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A FULL LIFE
A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
"Not very long," answered the Mexican.
"Well, then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.
The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life."
The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.
"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.
"You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise."
"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.
"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.
"And after that?"
"Afterwards? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"
"Millions? Really? And after that?"
"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take siestas with your wife, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."
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Max Lucado (as found in his ‘God’s Inspirational Promise Book’, but written for his book, ‘In the Eye of the Storm’), told this fictional story of an angel trying to find another way for salvation:
“He looked around the hill and foresaw a scene. Three figures hung on three crosses. Arms spread. Heads fallen forward. They moaned with the wind.
Men clad in religion stood off to one side…Arrogant, cocky.
Women clad in sorrow huddled at the foot of the hill…Faces tear streaked.
All heaven stood to fight. All nature rose to rescue. All eternity poise to protect. But the Creator gave no command. ‘It must be done…,” he said, and withdrew.
The angel spoke again. “It would be less painful…”
The Creator interrupted softly. “But it wouldn’t be love.”
I Thought You Loved Me
Girls, picture this. It is a warm summer day. The birds are singing happily. The wind is blowing gently. You and that special guy are sitting outside in the sun just thrilled to be together. You have been dating now for two whole weeks and you have never known a more thoughtful, gentle, and caring person as this special guy. As you are talking and sharing the romantic moment with him, you feel as if he wants to tell you something. You look at him and you try to encourage him to say what it is that he is trying to say. Finally, he stumbles over the words, "I love you." You feel the emotions bubbling up inside of you. He loves me, you think and you even respond to him by saying, "I love you too." For that moment, is seems as if everything is right in the world. Nuclear explosions, earthquakes, and tsunamis could be happening all around you, but you don’t care because he loves you.
Another two weeks go by. You have been "going out" (even though you can’t really go anywhere because neither of you drive) for a month and things are okay, but you sense as if he isn’t as in to you as he once was. You still hang out together. You spend endless hours on the phone just hearing each other breathe. You still say, "I love you", but something just feels different. Tomorrow will be your one-month anniversary and so you call him up to see what plan he had to commemorate this special day. After all, he loves you, or at least so he says. Maybe the phone conversation goes something like this:
Girl: Hey there big guy, what are you doing?
Guy: Nothing, I am just hanging out.
Girl: I am really looking forward to tomorrow.
Guy: Yeah, me too.
Girl: I can’t wait to see you. I haven’t seen you for like three hours.
Guy: I know. I am forgetting what you look like.
Girl: So, what are we doing tomorrow?
Girl: Yeah, you said that you were looking forward to tomorrow.
Guy: Oh, I am. The guys and I are going fishing at the lake, then to the game, and afterwards, we are going to see a movie.
Girl: [sobbing] But, I thought that we were going to spend our one-month anniversary together. I thought that you loved me!
Obviously, we have a failure to communicate. In the girl’s mind, the guy’s actions are not matching up to his words. He said that he loved her, but she felt as if his actions didn’t show it.
Sometimes, I think that we do the same thing with God. We tell him that we love Him, but our actions don’t reflect our words. It’s not enough just to say that you love God. Your actions must also say that you love God.
From a sermon by Benjamin Karner, "Do you love me?" 8/1/2008
Many Turns–One Road! (07.01.05--Direction--John 21:20-25)
Like life, most highways that we find ourselves on aren’t always straight and true. In fact, what makes some highways fun to drive is that they give you the opportunity to make a turn here and there from time to time, just to break up the monotony of sameness. I have often been very thankful for that highway jog here and there that simply causes you to focus, to concentrate a bit harder on what you are doing so as to avoid the inevitable sleepiness that often accompanies long trips on a very boring and very straight highway.
Turns aren’t a bad thing when they give you pause to be reminded that you are on a highway in the first place and it is very important for safety sake and for your purpose of getting to where you want to go not to drive off on the shoulder or exit on the wrong ramp. It’s the turns that put us on life’s shoulder or on the wrong road that most often get us into trouble. Traveling on too many roads when you belong on one is a sure recipe for losing your direction and, ultimately, not getting to where you needed to go in the first place.
Have you ever found yourself “driving” sleepily through the day on more than one highway? “A weakness of all human beings,” wrote entrepreneur and inventory Henry Ford, “is trying to do too many things at once. That scatters effort and destroys direction. It makes for haste, and haste makes waste. So we do things all the wrong ways possible before we come to the right one. Then we think it is the best way because it works, and it was the only way left that we could see. Every now and then I wake up in the morning headed toward that finality, with a dozen things I want to do. I know I can’t do them all at once.” When asked what he did about that, Ford replied, “I go out and trot around the house. While I’m running off the excess energy that wants to do too much, my mind clears and I see what can be done and should be done first.” (Bits & Pieces, September 19, 1991, p. 18.)
It’s not so much how many turns we may take that determines our getting to where we want to go. Oftentimes its more likely the number of roads we make them on that gets us lost. Turns are good, multiple highways aren’t. Managing multiple priorities in your day is important; ...
D. Marie Hamilton
LORD HAVE MERCY ME
I am a huge fan of the Christian band Mercy Me. They are my favorite band of all time! My favorite CD is Almost There. Those worship and praise songs inspire me to stay in the race even when I want to quit because working for the Lord can be overwhelming. I'm strengthen by those songs.
So, when it was posted on Facebook that they were coming to Little Rock, ya'll already know that I was there front row center! Not only that, but I got meet the band! I was beyond excited. When I finally met them, I screamed, "I can't believe that I am looking at you!" Of course they laughed at me when I said that, but the members of the band were gracious and took pictures with me.
The experience was wonderful, and the lead singer, Bart Mallard gave a compelling testimony. He said, "Churches may be full, but the world is not changing." As Mr. Mallard continued with his soliloquy, I got awkward looks by other spectators around me as I shouted "Preach!" and "That's right! Amen!" He continued to tell us that when things are lousy in our lives that God is still Holy, and that if we truly had Christ in our lives that our worship would be unconditional and life changing even when our circumstances don't.
But what I wish I could have told Mr. Mallard is that the world is changing. You just have to look a little deeper and see that God's people aren't just sitting and watching the days of their lives pass them by, but people are using the power and authority of the Holy Spirit to make the world different.
As I left the concert, I thought of what my friends in the mission group at Lakewood United Methodist Church. This compassionate group of people is changing the world one person at a time. They faithful participate in the Broadway Bridge Project every month. This is a collaborative effort of several churches started by Elizabeth Dowell to fill a physical and spiritual void in the lives of the homeless.
I was invited to go with my friends at Lakewood one Thursday, and the experience was inspiring. It was something that touched my heart because everyone joyful prepared food, gathered clothes to pass out, and was ready to offer the love of God with acts of kindness and compassion. They offered words of encouragement and communion to people who wouldn't normally feel welcomed in church because God loves everyone everywhere.
One of the mission coordinators, Sue Winkley said, "This is a great ministry, but it's not for the faint of heart. Everyone who participates in this needs to understand that this is a mission to spread the word of God. We can't expect these people to change what they are doing because some are addicts or mental ill and they don't want to change. We let them know that there are people who care about them and bring God's word to them."
In the 21st chapter of John, Peter was upset that Christ asked for the third time, "Do you love me?" so he answered, "Master, you know everything there is to know. You've got to know that I love you." Christ answer to that was for Peter to feed his sheep. Times may change, but the mission is the same. We are still struggling with the challenge to do what Christ commissioned us to do.
If we truly love God the way we profess, we must show it in our actions. That can lead to that life changing, unconditional, and soul saving worship that changes the world. It's in God's mercy that we do what do to advance the kingdom. Even though there are congregations that have answered the call, we still have failed to be an obedient church. We admit that when we reiterate our communion concentration.
I've preached over the years that God does not expect perfection, but He does expect an excellent effort. All we have to do is put forth the effort and trust God. It's in His mercy that we can change the world, not just make a difference.
Two Old Saw Bucks on a Hill! (06.27.05--Direction--John 21:4-6 )
How often we see things dimly in the morning light only to confront something altogether different than what we thought we saw in the first place. Not long ago I was awakened early, much earlier than I normally venture out in the morning. As it was June and the days begin and end less thriftily than any other time of the year, the sun was already promising day even though the clock on my bedside table was not at all convinced. I put on my walking clothes and shoes and ventured out despite the fact that my time was yet a hour or so away. My day was destined to begin before I had planned and the best would have to be made of it.
The night mists were still on the fields above the valley and the Barred Owl in the twin oaks beyond had not yet tucked head under wing for the day. As I approached his perch he eyed me warily, almost as if to ask “why” the walker was so early on this particular day. In a moment I was past and he was back to contemplating the day’s sleep ahead. As I approached the Rock Creek which marked my usual halfway point and turnaround home, I spied what appeared to be two figures walking on the ridge beyond the creek. I stopped and turned, peering into the climbing mists, I was almost certain that they were moving. Yet, as my eyes strained to focus on them I could not tell whether they really moved or not. The more I strained to see, the less I knew of what I saw. Needless to say, the second half of my walk was a bit more brisk than the first.
The following morning, when walking at my usual time, as I approached that same creek and ridge, I chanced to look up and scan that same horizon that had seemed so threatening just a day earlier. I spied no one but I did chance to Mrs. Foerster’s windsock waving in the distance as well as two old saw bucks stacked neatly in her neighbor’s year just a few yards beyond. The mists were gone and my eyes were opened to what really rested beyond my immediate gaze. I laughed to myself as I turned homeward. But for the hour and the mists I might have know the truth and been comforted.
It’s easy to lose direction in life when what we see as dire is merely an illusion created by our own inability to see the problem for what it really is. In the light of a new day, when the mists of night have completely fled and that old owl in the twin oaks is still, things usually look and seem a whole lot clearer to me. The fact is that all it takes is a little ray of sunshine to bring things into perspective. The fact also is that most of the bad things in life, when exposed to a little bit of Gospel light, have a tendency to turn out the same way also––merely two old saw bucks masquerading on a hill and nothing more.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:34)
Comforting Thoughts for the Passing Day!
If Only We Would Turn Around! (06.28.05--Direction--John 21:7-9 )
It’s a funny thing about life isn’t it that when we find ourselves off course we very seldom consider reversal the right direction to take. I guess it is just human nature to assume that where we’ve been already was a good choice and that all we need to make things right is to make adjustments and not changes. To admit that we may have been on the wrong path altogether is often far too hurtful to our egos to consider.
Recently I lost my favorite baseball cap. This cap was the one cap that fit right. It was the one cap that had just the right look and feel on my head. I have many other caps and I often wear them around the house or outside doing the yard work. But, when I plan on going to town and being seen in public, there is only one hat that I am comfortable wearing; my red, Wisconsin Badgers hat. This hat sits on my head correctly. It doesn’t slouch to one side or the other. It peaks well front to back and the color just seems to go well with about anything I might be wearing; at least on a casual basis. But, for whatever reason, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I looked in all the right places for it. It wasn’t perched atop my office coat tree where I usually put it. It wasn’t laying around anywhere in my office for that matter. I hadn’t left it in the bedroom closet or hung it on a hook in the entry way. Remaining calm and directed, I searched for a new direction. Perhaps I had left it in my workshop out back. Or, perhaps I had left it . . . When all was said and done, I was left with a whole lot of perhap’s and no favorite cap.
There’s an old corollary; it goes like this: “Objects are lost because people look where they are not instead of where they are.” My cap was lost because instead of looking for it where it was I was looking for it everywhere where it was not. It was lost because something I had done prior to losing it lacked direction or purpose to begin with. If I had back-tracked assuming that I had already gone off-course, I would have quickly discovered that the cap was on the back seat of my car. It was there because I had removed it while driving and pitched it there rather than placing it on the seat next to me as I usually do.
Life is like that. More often than not when we feel we are lost it isn’t because we need to find another path. Rather, it is probably because we need to stop, turn around and look for the path that was there all along, just waiting for us to find it. We simply had overlooked it in the first place. Or, perhaps, in our rush to get to where we thought we needed to go, we ignored it altogether. Turning around isn’t always such a bad choice when lost. There just might be someone waiting there, a Savior who with open arms is longing to point us in the right direction; if only we take the time to turn around.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:34)
Comforting Thoughts for the Passing Day!
Like Blind Beggars! (08.15.05--Envy!--John 21: 20-23)
“No one has done a better job of portraying envy than Dante, In his Purgatory . . .the envious sit like blind beggars by a wall. Their eyelids are sewn shut. the symbolism is apt, showing the reader that it is one of the blindest sins--partly because it is unreasonable, partly because the envious person is swept up in himself and swollen with poisonous thoughts in a dark, constricting world of almost unendurable self-imposed anguish. (Swidoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes)
“What about him?” Jesus’s ministry was nearly finished on this earth. He had visited with and met with His disciples a number of times over this period. The Gospel of John records for us this very unusual visit just prior to His ascension into heaven. Jesus is leading Peter down a “path” that he had not heretofore known; a path that would lead Peter into apostleship and eventual death at the hands of the crucifiers. They had been talking and Jesus had been feeling Peter out. “Do you love me?” He asked this of Peter three times. Each time the disciple who denied Him answered that he did. Now, after plying Peter with the question three times, Jesus simply says, “You must follow me!” (John 21:19) But, before he could take that path, Peter turns around, seeing John, the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” following at a distance, he asks, “What about him?”
The answer that Jesus gives Peter is one of the most intriguing passages in Scriptures. “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:22) “None of your business!” Jesus is telling Peter that it should be of no concern to him what happens to John or anyone else for that matter. Peter’s focus was to be Peter and not John. Peter’s grace was Peter’s grace. The fact that he would die by execution and John would not did not in any way “cheapen” the grace that God had given Peter. Envy has no place in the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Envy blinds us to the purpose that God has given us and the grace that He has reserved for us. For some He has given much in the way of pain and suffering. For others he has given little. For some He has blessed with wealth, for others He has not. When we blindly lash out at others, especially fellow br...
When you were growing up, do you remember the phrase "Do-Over" that was often used during playtime? It would happen during a game of kick ball. The kicker would wallop the ball into the air over toward the trees. The ball would then bounce it way down through the branch and then get stuck. The ball would now be out-of-play and the game would have to stop until the ball was freed. Instead of penalizing the defensive team by allowing the kicker to run the bases and to insure a fair game, the phrase is yelled out, "Do-Over." At that, the kicker would be allowed the chance to kick a "Do-over." It was always nice to have a "Do-over," a second chance.
Light a Candle! (07.12.05--Tomorrow--John 21:18-19)
You know what is the best thing about the future? The way things have been going lately I have no doubt. The best thing about tomorrow is that tomorrow only comes one day at a time.
We’ve all had times in our lives when what we feared the most was what we couldn’t see but was sure to be there when we woke up tomorrow. For some it is more of the same that waits for them. They didn’t enjoy it today and tomorrow would be no different. For others it was what was altogether new and untested. Whatever the case, worrying about tomorrow is for many a national past time. A writer once put it that if we spent half the time in preparation for tomorrow as we do fearing being unprepared, there would be no tomorrow to worry about.
What makes tomorrow so fearful at times is, frankly, what we know today. It’s today’s sorrows and woes that color our understanding and anticipation of tomorrow. If we could but unlink tomorrow from today in terms of potential, we’d probably be a whole lot better off.
One day in 1789, the sky of Hartford, darkened ominously, and some of the representatives in the Connecticut legislature, glancing out the windows, feared the end was at hand. Quelling a clamor for immediate adjournment, Colonel Davenport, speaker of the House of Representatives, rose and said, “The Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought.”
We spend so much time worrying abut tomorrow, fearing for what may or may not be there, that we often forget that a Christian has nothing to fear in the day or the morrow as long as we remain faithful to the calling that God has given us. Rather than fearing what is to come, we would be much better off taking comfort in the fact that nothing happens to a child of God without our Lord’s faithful hand guiding it first.
The Apostle Peter is a good example of someone who might have had good cause to worry. Jesus had just prophesie...