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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Do Unto Others…

Years ago, someone sent me a story about a woman, who decided to have her portrait painted. She told the artist, "Paint me with diamond rings, a diamond necklace, emerald bracelets, a ruby broach, and gold Rolex."

"But you are not wearing any of those things," he replied.

"I know," she said. "It's in case I should die before my husband. I'm sure he will remarry right away, and I want his new wife to go crazy looking for the jewelry."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Don’t Honk if You Love Jesus

I heard about a woman, who was in a car that had stalled at the intersection. Try as she might, she could not get the car started. Behind her was a man, who insisted on honking his horn every few seconds.

Finally, the woman got out of her car, walked calmly back to the man's car, looked into the window, and said, "I'm having trouble getting my car started. Why don't you go up there and see if you can fix it, and I'll sit in your car and honk the horn at you?"

It's a lot easier to honk the horn than to fix the car.

It is a lot easier to criticize leaders than to be one.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bad Groundhog Day

At our staff meeting the other day, someone told us about a person, he saw on THE TODAY SHOW, who maintained little short-term memory. Every day, she woke up to a new world. She retained little from previous experiences.

We were discussing the implications of that, when someone else said, “What if you had her condition, and each day you woke up, was a bad day?” I gnawed on that a moment, and then it hit me. I know people who do experience that. Everyday IS a bad day. It is a negative day.

For some reason, maybe abuse, maybe a bad childhood, but for some reason, the individual wakes up and decides to experience the same negative day—every day. 

I pity people who live that life.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bobby Jones--A Man of Great Humility

            Bobby Jones was one of the greatest golfers, if not the greatest golfer, of all time. During the "Golden Age of Sport", the 1920's, Jones reigned supreme with Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Bill Tilden as one of the great athletes. He's the only athlete to ever have received two ticker tape parades on Broadway.

            From 1923-1930 Bobby Jones won 13 of the 21 national tournaments he entered. He won four U.S. Opens and finished second four times. He won all three of the British Opens that he entered. In all of the tournaments he entered, he never missed the cut. And, of course, he is the only man to have ever won the Grand Slam in one calendar year.

            Years ago, I read an article on Jones in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. I learned that Bobby Jones was a man of great intellect. He earned a degree from Georgia Tech in mechanical engineering. Not satisfied, he earned another degree at Harvard in English literature. Later, he entered Emory University's school of law. After his second year, as a lark, he decided to take his bar exam. He passed.

            You would think, with all his fame and success, Bobby Jones would be a man with tremendous ego. Such was not the case. His habit, whenever he played golf, was not to play with the “big-shots.” Instead, he would habitually go to the course and play with anyone he met, great golfer or lowly duffer.

            But to me, perhaps, the greatest testament to Bobby Jones' humility was when he was a student at Harvard. Obviously, he would have loved to have played on the golf team. By then, he was a world famous champion.

            Harvard rules; however, would not allow a college graduate to play on their team. So Bobby Jones offered to be the team manager. Much to their embarrassment, Harvard officials informed him their team already had a manager. Bobby Jones then volunteered to be the assistant manager for golf team. And that was how he served. He was just glad to be able to help.

            Now how many of us would be willing to do that?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Breaking the Chain

Tony Fears is a great guy and a member of our church. His dad, S. W. Fears, died last year. I attended the funeral.

Tony spoke at his dad’s funeral and told a story that made an impression on me. He gave me permission to use it, and here is the story.

Back in the 1930s, S. W. Fears and his family lived in a boarding house, near downtown Tyler. During this period, when S. W. was around five or six years old, he would enjoy dangling his legs off the front porch of the boarding house and watching the trains go by on the railroad tracks—tracks, which were literally just a few feet away.

One day, S. W. saw a train approaching that was headed out of Tyler. As the train passed, he saw a man inside a boxcar waving at him. He excitedly waved back. It was not until the boxcar had passed that he realized the man who had waived at him, was his father.

Unknown to him at the time, his father was leaving. Leaving for good. S. W.’s father was abandoning him and his mom. His life was going to change forever. He would now be raised by his mother and his beloved aunt.

As you might imagine, this event would affect S. W. for the rest of his life. Ultimately, he chose for it to impact him in a positive way.

When S. W. was a young man, he came to realize that if he was to live a productive life, he had to get rid of the hate and anger that his father’s abandonment had created within him. And so, S. W. made a conscious decision—if he ever had children, he would be the best father that any child could possibly have.

S. W. was determined to be nothing like his dad. He would be a loyal and devoted companion to his wife. He would take the sorry last name, his father had given him, and he would do everything in his power to change it. He would attempt to live his life in such a way, he could bestow upon his children and his grandchildren a name they would be proud to receive. It would be a name deserving respect.

I can tell you, as the preacher to the children and grandchildren, S. W. succeeded. “Fear” is a word that normally does not have a positive connotation. In Tyler, the name “Fears” is a word of honor.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Butterfly

Recently, re-reading RUMORS OF ANOTHER WORLD by Philip Yancey, I came across a story he shared from Annie Dillard. She tells of experiments conducted by entomologists’ (bug doctors) using butterflies.

The entomologists would take a male butterfly and place before him a painted cardboard imitation of a female butterfly. In repeated experiments, the male butterfly would, with great gusto, mount the cardboard replica. And he would not cease mounting it. In the meantime, a real-life female butterfly would be nearby, opening and closing her wings to gain the male’s attention. But he would not look.

I think pornography is doing something very similar to humans.

Friday, August 20, 2010

How Much is that TV in the Window?

Here’s one for you. Antwone Fisher recently wrote a book entitled A BOY SHOULD KNOW HOW TO TIE A TIE. It is a book of advice for—boys.

In his chapter on finances, Fisher grabbed my attention.  He creates the scenario of a young man, who wants to buy a $2000 television. He is given a “good deal” by a credit card company to receive a card that charges 18% a month in interest. He is told he can buy the $2000 television on his new card and pay only the minimum payment each month--$40.

This is too good to be true. The young man purchases the TV on his new card and begins paying it off-$40 each month.

That new TV will take 30 years to pay off.

The young man will ultimately pay $5000 in interest for a $2000 TV. After thirty years, he will have spent $7000.

In contrast, were that young man to commit $40 to a mutual fund or other stocks averaging a return of 8 % over a thirty-year period (a very realistic possibility), his investment will be worth $64,000. $46,000 will be interest paid to him!

Money. It works for us, or it works against us.

Desire. It works for us, or it works against us.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


The parents of Pulitzer-prize winning author, Larry McMurtry, divorced in 1976, after 44 years of marriage. Forty-four years! Why, after 44 years, did Mr. and Mrs. McMurtry divorce? There were probably several, but the author, and son, focused on one in the first volume of his memoir.

Larry McMurtry’s father “was haunted” by the price his own mother (Larry’s grandmother) paid for settling on the frontier of Texas. One example was the burden of transporting water from the spring to the cabin, which Mr. McMurtry personally witnessed as a boy. There were, of course, many more hardships she had to endure to assist her husband and serve her growing family.

Larry’s father married a woman, who did not have to endure such toil.  Life was easier. Yet, a tension lingered for the duration of their marriage. As Larry wrote, even though the couple could occasionally have fun, “the core problem remained: my father could not forgive my mother for having an easier life than his mother had.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Wrong Policy

I read a humorous story, in a bulletin, several years ago. It seemed a farmer’s barn burned down. It was covered by insurance. An agent came and informed the farmer that in lieu of paying cash, the insurance company would simply build him a barn identical to the one that burned.

The farmer was not impressed. “Well,” he said, “if that’s the way your company does business, you can cancel the insurance on my wife!”

In church relations, marriages, and work, one area I see as being problematic is that of unrealized expectations. I pondered that reality one day, as I notice the word “ask” is used over 750 times in scripture.

This reality implies communication, clarification, and understanding. Those are good things to seek going into or staying in—a relationship.

Want realistic expectations? Start by asking.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Abraham Lincoln was known for his humor. One story, perhaps apocryphal, speaks of Lincoln during the early period of his political career.

Some critics had accused Lincoln of sometimes lying and being two-faced. Hearing this, Lincoln responded, “If I had another face, do you think I would use this one?”

Abraham Lincoln may not have thought he had the luxury of being two-faced, but a lot of us do. It is imperative we be open, honest, and a people of great integrity.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Let's Name a City After This Guy!

When his young wife left him, he became a heavy drinker. Distraught, he joined an Indian tribe. There, he drank so much liquor, he earned the nickname, “Big Drunk.” He lost an election for the Tribes Council because his drinking had become so wild.

Later, he learned that a congressman had accused him of corruption in his dealing with Indians. The charges were false, and he became so angry, he confronted the congressman in public and beat him mercilessly with a cane.

The United States House of Representatives tried him on charges of assaulting a congressman. The congressman sued him and the court awarded the injured man $500. Instead of paying, the aggressor fled to Mexico.

While in Mexico, he became dissatisfied with the government and became part of a movement to secede from the country. War ensued, but he and his fellow rebels won. A military hero, he was elected president of the new Republic.

Later, his country became part of the United States. He was elected senator and governor. Citizens of his state so respected him, they chose to name a city that was to become the fourth largest in the United States after him.

I find it fascinating that the citizens of Texas never gave up on Sam Houston. Like God, they forgave and allowed this man to become what he was capable of being.

I think the church should be like that.

Hebrews 11 is full of people who made terrible mistakes, some habitually, yet, they were cited for those moments they demonstrated faith in God. And God used them.

No one will ever fall so low that God will refuse to use him.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What Is An Excuse?

Marshall Keeble was a trail-blazing, African-American preacher and one of the truly great preachers of the twentieth century. In one of his sermons, he addressed the flaw of making excuses in a colorful way:

"An excuse is a lie with a suit on. It is a lie dressed up."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Free Speech


Recently, the Boulder, Colorado city council made a bold decision—they would forbid people from stripping, while speaking to the council during meetings. The impetus for this decision was a recent display by an angry man, who often spoke during the time period set aside for public comment.

The “gentleman” was not happy with the council’s work and lectured members with regard to his reasons. Perhaps, to assure the rapt attention of his audience, the critic performed a striptease during his speech, concluding his remarks in his underwear. (Warning! Preachers, DO NOT TRY THIS IN THE PULPIT!)

It does not disturb me that the city council felt compelled to issue an edict: no one can address the city council “while stripping, wearing masks, or otherwise being contemptuous.” What DOES disturb me is the local ACLU chapter is protesting the council’s decision on grounds it could intimidate the practice of free speech.

On my computer, I have a sermon illustration file entitled “Our Changing Culture.” Safe to say, I’m saving this story under that tab.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The World’s Fastest Snail

You are looking at a photo of Sidney. (Incidentally, this is how I look when I get up in the morning, but that is a different story.) On July 17, Sidney became a world champion. He raced 13 inches in 3 minutes and 41 seconds. Fast enough to make him the world’s fastest snail. 

Unfortunately, Sidney did not even approach the world record of two minutes. This magnificent feat was accomplished by a snail named Archie in 1995. No one noted if Sidney was crestfallen, when he discovered how much faster Archie traveled.

Ever feel like your life is traveling at a snail’s pace? Do you feel frustrated by how slowly you are accomplishing your goals?

The older I get the more I am convinced there are no big accomplishments. Those things we call big accomplishments are really an accumulation of a lot of small accomplishments.

I have always liked Psalm 118:24, ”This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” One facet of that enjoyment is appreciating the little things I can do to accomplish my goals (hopefully all of which God inspired and are blessings to God.)

“Successful” moments are just that—moments. If we cannot enjoy the journey, they may not be worth the pursuit.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Job Won’t Cry for You When You Die

A lot people still recognize the name of Ty Cobb, who to this day holds the highest lifetime batting average of all time: .367! Still, to some he is more famous for his cantankerous nature and terrible temper. (See FIELD OF DREAMS.)

Historian Charles Alexander gives a most compelling quote in his definitive biography of Cobb. Growing old, and having lost his oldest child, Ty, Jr., to cancer, Cobb lamented the time he spent away from his children. “When you get older, you wish for companionship. I was a loner; I couldn’t have that with my children.”
The loner died lonely.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Lord’s Calf

Martyn Lloyd-Jones tells the parable of the farmer, who had a cow that had twin calves. The farmer was overjoyed. He came into his family and said, "The Lord has be so good to us, you know what we're going to do? We're going to give one of the calves to the Lord to thank Him for his bounty."

Two or three days later, the farmer came in with a sad and drawn face. His family was alarmed and asked, "What's the matter?"

"Oh," the farmer replied, "The Lord's calf just died."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Somebody’s Watching

I read, years ago, something General Colin Powell wrote. He reflected upon a story someone had once told him. Three guys were hired to dig a ditch. One leaned on his shovel and babbled on about someday owning the company. The second guy grumbled because he felt he was working too many hours for too little pay. The third guy just kept on digging.

Years later, the first ditch digger was still babbling on, hardly lifting his shovel. The second guy feigned an injury and was receiving disability. The third guy owned the company.

Powell took from that story this lesson: someone is always watching. He used it well, when he worked, as a young man, mopping the floors of a local soft-drink bottling plant.

Powell made the decision to be the best mopper he could be. He was doing well and then, one day, he was tested.

A worker mishandled 50 cases of cola and they crashed to the concrete. The floor was covered with the sugary cola. All of this crushed Powell's spirit, but he kept mopping. He literally told himself, “Mop right to left-left to right.”

At last, the summer came to an end. The foreman delivered a short message to Powell, "You mop floors pretty good." The next summer, that same foreman promoted Powell to filling the bottles. The summer after that, Powell was made deputy foreman.

The lesson held, someone was watching.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Railway Women

There is an inspiring story told by Frances Rockmore Velie about four courageous women of the Quaker faith.  During the Second World War these women were in German-occupied Toulouse when they learned that eight hundred captured Jews were packed on a train, in a single cattle car, and were heading for an occupation camp.

In route, this train would soon arrive in Toulouse where it would stop briefly. The Quaker women knew that those Jewish “passengers” would have traveled two days without water. 

The four women promptly nabbed every reachable container and worked through the night pouring water in hopes of easing the torment of the suffering Jews.  But when the train arrived at the station a ghastly nightmare unfolded before their eyes. The train did not have eight hundred Jews; rather it was packed with three thousand Jews. 

Suddenly, the stark reality became apparent to the women.  Should they give eight hundred people the water they had prepared, and let the rest of the anguished passengers be made to endure unbearable agony? Was it right for some not to receive any water, particularly after having to watch others drink?  The four women had wanted to share a moment of mercy; instead, the moment of mercy had turned into a time of woe. 

Yet there was one woman who would not accept surrender in the face of such an evil challenge. Approaching the Gestapo officer in charge, she quietly, but with great authority, demanded that the officer engage in efforts to help ease the suffering of the prisoners. 

For a protracted moment the German soldier stared at her.  Then the Gestapo officer turned to his aide.  "This woman is from the American Friends Service Committee," he said.  "The Quakers saved our village from starvation after the last war."  "Yes," mumbled the subaltern, "they fed us, too."

And so the Gestapo officer ordered his men to move.  SS men rounded up baskets of food and additional water from shocked villagers; they were performing deeds of mercy.  The suffering Jews received their water and food--from their enemies.

The quiet strength of four Quaker women moved cold-hearted men-indoctrinated to kill-to comfort their enemies.  Likewise Christians, empowered by the quiet strength of the Holy Spirit, have the privilege to help determine the fate of the world, not by defeating people on the battlefield, but by telling human beings about Jesus.

One confusing statement in the Bible for me has always been Matthew 5:5b—"...for they {the meek} shall inherit the earth." What I believe the phrase "inherit the earth" to mean is that Christians have the privilege of participating in the salvation of Humanity. 

To put it another way, when Jesus said, "inherit the earth" he was using imagery from the Old Testament, which the Jews associated with the Kingdom of Heaven.  So when a first century Jew heard Jesus say this, there was a good chance he thought in his mind that he was going to have the opportunity to participate in the infiltration of the Kingdom of God throughout the earth.

I am not a Quaker. I don’t know if Quakers still exist, but those four women almost 70 years ago were definitely participating in Kingdom work on this earth. I would do well to do the same.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Silent Cal

Calvin Coolidge was president of the United States during the roaring twenties. He may best know him for his nickname- “Silent Cal” -given for his taciturn ways.

Probably, the most famous story told about him concerned a formal White House dinner he was giving. A woman attending the dinner told the president, “I bet someone, I could get you to say three words.”

“You lose,” he replied.

A quiet nature can be a quality much desired—just ask my mother.

Prov. 17:28 Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Non-Human Animals

In 1998, a St. Bernard stood accused of savaging a resident of Lincoln, Mass. The owner found an animal-rights attorney to take the case by the name of Steven Wise.

Part of Mr. Wise’s defense was this statement, the dog was “… [A] good dog having a bad day.” He went on to defend his client arguing that the day had come for legal courts to offer full legal rights for “non-human animals.”

Do you think Mr. Wise would be happy with where our society is today?

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Wrong Room

David Sargent wrote a story, a couple of years ago, which caught my attention. A young couple was married on June 6, 1981. Late that evening, after their reception, a bellboy took them into what they thought was their hotel’s elaborate bridal suite. Boy, were they disappointed!

The suite consisted of one room with a sofa and a hide-away-bed. The mattress had knots in it and the springs sagged.

The young couple slept fitfully and awoke with sore backs. The young groom was upset, and he decided to go to the front desk and complain to management.

The explanation he received made him feel sheepish. He returned to his room. There, he opened the door to what he and his new wife had thought was the closet. It wasn’t. It was a beautiful bedroom offering good wishes and gifts from the hotel, including fruit baskets and chocolates.

I know a lot of people who live life like that. Someone has given them exciting expectations. Instead, their experiences fall woefully short. It is because they have not opened God’s door to the abundant life found in Jesus.