Saturday, May 23, 2015

Act Like a Tourist

Recently a tourist from Chicago, visiting our delightful northwoods community remarked, "I wish I could just quit my job and live in Hayward full time. It would be like living in heaven!"

I smiled, and thought, "He sure doesn't know what it's like to live here!"

Later, relating this conversation to a Hayward native, I said, "Poor fellow doesn't realize that living in the Northwoods is a far cry from vacationing here."

To this, my Hayward friend replied, "If that's the way it is for you, then you're doing it wrong."

"I think the citizens of Hayward ought to act like tourists," he continued, "We should take advantage of all our community has to offer! We should jump in the lake, canoe down the Namekagon, hike in the Chequamegon Forest, go fishing, attend the Lumberjack Show, and buy candy at Trembley's. We should travel the bike path, drink java at Backroads, go camping, feast on Old Southern BBQ, window shop on Main Street, drive go karts, play mini-golf, and have homemade ice cream at West's Dairy"

"We live in a glorious place,” he continued, “and it's a sad shame if we don't make the most of it!"

His response hit me right between the eyes! Of course! Why didn't I see it before? Here we are, living in one America's most beautiful communities -- and we end up too busy to enjoy it.

My friend is right. The good folks from Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana are willing to drive for hours to get what we have in our own backyard! Let's take advantage of this wonderful opportunity!

One of the great things Hayward offers is a chance to slow down, relax and recharge. Nature provides a good place to reflect on life. “The Wilderness,” as Nancy Wynne Newhall observed, “holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask.” One does not need to be a tourist to experience that.

Of course, we must work to make a living -- but can't we work in context? Can't we pause, relax, and be grateful for living in such a beautiful place? Quiet reflection will improve both our work and attitude.

"Follow effective action with quiet reflection." advised Peter Drucker, "From quiet reflection will come even more effective action."

Friday, May 22, 2015

You Can Never Have Too Much Love

A beautiful thought expressed by 18th Century Methodist leader, John Fletcher, in a letter to his dear friend, Charles Wesley:

"I have the impression that we can never have too much compassion for sinners, nor overemphasize for them the love of Jesus, when he himself became incarnate and declared redemption and salvation to tax gatherers and evildoers.  I have also the impression that faith shows itself gradually in many hearts, and that it is our task to nourish the weakest spark, the faintest signs."  (Reluctant Saint, Patrick Streiff, p. 82)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Where Does This Road Lead?

A stranger once stopped a man on the road and asked, "Where does this road lead?"  "My friend," the man replied, "this road leads to any place in the United States."

Monday, May 18, 2015

Words of Wisdom for Graduates

Congratuations to those who are graduating from high school this weekend.  You have navigated many years of instruction and now are embarking into the brand new world of adulthood.  Graduation is the doorway to a new chapter in your life.

As you stand at the threshold, it will pay you to heed the advise of the great king, Solomon, known as the wisest man who ever lived:  "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth" (Ecc. 12:1).

Today as you stand at the door, I encourage you to pause and reflect on the following words: honor, understanding, gratitude and courage.

This is a time to honor those who have taught you -- your parents and your teachers.   In Proverbs 1:8 King Solomon said " Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching."

When I was young, I didn't think my teachers and parents knew very much.  The older I get, the more I realize the more they knew.

Grant honor to those who have invested in your life by showing respect and applying what they have taught you in order to make good decisions.

King Solomon said, "wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get
wisdom:  and with all your getting get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7). 

The stuff you learn in school is knowledge.  The application of that knowledge to life is called wisdom.  Many people have knowledge without wisdom.  The way to obtain wisdom is to seek understanding.

Challenges and troubles are our teachers.  You will go through them.  The question is -- will you GROW through them?  The pathway to personal growth and maturity is to glean the meaning from all your experiences.

Solomon's dad, David, wrote most of the Psalms and nurtured an attitude of gratitude in his home. For instance, in Psalm 106:1 we find hese words, "Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!"

A thankful heart is a healthy heart. Look back and thank God for the many blessings you enjoy. Of course, there are plenty of things to complain about, but I have discovered that life runs best on positive energy.

Transitions are never easy -- but nothing worthwhile ever is easy. We never get to the end zone by staying in the comfort zone. The world is in bad shape and getting worse -- and will only be changed by those who are brave enough to step forward to make a difference. Courage counts! As you stand at the door, be bold and remember these words of wisdom from Solomon's dad, "Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD" (Psalm 27:14).

Friday, May 01, 2015

Release Your Resentments

Poet, Edwin Markham, had put aside a great sum of money for his retirement. When he went to the bank to withdraw from the account, however, he discovered that a “trusted friend” had plundered his nest egg, leaving him penniless.

Edwin now needed to write again in order to survive. He sat at his desk day after day but was unable to produce anything. He could think only of his loss. Bitterness and resentment were walls, shutting out his creativity. It was destroying his life.

One day, he began to doodle on the blank page before him. As usual, he could think of nothing to write. So, he drew circles on the paper.

Suddenly, as he gazed at the circles, he knew what he must do. Bowing his head in prayer, he poured out his resentment to God and asked for the strength to forgive.

Then he picked up his pen and began to write:
He drew a circle that shut me out,
Rebel, heretic, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win,
We drew a circle that took him in!

Has someone wronged you? Have you been hurt by a harsh word, a cruelty, a betrayal, or a snub? If so, you need to let go and forgive. Forgiveness really is a choice – and it’s for your own good.

“But she owes me an apology!” might say. It doesn’t matter. You must forgive anyway.

Forgiveness means adjusting our attitude. It is dealing with the bitterness so we can smile again. It is resolving the issues rather than allowing them to fester. You don’t need “permission” from the one who offended you to do that.

The Jewish philosopher, Hannah Arendt, remarked, “Forgiveness is the only power which can stop the stream of painful memories.”

The Lord’s Prayer says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Can you honestly say these words? Are you able to release your resentment and forgive the one who hurt you?

Never is a human soul so strong as when it dares to forgive an injury.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

There's Sunshine in My Soul Today

The words of this old Gospel song came to my mind this morning.  I have not heard it since childhood:

There is sunshine in my soul today, more glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky, for Jesus is my light.

Oh, there's sunshine, blessed sunshine when the peaceful happy moments roll.
When Jesus shows his smiling face, there is sunshine in the soul.

There is music in my soul today, a carol to my King,
And Jesus listening can hear the songs I cannot sing.

There is springtime in my soul today, for when the Lord is near,
The dove of peace sings in my heart, the flow'rs of grace appear.

There is gladness in my soul today, and hope and praise and love,
For blessings which he gives me now, for joys "laid up" above.

Text: Eliza E. Hewitt, 1851-1920
Music: John R. Sweney, 1837-1899

Friday, April 24, 2015

And What Kind of Church Shall We Be?

There are three generations in the church:
  •  the "traditional" generation,
  •  the the "emerging" generation,
  •  and the "bridging" generation.
 Each generation serves an important function.

 The traditional generation keeps us rooted in our rich heritage, reminding us of our larger, historic, faith community.

The emerging generation pushes us forward into the future, bringing cutting edge vision for tomorrow's effectiveness.

The bridging generation lives between both worlds, helping both the traditionalists and the emerging types to respect, value and understand each other.

The key to effective congregational change is in the hands of the bridging generation, but that's a difficult role to play.  As Rick Warren noted, "The problem with being a bridge is that you stepped on from both sides."

Without someone bridging the gap, however, a church will either stagnate and die of traditionalism, or, rejecting it's heritage, will wander from orthodoxy in blind arrogance and consumerism.

Yesterday's emerging generation became leaders, and are now today's traditional generation.  The traditions are different -- but the spirit is the same.  It takes humility, courage and patience for these leaders to release authority to the rising generation.

Congregations are most healthy when they are intergenerational -- based on mutual respect and honor.  This calls for patience and the hard work of understanding and forbearance.

Instead of battling over preferences, we must remember that our fight is not with each other.  We're on the same side in our struggle against evil.   Perhaps we should follow Dr. Earle Wilson's sage advice, "Build a bridge and get over it!"