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Archive for the ‘Humility’ Category

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1a-3).

“We’re moving on to another candidate.” Thus, a week after my whirlwind tour of a northeastern university in pursuit of a job as a departmental head, I am left feeling low.

In fact, although this is not the first rejection I have received in my six months of unemployment,  it is for some reason the worst. After I hung up the phone last night, I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I retreated to my bed to sulk.

Rejection is a bummer. How are we supposed to handle it when we get rebuffed?

In my case, I immediately engaged in some serious navel gazing. “What a loser”, I thought.

Of course, at the end of a year in which I have come up empty after  persistent job hunting, numerous phone interviews,  and some long flights to unusual places, I suppose being depressed is normal. Knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better.

One of my friends tried to console me last night. “Perhaps you ought to analyze what you are doing during your interviews,” he said.

Good advice I guess. “I TEACH people how to interview”, I told him.

What worries me the most is that there is some inherent characteristic in me that is sabotaging my efforts.  I told my pastor as much over lunch yesterday, prior to getting the heave ho last night.

When I told another person that I was a loser, they said,”Well, Jesus isn’t a loser.” While that did direct my thoughts to the proper place (as I will note later), the comment didn’t do anything to boost my own individual self esteem at the time.

As it is Christmas time I have been locating old holiday fare on the tube that might interest me. The other night I watched “Charlie Brown Christmas” for the umpteenth time.

Then I noticed that “White Christmas” was on.  I realized that even though I knew the song and was quite aware of the singer Bing Crosby, I had never sat down and watched the thing.

So I did. The film is close to three hours long, but I decided to view it anyway.

I read the synopsis about how two entertainers (Crosby and Danny Kaye) move their show to Vermont to save the hotel of their former World War II general.  The state was getting no snow at Christmas and this predicament was killing business. This much of the plot I think I knew already.

To me, however, the real focus of “White Christmas” is not this attempt at helping out a revered old friend. What drew me as I watched was the dynamics of the romance between character Bob Wallace (Crosby) and  female singer Betty Haynes , who performs with her sister Judy.

When they first meet, the sincere Betty sees Bob as a cynic. He tells her that everyone in show business has an “angle”. These comments turn her off and they don’t expect to ever see each other again.

However, due to a series of circumstances all four entertainers (Bob and fellow entertainer Phil Davis and the Haynes Sisters) end up at the general’s hotel in Vermont. The girls become part of the show that Wallace and Davis have in mind.

In this setting, Betty comes to admire Bob. She thinks he is a quite self sacrificing man in moving his entire show to Vermont for the sake of his old war friend.

One day the hotel’s nosy housekeeper overhears a conversation between Bob and the well-known TV host Ed Harrison (based on the real Ed Sullivan).  During her eavesdropping she hears Ed tell Bob that he will put the whole show on national TV.

The premise behind Ed’s idea is to gain a ton of publicity for Wallace and Davis. Bob turns this offer down, not wanting to dishonor  his old general in front  of the entire country.

Unfortunately for him, Bob gets shamed instead. The housekeeper hung up before hearing Bob’s refusal to engage in the national TV production. She tells Betty about the plan.

As a result, Betty begins to reject Bob. She is haughty, cold and angry.

Bob can’t figure out what he did wrong. But he still pursues Betty, even when she leaves Vermont for a show in New York.

Bob goes after her and visits the club to try and iron things out. He tells Betty that he knows her “knight in shining armor” has been knocked off his horse, but that he would like him to be back up there. About that time Ed Harrison shows up and the conversation is interrupted.

Eventually the misunderstanding is cleared up. But in the interim Bob has to go through a period of undeserved chastening.

I think the theme of shame is quite appropriate at Christmas. While I know this sounds rather droll amid all the holiday glitter, hear me out.

Think about it.  Jesus Christ is living in heaven with His Heavenly Father.  Yet, the Scriptures say that He, although being in His very nature God, came to live among us a man.

The apostle Paul tells us to have the same mindset as Jesus.  The apostle writes that in  becoming a man, Jesus “made Himself nothing”.  (Philippians 2: 6:,7)

But He didn’t stop there. Jesus was fully obedient to His Father, keeping His humility and even going to the Cross in the will of God. The result of  Jesus’s humiliation was His eventual exaltation as Lord of heaven and earth (v. 8,9).

So when I think of my abasement during my unemployment, what I believe I need to do is look at the big picture. God has a plan in my current low estate.

It has occurred to me this morning that a lot of great people have had to fail before they succeeded:

* Thomas Edison made 10,000 attempts at the light bulb before he invented it.

* Michael Jordan was given the ball 26 times to make the game winning shot and missed.

* Jack Canfield’s hit book Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected by publishers over  a hundred times.

* Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was turned down for employment 14 times by law firms.

So I am not the first person to have had a gut check in life.  And a lot of the shame and contempt I endure is deserved.

Jesus became a man and died for my sins, yet He did nothing to receive this kind of treatment.   In fact, He had behaved just the opposite.

Of course, Jesus  didn’t have to like His abasement. But He  endured it out of love for His own. With His help, so can I.

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The Lord is my shepherd;  I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows;  he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name (Psalm 23:1-3).

These days of summer I am wont to taking a walk into my Virginia town of about 75 minutes. This journey takes me through the agricultural section of the local university, a large concern.

Every time I make this trek I see something different. For example, last week there were four young bulls playfully fighting, their heads focused inward toward each other. Their bodies jutted out from their heads, making the latter the center of a black kaleidoscope.

Yesterday I passed two flocks of sheep which I had not previously seen. I supposed that not having seen them before  was due to my having gotten out earlier this particular morning.

The sheep in the first flock ignored me, diligently munching on the green grass in their pasture. All except one that is.

This black-faced rogue stared through the fence at me, almost angrily. It was as if it was telling me to get them out of there, or to give them something more than the grass all around.

I thought,”Even for a sheep, the grass is always greener on the other side.” This sheep didn’t know what was good for them.

Here God had provided for their need that which was particularly suited for their position in life. Yet, this particular animal appeared to want something different, perhaps even wishing they were walking outside the fence with me on the way to the coffee shop instead of chewing on a blade of grass!

This sheep reminded me of Harvey Cheyne, a character from a Kipling novel. I learned of him from a  1996 movie called Captains Courageous, which adapted the story for television.

In this story Harvey is an extremely rich 16-year old who is also a self centered brat. On an ocean cruise he falls overboard and is seemingly lost.  However, he is picked up by a small fishing vessel captained by the demanding Captain Troop.

Harvey remains in character after his rescue, insisting on special treatment. He tries to bribe Captain Troop to take him back to shore. Troop tells him ‘no’, noting that they would be out to see for several months to fish, which was the crew’s livelihood.

Troop makes the boy work, something he is not accustomed to. Harvey refuses and hears from the captain,”You don’t work, you don’t eat.”

After a period of resistance, Harvey slowly comes around. He learns the fishing trade with the help of Dan, Captain Troop’s son. He also learns some life lessons and matures into a fine young man.

David Jeremiah tells a similar story of a man who is out to sea on a small raft when a storm hits. As much as he tries, the man cannot prevent the craft from sinking.

Like Harvey, he is picked up by another vessel, this time a large ship. The captain of this boat tells the man,”I’m sure you don’t mind helping out in the galley. We are short handed.”  Unlike Harvey, the man is so happy and grateful over being saved that he is willing to do anything.

David Jeremiah likens this to our salvation through Jesus Christ. We are in the place of rescue from our dire straits at the point of salvation, but we are not saved to inactivity. Jeremiah points out that we are saved by grace, but also for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

I see a lot of application to the stories of Harvey and the man on the raft. I too have been rescued.

During the previous year I was alone in a foreign country, with no family or Christian fellowship. I cried out for rescue from these lonely circumstances.

During this time I was tossed about as if I was on the ocean. I felt adrift and pleaded with the Lord.

Finally, this summer God heard my cry led me back home.  I am finally with my wife and children and ecstatic to be home and connected to my friends and church.

However, I am also currently unemployed. I can see from the episodes o f Harvey and the raft man that I have a choice to make in terms of how I view my new condition.

I have determined that I should not expect to sit around my house and do nothing as Harvey did.  The crew (my family) needs my help, not a freeloader.

Part of me does feels like Harvey did when he was first rescued. I have these thoughts of being too important or too “good” for certain tasks.

However, another part of me knows that I may have to take what seems to be an unpleasant job in order for me and my family to continue to survive. I am so grateful to be away from my own personal “ocean” that I am willing to do anything to avoid being tossed overboard again.

I have a suspicion that even work with menial tasks can teach me something new and lead to a broader ministry. In Captains Courageous, Harvey plans to build a hospital in Captain Troop’s hometown out of thanks and gratitude once he is back on shore.  He can do this because through his perseverance in his messy fishing job his life is restored.

I believe God can lead me in the same way, taking what appears to be a dead end job and make it into something special. Looking at others and thinking that they have it better than me, or that my little “pasture” is too beneath me misses the point of who I am and what God has created me to be for His glory.

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“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you;  you are the helper of the fatherless (Psalm 10:14).”
 
re·sil·ience Listen to audio/rɪˈzɪljəns/ noun
 
[noncount] 1 : the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
▪ The rescue workers showed remarkable resilience in dealing with the difficult conditions.

 2 : the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.
▪ the resilience of rubber ▪ Cold temperatures caused the material to lose resilience. (Source: Merriam-Webster English Language Learner’s Dictionary)
 
Dan Berchinski has resilience. His main squeeze Rebecca Taber does, too.
 
The Army lieutenant stepped on a hidden land mine in Afghanistan in the summer of 2009 and lost both legs, in addition to suffering a broken jaw and shattered arm. He is now back in the States recovering.
 
At his side is Rebecca Taber. Her relationship with Berchinski is portrayed in the Washington Post this week. 
 
She is a typical young woman in Washington, D.C. where she works and lives, and where Dan is rehabiltating. Like many young people in D.C., Rebecca is smart and determined.
 
She is a former student body president at Yale, has a coveted job at a D.C. consulting firm and is currently on loan to the State of Delaware in an importan post. However, her main focus is Berchinski.
 
Before he went off to war, they had met and romanced a little. However, the relationship did not seem to have much of a future.
 
After Dan was sent home, Rebecca was determined to be his friend and stand by him. She visited him in the hospital several nights a week after work.
 
The friendship has blossomed into romance. When she is not working, she is with Dan.
 
Dan himself has suffered none of the trauma usually associated with the returning combat soldier.  Greg Jaffe of the Post writes in his article “Love After War”:

Dan carried some anger about the war, which he thought was bloated and wasteful. But he considered himself lucky. He felt responsible for Yanney’s death (note: a soldier under his command) who died shortly before Dan was injured), but it did not haunt him. He experienced no nightmares, no post-traumatic stress disorder and none of the memory loss associated with traumatic brain injury. He still had his hands.

 Later in the article, Jaffe says:

The truth is that Dan is mostly fine. Doctors at Walter Reed view him with admiration and some puzzlement. He has been able to set aside his trauma and move forward with humor and little regret.

A lot of that can be credited to the influence of Rebecca. She set up a white board in his room where she wrote personal and professional “to-do” lists for him. He now maintains them by himself.

He is venturing into business. In the future, he and Rebecca want to attend business school a Harvard or Stanford together.

How many of us could have the resilience of a Dan Berchinski or a Rebecca Taber?  When all hope seems to be gone, what is left?

I doubt many of us think we would have the inner moxie to carry on as they have. I don’t think I have it in me to do what they have done.
 
 One man I admire in the Bible for his resilience is David.  He seemed to bounce back a lot.
 
Once his family members and those of his combat comrades were kidnapped by some raiders while David’s troops were out campaigning. The men thought of stoning David because of his poor leadership.
 
What did David do? He got on his horse and led his men to recapture all their families. (I Samuel 30:1-19).
 
Then there was that “thing” with Bathsheba. He was resilient there, too.
 
“Come on”, you say. This was one of David’s darkest hours. What is there to celebrate about adultery and the murder of your lover’s husband?
 
What is honorable here is that when David and his affair were outed, he didn’t sit in his room drinking a Guinness. He”manned up” and took responsibility.
 
Sure, he grieved over his sin. However, his attitude was more than “sorry that I got caught.”
 
He fasted and prayed and begged God for the child he had fathered with Bathsheba. When the baby died, David had the fortitude to carry on and even comfort his wife Bathsheba. (II Samuel 12:1-25).
 
He made the best out of a bad situation by acting honorably, and so did God. In fact, out of that whole mess Solomon was conceived and born.  You may know him as the wisest man to ever live, the author of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. 
 
 What enabled David to bounce back from his defeats? The Scriptures indicate it was his humility with and hope in his God.
During the Ziklag affair, when he himself was weeping and his men were ready to take him out, the Scriptures say he “found strength in the Lord his God (I Samuel 30:6b).” During the Bathsheba incident, he admitted his sin, didn’t shoot the messenger (Nathan the prophet), and even had the courage to comfort his wife Bathsheba.
 
Shortly thereafter, David went back to being the king and the commander of the army. The Life Recovery Bible says of him:
 
To David’s credit, even though he had made some poor choices, he made a dramatic comeback. He went back to doing the things he should have been doing all along. After a relapse, we would be wise to follow David’s example.
 
Sometimes even bloggers must show resiliency. As I was writing this earlier, I lost a good part of the text I had written. I hate when that happens and think if never returning to piece it back together again: it’s too much work!
 
Therefore, I went and made a cup of tea and read a book. I figured that perhaps God might have some other message here to write later if this particular piece of writing was important. I didn’t expect the message to come so soon.
 
It came from my book,  called “The Judas Gate”, a thriller by Jack Higgins. In the chapter I was reading over my tea, there is an encounter between the antagonist and a priest.
 
Jason Talbot, has just lost his grandfather, a nasty old man whom he hated. The priest is trying to convince him to forgive the man.
 
The priest tells him:
 
“Forgiveness is everything. Christ even forgave Judas when he stepped in through the gate at the Garden of Gethsemane to betray him.
 
Jason replies:
 
“Well, as he hanged himself, it didn’t do him much good.”
 
The priest answered:
 
“Because he couldn’t forgive himself. Once he stepped through that gate -The Judas Gate as it has become known -there was no going back. It is the same for all of us when our actions betray our loved ones, we also betray ourselves.” 
 
Had Judas accepted the forgiveness of Jesus and forgiven himself, perhaps things would have been different. As it was, Judas saw himself as having no hope in this life or the next, went through with his awful task and then killed himself.
 
When Dan Berchinski was laying on the battlefield with horrible wounds, he told his fellow soldiers that the man who had died in the platoon was the lucky one. He felt with his injuries that his life was over.
 
Little did he know as he lay there that out of it all he would get a Rebecca. Post reporter Jaffe writes:
 
Rebecca sometimes wonders whether she would have felt the same attraction to Dan if he had come back from Afghanistan intact. She lists the qualities in him that she most values: his strength, his humor, his ambition. “I am still kind of torn whether these sides existed or whether the injury brought them out,” she said. “The qualities I admire most in Dan weren’t immediately apparent to me.”
 
Indeed, the last sentence in the Washington Post article reads,”Without his injury, she never would have dated him.”

The Art of Manliness blog discusses resiliency today. It says we are more resilent than we think.

The title of his piece is “This Too Shall Pass”.  He goes on to cite studies of how resilient we are after horrible events, which would explain Dan Berchinski’s response. He also mentions how life is filled with “peaks and valleys”.

I am not sure about that. It seems for a lot of us, life is one big crevice from which it is impossible to escape. Things seem to go from bad to worse.

In those circumstances, it becomes really easy to lose hope that there will ever again be any happiness. All we have from all appearances is another day of struggle ahead.

It is pretty hard to bear, whether you brought the circumstances on yourself or this corrupt world just treated you unfairly.  What to do?

In the former case, we ought to learn from Judas, who did not forgive himself. Perhaps others may not ever forgive, but Jesus does.  Indeed, He died so he could offer it to us, so how can we reject it!

The Scriptures do not say it, but David probably forgave himself, too. How could he have ever gotten the strength to get back in the saddle at home or work again otherwise?

Who is as isolated and alone as an orphan? God says he sees what’s happening with those who are alone in their misery and takes care of them.

He is  the only hope we have that life will get better. His support is  the only reason we have to get out of bed in the morning.

When we do, the “woe” has to go and the hope has to flow into our bloodstream with our morning Joe.  The truth that Jesus is on our side is the reason we can still have hope in this life.

For a pessimist like me, that’s hard to fathom, but man, it’s the only way to keep going. My message to myself is, “Why not show a little humility and believe Him for once?”

 

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“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.  They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High (Psalm 82:5,6).”  

Ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know can’t hurt you.

I think we all agree in this day and age that those proverbs are not true. Not knowing something may keep us from worry or discomfort, but the chickens do indeed come home to roost (an idea used by poets since the Middle Ages, beginning with Chaucer).

Everyone knows that our government didn’t connect the dots on the terrorist plot of September 11, 2001.  Just surfing the Internet with the phrase “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” will bring many examples of published material that seeks to disprove this notion:

* “The American”, the journal of the American Enterprise Institute, reports that the less education you have, the more back pain you will suffer later in life.

” Mercola.com, a health webzine, notes that aspartame, a common sweetener in soft drinks and other products, is the most dangerous food additive in the marketplace.

* Nat Hentoff of USA Today worries that the lack of civics teaching in the American classroom today is producing ignorance among young people that will endanger our liberties.

” The Australia Institute even has a paper that tells me that I may have not found the most suitable examples in my search!  The report explains that the monopoly power of search engines and their methods of prioritizing the results could kill off one of the biggest advantages of today’s Internet: diversity in knowledge and products.

The flip side of all of this is Francis Bacon’s statement that “knowledge is power”.  The Soviets knew this in World War II and implemented their understanding in a dastardly way.

Movie director Andrzej Wajda documents the murder of thousands and thousands of Polish officers in his movie Katyn, which was nominated for a “Best Foreign Film” Academy Award.  It is the story of the mass executions that took place in the Katyn forest in 1940.

Anne Applebaum explains the reason for this atrocity:

The justification for the murder was straightforward. These were Poland’s best-educated and most patriotic soldiers. Many were reservists who as civilians worked as doctors, lawyers, university lecturers, and merchants. They were the intellectual elite who could obstruct the Soviet Union’s plans to absorb and “Sovietize” Poland’s eastern territories. On the advice of his secret police chief, Lavrenty Beria, Stalin ordered them executed.

While unofficially most knew that the Soviets did the deed, the Russians themselved blamed the act on the Nazis. As Applebaum says, the episode has been the source of mistrust between Russia and Poland for decades.

In the last part of the last century, as the Soviet Union fell apart, the Russians admitted their role in the massacre. This had led to some healing between the two countries.

Applebaum explains Wajda’s reason for making the film now, in the new century:

Most of those who actually remembered the events of 1939 were now dead, he explained—Wajda himself is eighty-one—so the film could no longer be made for them. Instead, he said, he wanted to tell the story again for young people—but not just any young people. Wajda said he wanted to reach “those moviegoers for whom it matters that we are a society, and not just an accidental crowd.”

A couple of scoundrels in the Bible learned the hard way that ignorance is not bliss and that what you don’t know can hurt you in a big way.  Their names were Baanah and Rekab.

These two men served the son of Saul, Ish-Bosheth, who inherited the kingdom of Israel, save Judah, which was in the hands of Saul’s enemy David. Baanah and Rekab were leaders of some commandos who fought against Judah.

These commanders began to see the handwriting on the wall when Ish-Bosheth’s primary general was murdered in a diplomatic mission to Judah. It was only a matter of time before David became the king of a united Israel. After all, even God was on David’s side, and all the people knew it.

One day when Ish-Bosheth’s guard fell asleep on duty, Baanah and Rekab snuck into his house, where their king was also taking a nap, and murdered him. They cut off his head as a souvenir.

Taking the head to David, they expected to get rewarded.  Baanah and Rekab even invoked God’s work in the whole scheme.

They should have checked with David first. David, with the two men present, said:

“As surely as the LORD lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”

 So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron. (II Samuel 4:9-12).

Had Baanah and Rekab done a little research and intelligence gathering instead of going on in ignorance, things may have turned out differently for them. Instead, they acted without knowledge and paid for it with their lives. 

What troubles me most about the “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” falsehood is not that I in truth can be harmed by my ignorance. What bothers me is that my cluelessness can due major damage to my loved ones and others.

For example, if I do not know how to be a good husband or father, disaster is at hand. My wife and my children will suffer due to my lack of instruction and scholarship in the area of family.

The good news is that my awareness of my ignorance and it harmful effects is a positive development. It is the beginning of solving the problems I have created due to my  callowness.

It is time to ditch the hubris and become a little more sophisticated in some things.  It is time to begin the process of learning.

As Benjamin Disraeli, the great British prime minister of the 19th century said, “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.

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Praise the LORD.   Praise the LORD, you his servants; praise the name of the LORD. Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.  The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the LORD our God,  the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust 
and lifts the needy from the ash heap (Psalm 113:1-7);

His nickname is THUD.  It is tattooed on his left bicep.

The person who owns both the nickname and the tattoo put this inky mark on his body as a reminder of where he had been.  He had been a big man on his high school campus, and then his life had come crashing down.

THUD is short for the full name Travis Hudson. This is the boy whose last few years have been a roller coaster ride.

T-Hud is a high school track star in my area who has won state titles in the high jump and been ranked nationally. All the success, however , went to his head.  He told the Roanoke Times,”I thought I was the biggest thing ever.” 

As a result, Travis’s life spiraled downhill. It was something his high school coach Shane Guynn saw coming on, like a train wreck, according to the Times.

In an article, the headline which begins with  “Out of the Wilderness…”, Reporter Robert Anderson further says:

Guynn began to notice a dramatic lack of effort in practice from Hudson. His grades were plummeting, continuing a downward spiral that had begun two years earlier.

Hudson argued with coaches, skipped practice and blew off homework.

Worse, he started partying with friends and lying to his parents about his whereabouts.

“Totally just being a little jerk, all the time,” Travis Hudson said. “I was fighting with my parents, fighting with my coaches.

“I would yell at them. I would cuss ’em out. I would say, ‘Screw it, I don’t want to be here.’ Sometimes I would leave.

“My grades were going down the bucket. Of course, I was getting in trouble at school because I would get smart with teachers, ‘Get off my back,’ or whatever.

“I didn’t want to go to practice, so I didn’t. I didn’t want to go to school, so I’d make up an excuse. I would go out and have fun with my friends, go party, shoot pool or go to the river or whatever.

“I thought I knew everything.”

Finally, Hudson was suspended from school for a week for a serious violation of school policy. The suspension turned out to be the beginning of his turnaround.

During his suspension, T-hud faced himself and said,” Is this really happening?”. Then, while he was spending  time in a disciplinary program offered by the school system, he noticed when he looked around that he was surrounded by little kids.

Anderson writes Hudson’s thoughts:

“It kind of hit me, ‘Why I am I in this classroom with these kids?’ “

Then the other reality hit home.

Why wasn’t he on the track with his teammates.

In addition to facing himself, what turned Hudson around was the people around him. His track teammates offered forgiveness instead of abuse, and he received mentoring from caring people.

A teacher provided tutoring which Travis told Anderson was a “godsend”. He also received advice from a former successful track star at his school.

The Times article quotes Hudson this way:

“He asked me, ‘Why go out there and throw away what God gave you? Why be mean to the people that are trying to help you succeed? Why would you stay here when you could be getting paid to go to college?”

Thus, the help and love of others helped to bring  Travis around.  Robert Anderson clearly tells what really  changed him.

But mostly, Hudson grew up.

“It kind of hit me the first week of school, ‘I’m a senior. I need to get my head on. I’m not a kid anymore. I need to be a man now.,’ ” Hudson said. “I started doing my homework, training on my own. I stopped hanging with the people I didn’t need to be hanging with. I stopped lying to my parents. I started eating right. I started sleeping well.

“I wanted to be a track star and compete.”

The Bible tells  the story of another person who learned from their suspension. I am referring to an episode in the life of King David, told in II Samuel Chapters15-19.

David was King of Israel, but had to flee the capital when his son Absalom engaged in a rebellion against him. David wandered out to the wilderness with his entourage.

While he was out there, the circumstances made David face himself. In his test, David exhibited some humility, took the good advice of his friends and, best of all,  looked to the Lord for redemption.

When things turned around for him, he showed a lot of grace to people who probably didn’t deserve it. He forgave, just as God had forgiven him for the abuses which led to his downfall.

While David was out there in the wilderness, he really had no idea if he would ever get his kingdom back, or even continue living.  He was in God’s hands, and he knew it.

Perhaps he wrote this Psalm while out there:

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
   How long will you hide your face from me? 
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
   and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
   How long will my enemy triumph over me?

  Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
   Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
   and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

  But I trust in your unfailing love;
   my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
   for he has been good to me .” (Psalm 13:1-6).

When things go bad, the nornal tendency for we humans is to complain. David was unique in that he accepted his medicine, and not only didn’t think ill of his God, but praised Him for His goodness.

This hymn wasn’t written until the 20th century, but I can imagine David marching along humming some version of his own:

“Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free,
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me!

Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching to all the lost,
By it I have been pardoned, saved to the uttermost;
Chains have been torn asunder, giving me liberty,
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me!

Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching the most defiled,
By its transforming power, making him God’s dear child.
Purchasing peace and heaven for all eternity;
And the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me

REFRAIN: Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain,
All-sufficient grace for even me;
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame;
O magnify the precious name of Jesus, praise His name!”

Our circumstances may or may not be redeemed as in the stories of Travis Hudson and David, but regardless, our spirits have. I deserve any environmental hell I may be in today, but my sould doesn”t have to live there. God has redeemed it. 

 

 

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“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.  I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God (I Corinthians 4:1-5).”

Last night at a bluegrass jamboree, I heard this old gospel musician tell this joke:

“When I was young, I got the call to preach. However, I didn’t have much opportunity. I would go anywhere, though.

Once a minister asked me if I was a preacher. I told him ‘yes, I do the best I can”.  He said, ‘Do me a favor. I have two services this weekend. I will take one and you take the other’. I told him, ‘Sure’.

The minister told me my service was a funeral. He told me it was way out in the country and gave me directions.

When the time for the service came, I drove out to the country looking for the funeral. I went down some really windy roads, deeper into the ‘hollers’.

Finally, I saw two men sitting up on their backhoe, eating sandwiches. I said to myself, ‘Yep, this is the place’.

I got out of my car and walked to the hole dug in the ground. I thought, “This man deserves to be sent out well. I’m going to give him my best.

I preached up a storm. I talked for over 30 minutes.

When I was done, I walked to my car. I heard one of the backhoe operators say,’That was amazing’.

The other man said,”It sure was. I have been laying septic tanks for over 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like that’!.”

Life can be really confusing.  Even with the best intentions, we take the wrong step.

Sometimes we are just plain stuck. Despite the opportunities, we don’t have the wisdom or resources to make something out of them.

Life is not only confusing, it is not fair. Some people are on easy street, and others struggle along.

For those struggling, the frustration is great. It is palpable  in these lyrics sung by Eric Burdon and The Animals in the 1960s Vietnam War era:

“In this dirty old part of the city
Where the sun refuse to shine
People tell me there ain’t no use in trying
Now little girl you’re so young and pretty
And one thing I know is true
You’ll be dead before your time is through

See my my daddy in bed, He’s dyin’
Yeah his hair been turning gray
He’s been working and slaving his life away
We gotta work
work
We gotta work
work, work, work

We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
Girl, there’s a better life
For me and you

 I know it is true…
You’ll be dead before your time is due
Yes You Will

We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
Girl, there’s a better life
For me and you

Hey!
We gotta get on out…
outta this place…
You know its true Girl.”

According to that great Internet source, Wikipedia, the song ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place” resonated especially with U.S. fighting forces in Vietnam. Indeed, research done among Vietnam veterans a few years ago showed the song struck a chord among them more than any other of the period.

The researchers said,” “We had absolute unanimity is this song being the touchstone. This was the Vietnam anthem. Every bad band that ever played in an armed forces club had to play this song.”

The reasons are obvious. No one wants to be in a combat zone.  It is a deadlly and confusing place to be.

We all want a better life. In fact, in America, we have something we are to pursue called “The American Dream”.

We in America have been little touched by war, at least on our home soil. Only when we are foreigners fighting on foreign soil do we meet up with its horrors.

 War is exactly where we Christians find ourselves in this world. We are foreign fighters on foreigh soil because we belong to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and are in His army. The only way out of the conflict is total victory.

Unfortunately, we tend to mistake who the enemy is . Like grumbling GIs, we cite God as the source of all the troubles we face in this war.

First, we blame Him for all the confusion we face in the battle. Second, we think God is not just and fair in His decisionmaking.

The only place to gain the truth about what is going on is the Scriptures, our Christian Army Field Manual.  It says that it is our Enemy Satan and his demonic cohorts who are  causing all the problems in this war (Psalm 11:2).

In addition, the Manual says our confusion is not from God, but from demons (I Timothy 4:1), the other army’s rank and file.  God is not the One who is writing our bewildering part in the script of life (I Corinthians 14:33).

When I look around at my fellow soldiers in this battle, the human ones, whether ones who belong to the enemy or the ones in God’s army, I regret to say  I am not impressed. With a couple exceptions, I think we are a slovenly bunch.

Yet, sometimes I think my own General, Jesus Christ, is handing out medals to the undeserving and putting guys like me the stockade. To my mildewed brain, I would expect this of Field Marshal Satan, but not from my Commanding Officer.

Again, my Field Manual, the Bible, gives me my operating instructions. It tells me that God is just and good, and if I want medals, I need to be the same (Psalm 11:7).

However, as a griping doughboy, what gets to me is when my comrades in arms take it upon themselves to make judgments about me. These unsolicited utterances hurt, though they may indeed be true.

Part of the reason I feel wounded is that they come from “friendly fire”,  from people I love.  These  fellow grunts  who share my foxhole speak as if they are authoritative –like they themselves are prophets of God.

Again, turning to my Field Manual, I notice that the Author has given me an illustration of how to respond to this kind of incident on the battlefield. The story is about three people: General Moses, Colonel Aaron and Women’s Army Corp leader Miriam.

Aaron and Miriam decide to take oral potshots at Moses. First, they slam him for his personnel choices. Then, they themelves decide Moses isn’t worthy of his post, and that they are just as capable.

Moses, interestingly enough, doesn’t pull rank on Aaron and Miriam. He doesn’t bark at them or throw them in the brig for insubordination.

In the Field Manual, there is a parenthetical sentence that tells me why Moses  doesn’t respond this way. He is the most humble man on earth (Numbers 12:3).

Moses knows that where he is in life is from the Lord. He knows he is nothing special (I Corinthians 4:7), even though his comrades believe THEY are.

Moses is a good general because he is just like his own Commanding Officer, Jesus. He is rewarded for being on the same page as his leader. Because he is like his Lord, Moses gets face time with Him that others don’t (Numbers 12:6-8).

When God struck WAC Miriam with a wasting disease as  punishment for her insubordination, Moses showed some real class. He went to his Commanding Officer and asked for a lighter sentence.

Occasionally, we see others in our modern age like Moses, who have the right perspective on who they are in God’s army. 

Ray Stedman, in his book “The Fight of Faith”, tells the story of a young man whose wife was seriously ill. He woke up in the middle of the night to write these words:

“My wife may die before morning, but I have been with her for four years. Four years! There is no way I can feel cheated if I didn’t have her another day. I didn’t deserve her for one minute.

And I may die before morning. What I must do is die now. I must accept the justice of death, and the injustice of life.

I have lived a good life, longer than many, better than most. I have had 32 years. I couldn’t ask for another day.

What did I do to deserve birth? It was a gift. I am me.  That is a miracle. I have no right to a single minute.  But some are given a single hour, and yet I have had 32 years.

Few can choose when they will die, but I choose to accept death now.  As of this moment, I give up my right to live and I give up my right to her life.”

My role in this spiritual war I am in is to accept my orders from my General Jesus and leave the sniping around me to Him to resolve eventually. My response should not be to go AWOL and seek to douse the hurts of the friendly fire and the enemy through immoral means. It will just land me in God’s stockade.

No, when I am hurting and wounded, I need to go get my instructions from General Jesus on what to do because He is NOT  unfair, unjust or the source of my confusing existence as the enemy propoganda would have me believe.

Instead, I need to see Jesus as the origin of right thinking, action and judgment (Psalm 111:10). Lastly, if I am going to take any opinions regarding who I am and my performance to heart, it should be His, not those who share the battlefield with me in this life. 

In the meantime, it is my role to conscientiously, loyally and lovingly man my post.

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“Blessed are all who fear the LORD, vwho walk in obedience to him (Psalm 128:1).”

“Now it’s my will against yours and you will lose”!  Clint Eastwood, portraying Sergeant Major Gunny Highway has just laid down the law in his new Marine platoon.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and the Military Channel is running “Heartbreak Ridge”, the story of a crusty old Marine (Eastwood) whose job it is to train a group of young, immature slackers. He has his work cut out for him.

His men are rebels. They have no intention of obeying this anachronistic old man.

When Gunny Highway comes into their pool hall and throws things around, pulls noses and ears and insults them, they have a plan. They can’t wait for The Swede to get out of the brig.

When The Swede does appear, he is a foreboding figure. He is a huge hulk of muscle who looks like he could tear Gunny Highway in two. In fact, he tells Highway he intends to.

After Highway decks the Swede, the latter tells him softly,”I’ll wait outside for the MPs to come.” Gunny Highway replies,”Negative, Johannson. You’re going to become a Marine, right now.”

These boys learned some wisdom from Jim Croce: you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind and you don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger. In other words,  if you have any brains you don’t take on persons with  more power, authority, experience and know-how than you.  You don’t mess around with the Gunny Highways of life.

Gunny Highway knew that if he didn’t train his men to be tough, hard, courageous fighting machines, they would get killed. Him, too.

These men weren’t ready to fight, but they didn’t know it. In fact, they didn’t even think of the possibility they might end up in one.

When Highway first meets the men from his platoon, a couple of them pretend not to speak English. As he is whipping the men in their introduction, he says to the two: “I don’t want to get my head shot off in some far away land because you don’t “habla”, comprende?”

Gunny Highway tells the men,”I’m here to tell you life as you knew it has ended”. He tells them to go into town, blow off steam and get rid of whatever it is in their old ways that may hold them back, because at 6 am the next morning they belong to him.

A problem I have as a believer in Jesus Christ is that I forget who I belong to. When I enlisted in the Christian life, I volunteered to live the way God requires me to.

When I forget whose I am, a grunt in God’s army, and that my old life is way over, I tend to revert back to my immature ways.  When I do, I am liable to get my head blown off.

This is because I am truly in a war. I forget this, too.

There are spiritual forces out there who wish to destroy  me. My immaturity could get be severly wounded, even killed.

God comes in and kicks butt like Gunny Highway and tries to get me ready and able to fight the His battles.  However, like the unprepared, lazy recruits in “Heartbreak Ridge”, I resist.

Gunny tells his new platoon in  that if they think they can “slip and slide” because their previous sergeant was a wuss…”Well, you’re going to start acting like Marines now.” This is exactly what I think.

I believe I can slip, slide, and maneuver around God’s will and still be a strong Christian. I am deluding myself.

A couple of weeks ago, I allowed myself the luxury of acting like an immature grunt in my place of work. Like The Swede, I thought I could tug on Superman’s cape and prevail. I let my anger get the best of me.

Now I find myself pinned to the floor. The only thing I can do is look to God, and say,”I’ll wait outside to be taken off to the brig, now.”

However, I think like Sergeant Gunny Highway, God is telling me,”No dice. You’re going to become a mature Christian now.”

David, like me now, learned that not doing things God’s way from the start will result in humiliation. He sent Nathan the prophet to rebuke him.

Nathan tells him a story of how a rich, powerful man humbled a poor man and took a dear possession from him. The Scriptures say, “David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die’ (II Samuel 12:5)!”

David was pretty good at acting “high and mighty” and losing his temper at injustice. Then he was told by Nathan,”YOU are the man (v. 7).”

David had stolen the wife of one of his soldiers. Not only that, he arranged to have the soldier killed in a devious manner.

To David’s credit, he didn’t have Nathan beheaded.  Instead, he didn’t shoot the messenger, and acknowledged his sin (II Samuel 12:17).

I’ve had a couple weeks to reflect on my own actions at work and I have come to the conclusion that I blew it. This is because I didn’t follow God’s Army Field Manual, the Bible.

When I end up in a fight, I end up trying to slip and slide away. I think I know more than other people and God.

Paul Simon’s lyric explains my attitude:

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

What is truly humiliating, as I explained to my former supervisor yesterday, is that I am old enough to know better.When as a middle-aged man you discover you have been acting like a boy just out of adolescence, it brings great shame.

 But Simon wrote the truth about a lof of men my age when he penned the following:

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

The result now is that in order to maintain my place in God’s corps, I have to get up off the floor like The Swede and become a good Marine.  I will have to eat some crow.

As someone told me yesterday, crow doesn’t taste very good, but it IS nutritious. Thus, I need to make the rounds and apologize to the people I offended at my work.

There’s no guarantees things will work out in my favor. When the baby he fathered with his stolen woman got sick, he humbled himself before God, fasted and pleaded for the child’s life. The child died.

David got up, asked for some food and went on with his life. When asked how he could do this, he replied: 

 “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me (II Samuel 12:22,23).”

It’s would have been better if David hadn’t went slip sliding away in the first place. The same with me.

However, like David and The Swede, I need to get up off the floor, quit trying to move and shake with the Lord, and obey His field manual. Then maybe I will be a good Christian soldier.

The thought reminds me of the old hym:

  • Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
    With the cross of Jesus going on before.
    Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
    Forward into battle see His banners go!

    • Refrain:
      Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
      With the cross of Jesus going on before.

His cross gives me the chance to confess my sin, get up off the floor and live my life for Him again. Thank God for that.

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