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Archive for the ‘Christian leadership’ Category

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).”

“Big Jim” Cole is not off to a great start.  He has inherited several hundred acres of prime land in Wyoming, but keeping it is another story.

First, there is the matter of the neighbor who is determined to take it away from him. Jed Curry lost the land to Big Jim’s grandpa in a poker game fair and square.

But Jed persistently angles to get it back for his sons. They are young men, but they are only adult in terms of their physiques.  They regularly harass Big Jim and his family.

Then, there is the old enemy who shows up in town.  Former lawman Big Jim sent Cass Dowdy (once a friend and on the right side of the law)  to jail and the latter aims to settle the score.

Finally, Big Jim has a wild beast to deal with. This animal  is destroying his new ranch piece by piece.

The human foes pale in comparison to this monster, Big Jim’s worst nightmare. His biggest problem is a grizzly bear appropriately named Satan.  The bear is the main focus of the story told in the movie “Night of the Grizzly”.

Satan is not just any grizzly. He is plum crazy. The bear  kills and destroys just because he can.

Satan wrecks Big Jim’s fences, kills the beautiful bull he had intended to use to populate his herd, and decimates his flock of sheep. While not pleased, Big Jim doesn’t plan to let the bear stand in his way. He goes after Satan, but fails, at least in the beginning.

Satan keeps on pillaging. He kills two men, including Big Jim’s longtime friend and employee  Sam Potts. The grizzly takes off the arm of another man.

The night before Big Jim’s decides to hunt and kill Satan once and for all, his wife Angela threatens to leave if he carries out his plan. She has had enough. She can’t really be blamed inasmuch as she has had plenty of sleepless nights in the past wondering if Big Jim would come home alive when he was chasing desperadoes.

Big Jim gives her the “a man’s gotta do what he has to do” speech. Not only will killing the grizzly rid them of their own personal problems, but the reward money will get them out of the debt they have incurred because of Satan’s evil activities.  However, Angela is not convinced and tells Big Jim that when he comes back, the rest of the family will be gone.

Unbeknownst to Big Jim and his wife, their son Charlie has overheard the whole spat. The boy is troubled by the conflict between his normally loving parents and decides to take matters into his own hands.

He sets out after Satan himself, with his gun and pint-sized dog in tow. Learning of this the next morning, Big Jim follows Charlie, intending to rescue him and knock off  Satan, too.

Before he can even get to the boy and the bear Big Jim has to engage in a gunfight with Cass, who is also after the reward. The latter is temporarily blinded during the shootout by a gunpowder flash and Big Jim continues on to the final battle with Satan.

In the final crisis, Satan comes close to winning. He  corners  Charlie in a tree and Big Jim in a hole.

However, Cass (who has recovered his vision) comes along and goes after the bear. He wants the money, but he also cares for Charlie and obviously doesn’t want harm to come to the boy.

In the chaos, Cass is killed by Satan. This, however, gives Big Jim the time and opportunity to finally gun the bear down

Big Jim’s battle with the appropriately named Satan is one of courage. His story reveals the nature of courage, which is that it  is a paradox. One aspect of a paradox, as defined by  Wikiquotes,  is that it is a “situation which defies logic or or intuition.”

The logical thing for Big Jim to do would have been to know when he had been licked and leave town. His wife’s intuition told her that “getting out of Dodge” was the sane and safe course of action. Right thinking would have meant that he would have listened to his wife.

However, Big Jim wanted a new life, one that had promise for him and his family.  Thus he made up his mind to fight for what he wanted despite the odds.

G.K.. Chesterton, “The Prince of Paradox”, wrote these words:

The paradox of courage is that a man must be a little careless of his life even in order to keep it.  

Chesterton further analyzed the nature of courage this way:

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers.

Jesus calls us at times to do the unreasonable or illogical thing.  Take for example His teaching in Matthew 6 in which he tells His followers to not worry about provision.

Jesus explains that worrying about things like food and clothing is the mark of a “pagan”, not of a believer.  He tells his disciples that if they live for Him and make His kingdom their primary concern that God will give them what they need from day to day. (See Matthew 6:31-33, Life Recovery Bible.)

This command goes against the grain of someone like me who has been raised in the materialistic American culture. “Why”, I tell myself. “I can’t (fill in the blank with a seemingly impossible task which involves putting Him first over my finances). We’ll go off the abyss.”

Yet, this is what Jesus tells me to do. I have to decide if I am going to overcome my fear and do it.

I am motivated by the idea that if I do what He commands, I will be rewarded. God  will open the floodgates of heaven for me (Malachi 3:10). He even wants me to put Him to the test, and counter the prevailing logic.

I am aware that standing next to those floodgates is my own personal grizzly who is also named Satan. He is far worse than anything Hollywood can create, AND he is real (I Peter 5:8).

My mind tells me to give up and go another direction. After all, when I encounter overwhelming opposition, isn’t this the wise course?

Not so. Like Big Jim, if I want to gain my inheritance and see the promises of God fulfilled in my life, then the only strategy is to go on the offensive and beat back old Satan. It’s paradoxical and even my body cries out in pain as I go about something that my intellect tells me is totally absurd.

I am encouraged in my fight  by what the apostle Paul wrote in relation to obstacles. He noted that we are like sheep being slaughtered, every single day. But Paul said that I  overwhelming victory will be  mine through Jesus Christ who loves me despite the dangers (Romans 8:37-39).

Time to lock and load.  Gotta go and get my 10-guage.

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“Think of ways to encourage on another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of His coming back is drawing near (Hebrews 1o:24,25).”

I don’t know what prompted me to do it: seek advice that is. I am a typical male. I hate to stop and ask for directions.

It could have been the Corp of Cadets at the university in my town. With school back in session, the campus is full of these young men and women.

The other day I passed some of them at an exercise station, the kind with balance beams and wooden bars. As I walked by these students,  about 10 of them were in a circle. They had their arms around each other and were yelling some kind of chant, moving their bodies up and down in unison.

I got the point of the cheer. It was designed to develop and show their comaraderie and unity.

I chose to see some counsel because of a family matter that couldn’t get resolved. It concerned a path one of my kids wanted to take.

So about three days ago I got the idea to send some Emails around to some men I trust. One was a mentor of mine. Another was a high school principal.  The other Emails went to my pastor and an elder at my church in charge of the high school group my child is a part of.

Within a couple of hours these fellows had all responded. What impressed me also was the consistency of their advice.  Although their suggestions differed somewhat, their comments were more like shades of the same color.

Their counsel tended to agree with my wife’s view of things, even though I had not brought her ideas up specifically in my request for advice. While I agreed with my spouse generally, these men gave me some specifics that helped sway my view toward hers.

As we met with child and discussed the pertinent issue, I spoke out the written suggestions of my counselors. With input from my wife and kid, I made a decision.

All seem settled, that is until I heard my wife and child heatedly discussing the issue again in another room a few minute after our discussion. So much for my effective leadership!

I was quite flustered and basically just delegated the whole thing to my wife to solve. (Men: I wouldn’t recommend this as a conflict resolution strategy.)

During the last three days since there has been an edge of contention in my household.  The argument finally came to a head this morning as I was trying to sleep in. (It’s Saturday.)

Again my wife and child were having a loud discussion. Forget trying to sleep.

I came upstairs and got involved in the battle. I wasn’t much help. Indeed, in my pre-coffee state I just added fuel to the fire.

Finally, some thing occurred to me.  It became clear as day that my wife’s spirit was just flat out against the whole approach I was taking. Even though I was trying to be conciliatory and my wife was willing to compromise, it was clear that no matter how I framed the issue, she was not comfortable with how things were going.

It was after comprehending how she was feeling, I made a decision that from my perspective was completely in line with with what was in her heart. What was interesting to me was how, within the next hour or so, I had this complete sense of peace about me. In addition, my wife had the same spirit.

We were both in unity. We both were positive we were making the right decision regarding our child.

None of this would have happened if I had not chosen to ask advice from some other guys. Their thoughts acted as a catalyst to bring my thinking around to that of my wife. It took three days, but at least I finally was open minded and made the decision that seemed to be the best one.

The wise man of Proverbs tells us that healthy counsel is very valuable:

Timely advice is lovely,  like golden apples in a silver basket. To one who listens, valid criticism  is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry.  Trustworthy messengers refresh like snow in summer.  They revive the spirit of their employer. (Proverbs 25:11-13).

This same wise man writes that involving my wife in the decision making was a smart thing to do to:

 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)

This sage closes this  thought by reiterating how effective it is in a conflict to not be a loner.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

My adult son and I have been watching the Little League World Series. I am intrigued by how, whenever there is a home run, the entire  team of the boy who hit it greets him at home place and enthusiastically celebrates.

To me. the peace my wife and I gained, a rlesult of a decision borne from our teamwork, was to me a home run. And it was a sign to me that our success was a sign  of God’s pleasure.

He was at home plate jumping up and down with us. If those counselor friends of mine had been here, they would have been patting us on the back, too.

It’s this kind of fellowship I ought to be engaging in every day.  In addition, in the times we live in, and with the difficult contests of life sure to be ahead, it’s essential to be a part of  a community of saints like this.

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A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10).”

As they lay in the bed in their hotel room, Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami can’t sleep. They are under a lot of pressure.

In an episode of the TV drama “Friday Night Lights” Coach Taylor will be coaching his Dillon High Panthers in the Texas state championship game the next day. A pressure-cooker situation under any circumstances, the heat is increased by the instability of his 15 year-old freshman quarterback J.D. McCoy.

J.D. is probably the best quarterback in the state, but he himself is under a lot of pressure to perform from his tightly wound father. In fact, after the game which got the Panthers into the final, J.D.’s Dad hit him in the face repeatedly in front of  the Taylors and other witnesses because the boy didn’t follow his instructions about how to play.

By law, both Eric and Tami (who is the Dillon principal)  have to report the incident to Child Protective Services, and do so. This causes the breakup of Tami’s relationship with J.D.’s mother, a close friend, and an even more adversarial relationship between Eric and the quarterback’s intrusive father.

At first, J.D. is angry at his father’s beating. However, he eventually sides with his father and becomes upset with Coach Taylor for reporting his Dad’s indiscretion.

As Eric and Tami stand on the balcony in the middle of the night, looking over the city of Austin and in sight of the stadium where the state championship is to be played, the coach says,”I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow.” Tami replies,”Well, you’re going to win. Or, you’re going to lose. Either way, the sun will come up the next day.”

Tami Taylor exhorts her husband with some wise words that help him to see the big picture and what is important. In essence, Tami is saying that life is unpredictable, but whatever happens life goes on regardless.

Tami’s statement echoes one Jesus made in the Bible. In the context of this statement, Jesus had just told his disciples to seek the higher values, i.e. God’s kingdom and his righteousness, over temporal concerns and added that they would have everything they needed as a result.

Maintaining such a character in a world that has no interest in pursuing godly qualities, and in fact goes after the opposite, is not easy. Thus, Jesus gave His followers some practical advice to handle the pressure:  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:32-33).

Both Eric and Tami Taylor continue to keep this perspective in the days ahead. Things don’t work out as they hoped, but they still keep their character.

First, the Dillon Panthers encounter a huge deficit in the state championship game.  Coach Taylor courageously benches J.D. in the second half. He has played terribly and acted disrespectfully toward both Coach Taylor and his teammates.

Even though Coach Taylor’s move almost pays off, Dillon loses the championship by a whisker. Even so,  the coach encourages his team and compliments his players in the locker room in front of their parents afterward for playing like champions.

You would think that having almost won the state title and having taught values to his players would make Eric’s job secure. However, in the world of Texas high school football, this kind of behavior is not necessarily prized.

Indeed, J.D.’s wealthy and influential father works behind the scenes to pull off a coup to replace Coach Taylor with J.D.’s personal quarterback coach. The school board is faced with the choice of potentially losing their star quarterback or saying goodbye to their highly successful coach.

At first, Eric refuses to defend himself. He tells Tami that he has some pride, and that the board knows his record.

Tami wisely advises Eric that he needs to come to the board meeting and speak. She knows he has no chance of warding off the attack of J.D.’s father otherwise, and it is clear that his livelihood is at stake.

Although Eric bravely fights for his job in front of the school board, they opt to keep J.D.’s father happy. Eric is basically demoted. He is offered the position of head coach at a previously defunct  high school the board intends to resurrect across town in a lesser district as a consolation. 

At a wedding where Tami informs Eric of  the decision, she continues to display grace, telling Eric,”No matter what happens, wherever you go, or whatever you do, I will be behind you.”  Eric takes Tami away from the wedding  and drive  across town to view the ramshackle East Dillon High facilities.  He obviously plans to make the best of the new situation and coach next season at the reopened school.

The show ends with Eric and Tami standing on the abandoned school’s tiny football field with their arms around each other. Eric is a man with plenty of godly traits, and fortunately for him, he has a wife who is even godlier and helps him to make right choices despite the pressures of life.

Knowing what he has in Tami influences Eric’s decisionmaking.  During the wedding, as various couples, including Eric and Tami, dance a band sings the following lyrics, which help to explain the coach’s choice:

When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll trade the world
For the good thing he’s found

Eric Taylor has won a state championship previously and  just took his team to another final. He is a highly respected coach and would have no trouble landing a job coaching elsewhere.

In fact, this is not the first time Eric has put  his career behind his wife and family. Once he was offered and took a coaching position at a major university in Texas even though Tami had just had a baby and elected to stay in Dillon. When he saw his family suffering from his absences, he leaves his new job, a dream come true, and returns to coach the Panthers.

Yes, Eric knows what he has in Tami.

 When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Tryin’ to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that’s the way it ought to be ( When a Man Loves a Woman, Jody Watley, made famous by Percy Sledge)

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“Rulers lead with my help, and nobles make righteous judgments (Proverbs 8:16).”

I took a walk though my neighborhood today, as I am wont to do on Saturdays. It doesn’t hurt that I live next to the largest lake in Finland the fourth largest in Europe. This body of water is a beautiful piece of creation and is ubiquitous in this area.

The lake is lined with pleasant  birch forests. So after a few minutes I am in the woods.

Today I had a plan where I wanted to hike and thought I knew where I was going. However, I somehow took a path I had never been on before.

This trail led me right to a small point on the lake.  It wasn’t bare. It had several small birch on it.

Right in from of me on this small point facing the lake was what amounted to a kitchen chair. It was íf God had led me out there and said “sit a spell”.

The Psalmist wrote some  lovely words for this kind of situation:

  “My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” (Psalm 27:8  NLT)

In my case though I got the impression I was just supposed to sit there and listen. So I sit in the kitchen chair and watched the current flow out into the lake from the inlet nearby. Finland isn’t the noisiest country at any time, but today out there in the forest by the lake it was silent as a mouse.

Some decisions are staring me in the face right now, and as I watched that current it came to me that much of my life I had been swimming against God’s flow.  When I get into a tight spot as I am in now I tend to go to war and do everything in my power to get out of it. 

The end result is that I end up spending years going down a certain road. Looking back, I am wondering if I made the right choices.

In an episode of the TV medical drama “House”, which is winding to its conclusion in the next couple of shows, Dr. Robert Chase is evaluating his own past decisions.   A patient has made him confront his life.

This particular patient isn’t just anyone. It is the hospital coroner, a man named Dr. Treiber.

In his post Treiber sees all the mistakes. When he does autopsies, he knows which doctors messed up.

As a result, the only doctor in the place he really trusts is Gregory House, for whom the show is named.  Furthermore, even though he is a member of House’s team, Treiber does not like Dr. Chase at all.

While working on Treiber, Chase discovers why. The coronoer had applied for the same fellowship under Dr. House which Chase eventually received.  Here’s their  conversation:

Treiber: Quit my other program, relocated, broke up with my girlfriend. Then your father made a call, and suddenly you had the spot.

Chase: That was almost ten years ago.

Treiber: Do you know what I could’ve done after even three years with House? Gone to the CDC, W.H.O. Started a diagnostics department someplace they’d never even heard of such a thing. You’ve been given everything. Looks, talent, my future. Nine years later, look what you’ve done with it.

Chase is speechless.  He knows Treiber is right.

In a subsequent conversation with Dr. Taub, another House team member, Chase discusses the future -and the past.

 Chase: How long do you think you’ll work for House?

Taub: As long as he lets me.

Chase: When House was in prison, you worked at Mercy in plastics, right? Know what I did? Surfed. For nine months.

Taub: Yes, and if I didn’t have two daughters and alimony, I might have done the same.

Chase: A fellowship’s supposed to train you to stand on your own. Foreman’s Dean of the hospital, Cameron’s head of emergency medicine in Chicago.

What brings matters to a head for Chase is that he suddenly becomes the  point man on Treiber’s case. House has run off with his friend Dr. James Wílson on a road trip. Wilson is dying of cancer and confronting his own issues.

Chase, knowing how Treiber feels about him, doesn’t tell his patient that  House is gone. Treiber is just told that House authorized his treatment. Thus, Chase has lied to his patient.

In the meantime, Chase has told one of the House team doctors he is quitting after the case. Chase discusses his future with his boss and friend Dr. Foremen.

Foreman: You’ve got everybody worried about your quitting.

Chase: You here as my boss or my friend?

Foreman: If I was here as your boss, you’d be suspended by now.

Chase: I’ve learned a lot here. Enough to run my own team. It’s time I moved on. Unfortunately, that’s how I felt last year. And the year before that.

Foreman: Maybe there’s a reason you haven’t left. You need structure. And support. Somebody else calling the shots.

Chase: You didn’t come down here as my boss or my friend. You came down as House. You’re trying to insult me into making a decision.

Foreman: We’ve both seen it work. Either you rise to the challenge and quit, or you stay. As a team member.

Chase is left to ponder Foreman’s charge of  indeciseveness.

Treiber’s condition worsens, and Treiber learns the truth. Typical of the show, however, Treiber’s condtion is solved, but this time by Dr. Chase.

When Treiber tells Chase that he himself probably wouldn’t have come up with the diagnosis that saved his life, Chase credits House’s teaching. Treiber replies, “This wasn’t House.”

Later, Chase sees Foreman in the hall and tosses him his locker key. Foreman makes one last ditch effort to keep Chase on board:

Foreman: “I’ll give you your own team.” 

Chase: “Thanks. But it’s time to step out of the shadow.”

Foreman: “It’s about time.”

Sitting by the lake today I thought the same thing. It’s “about time” I quit making bad decisions based on my own insecurity. 

I have spent many years under God’s tutelage. I know  His methods and ways.

It’s time to get out of my comfort zone.  If I don’t, I won’t be at peace with myself the rest of my days (Isaiah 50:11).

It’s about time I became a leader.

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” ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30).”

I was talking to an acquaintance the other day, complaining about a personal injustice. This conversation got me steamed.

The more I thought about it, the worse I felt. I was more ashamed of my feelings over the matter than the humiliation I encountered when it happened.

So, I took a l-o-o-n-g walk to cool off.  Then I settled down with my books at home.  (This is one of the benefits of having no electronic entertainment, save a boom box. I read a lot.)

After that night of reading, I felt even more ashamed of my complaining.

One of the books I read was called “The End of Poverty”. In it the economist Jeffrey Sachs discussed the condition of the world economically.

One-sixth of the world’s population, says Sachs, is still in extreme poverty. This means that they are not even on the ladder to economic survival.

Sachs cites the female garment workers in Bangaladesh as women who are climbing out of extreme poverty and onto the ladder of opportunity. Of course, they have a long way to go.

They walk several hours a day to and from their homes outside of Dhaka to get to work and back. At their jobs they work on clothes for the Europeans and Americans, 12 hours a day for minimal wages.

On the job and in their travels they are subject to sexual harassment. The life is unimaginable to those of us living at least a minimal good life in a developed country and if we have any heart, it makes us sad, or even angry.

In fact, the media and celebrities regularly decry the treatment of women like those in Bangladesh and shame the companies that employ them. Yet, Sachs thinks this outrage is the wrong approach.

He says that these women are actually on the first rung of economic success. Over time and exponentially, they will improve their lot and those around them.

Still, their plight is unjust. So is the situations of countless other people around the globe in worse conditions.

I wish I had more concern for the injustice done to people like the women of South Asia. Instead, I get caught up in my own petty concerns.

As I read the other night, I continued my progress through aother book, a  Charles Dickens’ classic called  “The Tale of Two Cities”.  Somehow I managed to skip a lot of English lit in school, so I guess it’s never too late.

“The Tale of Two Cities” surprised and moved me. It too is about injustice.

Set in Paris and London during the days of the French Revolution, it details the horrors done to people who were not aristocrats. Indeed, Sachs notes that only in the last 200 years has the world begun to develop economically, with the average worker in Europe earning about 90% of what your average African worker does today.

These peasants were fair game for the richer nobility. Indeed, the plot of Dickens’ novel centers around the consequences stemming from the shocking ill treatment of a serf woman and her family by the boys of a French aristocratic  family.

However, the revolutionaries that took power during the French Revolution are portrayed by Dickens as equal to their “noble” predecessors in terms of their brutality. They took vengeance on anyone who stood in their way, especially if they were associated with aristocrats.

It didn’t matter if they were guilty of a criminal act or not. It was “off with their heads!”

One of the key figures in “The Tale of Two Cities” is a child of one of  the perpetrators of the aforementioned outrage concerning the peasant woman. He grew into a man named Charles Evremonde, called Darnay.

Darnay had rejected his aristocratic upbtinging and moved to England, where he married the daughter of a French doctor who had been imprisoned in the Bastille.  However, to save a former servant of his family imprisoned unjustly by the revolutionaries, he returns to France.

There he is through a series of events sentenced by a revolutionary tribunal to be guillotined. Darnay is a good man with a kind wife and a child and has done nothing to deserve execution, except to have been born into the wrong family.

It appears all is lost for Darnay until an old friend comes along and saves the day. Sidney Carton from England, almost a part of the prisoner’s family and formerly entranced with Mrs. Darnay when she was single, manages to substitute himself through trickery for Darnay at the guillotine.

Carton has led a wasted life and he knows it. He is a man with a lot of bad habits. Yet, he sees in this act the possibility for redemption.

Indeed, as he contemplates what he is about to do, Carton walks late at night along the Seine quoting a statement from Jesus:

 “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (John 11:25, 26 Kings James Version).

As I read this passage, I thought that the term ‘dead’ could be construed in a couple of ways. One is the common biblical idea of being spíritually separated from God. The other is another common usage, which is that of “death to self’ (Luke 9:23.

Carton was ‘dead’ in both ways. He had left a profligate life away from God. However, now he had also chosen to die to himself and sacrifice himself for his friend.

As Carton contemplated this action, he must have felt very lonely. The words of a current pop hit tell of what must have been in his heart:

 I don’t wanna be left
In this war tonight
Am I alone in this fight?
Is anybody out there?

Don’t wanna be left left in this world behind
Say you’ll run to my side (Artist: K’NAAN featuring Nelly Furtado)

The complete song describes “losers” in this life´. “Mary” isn’t pretty or popular, and she’s insecure.  She  can “point a finger, but there’s three pointing back.”

“Adam” is  a child totally ignored by his father. He “grew up mad and antisocial” and spent his days playing video games. Drugs were the only way out.

“With one last hope he puts his arms up higher
I can see him crying out, yeah
Is anybody out there?”

Sidney Carton in “The Tale of Two Cities” discovers that there is someone out there.  He chooses to believe in His new friend Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life.

Carton gains strength and hope from this verse, taught to him by his father. It carries him through to complete the rescue of Charles Darnay. 

Carton had spent a lifetime not trusting and hurting, a victim of his own injustices in life.  Then he met Jesus Christ. In effect, Jesus says to him the same words of another recent pop song:

Don’t wanna break your heart
I wanna give your heart a break
I know you’re scared it’s wrong
Like you might make a mistake
There’s just one life to live
And there’s no time to waste, to waste

Give your heart a break
Let me give your heart a break
Your heart a break
There’s just so much you can take
Give your heart a break
Let me give your heart a break
Your heart a break (Artist: Demi Lovato)
Sidney Carton believes Jesus. He believes Jesus can and will give his heart a break. He turns his broken heart over to Jesus.
 
In doing so, he finds a way to right the wrongs he sees in his own life and in those around him. He gives his life, his dead life,  for his old earthly friend,  and to his newfound heavenly One.
 
I can learn from  Sidney Carton. I see myself in him.
 
Like him, I am dead in many ways. I am powerless. I know I can’t solve  all the injustices in my ownl life or the multitudinous ones out there in the world.   
 
Yet, like Sidney I can start to solve some of the wrongs in this world by believing my friend Jesus and giving up my life to Him. I may not have trusted many people, if any, before but now I can trust Him.
 
When Jesus says it He means  it. When He says He is the Resurrection and the Life, then I can know it’s the truth. His word is as good as gold.
 
After I believe Jesus and give my life to Him, every day, then I can follow behind Him and give up my life for  those He so chooses.  This may not take care of more than a drip of the injustice drowning me and the world today, but it’s a beginning.
 
 

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“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things (Romans 2:1).”

This has been one of those weeks when my patience as  a university English teacher has been sorely tested.  While I have learned to enjoy students as people (mostly), there are times like the past few days when they get on my nerves.

The week began with excuses from a couple of my students as to why they couldn’t attend class:

“I’m going to Budapest with my fiance'”.

“I’m going to a party of this organization, but hey, I will be speaking English there.”

One of my former colleagues asked rhetorically when I related these comments,”So, what else is new”? I know like her I shouldn’t have been surprised by these excuses because they are part and parcel of what we teachers deal with all the time.

I just wonder why these students can’t look at their schedules before the semester begins. If they did, perhaps they would learn that ‘now” was not the best time to enroll in my courses.

Then there were the physical abuses. Oh, they weren’t intentional, but they were present nonetheless.

In one instance, I was walking in the front door of our main building when I felt a tug at the back end of my shoe. Some young feller had stepped on my heel.

I looked to my left and he just walked by, looking totally self absorbed. No apology, no nuttin’.

A day or two later, I was walking down the hall engaged in a conversation with a student when I felt a nudge on my left shoulder. When I looked, a young man in a jacket, who actually could have been staff, went on by looking left and right and moving like Mr. Bean. Again, no “sorry” was forthcoming.

Somewhere in the midst of this week I began  a mild general rant with a couple of my colleagues about our students inability to attend class. One of my fellows looked at me with an amused expression and said,”Calm down, Tim.”

I immediately got his drift and said,”You’re right.” I knew that my frustration over student behavior was boiling over, and that since more than likely the same conduct I have seen for years was not going to change.

Thus, I am not very sympathetic when I read headlines about “boomerang kids” as I have in the last 24 hours. These young people are adults in the 20 to early 30s range who have moved back in with a parent or two.

Yesterday, I read that 6 million American young adults live with their parents. Today, I not only saw an article that says it is actually 15 million, but also read something that says 51 million (!) young people in the European Union (my current workplace) live at home with at least one parent.

In my current mood, I think such things as “What a bunch of lazy bums” or “Get a job”. Yet, this morning my curmudgeonly attitude toward the 20 something has begun to mellow. The reasons for my softening lie in the economic facts of today and also come from some spiritual truth.

The title of one Internet link blares “Recession’s Lost Generation”. The actual article from the Associated Press tells of the bleak economic futures of these young people:

In record numbers, they’re struggling to find work, shunning long-distance moves to live with mom and dad, delaying marriage and raising kids out of wedlock, if they’re becoming parents at all. The unemployment rate for them is the highest since World War II, and they risk living in poverty more than others – nearly 1 in 5.

New 2010 census data released Thursday show the wrenching impact of a recession that officially ended in mid-2009. There are missed opportunities and dim prospects for a generation of mostly 20-somethings and 30-somethings coming of age in a prolonged period of joblessness.

There’s a story in the Bible involving David where perhaps I think he could have used a little compassion. It involved a young Amelikite.

The Amelikite’s were enemies of Israel. In fact, at the time of the story David and his men had just rescued their families from a group of Amelikite raiders (I Samuel 30:1-19).

At about the same time of this incident, King Saul and the Israelites were fighting a losing battle against the Philistines. Saul and his sons were killed and the Israel routed.

An Amelikite showed up at David’s camp with Saul’s crown and his armband. When David asked the Amelikite what had happened, he related this story: 

“I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and their drivers in hot pursuit. When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’

“He asked me, ‘Who are you?’

 “‘An Amalekite,’ I answered.

 “Then he said to me, ‘Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’

 “So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive.” (II Samuel 1:6-10)

Now the Amelikite thought he was doing David a favor. However, if he had known David’s stance vis a’ vis Saul, he would have not done what he did.

David had had his own chances to knock off King Saul, but had refused. He left judgment to God, who had appointed Saul as leader of Israel.

Thus, after David had spent some time mourning, and presumably mulling over the whole situation, he ordered the young man’s execution. First, however, he double checked where the boy’s national origin.  David also asked the young man why he hadn’t been afraid to knock off the king God had appointed (II Samuel 1:13-16).

I am sure the thoughts of a more mature and learned David never occurred to this lad, nor should they have. I think David was being somewhat unjust, at least on a personal level.

Sure the young Amelikite was foolish (Proverbs 18:7). However, foolishness isn’t just the realm of the young foreigner. Even David had seen this truth in the lives of his contemporaries (such as Saul himself and one Nabal (Fool), the former deceased husband of his current wife).  

I think most of us, if we are patient, will at least tolerate foolish people (II Corinthians 11:16). However, I think I  need to do even more than that: I ought to love them and demonstrate, at least in my heart, some compassion.  After all, it’s not as if I had never done anything foolish.

Solomon, the son of David, expressed truth when he wrote, “Even as fools walk along the road, they lack sense and show everyone how stupid they are (Ecclesiates 10:3).”  I see this verity every day among the students I work around.

However, they are God’s children and among them are some lovely people. Furthermore, if Iam going to be truthful, I am pretty foolish at times myself.

I am pretty quick to excuse my own less than stellar comportment.  I ought to give the 18-34 year old a little bit of the same treatment.

After all, I am a teacher and I should be conveying what I know about life to my students. If I am unwilling to be more patient and less judgmental, I ought to get out of the profession, for their sake and mine.

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“The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.  Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good (Ecclesiastes 9:17,18).”

One of my lifelong friends invited me to view one of his loves last weekend. He’s a big fan of stock car racing, so we headed down to one of his favorite tracks to see a Saturday night competition.

On the way he showed me an article he had written on the track in a magazine called “Speedway”. At the end, the editor had left in his dedication to his father, who had raced cars briefly in the 1950s and gave my buddy his love for the sport.

As something of a neophyte to auto racing, I focused on the leaders in the race. However, a lot of the more experienced fans at the track were watching the “races within the race”.

One of the more competitive of these was a contest between two cars in the 100 lap event, the track’s longest race of the night. While I watched the leaders, the yellow flag came out, signalling a “caution” in the competition and thus a pause.

As I looked to my left, at the corner of the track a car lay sprawled. My friend told me this driver had been smacked by a competitor, purportedly on purpose.

A little bit later, the driver of the car that had been hit got his revenge. He caused his earlier attacker to spin out.

This activity was a big hit with the crowd. They went wild.

My buddy had told me earlier before the race began that I was supposed to pick a winner, so I did. However, when it was clear my choice was back in the pack and would stay there, I picked another.

Amidst all the noise (we wore earplugs) and with the earlier confrontations still lodged in my brain, my friend informed me,”He’s…., even a dirty driver.” This man with a reputation of a cheater won the race, though.

Reading an account of the results later, I learned his main competitior wasn’t enthralled by how the victor had accomplished his victory. The second place finisher  was passed by the winner, but claimed that this would not have been possible if the alleged “dirty driver” had not illegally altered his car.

My impression of the night was that auto racing at this level is kind of a controlled chaos. Most of the drivers appear to he keeping the rules, but a few derelicts stretch and even break them, creating a certain amount of nuttiness.

When you watch some of these drivers, the auto insurance commercials starring Mr. Mayhem come to mind. He’s the man play-acting as, for example, an out-of-control GPS device, or an even more out of control teenage girl driver. The end result with Mr. Mayhem at the controls is disaster.

Israelites living at the time of the Judges must have felt like the equivalent of Mr. Mayhem was steering their ship.  It was a time of needless and willful violence.

Individually and corporately, actions were taken that hurt people and destroyed lives. As the Scriptures say, everyone did what was right in their own eyes because there was no real leadership (Judges 21:25 ).

One story, told in Judges Chapter 19,  involving a religious leader and his wife exemplified this period. The insanity began with the woman’s infidelity.

Now, the idea that a marriage between two people who claim to be leaders in bringing people to God would have trouble. In fact, my friend who took me to the races, who also happens to be a licensed therapist, told me that he would like to think so, but his experience in counseling shows that ministers and their spouses have  a lot of marital trouble.

At least this Israelite minister did the right thing when his wife split and went home to Daddy. He went after her.

Apparently they reconciled because they eventually left to go home. During their travels, though, mayhem struck.

Choosing to avoid an ungodly city, he moved on to an Israelite city in which to spend the night.  His assumption was that he would not be subject to the kind of violence he could expect in the city he passed by, since Israelites were supposedly believers in the true God.

The minister turned out to be dead wrong. The man he was staying with experienced a home invasion by perverted men, and his wife was raped and murdered.

In an action that would rival any reality show on TV today, the minister cut his wife into pieces and sent the parts all over the nation of Israel. He must have thought this was the only way he could get a hearing amidst the governmental chaos of his day.

When the leaders of Israel demanded that the tribe involved, Benjamin, surrender the perpretators of the crime, they did the unexpected. They refused.

In a fit of misplaced patriotism, they took offense at the encroachment on their states’ rights. Civil war ensued.

After much bloodshed, the Benjamites were subdued and the criminal city destroyed. Some people claim there was a woman to blame, but they knew in their heart of hearts that  it was  their own fault.

When God’s way is thrown out the window, even in a nation claiming to be religious, the only thing that can expected is a visit from Mr. Mayhem.  The collateral damage in such situations is enormous.

Even as I write this, a supposedly “Christian” nation is recovering from the mass murder of many of its citizens, many of them children. The media has claimed that the man is a “right-wing fundamentalist Christian” distressed over the move of his people toward ideologies he cannot abide with.

In reality, the man is nothing of the sort. He is nothing short of mad. He is Mr. Mayhem embodied in a true-to-life human being.

In his attack against his country and its leadership, he is right in one respect, however. His crazinness has been aided and abetted by a lack of leadership in the things of God.

As a result, people today are like the race car drivers I saw Saturday night who fell back in the pack. As they drove lap after lap toward the finish line, they slipped farther away from success.

Paul Simon wrote and sang these lyrics which describe the experience of the modern man in the human rat race:

Slip  slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away

I know a man
He came from my home town
He wore his passion for his woman
Like a thorny crown
He said Dolores
I live in fear
My love for you’s so overpowering
I’m afraid that I will disappear

Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away

I know a woman
Became a wife
These are the very words she uses
To describe her life
She said a good day
Ain’t got no rain
She said a bad day’s when I lie in bed
And think of things that might have been

Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away

And I know a fa-ther
Who had a son
He longed to tell him all the reasons
For the things he’d done
He came a long way
Just to explain
He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping
Then he turned around and headed home again

Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away

When we try to be spouses and parents without God at the helm of our personal lives and the life of our families, we are lost. Mr. Mayhem is at the wheel instead.

Simon adds:

God only knows
God makes his plan
The information’s unavailable
To the mortal man
We’re working our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away

Simon is right in one respect.  Not following God’s plan in our job or in any other aspect of life for that matter is a recipe for mayhem.

Hower, Mr. Simon is incorrect in saying that information from God regarding His plan for us is not available to us mortals. It’s right smack dab in the Bible.

Our national leaders just choose to ignore it. So do we husbands, parents and other leaders responsible for the welfare of other people.

Occasionally, you can run into some people whose lives seem to be under control. They are at peace and leading others in healthful ways.

The elders of my church come to mind. Individually and corporately, they are some of the godliest men I have ever run across.

The wisest man to have lived claimed observed that the “race is not to the swift”, but that humans are subject to the mayhem of their times and the luck of the draw (Ecclesiastes 9:11) I am glad, however, that there are men like my elders around, manning the pits as I circle life’s raceway.

They are worthy of following and emulating. One day, before I finish my race, I hope to be like them and kick Mr. Mayhem out of the driver’s seat.

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