A Life Saved

I don’t know the best way to describe this man, but his life was a mess. I’ll call him Joe. He was recently fired from his job, and his wife filed for a divorce with a corresponding restraining order. His children – one was nine years old and the other fifteen – were afraid of him. Simply put, he was an alcoholic and was abusive to his wife and kids.

Joe started drinking alcohol in elementary school by sneaking it when his parents were away from home. Oh, the family went to church and put on a good façade for the community; and most folk thought they were a fine family. Very few people knew the mental and spiritual torment the family was experiencing.

Because they had their own problems, Joe’s parents didn’t learn of his alcohol problem until Joe left home. After Joe’s parents’ messy divorce, his father committed suicide.

As Joe entered adulthood, he prided himself in being able to drink on the job, yet effectively perform his vocational responsibilities. As with so many alcoholics, he thought he was hiding the problem; but his friends, vocational associates, and family were covering for him.

Let me say here: “protecting” the alcoholic is the worst thing anyone can do for him or her: it prevents potential recovery. We shouldn’t condemn the alcoholic, but don’t cover for them.

Joe’s life went from bad to worse. I won’t go into the details, but the police department began building a file on him. Then Joe remembered his dad. Swearing early in life never to be like his father, Joe had, in reality, become just like him. Now, thinking there was nothing left in life for him, Joe found himself considering the same final action: suicide.

He stole a pistol and ammunition, robbed a liquor store (took whiskey and money), and went to a motel in a run-down part of town. Sitting on the edge of the bed with loaded weapon in hand, he thought maybe he should write a note to explain to whoever found him why he did it. Opening the top drawer in the nightstand to get a pen and paper, he became angry when he realized that the cheap motel wouldn’t even provide writing material. But he did see a book in the drawer.

Curiosity prompted him to look into the book before killing himself, so he picked it up to see what it was about. The title on the cover said, “Holy Bible”, and there was a round logo on the bottom with the words, “Placed by The Gideons.”

“Who are they?” Joe wondered as he opened the Bible. It seemed to fall open to the Gospel of John, and Joe began reading something he had never read before: “In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Joe wondered who the Word was, so he kept reading. Verse fourteen started with, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”

This was all new to Joe. Having nothing to lose, he decided to read a lot more before ending his miserable existence. By the time Joe had finished reading the Gospel of John, it was getting light outside and tears were running down his face. Something was happening inside of him. He blurted out, “Do you love me, Jesus?” No Answer.

Hiding the firearm, Joe called a local church. “There’s probably no one there to answer my questions” he muttered to himself. But amazingly, the pastor answered the phone. After listening for several minutes, the pastor invited Joe to breakfast. Time with the pastor lasted through lunch and into dinner. Joe finally met someone who could answer many of the questions he had asked for most of his life.

Because of that Gideon Bible, Joe reached out for help.

At thirty-eight years of age, Joe was introduced to Jesus Christ and Joe’s torment was over. Don’t misunderstand: he still had many issues to face and reconcile; but the pastor promised to walk with him every step of the way if Joe would give him the gun and whisky, and permit him to call the police. Joe did, and his healing began.

God’s word in that Bible, backed up by someone who cared, saved Joe’s life. This is only one of many thousands of real-life examples of how the Lord saves and changes lives.

If you are facing frustration, misery, and confusion, don’t end your life. Instead, start a new life with the One Who loves you and died for you. Turn to Jesus. He might not solve all your problems, but He can guide you and help you do what’s necessary to solve them. And find a Christ-honoring friend who can lead you in the right direction.

Your future doesn’t need to look bleak – it can look bright.

Do You Plan Ahead?

Yesterday (as of this writing) Carol and I were driving from Rogers to Fayetteville (Arkansas). We took the Sunset Blvd. exit in Springdale, and were waiting for the green light. We were headed for Denny’s on the east side of the I-49 freeway. Three vehicles were in front of us. It was 8:35 am.

The light turned green. Two seconds later, I heard a loud “WHUMP!” Well, to you, it may have sounded like “CRASH!” or “CRASH and then WHUMP!”

As the dust settled, we saw what happened. The light turned red for the traffic on Sunset Blvd. (which is also highway 412), and two drivers made a mistake. The driver of a white pickup heading east on Sunset was in a hurry, and couldn’t stand the thought of waiting another four minutes for the next green light; so he hit the gas-peddle and ran the red light. The driver of the brown pickup who was ready to turn onto 412, assuming the green light meant “safe to go”, made a jack-rabbit start. The two pickups met in the intersection.

I couldn’t see the front end of the brown pickup, but he had broadsided the white pickup and pushed it across the intersection and over the curb on the south side of 412. The front end of the white pickup was mangled with both front tires broken off. Police were called. As I drove past him, the white pickup driver was holding his head in his hands with his elbows resting on the steering wheel. In my estimation, the truck was totaled, and the driver apparently felt miserable and stupid for running the red light – all to save four minutes.

Being in a reckless hurry, the driver lost an entire day – and his truck. His mistake also cost hundreds of other drivers much more than ten minutes in their schedule. And the other driver?

The brown pickup driver, assuming green was “safe to go”, took off without looking to see if it actually was safe. By the time he saw the white pickup, he had already hit it. If only he had hesitated and looked both ways, he would have been aware of what was happening and could have taken preventive action.

Within ten minutes, two police cars, a fire truck, and two ambulances were on the scene. One pickup was destroyed, another needed major surgery, two people were injured, and hundreds of other drivers were delayed.

All because one man wanted to save four minutes!

In our cross-country trips, Carol and I have seen hundreds of careless or reckless people driving foolishly. No matter what the speed limit (Carol and I stick closely to it), many folk drive ten to thirty mph over it. But what’s the big hurry?

Don’t people plan ahead anymore? My father taught me a very important principle: “It’s better to be an hour early than a minute late.” On the other hand, if I do run late, I don’t try to make up lost time as I drive. It’s better to be late than to risk anyone’s life – including my own.

Planning ahead is the key that would prevent most problems on the road; actually, it would prevent many problems in life. If I need to be somewhere at ten o’clock and it will take thirty minutes to get there, I allow an extra fifteen minutes for traffic delays, and leave no later than 9:15. If I’m going across country, I allow extra time in each phase of the trip so I’m not in a hurry. In our last trip to Tennessee, we hit a two-hour traffic tie-up; but we had included four extra hours in the schedule so we weren’t late.

We should plan ahead for every trip – including our final trip in life that starts at death. Have you made appropriate plans? Yes, insurance and estate planning are necessary; but have you planned to meet the Lord Jesus Christ? After all, that will be the most important trip of your eternal existence.

Don’t try to “run the red light” at the eternal intersection and expect to make it across safely. It won’t work. Prepare now by studying the road map – the Bible. Avoid the traffic delays in life – called sin. And call the Highway Patrol – the Holy Spirit – for advice. You must plan ahead in order to safely reach the destination – being with God forever in heaven.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

All I Could Do Was Laugh

The computer manager where I worked at the National Laboratory told me my computer hard drive needed to be cleaned. We didn’t have the funding to for a new computer yet, so I needed to tune up the one I had.

“Okay, how do I go about it?”

Although I didn’t know much about computers at the time, Nolan was extremely computer savvy and he rattled off the instructions as he was leaving my office. What he said made sense, I understood what he said, and I figured I would do the job within a couple of days. But in my hurry I didn’t take notes.

My father taught me when I was in high school (over 55 years ago) to take notes when someone gives me instructions. Dad said, “Paper has a longer memory than you do. Write things down.” He was right, of course; therefore, I normally did record instructions – but forgot this time.

In my position I was involved in almost every aspect of our group’s operations. Later that day, I was called to check on one of our buildings that was emitting smoke. (A large fan motor mal-functioned and was smoking.) I investigated a forklift accident and wrote up the report: that took several days. (The critically-injured man lived.) Inspectors called me to check on potential radiation-contamination at another site. (It was only natural radiation that accompanied sunlight, but I still had to write the report.) Things like that kept me busy; and because of my many duties, I didn’t get to the project of cleaning my hard drive for several weeks.

But I finally got to the relatively simple task. After all, Nolan explained it very well.

Now, what was it that Nolan said? Oh yes: make sure you have all the software for the programs you use, and save all your work in a separate folder. Transfer that folder to an external hard drive. Then erase the resident hard drive and run the cleaning program. Afterwards, reinstall all software, then reinstall your work. Easy enough. I had four hours of dead time and decided to get it done.

After saving eight years of data into a separate folder, I erased the hard drive and ran the cleaning program. But after reinstalling the software, I ran into a problem: I couldn’t find the folder with my eight years of reports, investigations, presentations, spread-sheets, laboratory history, and myriads of other documentation.

Then I remembered: I had saved all my work – ALL OF IT – in a separate folder on my resident hard drive. I forgot to transfer it to an external hard drive.

Thinking of all that I had just lost, I got the worst sinking feeling I had ever felt in my entire life. IT’S ALL GONE!

I had two options: I could either cry, or laugh. Since crying wouldn’t help anyone, all I could do was laugh. And I did. Then I called Nolan.

He came to my office right away. After hearing my miserable tale of woe, Nolan said, “Believe-it-or-not, yesterday after you left, an idea came to my mind that wouldn’t leave. So I came to your office and I stayed until 9:00 pm backing up your hard drive. I now realize it was the Lord who prompted me to do that, and you’ve lost nothing.”

All I could do was laugh. But this time for JOY!

Nolan, a Bible teacher, reminded me of Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (NLT)” I was certainly grateful for God’s mercy in the work-place, and for Nolan’s timely obedience to God’s prompting.

But not everything turns out “good” like that. Tornados destroyed friends’ homes, dad died of cancer, two of my sister lost their houses in a fire — do these work for our good? Amazingly, they can.

If we keep our faith in God for Who He is (not for what we want or expect), we’ll grow in our relationship with Him. Things of earth are to be used while on earth, but all material things will eventually pass away (Matthew 24:35). It is our relationship with God that is eternal (Matthew 28:20).

When bad things happen, turn to the Lord. He really does love you. Trust Him in good and bad times, for this world is not our home. Memorize Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

And, feel free to laugh.

Is Anyone Normal?

The study of psychiatric abnormality, the diagnosis of abnormality, and the medicating of those deemed not normal is a big business today. Two major prongs of study are that of autism and ADHD. Controversy overshadows each one because as humorist Patsy Clairmont said, “Normal is only a setting on a dryer.”

Let’s talk about normality and ADHD.

One report says, “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood. It affects about 3 – 5% of school aged children. ADHD is diagnosed much more often in boys than in girls.” The report says that the symptoms fall into three basic groups: inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Did anything in that last paragraph catch your attention? Let me rephrase it. Inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are more prevalent in boys than in girls. Surprise? No. Any parent in the past 6,000 years could tell us the same thing without a multimillion-dollar study. Boys are generally more restless, noisier, and have a harder time paying attention. That’s the nature of boys. So why is it called a disorder?

A medical definition of disorder is: “A disturbance or derangement that affects the function of mind or body. Also, to disturb the normal physical or mental health of someone.”

Dear reader, if that is the proper medical definition, then I submit to you that boys do not have the disorder: rather boys are the disorder. (I am joking.)

Historically parents taught children to obey and to respect their elders. When they disobeyed or were overly disorderly, they were disciplined in some manner. And the human race trucked right along for thousands of years without having to drug any hyperactive or inattentive rascal. And hyperactive boys (okay: some girls, too) somehow managed to grow up into decent law-abiding citizens who, in turn, learned how to harness their own children’s energy. But a change was made in the 1950s.

Under the leadership of several medical doctors and psychiatrists – Dr. Benjamin Spock one of them – a new parental paradigm emerged. My over-simplified version is this: Allow the little ones to develop into their own person. Don’t attempt to mold them or their little psyches may be damaged in the process.

Well, the new parental paradigm evolved under the leadership of the evolving American Psychiatric Association, and in 1980 they coined the now popular term: ADHD. That seemed to be a wonderful solution, for parents were finally absolved from the responsibilities of teaching and disciplining their offspring.

Reacting to the fear of being abnormal, they can have their little blossoms drugged into submission. And now over 1,000,000 kids may be inappropriately diagnosed as having ADHD, with over 800,000 of them receiving behavioral medication. The behavioral modification drugging continues until the person learns to control himself. But drugs do not help in the long run. The absence of child-discipline and inappropriate methods of discipline are a major factor in crime today.

I agree with Dr. Dale Archer who said, “I’m not opposed to medication to treat those with severe symptoms, but does 1 out of every 12 kids really have ADHD?” He continues, “The National Institute of Mental Health has found that 26 percent of Americans (1 in 4) have a diagnosable psychiatric illness. The only word for that is ‘ludicrous.’”

I agree. Hyperactivity is not an abnormality, nor is it a disorder. It is simply human. We need to understand human nature; but in the process, teach children to obey and accept their responsibilities of living in society.

Hyperactivity is good and is one of the drivers of societal progress. We must help people understand that it is okay not to be normal. The CEOs of many companies have been diagnosed with ADHD, but that didn’t inhibit them from fulfilling their dreams. As Dr. Archer said, “Being different can make us exceptional.”

I recently took the ADHD test and was classified as “boarder-line ADHD.” But I found that the lowest possible rating (out of five steps) is “No ADHD likely.”

Did you understand that? That means the tests are rigged to make everyone at least suspect—thus, upping the disorder count. But that also means a mild ADHD diagnosis is normal. So, what’s the problem?

Folks, let’s train and discipline our children. Let’s teach them to be orderly and to obey. It presents greater long-term benefits than drugging them.

Death Is Not Final

I read an article many years ago titled: “Was Jesus the First Psychiatrist?” I think it’s worth reading. The author mentioned that there are “300 or so [mental] disorders” that plague mankind; and discusses what he sees as the similarity of Godly teachings and the teachings of psychiatry. 

Please remember that where all Scripture is correct (2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”), not all conclusions in the field of psychiatry and psychology are correct.

I thought long on the following statement: “People suffer to the extent that they are removed from the truth.”

That is partly true, and the reason it stuck in my mind is a conversation I had earlier with a very close friend in the southwest. His wife was nearing the end of her life, and Chuck was experiencing anger and frustration. When I mentioned that facing the truth promotes emotional healing, he blurted out, “I don’t want the truth! I want my wife to live!” I asked him if he wanted to face reality. He exclaimed “NO!”

I understood; his precious wife meant the world to him, and he didn’t want to lose her. Later, in deep depression, Chuck said several times regarding his wife’s condition, “It’s hopeless.”

Dr. Charles Allen (United Methodist minister, deceased) who received an honorary doctorate from John Brown University, and is author of “God’s Psychiatry” said, “When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.” However, people must not give up on life, but neither should we demand what God is not giving.

Meditate on those statements.

Chuck had given me the freedom to talk bluntly with him. He knew that I loved him unconditionally, and I gave him the freedom to vent his frustrations at me without fear of reprisal or ill feelings. And I went to be with him when his wife left this life.

Later that day Chuck expressed his appreciation for my helping him to face reality, and said, “A load has been lifted from my shoulders; thank you for helping me accept the truth.” And that reflects another statement from Dr. Allen: “The mind is like the body. It can be wounded. Sorrow is a wound. It cuts deeply; but sorrow can be a clean wound and can heal unless something gets into the wound, such as bitterness, self-pity, or resentment.”

Bitterness, self-pity, and resentment oppose faith in God. I continued working with Chuck: a loving, passionate man with a tendency toward depression.

People must reawaken what they were born with: the God-given, inexplicable, ultimately undefeatable capacity to move in the direction of their own interests, abilities, beliefs and dreams. That’s why the image of Christ is such a powerful one.

It’s not wrong to ask the Lord to heal someone. In fact, it’s healthy and necessary to have a living, vital relationship with Jehovah-Raphah – the Lord who heals. Doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists help, but God alone can ultimately heal the body and mind.

We must all remember that until Jesus returns, physical death is part of life; and for the Christian, death must not be feared for it is the door to heaven. Psalm 90:10 tells us that our lifespan will be an average of 70-80 years although individual lifetimes vary. My father lived to be eighty-nine, his father lived to ninety-nine, and my mother left this life at the age of 97. But until Jesus returns, we all will leave this life. 

Chuck was facing the reality of his wife’s immanent departure. Was the situation truly hopeless? The answer was a resounding “No.” Death is not the end of the story. Those who trust God with their lives will be given eternal life. 

Chuck’s wife left this earth, but accepting the truth had set him free. Was there sorrow? Yes, but not as others sorrow. 1 Thessalonians 4:13–14 says, “Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about those Christians who have died so you will not be sad, as others who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again. So, because of him, God will raise with Jesus those who have died.”

Chuck will see his wife again.

How’s Your Attitude?

The longer I live, the more I realize how important our attitude is. Our attitude is more important than our past, our circumstance in life, education, skills, good looks (or bad), and more important than what people think of us. Our attitude can determine the success or failure of a church, business, or home.

We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can always choose our attitude; therefore, our responses.

Charles Swindoll on his Insight For Living broadcast said, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to the circumstances.” I agree with him, and that’s why problems seldom trouble me. (However, contrary to popular opinion, I do get bothered sometimes. That’s why I, also, need encouragement.)

Some years ago, I read of a man who received life-threatening injuries when someone robbed his store and shot him. As Jerry was being prepared for emergency surgery, he noticed the grim look on the doctor’s face. When the doctor asked Jerry if he was allergic to anything, in his dangerously weakened condition Jerry mumbled, “Yes. I am allergic to – bullets. Operate on me as though I will live.”

At first the doctor smiled, then laughed and said, “I’ll do my best for you, but it is your golden attitude that will bring you through.”

Yes, Jerry did make a full recovery, and his attitude mirrored another Swindoll quote: “The remarkable thing is, we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. And attitude governs the way you perceive the world, and the way the world perceives you.”IMG_0091

Do you know how your attitude works for or against you? Very simply: When a person is happy, certain endorphins and hormones are secreted which produce clear thinking, enhance pleasure, and reduce physical pain. When a person is upset, other endorphins and hormones are secreted which enhance anxiety and increase pain.

Years ago, I encountered a man who harshly confronted me. Afterwards, one of our daughters asked, “Daddy, how did you keep from blowing up when that man attacked you like that?” I answered, “Oh, he wasn’t upset with me. He was ticked off about something else.”

At that, she asked, “Is that one of your mind-games?” Laughing, I said, “It might be, or it might be the result of a decision I made to not let people bother me. Then I leave the results up to God. I know He can take care of me, and that’s my primary reason for having a good attitude.”

A good attitude is a decision I make based on my faith in Jesus Christ. And I have to make the decision several times every day.

When I was told that there are many factors which contribute to bad attitudes, I said, “The difficult part is, most of us have been programmed as a child to respond in a negative manner. We also are born in sin with an innate selfish mindset. So we start life with a double-whammy that we must overcome: 1) we must learn to overcome the negative, and 2) we must ask God to forgive us for our own sin and help us to become like Jesus. Then we have a foundation from which to work. It isn’t always easy, but it can be done.”

So, how do we generate and keep a good attitude?

4 generation Linzeys0016bMy father taught me, “Son, you think and feel the way you dress and act. So purposely dress nicely, make correct decisions, keep happy thoughts in your mind, and live for the Lord.” Even though I’ve made mistakes, that counsel has served me well.

A poor attitude generates low self-esteem; but a good attitude with enthusiasm brightens your life, and brightens the attitudes of others around you. So treat others the way you would like to be treated, and don’t be concerned if they don’t reciprocate. Either way you will be a healthier, happier person.

Psalm 42:5 says, “Why am I so sad? Why am I so troubled? I will put my hope in God, and once again I will praise him, my savior and my God.” Also, Psalm 103:2 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and don’t forget the benefits of serving God.”

So believe in, and actively trust in God. Loving God and loving people are the foundation for good attitudes. That reminds me of the chorus of a song Bill Gaither wrote:

Loving God, loving each other; making music with my friends.

Loving God, loving each other; and the story never ends.

What Do You Own?

Several decades ago when I was asked what I owned, I had to stop and think. I began recounting my stuff: lawn mower, chain saw, pickup truck, hand tools.… But I didn’t get very far when the missionary interrupted me and said, “You apparently didn’t understand the question.”

He asked again, slowly: “What do you own?” He said he would let me think on it for a while and walked away.

I never had the opportunity to discuss it with him again, but I pondered that question for weeks before I forgot it. However, many years later that question re-surfaced in my mind and I came up with some interesting conclusions.

The verb to own means: to possess; hold as personal property; keep control over; maintain mastery. That’s an interesting concept, and I totally revised my philosophy of ownership.

So, what do you consider to be your property? Make a mental list, and I’ll help by naming several items: clothing, car, surfboard, animals, land, business. What else came to your mind? But do you really own these things? Read the definition again.

Can you truthfully maintain mastery over something if someone can take it from you? No. If you really OWN something, no one can take it from you. Pause and think about that for a minute. Stop paying taxes on your paid-off property and find out who thinks they own it.

Now, let’s consider permanent ownership.

In Leviticus 25:23 God said, “The land really belongs to me, so you can’t sell it for all time. You are only foreigners and travelers living for a while on my land.” Remember: God created it, so the land is His.

Friends, in reality, not even the government owns anything because God maintains mastery over it all. But He requires us to be good stewards (manager, guardian, administrator) of His property.

In Psalms 50:10-11 God said, “Every animal of the forest is already mine. The cattle on a thousand hills are mine. I know every bird on the mountains, and every living thing in the fields is mine.”

Titus 1:7-9 says, “As God’s managers, overseers must not be guilty of doing wrong, being selfish, or becoming angry quickly. They must not drink too much wine, like to fight, or try to get rich by cheating others. Overseers must be ready to welcome guests, love what is good, be wise, live right, and be holy and self-controlled. They must hold on to the trustworthy word just as we teach it, because overseers can help people by applying correct teaching ….”

So God gives us abilities, talents, skills, and property; but we erroneously focus on them and too often think we own them. Friends, we don’t even own our abilities. God loans them to us, but we can lose them in a moment by accident or sickness.

How about money? In Matthew 20:8-15, God said, “I can do what I want with my money.” Even money is not ours: ever hear of a stock-market crash?

How about wisdom? In Luke 21:15, God said, “I will give you the wisdom to say things that none of your enemies will be able to stand against or prove wrong.” God owns wisdom, and God owns you. So, is there anything in the world that we can claim as our own? Yes: we are supposed to own (possess, control) our emotions. The Biblical term is temperance.

The point I am trying to make is this: you own nothing except your thoughts, your will and your emotions. God did not create robots or automatons; He created and owns people. And He expects us to use our thoughts, will, and emotions to bless and honor Him.

Let’s add another item: we own our responses to what happens in life. That means we are capable of controlling ourselves. No one can make you angry or make you happy. It’s your choice. YOU decide how you will respond.

Corrie ten Boom told a pastor some years ago: “Pastor, let go of all the things you think you own while you can. Otherwise, God will pry them out of your dying hands.”

There is nothing wrong with having things as long as we understand that we are only stewards of the things that we bought – with the money God helped us to earn. So, use things for their intended purpose and get the job done.

What do you own? You own your thoughts, will, emotions, and personal responses. And that sets the stage for owning a clear conscience with joy, peace, and contentment.

So, once again: What do you own?

The Ultimate Gift

Carol and I seldom attend the theater. The reason is: even though some movie houses show good films periodically, they normally precede the film with previews of gross, explicit immorality and mindless violence that lodges in our minds. Since we live for Jesus Christ, we refuse to purposely fill our mind and spirit with anything that dishonors God.

But we do at times find a DVD that we like, and — skipping the previews — we watch them several times. One of those films is called The Ultimate Gift. Not specifically a Christian movie, it is a good one that Jim Stovall (the blind author of the book) built around twelve clearly defined Biblical principles he called gifts. I’ll tell you about these gifts here with brief commentary.

  1. As the economy fluctuates, some people lose their jobs. Many others think society owes them a living and don’t want to work. Yet many gainfully employed folk put out only minimal effort in their vocation. Misguided people don’t understand the GIFT OF WORK. This story helps us to understand the value of good, honest work.
  2. Related to #1 above, many people, poor and wealthy alike, do not understand the real purpose or value of money. Some use money as a tool to gain power and prestige while others use money as a status-symbol or to “buy” friends. But money, as any instrument in the bartering system, is supposed to be merely a medium of exchange which enables us to procure the necessities of life and to help others. Jim Stovall presents us with the GIFT OF UNDERSTANDING THE VALUE OF MONEY.
  3. True friendship is a gift. You’ve heard: to have a friend, you need to be a friend. It’s true. Acquaintances come and go, sometimes on a moment’s notice. But to develop a friendship requires an investment: not of money or of material gifts, but of our time. As we give of ourselves, we receive the GIFT OF A FRIEND.
  4. My grandfather’s most advanced educational diploma was received when he graduated from the third grade. Going no further in school, he nevertheless was a very wise and educated man who attained the top position of his vocation. Early in life he realized the value of learning, and he passed the GIFT OF LEARNING to his children and grandchildren. Although formal education is valuable and necessary, true learning is a product of personal initiative and integrity – which may or may not involve higher-education.
  5. I know some folk who can’t change a tire, read a map, or stay employed. The reason is they’ve never learned to value the GIFT OF PROBLEMS. At the first sign of a problem, they cry for help and they are rescued. But those who rescue them are only dooming the person to life-long failure. The truth is: we succeed in life by learning to overcome problems.
  6. This life can be a lonely journey without loving companionship. The GIFT OF FAMILY is what helps us through life. If you have no loving, personal family ties, develop close-knit family ties at church. Love others and you’ll be loved.
  7. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good like a medicine; but sadness drains your strength.” The GIFT OF LAUGHTER helps us survive and thrive as we encounter life’s troubling times. Enjoying the lighter side of life – even in the middle of problems – enables us to perceive and apply solutions to the problems.
  8. Some folk say planning a vacation is as fun as taking the trip. There is truth to that proverb. The GIFT OF DREAMS is the mother of inventions, successes, fulfillment, and trips. Allowing ourselves to dream enables us to be creative; and that makes life fun.
  9. The GIFT OF GIVING is a highly under-rated virtue. While merely receiving may enhance our unbalanced sense of self-importance, receiving without giving produced the Dead Sea. As we become a giving person, we – again – release our creative spirit and can become much more beneficial to ourselves, to society, and to the kingdom of God.
  10. Man was created to be thankful. Without a grateful attitude, we shrivel up spiritually. The GIFT OF GRATITUDE opens doors for us, and enables us to fulfill our mission in life. Gratitude flows gently alongside laughter, dreaming, and giving to make us a happy, joyful person.
  11. Everyone needs to feel special in some way, and the GIFT OF A SPECIAL DAY can bring that about. Please, take time to relax, stop work, enjoy a special treat. Do something out of your day-to-day or weekly routine. Break out of the rut.
  12. The GIFT OF LOVE is priceless. Humanity lost the ability to truly love as we left the Garden of Eden. Therefore, Jesus came to earth to redeem us. He loved us and gave Himself on the cross so that we may receive the True Ultimate Gift – LOVE – upon which the other 11 gifts rest. Learn to love others, and help others in their time of need.

Jim Stovall wrote a good story and I watch it once a year. But the True Ultimate Gift is salvation through an active relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ. That good news is found in the Bible, and I read that every day.

Differences of Memory

“That’s not what you said before! Your memory is really getting bad, and you are always changing your story!” The disagreement had turned into a personal attack – again.

When I heard that account of the wife becoming angry at the husband’s supposed lapse of memory, I cringed. My immediate thought was, So what if he doesn’t have perfect memory? None of us do. And, why did the wife act like a tiger on the attack? Is it conceivable that her anger is a defense mechanism for her possible memory lapse?

That particular misunderstanding was regarding Scripture in John 11: Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick, and requested that He (Jesus) come and heal Lazarus; but Jesus waited two more days before going to Bethany. When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Jesus commanded, “Lazarus, come forth!” Some people think Jesus specified “Lazarus” so that all the other dead would not come out of their own graves.

Back to the fuss mentioned above: the wife thought the husband previously said there were others buried in the tomb with Lazarus, where the husband thought he merely mentioned the potential of other people rising from the dead. But again, so what? Does a lapse of memory – on either side – justify an attack on someone’s integrity? I don’t think so.

What is memory anyway? (Note: this article is not about Alzheimer’s.)

Memory is the process in which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved. Encoding takes place while information is received from visual, electrical, chemical, and physical stimuli. Storage, the second stage, includes maintaining information over periods of time. The third stage is the retrieval of information for conscious consideration. Some retrieval attempts may be effortless, while other attempts are difficult due to the type of information we have stored, and life’s experiences we have encountered since storing that information.

“The hippocampus, an extension of the cerebral cortex, plays a big role in storing memories, but it’s also important in recalling them.” says Ulrike Schmidt, a Head Research Coordinator, RG Leader, Managing Senior Psychiatrist at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich. Schmidt continued: “And a damaged hippocampus causes weird things to happen in the mind.”

Also, a lack of sleep often impedes memory storage; and you can’t recall what wasn’t stored.

However, as people age, a certain amount of brain atrophy – including the hippocampus – is normal. Early symptoms of hippocampal atrophy can include difficulty recalling the recent past, and can produce disorientation.

Our memories are also subject to contamination and distortion. Lawyers often fool us with suggestive questions, and false memories can easily be manufactured. And even though a woman named Jill Price became famous and inaccurately labeled as “The woman who couldn’t forget,” it has been proven that photographic memory and total recall is not 100% accurate. We all have faulty memory – some of us more than others.

Example: if five people witness an accident, we would have five differing testimonies – and all five would most-likely be at least partially correct. Nevertheless, some folk, such as Jill Price, do have excellent memory about things she continually reviews.

So, what is the key?

There is no one key. Proper nutrition, proper sleep, and especially paying attention to what you are experiencing are foundational. Your brain is where memory is stored, so take care of your brain; but that demands proper care for your entire body. The schools, training, mental disciplines, games, etc. are secondary.

Living peacefully, primarily internally, is especially important. Jesus Christ is interested in how we live because our understanding – including wisdom – determines how we mature as individuals, and how we grow in our relationship with others. A good memory aids in this endeavor. Galatians 5:22-23 briefly lists the fruit of the Spirit. They are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

So, control yourself, be gentle, and stop disputing or arguing. Instead, learn to discuss, but don’t be pushy or aggressive. In non-critical issues, it’s better if you don’t demand that you are right and the other is wrong. Admit that no one’s memory – yours included – is perfect, and admit that not all erroneous memories are reason for conflict. Kindly agree to disagree and preserve your relationship.

However, go ahead and work to improve your memory. And when there is a difference of memory regarding a non-critical issue, let it go. Rise above the situation; allow the other person freedom of expression. Isn’t that what you want? Who knows: it may very-well be that you both are partly correct – therefore, partly incorrect.

Don’t lock-up; lighten up. As you release tension, you create the mental and spiritual environment that makes it easier to recall the truth of the matter. Sadly, the couple mentioned above hasn’t figured that out yet. But you can if you try, and ask the Lord to help you.

Freedom to Express Our Faith

In 1994 while working at a scientific laboratory, I was told to remove my Bible from the top of my desk and to refrain from praying on government property. I asked the question typical of a five-year-old: “Why?” The response was, “This is government property and we need to become a religion-free work-place.

You may imagine some thoughts that raced through my mind. I wouldn’t argue because I was on government time and I desired to honor my authorities. I did, however, realize that this was one side of a double-standard aimed against Christians. So, remembering a recent Laboratory-sponsored event, I said:

“Last week we observed Native American Heritage Week here in the laboratory’s main auditorium. Every day at 8:00 AM and again at 1:00 PM for a total of ten meetings, a different Native American group opened their meeting by reciting their tribal prayer. If the Lab supports or allows the Native Americans to pray to their gods on government property, I also claim that same privilege of praying to the Judeo-Christian God. And if there are any questions about that, you know my phone number.

That settled the issue. Why? Simply because I lived what I believed; supported my beliefs with fact and laboratory precedent; did not condemn or look down on others, and loved people. Did I confront people? Yes. But was I confrontational? No. Non-Christians and I do not have to agree with each other, but we all work well together because we do not intimidate each other, and we respect each other. 

A number of years ago while visiting my mother-in-law in a nursing facility, I was speaking with her husband, Charles, about trusting the Lord while knowing that Mom could die soon. A social-worker walking by stopped and rather sternly asked Charles, “Do you want to listen to this?”DSCN4637B

That took Charles off-guard and he was speechless, so, I said to the social-worker, “Charles is my step-dad, and we talk openly and freely together.” It was her turn to be dumb-founded, and she walked away. Mom passed away shortly thereafter, and Charles and I still love each other.

Zig Ziglar said in an interview with Michael Ireland on March 11, 2006, “The biggest lie Satan has ever told is that ‘it is okay to talk about your faith in church or at home, but otherwise, it is a personal matter.’ The reality is, everyone else has come out of the closet, and Christians need to come out and make it clear where they are coming from. Now, the life that they live will be totally believed if they live as Christ taught us to live. However, if you do not follow the Ten Commandments, if you do not have the Fruit of the Spirit, if you do not go out in the Full Armor of God, if you do not go out believing that the Golden Rule is a wonderful, working rule in your relationships with all people, then all of the conversations that you will have will fall on deaf ears. What you are speaks louder than what you say.”

 And to that I say a hearty Amen!

While we Christians are to respect people and obey our authorities, we should stand up for truth and righteousness. No one else will. We are to obey those in authority over us unless they demand that we disobey God and Holy Scripture. We are not to be argumentative, but freedom of speech applies to all sections of our society. So, let’s exercise that freedom. As Edmond Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Therefore, it is very important to vote into office godly people, then pray for them to stand for truth. Our leaders must retain our historical, inalienable/Constitutional right of freedom of speech and freedom of worship.

But many in the world live under a different historical and cultural setting. They don’t have the freedom of speech or freedom of religion built into their culture. What are they supposed to do? How are they supposed to live?

DSCN2701My answer ultimately applies to everyone in the world – living in the United States of America or anywhere else. We are to live according to the principles as found in Holy Scripture: the Bible. My reasoning is simple: if we live to please and honor Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, we will have a home in heaven forever even if we are killed here on earth for our faith. This life is so short anyway; why not prepare to live forever with God in heaven?

That way, we will have the freedom to express our faith as long as we live. No one can take that freedom from us.