Archive for category Wit & Wisdom
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son! ~ “If” by Rudyard Kipling
**These words should be taught to every male child at an early age. They impacted the life of my own dear SON at a time when he desperately needed to know his value to ME and to THIS WORLD.
This is Jesus’ response to a question posed by a man named Nicodemus. Historically, we do not know much about Nicodemus other than he was well-educated, wise and curious.
Jesus is contrasting “spiritual rebirth” with “physical” birth. Spiritual rebirth means leaving an old life of “sin” and starting a new life in the Kingdom of God.” It is also, abandoning an “old” identity for a “new” one.
Nicodemus next question, “How can a man be born when he is old?,”prompted this post. Poet (Ruth Carter Bourdon) offers the perfect answer:
When you’ve trusted God and walked His way
When you’ve felt His hand lead you day by day
But your steps now take you another way . . .
When you’ve made your plans and they’ve gone awry
When you’ve tried your best and there’s no more try
When you’ve failed yourself and you don’t know why . . .
When you’ve told your friends what you plan to do
When you’ve trusted them and they didn’t come through
And you’re all alone and it’s up to you . . .
When you’ve failed your kids and they’re grown and gone
When you’ve done your best but it’s turned out wrong
And now your grandchildren have come along . . .
When you’ve prayed to God so you’ll know His will
When you’ve prayed and prayed and you don’t know still
When you want to stop cause you’ve had your fill . . .
When you think you’re finished and want to quit
When you’ve bottomed out in life’s deepest pit
When you’ve tried and tried to get out of it
When the year has been long and successes few
When December comes and you’re feeling blue
God gives a January just for you . . .
Starting over means “Victories Won”
Starting over means “A Race Well Run”
Starting over means “God’s Will Done”
Don’t just sit there . . .
Prayer: Gracious God, Help us to understand that living is seldom easy, comfortable, or trouble-free–it simply “is what it is.” May we see the beauty in all of God’s creation. May we savor the sweet “freshness” of each new day. But most of all, give us endless hope and the strength (no matter the challenges) to always begin again. For thy Son’s sake we pray. Amen
A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Why do we exist? Why are we here? What gives our lives meaning? What is the enigmatic reasoning for our existence? WHAT IS OUR PURPOSE?
I spent years pondering this very question, when one day, a young woman simply said to me, “Pastor, what I love most about you, is that you don’t just TALK about “IT” (referring to my life and lifestyle) — you BE about “IT.” I wasn’t sure what she was saying at first, but later the point became clear. I have been about my purpose most of my life — positively influencing the lives of others.
As I have grown older I am grateful to have grown wiser. I have learned that trying to analyze every intricate moment of life can result in what someone coined “analysis paralysis,” which can prevent you from doing anything. And so I learned early on to “Do something –lest I do nothing.“
In the past, like many of us, I believed I had to be perfect, rich, smart and beautiful, to impact the world. I waited, procrastinated, delayed and deferred even the smallest tasks. I convinced myself that I was not a “people” person and that my contribution would not be missed. But I quickly learned the value of a simple smile, a kind and honest word or a “helping” hand. It’s wonderful how God uses simple things to confound the wise. A “loving” attitude has miraculous power to the broken and hurting. Unintentionally, many times, it is the “hurting” that hurt others out of their own pain. That is why we are witnessing so much bullying, violence, abuse and rage today. These are “trying” times and the world is in intense pain. But whatever else I know, it is that we were not created nor do we exist to exacerbate its suffering.
That young woman’s words to this day, keep me humbled and focused on what I believe is important to God for us in this life–to love one another as God has loved us–unconditionally. We are not here to placate, pacify or to glorify ourselves. In fact, we have nothing to boast of. We own nothing–not even ourselves. We are merely stewards of everything we have and are. We exist to bless the lives of others and, in so doing; our Creator blesses us. No amount of pondering or planning will get the job done. It takes action–going–doing. It requires (“being” about) whatever our hands and hearts find to do to the Glory of God. And “to whom much is given, much is required.” Remember the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).
One can make a difference, if only in the life of another one. Fulfilling our purpose needs no special preparation or discussion. Like the Nike slogan — “Just Do it!” Don’t just “talk about it”– “Be about it.” Help someone. Give to someone. Lift someone. Offer hope to someone. That’s our purpose. That’s why we’re here.
All that is necessary to fulfill one’s purpose is a sincere heart and a genuine desire to help someone. This pleases our loving God who is love. Someone once said, and it is true, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Nothing I ever learned in school or in life assured me more perfectly why I exist than that young parishioner’s words years ago. I have not just “talked about life, I have been about it– To God be the Glory!! Nothing keeps me so grounded as a smile from a child I teach. Nothing humbles me so completely as hearing from someone who has sought me out to say thank you for touching my life.
I know why I am here. What about you? My life has been and simply is my “reasonable service” to God. It is a prelude to a hoped for eternal “Well Done.”
And so beloveds, I share these favorite words a songwriter so gloriously penned:
If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he is trav’ling wrong,
Then my living shall not be in vain.
If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring back beauty to a world up-wrought,
If I can spread love’s message that the Master taught,
Then my living shall not be in vain.
“All like sheep have gone astray, we have each turned to our own way . . . .” Isaiah 53:6 (NIV)
We make plans and God laughs. That’s what my daughter always reminds me. We, like sheep, are wandering — going nowhere — merely “existing.” Ever changing yet remaining the same. No one smiling. No one touching. Disconnected from everything and everyone, but our cell phones,Twitter and Facebook. Always listening, but never hearing. Ever looking, but never seeing. We enjoy the “Dancing of Stars” more than we do “walking” for the sake of our own health. “Reality television” has become more real than actually living. We are lost in what I call, “perpetual busyness.” Always moving then asking, “Are we there yet?” We have become so preoccupied with the budgets and bottom lines of the world that we have forgotten “We are the world.” — “We are the people–God’s people.” “We are the sheep of God’s pasture.” And as Scripture says, “It is He that has made us and not we ourselves.” Yes, “we like sheep have gone astray and have each turned to own way.”
I see now why many times, Scripture describes us as sheep. One Michigan sheep breeder notes, “Sheep are fearful, gullible, stubborn, helpless creatures, branded as the “dumbest” of all animals. Sheep must always be “on the move”with a predetermined plan. But Scripture teaches, we have no plan. “We are not our own.” We are totally dependent on the shepherd for ALL our needs. And many times, what we need is “rod and staff” guidance. Stories are told of ancient shepherds, who when a single sheep would continually wander off, would strike the sheep with their staff, breaking its leg. But always, immediately, with kindness and tenderness, would set the leg, splint it, and carry the sheep around his neck making sure its head was close to his heart, until its leg healed enough for the sheep to walk again. After that, the sheep would never again leave the shepherd’s side. Many times, “healing hurts” but it brings us closer to the Shepherd. This analogy helped me to see some things in my life.
For a long time, I was lost in busyness; going my way and doing my thing. I was busy making plans and setting agendas. And, before making many life-altering decisions, I often neglected to consult my Shepherd. I was always aware that the Shepherd knew best, but I was just too busy to care. I see now why my strength had to be broken. My Shepherd had to settle me down so I could be still long enough to hear His voice and understand that He knew me better than I knew myself. Now I understand why when I fell, and seemingly could not get up, it was God’s placing me on my back to make me look up. Yes, sometimes, “the Shepherd will make you lie down.” I didn’t recognize it then, but I am grateful, today, that my Shepherd “chastened me with His rod” and “comforted me with His staff” in my stubbornness. Thanks be to God that the Shepherd of my soul cared enough to lovingly return me to the safety of the fold with no desire to wander again.
The prophetic and unforgettable words below, are those of great singer and preacher, Dr. Wintley Phipps. He spoke them just before he sang one of my favorite Hymns. They affirm the Lord’s constant presence and gentle leading throughout every season of my life. It is not a coincidence that I discovered this video online in my 26th year of Ministry and that Dr. Phipps recalls a significant event that happened to him exactly 26 years ago. “God is an awesome God, who reigns from Heaven above with Wisdom, Power, and Love.” According to Dr. Phipps,
It is in the quiet crucible of your personal, private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born and God’s greatest gifts are given in compensation for what you have been through.
The words above rang true throughout my life, and the Hymn Dr. Phipps sings on this video became my mantra of thanksgiving for all the Lord brought me through. I sang this very Hymn as a Postlude throughout ALL the years of my professional Ministry.
Thank you Father, for your chastening rod of love that drew me back to your heart and would not let me go. Thank you for laughing with me and not at me. Thank you for reminding me, so I can remind others that at the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters in this life is the prospering of our spirits. Thank you Lord for restoring your spirit within me and enabling me to say — through every test and trial, “Whatever my lot, it is well — it is well — WITH MY SOUL!!!!!”