep my life the same?

“…I desire to do your will, O my God,
your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:8

The Proving Of My Faith

by Lewis Hamilton
From the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

It’s easy to praise the Lord
when I’m on a mountain high
or I’m soaring in the air
up where the eagles fly

It’s easy to praise him
when life is going right
and it doesn’t seem the devil
is putting up a fight

But what will I do when troubles come
and I’m not feeling the power?
Will I cling to my faith in him
when I’m in my trying hour?

When I reach my lowest depth
will I take time to pray
or will I lose my grip on faith
and let it slip away?

Unproven faith is not faith at all,
this truth of faith I’ve found
The proving of my faith comes only
when I’m on my lowest ground.

Therefore, among God’s churches we
boast about your perseverance and
faith in all the persecutions and trials
you are enduring.

II Thessalonians 1:4

The Scorekeeper

We’ve all heard the old saying “It isn’t if you win or lose but how you play the game.”  In our society that saying just isn’t true.  We watch sporting events every week and countless players interviewed after the games will say “the important thing is we got the W.”   I remember when my son first started playing basketball.  They had this YMCA basketball league and to my surprise they didn’t keep score.  This absence of a scoreboard struck me as unrealistic.  The thinking was that kids that young didn’t need to be all concerned about if they won or lost.  Being around sports my entire life I found the games to be an effort in futility.  They were playing the game but it was like it didn’t matter how they did.  When I participate in sports I am always the scorekeeper.  I don’t know why I originally took up the role.  I think it is the fact that nobody else ever jumps to do it.  To me the scorekeeper cannot miss a beat.  They need to call out the score after every made basket or winning point.  When others keep score I notice that points are made without them calling it out.  That leads to confusion later as the proper score gets incorrectly called as the game goes on.  I’ve found that in the order of things calling out the score let’s everyone know the game situation.  Everyone is on the same page and the score is never confused unless the scorekeeper makes a mistake.  If that happens the other players will quickly correct them and the game goes on with the proper score agreed on.

In organized sporting events we don’t need to keep score in our heads.  The scoreboard and official scorekeeper are all part of the game.  In the professional ranks people are paid good money to make sure that the score is right.  I’m reminded of watching numerous basketball games where the scoreboard isn’t working right.  Usually it isn’t the actual score as much as it is the time clock.  When the referee comes over to try to correct the problem the scorekeeper will invariably throw their hands up in confusion.  It strikes me as funny that the person in charge of keeping things straight has no idea what is going wrong.

With the knowledge of how important the score is and how people want to know the score Ernie Harwell the great old Detroit Tigers announcer used to make sure he said the score often.  Ernie’s broadcast was on the radio and he realized that people were tuning in and out all of the time.  For them it was important to know what the score was.  For those listening from the beginning a reminder didn’t hurt anything.  By saying the score often they were sure not to get the score mixed up.  Ernie Harwell - WJROneOfAKind.jpg

The official scorekeeper in baseball has traditionally been a rather interesting job. The actual score of the game is easy but the insides of the score can be difficult.  Many a controversy has arrived as to if a batter is credited with a hit or the fielder an error.  That particular controversy is very important to the person hitting the ball.  Getting a hit raises their batting average which is a meter as to how well they are doing their job.  When the scorekeeper scores the hit as an error on one of the opposing teams fielders it is scored like the batter made an out. Even though they are on base and eligible to score a run their batting average has went down.  Players have been known to bug the official scorekeeper continuously over calls that were made affecting their batting averages.  One time Babe Ruth hit a towering popup.  Not only did he hit long home runs but he also hit the highest popups anyone had ever seen.  Players circled around trying to gauge this towering fly and one of the players got a glove on it before it dropped to the ground.  The official scorekeeper gave the fielder an error on the play and Babe was furious.  Every time he saw that scorekeeper he brought up that pop up that he felt should have been a hit.  To his credit the scorekeeper held to his original conviction and never changed his decision in spite of all of the pressure Babe put on him.Related image

Now when we go to a professional event the scoreboard is so big it dominates our thinking.  Not only do we see the score we ,can also watch the game on the scoreboard.   A giant screen can give the viewer an at home view of the action that they might have missed originally.  The scoreboard has come a long ways through the years.  It used to be done by hand with someone hanging numbers on an actual board.  Now everything is electronic and when things go wrong some kind of specialist has to be called in.  Fenway Park in Boston still uses the old fashion way of keeping their scoreboard.  There is still a person inside the famous Green Monster Wall that does the scoreboard by hand.  This old school feature in their ballpark takes us back in time.  Even with all of the technology of today’s scoreboards the obvious thing is most important.  No matter what else is going on that draws our attention the most important thing is to show us the score.  Image result for green monster scoreboard

As important as it is to know the score in a sporting event you would think that keeping score would be something we should do in life.  In fact some of us are constant scorekeepers.  Have you ever heard yourself say “I’ll get even with that person?”  We say or hear other things like “that person gets all of the luck.”  Rick Springfield had a song with the lyrics “I’ve done everything for you, You’ve done nothing for me.” These are all indications that we are score keeping.  

Unlike the basketball game with no scoreboard our efforts in life without a scoreboard are not futile.  If we truly want to please God we cannot be score keepers.  Jesus doesn’t want us to keep score because when we don’t he gives the ultimate victory.  He talks about loving our enemies and if someone sues us and takes our shirt give them our coat too.   Romans 12:19 states It is written “It is mine to avenge; I will repay”, saith the Lord.  In life the ultimate score keeper is in heaven.  He see’s everything and in the end he will settle everything.  It is our job on this earth to walk our road he has set out for us.  There is no room to compare ourselves to other people on their own path.  When we focus on loving God and doing his will it takes away all of the burden of keeping up with everyone else.  “Peace I give to you”, he tells us.  We will never get that peace when we are concerned with the world’s scoreboard.  Giving up keeping score frees us up to do what we are supposed to do in a loving way.  We are supposed to put others first.  When we do that it may look like we are losing on the world’s scoreboard but great is our reward in heaven!

Who Is Following You?

When I ran on the Cross Country team in high school our coach gave us a bunch of stapled pages of inspiration to start the season.  One of the pages contained a poem I’m about to share.  This poem was intended to give us the right attitude in our upcoming competitions.  I have never forgotten this poem and it’s words can inspire us in every battle we go through.  They can help us to look at life from a positive view!

Image result for the man who thinks he can photo

The Man Who Thinks He Can

by Walter D. Wintle

If you think you are beaten, you are

If you think you dare not, you don’t

If you’d like to win, but think you can’t

It’s almost a cinch you won’t

If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost

For out in the world we find

Success being with a fellow’s will

It’s all in the state of mind

If you think you’re outclassed, you are

You’ve got to think high to rise

You’ve got to be sure of yourself

before you can ever win a prize

Life’s battles don’t always go

To the stronger or faster man

But sooner or later the man who wins

Is the one who thinks he can

As Christians we need to take the promise that God gives us in Psalm 23:i6 to heart!  “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”  Too many of us are followed by doubt and despair.  We think that things never go our way and we say the words at any sign of turbulence.  Christian people say things like “story of my life”, “things never work out for me”, “I just have bad karma,”,  and”Only bad things happen in my life.”  Get off of that negative roller coaster.  The problem is you are not putting God first in your life.  When you do remember his promise.  “Surely goodness and mercy will follow you!”  Speak the words and believe them every day.  Sure there will be turbulent times but rest assured that God is with you!   He will fulfill his destiny and purpose for your life as you come to realize that he is on your side!  Remember that goodness and mercy are running right behind you!

Image result for goodness and mercy race photo

 

 

 

Hey Jude

When I was a kid in 1968 my sister had a lot of 45 records.  I used to compare the times of the songs which were listed on the front.  Almost all of the songs were between 3 and 4 minutes long.  The longest song by a wide margin was Hey Jude by the Beatles.  Hey Jude was 7 minutes and 14 seconds.  That was 3 or 4 minutes longer than any other song that she had on those 45’s and she had a ton of 45’s.  On the back of Hey Jude and for you kids out there 45’s had 2 sides was the song “Revolution”.  The Beatles were recording on the Apple label which was green and designed like an apple.  In the song Hey Jude the lyrics go “Hey Jude, Don’t make it bad, Take a sad song and make it better, Remember to let her into your heart then you can start to make it better.”

THE BEATLES 45 RPM - "Hey Jude" & "Revolution" on Apple Label VG condition

Ironically in the Bible there is a chapter in the New Testament called Jude.  We don’t know much about Jude except he was the brother of James.  Where Hey Jude was the longest song in her collection the book of Jude is one of the shortest books in the Bible.  Apparently Jude had seen something happening in the church that was very disturbing.  People were entering the church and spreading untruths as to what the true gospel was about.  They were bringing the idea in that they could live their life without a change in their behavior.  Do anything and say anything you want was their motto.   This attitude was dividing the church and Jude an unknown felt the need to write a letter reprimanding the church.  The letter was all about warning the early believers that these people were dividers and were a threat to destroy the true gospel.

https://i1.wp.com/www.wphcc.com/wp-content/uploads/bible-jude.jpg

Years ago there was a man that showed up one day at my church.  Nobody had ever seen him before. He came in with an agenda and that was exposed when he sat in the adult Sunday  school class.  At the time the pastors wife was going through a horrible ordeal.  She was sick almost all of the time and nobody could pinpoint what was wrong with her.  The pastor many times came to church by himself.  It turned out that she was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning that the parsonage was spewing.  This particular Sunday, despite her illness, she had struggled to make her way to church.  The new class member started questioning the churches faith.  He was stating that if anyone was sick all they had to do was pray and believe.  He questioned the faith of the church and brought hard feelings.  The pastors wife was particularly offended by his divisive message because she and her husband had been praying for healing.  Now this person was there questioning their faith and judging the church as a whole. After a week or two that unknown visitor left and was not seen again.  He came, divided and caused pain and then probably drifted to another church.

Somebody recently made a point in a speech that I heard that there are three types of gatherings.  There are Groups which are all about entitlements and social class ruling.  there are Gangs that come in with ideas and force them on the entire population, and there are Teams that work together.  The Teams are people that no matter what their position are willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole.  Whatever job that needs to get done they are willing to do.  It may not be something they are totally comfortable doing or do often, but for the good of the whole they do it anyway.

The opposite of this Team player is the Gang mentality that has a specific agenda.  The people that had infiltrated the church in Jude’s day were of the Gang mentality.  They were pushing their own agenda which was contrary to the Gospel.  They were in fact trying to make their own rules and leading others down a path of destruction.

Isn’t it ironic that the Beatles were recording on the “Apple” label.  We always have associated an apple with the fruit that was the center of man’s first sin.  In the Bible it is the forbidden tree that God said not to eat. The serpent was a disrupter and was very jealous of God’s paradise.  One day he tempted Eve and she ate the fruit and gave it to Adam and he ate too.  Adam and Eve had listened to another voice and had doubted that God was telling them the truth.  That is the same attitude that was in Jude’s time and continues to this very day.

The words “Hey Jude, Don’t make it bad, Take a sad song, and make it better” only partially apply to the task of the people of the church.  Ours is not a sad song.  Ours is the happiest song anyone could ever sing.  The Gospel is about Jesus dying for our sins and giving us a path to heaven.  That is good news and should cause us to rejoice.  We should not be out to disrupt the ship.  We should as a Team, be on board willing to do whatever it takes to keep the ship sailing straight.  We are not here to revolt and cause a Revolution, which the other side of the record is against.  Changing the lyrics of Hey Jude a little gives us a great recommendation.  Remember to let him into your heart, then he can start to make you better.

Thinking back to my pastors wife’s dilemma, it wasn’t her lack of faith that was the problem.  It was the poison that had penetrated into the walls of her house.  She was mysteriously sick for quite awhile.  One day they had their house inspected and the root of her illness was discovered.  That is exactly the same idea that Jude was getting across to the church.  There are people that have come in and are poisoning God’s house with false ideas.  These people need to be called out to change their attitudes or leave so that the church is working as a team without sickness from poison in the house.

 

A Tale Of Two Hearts

It was junk pickup day and my pastor noticed that a couple that drove an old rusty pickup truck was rummaging through the junk on the curb.  God has placed a burden on his heart to talk to people about God’s salvation and love for us so he went out to fulfill that mission.  After some warm greeting pleasantries he asked them if they had ever considered becoming Christians?  Bluntly they told him no and then the whole story came out.  Their 15 year old daughter had been tragically killed in a car accident.  “We used to go to church”, they stated “but never again.”  He would have liked to have consoled them and told them how sorry he was about their daughter. He would have liked to have been able to tell them that God loved them even through their sad circumstance.  Before he could however they coldly and swiftly jumped into their truck and sped away.

This incident about their attitude toward God was upsetting.  He thought about the situation and concluded that the real tragedy was the bitterness and hardness of their hearts.  Of course it is an awful thing to have someone we love dearly taken from us.  Yet it isn’t what happens to us but how we respond to the situations.  The saying of get better not bitter applies here.  I read a quote that is really true although it’s author was unnamed.  “Faith isn’t about everything turning out okay.  It is about being okay no matter how things turn out.”  Saying the words I realize from personal experience that a loving attitude is impossible if we rely on ourselves.  It is natural to place the blame on someone or something.  We have been trained in life to solve problems and most of the time we are able to.  However, there are times when we really don’t know where to begin.  There are times when life doesn’t make sense.  There are events in our lives that fit so perfectly under the category of a best selling book years ago “When Bad Things Happen To Good People.”

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

When bad things happen what is our attitude?  Are we apt to play the blame game?  I can tell you from personal experience that I have played the blame game.  At he end of the day though I realized that nothing gets accomplished by blaming.  Even if the circumstance was in part someone’s fault how can this fact justify the bitterness I let it create?  How can being bitter help the situation one bit?  I had to come to the conclusion that God was the only answer to my hurt.  I’ve heard that when life gives you lemons make lemonade.  Again that is easier said than done and can only come about with God’s helping hand.

When my daughter contracted spinal meningitis that took her life in 3 days we were so devastated as anyone would be.  Why did this happen?  I found that I couldn’t go back to work right away.  When I did the slightest little reminder of her would cause me to break down.  The only thing that saved me was a place that I went to talk to God.  I would literally walk to a building across the street on my breaks and pray on my knees.  I remember a time or two when someone would happen to pass by and wonder if I was okay.  It was a very unusual place to be praying but there I was.  In those times God gave me a peace and I was able to go on until my next break.  I can’t imagine anyone trying to go through such a tragedy without God’s help.

Through my pain I was searching for answers.  A pastor from my mom’s church came to the hospital and counseled us during the bleak hours before the final outcome.  We didn’t forget that act of kindness and started attending his church.  I remember a feeling in my heart as he preached on a topic called Fresh Fire that I was to write a poem.  From that first time many poems came to me that were what God put on my heart.  After three and a half years I put my poems together in a poem book called “The Gardener and My Garden.”

I can tell you that if something tragic has happened to you that blaming anyone including God will not help the situation.  The fact is that whatever happened has already caused damages.  It is like if a tornado comes through your neighborhood.  Are you going to try to pick up the pieces or mutter about what happened?  It is our attitude that we need to be concerned about.  Luke 10:27 states to love the Lord thy God with all your heart with all your soul and with all of your strength and with all of your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.  It doesn’t say that this only applies if you have not been through a tragedy at which point be bitter and curse the circumstances around you.  In choosing love we are giving our life to a higher power who loves us and see’s a bigger picture.  We are no longer fighting the battle alone.  We also trust in Romans 8:28 which states that All things work together for good to those who love God who are called for his purpose.

There are times that I have not packaged doughnuts correctly and let air harden them.  Did you know that if they are not brick hard that usually a trip to the microwave will soften them right up? It is so nice to eat soft, sweet, warm doughnuts instead of hard cold ones.  What a difference the added moisture from the heat can make in the softness and deliciousness of the doughnuts! They actually taste better than they would have out of the box!  My pastor gave a wonderful example about ice and clay last week.  If you put ice and a ball of clay out in the sun the ice will melt while the clay gets hard.  That is the two directions our heart can go too as we face life’s battles.  It is our job to make sure that our hearts have that quality that ice has where they soften and melt rather than get hard and bitter.

https://i0.wp.com/i.huffpost.com/gen/3037054/images/n-DOUGHNUTS-628x314.jpg

There was a young lady he talked about that is now 22 years old.  When she was 5 her brother and her were playing with gasoline and matches in their basement.  The result was severe burns all over her body and multiple skin graph operations.  Today with God’s help her attitude is one of love.  She volunteers at the burn unit of the local hospital.  She has found her niche as she can empathize with their hurt and pain.  She has taken a horrible situation in her own life and through God shows nothing but love for others.

Perhaps you are going through pain as you read this.  Maybe circumstances have given you reason to be bitter and question God.  I can tell you that nothing good will come out of that attitude.  In fact you will find yourself further and further from God.  So how do you develop that soft heart that melts like the ice?  You don’t develop it but you make the decision to follow God and give him all of your cares.  Praise him for whatever situation has come about and thank him for it.  Somehow, someway beyond anything we know he see’s the big picture.  Draw close to him and he will draw close to you.  You will then find like I did that your heart will soften.  The hardness of your heart will slowly melt away and you will find that your melted heart soothes the pains of many.

 

A Little Rain Sometimes

A friend and I were walking out of our work building last week.  As we pushed open the door we could feel the sun warming our faces yet a nice breeze blowing just enough to cool things off.  It was a picture perfect day and made us feel good as we stepped outside!  “I wish every day was like this”, I stated.  “If it was we wouldn’t appreciate it”, was the reply.  It is true that if every day was perfect we would come to expect it.  We wouldn’t appreciate the good that we were given. We need to be thankful not only for the sunshine but also the rain.   I’ve heard it throughout my life that you have to take the bad with the good.  The famous lyrics of a country song written by Joe South in 1967 and made popular by Lynn Anderson in 1970 still come to mind.  “I Beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.  Along with the sunshine, there has to be a little rain sometimes.”  These lyrics are so true not only in the weather but in life.

Have you ever had something go totally wrong?  Have you ever been through trials and tribulation?  Those questions are a lot like asking if you have ever been in the rain?  Did you know that there are at least 15 benefits we receive from rain?

Image result for rainy day

1) It puts moisture in the air
2) It helps with droughts
3) It fills streams
4) It washes away dirt from plants
5) It provides a drink for every living thing
6) It cools the temperature if it’s hot
7) It washes cars for free
8) It continues with the beneficial water cycle
9) It aids the poor in collecting water
10) It saves money from buying bottled water
11) It can cause a rainbow to show up
12) It cleans roads with oil marks
13) It assists worms to move around the soil which aerates the ground
14) It can erode soil to form mountains
15) It can make certain insects and animals come out of hiding, like a snail which provides food for birds

So how does the benefits of rain relate to my life and yours?  Let’s consider rain the way we normally think of it.  We check the weather for Saturday because we have big plans and discover it is going to rain.  Right away we conclude that our plans are ruined which for the temporary plans we had they are.  But let us consider the blessing rather than the curse that we sometimes believe.  Instead of looking at the temporary consider all of the benefits listed above that are lasting.  I realize that this kind of thinking goes against our lifetime of complaining about the rain but maybe we need to start picturing the beauty of the raindrops. If we can’t do that we need to remember the lyrics from B.J. Thomas that went “I’m never going to stop the rain by complaining.”

I’ve heard the phrase people use sometimes when things aren’t going well.  They will say “I’m going through the fire.”  Did you know that going through the fire is a good thing?  Extreme heating and cooling metals hardens or soften them for their ultimate purpose. Softening them to be more pliable or hardening them to put the strength of the product in place and prevent it from going back to it’s softened form.  Also using intense heat flushes the impurities of the metal out. In the same way God uses circumstances that happen in our lives to mold us for his divine purpose.

As everyone knows who have lived a little while things don’t always go as planned. This is especially true in life.  Sometimes things come up that interrupt our lives much like the rain interrupts our plans.  When the rain is coming down in our lives it is easy to complain.  “Why is this happening to me?”, we might say.  Sometimes it can come out in our conversations as we complain and let the world know we are not happy.  Of course we have a hard time feeling happy when the storm clouds hit and the rain pours in our lives.  Yet if we can muster the faith to believe that God is in our situation and working things out for our good the storm becomes less difficult to endure.  It is natural to not enjoy the trying times we go through.  We enjoy life when it is going well and endure life when it isn’t.

Herb

I had a friend named Herb that used to come into our office from time to time.  Herb and I would laugh about things and he was always upbeat.  I had known of Herb starting in the 1980’s as at that time he was the Director of Financial Aid.  Though I knew of him I didn’t know him until a few years ago.  Herb was 90 years old when I last saw him.  He was always uplifting and it was a real joy to talk to him.  One of the last times I talked to Herb I asked him how he had been?  Reluctantly he told me that this last week had been tough because his wife had passed away.  Knowing that Herb had been married for numerous years and loved his wife dearly I was astonished by how composed he was.  I know it had to be hard but he was determined to not have this horrible loss he was feeling affect me.  When Herb passed away just a few short weeks ago the memory he gave me that day still shines.  He was that same uplifting person no matter what was going on in his own life.  There was bright sun rays shining through his heavy dark clouds.

There are the other kind of people too.  You know the ones that are the complete opposites of Herb.   When even the slightest bit of turbulence shakes their life you hear about it.  It is hard being around these people because they zap the energy right out of you.  A little cloud in their world leads to a dark gloomy outlook on life.  Instead of having faith and trusting that God will see them through they choose to be miserable.  It is almost like they enjoy their dilemma and are the victims of life.  Not only do they seem to enjoy their situation but they enjoy bringing others down with it.  They are the victim and they want you to walk away thinking that the world is against them.

Related image

When I think about the rain that we all need sometimes I have to make an examination of my own life.  Do I always uplift people no matter what is happening in my world?  Am I a good rainy day person or do I need a sunny day to shine on others? Sometimes I fail miserably with the answers  God is patient with me as he shines the light on my faults and shows me how I should be.  He tells me that rain is only something I need to go through to make me stronger!

I miss Herb coming by.  I miss his uplifting attitude as even in his advanced years he was amazing!  He always left me with a smile on my face.  I would like to lift others too no matter what is happening in my own life.  I realize that the rain is good for me and if I let him God will mold me through the fire much like the craftsman does with his metal piece.  When we depart and I am only a memory to you, I would much rather that you remember me as someone you enjoyed rather than that complaining ungrateful person you had to endure.

Job 23:10

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

My Little World and Yours

It seems that whenever I talk about my job or where I work with others the question comes up.  At my age I guess it is inevitable.  “When are you going to retire?”, they ask.  To be honest I just don’t know and I’m being truthful.  An old high school teacher told me a few years ago when I ran into him before a football game, to keep working as long as you enjoy it.  That advice has stuck with me.  When talking to retired people through the years it isn’t the job that they miss. They always tell me that they miss the people.  Retiring has a direct effect on our little world.  A part of my little world consists of the people that I see every day.  Simply put retiring would change all of that.  Sure I could arrange to meet them for lunch now and again, but it wouldn’t be the same.

Maybe that fact and the old teachers advice keep me going.  I do enjoy my job and the people I work with and see every day!  I do like the fact that I can do something that is needed and other people count on me to do.  When work is piling up and it seems I can’t seem to catch up someone will always mention how all that work is job security. Once in awhile I make jokes about job security.  When I get back from lunch or a walk down the hall for instance I sometimes find someone sitting in my chair. They might be re-programming my computer or just taking a load off of their feet on a social visit.  At these times I might quip how you just leave your desk for a little while and already someone is taking your job!  The other day a lady was having trouble with her card that unlocks the door.   We all have to swipe our cards to gain access now and hers seemed to not be working.  She swiped it three times and nothing happened.  I made her burst out laughing when I told her “that’s when you know that you’ve been fired.”  Though I might joke about job security the real issue for me is after the job security.

My dad had a hard time with retirement.  I’m sure it wasn’t the actual job that he missed but he did miss the people.  He had a lot of friends that he worked with through the years.  He worked tons of hours and those people that he saw every day became a big part of his life and world.  Suddenly after he retired all of those people were gone.  Retirement forces people to re-invent their world and some are better at it than others.  For some it is not easy to get into their little world.  It takes time and effort to be a true friend and a lot of people have closed off their true friend path.

Bill Russell the old time Boston Celtic basketball player once stunned a sports writer who wanted to be his friend.  “We cannot be friends”,  “Frank,” BilI said, “We can be acquaintances but I can’t give you enough of a commitment to be a your friend.  Frank was astonished that someone could define friendship so personally and admired the fact that only a select few could get into Bill’s world.  I overheard a conversation the other day as someone mentioned how bad they were at remembering names.  She mentioned that she knows she could be so much better but she doesn’t take the time to listen closely when introduced to someone else.  The other person quipped that sometimes you have to make the determination if it is worthwhile to remember their names.  Maybe if you see them often the effort becomes worthwhile and you try harder.  I found it interesting that someone would actually admit the thinking process that we all probably go through.

Family Isnt Always About Blood

Through the years I think we all get protective of our little world.  We care about our family and friends and sometimes have a hard time letting someone else into our circle.  To truly be in that circle not only do they have to know the good side of us but the bad side of us too.  It is only then that they can accept us for who we are.  In an environment like work it is much easier to get to know someone.  You see them every day and after awhile they feel more comfortable around you and vice versa.  You begin to develop a closeness to those people and many times they become a part of your true friends.

I played softball for years and those same type of friendships developed.  There is something about seeing people consistently and working together as a team that brings people together.  They appreciate you for what you can do for the effort and you appreciate them for the same reasons.  Last year was the first year in 25 years that I didn’t play softball.  Our team was getting older, our bodies started failing, and our desire waned .  After all of those years our team broke up.  Surprisingly I don’t miss the game that much.  It was fun while we played at a high level but the thing most missing these days is not seeing those teammates every week that battled so hard with me.

2008 MASA F Qualifier 003

It seems to me that in retirement we need to build some of those same relationships.  Although we don’t see people naturally through work, there are plenty of activities that we can become a part of that will help us meet new people and special friends on the way.  The key to doing this is a little word called desire.  The old saying, “If it is to be it is up to me” applies.

When I worked with people’s finances the company that I worked for emphasized working in people’s warm markets.  Warm markets were defined as people that knew and trusted us.  All of us have a limited warm market but the people that we know have other people in their warm market.  The company was all about hiring new people and working in their warm markets.  This same principle is true in making new friends too.  Meeting new people often comes from friendships with people who introduce us to new people in their world.  These are people who we will remember their names.  Often times we find that we have plenty in common and they let us into their little world.  As our new friends start to trust us we can share our faith and enjoy their friendship too!  The friendships that we let flourish expands our little world along with our enjoyment of life!  So in my mind the real question is not when are you going to retire but are you open to adding friends to your little world?  If you are you may retire from a job but you will never retire to the possibilities and enjoyment that life still has to offer!

One Shining Moment!

When the NCAA Basketball Tournament is over the song “One Shining Moment” is played with replays of big plays that perfectly illustrate the songs lyrics.  The gist of the song is that behind the scenes hours of work is done in preparing for that one moment.  It is a moment of total elation as dreams come true and all of the efforts beforehand seem worthwhile.  It is a moment when players feel that somehow it was destiny as they find themselves in the spotlight!  It is just a moment but that moment shines so much it is remembered years later.

One Shining Moment

By David Barrett

The ball is tipped
And there you are
You’re running for your life
You’re a shooting star
And all the years
No one knows
Just how hard you worked
But now it shows…
(in) one shining moment, it’s all on the line
One shining moment, there frozen in time

But time is short
And the road is long
In the blinking of an eye
Ah, that moment’s gone
And when it’s done
Win or lose
You always did your best
Cuz inside you knew…
(that) one shining moment you reached deep inside
One shining moment, you knew you were alive

Feel the beat of your heart
Feel the wind in your face
It’s more than a contest
It’s more than a race…
And when it’s done
Win or lose
You always did your best
Cuz inside you knew…
(that) one shining moment, you reached for the sky
One shining moment, you knew
One shining moment, you were willing to try
One shining moment

Fred Rogers grew up an only child.  As an only child he didn’t always have other kids to play with.  Fred compensated for that with a big imagination.  He would play with his puppets and make up stories.  As he grew into a young man he admired the leader of his church and how he could make his points so clear.  He also admired the fact that everyone respected him for his guidance and direction he gave.

Fred ended up going to school to become a minister.  After college he was intrigued by the new medium TV that was out.  He went to New York and counseled some of the early stars of the medium.  One man in particular said something to him in answer to a question that stayed with him.  It was a man named Gabby Hayes who he asked one day “What are you thinking about when you start talking into the camera?”  Fred was kinda surprised by Gabby’s answer which was “I just pretend that I am talking to just one buckaroo.”  Fred made note of that answer and when he went before the camera years later he pretended he was talking to one young person too!

The Early Years

Things started small for Fred in the new medium.  He started doing puppet shows for the local TV station.  He had to make up characters and named them after people that were important in his life.  Puppets were easy for Fred because he had practiced many hours as a youth.  Never did he realize that all of that practice would be useful to form entertaining shows that kids loved.  He found his calling was in talking to young people and treating them with respect.  Things kept evolving in Fred’s career.  He was asked to do a TV show where he would be on the camera instead of just his puppets.  Fred always found a place for puppets in his show too, but he always distinguished the real from the make believe.

Fred Rogers

In 1968 Fred was given a show on PBS called Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  Fred liked the neighborhood idea because it could be a place kids could go that was different from their neighborhood.  Still it would be an educational place that would teach them good life lessons.  Fred would have little songs that he sang to the camera which were catchy and had good meaning.  He would come on the set singing “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood won’t you be my neighbor?”  He also sang “It’s such a good feeling to know your alive It’s such a happy feeling your happy inside.”  He made the kids that watched the show happy and gave them a positive role model much like his church minister had given him.

Mr. Rogers was always teaching his young viewers lessons.  Usually the lessons were pretty simple such as learning to tie a shoe or put on a sweater.  As the show evolved he taught them through his puppets about how people react to things and the right and wrong way to think.  He taught his young viewers to respect and love others and to give a helping hand whenever possible.  Usually his lessons were basic and his situations were common.  He had a toy “Neighborhood Trolley Car”  that took the kids into the world of make believe.  It was a world where his puppets took over with life situations.  He wanted to make a clear distinction between what was real and what was make believe.  Seeing the trolley car travel to that place told the kids that the following wasn’t really real.  Although his puppets brought similar situations as those of real life, he felt it was important to differentiate the two.  In 1980 he had a young guest visit the show and the world of make believe was nowhere in sight.  This was a real situation and Mr. Rogers interviewed the young man in a heartfelt way.  Years later he was asked many times which show in all of his years of doing shows was the most memorable? Fred would always bring up the interview he had with Jeff Erlanger.  Along with the simple lessons that he could teach Fred was not afraid to talk about more complex problems such as divorce and handicaps.  His interview with Jeff  was one of those complex lessons.

Jeff Erlanger wheeled himself into Mr. Rogers Neighborhood on a day in 1980.  Jeff was 10 years old and was severely handicapped.  He explained that at 7 months he had a tumor that blocked the nerves that told his hands and legs what to do.  They were unsuccessful in their attempt to remove the tumor and he became handicapped.  Although he was hardly able to move his ability to laugh and to articulate was so remarkable.  Fred asked him questions that led Jeff to expand and tell his story in such a unique way.  The way that Jeff could be so happy even in the midst of his situation was truly a “One Shining Moment” for Fred and he never forgot it!

The years went by and in 1999 Fred Rogers was being honored by being inducted into the TV Hall of Fame.  A clip was played of that moment in 1980 where Jeff came on the show.  You could tell that it was a very moving moment for Rogers as it brought back the wonderful interview that touched so many!  Fred was talking to one buckaroo (Jeff) and yet multitudes of kids he was reaching through TV were getting a great life lesson!  That one clip of a caring Mr. Rogers and a young kid adapting to life was a picture of Fred Roger’s legacy! When the lights came back on the announcer introduced none other than Jeff Erlanger.  Jeff a young man now wheeled himself onto the stage and Fred Rogers had a elated surprised look that is hard to describe.  Only the image on the following video can describe it completely. Quickly Fred made his way to the stage to hug and thank Jeff for being there.  It was a culmination to all of the good that his show had brought and Jeff’s wonderful tribute was a perfect summary!

We should all look for that shining moment that defines what God has put on our hearts to honor him.  It is not a passing thing like a basketball tournament.  It is a real life thing which defines the vision we have been living for.  In Fred’s case he had two!  The time in 1980 when Jeff brought his special personality and smile to Fred’s life and in 1999 when Jeff returned to thank Mr. Rogers for what he meant to him.  Jeff had a very short speech he gave.  To conclude Jeff’s appearance years ago Fred and Jeff sang a song together called “It’s You I Like.”  “When you say it’s you I like, you really mean it.  On behalf of millions of kids and grownups I just want to say “It’s you I like!”, Jeff stated.  I could see on Fred’s face that to Jeff and kids young and old everywhere the feeling was very mutual!

(that) one shining moment, you reached for the sky
One shining moment, you knew
One shining moment, you were willing to try
One shining moment

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Matthew 25:40

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me”

Fred Rogers

Post Navigation