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Thursday, April 26, 2018

I Want IT Bad !

A STORY:
There was a young man who wanted to make a lot of money, and so he went to a guru. He told the guru he wanted to reach his level of greatness. And so the guru said: “If you want to be on the same level I’m on, I’ll meet you tomorrow at the beach.”
So the young man arrived at 4:00 a.m. He had on a suit, but he should have worn shorts. The old man grabbed his hand and said: “How bad do you want to be successful?” The young responded: “Badly.”
So the old man told the young man to walk out into the water. It was waist deep. The young man thought: “This old man is crazy.”
The young man said to himself: “I want to make money and this guy has me out here swimming. I didn’t ask to be a lifeguard. I want to make money.
Then the old man said: “Come out a little farther,” and the young man did so.
As the young man was up to his shoulders in water he again thought: “This old man is crazy! He’s making money, but he’s crazy.”
The old man said, “Come out a little farther.”
The young man obeyed, but wavered as if he might turn back.
So the old man said: “I thought you said you wanted to be successful?”
“I do,” said the student.
So the old man ordered the young man to come out even farther, and when he did he pushed the young man’s head under water and held it down. Although the young man fought, the old man would not let him up.Just before the young man passed out the old man raised his head above the surface and said: “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”
The young man in the story wants nothing more than to be successful in life. Certainly ambition is not a bad thing, however misplaced ambition is. In all reality, this story is about desire. It is about not quitting.  It’s about a dream and your pursuit of that dream.   It’s about wanting it bad, whatever the “it” is that burns inside your guts. Most people have an “it” and it keeps them up late at night … whether for good or for bad.  Know what? Not all “its” are worth your venture. Not all “its” are created equal.  Some are good, some bad.  Some are worthwhile pursuits that will reap meaningful rewards and some are filled with bleak despair.   Today, I want to tell you about a person that had it all, yet desired something most of us have either forgotten or misplaced.
In the Old Testament book of Psalms we read, “As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42: 1-2).
 
I am not a hunter, but growing up in Western Pa. I know a thing or two about deer from the enthusiasts that I hang with. In the wild, an animal can become emaciated due to a lack of water and/or food. David is at a low point in his life while writing this passage and draws a parallel between a deer’s desperate desire for water and his own yearning to connect with God. Just as a deer pants after the water brook, David pants after God. See when King David wrote this he was down in the pits and removed from his throne. We both know that King David could have potentially missed a lot of things in his current situation; as King, I would have probably missed my comfy bed, deliciously prepared meals, a Mega-Huge TV to watch the 49ers play and my nightly foot massage.  Contrarily, we do not find David expressing a single word of regret as to his absence from his throne.  Rather his longing is for fellowship with God. Apparently, David had an “it” and it was the Lord.  
 
Like David, there is something that happens to us when we go through tough times. The trials of life reveal what is beneath our exterior; then our true character surfaces like the morning sunrise.  What is below the surface quickly becomes evident to all.  This, I am sure you have figured out, is either a good thing or a bad thing for a person. We’ve all see it. Experienced it.  When someone acts up and everyone is just sitting around with their jaws touching the floor. Shocked at what we have just painfully observed. Conversely, there are times when a person’s powerful character is revealed that leaves an indelible mark upon us.  For King David, his time of pain revealed his deepest desire. To connect with his Creator. Or should I say, to re-connect with Him.  Have you noticed that you or I never really miss water until we MISS WATER???  I get the feeling that this was David’s yearning during his crucible.  The thing that he took for granted was not near.  That connected feeling that brought him a sense of comfort was removed and now David wanted it back –more than anything.
 
Maybe you have wandered away.  You now find yourself in the wilderness wondering what had happened.  Where did my foot slip?  When did I go wrong? And more importantly, how do I get back? The answer is beautiful in way due to its simplicity.  Just go back to the source and drink. Partake.  You may have taken 1,000 steps away from God, but He has taken 999 and is looking right over your shoulder waiting for you to turn around and begin all over again.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Damaging Yourself: anger and resentment

On the Halloween when Dwight D. Eisenhower was ten years old, his parents let his two older brothers go trick-or-treating, but told Ike he was too young to accompany them. Having eagerly anticipated a night of fun and freedom, Dwight was crushed. He argued his case for why he should be allowed to go out, begging and pleading with his parents to change their minds until his brothers at last headed off into the night without him.
 
Completely beside himself with rage, Ike went into the yard and starting pounding away at the trunk of an apple tree, pummeling the bark until his fists bled. His father finally pulled the boy away, gave him a few swats with a hickory stick, and sent him off to bed.
Ike sobbed into his pillow, feeling like the whole world was against him.
After an hour, Eisenhower’s mother came into his room and sat down in the rocking chair beside his bed. She rocked silently for awhile, and then began to talk to young Dwight, telling him she was concerned about his anger, and that of all her boys, he had the most to learn about getting his temper under control. But striving to do so and gaining self-mastery, Mrs. Eisenhower continued, “He that conquereth his own soul is greater than he who taketh a city,” she told her son, paraphrasing the Bible. Then, Ike remembered, she offered him a piece of life-changing advice:
“Hating was a futile sort of thing, she said, because hating anyone or anything meant that there was little to be gained. The person who had incurred my displeasure probably didn’t care, possibly didn’t even know, and the only person injured was myself.”
As Eisenhower’s mother applied salve and bandages to Ike’s wounded hands, she reinforced her point by noting the way in which his heedless anger and resentment had changed nothing and only damaged himself.
Article: The Art of Manliness, June 3, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2018

How to Handle Life's Disapointments

Handling Life's Disapointments
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?

-Langston Hughes, Harlem.
Harold S. Kushner, in his fascinating book, "Overcoming Life's Disappointments" comments on the poem asking, "In these lines, the poet wonders what happens to dreams that do not come true. I wonder what happens to the dreamer. How do people cope with the realization that important dimensions of their lives will not turn out as they hoped they would ..."
Heavy Stuff.
Especially if you are in touch with reality.



The first thing to grapple with is that you will be disappointed. For most of us, we have already experienced our share. But, there was a time, perhaps when young(er) and naive, you happened to dance around the painful events of life unscathed. Then, it got you. Setbacks, losses, unexpected events, Etc. You were wounded on the inside. Never to be the same again. And NO, your life will not be as it once was. I am a victim of this mentality -waiting for things to return to "normal" - they do not. As a man of deep nostalgia, I stood at this doorstep for years, only to have that door unanswered. So I get it, trust me.

As time passed on your pain, you learned that the question was not, "How do I go through life avoiding disappointment?" Rather, "How will I respond to those disappointments?" Today I was reading in the Psalms something that I know was a message for me:
"Light arises in the darkness for the upright" (112:4)
When your heart has broken and you feel lost a lot of the time you feel like you are groping for something. Whether it is the past, restoration or a specific answer, you grope. You yearn like a blind man for answers around you. In our Psalm, we read something that shifts our mind to a different perspective. "Light arises in the darkness!" Your answer will come. Your restoration is on its way. God is not done with you. Your journey, although confusing, painful and down right exhausting can produce something of value.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Black Feather

Ever hear of Occam's Razor?
Its basic tenant is, "the simplest explanation is usually the right one."
Many use Occam's Razor as a means to slice through a problem / situation in order to eliminate unnecessary steps.

Today, I would like to apply Occam's Razor to conflict. Jesus said, "If you have an issue with someone, the best way to handle the difficulty is to simply go to them." Face to face.
Toe to toe. Heart to heart. It's a rather direct approach.
It's a rather gutsy one too.  The genius is found in its simplicity.

Just think for a moment how many other ways you and I handle conflict:
-The Ostrich approach (ignore it).
-The Bursting a blood vessel approach (do you really need an explanation?).
-The Big Daddy approach (cover it up).
-The Flapper approach (I talk to everyone except the right one).

Possibly the most dangerous approach is the "Black Feather" approach.
Below, I will share a short story that illustrates this powerfully.

In a small German village, a woman differed with her minister and became so angry that she began spreading ugly rumors about him around town. As fate would have it, she eventually became ill and called on the minister to pray for her. He came gladly, and she asked his forgiveness of her gossiping. "I will grant you forgiveness," the minister said, "but there's something you must do."

"I'll do anything," the woman said.

"As soon as you get well, go pluck the feathers from a black chicken and put them into a basket and bring them to me."  When the woman got well, she did what the minister asked her to do and presented the basket of feathers to the minister.

"You did well," the minister said. "Now take this basket of feathers and scatter them in the corners of the marketplace and from the towers of the church. Scatter them throughout the town. Then return to me."

So the woman did.


She walked from one end of town to the other, scattering the feathers. Then she returned to her pastor. "I have done as you asked," she said.
"Very well. Now take your basket and collect all the feathers. Make sure not one is missing."
"But that is not possible!" the woman said with a choking cry.  "The wind has carried many of them away.
 
"So it is with your words," the minister said. "While I have gladly forgiven you, do not forget that you can never undo the damage your untrue words have done."


 
Further, I have noticed in life that, generally speaking, people do have good motivations for the things that they do.  So do not fill  your mind with all the "reasons" why so and so did such and such, oftentimes you are wrong.  You are inserting your own motivations into the story that may not be true. Remember, in the absence of information people will make up their own.
 
One of my favorite quotes is Thomas Watson's, "What fools are they who, for a drop of pleasure, drink a sea of wrath." This is precisely what happens when you and I choose to let things fester within our hearts by not going directly to the source of our conflict. In a real way, it is like we gladfully go to the shelf, pour ourselves a glass of destruction and drink it straight down. Your life will be better off if you put that glass down and get direct when handling conflict.  When you do, you will switch that old glass of wrath for a fresh goblet of peace. 
 

Conclusion:
Any reasonable person will see that out of all the alternative options, the direct approach is certainly the best.  It is also the toughest --let's be honest, nobody is running to the front of the line when it comes to conflict resolution.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." - Antoine de Saint Exupéry

I read a story by James K. A. Smith, in his work titled, “You Are What You Love.”


The author recounts a time when he was in the Tate Britain museum in London and was captivated by a painting.

The painting is called, “The Boyhood of Raleigh” and attempts to tell the story of who would eventually become Sir Walter Raleigh, the great Intrepid explore sailing for Queen Elizabeth.



Image result for boyhood of raleigh

 
Cool picture, right?

Here is what I love about it.  While there are no words attempting to tell us what is going on –we intuitively know.  

The older man, the hardened, skin-salted, sailor is pointing the boys towards the sea with great tales of thrilling adventure!

“Boys,” he says in a whisper, “The first time I set sail as a young man I remember…”  And the story begins.

Now notice the young boy’s faces.  Totally on the man. Every word.  They sit. Hanging on his words as he paints pictures and as he tells them stories, something is happening to them.  They begin to see themselves as sailors. Standing on the mast. Commanding the large wooden ship through the mighty seas.

This is teaching.  And do you want to take any guess as to the greatest teacher our world has ever known? If you guessed Jesus, then you are correct.  Man was He good at painting pictures.  “I am the Vine and you are the branches” (think of this being said standing right in the middle of a Vineyard).  “I am Living Water” (imagine being situated in the hot sun-beaten dessert next to a well).  I could go on, but there is just one more aspect of Jesus’ teaching that I want to highlight before I finish.

If you have ever read the Gospels, you probably remember Jesus using a phrase that goes like this: “The Kingdom of God…” When He is saying this, He is painting a picture for His followers much like the sailor in the painting.  He is casting a vision for what life can and should look like as His message spreads.  Because when His message spreads, you, I – the world starts to reflect the character of God – in other words we will be a little bit of heaven right here on earth.