Monday, October 05, 2015

And Then I Shall Be Free

Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.
 Force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be.
 I sink in life’s alarms when by myself I stand;
 Imprison me within Thine arms, and strong shall be my hand.
-- George Matheson

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Shooting Blessings

The following excerpt is adapted from my first book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God’s Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose:


Driving down Main Street, several years ago with my little girl in the back seat, I glanced in the rearview mirror, and caught her aiming a finger gun at unsuspecting pedestrians. “Pow! Pow! Pow!”

“Hannah, cut that out!” I scolded, “It’s not nice. We don’t shoot people; we bless them.”

After riding in silence for a few minutes, she started up again—this time with two fingers, “Pow! Pow! Pow!”

“Hannah, didn’t I tell you to stop shooting people?”

“But Daddy,” she replied, “this time, I’m shooting blessings!”

Shooting blessings requires a few essentials.

Positive Energy
Some folks run on positive juice, and others run on negative. We bring blessing with the positive.

Encouraging Words
Everyone’s imperfect, but we must look for the good rather than finding fault. Building up others is called edification, and this begins at home. Are you speaking your most encouraging words to those closest to you?

We all need encouragement, but that won’t come in families or communities bent on devouring one another. Focus on the good in each other.

Common Ground
An attitude of superiority is easily detected and alienates us from others. We must remember that we are no better than anybody else. We are all made of the same stuff.

Mission Enlistment
One of the best ways to bless people is to get them to help you serve others. An invitation to join you in helping those in need is a great way to bring a blessing. You can’t bless somebody else without being blessed yourself.

The Big Yes Bias
When it comes to blessing people, we should always have a “Yes, I care about you” attitude, and every “no” must be spoken within the context of the bigger “yes.” The art of gracious refusal is a valuable skill to learn.

How you treat others is more important than just about anything else. Poet Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

How to Evict Worry From Your Life

Two men were climbing a steep hill on a bicycle built for two. When they finally made it to the top, the first man said, "Whew! That was a stiff climb. I think it was the hardest hill I've ever been on.""It certainly was," his companion replied, "and if I hadn't kept the brake on, we would have slid down backwards!"

When we worry, it's like pedaling uphill with the brakes on. Anxious thoughts make life ten times harder.

Unfortunately, our natural human tendency is to worry about our situations. Is there anybody on this earth who is not familiar with the uncomfortable gnawing of worry in the belly? I seriously doubt it.

Yet, although worry is familiar to us all, we don't have to treat it like a welcomed guest. In fact, we have every right in the world to kick it out! "No Vacancy" -- There's no place for anxious thinking here!

How can we evict worry from our lives? Let me offer a few suggestions:

1. Talk to yourself!
A great way to abolish worry is to ask yourself the right questions such as,
* Why am I feeling tense right now?
* Will the world end if what I'm worrying about comes true?
* Is stewing over this making it any better?
* Who else is worked up over this issue? Why or why not?
* Is this worth losing sleep?
* What is the bottom line fear in this situation?
* So what?

2. Sell yourself some hope.
Y ou've already been selling yourself on fear, tension, and all the "What if's". Why not switch gears and start looking for what's going right?

Elmer Wheeler, in The Wealth Within You, said, "we become courageous by the same process that we become fearful; successful and confident by the same process that we become failures. Both are ideas that we sell ourselves. If you are timid and fearful or feel inferior, you do not need to learn the technique of selling ideas to yourself. You are already a past master at the art. All you need to do is change the ideas you sell. Suggest confidence to yourself in exactly the same way you have been suggesting failure."

3. Seek wise counsel.
It really helps to talk the issue through with someone who has a level head and the wisdom of experience. Good advice is worth more than gold.

4. Pray about it. 
A burden is really a call to prayer. If it's big enough to fret about, it's big enough to pray about. The Bible tells us to cast our cares upon the Lord because He cares for us! Prayer increases faith, which puts the kabosh on worry.

5. Take a dose of reality.
Worry casts long shadows on little things. It exaggerates the problem, and turns mice into monsters. If you think your situation is really bad, why not look around? You will find lots of people who have it worse. Chances are, your problems are not nearly as terrible as they seem.

6. Think "through" not "to".
Often, people think "to" a difficulty and then panic. When we come up against a big problem and then camp out, it only leads to frustration and worry. The much better path is to keep exploring solutions. Refuse to let the issue get the best of you. Working at a solution drains the worry away.

7. Keep moving forward.
Worry and positive action don't usually go together -- You're either invested in one or the other. If you're spinning the worry wheels -- it's better to get onto another track of thinking.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Bike Race Brings the Difference Down

A poem I wrote a few years ago in honor of Hayward's Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival  

Amid cheers of loved ones, out-of-towners, and smatterings of locals
 congregated on Main Street's crowded side, 

 The vast Bicycle Armada glides.

 Two thousand five hundred, did I hear?
 Sailing furiously down Main Street
 Into wooded wilderness.

 Two thousand five hundred look-alikes
 On fat tired bikes.
 But they, themselves seem neither fat nor tired (yet!)

 Hunched over handlebars, determined
 The helmeted hopefuls fly
 In wild-eyed animation.

 Wave after wave, the countless waves go by
 inspiring awe, and even tears from sidewalk sentimentalists
 who with wave and cheer, race on with them -- vicariously.

 Two thousand five hundred souls hodgepodged,
 Cobbled together from different ilk.
 Following the clarion call. . .

 From Minnesota and Montana
 Texas and Kentucky.
 From urban sprawl and hamlet

 Together, they ride.

 Farmer and Banker
 Undertaker and Mechanic
 Minister and Bartender

 Together, they ride.

 Republican and Democrat
 Believer and Skeptic
 Liberal and Conservative

 Together, they ride

 Management and Labor
 Judge and Lawbreaker
 Teenager and Elder

 Together, they ride

 Male and Female
 Minority and Majority
 Builder and Boomer and Buster

 Together, they ride -- side by side.

 So very different, but on this September day
 So very much alike.

 On Main Street, in a small Wisconsin town
 A Bike Race brings the difference down.
 Sailing, they cast it all aside -- and together, they ride!

 All hearts united.
 All minds directed
 To the common end
 A common friend -- the finish line.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Bingo Hall Invocation for Veterans

Today, I was privileged to give the invocation for the Field of Honor, a tribute to veterans, sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of the LCO Ojibwe Reservation.  A couple hundred people gathered to honor the veterans in a heartwarming ceremony.

We started at the Bingo Hall and then went in silent procession to the field of flags, a few hundred yards away.

  I have never been asked to pray at the Bingo Hall before -- but there is a first for everything.

I decided to share "When You are a Soldier" by Steven Curtis Chapman.  Sometimes, a prayer is expressing our heart to our Creator.  Sometimes, it is the other way around:  our Creator expressing His heart to us.  The invocation I chose is the second type.

Steven Curtis Chapman -- When You Are a Soldier

When you are a soldier I will be your shield
I will go with you into the battlefield
And when the arrows start to fly take my hand and hold on tight
I will be your shield, 'cause I know how it feels
When you are a soldier

When you're tired from running I will cheer you on
Look beside you and you'll see you're not alone
And when your strength is all but gone I'll carry you until you're strong
And I will be your shield 'cause I know how it feels
When you're a soldier

I will be the one you can cry your songs to
And my eyes will share your tears
And I'll be your friend if you win or if you're defeated
Whenever you need me I will be here

When you're lost in darkness I will hold the light
I will help you find your way through the night
I'll remind you of the truth and keep the flame alive in you
And I will be your shield 'cause I know how it feels
When you are a soldier.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Great Redemption Price

Pinky was a little slave girl -- only nine years old when her mother died. To lose your mother at such a young age is terrible -- but being a slave child made it even worse.

Pinky would not go to the home of loving relatives. Neither she nor her loved ones had any voice in her future whatsovever. She was considered "property".

Pinky's owner decided to sell her on the slave market. He figured he might get up to $900 for her.

It just so happened that Henry Ward Beecher, a pastor from New York was visiting in town and heard of Pinky's plight. He approached the slave owner and asked if, perhaps, he could take Pinky back home with him. "I'm sure the kind people of Plymouth Church would be happy to provide a loving home for her.", he said.

"Not on your life!" declared Pinky's owner. "I could get $900 for this girl! I'll tell you what, give me the $900 and she's yours."

Rev. Beecher did not have $900 -- but her persuaded the owner to allow Pinky to travel back to New York with the promise of full payment, or her return.

The next Sunday, the people at Plymouth Church were surprised when Rev. Beecher brought Pinky to the front of the church during the worship service.

"We are going to have an auction to purchase this little girl's freedom!" Beecher declared, "Who will start us out with $5? Yes! Now $10?"

He proceeded until they reached $900! Everyone cheered. There was hardly a dry eye in the place.

Rev. Beecher called the ushers up to take the offering right on the spot -- and when they brought the plates forward, they had more than enough cash for Pinky's freedom!

Someone had placed a golden ring in the offering. Rev. Beecher took it out of the plate, and placed it on Pinky's finger. "This is your freedom ring, Pinky!" he said. "Wear it proudly, and remember, you are free now, and nobody can take that away from you!"

Pinky was "adopted" by the Ward's, a fine family of the congregation. They raised her as their own child, gave her a good education and sent her to Howard University. She later became an excellent teacher, a loving wife and a devoted mother.

Many years later, in 1927, Pinky (Mrs. Rose Ward Hunt) returned to Plymouth Church for a special aniversary celebration. In a beautiful display of gratitude, she returned the ring to them, saying,

"Thank you so very much for what you did for me when I was just a child. You paid the price to set me free, and for that, I will always be thankful!"

-- personal note: I happened upon Plymouth Church quite by accident a few years ago, and was intrigued by a painting of the auction which hung in the hallway. Inquiring, I heard the story from a very gracious and kind hostess.

She says another portrait of Pinky, by Johnson Oatman, hangs at the Hallmark headquarters.  For many years, they had no idea of the the painting's meaning.

Also, interestingly, three weeks later, Abraham Lincoln came to visit the Plymouth Church. The next day, he gave a powerful speech which really launched his presidential campaign nationally.