Traits of Talented Employees

Are you looking for a job? Or maybe you have a job, but would like to improve your present situation? Well, I’ve got good news for you: here are ideas you can use to improve your lot in life. This will be easy because there are no gimmicks to figure out, no research to conduct, and nothing to buy. You merely need to know yourself. 

I’m talking about your character, integrity, reputation, your persona: what and who you are.

Every business needs people with particular skill-sets, therefore, many employers train people to fill technical positions. But to reduce overhead and protect their investment in the trainees, they try to hire people with good personal qualities. So you must make a good first impression.

First impressions never get a second chance, so make it count. Here are four things employers will notice right away.

  • Physical Appearance: be clean and well-groomed. The potential hiring company sets the tone for how one should dress, so you would not dress like a plumber when applying to be a salesman, and vice versa. Don’t be sloppy.
  • Communication Skills. Employers want to hire people who can communicate well in speaking and writing. Poor communication leads to negative issues within the company and with clients. Expressing yourself well, both verbally and in writing, plus understanding what others say, is mandatory. Intelligence is a strong foundation for success.
  • Attitude is Everything. This requires a favorable personality. People, both employees and customers, are drawn to positive thinkers with a sense of humor. A confident but intelligent employee is also more willing to take calculated risks or accept challenges that a timid person would avoid. Customers or clients will be impressed by a confident representative and feel like conducting business with his company.

Generally, people don’t like being around those who are pessimistic, negative or just plain unhappy. Positive and happy attitudes are contagious, and joyful people get more work done.

Optimistic people make better team members and create a more productive work environment. However, nobody likes someone who boasts or brags about their accomplishments, so don’t overdo the confidence. It becomes self-centeredness.

  • Energy and Enthusiasm. When energetic and enthusiastic people come to work, they generate a working environment that helps both themselves and their co-workers come up with new ideas. Also, employees who come to work fresh and energetic everyday are going to produce more than others who think negatively. Kick grumbling and complaining out of your life. (Make sure you eat well and get enough sleep.)

After you make your case and get that job, you need to prove to the employer that he/she made a good decision in hiring you. Here are the four follow-up steps.

  • Reliability is Powerful. Reliable employees – those who follow instructions and complete the tasks, those who show up on time and work productively – build companies. Managers don’t have to worry about these employees, and can use their own time addressing the company’s difficulties. Add self-motivation and self-discipline, and these reliable employees rise above adversity and setbacks, and rise above mediocre workers. They become the next generation of CEOs and company presidents.
  • When the employer encounters an overtly honest employee, he places greater trust in that person. That trust turns into more authority in the business which eventually results in greater influence and promotion.
  • Team Player. Although each individual employee must be able to do his job well, he must, also, be able to work in a team for the betterment of the company. Teamwork requires well-developed social skills, which include the ability to listen to the other members with an open mind. “Lone Rangers” normally do not progress very far up the corporate ladder.
  • Be Creative. Businesses of every kind need people to create new products and develop more efficient ways of doing current work. The general population gets bored with same-o-same-o routine. This is why the auto industry puts out new cars every year. So excel in your job, be thinking of ways to do it better and more efficiently, but also think of new ideas for the company.

There are many more ideas I could share, but that’s all I have time for today. And that should give you an idea of what it takes to get a job or a promotion.  Share this with those who need a nudge in the right direction; and enjoy the day.

Optimist, Pessimist, or…?

“Hey, dad; I learned something new at school today.” I was happy and wanted to share this new bit of wisdom with my dad. I was twelve years old, in 7th grade, and feeling big.

“Okay, I am sitting down. Enlighten me with this earth-shaking news.” We both laughed.

“An optimist looks one way before crossing a one-way street; but the pessimist looks both ways.” I was proud of myself because I remembered every word of it.

But dad sat there for a few seconds, then popped my bubble when he said, “Maybe the guy who looked both ways before crossing a one-way street wasn’t a pessimist. Maybe he was a realist.”

I felt badly because I didn’t impress dad the way I was hoping to; but in his wisdom, dad broadened my outlook on life – again – for which I am thankful. Dad always did his best to help me view life with a deeper, more complete understanding. He was a great dad, and a wise man.

By the way, pessimist comes from “pessimisme” which means “worst”, and could have originally meant “bottom-most”. But optimist comes from “optimisme” which means “the good” with an alternate meaning of “seeing the greatest good”.

Well, I learned something else today about optimists and pessimists. Since dad graduated to heaven 10 years ago, I can’t tell him about it. But I can tell you folk. (I can imagine dad in heaven saying, “Okay; enlighten your readers with this earth-shaking news.”)

This axiom was possibly stated by Winston Churchill. “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

If you read it again and ponder on it, you’ll see the inherent wisdom. Optimism is the reason some people accomplish so much amid ongoing hardship, while others achieve so little even with no resistance. Yes, I know: you might say the poor achiever may not be a pessimist, but a lazy or a non-motivated person. You have a point there, so that would be two more reasons some people accomplish so little.

The story is told of a rancher taking his twin nephews to the barn. Jerry was a pessimist and his twin, Jack, was an optimist. When the uncle opened the first door, he said, “Jerry, I am giving you a horse.” Jerry looked at the horse standing there, saddled and ready to ride, but said, “Oh no!” then sat down – dejected.

“What’s the matter?” His uncle asked. The boy said, “If you give me a horse, I’ll have to clean out the stall!”

The uncle shrugged his shoulders and motioned for Jack to open the second door. Upon opening it, all Jack saw was a pile of horse manure. “Oh Boy!” shouted Jack, and he grabbed a shovel and started digging a pathway to go inside.

His uncle asked, “Jack, what are you doing?” The optimistic twin shouted, “With this much horse manure, there’s just GOT to be a horse in there somewhere!”

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not putting down pessimists, for they help optimists through life. When people like me see the opportunities in the difficulties, the pessimists point out the potential land-mines which we need to avoid. And, of course, we optimists help the others to realize that some of those potential mines are not armed, and work should proceed. If we purposely work together without deriding each other, both pessimist and optimist can be a productive team.  

But I think Dad’s idea of the realist presents a balanced viewpoint. One definition says “a realist looks at things as they are and deals with them in a practical manner.”

Thinking I was either an optimist or realist, I took an online quiz to see what that shrewd computer program thinks I am. The computer surprised me with: “You are a gentle pragmatist.” Thank you, intelligent computer.

A definition of a pragmatist is: “One who has a reasonable and logical way of doing things, or practical way of handling problems; a realist.”

We need both optimists and pessimists; but both should be realistic about life, for that’s where the rubber meets the road. We shouldn’t ignore the difficulties in life, but neither should we see them as stumbling blocks.

Whether you are an optimist or pessimist, be a team player – a realist – and your organization will be blessed. Ecclesiastes 9:10a instructs us, “Whatever work you do, do your best.”

How’s Your Drag Set?

In the late 1990s, Carol and I were visiting her mother and step-dad in Pagosa Springs, Colorado where they owned a cabin on Pagosa Lake. Charles and I had become life-long friends and we enjoy fishing together. (My mother-in-law has since graduated to heaven, and the cabin was sold.)

“You want to go fishing out on the lake?” Charles asked.

“Sure, I suppose so; but we always catch our limit of Rainbow trout from your dock. Why fish from a boat?”

Charles’ neighbor, Frank, had a trolling boat and took Charles fishing in it somewhat often. The limit from the boat was still the same, but Charles said they catch bigger ones out on the water.

Within the hour, the boat was ready, we had our poles, tackle-boxes, bait, nets, and Coca Cola, and we headed out for an adventure.

Frank told me, “Throw your line out in back of us.” I had a new pole called an “Ugly Stick” with a Shakespeare reel, and the yellow and green Rooster Lure flew about 100 feet. Frank’s next order was, “Now, just hold the pole perpendicular to the direction of your line and wait for the trout to visit you. When he hits, don’t point the pole in the trout’s direction; keep it pointed 90 degrees from him. Just reel him in steadily and let the flexing pole do the work.”

We were trolling slowly, and within three minutes I felt a tremendous yank and my pole doubled over. But just as quickly, it popped back straight.

Frank had fished Pagosa Lake for many years and caught his limit every time. He said, “I know what’s out here, and the way your pole bent over, that was a 20-incher. Reel in your line.” When I found the end of the line, the lure was gone.

“That critter broke your line.” Frank exclaimed. “How’s your drag set?”

I asked, “What’s drag?”

Perplexed, Frank asked, “You’ve fished northern New Mexico for ten years, and you don’t know what drag is?”

“No, but I always catch fish.”

Frank and Charles started laughing. No they weren’t mocking me; they just thought it was funny that a man in his 50s could fish for years and never know what drag was. I began laughing, too, and handed my Ugly Stick with a Shakespeare reel to Frank.

The drag is actually an apparatus made from a pair of friction plates inside the reel. The tension has to be set to release quickly to keep the line from snapping when the big ones yank on it. Then as we reel the critter in and the fish puts up too much of a squabble, the friction is overcome, allowing the reel to rotate backwards just enough to keep the line from breaking.

Frank explained drag, and showed me how to set it. He then set it for the trout we were after and said, “You’ll need to adjust it for stream-fishing back home.”

We proceeded to fish for an hour, and each of us and several friends caught our limit of three Rainbow trout. The two 17-inchers I caught put up a fuss and took a minute or two to bring in. And yes, the drag function worked properly. But an 18-incher put up a fight! Taking almost three minutes to reel it in, I was grateful that Frank set the tension for me. Back at the cabin, Carol cooked the big one like a salmon, and it was GOOD! The left-overs were made into trout-fish sandwiches which tasted much better than tuna-fish.

By the way, the little ones – eight to thirteen inchers – don’t pull hard enough to break the line, and I have never reset the drag.

Reminiscing on that recently reminded me of everyday life. Do you find that the pressures of life are too much, and you feel like snapping? Do you feel like giving up? How’s your emotional drag set?

Don’t trust your own wisdom, for you’ll be disappointed.  And don’t give up because help is just a prayer away. So trust in the Lord with your entire life. In everything you do, acknowledge the Lord, and He will guide you (Pro. 3:5-6). You are secure in God’s hands because He will help you set your emotional drag.

The Art of Marriage

And God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helpmate” (Genesis 2:18).

Years ago, that perplexed me because, since God is all-knowing, He KNEW that man would need a helper, a friend, a companion. So, why the comment? I think it was because God wanted Adam to know that he (Adam) needed a companion. God allowed Adam to explore the world (the Garden), look at and name the animals, prepare his own meals, etc. – all the while with no other human to talk to. Being alone is no fun, and trying to talk to critters goes only so far.

Making another man for Adam would still leave Adam incomplete, and could never fulfill God’s plan on earth. So God made a woman for Adam, and harmony pervaded the Garden. God and Adam communed every evening, Adam and Eve communed every day, and relationships were complete in all directions.

I know the jokes and stories about Adam’s problems starting when Eve arrived on the scene, but Romans 5:14 explicitly informs us that Adam caused the problem. A major consequence was “broken and disjointed communications” that has plagued mankind – therefore, marriage – ever since. How can we restore marriage to God’s design?

My wife, Carol, says, “Marriage is made in heaven, but it comes in a kit that must be put together on earth.” Louis and Leah Houston said, “Our 58-year marriage is based on several factors. We started out as friends, and it developed into love. We share the same basic faith. We highly respect each other, and are always ready to help each other. And we discuss major decisions because a dual-perspective gives greater depth perception.” These are excellent pointers on how to develop wholesome, proper communications; and, therefore, how to develop a wholesome marriage. Louis and Leah understood the art of marriage, and were married more than 61 years before he passed away.

Watching portions of the Olympics, I was amazed at the skill exhibited by the figure-skaters. Their performance was a beautiful expression of the art of skating. Yes, several fell, but they got up and finished the presentation. How could they execute their art with such masterful technique and style? They studied and practiced, studied and practiced, studied and practiced. Falling did not deter them – they kept at it. That’s the method we use in mastering any art form — including the art of marriage.

Marriage is fundamentally based on observation and communication and is an art that must be learned. One concept found in Stephen Covey’s book (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) is Key #5 which says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” That’s a Biblical principle that instructs us to put others first. When we place the needs/desires of our spouse above our own desires, heaven can reign in the home.

Another concept in a book written by Ken Boges & Ron Braund (Understanding How Others Misunderstand) is that people think and see differently. Therefore, in order to respond to others in a loving way, “We need some basic facts about [their] perception, motivation, needs, and values.” Observation and communication are the keys.

Dr. Paul Linzey wrote a dynamo of a book called, WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage. On page 37 he says, “There are several things a couple can do to achieve a good marriage.” He includes: 1) Pray together, and ask God to bring unity into the IMG_8740relationship; 2) Work at promoting unity, and don’t do anything that hinders unity; 3) Control the tongue, words can heal or kill a marriage; 4) Honor your agreements, unity is based on trust; 5) Be kind to each other, little kindness throughout the day are worth more than one big one at the end of the day; 6) Take time to stop and think about each other’s positive qualities, strengths, and talents, and let your spouse know that you appreciate him or her; and 7) Spend time together. These seven things are more than mere suggestions for a strong marriage. They are mandatory as we consider the art of marriage. And tell your spouse several times a day that you love him or her.

WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage is one of the best books on marriage today, and I heartily recommend the book for both married couples and for those considering marriage. Find more about Paul at paullinzey.com.

My wife and I have been married for 54 years now, and we don’t have all the bugs worked out – we never will in this human life. We’ve fallen several times, but we helped each other get back up. Because we individually have placed God as our highest priority and each other second, we experience joy, unity, love, and beauty in our marriage. We’re following God’s instructions as we continue to develop our marriage.

Resolving Conflict

That conversation sure deteriorated fast. They were long-time friends and met for coffee periodically. (No, these guys were not Gene Linzey and Louis Houston.)

It started out as a pleasant discussion about world events, but one of them hit the other’s hot button and verbal conflict ensued. After a few minutes of heated frustration, one man got up and left – letting those around him know what he thought about the world.

But why did he insult himself and berate the others by reacting that way?

Insult himself? Yes! He thought he was showing his manliness by vociferously giving his opinions, but he actually revealed his immaturity by responding like a kid throwing a temper-tantrum.

Every day we encounter conflict in some form or other: conflicts of personality, schedule, ideology, theology, politics, and the list goes on.

But speaking of Louis Houston – Louis was an author, co-writer, and a friend before he graduated to heaven. He and I got together every week that I was in town. I drank his coffee, we shared ideas – sometimes repeatedly – and we enjoyed each other’s company. Every now-and-then, we touched on a political topic about which we didn’t agree. What did we do?

I didn’t get angry and storm out of his house. Louis didn’t raise his voice to “give me a piece of his mind.” Those reactions would be disgusting. In fact, in the seven years we knew each other, Louis and I never said a harsh or negative word to each other. Instead, Louis and I discussed what we felt free to talk about; otherwise we took a sip of coffee and went on to another topic. The fact is, true friendship is hard to come by, and we didn’t let anything or anyone come between us.

In the business world, consultants are paid to help people learn how to resolve conflict. But there’s a flaw in it: trying not to be “religious”, many companies try to produce behavior modification without changing the cause of the behavior. That’s similar to trying to teach a cat not to meow. Therefore, at the end of the conference, most, if not all, of the attendees are the same going out as they were going in.

In 2005 I attended a conference presented by a business called Character First®. Based in Oklahoma City, they taught that behavior does not permanently change unless the character changes. They are correct. (Character First® has since been bought by Strata Leadership®.)

They taught that outward behavior is a manifestation of internal character; therefore changes in character produce behavioral changes. And positive changes in character produce maturity, an increase of integrity, and a greater joy in life.

When our character – the real “us” – changes, we mature and experience a reduction in personal conflict. Why? We stop being self-centered. We learn to accept others for who they are. We learn that we are not responsible to make the other person see things our way or become more like us.

We realize that ideological, theological, and political differences will always exist; but we don’t need to turn them into conflict.

(Note: Conflict is sometimes forced upon us, and that is another story.)

So, what happens if we disagree? Jesus said in John 13:35, “Men shall know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus didn’t say that we had to agree with each other on every topic. But we need to learn to understand each other, and give people the freedom to think for themselves. We are not God, and should not try to force people into our image.

Facing conflict in business, government, and church in a mature manner enables those organizations to prosper. If we have a problem with a local church or business, we should not berate it; rather we should peacefully go where we can freely worship or do business.

The Braum’s Company, with dairies in Tuttle and Shattuck, Oklahoma, is product- and family-oriented. They don’t want their drivers to be away from their families overnight, and they want their product to be fresh. So their restaurants are located within a 1-day round-trip distance from where the milk, ice cream, bread, etc. are produced and packaged. When more distant towns wanted a Braum’s restaurant, the company faced a conflict of interest. What did they do?

They resolved their predicament by remaining true to their ideals: the quality of family life and product freshness outweighed financial gain. Case closed.

That is how we should resolve conflict. We must remain true to Scriptural ideals and morals. And when our ideas disagree with someone else? Don’t generate conflict over it. Maintain your integrity and friendship, if possible, as you increase your love for God and understanding of others.

Our primary methods of conflict resolution are:

  1. Live in such a way that we do not generate conflict.
  2.  Understand that we do not have to control others.
  3.  Do not accept other people’s problems as our own.
  4.  Allow others the same freedom of thought as we desire for ourselves.

Of course, that is only a start, but you get the point. Have a pleasant week.

Loving the Elderly

DSCN0410BMy 97-year-old mother was in and out of hospitals, and getting ready to meet the Lord face-to-face. The family was getting ready for another big change; and as is often the case, the family wasn’t able to address every detail. We needed assistance. (The picture of mother and me was taken when she was 95.)

Elsa Anderson was one of mother’s care-givers. She and I discussed our purpose in life for a while, and she said that God had given her 54 talents – that she knows of anyway. Caring for people near the end of life is a talent she cherishes the most. Elsa said, “I love being with these dear folks and sharing God’s love with them. But it isn’t always the elderly who get blessed: many times as I reach out to them, I receive the blessing.”

This reflects the attitude and gifting of a friend in New Mexico.

Rev. Thomas Kearns, chaplain at the Las Cruces Good Samaritan Retirement Community in New Mexico, said, “Many times you go to a hospital to minister to someone with the intent of praying for healing, for comfort for the patient and family, and also ready with scripture to share God’s word. But your ministry is, also, to be there – what I call ‘the ministry of presence’. Even if I don’t say a thing, my mere presence often provides emotional healing to the people.” I agree.

Elsa employs that concept. Her mere presence often provides a type of healing for the families. It’s obvious that she loves her patients, and – in this case – loved my mother.

The word “love” is used in many ways. You’ve heard it, I’m sure: I love my cat (dog, horse, turtle, whatever). I love my house. I love apple pie and ice cream. I love my country. What else? Oh yes: I love my wife and I love God. The meaning of love is based on context.

But when we think of loving our elderly relatives, friends, or citizens, we think of not just those who are infirm, disabled, or handicapped. We include those in their upper years who may not be able to fend for themselves in some ways.

The briefest description of loving or caring for the elderly comes from a book bytRIALB Wm. G. Justice titled “Training Guide for Visiting the Sick.” Mr. Justice, referring to all the elderly, whether sick or not, said, “The purpose is to oversee the care of those who are hospitalized, sick, shut in, or are in some way in need of care; and to assure they have their needs met to the best of our ability.”

Rev. Gary Kroah, retired minister living in Siloam Springs, agrees with Mr. Justice. At one point in a discussion, Gary said, “Just because they are elderly and cannot come to church, we cannot ignore them. They are still a vital part of church and of our community. It is our privilege to continue loving them. Jesus loves them, and we are effectively the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus to them.” I add a hearty amen.

But loving the elderly comes with a price, and we had to differentiate between mother’s best interests and our emotional needs. I definitely do not believe in euthanasia, and I won’t discuss my mother’s condition; but I will say this: at 97 years of age and the condition she was in, it would actually be a loving act to allow her to go home to be with Jesus. She will also be with her parents, my father, and one of my sisters … and multi-millions of others in heaven.

With her body trying to shut down, I believe it is neither loving nor merciful to use every modern technological means that’s available to keep her body alive. Rather, it is loving to let her know how much we love her, but that we also release her to “go home” to be with Jesus.

Does it hurt us to do that? Yes, it does; and we knew we would miss her. But is it loving her? Yes, it is; for where she was bedridden, could not communicate, and her body trying to shut down with several terminal maladies, she would be well, healed, strong, and vibrant in heaven.

1 Thessalonians 4:14 says, “For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died” (NLT).

Mom experienced her final graduation on November 11, 2016; but we’ll see mom again when it’s our turn to graduate.

Peace at all Costs?

I heard it again: “I want peace at all costs!” That’s an interesting cry because people who say that don’t realize it is one of the most ignorant statements a peace-loving, freedom-loving person could utter.

This is what it means: “No matter what it costs, I want peace.” They don’t know that true peace has already been established. I’ll come back to that in three minutes.

But this is what the ignorant statement entails: “No matter the financial cost, the emotional cost, the loss of personal or national security, the loss of personal or national freedoms, the loss of religious freedoms, and no matter how many people are mocked, jailed or killed, I WANT PEACE!” The clincher is: the person who makes that cry has no idea of what peace is.

So we find out: What is “peace”? Peace is actually described as: a state of tranquility, harmony, or concord, and is a by-product of truth reigning in society. It is freedom from civil disturbance; state of security or order; freedom from disquieting oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations; and a state of mutual concord between governments.”

After reading that definition, we must ask: What is the foundation of peace? Before you answer, let me say: It isn’t waving a white flag or holding your hands up in surrender.

In the Middle-East the Israelis and their neighbors have been “talking peace” since 1948. The surrounding nations attack Israel. Israel wins and the defeated nations want peace. Then they say they will keep the peace if Israel gives land back. The US urges Israel to keep the peace at all costs. Israel does, and gives back land. The neighbors continue fighting and say they will continue to keep the peace if Israel gives back more land. Do you see what’s going on? They are lying: the neighbors don’t want peace with Israel!

In American politics, we have libertarians, conservatives, independents, liberals, and a host of other view-points. Every person will tell you they want peace; but many of them have no idea what it is, and wouldn’t know how to achieve it if they did. Why not? Many of them don’t understand the foundation upon which peace is built, and continue trying to bend politics their way.

But we must remember: peace and freedom go hand-in-hand. Peace is not the absence of conflict, nor achieved by avoiding conflict. We do not achieve peace by hiding our head in the sand. Peace is achieved by boldly but wisely facing evil, fighting it if we must, and assuring that Godliness prevails. “Peace at all costs” cannot produce peace; it produces slavery, bondage, and war. Therefore, the phrase is absurd.

So, what is the basis for peace?

Here is the shocker: TRUTH – not politics – is the foundation for peace. Abortion, sodomy, euthanasia, immorality, nudity on television, theater, DVD – the list goes on – are all based on lies and deception perpetrated by Lucifer. The abortionist wants peace, if he is allowed to kill the unborn. The homosexual wants peace, if he is allowed to press his lifestyle on others. Hollywood wants peace if it is allowed the freedom of corrupting society with gross immorality and violence. Many people demand “tolerance & diversity” but then make laws to refuse tolerance & diversity for those who disagree with them. They are deceiving themselves, and are living a lie by oppressing others.

That isn’t a manifestation of peace!

Some churches teach that peace and love are the highest ideals, but that, also, is not correct. Truth is the highest ideal, and must be taught in church, at home, in society, and in government. Do not allow the pursuit of peace, self-fulfillment, or political persuasion to deter you from living a life with truth as your foundation.

“Peace at all costs” leads to intolerance, treachery, and death. Instead, we must adopt Martin Luther’s plea: “Peace if possible; Truth at all costs!” Peace is the by-product of right intention, right thinking, and right action. Jesus said in John 14:27a [NASB]: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled.” That last phrase could mean “Don’t let the world’s troubles disturb you.”

We can have peace in our own heart and mind in the midst of a troubled world, but worldwide peace is not possible until Jesus returns. Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Therefore, with our focus on Jesus Christ, let’s establish Truth as our foundation; then pursue peace wherever possible.

You want peace at all costs? Jesus paid the high price on the cross with His life. So accept Jesus into your life, and you can have peace.

Ability versus Availability

In mid-June several years ago, Carol and I were returning home after visiting Jeremy (our son) and his family in Perkins, Oklahoma. We were on highway 33 about halfway between Perkins and Tulsa when I suddenly stopped the car and turned around. Carol asked, “What are you doing?”

Pulling onto the shoulder on the north side of the road, I said, “Look.”

Carol incredulously exclaimed, “Oh no, a fire!”

I was already calling 9-1-1. When the operator asked about my specific location, I said, “I am on Oklahoma highway 33, east of the intersection of highway 48; but I don’t know how far.”

The operator said, “No problem: we’ve got you pegged. Stay there; a truck will be on the way.”

When Carol asked how they knew where we were, I said, “GPS on my cell phone.” (That’s another story.)

Fires generate their own weather-patterns and can produce fierce winds. That becomes a major factor in the growth of wild fires, and is why they need to be spotted and put out early. In the past several years, fires had ravaged that portion of the state.

It was after 10:00 pm, dark, and we had nothing with which to douse the fire; so we were merely a landmark, waiting for someone who could extinguish the growing blaze. About six minutes later, a fire-truck pulled up in back of us. The driver said, “Thank you for calling it in, and thank you for waiting for us. You are free to go now.” That was a hint to get out of his way.

Carol and I didn’t have the ability to quench the fire, but we were available to contact those who could do the job.

Ability versus availability.

Another time, in the summer in 1976 in the heat of the day, Carol, the kids, and I were heading south on Arizona highway 89. We were almost to the little town of Congress when we saw a small brushfire beside the road. We surmised that the fire was caused by a foolish person throwing a cigarette out the window. It was hot, and a lot of dried vegetation (fuel for the fire) covered the country-side.

Cell phones were not invented until the mid-1980s, and I didn’t have one until the mid-90s. With no way to call for help, 6-year-old Ron, 4-year-old Jeremy, and I used a cardboard box, dirt, and our 5-gallon container of water to extinguish the small-but-growing blaze. In that situation, we were available and had the ability to complete the task.

What is the common denominator in those two events? Availability.

Without our presence and alertness in each of those situations, both fires might have caused great physical damage and possible bodily harm.

No, I’m not bragging; merely explaining the concept of availability. The idea is: no matter what you know or what you think you know, your knowledge cannot benefit anyone unless you are available to apply it.

“Available” means: Present and ready for use; at hand; accessible.

What about you? Are you available to mankind and to God? Although an unlikely candidate, Abraham Lincoln was available. God, Himself, doesn’t need our skills and abilities, but He does give us the privilege of exercising our gifts and abilities—what He gave us or enabled us to learn—to fulfill our portion of His plan: thus, growing His kingdom and helping mankind. You may be a computer technician, auto mechanic, writer, pastor, secretary, lawyer, politician, policeman, or fireman. Whatever your vocation, God calls each of us to work as though He (God) is our supervisor. He then helps us to be alert to situations, such as the fires, and directs us as to our part in putting them out.

Psalm 147:10-11 says, “His pleasure is not in strong horses, nor his delight in brave soldiers; but he takes pleasure in those who honor him, in those who trust in his constant love” (GNT).

The psalmist tells us that God does not rejoice in our strength and ability, but He finds pleasure in our attitude. Are we available to Him and mankind, or are we stuck on our own desires? It is our attitude that determines whether or not we are available.

I am not inferring that you need to accept every offer that comes your way. You need to pray about all that. But we can take a hint from Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan. Are you available to help? Are you available to put out various “fires” (physical, emotional, relational, etc.) that you encounter?

Pray about it. It is great to be part of God’s team.

Seeing Things Differently

Dandelions! Disgracing the yard. I want grass to mow, not weeds to grow!

One day when I got home from work back in New Mexico, I found the yard blanketed with yellow flowers that would soon be replaced by round, geodesic white puff balls that easily break apart.

To eradicate the pest from the yard, we need to kill the entire plant. If we don’t kill the taproot, the plant will grow back; so something like Ortho Weed-B-Gone, or Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed is needed.

When we were kids in Southern California, we picked dandelions and had a grand time blowing them to pieces and watching them waft away in the breeze. We were cooperating with nature by seeding the countryside, but we didn’t know we were irritating the neighbors by seeding their yards with these vicious weeds.

And now we watch our grandkids do the same thing; but we watch with mixed emotions. It’s great watching the kids having fun, but we also know we are involved in spreading the dandelion scourge.

But wait a minute. What’s so bad about these beautiful yellow-then white geodesic weeds? And are they really weeds? Do they really disgrace the yard? After that day on our half-acre up at 7,834 feet altitude, I gained a different perspective of these beautiful specimens of life.

Some folk believe the dandelion evolved about 30 million years ago in Eurasia. But no one but God, and possibly some angels, existed that far back; so how would they know. God didn’t tell anyone. The angels probably didn’t, either.

For several days, we saw the sea of yellow flowers open in the morning when sunlight hit them, and close in the shade of the evening—much like the Morning Glory, Gazania Daisy, the California Poppy, and others.

Some theorize that these type flowers close up at night to save their nectar from nighttime plant-eating thieves. Others think that these plants close up to protect themselves from nighttime chill. Who knows? Either way, we enjoyed seeing a yard of green turn to a blazing bright yellow every morning.

Dandelion—a French word—literally means “tooth of lion” or “lion’s tooth”. (I don’t know why it was given that name.) Dandelions are officially known as Taraxacum officinale; and maybe—just maybe—we shouldn’t call them weeds. I won’t itemize all the ailments they have allegedly cured because some of it is hearsay and part is doubtful folklore. But this prolific bit of vegetation does provide benefits.

In addition to preventing soil erosion, they are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, B, C, and D, and iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, and some detoxifiers, are available right in your yard. Yes, they are edible both raw and cooked. It is best to harvest them before they blossom; but be sure to get them before the white geodesic puff-balls make their grand appearance.

Dandelion tea is an inexpensive diuretic. As a diuretic (it also aids in pancreatic operation), the tea can aid diabetics and those with urinary disorders. Containing antioxidants, dandelions could be useful in reducing free radicals in the body, which, in turn, could reduce the risk of cancer. Dandelions, like celery, are beneficial regarding intestinal health.

The greatest benefit comes from eating the dandelion greens raw. If you do cook them, drink the juice to retrieve what you just cooked out.

I suppose I should add a note of caution. Diabetics who are taking blood-sugar modulators might stay away from eating dandelions; it could result in hypoglycemia. Also, many folks might be allergic to the plant. So, do your research related to your own health status.

But this whole concept (eradicating dandelions) reminds me of many who want to stay away from Jesus and His church. They think “church” or the Christian religion will hinder their lifestyle; and they want to eradicate Christ from their life.

They don’t understand that, as the dandelion has healing properties that can benefit their physical health, on a much higher plane Jesus Christ has made available benefits that will aid us both physically and spiritually; both in this human life, and forever.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Our lives began at conception; but we will live forever somewhere.

Where will you spend eternity? Jesus is truly God, and He gave His life to save you from an eternity of desolation. Don’t eradicate Him from your life. Study the Bible. Live for Jesus. Enjoy eternity with Christ. His benefits are—quite literally—out of this world.

Fort Sumter

Dad was a chaplain in the US Navy and we moved around somewhat. So in my four years of high school, I attended four different schools: two in Southern California, the third near Boston, and I graduated in Charleston, South Carolina in 1964.

In April of 2016, the USS Yorktown, CV-5 Survivor’s Reunion was held in Charleston, and I was chaplain for the group. One day, Carol and I drove over to James Island to locate the house my parents rented and the high school I attended. This was the first time I had returned to the Charleston area since May of 1964, but I located both house and school without a hitch. They hadn’t moved.

Memories flooded my mind, and I verbally relived many of them while Carol listened. (I met Carol in Southern California in late August of 1964.) When my parents lived in the Charleston area, we didn’t visit Fort Sumter which is situated in Charleston Bay. Perhaps that was because renovations, beginning in 1961, had not been completed. But now I was looking forward to visiting the fort.

Fort Sumter was named after General Thomas Sumter – a hero in the Revolutionary War. Built primarily by slave labor, construction of the fort was started in 1829 but was still incomplete in 1861 when the War Between the States began.

There are several names for that war, and each name reflects the feelings of various groups through history. A well-accepted name is The War Between the States. Many northern folk called it The War of the Rebellion, while many Southerners called it The War of Northern Aggression. Some Europeans called it The War of Secession, but the common name here in modern America is the American Civil War. But as Colonel Butch Quick said, “There was nothing civil about it!” Well over 625,000 Americans died in that hellish conflict.

Many believe that the war was not primarily about slavery. As an example: South Carolina’s General James Longstreet is quoted as saying, “We should have freed the slaves, THEN fired on Fort Sumter.”

Understanding that South Carolina was thinking about seceding from the brand-new Union as early as 1827, Fort Sumter was not built to keep South Carolina in line; the fort was one of a series of fortresses built along our eastern coastline to protect our major ports from potential European aggression.

Our tour boat backed away from the wharf and sailed around the bow of the USS Yorktown, CV-10, that was docked nearby. The Yorktown (built to replace the USS Yorktown, CV-5 that sunk in the Battle of Midway in June of 1942) was commissioned in 1943 and is huge; but with its flight deck looming 50 feet above our heads, it looked enormous.

A twenty-minute cruise toward the Atlantic Ocean, Fort Sumter looked small with walls currently about 15 feet high. However, seventy thousand tons of New England granite had originally been imported to build the 5-sided Fort Sumter on the harbor sandbar; and the walls in 1861 were 5 feet thick and 50 feet high. It was designed to house 650 men with 135 canons.

South Carolina had officially withdrawn from the fledgling United States of America, and Confederate Brigadier General Beauregard ordered Union Major Robert Anderson to surrender Fort Sumter. When Anderson refused, the Confederate forces began firing on April 12, 1861.

The fort was built to withstand a naval assault using small, ship-mounted guns, but it could not long endure the massive bombardment from the shore-based gun batteries. Even though there were no casualties during the 36-hour bombardment, Major Anderson finally realized that the situation was hopeless.

Therefore, to save the lives of his men, Major Anderson raised a white flag. Deciding not to capture the Union forces, General Beauregard provided a boat and personnel to take the Union soldiers to a Union ship waiting off shore. Note: two years later in the heat of the war, on September 8, 1863, Union naval forces, using larger guns, attempted to regain control, but failed. Again, the fort was severely damaged.

Ninety-eight years later, South Carolina and the US Government agreed to restore Fort Sumter and make it a National Monument with a Visitor Education Center. This was being completed as I graduated from high school just across the harbor on James Island.

Fifty-two years later, I returned with Carol and the USS Yorktown CV-5 Survivor’s group, and finally had the privilege of touring the fort. I was impressed with the history and the restoration. If you have the opportunity, I would encourage you to visit Fort Sumter.