Working on a Dream




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Embrace that Saved a Hero.

As you all know, Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play baseball in the major leagues. Since Robinson was single handily breaking baseball’s color barrier, it takes no stretch of the imagination to consider the hostile crowds in every stadium his team traveled to. On one fateful day, playing in his home stadium of Ebbets Field, he committed an error. Immediately the fans began to jeer and yell at him.

Robinson stood at second base with his head low and humiliated while the nasty crowd booed him.

Then, without saying a word, shortstop Pee Wee Reese went over and stood beside Jackie. He put his arm around him and looked up at the crowd. Instantaneously the fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

Pee Wee Reese embracing a young Jackie Robinson
  I want you to think about Pee Wee Reese for a moment. Think of the courage it took for him to identify with Robinson.  On that day, Reese did more than just help his team pull together, he was a true encourager, he was one who stood up and said “I believe in this man!” 
Let me ask you a question: Where would you be without the Pee Wee Reese's in your life?  These are the men and women that came along side of you and walked beside you when you were down. When everyone else was giving you the proverbial "thumbs-down" and giving up on you, there was your Reese with his arms around your shoulder.

Recently, I preached a sermon from the book of Acts highlighting a man named Barnabas.  Barnabas' real name was Joseph -however you will never hear anyone refer to him by that if you lived in his day. Barnabas literally means, "Son of Encouragement(Acts 4:36-37) and since he embodied his nickname so well, everyone called him Barnabas, instead of his birth name.  
I am betting that you have some friends with nicknames that have no rhyme or reason other then they sounded cool (shoemaker for instance) and I have other friends that have shortened versions of their name (Scott becomes Scooter) and then we have friends where their nicknames actually embody the person's personality (Picy...don't ask).
This was the case with Barnabas.  His life was one consumed with encouraging the broken hearted, uplifting the downtrodden, developing others and giving generously.  If you were to look up encouragement in the dictionary, there you will find a portrait of Barnabas.  No doubt this man was special. No doubt this man had to get his nickname from many years of helping others. Norman Vincent Peale once said, "Empty pockets never held anyone back.  Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that." I am betting that this was the type of man Pee Wee Reese was. A person that could see past the exterior of a person and see their soul.  In a real way, Reese was a Barnabas for Jackie Robinson.  And that is what made Pee Wee Reese's action so powerful and historic.
Final Thoughts:
Who are you being a Barnabas to in your life?
Do you know of anyone that you could walk over to and stretch out your arms in order to lift their spirits like Pee Wee Reese did?
Life is full of hurting people.
Go. Be a Barnabas for someone today.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why you should Stop Digging yourself into Oblivion.

"It is a good thing to follow the first law of holes; if you are in one, stop digging."

I like that quote because it is advice that you and I could use every so often.  I decided to do a quick search about the meaning of it and I discovered the following:  "The meaning behind this proverb is that if you find yourself in an undesirable situation ("the hole"), such as an argument with others, you should not ignore the situation or attempt to continue what you were doing (the "digging"), as it can make the situation worse..."

Now I will give you Anthony's UNauthoritative definition:
Know when to put down the proverbial shovel and stop burying yourself
Why is it in life we will not quit inflicting pain on ourselves? When we know we are wrong and just continue planting our feet down, stubbornly holding onto positions that do us no good.  Some of the best advice I ever received was, if you take a bite of a poison apple, it's probably a good idea to spit.  For some reason that's too difficult, and human nature continues chomping down, bite after poisonous bite.

Interestingly, this concept is Biblical. In First Samuel chapter 12 verse 20 we read,
"Don't be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don't turn away from following the Lord. Instead, worship the Lord with all your heart. Don't turn away to follow worthless things that can't profit or deliver you; They are worthless."

In the above text, the people had committed evil, however, notice the advice and encouragement  "Do not turn away from following the Lord."  You will also notice this phrase, "Do not turn away" repeated twice.  The reason for this is emphasis.  This was the message the prophet wanted the people to hear loud and clear! In other words, what was done was done. Do not let your past mistakes keep you from following the plans of God for your life!  Repent and return ... and do it quickly. It seems the wise Prophet delivering this message understood the first law of holes; when people commit wrong, the tendency is to continue committing more wrongs. No wonder my Italian grandmother used to say, "people pile sin on top of sin."

This is the tendency for most.  We stand ankle deep in our blunders and continue shoveling ourselves up to our necks when we are already know the severity of our previous actions.  If this is you, stop.  I know it sounds like there is something missing, like you need more advice, but you don't. 
Just Stop. 
Put the shovel down and return to the Lord. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why I Do NOT Trust you.

Many of us have enjoyed the confidence of a trusted advisor. A person that we can go to when we are facing one of life's many dilemmas.

I just put down the book, The Trusted Advisor, where the authors have discussed the important virtue of trust.  Before we move further, have you ever thought about what makes a person trustworthy? What are the qualities you look for that give you the confidence to trust another person as your advisor? What are the reasons you regularly invite them into your life and into your most personal problems? 

I'm sure that you have a list of several qualities building up in your mind, nonetheless, below I will highlight the most important one of all: Trust.

Trust must be earned and deserved. Before someone trusts you, they will need evidence by which they will base their decision on whether or not they will trust you in the future.  When building trust, there are a handful of truths you must bear in mind. Below, I will highlight the building blocks to building trust.

Think of Jack Burns, played by Robert DeNiro in the movie Meet the Fokers.
First, you must understand that trust is something that grows. In other words, trust rarely develops instantaneously. A wise person will watch what a person says and what a person does, then they will wait to see if the person's words and actions match. In the book, The Leadership Challenge, I learned that the number one way for one to build trust is to live by this acronym: "DWYSYWD"
-Do What You Say You Will Do-

Secondly, trust is risky business. There are always at least two parties involved in a trust relationship.Simply put, if party A does not trust party B (or vice a versa), things will fall apart quicker then when a draft hits a house of cards. 

Thirdly, trust is always personal. I've never trusted an organization, business plan, or standard operating procedure ... but I've always trusted a person or group of people. An institution is only as trustworthy as the individuals working in it.

Personally, my most coveted personal advisor is my wife Christen. This past Sunday was Mother's Day and I highlighted the following verses:
"An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. 
The heart of her husband trusts in her..."
(Proverbs 31:10-11) 

Leadership Application:
I hope that as you read this, you reflect on the power of trust. Over the years, I have noticed that the truly great person will not only think about the person God has placed in their life as a trusted advisor, they will also think about becoming a trusted advisor.
And to accomplish this, you must first become a person who is trustworthy

Monday, May 13, 2013

Living your life on Purpose will Save your Life.

One of my favorite quotes is by Friedrich Nietzsche,
He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.
Below is a story that I read recently in Anthony Robbins' book, Awaken the Giant
Within that exemplifies Nietzsche's words.  

Nazis stormed into Stanislavsky Lech’s home, arrested him and his entire family, and sent them to a death camp in Krakow. Soon after, Lech’s family was shot before his eyes and his son was murdered in a gas chamber. Somehow, Lech continued living. He was forced to work as a laborer clearing dead bodies from the camp. Soon after his imprisonment, Lech looked at the horror around him and decided that he must escape.

Escaping from the death camp became Lech’s sole purpose in life, his obsession. Every thought, every step, every action revolved around answering the question, “How can I escape?” You might think that everyone stuck in this nightmare would share Lech’s obsession to escape, but most prisoners seemed to have lost their purpose of living. For weeks Lech asked the other prisoners, “How can we escape this horrible place?” The answers he received were always the same: “Don’t be a fool, there is no escape.” or “Don’t torture yourself, just work hard and pray you survive.” But Lech wouldn’t accept it. One day, while being forced to clean the gas chambers, he saw a huge pile of bodies that had been shoveled into the back of a truck.
Instead of asking, “How could the Nazis be so evil? How could God allow this?
Why me?,” Lech asked, “How can I use this to fulfill my purpose?"

As the end of the day neared and the work party headed back into the barracks, Lech ducked behind the truck, ripped off his clothes, and dove naked into the pile of bodies. He remained completely still and pretended to be dead even as he was crushed by more and more bodies heaped on top of him. He was surrounded by the smell of rotting flesh and the rigid remains of other dead prisoners. After several torturous hours of waiting, Lech heard the truck’s engine starting. Soon, the truck stopped and dumped its cargo into a giant open grave outside the camp. Lech remained there for many more hours until nightfall. Then, when he was sure no one was there, he climbed out of the mountain of dead bodies and ran naked 25 miles to freedom.

The above story exemplifies a significant point: A strong purpose in life will save your life. For Stanislavsky, his burning desire to escape, is the one thing that separated him from the other prisoners in camp.

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul said that he could face an uncertain future by reaching toward the purposes of God for his life. "Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead ... (Phil. 3:13).
I know so many people today whose lives are filled with utter hopelessness.  Wealthy, poor, and everyone in between; all due to being out of tune with their Creator's purpose for their lives.
If this is you, and you need to talk, I am at Northminster Presbyterian Church in New Castle and I am also on Facebook. Feel free to drop me a line.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Story of the 5 Brothers: Part 1

Once there were five sons who lived in a mountain castle with their father.
The eldest was an obedient son, but his four younger brothers were rebellious. Their father had warned them of the river, but they had not listened. He had begged them to stay clear of the bank lest they be swept downstream, but the river's lure was too strong.
Each day the four rebellious brothers ventured closer and closer until one son dared to reach in and feel the waters. "Hold my hand so I won't fall in," he said, and his brothers did. But when he touched the water, the current yanked him and the other three into the rapids and rolled them down the river.

Over rocks they bounced, through the channels they roared, on the swells they rode. Their cries for help were lost in the rage of the river. Though they fought to gain their balance, they were powerless against the strength of the current. After hours of struggle, they surrendered to the pull of the river. The waters finally dumped them on the bank in a strange land, in a distant country, in a barren place.
Savage people dwelt in the land. It was not safe like their home.
Cold winds chilled the land. It was not warm like their home.
Rugged mountains marked the land. It was not inviting like their home.

Though they did not know where they were, of one fact they were sure: They were not intended for this place. For a long time the four young sons lay on the bank, stunned at their fall and not knowing where to turn. After some time they gathered their courage and reentered the waters, hoping to walk upstream. But the current was too strong. They attempted to walk along the river's edge, but the terrain was too steep. They considered climbing the mountains, but the peaks were too high. Besides, they didn't know the way.

Finally, they built a fire and sat down. "We shouldn't have disobeyed our father," they admitted. "We are a long way from home."
With the passage of time the sons learned to survive in the strange land. They found nuts for food and killed animals for skins. They determined not to forget their homeland nor abandon hopes of returning. Each day they set about the task of finding food and building shelter. Each evening they built a fire and told stories of their father and brother. All four sons longed to see them again.

Then, one night, one brother failed to come to the fire. The others found him the next morning in the valley with the savages. He was building a hut of grass and mud. "I've grown tired of our talks," he told them. "What good does it do to remember? Besides, this land isn't so bad. I will build a great house and settle here."
"But it isn't home," they objected.
"No, but it is if you don't think of the real one."
"But what of Father?"
"What of him? He isn't here. He isn't near. Am I to spend forever awaiting his arrival? I'm making new friends; I'm learning new ways. If he comes, he comes, but I'm not holding my breath."
And so the other three left their hut-building brother and walked away.They continued to meet around the fire, speaking of home and dreaming of their return.
Some days later, a second brother failed to appear at the campfire. The next morning his siblings found him on a hillside staring at the hut of his brother.
"How disgusting," he told them as they approached. "Our brother is an utter failure.
An insult to our family name.

Can you imagine a more despicable deed? Building a hut and forgetting our father?"
"What he's doing is wrong," agreed the youngest, "but what we did was wrong as well. We disobeyed. We touched the river. We ignored our father's warnings."
"Well, we may have made a mistake or two, but compared to the sleaze in the hut, we are saints. Father will dismiss our sin and punish him."
"Come," urged his two brothers, "return to the fire with us."
"No, I think I'll keep an eye on our brother. Someone needs to keep a record of his wrongs to show Father."

And so the two returned, leaving one brother building and the other judging.

The remaining two sons stayed near the fire, encouraging each other and speaking of home. Then one morning the youngest son awoke to find he was alone. He searched for his brother and found him near the river, stacking rocks.
"It's no use," the rock-stacking brother explained as he worked. Father won't come for me. I must go to him. I offended him. I insulted him. I failed him. There is only one option. I will build a path back up the river and walk into our father's presence. Rock upon rock I will stack until I have enough rocks to travel upstream to the castle. When he sees how hard I have worked and how diligent I have been, he will have no choice but to open the door and let me into his house."
The last brother did not know what to say. He returned to sit by the fire, alone. One morning he heard a familiar voice behind him. "Father has sent me to bring you home."
The youngest lifted his eyes to see the face of his oldest brother. "You have come for us!" he shouted. For a long time the two embraced.
"And your brothers?" the eldest finally asked.

"One has made a home here. Another is watching him. The third is building a path up the river."
And so firstborn set out to find his siblings. He went first to the thatched hut in the valley.
"Go away, stranger!" screamed the brother through the window. "You are not welcome here!"
"I have come to take you home."
"You have not. You have come to take my mansion."
"This is no mansion," Firstborn countered. "This is a hut."
"It is a mansion! The finest in the lowlands. I built it with my own hands. Now, go away. You cannot have my mansion."
"Don't you remember the house of your father?"
"I have no father."
"You were born in a castle in a distant land where the air is warm and the fruit is plentiful. You disobeyed your father and ended up in this strange land. I have come to take you home."

The brother peered through the window at Firstborn as if recognizing a face he'd remembered from a dream. But the pause was brief, for suddenly the savages in the house filled the window as well. "Go away, intruder!" they demanded. "This is not your home."
"You are right," responded the firstborn son, "but neither is it his."
The eyes of the two brothers met again. Once more the hut-building brother felt a tug at his heart, but the savages had won his trust. "He just wants your mansion," they cried. "Send him away!"
And so he did.

Firstborn sought the next brother. He didn't have to walk far. On the hillside near the hut, within eyesight of the savages, sat the fault-finding son. When he saw Firstborn approaching, he shouted, "How good that you are here to behold the sin of our brother! Are you aware that he turned his back on the castle? Are you aware that he never speaks of home? I knew you would come. I have kept careful account of his deeds. Punish him! I will applaud your anger. He deserves it! Deal with the sins of our brother."

Firstborn spoke softly, "We need to deal with your sins first."
"My sins?"
"Yes, you disobeyed Father."
The son smirked and slapped at the air. "My sins are nothing. There is the sinner," he claimed, pointing to the hut. "Let me tell you of the savages who stay there..."
"I'd rather you tell me about yourself."
"Don't worry about me. Let me show you who needs help," he said, running toward the hut. "Come, we'll peek in the windows. He never sees me. Let's go together." The son was at the hut before he noticed that Firstborn hadn't followed him.
Next, the eldest son walked to the river. There he found the last brother, knee-deep in the water, stacking rocks.

"Father has sent me to take you home."
The brother never looked up. "I can't talk now. I must work."
"Father knows you have fallen. But he will forgive you..."
"He may," the brother interrupted, struggling to keep his balance against the current, "but I have to get to the castle first. I must build a pathway up the river. First I will show him that I am worthy. Then I will ask for his mercy".
"He has already given his mercy. I will carry you up the river. You will never be able to build a pathway. The river is too long. The task is too great for your hands. Father sent me to carry you home. I am stronger."

For the first time the rock-stacking brother looked up. "How dare you speak with such irreverence! My father will not simply forgive. I have sinned. I have sinned greatly! He told us to avoid the river, and we disobeyed. I am a great sinner. I need much work."
"No, my brother, you don't need much work. You need much grace. The distance between you and our father's house is too great. You haven't enough strength nor the stones to build the road. That is why our father sent me.
He wants me to carry you home."

"Are you saying I can't do it? Are you saying I'm not strong enough? Look at my work. Look at my rocks. Already I can walk five steps!"
"But you have five million to go!"
The younger brother looked at Firstborn with anger. "I know who you are. You are the voice of evil. You are trying to seduce me from my holy work. Get behind me, you serpent!" He hurled at Firstborn the rock he was about to place in the river.
"Heretic!" screamed the path-builder. "Leave this land. You can't stop me! I will build this walkway and stand before my father, and he will have to forgive me. I will win his favor. I will earn his mercy."

Firstborn shook his head. "Favor won is no favor. Mercy earned is no mercy. I implore you, let me carry you up the river."
The response was another rock. So Firstborn turned and left.
The youngest brother was waiting near the fire when Firstborn returned.
"The others didn't come?"
"No. One chose to indulge, the other to judge, and the third to work. None of them chose our father."
"So they will remain here?"
The eldest brother nodded slowly. "For now."
"And we will return to Father?" asked the brother.
"Will he forgive me?"
"Would he have sent me if he wouldn't?"
And so the younger brother climbed on the back of the Firstborn and began the journey home.
All four brothers heard the same invitation.
Each had an opportunity to be carried home by the elder brother.
The first said no, choosing a grass hut over his father's house.
The second said no, preferring to analyze the mistakes of his brother rather than admit his own.
The third said no, thinking it wiser to make a good impression than an honest confession.
And the fourth said yes, choosing gratitude over guilt.
    "I'll indulge myself," resolves one son.
      "I'll compare myself," opts another.
        "I'll save myself," determines the third.
          "I'll entrust myself to you," decides the fourth.

          THE END OF PART I.
Story by Max Lucado

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Mothers's Love: "Ain't no mountain high enough"

A Mothers Love.

There were two warring tribes in the
Andes, one that lived in the lowlands
and the other high in the mountains.

The mountain people invaded the
lowlanders one day, and as part
of their plundering of the people,
they kidnapped a baby of one of the
lowlander families and took the infant
with them back up into the mountains.

The lowlanders didn’t know how to
climb the mountain. They didn’t know
any of the trails that the mountain
people used, and they didn’t know
where to find the mountain people or
how to track them in the steep terrain.

Even so, they sent out their best party
of fighting men to climb the mountain
and bring the baby home.

The men tried first one method of
climbing and then another. They
tried one trail and then another. After
several days of effort, however, they
had climbed only several hundred feet.
Feeling hopeless and helpless, the
lowlander men decided that the cause
was lost, and they prepared to return to
their village below.

As they were packing their gear
for the descent, they saw the baby’s
mother walking toward them

They realized that she was coming down the mountain that they hadn’t figured out
how to climb. And then they saw that she had the baby strapped to her back. 

-How could that be?

One man greeted her and said, “We
couldn’t climb this mountain. How did
you do this when we, the strongest and
most able men in the village, couldn’t
do it?”

She shrugged her shoulders and said,
It wasn’t your baby.”

-Author Jim Stovall

Thursday, May 2, 2013