Spiritual Musings from an Educated Redneck

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A Three Foot Circle

I tend to blog in spurts. I go for weeks and sometimes months without blogging and then I’ll knock out two in one week. That is what happened this week. Here is how it happened.
This week I watched 60 Minutes. They were interviewing a retired Navy Seal who had been on Seal Team 6 (which isn’t supposed to even be acknowledged as being in existence) that took out Osama Bin Laden. This Seal, before his retirement from the military, did thirteen deployments as a Navy Seal. He obviously did his part and then some for his brothers and his nation.
After his retirement he wrote a book about his experience as a Navy Seal. He sought legal advice about what he should do before publication. Should he have the manuscript vetted by the Pentagon before publication? He was told “No you don’t.” He received bad legal advice. Even though in his book he revealed nothing that isn’t common knowledge out there on the internet, or even revealed in the movie about the Osama Bin Laden operation, Zero Dark Thirty (which was vetted by the military), he is now being prosecuted by the military and the Seal community has disowned him. Whether it is fair or not, the tradition is that a Navy Seal never talks.
All of that is just background material for what I want to talk about. In the interview he told of an experience he had after basic SEAL training. He was learning how to scale a vertical cliff. At about 300 feet up the cliff he froze in panic. His instructor, on the rope next to him, bounced over and said, “Stay in your three foot circle.” He said, “What do you mean?” The instructor went on, “The three foot circle around you is all you have any control over. You can’t control what is below you or above you. Stay in your three foot circle and do what you have to and can do within that circle.” He practiced that principle and made it to the top.
He said that principle served him well for the rest of his career as a SEAL and in his life.
In fact, he said he was having to stay in his three foot circle when it came to all the chaos he was facing over the book.
As I listened to him the first thing that came to my mind was that Jesus said the same thing. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Jesus was saying, “Stay in your three foot circle.” That’s today.
That principle is taught in recovery. We often say to someone, “One day at a time.” Or we say, “Just do the next right thing.” What great wisdom! We look outside that three foot circle and are overcome with the enormity of it all and freeze! Our Heavenly instructor swings over to us and says, “Stay in your three foot circle.”
As I’m writing this I’m thinking about my garage. I look across the street at my neighbors, clean, orderly, uncluttered garage and I get inspired. I open the door to my own garage with the intention of doing something about the chaos. I end up just closing the door in frustration. Where to begin? The job is so enormous! I need to stay in my three foot circle. Just pick up one thing and get rid of it. Tomorrow pick up another thing and get rid of it. Eventually I think I could probably get it cleared out enough to at least walk through it without endangering life and limb.
A three foot circle. I hope that SEAL gets it all worked out legally. He certainly has done his part to deserve that much. I want to thank him for his service. I also want to thank him and that instructor for the thought of the “Three foot circle.”
Try it, you’ll like it.

A Three Foot Circle

I tend to blog in spurts. I go for weeks and sometimes months without blogging and then I’ll knock out two in one week. That is what happened this week. Here is how it happened.
This week I watched 60 Minutes. They were interviewing a retired Navy Seal who had been on Seal Team 6 (which isn’t supposed to even be acknowledged as being in existence) that took out Osama Bin Laden. This Seal, before his retirement from the military, did thirteen deployments as a Navy Seal. He obviously did his part and then some for his brothers and his nation.
After his retirement he wrote a book about his experience as a Navy Seal. He sought legal advice about what he should do before publication. Should he have the manuscript vetted by the Pentagon before publication? He was told “No you don’t.” He received bad legal advice. Even though in his book he revealed nothing that isn’t common knowledge out there on the internet, or even revealed in the movie about the Osama Bin Laden operation, Zero Dark Thirty (which was vetted by the military), he is now being prosecuted by the military and the Seal community has disowned him. Whether it is fair or not, the tradition is that a Navy Seal never talks.
All of that is just background material for what I want to talk about. In the interview he told of an experience he had after basic SEAL training. He was learning how to scale a vertical cliff. At about 300 feet up the cliff he froze in panic. His instructor, on the rope next to him, bounced over and said, “Stay in your three foot circle.” He said, “What do you mean?” The instructor went on, “The three foot circle around you is all you have any control over. You can’t control what is below you or above you. Stay in your three foot circle and do what you have to and can do within that circle.” He practiced that principle and made it to the top.
He said that principle served him well for the rest of his career as a SEAL and in his life.
In fact, he said he was having to stay in his three foot circle when it came to all the chaos he was facing over the book.
As I listened to him the first thing that came to my mind was that Jesus said the same thing. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Jesus was saying, “Stay in your three foot circle.” That’s today.
That principle is taught in recovery. We often say to someone, “One day at a time.” Or we say, “Just do the next right thing.” What great wisdom! We look outside that three foot circle and are overcome with the enormity of it all and freeze! Our Heavenly instructor swings over to us and says, “Stay in your three foot circle.”

Dinosaur or Dummy?

I’m sixty years of age. That sounds so strange. I don’t feel sixty. I don’t think sixty. What the mirror tells me and what my mind tells me are two completely different things. The mirror tells me I am sixty. It does so through the wrinkles, grey beard, and greying hair. It also shows me that there are scars from past battles. Some of them can barely be seen they are so old. Some of them are fairly fresh. If some of them are that old I must be sixty. I guess the mirror doesn’t lie does it?
My mind tells me I’m still twenty-five, can eat nails for lunch, jump tall buildings in a single leap, conquer any challenge, and faithfully fulfill God’s calling on my life.
One of the miracles of having lived sixty years on this earth is that you get to gain some valuable experience through both your victories and defeats. There’s been some of both. Not sure in the end on which side the scale will tilt.
The downside to sixty years is that the next generation, which often doesn’t respect that experience, tells you that your way is not the right way and therefore your existence and experience is of little value.
Every generation does it. Mine, the baby boomers, were probably the worst of any generation before us. We knew it all, had all the answers. Just get out of our way and let us get it done.
Now I am sixty. I don’t know how many years of active ministry I have left in me. I know I must prepare the next generation to take my place. That may be the most important task I have in the Kingdom right now. I believe it is.
Thus the dilemma. In so many of their eyes I am a dinosaur that just needs to give it up and pass into extinction! I don’t feel like a dinosaur. I don’t feel that my usefulness is finished. I don’t feel that my experience is useless. I don’t even feel outdated or outmoded! I still feel like an innovator, initiator, ready to get my second wind (sometimes at least) and take the world by storm!
So I am stuck on the horns of a dilemma. I don’t know if I really am a dinosaur or if I’m just a dummy for thinking I’m not. Dinosaur or Dummy. I guess I must be one of them.
But wait, could there be a third option? How about Distinguished? Yea,I like that one! It certainly feels better than Extinguished! Or Extinct. Not sure I’m ready to accept that. So I’ll go down fighting to the last breath I guess. I want to finish the race, not get yanked off the track. I am dinosaur hear me roar!

PEE ON ME

In 1972 one of the all time great songs was written, recorded, and released by Bill Withers. Lean on me.

One morning around the office I was telling a couple of the male staff members of, once again, someone we have tried to help over and over was going off the wagon and blaming us for his decision. This was about the 5th or 6th time for this person. Each time it has followed a very familiar pattern. He gets ready to go back to his old way of living but before he does he finds something to accuse us of. In this way he is able to blame his relapse on us. Eventually he will get to the bottom and come back. We have always taken him back in and started all over again to help him to get his life together.

Well this being about the 5th or 6th time he had done this in the past few years I made a decision. I announced it to my staff. If he walks away this time, then everyone tell him that when he is living under a bridge, don’t come back to us. He needs to find someplace else to go for help because obviously we have not been able to help him. I said, “He has peed on me one time too many!”

For some reason that statement brought Bill Wither’s song to mind and I began to sing it,

with slight variations.

“Pee on me, when your not strong and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on…

Chorus—“You just Pee on me brother, whenever you can, we all want somebody to pee on!”

It’s so true and so sad that we all began to laugh. Not at him but at the situation and how many times we have gone to hell and back with someone and they just ended up “Peeing on us.”

All of this then brought to my memory the story of a gorilla in the zoo. In the town where I went to college they had a zoo. For a time the favorite animal in the zoo was a big gorilla. Everyone loved to visit the gorilla. At least until he developed the nasty habit, whenever the mood struck him, of peeing in his hand and throwing it on the people!

No one knew why he did it, when he was going to do it, or at whom he was going to throw it. It just became known that if you went to the gorilla cage you might get wet! People began to stay away. The zoo had to do something. Obviously, a gorilla peeing on the patrons wasn’t good for business.

They tried to give him to another zoo but no zoo wanted an ape with an attitude!

They couldn’t turn him loose into the wild because he had lived his entire life in captivity. As I remember it, they finally resorted to the final solution. They had him “put to sleep.”

The moral to the story? Pee on me once shame on you. Pee on me twice shame on me!

Pee on me over and over and eventually I have to set a boundary. Eventually you may just pee on me enough times that I figure out you don’t really want someone to “lean on” you just want someone to “pee on!”

That’s when I will finally say, “O.K. enough is enough! I’m not going to be your toilet anymore! Find someone else to pee on for a change.

Remember that folks the next time you get ready to pee on people who have sought to help you. People might just have to resort to the “final solution” and set a boundary in their lives that says, “Nobody wants to hang out with a gorilla who is going to pee on them,” I’m outta here. If you want to “lean on me” I’m here. If you want to “pee on me I’m done.”

WEED WARRIOR

With all the talk about, and with some states legalizing weed, I thought you might appreciate this story.  So I’m sitting in an airport waiting for my flight.   A buddy called me and told me he had “scored” (drug talk) two air conditioning units for cheap!  One was 4 tons and the other 5 tons at a fraction of their value!  He needed one for his home and the other for his barn he runs his business out of.  I said,  “Wow man!  How did you manage a deal like that?”

“Well”, he said, “it seems that some dude was renting three buildings from a woman and he was growing a huge crop of weed in those buildings.”  Now for those of you who are uninitiated in the finer points of the agronomy of the “magical, mystical, plant”, it takes a lot of light to grow it indoors.  Huge lights that pull a lot of power.  The temperature also has to be kept in a reasonable range.  So these guys have to set up huge lights indoors along with these big air-conditioner units.  ( I refuse to divulge how I know this)  The problem is that if the operation is big enough (and this one was) the amount of power required is more than the typical transformer can handle and the transformer will blow! So, “weed warriors” will usually set up their own generators to supply enough power so as not to overload the transformers.   That can get them caught!
This guy had everything in place and his operation was going at full speed.  Lights, air, generators, and the plants were thriving!  Everything was great.   He could already see the cash that was going to come from this operation.    

But as Roseanne Rosannadanna said, “It’s always something.”  Sure enough one of his generators went out and the added pull on the transformer caused it to blow.  When the electric company came to check the transformer things went downhill fast for the “weed warrior”.   Next thing he knew he was doing the perp walk with the DEA and the owner of the building was liquidating everything she could to re-coup her losses on the lease that he obviously was not going to be able to pay out.  (Side Note:  The DEA didn’t let her sell the weed)

So she put the air units on a public sales site and my friend makes out like a bandit!

Now there are many lessons that immediately came to mind.  Here’s a few.

1      If you can’t do the time don’t do the crime.  That one isn’t very original. 

2      Your secrets will always find you out. 

3      What you hide will eventually hurt.

David acknowledged the destruction of secrets when he recounted how he was dying from the inside out while keeping the secret of his sin.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of the summer.”  Psalm 32:3-4

Imagine the daily anxiety the “weed warrior” must have been living in with his “secret!”  Secrets create fear, anxiety, suspicion, always looking over your shoulder wondering when someone is going to discover your “secret.”  Remember Christ follower, (this guy obviously wasn’t) the only way to live a life of “peace that passes all comprehension” (Philippians 4:7) is to live without secrets. 

What are your secrets?  What are you hiding and living in fear that someone is going to find out?  It takes a lot of energy to keep secrets and one of these days that transformer is going to overload and blow!  It’s much better to just keep a slate clean of secrets along the way so the overload never causes an explosion!

By the way, the last question I asked my friend was, “I hope you changed the filters on that unit before you installed it in your home.”  He thought for a moment and said, “You know I don’t think I did!  Maybe that’s why we’ve all been sitting on the sofa staring at the walls and have consumed 10 bags of potatoes chips in the last couple of days!” 

Yep, that’s the munchies for sure.  Change the filter. 

Better than that folks.  Learn the lesson of the “Weed Warrior.”  Your secrets will get you in the end.  Get rid of them.

City On a Hill vision statement:

“Making Church a SafePlace for people to let go of their secrets.

Providing a SafeProcess for people to experience emotional/spiritual maturity in Christ.”

TURKEY TALK

It’s been a while since I blogged. Several reasons for that but this one just had to come out.  Because I am an avid outdoorsman this research really caught my eye.  It seems that ethologists (scientists who study animal behavior) have discovered something really interesting about turkeys (the gobble gobble kind not the human kind).  Specifically about mother turkeys.  It seems that their nurturing instinct is “triggered” by the cheep-cheep sound of their chicks.  When they hear that sound they kick into full turkey nurturing mode.  If the chick doesn’t chirp the mother will often ignore it and sometimes even kill it!

This intrigued the ethologists so they did an experiment.  The polecat ( catch-all term for several different types of carnivorous weasel type creatures such as a ferret, skunk etc.) is a natural enemy to the mother turkey and her chicks.  Researchers stuffed a polecat, tied a string on it and pitched it in the vicinity of the mother turkey. She immediately went on the attack!  But then when they put a tape inside the stuffed polecat that emitted the “cheep-cheep” of a turkey chick she would kick into full nurturing mode again  Even with the stuffed polecat!  So strong is the trigger of that sound in her that it overcomes everything else.   Ethologists have discovered that this type of  “trigger” behavior is not unique to mother turkeys but has been found in a wide range of species.

Now we know that animals act out of instinct.  Instinct is a God-given mechanism in these animals that they don’t think about, have no control over, and don’t even understand.  It just happens.

As I read this research my thinking immediately went to humans.  We don’t operate by instinct, but by choice, reason, and most often, imbedded patterns of behavior from experiences in life.  Thus, we develop “triggers.”  We, like the turkey, usually don’t recognize why the trigger is there, where it came from, or that we are even acting in response to it.  In other words our ”triggers” are not a part of instinct but are most often the product of experience.

For instance, why is it that when you are in a certain environment a specific kind of feeling comes over you or a very predictable pattern of behavior gets repeated in your life?   Someone acts toward you in a certain way and suddenly there is the predictable reaction.  That’s a trigger.  Sometimes these triggers can be positive in nature and helpful to others and ourselves.  But often they are negative.  They result in behavior that is destructive, demeaning, and dysfunctional.  The results are never good.  The trigger gets pulled, the hammer comes down, and the bullet leaves the barrel.  Destruction is the result.

The process of sanctification (to use a theological term), or transformation, becoming like Christ, is a process of identifying those triggers that are deeply imbedded in our flesh, understanding what events, wounds, and experiences created those triggers, and then allowing the “renewing of the mind” of Romans 12:2 and the “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” of 2 Corinthians 10:5 to bring change.  When the change is real the hammer comes down to a safety position and the trigger becomes ineffective.  That’s when real and lasting change happens.

Each of us have our triggers that are unique and our own.  So, let’s talk turkey.  What are your triggers?  What are you doing anything about them?

 

Ordinary People

I just returned from Nakuru, Kenya, where I took 10 people to visit the church and Compassion International project that we have been partnering with for the past three years.  My wife and I sponsor two children in that project and got to spend time with both of them.  What a blessing.  While there I was preparing an introduction to a series through the book of Nehemiah that I am beginning at my home church, City on a Hill.  The series is titled “Ordinary People” and the point is that God does crazy things through Ordinary People who have the characteristics of Nehemiah. 

My introduction pointed out four of those attributes in Nehemiah.  A Desire to be used by God.  A Direction of what he was to do.  Dependence in prayer.  A Determination not to quit.  As I sat in my hotel room in Nakuru each night working on that message I couldn’t help but see the application in Pastor Wallace, his church, and what they are doing in their community. 

Pastor Wallace is an ordinary man and his church is filled for the most part with poor people from the Community. But He wanted to minister to the people of extreme poverty in his community. How does a poor church minister to the poor?  God provides when the heart is right.

Eventually, Compassion International came to him and asked if his church would become a Compassion International Project site.  He agreed.  Compassion does its work by going into the community and finding the children who are most vulnerable and at risk because of poverty and they recruit them into the program.  They come to the center all day on Saturday where they are fed, taught, and receive medical check-ups twice a year and then help with any medical issues that are discovered.  They do this with the $38.00 per month that sponsors provide for each child.  The Church must provide the space for the project.  Classrooms for 350 children was an issue for the church.  But they put up simple, rudimentary rooms as much as they could.  It wasn’t enough but they trusted God for provision.

Eventually a church in Australia provided a cinder-tile block one-story building with five more classrooms.  It still wasn’t enough.  When we entered the partnership we provided $60,000 to build two more floors on top of that.  While we were there we got to participate in a dedication of that building!  Now the classrooms issue is solved.  But not all the issues.

In Kenya the public school is not paid for by taxes but by the individual family.  If you can’t pay, you can’t go to school.  All of the Compassion children got to public school and sometimes compassion has to help the family to pay the tuition.  But what about the other children who can’t even go to public school?  Pastor Wallace opened a school at church for them!  They pay 50 Kenyan schillings per week.  That is about 60 cents per week!!!  With 120 children in the school that isn’t enough to even pay the teachers.  So how can the school be kept open for these poorest of the poor?  That came through water.

Water is a huge problem in Africa.  The poor have no running water but draw their water wherever they can get it.  Often it is disease ridden and people die from it.  Pastor Wallace petitioned World Water, an organization that drills wells in needy areas.  World Water agreed to drill a well on the church property.  It was tested and found to safe, pure, water. The church sells the water for 3 Kenyan schillings per 20 liters (Over five gallons).  That is less than three pennies for 5 gallons of safe water!  Four things happen with this income from the water well.

 1.  Right off the top they give 10% to Kenyan missions!!  They are a mission giving to missions!

2.  The small profit from the sale of the water supplements the teacher’s pay so the church school can remain open for the children who cannot afford public school.

3.  Approximately 50 families use the well as a business to support their families.  They purchase the water for 3 schillings per 20 liters (typically they will have 5 to 6 of these 20 liter containers hanging from  their bicycle).  They peddle into the community and sell it for 7 schillings per 20 liters and the profit provides for their family.  It is their sole income.

4.  Approximately 150 other families purchase their water from this well and provide safe water for their families.  

The point?  God uses Ordinary people who Desire to be used.  Have a Direction of how to be used.  Will Depend upon Him for provision.  Who are Determined not to quit!

If you see your “ordinariness” as an obstacle to making an impact for the Kingdom you are wrong.  It is your greatest asset!  God loves to use “Ordinary People”!

TACO “SMELL”

I know it has only been a few days since I last posted but life happens to me in its own time.  When it does I have to write about it.  Life just seems to happen to me in funny ways.  When it does I almost always immediately begin to see some kind of spiritual life lesson.  It happened today.  One of my hunting/fishing buddies called me to meet him for lunch (whose name will remain anonymous since I don’t really want people knowing I hang out with him).  So sure, let’s do lunch.  We hadn’t talked in a while and we needed to discuss some important stuff such as some preparations we needed to make on our hunting lease and planning our next fishing trip.   So, how about Schlotzkys?  Sure.  When I got there he wasn’t there and the place was packed.  So, I texted him, “Hey lets meet across the street at Whataburger.  This place is packed.”  Text came back.  “Got it.”

So I drive across the street, pull in and go inside.  I look around and he isn’t there.  O.K. so I beat him here.  I have my phone in my hand so I stand around checking emails, facebook etc. etc.  You know, multi-tasking.  Making hay.   Letting no moment be wasted.  Blah blah blah.  Minutes go by.  About ten of them.  I’m beginning to wonder if he is ever going to get there.  Finally, a text comes in that reads, “I’m here.”  I look around and don’t see him anywhere so I say to myself, “No you aren’t!”  I text back, “I’m in Whataburger.  Where are you?”  Then it hit me, “Oh man, that idiot must have gone to the wrong Whataburger!  How could he have done that?”  But just in case he might not have seen my truck outside and he might be sitting in the parking lot in his truck waiting for me, I went out to search the parking lot.  No truck.  I walk around in front of the building and look to my right and there’s his truck.  But it’s parked in the next parking lot!  I think to myself, “What is that doofus doing parking so far down the street?”  Then I look up in front of his truck and see the sign as big as life that reads, “Whataburger.”  I think “Wow!  That’s weird!”  Then the light comes on.  “If that’s Whataburger, where am I?”  Then I look up over my head and read, “Taco Bell!”  Oops!

I didn’t even bother to move my truck.  I just walked over to Whataburger.  When I got there he already had his burger and was chowing down!  How rude!  When I told him the story he said, “There are several things I can immediately see that are wrong with this picture!  First, taco’s don’t smell anything like hamburgers.  How could you miss that?”  I have to admit I was completely stymied by the olfactory logic of this fellow redneck.  “Second,” he said, “Besides that, the inside of Taco Bell and Whataburger don’t look anything at all like each other!”  Once again, he had me.  I was rendered speechless by the brilliance of this opthalmological truth.  Now, you need to know that I usually hang out with rednecks who aren’t as “educmacated” as I am.   It makes me feel like I’m a better class of redneck!  But I found myself thinking, “This redneck ain’t as dumb as he looks.”

I had no defense.  Then I knew I had to confess.  I said, “Man if you only knew the things that went through my head about you while I was waiting over in the “Taco Smell”.  “Yea”, he said, “Like what?”  Things like, “Is this idiot ever going to show up?  Gee whiz, I don’t have all day to wait on him!  I’m a busy man!  I’ve got things to do.  I don’t have time for this!”  All the time he was waiting for me at Whataburger enjoying his redneck feast.

You see the problem wasn’t that he wasn’t where he needed to be.  The problem was I wasn’t where I needed to be!  I could have figured it out if I had been willing to use my nose and eyes to see the truth.  But that sure didn’t stop me from blaming him.

In the book Boundaries in Marriage it says, “People in Denial are deaf to words of truth.  They only respond to pain.”  In essence that is saying, “You can be standing in the Taco Bell blaming someone else when all the time they aren’t the problem!  You are!”  What does it take to figure that out?  Well, in life sadly enough, it usually takes pain.  When the pain gets bad enough we “sometimes” are willing to look in the mirror and see that the problem is staring back at us!

Jesus said it this way, “Why do you worry about the speck in your brother’s eye when you have a log in your own!”

Paul said it this way, “But each one must examine his own work…”

In other words, before you start blaming someone else, be sure to lift your nose first and make sure there isn’t any “Taco Smell!”

Beware The Pillow

I ride a Harley.  I love my Harley.  I got my first motorcycle when I was 12 years old!  So I’ve had a motorcycle longer than I’ve had a car.  I must confess, I hate my helmet.  It’s hot, cumbersome, and takes away from the experience of the ride.  There is just something free and easy about riding with the wind whipping through your hair!  In the state of Texas it’s legal to ride without a helmet if you are at least 18 years of age.  Eighteen is a long way in my rear-view mirror so I’m legal!

In spite of that, I ALWAYS wear my helmet.  Except when I don’t.  Seriously, I do most often wear my helmet because my wife and children have told me so many times that I need to do it for them, if not for myself. 

So I wear my helmet.  However, recently I was in a hurry to get out of the house and couldn’t find my helmet.  So, I rationalized that I would be “extra” careful.  Well, I got caught!  Both my daughter, who is a pediatric trauma nurse practitioner at a local children’s hospital, and my wife saw me without my helmet!  My daughter, who treats children with traumatic head injuries that could have been avoided if they had worn their helmet, shot me a nasty text message.  You’ll be glad to know I didn’t’ read the text while on my Harley!  Later, when my wife of 34 years came home, she calmly said, “If you ever get sick or hurt and I have to feed you through a straw for the rest of your life I will do it.  But if you get hurt because of being stupid and not wearing your helmet, all bets are off!  I will pillow you in the middle of the night and be done with it!”

Seriously, she said it!  She was joking of course.  I think.  Now I have two motives for sharing this story.  One is to make an important point.  The other is that just in case I suddenly die in my sleep of no obvious cause you might know who to question about it!  Just kidding…a little. 

Here’s the point.  Our individual choices, decision, and actions never only affect us! Every choice we make always affects others.  The only way for that not to be true is to live on a deserted island and never interact with another human being.  Then we could do anything we darned well pleased and nobody else would be affected.  Not many of us live on that deserted island, and if we did, after the new wore off, we would be building signal fires, writing SOS in the sand, and scouring the horizon for ships that might rescue us off that island.

Then we would be right back where we were before.  Inter-connected with other people.  Deeply affected by some of their decisions and choices and vice-versa.

You see that is how God intended it to be.  He didn’t create us to live in isolation but intimately connected in Community.  That is absolutely the way He intends His followers to live.  That truth is expressed in so many ways in the New Testament image of the Church.  The Church is a Body and we are individually members of it.  The Church is a family and we are individually members of that family.  The church is a building (not physical but spiritual) and we are individually pieces of that spiritual building that has Christ as its cornerstone.

Most clearly of all however are all of the “One Another” passages of the New Testament.  Love one another, pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens, encourage one another, exhort one another and on and on.  There are twenty-something “One Another’s” in the New Testament.  Sounds like Jesus means for us to be connected in community with one another.  And if that is true then no decision I make affects only me. 

Watch out!  Someone might want to pillow you for some stupid, selfish decision that you make!  You might just deserve it.  I’m just sayin…..

 

 

SPIRITUAL FLIP-FLOPS

Yesterday evening my wife and I were at dinner with our 28 year old son and his beautiful wife when he told me a story I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t known him so well.  That afternoon he and his wife, who is almost 8 months pregnant, were going to a local water-park for her to paddle around and get some exercise.  They were driving down a four lane busy street in our community and were at a point where there is a major medical hospital and a small psychiatric hospital about one block apart.  As they approached the psychiatric hospital a car pulled up into its parking lot and a man got out of the back seat and took off running right across the street with cars whizzing by.  The driver got out and began to give chase.  Zack said he figured this wasn’t a good situation so he got out and entered the chase.  He quickly caught the driver, who was out of shape and couldn’t go any further.  He asked, “What’s happening?”  The driver replied, “I was transporting him from another city and he started screaming that his case worker wanted to kill him and then he took off!”  It was obvious this guy couldn’t continue the chase so Zack asked the driver if he wanted him to try to catch the poor man, who was obviously delusional.  He said, “Please, if you would.  I don’t know if he will hurt himself or not.”

By this time the escapee had gone down to the major hospital that had a walkway over the street from the hospital to the five story parking garage.  Zack caught up with him on the bridge.  By this time a woman from the psych hospital was up on the other end trying to block the man.  He easily pushed his way past her and continued to the garage.  Others from the hospital entered into the chase.  Everyone was running around on the first floor of the garage looking for the man. Zack surmised that if the man wanted to hurt himself he would probably go to the top floor.   So Zack ran all the way to the top floor and sure enough, there was the man straddling the ledge.  Zack stopped a distance away and began to talk softly to the man; afraid if he approached him he would jump.  Soon a woman from the hospital made it to the top and was able to gently talk him off the ledge.  The man fell on his knees crying and the woman placed her arm around him, patting him and speaking softly.  Suddenly, he cried out, “My case worker wants to kill me” and off he went again.  Zack again gave chase and caught him and was able to restrain him.  Zack said, “Dad he was big but soft so I was able to hold him.  I didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t want to slam him to the concrete for fear of hurting him so I just held him.  When I loosened my grip he took off again.”  Again Zack gave chase.  By this time the first police officer showed up and together they cornered the man for a moment.  Suddenly, off he went again and now Zack and the officer are in pursuit.  Again, they get him cornered about the time a second officer showed up.  Together the two officers restrained him and carried him back to the hospital.

I said, “Son, I’m 59 years old and I’ve never had anything even near that wild happen to me!”  That’s incredible!

He said, “Dad, the worst of it was I was wearing my flip flops!  I never wear my flip-flops out during the day because I’ve always thought I might have to run from someone or run after someone!  The one day I wear my flip-flops (on the way to the water-park) it happens!  I had to chase this dude in my flip-flops!

Now beyond being proud of my son for being willing to put himself at risk to help an obviously distressed soul, I immediately began to make the spiritual application in my mind.  I thought about where the Word addresses the issue of preparedness at all times.

II Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.””

II Timothy 4:2 says “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season ; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”

Just as Zack found himself unprepared for a foot race with a delusional escapee, how often, when the opportunity of ministry presents itself, do we find ourselves unprepared?  In other words wearing “spiritual flip-flops.”  You never know when you will have the chance to share the faith.  Don’t be unprepared.  Don’t get caught in “flip-flops”. 

Rather, “…Shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15)

 

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