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Friday, April 30, 2010

The Conscience Fund

Several years ago, I heard of a fund called “The Conscience Fund.” Perhaps, it is an urban legend, but supposedly, our government maintains this fund now holding over 3 million dollars.

The people who fund it are those who cheat on their income tax. The fund was founded in 1811 when a gentleman sent six bucks. The highest gift has been $14,250 from a person in London.

The best statement I read was from one guy who said he sent fifty bucks in. He said, "I can't sleep; my conscience is bothering me. Enclosed you will find a check for fifty dollars. If I still can't sleep, I'll send the balance.”

When I think about that story, I think of Hebrews 9:13-14:

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fear of Opportunity

I read, with interest, in WORLD magazine this week about a 28-year-old man named Joseph M. Velardo. Joseph was arrested in Port St. Lucie, FL for stealing two computer batteries from a local Staples store.

This was no accident. Velardo plotted this. It seems, Joseph stole the batteries because he was hoping to be caught. He hoped to be caught because he understood that to be caught and convicted of a third-degree felony would make him ineligible for law school.

So, Joseph stole the batteries from Staples, walked outside, turned around and walked back in, confessed his crime to store employees, and asked them to call the police. Velardo’s plan worked to perfection except for one thing—the value of the batteries was only $276.88. To receive a felony charge, a person has to steal more than $300.00 worth of merchandise. Evidently, Joseph needs to attend law school so he can learn how much he must steal to be charged with a felony.

Now Joseph is stuck with two things he does not want: 1) a misdemeanor charge and 2) a law school waiting to receive him for this fall’s classes.

Joseph’s story reminds me of so many people in the Bible upon whom God granted the privilege of participating in his work. Moses tried to talk God out of it. Gideon did not want to fight the Midianites. Jonah got on a boat—and headed in the wrong direction. A lot people, deep down inside, fear opportunity. Nothing arrives bringing more opportunity than an invitation from God to participate in His Kingdom work.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Are They Live, or Are They Memorex?

When I was a kid, I used to get laughs imitating the great jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. At that time, she was seen constantly in a television commercial advertising Memorex cassette tapes.

“Random” people, placed in a windowless room, would listen to Ella’s voice, and a tape of Ella’s voice, singing a jazz riff— something along the lines of “be bop bop a loop a bah bah, ba beet bop a loop bah, baah baah... BEEP BOP BAH LOOP BAH! BEEP BOP BAH LOOP BAH!"

It was when she hit these last few notes, a glass of water would shatter from the vibrations of her pitch. (Strangely enough, people assumed that glasses of water would shatter when my voice would reach this pitch as well, but I digress.)

The catch was, supposedly a glass of water would shatter when Ella Fitzgerald’s voice was played singing this jazz riff. The punch line for the commercial was designed to motivate you to buy Memorex cassette tapes – “Is it live, or is it Memorex?”

There was something convenient about cassette tapes back then. Like MP3 songs on my iPod today, cassette tapes could offer you music on demand with a technical precision born out of the Industrial Revolution.

On the other hand, live singers could be troublesome. Ella Fitzgerald notwithstanding, sometimes live music did not sound as pretty or as technically precise as did recorded music. Furthermore, flesh and blood singers were often prima donnas. Yet, in the 1970s, just as today, people will pay extravagant sums of money to hear musical artists singing. Patrons consider the product to be worth the cost.

Thinking about Memorex tapes reminded me of an article a preacher friend of mine named Rick Cobb wrote several years ago. In the church, it is easy to seek precision when equipping people for ministry. It is easy to cater to those Christians who look nice, sit in the pews, and create few or no problems. Taking the time to equip people for ministry, motivating them, often proves to be chaotic and unproductive.

I maintain the chaos is worth the investment. Maturity does take time; however, when churches invest in people, over the long run, they seem to produce more Christians who are inspired to ministry. They need no persuasion from staff members or elders. They are ready to serve. Memorex Christians look good in snapshots, but I choose "live" – with all of its hassles.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Will Science Eradicate Faith?

I have noticed, the past few years, many fear the impact of new technology and scientific discoveries on the spiritual. I used to fear myself. The past few years, I find myself feeling more optimistic. There are several reasons for this. One comes from observing the astronauts in the space program.

Back in the sixties, when the U. S. was racing the Soviet Union to the moon, a substantial number of people believed the advancement of the space program would eradicate the religious influence in our nation. However, many of the astronauts sabotaged this hope.

In some cases, the astronauts publically and unashamedly demonstrated the influence faith had in their lives. Surely Christmas Eve, 1968 was an irritating day to the atheist. As the Apollo 8 astronauts were completing the first human orbits around the moon, they sent a television broadcast watched by people around the world. In the midst of this triumph of science and technology, the three astronauts, moved by their experience, took turns reading the Genesis’ account of the Creation.

Other moments of faith were not seen by world, but offer us a glimpse into the soul. The faith of Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin was not affected by his training. Instead, he carried with him a communion set to the moon on the Apollo 11 mission. During a rest period on Sunday afternoon, July 20, 1969, Aldrin took time to observe the Lord’s Supper on the moon.

These are just two examples of what was rather common. Technology and science have not dragged most of these men and women away from faith. Rather, they have enhanced their faith. In some cases, the astronauts’ experiences even created faith.

I choose to view their stories as templates for our future. I remain steadfastly optimistic that as we are blessed by the discoveries of the future, we will feel compelled to grow more grateful to God.

Monday, April 26, 2010


In the book HOOKED, Joe McIlhaney and Frida McKissick Bush offer a gripping illustration. An individual can take a Band-Aid and put it on a wound. A Band-Aid is a wonderful tool to help in a fallen world. It is literally a band of flexible material that offers aid and comfort. The gauze of the Band-Aid protects the wound. The adhesive of the Band-Aid, attaches to the skin of an individual, thus allowing him to cope with his wound and begin the process of healing.

Watch out, though. If that person should take the Band-Aid off, reattach it, take it off, reattach it, take it off, and reattach it, the Band-Aid will begin losing its ability to attach. Sex is like that. It is a beautiful gift from God. God designed it for marriage. It had various purposes before Adam and Eve fell. After the Fall, sex gained additional importance.

It became one means of coping with a fallen world. Ever after, a man and woman could marry and literally attach themselves spiritually, socially, emotionally, and, of course, physically with each other. This relationship became one of God’s blessings to help us heal from the wounds a world of sin brings.

God wired us to attach ourselves sexually to one other person—our spouse. And, as new imaging technology is now showing us, our brain emits chemicals during our sexual experiences that help us attach to another person. This is great if that other person is our spouse. However, if we attach to someone, detach ourselves, and then attach our selves to another person, detach ourselves from that person…, then we ultimately, chemically, begin losing our ability to attach ourselves socially, emotionally, and spiritually to another person.

It is important to note that our brains do not simply release these chemicals during sexual intercourse, it releases the chemicals any time it senses we are engaging in a sexual experience.

All of this information reinforces in my mind the importance of guarding our hearts, reserving them for our spouses, either future or present. Perhaps, the Bible’s teaching on our sexuality reflects the fact that God truly understands us.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What Is The Name of that Song?

Ever heard a song that you recognized, liked, and wanted to find the name of it? NFL Films played a piece to open its highlight film of the New York Giants’ 1990 season. It was a beautiful, compelling, and inspirational piece of music.

The work lay dormant in my mind until recently, when I heard it on a JOS A BANK commercial. “Wow! I’ve got to find that and download it to my iTunes library,” I thought to myself. And so the search began.

The search is not over. I looked for the music on iTunes. I hunted for it on Amazon. I rummaged around the back channels of YOUTUBE. I even deployed the song identification apps from my iPhone in the effort to find this piece of music.

Why do I go to this trouble? Because that work of music touches something deep within me. Is it an emotion? Yes, but I think it goes deeper than that.

C. S. Lewis wrote that we possess a longing that haunts us. It senses another world that awaits us. This yearning for another place could even be described as nostalgic.

I believe this hunger to transcend our world reflects an innate desire to reconnect with God. We came into the world with a closer relationship with Him. That was lost when we entered into a life of focus on self—otherwise known as a life of sin. We miss what we know we should have. We long to have it back.

Fortunately, because of the work of Christ, someday that relationship can be fully restored. In the meantime, perhaps we can content ourselves with gentle reminders of what we ultimately hope for, as we hunt for the songs that move us.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Grantland Rice was a famous American sportswriter during the first half of the twentieth century. It was Rice who, in his poem ALUMNUS FOOTBALL, wrote,

For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,

He writes - not that you won or lost - but how you played the Game."

Rice, however, wrote many more poems. One I found particularly poignant and sobering. It is called, TWO SIDES OF WAR.

Two Sides of War

All wars are planned by older men

In council rooms apart,

Who call for greater armament

And map the battle chart.

But out along the shattered field

Where golden dreams turn gray,

How very young the faces were

Where all the dead men lay.

Portly and solemn in their pride,

The elders cast their vote

For this or that, or something else,

That sounds the martial note.

But where their sightless eyes stare out

Beyond life's vanished toys,

I've noticed nearly all the dead

Were hardly more than boys.

~Grantland Rice

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

“I Have Cussing on Number 18”

What is hypocrisy? It is trying to fool people into thinking you are acting in one way, when in reality you are acting in another.

I'm going to courageously offer you an example from my sandlot days. When I was sixteen, I was fighting for the starting quarterback slot on the mighty Winnsboro Red Raider football team. I say I was fighting for it—officially I had lost the position before the start of the season and was thus sitting on the bench. I was number 18 in the program, but I wanted to be number one in the coaches’ hearts.

We had lost our first game and were losing 18-0 to the dreaded Hughes Springs Mustangs late in our second game when our coach sent me in during the fourth quarter. As luck would have it, we immediately began a long drive down field until we were deep into enemy territory.

It had been raining quite a bit so the field was completely muddy. Because of this, I fumbled a hand off to our halfback. As soon as the ball hit the ground, I dove for it. In spite of the fact that I stretched my body as far as it could go, the ball lay just out of the reach of my fingertips and someone from the other team recovered the ball.

I was devastated. The way we were moving the ball, I had thought that if we scored, I would have won the starting position at quarterback. But lying there on the ground, all I could think of was that I had the quarterback position within my fingertips and then blew it.

Upon that realization, I became very angry. I then did something that I had never done before during a football game—at least out loud—I cussed. Lying there on the ground, face down, I raised my right hand and brought it crashing to the ground shouting "Bleep!"

All was fine and dandy until I happened to look about two feet in front of my face. There, directly ahead of me, was a pair of shoes and socks that looked kind of different. Looking a little higher I noticed that the pants were not football pants. I then saw a yellow object made of cloth come floating to the ground. The human being standing in front of me was the referee.

It was at that point that I heard him say the awful words to another official that I wish I could forget, "I have a personal foul on #18 (that was me!) for cussing."

I don't know about you, but whenever I do something stupid, I begin to think irrationally. For instance, sometimes I see newspaper headlines in my mind. In this moment, I could see a variety of headlines in our local newspaper: "Youth Group Member Penalized for Cussing", "Everyone in the World Made Aware of Young Church Member's Cussing—What other Cuss Words has He Said?", and "Young Footballer Disowned By Disgraced Family!" In light of my tragic future, I did the one thing I knew to do—I panicked.

The only thing I could think of was that if I ran and hid behind the bench and pretended like nothing had happened, maybe no one would ever find out. So I ran to the bench, calmly drank some water, sat down by some of my teammates.

My plan was working great! But then my coach did the unthinkable; he stopped the game and went out on the field to find out why we received our penalty! At that moment my plan was shattered because everybody in the stadium wanted to know why our coach was on the field.

Finally our coach came off the field, and in one of those rare moments when there was a lull in the stadium noise, my coach yelled out with the voice of a cannon, "Where's Mark Edge?" Now I was convinced that everyone was going to know. I was surely going to have to go forward in church on Sunday morning. My humiliation was total.

My coach gave one of those speeches on how he was disappointed in me for doing something like I did. Everything was a total disaster.

As it worked out, although I didn't know it at the time, I won the quarterback position that night anyway. My cussing was all for naught. And, I'm thankful to say I was not banished from my hometown forever.

Yet, what we have here is a miniature illustration of a hypocritical life. You see, I was guilty of cussing and was penalized for it. I did not want anyone to know this. For this reason I went and hid out with the substitutes. I wanted to blend in with them. However stupid my idea was, I wanted people to think that I was one of them, away from the field of play. If people believed that I was one of the benchwarmers, then they would not have known that I was guilty of cussing.

To put it bluntly, I had acted in one way and had attempted to deceive people into thinking that I had acted in another. That's hypocrisy.

Now, here’s the point I really want to drive home. Feelings do not determine hypocrisy. If our aim is honoring God, and we choose to do so in a sacrificial way, and we do not feel good emotions while we are doing the virtuous thing, our feelings do not condemn us to hypocrisy. As a matter of fact, we could offer an even more sacrificial gift to God, since we are acting in spite of our feelings.

The question is, what is our motive, not what are our feelings?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When You Surrender Your Dream*

I am borrowing something I found in the Library of Congress’ magazine, CIVILIZATION. Ten years ago, I was sitting in the dentist office waiting to get in. I was reading to pass the time. A certain piece there gripped me. The following is a summary, and I give CIVILIZATION full credit for the writing.

"He was born in upstate New York in 1856.... He was one of the many wandering Americans of his generation. The late 1880s found him in Aberdeen, SD, first opening a department store and then working on a newspaper. A few years later he popped up in Chicago; he eventually settled in California. Along the way, he failed in the axle grease business, managed an opera house and a baseball team..., was a traveling salesman and a buyer for a department store before becoming the editor of THE STORE WINDOW for the National Association of Window Trimmers….

"After the publication of his first children's book, MOTHER GOOSE IN PROSE, the 39-year-old author inscribed a copy to his sister; it may well reveal the true disposition of [his] heart. 'My dear Mary, when I was young I longed to write a great novel that should win me fame. Now that I am getting old my first book is written to amuse children. For, aside from my evident inability to do anything [great], I have learned to regard fame as a will-o'-the-wisp, which, when caught, is not worth the possession; but to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings its own reward."

That was it. He had given up. He resided himself to the reality of his life. He would never achieve the success that he had wanted. However, he did find a deeper joy—telling stories that pleased children.

Shortly thereafter, he wrote another book for children. The author, L. Frank Baum, gave it an unusual name—THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ.

*I “wrote” this story this yesterday morning. My proofreader, Sherry Bobbitt, has a sharp eye. She asked me if I had already written this story. I had. I wrote a longer version in June of last year in my weekly blog. Since some of you do not read my weekly blog, I hope you don’t mind me sharing a shorter version. I absolutely love this story.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sister Andrea

I remember Sister Andrea. When I first heard her name, she was not an Anglican Dominican nun. Instead, she was a 14-year-old Andrea Jaeger, who had won her first professional tennis tournament in 1979.

By age 18, she had reached the final of Wimbledon. By the time she was 19, she had an injured shoulder and basically ended her career. Andrea quit tennis in 1987.

She moved to Tampa, FL, where she tried to work as an operator and later an airline-ticket agent. In 1988, she moved to Aspen to recuperate from a car accident, which had injured her back.

Shortly thereafter, using her own money, including the $1.4 million that was left from her 8 years on the pro tennis tour, she started up the Kid’s Stuff Foundation. This was a non-profit foundation dedicated to bringing joy to kids suffering from cancer or other life threatening illnesses.

Jaeger began bringing kids from all over the U.S. to Aspen, CO for a week of camping fishing, swimming, and other outdoor activities. The foundation covered all expenses. Andrea's goal was to give the kids a week where they could forget about their problems and regain a part of their childhood.

I had lost track of Andrea Yeager, until the year 1993. I was living in Argentina and I came across a blurb in Sports Illustrated—one of those “Whatever happened to…” I found out that year, at age 28, the White House was honoring her for her work with the Kid's Stuff Foundation. I read that year she did not own a car, and whatever clothes and jewelry she had was given to her.

Someone asked her where she found her motivation. "You get very spoiled on the tour," she said. "It's easy to forget what's important in life."

In 2006, I read where she became a nun. I don’t agree with the church doctrine of ordaining nuns, but I do find myself inspired by people who show Christ-compassion for “the least of these.” I especially admire those who deny rigorously themselves to fulfill the mission for the sake of the Kingdom. So here’s to you, Sister Andrea. Thanks for sacrificing to bless so many lives.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Breaking Into Jail

On March 29, 20-year-old Ricky Flowers was stopped by a member of the Garfield Heights, Ohio police department for a traffic violation. (Garfield Heights is a suburb of Cleveland.) Perhaps, knowing he was about to be cited for driving with a suspended license, Flowers fled the scene.

A high-speed chase followed. Suddenly, Flowers pulled his car over, hopped out, and climbed a fence thinking he had escaped. Little did he realize, he was jumping into a women’s prison.

I think a lot of people have had this experience. They think they are escaping a pressing problem, but what they are doing is jumping into Satan’s prison. They are under bondage. Satan’s prison varies. It could be alcohol, it could be drugs, it could be greed, materialism, worry, anxiety, the list goes on and on.

We don’t have to live this way. We can be free from bondage. Paul writes, 16Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:16-18.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Mobro 4000

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:7-8.)

On March 22, 1987, the barge Mobro 4000 set sail from Islip, New York. It’s destination was Morehead City, North Carolina. There, it would turn over its cargo to the proper authorities. The mission failed.

A WRAL-TV news crew had flown by helicopter to investigate and on April 1, 1987, revealed in a newscast the contents of the Mobro 4000’s cargo. Outrage required that the Mobro 4000 sail on. The barge sailed along the Atlantic coast all the way to Belize. In port after port, the ship was not allowed to unload its load.

Back up the coast the Mobro 4000 sailed, finally arriving at the New York City suburb of Brooklyn in October—seven months later. What was the Mobro 4000 carrying that caused every port to reject her entry? 3,168 tons of… garbage.

I wish Satan had it that hard. Every day he seeks to unload garbage in our minds and hearts. He transports his garbage on vessels as big as billboards, and as minute as a mass media messages in our email accounts.

If we stopped him there, things would not be so bad. Instead, if we are not on guard, we invite him into our ports and invite him to unload his garbage—and leave it behind. We promise to take care of it. But too often, we never get around to incinerating it.

Lowell Harrelson and Salvatore Avellino were the two who contracted with the owners of the barge named Mobro 4000. Maybe next time they would have better success contracting with the devil.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We’ve Got Them Where We Want Them

During the Korean War, the United Nations’ forces at one point seemed to be in a strong position. This was miraculous considering the devastation incurred by the North Koreans in their surprise attack in July, 1950. However, the future for the UN Forces, consisting largely of troops from the United States, seemed strong by November 1950. Then, an army of 300,000 troops from Communist China attacked. Disaster ensued.

Colonel Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller and his regiment were among those facing catastrophe. According to historian William Manchester, his troops were completely surrounded. There was no way out. I

I almost cheered out loud the first time I read about the way Puller responded to this crisis. He announced to his men, “The enemy is in front of us, behind us, to the left of us, and to the right of us. They won’t escape this time.” Yes, Puller’s regiment suffered heavy casualties, but the majority cut through the Chinese army and made it out.

I love the spirit of optimism and courage Puller displayed in the face of what seemed to be a hopeless situation. God’s people have faced a number of “hopeless” situations throughout history, and they still do. I doubt it is coincidence that one of the most repeated commands in scripture is, “Fear not.”

In light of Jesus resurrection, and in view of the fact that God is moving history toward His desired outcome, we of all people, when we are “surrounded”, should be able to say, “Fear not.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Intruded Upon Intruder

Last month, police in Kennewick, Washington received a report of a break-in in a local office furniture business. It did not take the police long to discover who the invader was—a 17-year-old young man.

It did not take the authorities long because he left a clear electronic trail. It seems that once inside, the young man logged onto the company computer and accessed several websites—including his MySpace page. Even worse, he attempted to sell items online that he planned to steal from the store.

The young man made the same mistake most people make. What he assumed was done in secret, in reality, was seen by a much larger audience. It is the same for all of us. Even in secret, our deeds, even our thoughts, are being seen by a larger audience. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit see all.

I am not asking this reminder make us more legalistic, avoiding wrong simply to avoid getting caught. I do hope it will cause us to be respectful of God, and to remember Scripture does not hesitate to remind us that God will hold us accountable for our thoughts and actions.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Impersonating an Officer

Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Mt. 6:1.)

Recently I read about a man named David Word. He served his community by turning on the siren and lights mounted on his black Ford Victoria and pulling over people. They were guilty, or perceived guilty, of various traffic violations.

One day, David Word ordered Matt Lydic to the side of the road. He warned Lydic to slow down and pulled away. Interestingly enough, Lydic was a police officer who was off duty. Lydic became suspicious and wrote down David Word’s license plate number. On March 16, David Word was convicted of impersonating a police officer.

I think there have been times in my life when I have impersonated Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus warns against performing godly acts before men, I think what he is saying is godly hearts should match godly acts.

May the day arrive when I consistently and constantly behave like Jesus. May the day arrive when my heart matches that Christ-like behavior.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Let Them Fly Commercial!

This is one of those I clipped and saved a few years ago out of the newspaper from the late ANN LANDERS’ column:

Dear Ann Landers: I hope you have enough nerve to print this letter because the person I am complaining about is an American hero. His name is Larry Bird. He made his name as a player on the Boston Celtics, and he is now coaching the Indiana Pacers. This is what happened.

During the pre-season, the team’s plane was scheduled to leave for Nashville at 4 p.m. Two of the players, Travis Best and Dale Davis, were nowhere to be found. The stairs had been pulled up, and the plane was just about to take off.

Suddenly, one of the players who was on the plane and looking out the window yelled, “Travis and Dale are out there on the passenger cart. Somebody should tell the pilot to lower the stairs.” Larry Bird shouted, “No way. It’s after 4 p.m. Those guys are tardy. They’ll have to go commercial.”

I was shocked when I heard about this on TV. How could a guy be so mean to his own players? It just doesn’t make sense. I hope you will print this.

--A former Larry Bird Fan

Dear Former Bird Fan: Did you say “mean?” Sorry, I don’t agree with you. I believe Larry Bird showed a great deal of courage when he left those late arrivals standing on the tarmac. He taught them a lesson they needed to learn. You can bet your life they will never be late for a team plane again. And neither will the players who witnessed this extraordinary example of disciplinary action. Call it being “mean” if you want to, but in my opinion, it was a demonstration of strong character. Way to go, Larry!

Way to go, Ann.

We live in a society starving for discipline. God’s word emphatically states that His people, of all people, should be a people of discipline. May we walk God’s talk.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Where Seldom is Heard

Many years ago, a Roman Catholic nun was teaching a math class at a junior high school in Minnesota. Not pleased with the way things were going, she interrupted class one day and asked the students in the room to take out two sheets of paper and list the names of the other students present. Then, she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each classmate and write it down. The assignment took up the remaining period of the class, but the students turned their papers in and departed.

Over the weekend, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on an individual sheet of paper, and listed the things other students had said about that person. The following Monday, she gave each student his or her appropriate list. The kids were very pleased and encouraged. The teacher noticed an immediate improvement in atmosphere for class.

The teacher’s mission had been accomplished. Consequently, she never mentioned it again.

Many years passed, and one of her students, a young man named Mark, was killed in the Vietnam War. His body was brought home for the funeral.

The teacher attended the funeral as well as many of the young man’s classmates. Afterwards, the teacher and many of the classmates were invited to the house of Mark’s parents.

While there, Mark’s parents approached the teacher and said, “We want to show you something. Mark was carrying this when he was killed.” Out of his wallet, Mark’s father pulled the list of all the good things that Mark’s classmates had said about him. Mark’s mother told her, “Thank you so much for doing that. As you can see, Mark treasured it.”

Seeing what was happening in hearing the exchange, a group of Mark’s classmates approached. One smiled and said, “I still have my list and it is in my top desk drawer at home.” Another classmate said, “I have mine, too. It is in my diary.” Classmate after classmate shared of how they still had their sheets of affirmation.

All this was too much for the nun. She sat down and began to weep, moved by the realization that the seemingly, small exercise had made an impact on so many people for so many years.

Perhaps we underestimate the value of encouragement. The NIV contains over 58 references to the word “encouragement.” God understands its value and need; we should as well.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Cannon Inside

Years ago, I heard Rick Atchley in sermon revive a story from the literature of Victor Hugo. A sailing ship is caught in a storm out on the high seas. The waves toss the ship back and forth when, suddenly, the sailors hear this terrible sound coming from beneath the deck. They know immediately what it is. A cannon has broken lose from it's moorings and is rolling back and forth pounding the walls of the ship.

The sailors realize the cannon is much more dangerous than the waves. If someone does not secure it, it will bust a hole in the side of the ship, and they will sink. Two sailors risk their lives and, under great duress, they use their strength and finally secure the cannon.

In life, it's not the high winds nor the waves blowing us around that destroy us. It's what's inside. You cannot always choose when it's going to rain or when there's going to be a storm, but you can choose how you react to that storm.

My fellow staff member, Tim Henderson, often tells people he counsels, “It’s not what happens to you that matters. What matters is how you react to what happens to you.”

I have found in my nearly half a century that one of the most important components in living is one we can absolutely control. This component can be summarized in one word—attitude.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Clank


I, along with my wife and my two oldest children, joined millions of others in watching the Duke vs. Butler NCAA Men’s Championship basketball game. It was a great game, in doubt to the very end.

We held our breath as Gordon Hayward (who looks like an old friend of mine named Joe Don Ridgell) launched a mid-court shot. The shot banked off the square on the glass… and bounced off the rim—making an incredibly loud sound of “CLANK”.

Victory was so close! So much so, CBS replayed the last shot several times.

Had Hayward’s shot gone in, Butler would have pulled off one of the greatest upsets in history, winning by the score of 62-61. Had the shot gone in, it would have conceivably become the greatest shot in basketball history. Unfortunately (unless you were pulling for Duke), the shot clanked.

Reflecting this morning, I could not help but think Hayward represents the majority of us. For most of us, the best we will experience in our respective fields is getting close enough to clank. Very few of us win the "National Championship”—see Colt McCoy.

What do we do with the clank? One response would be to choose to live our entire lives in misery or sadness, thinking we can only really enjoy our lives the day we win the "Championship." But I wonder, could it be that God places higher value on other experiences available to us all?

I dare to believe the answer is—yes.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Housekeeper

In your job, how would you like to always be remembered in a negative way? That happened to the White House housekeeper, Henrietta Nesbitt.

Nesbitt was hired by Eleanor Roosevelt, when Franklin Roosevelt was govenor of New York. Later, she joined the family in the White House, after FDR was elected president.

Nesbitt offered the president a very bland diet. One morning, FDR exclaimed to his secretary, Grace Tulley, "Doesn't Mrs. Nesbitt know that there are breakfast foods besides oatmeal? She has served it morning in and morning out for months and months now, and I'm sick and tired of it!"

Later that day, when the secretary appeared, Roosevelt showed her that day’s newspaper inserts displaying various breakfast cereals along with their prices. Then he began his dictation, "Cornflakes! 13 ounce package, 19 cents! Post Tosties! 13 ounce package, 19 cents! Cream of wheat! Two for 27 cents!... now take this gentle reminder to Ms. Nesbitt."

All of this was to no avail. When Roosevelt was running for his fourth term, he joked to his staff, the main reason he wanted to win was to fire Mrs. Nesbitt.

For years now I have seen Henrietta Nesbitt's name in various biographies of Roosevelt. Not one time to remember anything positive written about her. What a terrible indictment. Nesbitt's problem was she forgot who she was serving.

Christians do not have that excuse. Even when we do not like our earthly boss, Paul reminds us that we serve someone even higher:

23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Col. 3:23-24.)

May we daily work for the Lord Jesus.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Back Taxes

I read in WORLD magazine this week something that made me crack up. Aaron Zeff was sitting in his office, when two dark-suited men approached.

Aaron owns a car wash business in Sacramento California. The two men were IRS agents. They were there to collect delinquent taxes. Hearing this, Aaron’s heart sank. However, fear turned to mirth when he opened the agents’ envelope. Inside was his tax bill the agents had come to collect – the grand total was four cents.

I laughed until I thought about Jesus’ story of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18. In spite of God’s forgiveness, how often do I hunt somebody down to pay the "four cents" he owes me?

Remember the slogan, "More Taste--Less Filling"?

" Maybe ours should be, "Less Bitterness--More Forgiveness!"

Sue the Fisherman--He Hurt the Fish!

Antoine Goetschel finally carried things too far. In the past, he had enjoyed tremendous success as an animal rights attorney, suing citizens on behalf of the animals, including a recent case, in which he sued a local angler for torture because it took the fisherman ten minutes to reel in a Pike.

On March 7, voters in Switzerland voted against Goetschel’s initiative to extend legal representation for animals beyond dogs, fish, birds, and chickens. Even Goetschel admitted that his lawsuit, on behalf of the pike, may have created a voter backlash.

All of this reminded me of the question the psalmist asked:

3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor
(Ps 8:3-5.)

While we Christians are certainly called to be stewards of this great earth, I do not see the elevation of animals to the level of humans in Scripture like I see in culture.

God’s Word, such as we see in Psalm eight, seems to emphasize over and over again how God’s crowning creation is the human being. Maybe we, in culture, should invest as much in protecting the human as we do the animal.