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Archive for the category “Attitude is Everything”

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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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

When Losing Is Winning

Randy Hatch the schools administrator made the comment when discussing his teams record.  If we don’t go 9-0 we have failed.  If we go 8-1 it isn’t good enough.  You might think that these comments are from a school that has a high standard for winning and very seldom loses.  Hatch however isn’t talking about winning on the scoreboard.  We have nine girls in our program and we have to win with each of them.  Losing one of them is not a successful season!

These girls are winners even when they are losing!

These girls are winners even when they are losing!

Carroll Academy is in West Tennessee about 100 miles east of Memphis and 100 miles west of Nashville in a town named Hunningdon.  It has about 80 students and is operated by the Carroll County Juvenile Court.  Many of the students are trying to get back to their home schools and helping them on their path is people like Randy Hatch and Tonya Lutz the basketball coach.

This isn’t a normal high school coaching job for Lutz.  That is because the players she gets very rarely have played the game of basketball.  Unlike other schools where when practice starts in October they are fine tuning their team and individual games Lutz has a different problem.  Her challenge is communicating the very basics to wayward teens in an effort to acquaint them to a game they are unfamiliar with.  On the first day of practice she might ask “Where is the free throw line?”  “What is traveling?”  “How many players are on the court at a time?”  Sadly most of the girls reply with blank stares.

The team knows what they will get from Lutz.  They see her as a stable, trusting, role model that gives them pointers not just confined to basketball.  She might recommend hairstyles or the proper manners.    On the basketball court she has to nurture her girls by starting with the very basics.  Before Christmas she stated, “We have a crash course in peewee basketball-dribbling, passing, shooting, and defense.”  Realizing that the odds are stacked up against them, she still gives maximum effort!  “I’m going to coach like we’re going to win a state championship”, she states.  “They deserve that.”

They have lost 215 games in a row and counting.  Since Randy Hatch founded the school almost twenty years ago they have won only six games.  Typically the scores get ugly.  There was a game against Huntington that Carroll lost 91-4.  Lopsided scores are the norm, yet the learning experience is priceless.  “There are more important things than winning games”, Randy Hatch states.  “Our job is to help them get up the ladder, we can give them a boost.”

Poverty and drugs are the environment most of the girls came from.  Sometimes they had gone two or three weeks without electricity at a time.  Drunk parents in rat infested houses were more the rule than the exception.  Carroll Academy gets kids that fall through the cracks.  They may be sent to them by the courts for drug violations, shoplifting, or other crimes.  It was recommended that a girl named Haley not be allowed to play on the team.  Haley had a bad anger problem but Hatch decided to give her a chance.  “She gave me what I asked for both on and off of the court”, Hatch stated.  “I am glad that I gave her a chance!”

A chance is all that these girls seem to ask for.  Hatch stated that only one of the girls on the current team came from a traditional nuclear family.  The team and it’s structure sometimes provides them with the closest thing to a family they have ever had.  One of the nine, a girl named Destiny was called in for a conference with Hatch.  It seems that coach Lutz had noticed something just wasn’t right with Destiny in the last game.  Destiny was the best player on the team.  She actually had some experience playing basketball before she got to Carroll.  However on this particular night Destiny was playing out of control.  Hatch asked her point blank if she had violated the schools policy on drugs.  Destiny didn’t lie, she said that she had fallen to the temptation offered by older friends.  Destiny was sent back to class not knowing what her future at Carroll Academy would be.

When the team gathered for it’s next practice a question was asked of the other players.  “How many of you wouldn’t pass a drug test if you were tested now?”  Two of the girls raised their hands.  One of them stated, “There is no sense lying to them.”  The two girls were tested with one of them not passing.  It was thought that the other passed because she probably bought something cheap and reduced.  Both of them and Destiny were suspended for the next game, but they were not kicked off of the team.

It was a decision that some would criticize.  In Hatch’s mind it was the right one though.  I’m sure he considered where these girls came from and how temptation is so hard for them to resist.  It seemed to be more than that though.  As in a true family just because one of the members falls short they are not kicked out of the family.  Discipline and being accountable for their actions is a big part of what the academy is all about.  Hatch and Lutz love their players and the discipline and family atmosphere are what the girls hunger for.  They have lived in undisciplined uncaring environments all of their lives.  Finally they were feeling love and that somebody cared! Usually the nine girls outnumber the fans for them in the stands.  “That tells you all you need to know,” said Hatch, “That’s why we’re here. If their parents had been there all along, maybe we wouldn’t be here. Right now, we’re the only family they got.”

Years ago I was privileged to hear the legendary ten time NCAA champion UCLA basketball coach John Wooden speak.  Someone asked him something about who the best coaches were and Wooden said something very profound.  “The best coach may be somebody that nobody has heard of that is doing a great job with what they have.”   There is a tendency in sports to concentrate on winning on the scoreboard.  Even teams that reach enormous heights and come in second are considered losers.  Wooden in his answer recognized that it wasn’t all about winning on the scoreboard.  When all is said and done games are forgotten but life lessons are invaluable and last forever!

Sometimes the fortunate among us don’t really take into consideration how lucky we are.  Nobody chooses the family they are born into.  When it comes to that everyone is not placed equally.  When people are there to bridge the gap between what is and what could be it is really special.  It’s easy to look at a problem from the surface much like treating the symptoms of a disease without getting down to the roots.  Carroll Academy has been there all of these years to offer discipline and tough love to wayward kids who only want a chance.

There were tears in the eyes of Randy Hatch and one of his players recently as they hugged each other tightly.  She had done well and was going back to her former school.  “It’s hard to let them go”, Randy admitted, “but that is what we are here for!”  “This is a win for her and us!”  It seems he is thinking that it’s one win and eight to go on the only scoreboard that really matters to Hatch, Lutz, and the family of Carroll Academy.

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

 

 

 

Fight On!

David Brown had the ball in his hands.  The shot clock was winding down and he was way back behind the three point line.  The game was down to it’s last 35 seconds. It was in overtime and Western Michigan Brown’s team was up by two points.  This was the semi-final game of the MAC Tournament.  The winner would earn the right to play in the championship game.  Brown and his teammates had a dismal first half scoring just 17 points.  Brown Western’s leading scorer had only one basket in seven attempts.  His shot just seemed to be off the whole half.  Akron on the other hand couldn’t seem to miss and had a 34-17 lead.  Hope among the fans was dwindling as the Broncos took the floor for the second half.  In the second half the Broncos seemed to be playing with renewed energy, but every time they made a run Akron had an answer.  With around eight minutes left the unexpected started to happen.  It started slowly at first but that 17 point lead started to lessen.  They got it down to 11, then 9 and all of the sudden the Broncos had the lead!  Western had scored 18 straight points! Amazingly David Brown didn’t score any of the points in that stretch.  It was like the team was picking up their leading scorer and saying “don’t worry David, we got this!” They were picking up a fallen teammate much like their military training session before the season told them to do!  Coach Steve Hawkins had talked about overcoming Akron’s big lead at half time.  One possession at a time had been his motto the whole year.  Or as he so aptly put it “next possession.”  It means that the past is over and the present is what we need to concentrate on.  The goal was to keep chipping away and get back in the game.  Somehow Akron fought back and tied the game and sent it into overtime.

Coach Hawkins ends his interviews these days by saying the words “Fight On!”  These are words that one of his star players David Brown has been doing for the last four years!  Brown who has been in the program for five years now missed most of two.  After going almost injury free in his freshman season, he played the first nine games as a sophomore before a  severely sprained ankle forced him to take a medical red shirt for the remainder of the season.  He had high hopes coming into the next season as his ankle was healed.  Watching the teams tenth game from the stands I remember Brown landing funny underneath the basket and stretched out wreathing in pain.  At first there was hope that his right knee that was damaged was a sprain or a slight tear.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.  I happened to be by the locker room door after a game.  Brown saw and recognized me as a familiar face.  I didn’t expect it but he gave me a hug and told me he was out for the season.  He said that he tore his ACL.  He wasn’t in tears but I could tell he was pretty shook up.

Before I saw Brown he had a little time to gather himself.   When he first found out the news he  recalled his initial shock.  “It was the worst feeling of my life”, he told the press.  “I felt weak.”  Just as heartbreaking for him was calling his mother and hearing her cry on the other end.  Devastated after yet another year missed Brown had surgery to repair his knee.  After that it was continuous rehabbing.  By his side was his mother who was his inspiration, friend, and counselor.  “If it wasn’t for her I never would be back here.”, Brown said recently.

The next basketball season Brown wasn’t quite ready.  It wasn’t until January that he played his first game.  Coach Hawkins decided that Brown could help the team best as a 6th man off of the bench.  Brown flourished in that role and for once he got through the season intact.  Brown was named the 6th man of the year in the Mid American Conference!  The team had a good year and won two games in the CBI post season basketball tournament!

Although Brown was very successful as a 6th man he wanted to have a bigger role on the team his senior year.  Before the season a group specializing in “Military Training” was hired to help the Bronco’s!  Their theme was the “Fight On” motto that the team adopted.  The training tools were odd and unique.  They carried 50 pound sand bags, ran carrying a teammate on their backs, and took a sweat shirt off while in deep water among other things.  The director stated that if you were not a strong swimmer it didn’t matter.  A teammate would be there for them.  If they were a strong swimmer it didn’t matter.  They were a basketball team, not a swimming team.  The whole idea of “The Program”, as it was called was to toughen up the team by putting them through adversities and having them work together to overcome them.  It was an exercise in toughness and something to get the rest of the team up to David Brown’s toughness level.

Military training for the Broncos Fight On!

Military training for the Broncos Fight On!

In a marathon season there are bound to be up times and down times.  The Bronco’s season was no exception.  They were only picked before the season to finish 3rd in their division but they overcame all odds and tied for first.  Late in the season they played Toledo and a win at Toledo would have almost guaranteed an outright division title.  The Broncos led the whole game and were up by 12 with three minutes to go when the wheels came off.  Toledo put on a full court press and the befuddled Broncos did everything wrong.  If they weren’t throwing the ball out of bounds they were traveling.  One time one of their players couldn’t find anyone to throw his pass to from out of bounds.  After a long search he spotted a teammate under the basket for a sure score.  Before he could pass the ball the referee’s whistle blew.  It was a 5 second call and another lost possession.  With each Bronco mistake came a Toledo score.  Before they knew what hit them Toledo had tied the game and actually went ahead.  Only two free throws by the Broncos sent the game into overtime.  Unfortunately Toledo’s momentum took over in the overtime session and they won the battle.  Western was heartbroken to come so close and Coach Hawkins was disheartened but reiterated that “there was no time to hang our heads” when he talked on the post game show.

The regular season ended with the Broncos tied with Toledo as they shared the division championship.  Western would only have to play two games at most in the conference tournament.  The first one was against Akron.  On the way to the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland adversity showed it’s ugly head again.  A major accident occurred on an Ohio Turnpike making their 4 hour trip an 11 hour affair.  It can’t be easy for tall players to be scrunched in a bus for 11 hours but that was the Bronco’s fate and another obstacle to overcome.

David Brown

So the clock is ticking down and with around 35 seconds left way behind the 3 point line David Brown jumped up and lets the shot go.  The ball was rotating beautifully as it does when the shooting form is good.  End over end in a nice back spin toward the basket.  Instead of dropping in the basket though his shot kept going and hit the backboard.  In a split second it caromed into the basket!  Anyone who ever has shot a basketball knew that Brown was not aiming at the backboard.  The old saying goes “he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.”  Apparently he connected with a piece of the barn this time which was the backboard!  After he made the shot Brown had his palms up in the air and seemed to look up.  He later said it was a blessing from above!  Akron never recovered from that shot! Brown scored all of Western’s 9 points in the overtime period.  It was like “thank you teammates for holding me up, I got this now!”  Shortly afterward the game ended in a 64-60 victory!

I was blessed!

I was blessed!

The title game was against Western’s old nemesis Toledo.  Western took a small lead but Toledo battled back to trail by only 2 at halftime.  In the second half Western started to pull away.  David Brown was a scoring machine with 5 clutch 3 point shots!  He had 32 points.  With about 3 minutes left Toledo was down double digits.  On the pregame show Coach Hawkins said that they had practiced their full court press offense.  “If that situation comes up again I think we will be ready!”  Ready they were as the Bronco’s repeatedly broke Toledo’s press for easy baskets!  With less than a minute to go and the outcome no longer in doubt Coach Hawkins emptied his bench and let some of the players who didn’t play much get some action!  Hugging each other on the sidelines was the Western starting unit who had overcome adversity and made their fans proud! In the middle of that group was David Brown who had overcome the most of all!

Western Michigan Broncos head coach Steve Hawkins celebrates with his team after winning the championship game for the MAC college basketball tournament at Quicken Loans Arena. The Broncos won 98-77.

At the awards presentation there was nobody happier than Brown.  He had been voted the most valuable player of the tournament!  I’m sure he was thinking of all of the trials he had been through that made this moment extra sweet! He had the championship trophy in his hands and he was hugging it like it meant everything.  In that moment to David Brown it did!  I watched Brown sing the fight song along with all of the others.  While his teammates seemed to know all of the words David just knew the beginning “Fight on fight on for Western!”  I suppose that is because those words exemplified what he was doing the last four years.  There are many who don’t give Western Michigan a chance in their upcoming battle with Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament.  “It would take a miracle”, many say.  Perhaps it will be one more miracle in the David Brown and Western Michigan story!   It’s true that we over rate athletics in our society.  However I believe that we can learn valuable lessons from sports.  Sometimes in life we feel beaten down.  We feel that we can’t go on. This story shows that with faith, hope, and love all things are possible.  If you don’t believe it just ask David Brown!   FIGHT ON!

Brown and Coach Hawkins...We did it!

Brown and Coach Hawkins…We did it!

Laughing From The Floor!

Many years ago I had a job that one of the responsibilities each semester was mailing out the hundreds of refund checks to students. It was a massive job as back then I had to hand stuff every check. The students were always in a hurry to get their checks so they would have money to spend. We tried our best not to tell them when the checks arrived so that we would not be delayed in mailing them out. Sometimes a student would find out and come by the office to pick their check up. When they did I’d have to search the checks to find their individual one. This particular day a student got wind of the fact that I had the checks. He walked up to my window and demanded his check. The checks were all on my desk and there were hundreds of them. I took his name down and started my search. I decided to sit in my chair as it might take awhile. As I was attempting to sit down I must have kicked the chair just slightly. I ended up missing the chair and landed right on my bottom on the floor! The student determined to get his check showed no emotion. He didn’t laugh or ask me if I was hurt or anything. He just stood there patiently, probably wishing I would hurry up and get his check and quit sitting on the floor. Well the story goes that I picked myself up and carefully sat in my chair and searched for his check one by one until I found it. He signed a form and took his check and that was the end of the story. Well as far as that student was concerned it was. My co-workers were concerned and asked me if I was alright. When I said I was one of them started laughing. All of the sudden they explained that they looked up only to see me disappear behind the desk. We all got a good laugh out of the situation and we got a laugh out of the students reaction too. It was amazing that he stood there with a straight face as though my falling to the floor was normal procedure.

I know from experience that there are times that life hits us so hard in the stomach that it is impossible to laugh. It is in these times that we definitely need support from caring people to get us back on our feet again. However there are also punches life gives us that if we can find a way to laugh it is very helpful to the situation. Let’s face it, there are times when we are our worst enemy. We linger in our bad fortune and hope the world cares. We make a bad situation worse because we can’t laugh about it and move on. Laughing at ourselves can be very hard, especially in bad circumstances, but it can be the remedy to getting us off of the floor.
Where's The Beef!
We see it on TV and radio advertisements all of the time. They are trying to make us laugh. Sometimes I do laugh at the advertisements because they are cute and funny! Other times I just shake my head because to me it is more on the stupid side. Years ago Wendy’s came up with an ad called “Where’s The Beef?” where three older ladies went to a competing fast food place and ordered their hamburgers. When they received them and the bun was lifted a very small burger was hidden in there. The discovery prompted one of them to turn to the worker and yell out “Where’s the Beef?” It was funny and the campaign really lifted Wendy’s in the fast food world! People like to laugh and they like to be around people who make them laugh because it feels good. There are so many problems in life that to be constantly dragged down drains a persons energy. Laughter seems to refill our energy and gives us a good feeling!

I guess the reason we have a hard time laughing at ourselves is that we don’t want to be embarrassed. I guess it is almost like swimming though. The more we embrace it the more we are able to stay afloat. Let’s say someone finds out about an embarrassing thing that happened to us. It is our reaction that makes a difference. If we laugh about it and make someone else laugh their ammunition is suddenly gone. The appeal that people have of telling someone else and casting us in a bad light has diminished. After all we are laughing about the incident!

Let’s face it news is everywhere and word of mouth gets it quickly around. If we are going through a tough time one person will tell another until it seems the whole world knows. Yet if we can have the positive laughing attitude about a trial it turns a different light on the situation. Instead of sorrow or disrespect there comes a feeling of admiration. People start saying things like “I don’t know how that person can laugh with all of the problems they are going through!” Instead of one person spreading the word of a message of doom to another it becomes a message of hope! Our attitudes and the ability to laugh at ourselves goes a long way in determining how people talk about us!

My son and I were going out to eat a couple of weeks ago and it was very cold. I grabbed a coat I hadn’t worn for a long time because it seemed to be just a little warmer. When we got to the restaurant I discovered I was in an awful situation. That warm coat I had on wouldn’t come off. The zipper was stuck and I pulled and pulled and it just stayed stuck. I told my son about it as the restaurant was very warm. He came over and thought that if he pulled the zipper up and got it moving it would then slide down. Well He was successful moving it up but then it stuck in it’s new place. Now I’m sitting there with the coat all the way up over my neck and I’m getting hotter. Not only am I sweating from the coat, but also from the struggle I’m having as I’m working myself up trying to get free. The waitress tried to help my situation and went in the back to find some scissors. She couldn’t find any and came back with a knife. She was attempting to cut the zipper, but as she had the sharp point of the knife next to my throat I decided that maybe going to the restroom and attempting it myself would be safer! At least I would be in control of the cutting! Finally I was able to cut the coat off, come back and enjoy my meal! I threw the coat away when we got home, but I didn’t throw away the memory. I had escaped the nightmare of a coat doing it’s job only too well and a potential knife to the throat! We all go through a variety of things in life and if this story made you laugh it was worth my suffering!
laughter-new
Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote the famous words in a poem many years ago “laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.” These lines are so often portrayed in their negative connotation. I’d like to concentrate on the first part. If we learn to laugh at ourselves and our situation we in turn get the support of the world. You might think that this is a small thing, but it is very huge. By giving people a reason for hope and a reason to laugh they in turn rally to our side in the bad times. They spread the word of our legacy and our attitude over and over!

Sometimes I can think of the best lines after a situation is over! If I could relive that floor moment here is how it would go. After missing the chair and finding myself on the floor nothing would have changed. I would have got up like I did and found his check. When I was handing him his check I would have said “you know I did a thorough search for your check, checking both the floor and the box and I can happily report that I found it!” That correction would not have changed the students actions but maybe you will remember my story better when you find yourself on the floor!

Prideful Righteousness

I picked out the things that I wanted and headed straight for the cash register.  There was just one person being checked out so here I was next in line.  I laid my three or four items on the counter.  The lady that was ahead of me was paying for her items and the cashier was almost done ringing her up.  Just then the lady happened to turn.  Then she turned toward me.  “Did you know there are a lot of people upset with you?” I looked over to where she was looking and to my surprise there was a line all the way back in the store.  It seems they had a big sale and it was “Saturday Madness.”  The rules of the cash register were that the line formed about fifteen feet from the purchase area and the next person in line got called up when the cashier was ready for them.  So here I was with my stuff I was ready to purchase immediately,  walking back to the end of the line way back in the store!  That is the way it should be right?  It reminds me of when we were kids in school and were lined up in the cafeteria line.  Maybe one of the other kids got out of line for some reason.  When they came back the others wouldn’t let them back in.  “No cuts”, was the slogan everyone used.  In other words the ones who stay in line get rewarded for it and the ones who get out have to start all over.  We all like things in black and white and when changes are made to our way of thinking it doesn’t go over well!  There are times we cry out “that’s just not fair.”

Two different members of Detroit teams faced the same kind of issues recently.  The football team had a pass receiver who was very talented.  He was so talented he figured he should be the number one receiver on the team and it’s first option.  The coach felt that there was another receiver on the team that deserved being number one.  In a rebellious action almost unheard of this receiver started doing things on his own.  In a game he purposely lined up out of the position the coach wanted him to be in.  It didn’t take long before he found himself out of the game.  Even though this receiver has great talents, he was eventually released from the team.  The second member was on the Detroit Tigers baseball team.  He had pitched very well the whole season as a starter, but when it was time for the playoffs a question came up.  You see there were five starting pitchers and in the playoffs only four starting spots were needed.  He was asked if he were the one, (which he eventually was) that had to go to the bullpen was he good with that?  His answer showed where his heart and mind was!  “Whatever he decides he wants me to do I will do it to the best of my ability!”

In Luke chapter 15 Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son.  In the first two verses we get the context for the message.  “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him.  And the Pharisees and Scribes murmered, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  They proudly considered themselves the religious leaders and any religious leader was too good to be associated with the tax collectors and sinners!  Knowing what they were thinking and saying, Jesus mentioned two different scenarios for them to consider before he told the prodigal son parable.  One was about a man who had 100 sheep and lost one.  He would make every effort to find his lost sheep.  The second was about a lady losing one of her ten silver coins.  How she would sweep the house and seek diligently until she found it.  In both cases the man and lady knew how things should be.  They wanted all of their sheep or all of their coins intact.  When one was missing things were not the way they were supposed to be, much like when we happen to count our money and  find that we are short twenty dollars.

The Bible never mentions the word “prodigal.”  Through the years people have linked the term  to the description of the son Jesus mentions in his parable.  Prodigal by definition is “one who is given to wasteful luxury or extravagance.”  Following the two examples mentioned above Jesus starts the parable beginning in verse 11.  And he said, “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.  And he divided his living between them.  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.  And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want.  So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed the swine.  And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough to spare, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”   And he arose and came to his father.  But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion on him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”  And they began to make merry.

prodigal-son2

We’ve all heard this story and most of the time the emphasis is placed on the forgiveness the father extends to his wayward son, but I’d like to talk about the older brothers attitude.  The story goes that the older brother heard the celebration while he was out in the field and he asked one of the servants what it meant?  He was told that his brother had come back and a fatted calf had been killed to celebrate the event! The older brother became very angry and stayed away from the celebration.  When the father realized his oldest son was away, he went out and found him.  The older son was very clear that he didn’t agree with the decision his father made.  In his opinion this was not the way things should be!  Starting with verse 29 the older brother states to his father “Lo these many years I have served you and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.  But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed him the fatted calf!” The father answers his son in verses 31 and 32.  “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.  It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

The story ends before we find out how the oldest son reacted to his fathers words and if he accepted them?  Does he come back to his senses like the younger son did when he returned or does he continue in his pride and self-righteousness?  Notice that pride separated both of the sons from their loving father.  The youngest son pridefully took all of his inheritance and left.  The older son let his own pride and self righteousness interfere with his relationship with his father.  While pride took the youngest son away from his father, humbleness put him back into his fathers arms!  That is how God is!  When we humble ourselves he hears our prayers and forgives our sins! God is all about having us in right relationship with him! When we come back to him it is a reason to celebrate much like finding the sheep that was lost!  It is not known whether the oldest son swallowed his pride and self righteousness, humbled himself and got close to his father again.  We do not know if he accepted the situation as it was or if he lived the rest of his life in unforgiveness?

It’s obvious that the father had a strong opinion of how things should be!  He wanted to be close to both of his sons and he wanted them to share in his wealth.  When the younger son left he broke his fathers heart.  Things were no longer the same as he desired them to be.  Yet, the loving father granted his younger sons desire to break fellowship because true love could only be a two way street.   Though it hurt him deeply he didn’t stand in the way.  The father was thrilled when his youngest son came back!  Things would be the way they should be again! He thought his oldest son would be happy too and was surprised by his selfish, prideful attitude.

The oldest sons attitude still lives today.  Sometimes when we see things work in someone’s favor that seems undeserving we cry out “that’s not fair!”  The oldest sons position exemplifies the attitude we all are taught regarding fair play.  He liked the idea that the younger son got what he deserved and it is only right that he, (being the faithful son), will get rewarded! After all he had always been there for his father!  His attitude toward his brother did not show love, only selfish pride as he pridefully considered himself better.  It was like his brother got out of the line and I’m not going to let him back in… No Cuts!  His brother made a bad decision so it was fair that he must suffer the consequences and go to the back of the line!  The older brother pridefully liked the idea that he was the faithful one and treasured all of the benefits that he thought came with it!  When his brother returned he was bitter for what his brother did and the fact that his father would consider forgiving him.  When the father had the big celebration, he felt things were totally unfair.  Feeling that he (the faithful brother) was not appreciated, he didn’t come to the celebration.  It was the equivalent of rebelling against his father much like the receiver did when he lined up wrong on purpose.  When circumstances change we have to realize that our place on the team is still secure.  The father loved his older son just as much as he ever did!  There are times in our lives that God may switch us to a different role.  Sometimes the decision doesn’t seem fair in our way of thinking. When God decides to use us differently or exalt someone else, we need to trust our coach that he knows what is best! Our thoughts should only be on what is best for the team!  Sometimes our thinking should be adjusted as we take our minds off of ourselves.  I’m sure that God is pleased when we have the pitchers attitude that whatever he decides my role is I will perform it to the best of our ability!  Likewise when our Heavenly Father forgives our brothers (and it doesn’t seem fair) we need to swallow our selfish pride, humble ourselves, and forgive them also!  When we take this attitude we become a reflection of our Heavenly Father who is always willing to forgive and forget all of our trespasses when we are humbled and truly sorry!

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