Prayer

Praying StruggleThen Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”    Luke 18:1-8

Portals of PrayerI pray.  Not as often or as regularly as I should, but I do.  In the early ‘80’s I started using a daily devotional called Portals of Prayer by Concordia Publishing.  I started keeping a list of people and issues to pray about.  I still use Portals of Prayer, and I still keep a prayer list.  There are people on that list I haven’t seen in years.  Terrence, for example.  I only met him once, but he had a huge impact on me, and I continue to pray for him.  I came to understand that God orchestrated our meeting through an Elaborate Plan; of that there is no doubt.  That was in 2015.  I still pray for Terrence.

I pray for America and our deliverance from the continuing slide away from God and our founding principles.  I pray for the faithful remnant of Christians that have not relinquished their faith, that they are protected and strengthened.  Meanwhile, the discrimination against us grows.

I pray for people who are sick and not likely to recover.  I hold out prayerful hope that the cancer will be vanquished, that damaged minds will be recovered, that a more merciful death be given since death must come at some point.  I don’t see that ground has been gained so far, but I keep praying.

Am I a fool?  No.  Clearly, we are to continue to “bother” God with our prayers.  Many cases exist of prayers answered, of cancers and diseases being healed in this age.  I’ve gone from extreme loss back to a good life, not too unlike Job.  Things do get better sometimes.  Other times the dark side wins.

Jesus healed hundreds if not thousands of people.  They’re all dead now, but His mercy shone as a glimpse of a greater mercy to come.

I pray for mercy in this life.  I pray for the healing and recovery of a number of people.  Some prayers are simply for continued well-being, for salvation, a softened heart to accept Jesus as Savoir, or whatever the need might be.  Prayers for some people have gone on for many years.  Some short term issues are added and dropped off as things change.

Do I sometimes get tired of saying the same prayers for the same people year after year?  Yes, there are some days when I look at my list and sigh.  But I gather myself, remembering the persistent widow of Jesus’ parable, and come to God yet again.

Sometimes I just name the people and picturing in my mind what I’m asking for them because I words feel inadequate.  Finally, when I reach the end of my list again, I wrap it all up with the Lord’s Prayer.  I say it as slowly as I can, stopping after each part and looking at the people’s names, praying that part for them.

Then I close my Bible with the list tucked safely in its pages and put it on the shelf for tomorrow for my next appointment with The Almighty.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

Jesus in Gethsemane

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:9-15

Advertisements

You Have a Nice Smile

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.   Philippians 4:8

I have written on this sort of thing before, but this is exactly the topic that needs to be revisited in a society that is growing increasingly coarse.

Reformation

Martin Luther; Father of the reformation

Last Sunday we went to the late service at church instead the early service, as usual. We were celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation with a potluck after the late service, and Julie and I didn’t feel like sitting around.

 

Smiling GirlI’m sure we upset someone’s normal seating arrangements. We found ourselves behind a young family. Their teenage daughter and I made brief eye contact as people often do in crowds and smiled. She has one of those faces that is cute enough, but her smile really lit her up.

I passed close by her at the potluck and stopped her for a second just to tell her she has a very nice smile. She smiled, of course, said thank you, and we moved on. That was it. No conversation, no chit-chat with someone new as is often the goal of a potluck at a large church.

I like to think I made her day. I mean, who doesn’t like to be complimented on one’s appearance?

Zig ZiglarPeople complain too much. We are too much a product of Jerry Springer and his ilk. We’ve been instructed to believe that the way to getting what we want is to make a fuss, to be confrontational, but that is completely wrong! See last month’s Unforgettable. As famed motivational speaker Zig Zigler often told his audiences, “The key to getting everything you want is to help others get what they want.” Not in a selfish way, but in a self-sacrificing way that understands you might not get anything back. Don’t be nice to people to satisfy your own selfish desires. JUST BE NICE!  Over the long run, things will work out for you.

Dick Van Dyke MemoirI recently read Dick Van Dyke’s recent autobiography, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir. The secret to his success was just working hard and being nice to people. I was amazed to read how often people would go to bat for him and get him huge breaks for no other reason than they liked him! He had failures too. Everyone does. But the arc of his life is one of great success.

Carl Reiner chose him to play the lead character on The Dick Van Dyke Show when he was a complete unknown. That character was based on Reiner himself, but he was told he was wrong for the part and needed to be recast. When they were searching for a series title, Sheldon Leonard said they should name it after Dick, since he’s the lead. Leonard’s reasoning was that The Danny Thomas Show started out as Make Room for Daddy. He figured they’d just “cut to the chase” and name this new series after Dick at the outset.

Co-star Rose Marie, who played Sally and was a star since childhood quipped, “What the hell’s a ‘Dick Van Dyke’??”

Such a huge break for such an unknown, but his hard work and kind nature are what carried him through.

As Christians, we shouldn’t be nice in order to get things. Hard work and kindness will not get us all our own TV shows. If they did, who’d be home to watch?!? But showing the same kindness and love that Jesus showed us will make our lives and the lives of those around us better.

So, when I can give someone a sincere compliment, I do. On rare occasions people actually get upset, thinking I’m after something or hitting on them. I won’t let that stop me from trying to spread a little of the love Jesus showed me. The times, like last Sunday, when the compliment was another winner, far outweigh the odd clinkers.

Be nice. Smile. Play well with others. And, “…if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Smiley Face

Life & Death

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?   1 Corinthians 15:55

I had a “procedure” done last week. It’s one of those things guys are supposed to do every few years once you turn 50. Let’s just say that saying “Ahhh” doesn’t always involve a tongue depressor during post-50 physicals.

Anyway…when I last went through this three years ago I had a rough time coming out of the anesthesia. I was in that twilight stage where I was becoming aware, but I couldn’t move or talk. My body started hyperventilating as I panicked. More than anything I just wanted someone there to calm my distress. I gradually went back under and came out later OK.

Wife must be here

…and make sure my wife is here after, ’cause I’m scared

I had a heart-to-heart with my wife and the anesthesiologist prior to going in and told them I’d really like Julie to be right there when I start waking up. I mean, I’d REALLY like her to be there. A lot!  Did I mention I don’t want to be alone in Recovery?

 

Call me a sissy, but there are a couple things that really freak me out. One is not being in control of my faculties and the other is being intubated.

The latter was my big fear when I had double bypass in 2003. I was not worried about dying. After prayer and talking, we realized I’d either wake up to her or God after that surgery. There would be no bad outcome.

Paramedic intubation

OK!!!  She’s at 1918 Milburn..

The prospect of waking up still intubated in the ICU was a hell on earth I was terrified of, more so than the prospect of dying on the table. You see, I’m very fond of breathing. And of being able to control my breathing. And of being able to talk, if I so choose. But waking up intubated and with my hands tied down so I couldn’t pull it out – as I’d seen someone else once – was not something I anticipated reacting to well.

 

If you want to get information out of me, just bring in the equipment to intubate me, and I’ll give up my own mother before you even ask. Seriously.

Speaking in earthly terms here, I came to realize this past week that I am not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of living, of life here on earth and in this body. Life on earth is too full of pain and trials, some – like intubation – too horrible to contemplate.

Victoria-Arlen-DWTS-588x395

Victoria Arlen, Dancing With the Stars

There’s a young lady, Victoria Arlen, on the current season of Dancing With the Stars who contracted a nervous system disease that left her trapped in her body, unable to move or speak for years. She heard the doctors tell her parents that she wasn’t likely to live and they needed to be prepared to lose her, to let her go.

 

I guess intubation isn’t too bad…by comparison.

So let’s redefine “life’ and “death.” Real life doesn’t start until we die our way out of this world. Real life doesn’t happen until we end this earthly journey and meet our eternity with Christ in His full glory. When Adam and Eve sinned and God condemned them to earthly death, the Hebrew is literally translated as “Dying, you shall die.”

In other words, life on earth is nothing more than the process of dying. It doesn’t get better. It keeps getting worse. Being here on earth is death! After you’re done here, if you have accepted Jesus, if you’ve given Him permission to pay your debt of eternal death for you by way of His death on the cross, that’s when you truly come alive!

If you haven’t had your Come-to-Jesus moment, if you are still outside of His grace, you need to talk to Him. RIGHT NOW! Just call out to Him in sincerity; He’ll hear you any place, any time of day. Tell Him you’re sorry for all of the bad things you’ve done, all of the things you wish you could get back. Ask Him to come into your life and make it right. Tell Him you accept His payment for your sins. Ask Him to live in your heart and help you make your life one He’d be pleased with.

Then get yourself a good Bible, by which I mean a good, literal translation and not some paraphrased translation. If you’re not into the “thee” and “thou” sort of thing, get a New King James translation. I consider anything else as a bit suspect.

Then find yourself a good, Bible-based church. I go to a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, mostly because they go back to the Bible on every issue that ever comes up. Wherever you go, it isn’t about the music. It isn’t about “Feeling Your Faith.” If you find yourself somewhere that talks about that, RUN LIKE YOU STOLE SOMETHING!! Faith happens regardless of feelings. If you run your Christian life based on your feelings, you’re going to have problems.

Jesus in Gethsemane

“Please find another way!  If not, I’ll go.”

Jesus prayed to His Father in heaven to let Him off the hook for the cross the night He was arrested by the Jews. He didn’t feel like doing what had to be done, but He did it on faith. He struggled too!  He just didn’t stumble, He stayed perfect!  He had our temptations and never gave in!

 

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.   Hebrews 4:15

So get with a community of believers, because none of us can cross the finish line without all of us helping each other get there! Times will go well and not so well, but with your nose firmly planted in God’s Word, you’ll learn how to cope with it; God’s Way.

Enough from me. Get on your knees, fold your hands, and talk to Jesus. He’s waiting.

Unforgettable

Jesus SmilingPeace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.    John 14:27

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.    John 17:16

We are back confronting the WIIFM (What In It For Me) issue I just pointed out in my recent article about relationships; Why Marriages Fail.  I commented on an article, which essentially tried to help people expect less from their spouses and get more from their friends.  The author was trying to give advice on how to fulfill your own needs while preserving your marriage.

The whole thing was written from a selfish point of view.

So…here we go again: Scientist reveals how ANYONE can make themselves unforgettable for all the RIGHT reasons in three simple steps.

wiffleball

A WIIFM Ball?  Full of holes!

WIIFM, right? It’s all about me and how to be in control, how to be loved or at least admired.

 

Aside from the pure selfishness involved, it’s also a color-by-number approach to dealing with people, and that’s just wrong!

First, the scientist/author says you should back up your points in conversation with facts and be sure to repeat yourself three times to be sure you are heard. Should I also throw salt over my left or right shoulder, stand on one foot, and have a clove of garlic in my pocket?

Good communication should be built on facts, tis true. How about we start with making sure we are communicating something worthwhile in the first place? But let’s move on…

Second, surprise them and ask questions. OK, getting warm. This is starting to focus on them not yourself, but the motivation expressed in the article is purely selfish: How I make ME memorable! Surprise them? How about a party-popper? Squirting plastic flower on my lapel? No?

Third, “According to science, the more inspired, motivated and excited your audience feels by what you’re saying, the more likely they are to remember it – and you.”  Again, getting warm, but how do you come up with those motivating and inspiring gems?

Obnoxious PeopleFIRST – Stop trying to figure out how to make everyone like you!  There’s no way you can really inspire people without first getting to know them and their needs!  Start with being interested in them first and only!  Take yourself out of the equation completely.  Just be concerned about them!  You can make the most interesting points in the world backed by an encyclopedia of facts and repeated ad nauseum, but if you’re a manipulator and/or an insecure, egotistical jerk, no one will like you!  Period!!

SECOND – This whole step-by-step, color-by-numbers approach to relationships is bullshit!  Planning out specific, individual actions calculated to accomplish a task, a communication is BS (I’m trying to hold my cussing down to once per article)!  Instead, use what I call my Rock Method from my acting days.  Click on the link for the full article.  My essential point in The Rock Method was that having one, powerful motivation is better than having a multitude of individually choreographed choices.  Here’s an excerpt from the article, my favorite example:

I was asked to come to a modeling school to help coach young modeling hopefuls in relating to a television camera. I walked in on an exercise one of the faculty was running.  She was attempting to teach these girls how to enter a car with a dress on, being sure to keep their knees together.  Each girl took her turn, sitting onto a folding chair that represented a car seat.  Each failed as the teacher kept confusing them with multiple techniques and movements.  I asked if I could take a swing at it.  Obviously thinking I couldn’t possibly succeed where she had failed, she told me to try, if I could.

How to get out of a car in a skirt or dressI sat cross-legged on the floor about ten feet in front of the chair and cupped my chin in both hands. Staring intently at the seat, I said, “OK, ladies.  One at a time.”  Giggling, they all got it right in one round.  I dropped a rock in their stream.  They only had one conscious decision to make, not a multitude.

THIRD – While surprising and motivating people is good in itself, I personally do it for the sheer fun of it, not to make an impression so people will like me!  I do it, because I get a kick out of helping other people make their lives better!

See my article, Smart Blond.  I helped this young woman regain her life, and I never even knew it! Only after the term was over and she came to my office to say thank you did I learn what I’d done for her!

That’s it, my friends. It really is that simple; put other people first with no thought of gain for yourself.  That’s it!  Be a Christian, a Little Christ who is interested in the welfare of others first.

Zig ZiglarZig Zigler has said that the key to getting everything you want is to help others get what they want. He also cautioned that this was not some magic formula to satisfy your own selfishness.  You don’t always see a return for your efforts.  It isn’t a color-by-numbers solution to life.  It’s an attitude that succeeds over the long haul.

That’s what Christianity is, a long term approach to – not just life – but eternity. It’s the way to have a relationship with God first and foremost.  It’s also the right way to relate to the rest of His creation, our fellow created beings.

Washing FeetWhen the disciples were arguing about who would get the places of honor in heaven, Jesus simply told them that the first will be last, and the last will be first. Washing each other’s feet, literally and figuratively, is the practice of humility that He wanted them and us to follow.

Being liked by others, first of all, should not be our goal in life, let alone developing a sure-fire three step approach for it. Our goal in life should be having a great relationship with God and using that as our basis for dealing with everyone we meet.

Why Marriages Fail

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord…25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;    Ephesians 5: 22 & 25

Wedding RingsA lot of people get themselves in a twist over this chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. They get stuck on the idea of wives being submissive and don’t ever seem to make it to verse 25, which tells husbands they should practice the same, selfless, sacrificial love toward their wives as Christ practiced for us, His church.

So husbands have the duty to put their wives above themselves, and wives should respond in loving submission and respect for their husband’s selfless love.

In short, it’s about “You First” instead of “Me First” for both partners in a marriage.

Enter Dr. Finkel from Northwestern University, Department of Social Psychology. His October 2 headline for the London Daily Mail: Why modern relationships fail: Psychologist says we expect too much from our partners and should lower our standards

He makes both some good points and horrendous points in the article. I’ll classify the article overall as something a bit more toward the horrendous side just because it’s overall focus, as written, is completely wrong.  You can tell from the title that the focus is self, not other.  If that’s your starting place, you can’t help going wrong.  But let’s take this one point at a time.

Holding Door

You first…

We expect too much from our partners? Wrong focus.  This is the WIIFM question – What’s In It For Me?  In a bible-based marriage, the question is “What can I do for you?”  The expectation is that we will seek to work with our spouse out of love.  If both people do that, a lot of problems will go away.

 

…people are expecting their partners to be everything to them.  No argument from me there.

Dr Finkel says in order to have a happy relationship we need to ask less from this person and think of ways in which our friendships could give us more.  Let’s say he’s getting warm here. His problem is that the focus is still on self.  I think that strong marriages include a circle of friends.  Friends are the “swizzle sticks” that stir our marriages,  They add other dimensions, other stimuli to all of our relationships.  Marriages make friendships better and friendships make marriages better.

DancingIf you read my article, Activation, you might recall the idea that families develop their own “dances,” a set of stimulus/response patterns that become ingrained and, over the years, become almost unbreakable.  The additional input from a good circle of friends helps introduce new steps into our family “dances” and helps keep ALL of our relationships fresh.

This means scheduling in time to do things together – and stop trying to do relationships ‘on the cheap’, he said.  Absolutely!  I’ve seen too many couples with his and her friends and doing more things apart than together.  You and your spouse are a team.  Do things together!  Do you maybe want to do things on your own at times?  That’s good, but don’t let that become the majority of the time!

‘The idea of the book is that the changing nature of our expectations of marriage have made more marriages fall short of expectations, and therefore disappoint us’, Dr Finkel said.  Agreed!  But what should our expectations be?  Ephesians 5 lays it out pretty well.

‘There’s no shame at all in thinking of ways that you can ask less.  Well, OK, sort of.  Again, his focus is on self and how much we can healthily get from our partner.  His statement comes from a point of selfishness, perhaps greed.  I could almost hear someone asking themselves, “What can I get away with getting from my spouse?”  The question should be more about what can I do FOR my spouse?

Story Photo: Patient Picture

Not me, but similar to my walk from ICU to Step Down

When I had bypass surgery I was determined to be the staff’s favorite patient. I do NOT buy into the current social attitude of “I’m the customer, and you need to kiss my butt!”  My attitude is that you’ll help me, if I help you first.  And I don’t mean just a little, token effort!  They told me walking was the best thing I could do to aid my own recovery, so I walked.  I did what they asked and never complained.  About anything.

 

Believe me, you have no idea how tiring walking is after having your chest cracked open for heart surgery, but I did it. More than one staff told me that I was the “walkingest” patient they’d ever had; they might charge me extra just to replace the carpet I was wearing out!

Those people took care of me!  I never had to ask for anything from them, because they wanted to help someone who was being such a great partner in his own recovery!

If that sort of giving effort gets that kind of response from total strangers for just a few days, imagine how that servant attitude can affect your marriage for decades!

28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:… 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

Activation!

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.   Galatians 6:2

BBBLast week BeautyBeyondBones (BBB) paid a beautiful tribute, Finding the Why, to a former acting teacher, Hope, who died.  The woman had a big influence on her life, and my comments to BBB got me thinking about how it’s a message we should all consider and act upon.

So thank you, Beauty, for inspiring another article here!

*******************************************************

We are the sum of our experiences. It’s true.  What that cliché doesn’t admit to is that there is a usually a mere handful of people that create really pivotal experiences.

Ice Cream Bicycle

But without the umbrella!

At the end of it all, I was not very close to either of my parents. Still, they kept my sisters and I clothed, fed, and sheltered.  Thanks in large part to my maternal grandmother, I believe, we were sent to a Lutheran grade school at our church, grades K-8.  “Little Grandma,” as we called her, did most of the rearing and was the one who always helped us with our homework.  She played with us, taught us countless games, bought us ice cream when the ice cream boy came around, pedaling – yes, pedaling! – his freezer box cart.  Little Grandma lived across the street from us, and that’s where I remember spending most of my childhood, playing with her or in her stuff-filled attic and basement.  See Memory Warehouse.

In short, the three of them put the basic pieces together. But they didn’t provide me with everything I needed.  No parent can.

Your parents produced you, taught you, and influenced you. But every family has its own “dance.”  It’s what happens when you go back home and feel like a little kid again, due both to the physical surroundings and the simple stimulus/response of those life-long relationships.  We fall into those familiar patterns whether we want to or not.

 

DancingPeople outside of our families “activate” us. That’s the best word I can think of at this moment.  In any event, they do something different.  The introduce us to a significantly different dance from the one ingrained in our family, one that is not familiar but still resonates with something our parents and family put there.

BBB’s acting teacher, for example. I had my theatre professor, Jim Austin, at Heidelberg College, high school friends Steve Harris and Rick Michael.  There was even one other acquaintance at Heidelberg I cannot even now name, but I wrote about him recently in Washing Feet.

ACTIVATE! That’s what Hope did for BBB and Jim did for me.  It’s the love BBB talked about that we’re put here for.  We are here to make a difference in other people’s lives.  As a college or corporate instructor, I didn’t find teaching the curriculum so satisfying as  helping other people with their lives by way of the class.

I helped one corporate student from Canada break through a glass ceiling she was caught under at her facility and helped a thirty-something college student remember and reclaim who she really was; see Smart Blonde.  I’ve played unofficial and official mentor to co-workers and assigned myself as a second dad or unrelated “uncle” to others who accepted whatever help I offered them.

Old and Young Together

Contributing, Activating

That’s a lot of “I’s”, but it’s not for self-promotion.  It’s to make the point that there are ways we get “activated” and – most importantly – activate others!  It’s simply a blessing, which is to be  discovered and treated to when any of us ACTIVATES something in someone else’s life.

That’s why BBB is such a phenomenon; she contributes to other people’s lives in meaningful ways. 31,000+ at last count.  Which begs the questions, if you aren’t following her yet, why not?  I mean, 31,000+ people; that’s an above average sized town for crying out loud!  Over half of Americans live in towns of 25,000 or so.  She practically has her own city!

Jim Austin

Jim Austin

I raised my daughters, gave them what I could as a father. The rest of what they need, I don’t have.  They’ll have to get whatever it is from their “Jim Austins,” their “Hopes.”  Having raised my girls, I still have a responsibility to activate, to love others in different ways.  There have been the opportunities and successes listed above to name a few.  God will place more opportunities in my path; I just hope don’t miss too many of them!

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.    Ephesians 2:10

What contribution can you make to someone’s life this day, this week? Even if it’s just giving the half empty bag of mini chocolate donuts on your car seat to a beggar on the exit ramp (and that one hurt, people); significant doesn’t have to be big!  Any gesture can have – dare I say it? – eternal consequences!

Well, done, BBB! Both in contributing to other people’s faith, recovery, need for light, and honoring the memory of your teacher.

You and me, my friends?  Let’s build a similar history for ourselves and, more importantly, to honor God and the Activating He has done for us!

Being Poor

The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all.    Proverbs 22:2

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.    Proverbs 28:6

 

Faint on tthe RoadDefining “Poor” from Merriam-Webster:

  • lacking material possessions
  • less than adequate
  • inferior in quality or value
  • lacking a normal or adequate supply of something specified

 

From “Cheers,” Season 1, Episode 20, titled “Something Single, Something Blue.”

Glynis Johns Someone_SingleThis episode saw Diane Chambers’ wealthy mother facing the prospect of poverty due to a clause in her dead husband’s will, if Diane isn’t married by the following day. Mrs. Chambers was played by the great Glynis Johns, who many might recall as the mother in Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews.

While Cheers is a comedy series, this is a poignant exchange toward the end of the episode. Glynis played it completely straight, tears in her eyes.  This came at about the 20:30 mark:

“I’m really quite afraid. I’m afraid of being poor.  I was poor before I met your father, and it took me years to really forget how being poor felt.”

I, too, have been poor. While in grad school and for a while after I lived in a roach infested apartment in downtown Detroit.  I had three years of fighting cockroaches and no hot water in the bathroom, all in all.  I had a ’68 Rambler station wagon that lived much longer than it should have.  I remember it always being a crapshoot if anything on it worked, from the windshield wipers to, oh, just about any accessory on the dash.  I remember wondering what it might be like to someday have a car where I could be sure everything on it worked!

God blessed me immeasurably in subsequent years. A wife, two daughters, and some very good jobs that came with company cars.  Everything worked on them, including bells and whistles not even thought of in the ‘80’s!

I lost almost all possessions in the financial ruin of 2008-9, but God has restored my fortunes since then. It’s been a tough road.

So, when I watched this scene over my lunch hour today, my eyes teared up along with Glynis Johns’.  I’ve been poor.  Twice.  And that’s just talking about money and possessions.

old-holy-bible-olivier-le-queinec

Not Used Enough…Yet

Within the last five years I’ve learned how poor I am in God’s Word. As any good Lutheran, I know the Gospel and directly related verses, but I’ve also learned a lot about the Bible that I’ve been embarrassingly oblivious to.  If you search my blog, especially under “Science & History and the Bible,” you’ll see many entries on how the Bible truly does intersect the world in history and today in ways I never before realized.

 

The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know, the more I mourn not having known in my younger years!

I find that I simply can’t penetrate certain things adequately, because I don’t know Hebrew or Greek, the original languages of the Old and New Testaments, respectively. English is a very poor language, not nearly as nuanced as those ancient tongues.

I’m often dependent on trying to find a reliable source for translation, and those are not always easy to come by!

I often, once knowing what Scripture literally says, find myself poor at trying to execute what I think I’m hearing. For example –

I forgive people for wrongs done. I even pray for them.  But without their change in behavior I feel the only way to protect myself is to cut myself off from them.  Do I not love enough like Jesus, or would continuing to engage with them be like “casting pearls before swine?”

Even the disciples were told to shake off the dust of their feet at towns that refused their message. Of course, they were there proclaiming the Gospel.  Me?  I’m just trying to practice some decent behavior with the expectation of something approaching reciprocity.

I would like to bring more people to the knowledge of the truth of God’s mercy and love, but I find myself confounded as to how to do that more than I am.

Mercy. GOD’s mercy is the only solution.  Look at my article from last Saturday, “Sweet Release.”  Every 7 years, the Children of Israel were commanded by God to just let it all go.

All debts were cancelled.

fallow_landNo work was to be done for an entire year. It wouldn’t be necessary, because God would so bless their farms that they’d have plenty to get them through.  The land would lie completely fallow and rest.

And I thought some European countries had generous vacation schedules!

Still, with such a rich proposal, the Israelites blew God off. He let it go for SEVENTY, SEVEN-YEAR CYCLES, giving them fair warnings and even minor disasters.  God finally called it enough, and that was the reason the duration of their Babylonian Captivity was 70 years!

Maybe they remembered being poor at some point. Maybe they couldn’t bring themselves to trust God, because they were poor in faith in addition to being poor in money and possessions.

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.

Those seven-year cycles, those Shemitahs, were something God only brought to the Israelites. I know I’m only speaking from the cheap seats here.  I wasn’t there.  But I can’t help thinking that I’d take that.  A one year vacation of doing nothing after six years’ good, hard work sounds great to me.  That along with a guarantee of never being poor would be fine.

Being poor, whether in physical assets or knowledge or moral makeup, is never fun. As long as we’re on this earth there will be poorness.  Satan will see to it.  Jesus even warned us of that;

For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.    Matthew 26:11

But we can counter that with staying in God’s Word; all of it, Old and New Testaments. We can be charitable.  We can fellowship with other Christians in order to help other remain focused on how Jesus expects us to live –

RICHLY*!

 

*Regardless of how much stuff we have.

To the Max!

10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.    Ecclesiastes 9:10

Kobayashi Maru ExplainedThings have been getting tougher lately. Work has been mostly a no-win scenario (a Kobayashi Maru scenario for you Star Trek fans).  It’s so easy to just give in to despair and just ride events as they happen.  In a word?

Be “docile.”

As a colleague says, you need to fly above the weeds and under the radar.

That’s not where God made us to fly, however. We’re not made for skimming treetops.  We’re made to soar.  How are we supposed to live our lives?

To the max!

Although he had a pessimistic-sounding way of putting it, Solomon said the same thing in the above passage. This life is the only one we get on earth.  After that is the grave where nothing gets done until Judgement Day.  Why on earth would we want to waste this one go-round by just floating in the current?

Solomon also points out that fate happens to all; some do evil and prosper and some do good and are harmed. The world is currently Satan’s, and evil befalls all men in some measure and at some time.  There’s nothing in fate that we can control.

But even the worm can turn. The worm can scream at the boot about to crush it.  The worm can still crawl back toward the dirt as quickly as it can; it might even make it!  The worm can still have an effect, however small, on how its life goes, even it’s only dying a little more to the left or the right.  Maybe the little bit one way or the other will leave an impression on someone else!

I can despair of all of the trials I have endured and continue to endure. But even in that despair, I can choose to make a run for the dirt!

So I take the opportunity to get a different job. I take the opportunity to change my career altogether…even at this late stage if my life.  I choose to invest time in writing a motivational speech, a short standup routine for an open mic night at a comedy club, and trying to get an agent.  I choose to MAKE the time to finish the bible class I started; From Creation to Completion.

None of those things will get done after I die. Any one of them might help someone else to strengthen their walk with God or maybe just find Him in the first place.

So I switch off the TV. I put aside a book or any other activity that detracts from really living!  I make every effort to not waste the time given me by my Creator.

Screw being docile! Get busy!  If there’s a boot coming down on you, make a run for it or at the very least scream at it in defiance!  When the run, when the scream is all that’s left, it’s still yours, because you are still alive.  So whatever you can will yourself to do…

…DO IT TO THE MAX!

kobayashi-maru-04

Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn

Always Something

jesus-on-crossBut we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10

I knew so many adults as a child who had jobs, careers and retired comfortably. I attended a notable numbers of retirement parties after hiring in to a Fortune 100 Company in the 90’s.  Men who had worked all of their lives at that corporation were riding off into the sunset.

NYCentralPaintSchemeonFL9sWayneKochEven my dad had his blue collar career on the railroad, retired, and lived out a fairly comfortable retirement.

It seems those times are long gone for me and most people. I know this, but I still get frustrated by the constant negative turn in events.  Right now my company, well, let’s just say that it feels like the wheels are coming off.  I’m 60 and I’ve never seen anything like this.  Anywhere.

So now I’m being recruited by a former colleague, and that’s very nice, but the next step is the salary negotiation and then, if I make the move, another steep learning curve.

I’m getting too old for this stuff!crawling_finish_line_

I’d like to have more time to write these articles, complete a bible class I’ve been wanting to launch at church, etc. However, time continues to be eaten up by work’s ever-increasing demands, and my capacity continues to shrink.

I believe that the increasing challenges of just making a living are challenges to the soul and a Christian’s mission on earth to spread the Good News. Not enough hours are in the day, not enough gas is in my tank.

I just want to be left alone to work my job, be with my wife, and try to help spread the Word.

Then there is Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Despite the heresies of Joel Osteen and his ilk, Christianity is not a joy ride.  Jesus never promised us a rose-garden.

He warned us that we should expect troubles and persecutions. If we follow His teachings and Will, we will certainly have the world treating us no differently than it did Him.

nomad_tentI have to stop and remember that Paul didn’t just go out preaching, supported by the folks in Jerusalem or other organized denomination. He was a tent-maker by trade.  Along with the beatings, imprisonments, debates, preaching and travel, he had to spend time making tents so he could eat and have some shelter.  His path was a very hard one.

So I am perplexed and hard-pressed. And I also believe something else – my health is surprisingly good, considering my multiple surgeries and ills.  Maybe this new job, despite the trials of another big change, will be the thing to loosen things up just enough where I can continue writing and teaching at church.

Like Paul, I need to keep my eye on the prize and finish the race. Trust God to keep me from despair, even though Satan perplexes!

Insidious Pride

If I say, “My foot slips,” Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.   Psalm 94:18-19 NKJV

Pacino as Satan.gif

Al Pacino as Satan – “Devil’s Advocate”

I was a transfer student my junior year. I planned to study theatre and acting, but I didn’t expect to be a huge hit.  I figured I’d need to take a back seat to my classmates who had been there since their freshman year.

 

It didn’t turn out that way at all. The theatre director told me that I was the strongest male actor they had.  The department chair wrote in a letter of recommendation after I graduated, saying that I was the most self-motivated student she’d ever seen.  I guess that’s why she passed over 4-year seniors and gave me, a transfer student, the honor of being the senior who would emcee the annual department banquet.

I wasn’t well-like by a significant number of my peers after rocketing ahead of them like that. Not that that was my intention.  I just worked hard, and it happened.

However, becoming a first class ass didn’t help my cause much either.

Oh, I didn’t start out that way. I came in prepared to be everyone else’s second fiddle as a transfer.  I was caught unawares by the sudden success and accolades from both faculty and students in general.  It went straight to my head; do not pass “go,” do not collect…  Oh, what the hell; take the $200 too!

Vanity, Satan’s favorite sin. Yes, it’s a movie line, but if you think about it, Satan’s most basic approach is some form of “me first” temptation.  He’s got myriad ways of disguising it, but at the end, he puts the focus on us and our desires over everyone else’s.  Including God’s.

Unexpected success is a perfect crack for him to explore. Success of any kind will do!

I friend is on a run of incredible success after a lot of suffering. Although I continue to give my full-fledged support, I have issued the warning that this is a time of great danger; vanity is coiling to spring when things go so well!

I recall that the Chinese symbol for “Opportunity” is made up of several other symbols, including the one for “Danger.”

How do you fight something so insidious, so easily confused with confidence and happiness?

Prayer! Stay in touch with God, remembering who you are and whose you are.

Reading! As in reading the Bible and keeping His Word foremost in your mind.

Should you enjoy success? Absolutely!  It’s a God-given gift!  Enjoy it in thanksgiving to the One who gave you the talents to succeed, and keep insidious pride at bay!

 

Praying

Or…”When in SUCCESS, pray it out!”

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18