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.

On the Beach

Boeing 747-400“Okay – we’ve taken Sharon and Jim to the airport. What would you like to do next?” (The year was 2016.)

“What do I want to do next?” Carol responded. “It’s 5:45 in the morning. The only thing to do now is have breakfast.” She was right – as usual.

We wound our way out of Lindberg Field (the San Diego airport) without getting lost. Turning onto the Pacific Coast Highway in the dark, we headed north but missed the entry onto I-8 which would take us east up Mission Valley; but a quick u-turn took care of it. (Don’t worry: our’s was the only car on the street.)

Finally sitting at the booth in Denny’s – with Coffee! – we planned our day.

We attended the early church service where David Jeremiah is pastor. I heartily recommend visiting Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California if you have a chance. His mailing address is listed as San Diego, but the church is on the east side of El Cajon – pronounced El Cahone.

Afterwards, we headed west on I-8, north on highway 67, then west on highway 52 which took us to the town of La Jolla (La Hoya) on the coast. We decided to drive north on beautiful Scenic Highway 101 up to Oceanside.

Friends, pay attention: It’s a beautiful drive, and we enjoyed it. But if you are in a hurry, don’t do that. Highway 101 meanders through all the towns, and you can make more time on I-5 – unless it’s slow-hour. I think most folk call it “rush-hour” but believe me: there is no such thing as rushing down the freeways if they are jammed with cars. I call it slow-hour.

In the town of Carlsbad at 1:15 pm, we began looking for a place to eat and a nice place to stay. (We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary all year long.) Turning onto a side street, we found Ocean Street that looked more like an ally; but we turned north on it hoping to find our way back to 101. The street was separated from the Pacific Ocean by one row of buildings, so Ocean Street is a good name for that road.

Before turning east on Christiansen Way to return to Highway 101, Carol spotted a place called Beach Terrace Inn. “I wonder how much they charge for a night’s stay.” Translated into a man’s language, it actually means, “Find out how much it costs to stay here.” Yes, Ma’am.

THAT was a good idea!

Beach Terrace Inn, the only oceanfront hotel between Oceanside and La Jolla, was built in three stages. The first edifice was built on the beach (on the sand) and was constructed around 1960. The second stage, which includes the current lobby, was built in 1976. And the third stage, which includes breakfast – and coffee – was built in 1988.

Ryan Roark, the assistant manager, greeted me. I know there are many friendly folk up-and-down the coast and throughout the country, but Ryan is one of the best. He personally walked to my car, helped carry in our luggage, and showed us where to eat. Sure, he wants our business, but that is the first time a hotel manager ever helped me with the heavy work. As we walked, Ryan said, “Those who stay here are not guests – they are family. So you are now part of the Beach Terrace Inn Family.” Thank you, Brother Ryan.

Thomas Burke, the Guest Service Ace, stopped for ten minutes and filled us in on a lot of the history of the place. He even brought extra coffee to our room. Thank you, Thomas. These folks really know how to make people feel welcome and important – like family.

In the evening, we walked down the steps to the beach and I swam in the surf. After tiring myself out, Carol and I walked the beach looking for sand dollars.

The Inn’s advertisement (http://beachterraceinn.com/) says, “We believe size matters, so we’ve chosen to be a small hotel with big rooms rather than a big hotel with small rooms.  We’ve remained owned by the same family since the 1960’s. We believe in personality and choose to be remarkable rather than flashy.” Carol and I found that to be true.

If you find yourself in Southern California, go to Carlsbad and visit the Beach Terrace Inn on Ocean Street. You’ll be glad you did. Tell them Gene and Carol Linzey sent you.

Now, where’s the coffee?

Review of The Prodigal Son

You think you know the story in Luke 15:11-32 because you’ve heard it a hundred times? Keep reading, because this time you might be surprised. Bear with me as I put the story in a modern setting.

                          *******

A man was successful as a rancher and in his investments, and his family had everything they wanted that money could buy. He had two sons, George and Jake, both of whom secretly disrespected dad, and openly hated each other.

Disillusioned with life, one day George, the younger boy, said, “Dad, I’ve thought it over and I want nothing to do with ranching. I want to live my own life without you telling me what to do. Even though you’re not dead, give me my half of the inheritance and I’ll get out of your life!”

Wisely or not, the dad evaluated his business, sold enough stock that was equal to half his worth, and gave it to rebellious George. Jake, the older son, was ecstatic! Now everything the old man owned was his, and he would do everything he could to increase the value of the business; for he was now heir to it all!

Over the next three years, George wasted life and money on prostitutes, cars, gambling, drugs and alcohol. Now penniless, he looked for a job – anything that might provide enough money for another drug fix or bottle of booze.

Finally, rejected by all the friends his money had bought, he considered suicide. But he thought, Maybe dad will hire me to repair fences, or something. There’s enough to do on the ranch where I can stay out of his way.

He called home from the Salvation Army office. When he asked dad if he could come home, his father said, “Son, my door is open; come on home.” The Salvation Army captain took George to his house to get cleaned up. He gave him clean clothing and bought him a bus ticket.

Fourteen hours and two states later, the bus pulled into town around noon. Wondering how he would get from the station to the ranch, the boy looked out the window – and saw his dad.

As he disembarked the Greyhound bus, he said, “Dad, I’m ashamed of what I’ve done. I’ve wasted everything, and my life is a mess. Can you hire me as one of your ranch hands until I get back on my feet?”

But his father said, “Son, I’ve been waiting every day for these past three years for you to return. Everything I own is now your brother’s, but you are still my son. And as long as I am alive, my home is your home.”

When they pulled up to the big house, his mother, aunts and uncles, cousins, and neighborsDSCN0024B had a barbeque shin-dig ready; and a huge cake had been prepared that was decorated with “Welcome Home, George!”

During the party George asked his dad, “Where’s Jake?” Dad said that he was up north conducting business, and he would be home in a couple of days.

But someone in the household called Jake on his cell phone and told him that George had returned. Jake blew up!

Jake immediately called his dad and demanded, “What’s that good-for-nothing wino doing back home! I’m the one who has stayed with you and built the business. I don’t want him here living off what I’ve built!”

Dad responded, “Jake, everything I have will be yours. But George asked to be forgiven, and it is only right that we accept your brother into our home. After all, he is family.”

                           *******

You’ve been told that the story was about George who wasted half the family fortune. But George’s narrative is only the background for the real story. The parable is not about George’s rebellion, repentance, and return; it’s about Jake’s pride and rejection. George repented, but Jake refused to forgive.

You see, Jesus told the parable to the Pharisees and Sadducees who considered themselves the elite of society and heirs to the kingdom of God. The proud religious leaders thought it would lower their prestige if they forgave and accepted these repentant traitors, winos, and prostitutes into their society and into their church meetings.

But God loves everyone and gives everyone a chance to repent and turn to Him. John 3:16 says it clearly: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; and whoever believes on Him (Jesus) will not suffer eternal punishment, but will live forever with the Lord in heaven.

The moral: Pride is just as bad as living a wasted life. But anyone who truly repents, whether pastor or prostitute, haughty or humble, is accepted by the Father and welcomed into His kingdom.

Jehovah is not only a God of justice, but also a God of love and forgiveness.

Tiger – My Friend

Cats are my favorite land animal, and I talk with them. No, I am not weird. I have learned to meow like kittens and cats. I can snarl a little like them too. Let me tell you about a special cat.

He was a stray that “adopted” me when I was eleven years old. I was going through a year of depression because I was convinced that no one in the world loved me. It seemed to me that none of my nine siblings or my parents cared whether or not I was alive. Then one day, a full-grown cat announced his presence in our yard. I named him Tiger. When I asked if I could keep him, the answer was, “No.”

I begged to keep him. You see, Tiger and I had bonded within an hour of his arrival. Noting the look of anguish on my face, my parents finally consented and my spirit soared!

“But that cat cannot sleep with you; the cat will stay outside every night.” Mother was firm on the idea.

“Yes, mom; I hear you” I managed to utter. But I needed emotional comfort, so I snuck Tiger in at night anyway.

After several weeks, mom became suspicious and surprised me with a late-night visit.

“I thought I smelled a cat in here. Put him outside.”

I begged over and again to let Tiger stay with me, and mom finally relented with, “Okay. But if he messes on the floor, you will clean it up and clean the carpet.” Then she left the room.

I was sitting on the edge of the bed and Tiger was sitting on the floor looking up at me. I began verbally pouring my heart out to the critter, and – I’m not kidding – when I asked Tiger if he understood, he gently said, “Meow.” He verbally responded each time I asked if he understood.

Finally, I was ready to turn out the light. But I first cupped Tiger’s face in my hands and said, “If you have to go potty in the night, be sure to wake me up. Don’t do it on the floor. Okay?” Tiger agreed with a soft, “Meow.”

Sometime in the middle of the night, Tiger awakened me by gently rubbing my cheek with his paw. I asked, “Do you need out?” Tiger placed his fore-paws on the window sill and meowed. I opened the window and he jumped out. About ten minutes later, he reappeared outside the window. I let him in, and he said, “Mew.” I knew that meant “Thank you.” Again, I’m not joking. Tiger was my best friend.

One afternoon about eight months later, Tiger didn’t show up for dinner. Dad said, “He is probably out catting around.”

The next day, dad sent me on an errand across the 4-lane highway to buy some donuts. As I reached the median, I saw the motionless form of a dead cat. Tiger had been run over!

My emotions exploded, and I burst out crying as ran back to dad. As I sobbed uncontrollably, dad gently held me close for a while. That’s the first time in a LONG time that either dad or mom expressed love to me in a way that I could understand. After a few minutes, dad softly said, “Let’s bring Tiger home.”

Picking Tiger up with a shovel, I took him and buried him in the back yard. That was 1958, but I can still show you where I buried him.

God, in His love for me, brought Tiger to fill a void in my life. And God kept Tiger with me as long as I needed him because Tiger was God’s gift of healing to my hurting soul. But, also in His love for me, God allowed Tiger to leave when I was emotionally well enough and mature enough to re-attach with my siblings and parents. God loves us and brings into our lives special gifts at crucial times.

When you are hurting, look for God’s interaction in your life. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and don’t depend on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God, and he will guide you.” God loves you more than you know; and He uses animals, friends, and situations to help you heal.

God used Tiger to help me for a year in my childhood; but God, Himself, will help me forever.

Husband/Wife Relationships

Throughout history, there has been a general misunderstanding about the relationship between husbands and wives. Actually, the misunderstanding has been between men and women in general, but we’ll limit our talk today about the family. Looking at the concept from a different perspective, there is a major misconception about what the relationship is supposed to be. Pictured here are my grandparents.

My brother, Colonel Paul E. Linzey, Chaplain, US Army (retired), wrote an article for a US Navy group called the USS Yorktown, CV-5, Survivors’ Club; and Paul graciously allowed me to reprint his column here in its entirety. I believe it properly presents the desired husband/wife relationship.

Designed to Help

The first term in the Bible for couples is not husband, wife, spouse, partner, or mate. The first word is “Helper.” After God made man, he looked and said, “Hmmm. Something’s not good here. He needs help” (Genesis 2:18).

Our first role in the marriage is to help. But when God made the woman to be the man’s helper, it doesn’t mean she is less important. It doesn’t mean he is the main character.

Throughout the Bible, God is called our helper. In Deuteronomy 33:29, “The Lord is my shield and helper.” Psalm 10:14, “God, you are the helper to the fatherless,” and Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

We tend to think of a helper as someone who’s less important, a sidekick who is subordinate. Not the hero, but a support role. This isn’t what God had in mind when he created marriage.

“Helper” in the Bible is just the opposite. God is our helper, and he’s certainly not the sidekick. He’s the strong one. The same term is used for the first woman, with no hint that the woman is of lesser value.

In marriage, a woman represents God to her husband. Similarly, a man represents God to his wife. Each of us needs help in many ways. God is our help, but he often uses people to be his hand extended, his love expressed.

My wife is a teacher. When she moved to a new office across campus, I helped move her books, files, and other stuff. When I was yelling at my computer, my wife solved the problem and taught me a few things about the software.

We all need help. What if we started thinking about how we can be a helper? Can our words bring healing instead of pain? Can our actions invite peace instead of strife? Can our behavior encourage rather than tear down our partner?

Life is hard in many ways. We need someone to come alongside, put an arm around us, and be there for us. God invented marriage so we’d have a friend to help when the going gets tough.

I highly value Paul’s insights, and I believe he is right. Visit his web site at https://paullinzey.com for more information, and to see the books he has written.

Carol, my precious wife, is my best friend. After nearly 54 years of (mostly) wedded bliss, we still learn from, depend on, and help each other. Knowing each other, “warts & all”, we have fun. We playfully pick on and lightheartedly laugh at each other’s mistakes; and we play Scrabble every night. But we don’t mock or hurt each other. Instead, we share insights and encourage each other in our hurts, and whole-heartedly rejoice in each other’s successes and accomplishments…even when she wins at Scrabble.

Life has changed in the past hundred years. Women, wives, mothers may also be teachers, CEOs, and political leaders. Also, men often fulfill their vocational responsibilities at home. Household chores and responsibilities are now shared more equally by both husband and wife. But no matter what role they take at home or in the public arena, neither one is less or more important than the other.

The marriage relationship must be addressed and worked on every day for harmony to reign in the home. Difficulties normally surface when one or the other is not doing what God asks of him or her. But never mock or demean your spouse. Pray for each other.

What does the Lord want of you? That’s also what you should pray about and decide for your particular family. Whatever you decide, honor your spouse. A major side benefit of this is that by honoring your spouse, you honor the Lord and bring honor to yourself.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.”

As a reminder, visit Paul’s web site at https://paullinzey.com.

Same Ground – Different Results

Carol and I love nature. We both were raised “in-town”, but we thoroughly enjoy driving along the coastlines, through forests, prairies, mountains, and even deserts. There is beauty in all of nature even though some people cannot see it.

The first time Carol’s mother drove from Washington State to New Mexico, she thought New Mexico was a wasted desert. However, after living there for several years, she learned to enjoy its beauty and didn’t want to leave. New Mexico is called “The Land of Enchantment” for good reason.

But we are also farmers at heart. We enjoy planting seeds, flowers, bushes, and trees and watching them grow. In 1974 we planted a Banana-Apple tree sapling in our front yard in Los Alamos, NM. We moved to Tulsa in 1978 so we didn’t have the privilege of eating its fruit at the 5-year mark. But in 1988 we moved back to Los Alamos (not to the same house) and visited the old place. Believe-it-or-not, the tree had grown so large that it nearly overshadowed the front yard! We had done a good job in preparing the ground prior to planting it, and the underlying soil was good for the tree. The owners gladly allowed us to take as many apples as we wanted, and we belatedly enjoyed the fruit of our labors. The apples were delicious in pies, strudel, crisp – and eating raw. They were good!

Even though I understand nature and farming, something always surprises me. I plant anything that crosses my fingertips in the same dirt. I give them all the same water. I treat them all with the same care. But different things sprout out of that same dirt. Although the same environment may be used, onions, potatoes, corn, yams, cucumbers, zucchini, beets, carrots and the rest are programmed to grow at different rates, to different sizes, to look differently, and to taste differently. The same ground produces different results.

The environment is basically the same – dirt, water, air, cultivation, weeding, debugging, etc. – but with minor variations, the results can be remarkable! We fertilize the ground and adjust the nutrients and minerals to match the needs of the seeds or bulbs, and that produces a difference in the quality of the product. If I kept everything exactly the same, something would still grow; but seeds respond differently to variations in the environment.

Do you know that we plant seeds into our own minds? Day after day we watch or listen to television, radio, the theater, DVDs, CDs, etc. We listen to all kinds of music and bombard our bodies with various levels of noise. We read books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements. We listen to audio books, gossip, slander, political debates, classroom teaching, sermons. What goes into the eyes and ears enters our minds and becomes part of us. Stuff is being planted into the garden of our minds day after day, and what we fertilize grows the best. The method of “fertilizing” what is in our mind is called “meditation”; and a simple definition of meditation is: “spending time thinking about what we have seen and heard.”

Psalm 19:14 says, ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation [thoughts] of my heart [mind] be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

You should ask yourself: Is God pleased with my thoughts?

We also “plant” seeds into other people’s lives. What we say to others – whether good or bad – produces a harvest. We either help others live a higher quality, more productive life, or we stunt their growth to where they don’t live up to their God-given potential. We must assure that we make positive comments for people to meditate on.

However, don’t confuse “negative comments” with “corrective statements.” Life doesn’t consist of a “Pollyanna World” or a 100% positive environment; therefore, we should learn to make necessary corrective statements in the proper attitude. Also, we should learn to make corrective adjustments in our own attitude. This is a lifetime process and I am still working on it.

I hope you understand that our minds are fertile ground, and what we see and hear eventually produces a harvest: some good fruit and some bad. Our character may be blossoming and maturing to where we can bless God and man, or it may be stunted as a sterile tree planted in contaminated ground. Sometimes a sterile tree looks wonderful until “harvest time”. That’s when the real nature of the tree is revealed. (Read Matthew 13:25-30 about the wheat and tares.)

Friend, what’s growing in the garden of your mind? What do you meditate on?

Enjoying Time Together

It’s near the turn of the year again. Wow! Time sure seems to fly by. As Carol and I were playing Scrabble last night … before I go any further, do any of you play Scrabble? How about Yahtzee, Monopoly, Life, Pictionary, Dominoes, or Balderdash? Do any of you put puzzles together? Do you eat together as a family, or as a married couple? Or is it “each person is on his own”? Are you obsessed with getting ahead in life, fearful about the direction of the stock market, or worried about what’s going to happen in the Middle-east?

I suppose my basic question is: do you, as a family, spend time together anymore, or are you individually cocooned in your own little world, worried about life, or mesmerized with your video games, tweeting, texting, or whatever else is available these days?

Let me ask another question: if you died tonight, what would you be remembered for? Stop a minute and think about it. …….. What did you come up with? Be honest with yourself: no one is listening to your thoughts except God, but you can’t fool Him anyway. What would be your legacy?

I know men and women who left much monetary gain to their families, but that didn’t earn them any greater respect or love. I know some who were famous in the scientific and/or educational fields, but the families were distant from them. I know some who were ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but they, also, were rejected by their families.

WHY??

One reason might be hinted at by a question a reporter asked Billy Graham years ago: “Mr. Graham, if you had your life to do over, would you change anything?”

“Yes,” replied Billy Graham, “I would probably spend less time on the road and more time with my family.”

“Why is that, sir?”

Billy’s response was misunderstood by some, but hit home to my heart. He said, “The ministry will always be there, but my family won’t be.”

Did you hear it? That comes very close to what Jesus said. It was so important that it is recorded in Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, and John 12:8. When Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, at least one of the disciples was upset at her for wasting it. Judas said that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. But Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you, but I will not be here with you much longer.” Jesus was not denigrating true ministry, but He did put an emphasis on Christ-honoring relationships.

So, back to my question: what will you be remembered for? Five months after your funeral, after the will or trust has been settled, what will the family members say about you?

This is why I’ve invested much time playing with our kids as they were growing up, and why my Precious Carol and I play Scrabble and other games with each other now in our upper years. We are still investing into each other’s lives.

Yes, I preach or teach as the doors open, and as you know by reading this blog, I write a lot. But life should not consist of merely learning, earning, and accumulating stuff. The most important thing is growing in our relationship with God, then manifesting our faith in Jesus Christ by how we live with and treat others.

Our children are all adults now, and we have 36 grandkids – at last count. But I still greatly enjoy spending time with and investing my life into my Precious Carol. And she invests her life into me.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. We were playing Scrabble.

Although we are competitive, we have fun while using the game for learning. Therefore, we use the dictionary to look up words. At times we show each other where the other might get more points. You see, we figure that no matter who wins on a particular evening, we both win because we love each other and enjoy spending time with each other. And using the dictionary is increasing our vocabulary which helps us as we interact with society. Using the dictionary also helps us as we grow older.

As of this writing, Carol and I are tied at 401 games. That means we’ve played 802 games, and that’s only since I’ve been keeping record.

This coming year, learn to enjoy spending time with your family – you don’t know when your time on earth will come to an end. When you die, will you wake up in Jesus home … or somewhere else? Think about it.

Let’s honor Jesus in all that we do because we want to spend eternity with Him.

Happy New Year, friends.

Contagious Thinking

The flu is contagious. The measles, mumps, and smallpox are contagious. A large number of diseases are contagious and people are scared. Many are afraid of going shopping, going to the dentist, even afraid of going to the hospital because – well, let’s face it: that’s where folk with contagious diseases go.

Some folk are afraid of having their children vaccinated, and others are afraid of NOT having them vaccinated – both for very good reasons. And we find dispensers of hand-wipes almost everywhere to help stop the spread of the invisible, evil horde.

We go to great lengths to warn people of the latest epidemic. We talk about it on television, radio, and on all the social media. We even warn people about what MIGHT be coming around the bend, even though sometimes it doesn’t happen.

That reminds me of the counselor who told his worried patient, “90% of all the things you worry about never happen.” To which the patient replied, “Good! Now, what can I do to eliminate the other 10%?”

We need to be alert to all kinds of dangers that are lurking out there, and we need to help others because we are our brother’s keeper. But viruses and bugs are not the only disease we catch out in the public. Often the more pervasive problem is our attitudes, and they are easier to catch than the flu.

Attitudes and emotions are contagious.

I remember being in a planning meeting at a science lab, and we had a difficult obstacle to overcome. We were in a deep discussion on how to solve the problem, but the key individual, Matt, was missing due to a scheduling conflict. Each time an idea was presented, one dour experienced member of the team explained why it wouldn’t work. After about forty-five minutes, the entire team was feeling dismal because of the failure syndrome that pervaded the room. The team mindset had been poisoned because it “caught” this man’s negative attitude.

But Matt finally arrived and asked for an update. After he heard each rejected proposal, he laughed and said, “Well, I’m glad I finally got here. You have in your hands the answer to the problem.” He then happily explained how two of the proposals would work. When the dour man spoke up, Matt explained how his rebuttals didn’t apply to this situation.

This man had not been contaminated with the prevailing negative attitude, and that freed his God-given creativity to recognize the value of the ideas that had been presented.

We don’t need to be caught as creatures of our negative culture. Rather, with a positive attitude we should create an atmosphere in which others can be set free to rise to their God-given potential.

A complainer can destroy the company’s vision and torpedo the goal. Negative attitudes can undermine the morale of the team and hide or destroy the available talent and creativity. Negative emotions are destroyers of progress.

But positive attitudes and emotions are just as contagious. We don’t have to be a Pollyanna to cheer up the room, and we don’t have to have an ever-ready smile to make people happy. But we can ask the Lord to help us see past our problems and see things from God’s perspective. We create our immediate environment by what we believe, how we think, and how we act.

We have a choice as to whether we will inflict emotional and spiritual damage, or bring emotional and spiritual healing to others.

What we believe affects how we think. How we think affects how we act. How we act affects what we accomplish. It also affects how others around us think.

I believe God wants us to represent Him as much as we know how. Some years ago, my friend, Terry Langham, and I were operations officers in a scientific laboratory. The scientists and workers there thought the atmosphere was “all business.” But it felt to us somewhat gloomy. After praying about it, but without telling anyone else, we decided to change our culture.

Our phone calls and e-mails started with “Good morning.” In the calls and e-mails, we often asked what we could do for them. We stopped by people’s offices periodically to assure that we were effectively communicating with them.

After several years, the division leader told us, “You’ve changed our atmosphere. The entire division is a kinder and more cheerful place to work. Thank you.”

Our thinking and attitudes are definitely contagious. How are you affecting your community?

The Exploding Tire

While traveling along the interstate highways, you’ve you seen burned areas alongside the road. A few weeks ago in northern Oklahoma, we saw a roadside burn that covered over a square mile. Years ago a primary cause of highway fires was burning cigarettes tossed out the windows. Some drivers are still either stupid or ignorant and continue doing that; but currently fires are more often started by smoldering rubber from disintegrating truck tires. How does that happen?

IMG_2208.JPGThe interaction between the rotating tires and pavement generates a lot of friction, and friction generates heat. The faster the movement, the higher the heat. Rub your hands together and see what I mean. At 70 mph, truck tires (at an average diameter of 41 inches and inflated to 100 psi) rotate about 34,433 times each hour and can attain temperatures of 120 degrees F. This heat can raise the tire pressure to about 120 psi.

Sometimes the drivers or maintenance personnel fail to check the tires for proper inflation, and an underinflated tire will get much hotter. And if the truck is overloaded, the problem is compounded. If the heat and pressure get too high, chemical decomposition in the tire material takes place which weakens the tire structure and the resulting gasses increase the internal pressure.

Several other reasons a tire can get too hot are: excessive truck speed, very high road temperature, unequal pressures on tires mounted on double wheels, and over-heated brakes. The consequences can be dangerous; and whether the tire explodes or unravels, public safety becomes an issue.

The material from a tire that unravels and flies apart over several miles is already Semi-Truck-Tire-Blowout-300x200.jpgsmoldering. If the hot rubber lands off the road, the heat can ignite dried grass and weeds. The deteriorating tire also leaves a trail of debris on the highway which presents a safety hazard.

The other problem is when the tire ends its life in a violent explosion. The explosion and resultant shrapnel can cause serious and even fatal injuries.

Some time ago as we were heading west toward Amarillo on I-40, we were about to pass an 18-wheeler when we heard a sound that resembled an army tank firing a round. Simultaneously, a cloud of smoke and dust and a barrage of shattered tire erupted from the truck’s rear wheel-assembly.

In that event, I didn’t have time to think things through and plan my responses. Instead, I instantly reacted according to the training I had previously received. I instantly checked Isaacs-Flying-Debris-01.jpgthe rear-view mirror for traffic. No one was close. I then hit the brake and swerved across both lanes to avoid the larger pieces of tire that were hurtling through the air. Superheated rubber fragments set grass on fire and other shrapnel damaged our windshield. Having avoided the larger pieces, we received no dents in the car. It was all over in four seconds.

But the secondary problem – the grass fire – was also initiated. Have you seen signs that say “Don’t drive into smoke?” I hope you obey them because grass-fire smoke is dense and can reduce vision to less than ten feet. However, the fire was not our problem, but it did become a problem for those who came behind us.

Do you know that sometimes people have a “blow-out” in life? It may be losing a job, death of a loved one, a major health issue, drugs, alcohol, anger, or any of a hundred other things. And the “shrapnel” – some form of emotional upheaval or even pots, pans, and books flying through the air – appears to be aimed at those closest to the situation. We need to know how to avoid the shrapnel, and those who come behind need to know how to safely “drive through the smoke.” What do we do?

We need to remember that the explosion is not really meant for us, so don’t take the hit personally. But we can’t wait to “get trained” at the critical moment; we need to train ahead of time. Our primary manual for learning how to respond is the Bible, and ourBible form of response should be anchored in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Your pastor and counsellor can help, but remember Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust the Lord with all your heart, and don’t depend on your own understanding. Remember the Lord in all you do, and he will give you success.” And please read 1 Corinthians 13. There are only 13 verses in that chapter, and they give priceless advice to help us overcome interpersonal difficulties.

Let the wisdom that comes from God’s word guide you. Only then can you safely maneuver through the explosions and resulting shrapnel of life.

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.