Thursday, May 30, 2013

Great Lesson in Racial Insensitivity

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Before You Can Lead

Brandon Cox shares three important Prerequisites to Leadership -- absolutely true, and especially fitting for those who serve in small communities.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Swarms of Annoyances

While doing yard work the other day, I was attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. I ended up on the losing end of that altercation, though I jumped, smacked, flailed and flapped like a maniac. I’m pretty sure the neighbors wondered why I was break-dancing with a garden hose.

Annoyances are like mosquitoes. They’re everywhere, come at you from every direction, attack when it’s least convenient, and usually come in swarms. Everybody deals with them, as an unpleasant part of life.

Why do we expect life to be trouble free? No person in the course of human history has experienced a trouble free week, so why should this week be any different for you?

Some troubles are huge and life altering. Most, however, are just pesky annoyances that get under our skin and bother us.

Here are a few thoughts to help when you’re swarmed by annoyances.

1. Look for the blessing in it.
We have a choice. Are we going to focus on our frustration or look for the bright side. Negatives are always accompanied by blessings. For every problem, there are a hundred positives. It pays us to seek those out and remember them. There’s a silver lining behind every cloud, and we always have a choice.

“In everything, give thanks,” the Apostle Paul reminds us, “for this is God’s will concerning you.” We are hardwired to look for blessings, and when we do so, we find encouragement to face the daily stresses.

2. Look for the lesson in it.
Think back over the course of your life. When have you learned the most? I’m almost certain it was during the difficult times.

Someone once wrote:
I walked a mile with pleasure,
She chatted all the way.
It left me none the wiser,
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she.
But oh, the things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.

James 1:2 says to “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds.” Why? Because hardship is an excellent teacher, who, readily and willingly shares life’s most valuable lessons.

3. Look for the humor in it.Sometimes, the best thing to do in the face of adversity is to throw back your head and laugh!

“A cheerful heart,” says Proverbs 17:22, “is good medicine.” This has been proven by science.

Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan, of Loma Linda University, have researched the effect of humor on the immune system. Their studies have shown that laughter lowers blood pressure, increases muscle flexion, raises disease fighting proteins, releases endorphins, and produces a general sense of well being.

Laughter not only brightens our day, but it improves our mental and physical health as well. Just think - - a good laugh is absolutely free!!

If faced with an overwhelming swarm of annoyances, here’s a good prayer to say, “God, help me to see the funny side of this.”

Give me a sense of humor, Lord
Give me grace to take a joke,
To get some happiness from life,
And pass it on to other folk.
 -- Chester Cathedral

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Secret of Rejoicing

At the funeral of my dear friend, Joyce Hubbell last week, someone stated, "Joyce chose to rejoice.."

The longer I live, the more I’m convinced it is, indeed, a choice to rejoice. 

It’s commonly believed that rejoicing is just a response. Certainly, there is some truth to that perspective. If my team wins the game, I rejoice. If I receive some unexpected money, I rejoice. If I experience a happy event (such as a marriage or birth of a new baby) I rejoice.

However, rejoicing goes far beyond the emotional response to life’s happenings.

If it’s only a response to momentary events – then it comes and goes – rises and falls – depending on what’s happening now. That kind of thinking makes our attitude a roller coaster – up one minute and down the next.

The Bible says to “Rejoice evermore” (I Thessalonians 5:16.) It also says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and I say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4.) Now, the Bible does not command us to do the impossible. These verses of Scripture tell us to rejoice continuously – so it must be possible to do so.

The Bible assumes that rejoicing goes deeper than our circumstance and situation. Take a look sometime at the verses in the Bible that speak of joy and rejoicing. It permeates the whole Book! As C. S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

I’ve noticed that people like Joyce, who demonstrate deep joy, have often gone through much heartache and suffering. They have learned the secret of choosing an attitude of rejoicing rather than one of grumbling and complaint.

If you want to find something to complain about – you’ll find it.
If you want to find something to rejoice over – you’ll find it.

You get what you look for!  To rejoice is a choice.

Look beyond the present difficulty to the future hope. Seek the solution rather than the problem. Focus on what is rather than what is not. Whatever comes, make the choice to rejoice today!

Friday, May 17, 2013

How They Should Settle Local Church - Denomination Property Disputes

The question of who retains property rights of a local church that decides to leave a denomination is in the news again, in light of the Virginia court's recent ruling that the historic Falls Church building belongs to the Episcopal denomination, rather than the local congregation.  Falls Church  is now seeking a rehearing.

Property deeds in many denominations (including ours) are not held by the local church, but rather by their governing bodies.  This arrangement works fine as long as everybody is in harmony with each other, and in many respects is a safeguard agaist a few rogue members taking over and stealing a church way from it original, intended, historic path.

However,  what happens when the denomination strays from its original, intended, historic path and the local church departs in protest?  Who should get the building?

The way I see it, in disputes like this, church property should always go to its primary investors.

If the denomination was the primary source of funding for the property (purchase, maintenance, repairs, projects, etc.) then it should go to them.  If, however, the local congregation carried the burden of paying for it, then they should retain the right to keep it -- regardless of which entity holds the title.

The responsibility of the courts in such cases, then, should be determining the primary investors.

Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Get Along With Others

It is always more pleasant when people get along. As the Bible says, “Behold how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” One mother recently told her children, “I only want one thing for Mother's Day – Just one full day when you all get along with each other without squabbling!” They didn’t make it. (You could say they gave her half-a-present!)

Ask anybody, and they will tell you they want to get along with others. However, more often than not, we find ourselves embroiled in controversy of some kind or another. Usually it’s because of misunderstandings.

Understanding what frustrates others is the first step towards peaceful relationships. What gets people upset?

Abrupt Change:
Mark Twain said the only person who likes change is a baby with wet diapers! Normally, however, people are not totally opposed to change. They just get worked up if it is sprung on them!

Unclear Expectations:
When we assume they know what we’re thinking, we’re asking for trouble. It’s aggravating to walk on eggshells around an unpredictable and inconsistent person.

Broken Commitments:
Every time a person breaks their word, they also break a trust.  It is better to under-promise and over-deliver.

Violation of Rights:
Ignoring basic courtesy and respect usually bring an angry response. Every human being has the right to be treated with dignity.

Poor Communication:
People are always down on what they’re not up on. You can’t just say something once in passing and then think you’ve communicated. A true communication does not occur until the one receiving it gets it!

When it’s Not Done Right:
Normally, when someone is upset about something not being done “right” they mean “MY WAY!” It pays us all to remember that there is more than one way to look at just about every issue. There are very few things in life that must only be done one way.

I left this one blank so you can fill it in! Whatever and Anything! There are some folks who will get upset about anything. You can’t do much about that except try to be patient, love and understand the best you can.

So, how do we go ahead and get along? Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Get alone with God and pray about it. It’s hard to stay mad when you’re prayed up.

2.  Make peace with yourself. Most conflicts are caused by inner turmoil.

3.  Assume 80% of the responsibility for getting along. That means be proactive in the relationship. If you think it’s 50% your responsibility (or less) you will wait around when you should be doing something.

4.  Fix the problem, not the blame.
5.  Never judge motives (unless you are assuming they mean well.)
6.  Attack issues, not people
7.  Look for common threads. Find what you agree on and put your energy there.
8.  Go back and patch the holes. This means to apologize, the make amends, to reconcile and iron out the differences.
9.  Make sure they know you care about them.
10.  Remember, love covers a multitude of sins.
11.  Use the 7:1 ration (seven affirmations to one correction)
12.  Refuse to be consumed by negativity
13.  Be easy on people when they fail
14.  Put God first, and the other things will fall into place.
15.  Forgive 70 times 7.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Here, But Not Yet

Last week's May-day winter storm is something northwoods folks will remember (and brag about) for a very long time, though last I heard,  the weatherman joined Salman Rushdie in hiding for his life.

Where is spring? That's what I want to know! Everybody around town has been asking the same question, too.

This Sunday's Mother's Day, for heaven's sake. Last year, we were sunbathing. This year, we're still wearing long johns and tossing snow balls  (kids, don't throw one at your mother!)

Last year, the crocuses bloomed. This year, we feel like croaking as we shovel the bloomin' sidewalks. . . again.

Last year, we caught fish all day on opening weekend.  This year, we vicariously watched Pete Maina catch them on  t.v. instead.

The robins are going to need extensive therapy I'm afraid.  And just yesterday, I saw two Canadian geese flying south!  

Again I ask. . . where is spring?

And here's the answer: spring is here! Beneath the surface of the earth, she has already sprung! We just haven't seen the full evidence yet.

I guarantee you, though, before too long, she will arrive in full splendor.

In just a short while, our gray landscape will burst forth in reds, purples and, greens. The crusty snow will melt away under the sun's vernal gaze!

There will be a resurrection of nature, and the good folks of the northoods will emerge from their caverns once again into the great outdoors to bar-b-que, ride bikes, swim and play softball.

Yes, spring has begun, and is coming soon in fullness. Just wait. Just wait. You'll see.

Here -- but not here yet; in hopes of better days to come; that's how it is with spring this year -- and also the Kingdom of God.

Friday, May 03, 2013

One Pastor's Greatest Regret

In her beautiful book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp relates one pastor's answer to the question, "what is your greatest regret?"

Being in a hurry.  Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me.  I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained by being in a hurry.  But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing. . .  Through all that haste I thought I was making up time.  It turns out I was throwing it away.  
(Quoted from Mark Buchanan's Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Your Sabbath.)