Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Move That Mountain!

"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." -- Matthew 17:20

Do you have a mountain looming in front of you, that you can't see your way around?  Call on God!  He's in the earth moving business!  Faith in the Mountain Mover moves the mountain!

Sometimes, He moves the mountain by earthquake -- a sudden event takes it all away.  This can happen when we make a major decision, or by circumstances beyond our control.  These earthquakes can be painful at the moment, but result in long term good.

The great Salvation Army leader, Samuel Brengle, was severely injured when an angry rioter threw a brick, hitting him in the head.  Brengle spent several months in rehabilitation, and during that time he wrote his first book which became bestselling classic.  Years later, he remarked to his wife, "I'm thankful for the brick.  If there had been no brick, there would have been no book."

Sometimes, He moves the mountain one shovel at a time -- and it takes time and hard work, so we can develop character and patience.  This means waiting and watching.  As the poet, Milton, says "they also serve who only stand and wait."

Consider the ants who create massive colonies one grain of sand at a time.  Success isn't usually gained in one big step, but rather many small steps.  It doesn't happen in a day -- but day after day after day.

Sometimes, instead of moving the mountain, He moves us -- giving us strength to navigate the the uphill journey to the peak.

If your mountain won't move -- maybe it's because you're supposed to do the moving.  One of the most important abilities in life is flexibility.  Are you willing the make the necessary changes to get on top of your mountain?  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.

Sometimes, He leaves us at the foot of the mountain, where, if we stop resisting and start digging, we discover a gold mine.

To many people have what John Maxwell calls "destination disease".  They say they will be happy and fulfilled "when I retire" or "when I graduate" or "when I get married" or "when I get a different job" or  "when I make more money" or "when I move to a different town."

But maybe, instead of putting you happiness and fulfillment on pause until all your stars are aligned, you should make the best of where you are and what you have.

"Yesterday is a cancelled check.  Tomorrow is a promissory note.  Today is the only cash you have, so spend it wisely." -- Kay Lyons

Monday, October 17, 2016

Election Advice from John Wesley

From Wesley's journal:  October 3, 1774:

 I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and  advised them:
 1) To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most  worthy.
 2) To speak no evil of the person they voted against.
 3) To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on  the other side.

The Failure of Short Term Optimism

On September 6, 1965, Admiral James Stockdale’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Viet Nam. The injured Stockdale found himself captured and imprisoned in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton”, where he was a prisoner of war for over seven years. He was the highest ranking naval officer held as a prisoner of war in the Viet Nam war.

 Stockdale was kept in solitary confinement for four years, placed in irons for two years, denied medical care and malnourished. Despite these terrible conditions, he led an “underground resistance movement” which brought hope and a sense of esprit de corps to his fellow POW’s. Still, many prisoners died under these grueling circumstances. Finally, in 1973, the brave admiral was released, and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor is 1976 by President Ford.

 Several years later, author and researcher, Jim Collins, interviewed Stockdale in the campus of Stanford University, and asked the decorated offer how he coped with the demoralizing effects of his imprisonment.

 Stockdale replied, “I never lost faith in the end the end of the story. I never doubted that not only would I get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

 Then, Collins asked, “Who didn’t make it out?”

 "Oh, that’s easy,” Stockdale responded, “The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."

 Now, I certainly believe in optimism. The title of my newspaper column, “Positively Speaking”, speaks to that. However, I believe Stockdale was right.

 A misplaced, short term optimism can lead to failure and disillusionment. It’s much better to focus on the long term.

 Some day
 Some way
 I’m going to make it.

 Things may not go as I’ve expected or desired, but I’m not going to let a few temporary setbacks keep me from my ultimate destiny. Rarely, does a person follow a straight path from success to success. Usually, there’s quite a winding road, replete with failures, frustrations, shortcomings, and disappointments.

 The important thing is to keep plugging on, regardless of the short term circumstance. Eventually, you’ll find your way.

 Success is getting up one more time than you fall down.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

The Measure of Character

Character matters -- and the way we treat and speak about others is character's best measurement.  Civility, unfortunately, is becoming an increasingly rare virtue in our society.  The divisive rhetoric in our land is increasing, and does nothing to bring us together.  The bridge of understanding is built through mutual respect.

 A big part of maturity is learning to disagree agreeably, and treating people with kindness, even if they don't share our values.

 Recently, I ran across this piece from an unknown poet which captures this ideas.  Though it was penned over 70 years ago (long before authors knew about inclusive language), the point certainly fits for our day and age:

 The man's no bigger than the way
 He treats his fellow man;
 This standard has his measure been
 Since time, itself, began!

 He's measured not by tithes or creed
 High-sounding though they be;
 Not by the bold that's put aside;
 Not by his sanctity;

 He's measured not by social rank,
 When character's the test;
 Nor by his earthly pomp or show,
 Displaying wealth possessed

 He's measured by his justice, right,
 His fairness at his play,
 His squareness in all dealings made,
 His honest, upright way.

 These are his measures, ever near
 To serve him when they can;
 For man's no bigger than the way
 He treats his fellow man.

Friday, September 30, 2016

What Did You Mean By That?

 "Half the harm that is done in the world," said poet, T.S. Eliot,"is done  by people who want to feel important. They do not mean to harm. There  are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

 I've discovered that most of the time, people mean well. Even when  they speak or behave in troubling ways that makes us wonder -- they  mean well.  It's best to give the benefit of the doubt whenever possible.

 Yet, at the same time, it is also beneficial for us to examine our  motives, and try to understand more deeply how our behavior effects  others.

 Sometimes, winning the argument loses the fight. A marriage counselor once asked a distraught husband,  "Do you want to be happy, or do you want to be right?"

 After a frustrating conversation one day, I thought, "What he said spoke so loud, I couldn't understand a word  he meant!"

 Perhaps, the best path is mapped out by St. Francis of Assisi, who prayed:

 Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
 Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
 Where there is injury, pardon.
 Where there is doubt, faith.
 Where there is despair, hope.
 Where there is darkness, light.
 And where there is sadness, joy.

 Grant that I may not so much seek
 to be consoled as to console;
 to be understood, as to understand,
 to be loved as to love;
 for it is in giving that we receive.
 it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
 and it is dying that we are born to eternal life.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Surprising Seed of Heaven

 Poem by Mark Wilson  Photo by Hannah Wilson

 Faith, the seed of heaven
 planted by surprise in earthen soil.

 The barren ground reluctantly invites, mostly disdains
 this small possibility of hope.

 Stirs slightly, irritated, yawns and then settles
 back in lazy slumber mostly convinced
 that the interruption is merely
 a burial of another empty dream.

 Entombed in heavy darkenss
 the seed of heaven sings
 as it reaches for a land beyond its grasp
 and hopes for the hand of God it cannot see.

 But no dark place can silence
 the song of faith and hope.
 And calloused soil cannot withstand
 for long refreshing rains.

 Slowly, steadily, the seed of heaven toils
 upward, onward,
 through the dark
 towards heaven's gate.

 Sometimes singing.
 Sometimes sighing.
 Always longing
 for destiny awaits.

 Heaven beckons,
 Earth responds.
 That is the order of
 all created things.

 The earthen tomb
 becomes a womb
 of life anew --
 and resurrection!

 A seed, a sprout, a stalk,
 and then a slendid crimson flower
 Blooming where it first began
 it's morning hour.

 Looking up to see the smile of God
 Looking down upon the sordid place
 from which it came.
 And bearing precious treasure. . .

 another measure . . . 
 of the seed of heaven -- faith!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Financial Struggles Help Us Grow

Everyone deals with financial setbacks from time to time.  Money doesn't buy happiness - -but the lack of it can sure bring a lot of stress.  My father, talking about the lean years of the Great Depression, said they pinched pennies so tight, Abe Lincon hollered!  George Washington has hollered in my hands a few times!

When facing hard times financially, it pays to remember these are the only times we have.  We need to keep a proper perspective. Here are some important reminders as we face adversity:

1. God is far bigger than the problem.
If a financial crisis looms like a mountain, remember -- God is the mountain mover! There's no challenge too great for the Almighty. There is not one situation beyond His ability. Instead of telling God how big your problem is, tell your problem how big God is!

2. Hard times teach us wisdom.
Difficult days force us to stop and evaluate where we are, what we're doing, and why we're doing it. Nobody becomes wise with ease. It takes trouble to grow in patience and understanding.

3. The valleys are where we grow.
We rejoice on the mountaintops -- but we grow in the valley. Hardship forges character and makes us better people. The sweetest people I've ever met are those who have gone through the most difficult experiences.

4. There's always a reason to be thankful.
If we look for blessings in the darkest days, we will find them. Thanksgiving brings a special joy and peace.

5. We are never poor if we are rich in love.
In loving relationships, we find true wealth. Money can buy things, but not true happiness.

6. It's only money.
When the budget is tight, just remind yourself, "It's only money." Life is much more than money. We must never let money troubles take our focus off the more important matters of life.  Why get so uptight over little green pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents on them?

7. We're blessed to be a blessing.
One major purpose of money is to help and encourage others.  If you happen to have a little extra, then. . .
a) be thankful
b)  be generous
b) be a blessing.

8) There's always hope at the end of the day.
No matter what happens, you'll get through it. The sun will rise tomorrow. When all is said and done, all will be well -- and only the eternal things will remain.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Your Results Depend on Your Reliance

“If you rely on training, you accomplish what training can do. If you rely on skills and hard work, you obtain the results that skills and hard, faithful work can do. When you rely on committees, you get what committees can do. But when you rely on God, you get what God can do.” 
-- Wesley Duewel in Ablaze for God