I Was Laid Off

Last week I talked about trust. This blog shows how trust and faith in God helps us.

In September of 1980, Rockwell, International in Tulsa hired me as an aerospace journeyman tool & die maker. I had previously worked for Boeing Aircraft Company as a toolmaker, so I knew the job. Boeing’s new plane was the 757, and Rockwell was building major portions of the fuselage.

But in the fall of 1983, we were finishing our portion and layoffs were announced. As four toolmakers were being laid off each week, my friends worried about me because we had young children to feed. I began worrying, too; but I finally prayed about it.

My prayer was simple, “Lord, what am I going to do?”; and I heard in my mind or spirit, “You’ll be here for at least three more years.”

I’ve never heard God speak audibly, and I don’t expect to in this life. But that was a direct answer to prayer. Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

The next day my friends began helping me worry again, but I told them, “Don’t be concerned about me. I’ll be here at least three more years.” That set their hives a-buzzing! But I didn’t tell them how I knew.

Two weeks later, the supervisor announced that eight of us would be laid off the following Friday – and I was included.

That’s when the Lord prompted me to tell them how I knew; and I was surprised at the mockery I received that entire week. Even my Christian friends thought I was nuts. In front of the workers, the supervisor told me, “Gene, you will be laid off. Don’t make things up.” Giving me my pink slip, he was, however, intrigued at my calm demeanor and my confidence.

On Thursday, the day before my layoff, we were told to clean out our toolboxes, and Friday would be a “free day” – show up but do no work. I told him I wanted to continue working through Friday evening and clean my box out on Monday. Shaking his head, the supervisor agreed.

Friday morning, the supervisor called us to a group meeting. When he publicly asked me if I was ready to be laid off, I told him I wasn’t leaving. He asked me if was sure about it, and I said “Yes.” One of the workers asked if I thought I really heard from God, and I said, “Yes.” Many of them snickered or made derogatory comments.

The boss said, “You with pink slips, step forward and hold them up.” We did. He then looked directly at me and said, “Ten minutes ago, I received a notice from the main office. Tear those slips up. Your layoffs are cancelled, and we are bringing eight others back.”

THAT set their hives a-buzzing!

They gathered around me and wanted to know more. I had a great opportunity to tell them about Jesus and how He leads us … if we listen. For some reason, they all held me in much higher esteem.

What they didn’t know was, this was God’s story, not mine.

The next year I was promoted into management, and had my own crew building portions of the B1-B bomber. But several years later, our contract was winding down and I was given the option of either being laid off within the month or becoming a toolmaker again – then being laid off. That’s a “no-brainer”: be a toolmaker – it’s a paycheck.

 Four months later, when word came that layoffs for the toolmakers were on the horizon, my friends asked me if I was going to be laid off. I said I would pray about it.

Three days later I told them, “I have heard nothing from the Lord. Therefore, I can only assume that I will be laid off.”

That sent shudders down their spines, because that meant they would be laid off, too. A month later, I cleaned out my toolbox. But, believe-it-or-not, I was hired within two weeks by McDonnel-Douglas in Saint Louis, MO.

From the time I heard “You’ll be here for at least three more years” to my eventual layoff, almost four years had passed.

Not only did that episode teach my friends about praying and listening to the Lord, it increased my own faith in Jesus Christ. And that’s what the Lord wants from all of us: learn to pray and listen. If we do, our history will become His Story.

I can only encourage you to pray and ask the Lord for guidance. He can help you through any and every problem.

The Disappearing Light Beam

I’m sure many of you have seen a cat chase things. Butterflies, moths, mice, strings, almost anything that is small that moves. Kittens and cats do that, and I call that one of the many “cat antics.”

Our daughter had my laser pointer and was playing with her cat – Tiggy. Tig was in her 4-wheel-drive mode with all claws extended to get traction so she could make split-second turns on the carpet. Rebecca finally allowed Tig to “catch” the light beam. But you should have seen the perplexed look on the cat’s face when she lifted her paw only to find that the “bug” had escaped. After looking around for a minute, she walked away.

But our dog, Tyke, had been watching. He knew better than to interrupt the cat because Tig was older and had seniority in the family. Rebecca gave me the laser pointer because I had a different plan.

I put Tyke through the same maneuvers as Rebecca put Tiggy, but with Tyke’s size and slower reactions, I went slower. The dog tired out quicker than the cat and Tyke finally just laid down on the carpet. That’s when I employed my second thought.

I moved the light beam slowly just out of Tyke’s reach as the critter watched. I gave jerky movements with the light and Tyke’s head jerked each time. Then I did it. I ran the beam up and touched his paw.

You should have seen it! Tyke yelped and jumped off that carpet as though a big rock dropped on his foot. Then he looked at me, back at the light beam, slowly went up to sniff it, but I turned it off before he got to it. He looked back at me, then, using his natural sniffer, tried to find it. He never did.

Tiggy’s and Tyke’s perceptions were that the light beam was a solid object, and they reacted according to their perception of reality. Do you know that people do the same thing?

Years ago, I read of a professional basketball player who playfully pointed his gun at a friend. Sincerely believing the gun was not loaded, he acted on his perception of reality and pulled the trigger. When the resounding explosion subsided and the smoke cleared, his friend was dead.

Perceptions can be beneficial, a diversion, or a devastating error, and we must always get a reality check before we make a decision. I understand it’s quite difficult to give Tiggy and Tyke a reality check, but we can help people. Let’s look at two concepts.

Financial security. There’s nothing wrong with gaining financial stability. We are wise to plan for the future, including for retirement. But throughout history, money has disappeared like that light under my pine tree. Stock markets around the world have crashed. Expenses due to sickness have soaked up saving accounts. Casinos have gladly emptied people’s bank accounts. You can think up many other scenarios.

Millions of entrepreneurs have created companies that have given financial blessings to countless millions of people around the world. A great many business owners became prosperous and retired with an abundance of wealth. But many businesses fail. The average failure rate is 20% within the first year, and up to 50% within five years. Like the light the critters chased, businesses disappear.

Tree branches. I cut several branches off the trees in our back yard. When the grand kids saw them two weeks later, the younger one exclaimed, “Grandpa, the branches are still alive. We could plant them and make some new trees.” I explained that the needles on pine tree branches will stay green for almost a month after it was cut off the tree. The branches look alive, but they’re really dead. Appearances are deceiving.

Financial security and business ownership are wonderful, and grants freedom from worry.

But when our blessings disappear, when our securities vanish, when our health turns sour, when our lives become unstable, when a lot of what we perceive to be real dissipates, what should we do?

For those of us who have a dynamic relationship with God and have been trusting Him for our REAL security, the disappearing lights are disappointments but are not personally destructive. Our faith is not in temporal things that can vanish, but in Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 13:5, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

And He won’t. Therefore, get to know Jesus and put your trust and your faith in Him. He is no disappearing light beam. He is Alive!

Whom Do You Trust?

What in the world is “trust”? Can “trust” be qualified? What I am getting at is… oh, let’s start over. Let’s define the word.

Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. It is confidence placed in a person or thing. It is dependence on someone or something. Can a person live without ever trusting someone or something? Think about it.

Next: can “trust” be qualified? That is, can you partially trust someone? Or is it an all-or-nothing concept?

When I was three years old, we lived in El Cajon, California. My dad put me on the top bunkbed, and said, “I want you to jump to me.” (Yes, the lights were on.) But I was afraid of falling, so I told dad I didn’t want to jump. Dad promised me that there was absolutely no way I could fall, because even if I jumped awkwardly, or inadvertently fell off the bed, he would still catch me.

I don’t know if you understand the fear of falling, but I was almost scared to death! I was emotionally paralyzed. But dad said very gently, “Eugene, if you can’t trust me, how will you ever learn to trust God?” You see, the proof or result of trust is obedience.

 Well that made sense – even to a 5-year-old.

So I suddenly leapt off the bed and hit dad in the chest with my 35 pounds and nearly knocked him over. Dad caught his balance and asked, “Why didn’t you warn me you were going to jump?” I responded, “You said you would catch me.” Dad chuckled, hugged me, and said, “Good job.”

Dad taught me about trust. Dad taught me a lot about life.

Did I fully trust dad, or did I partially trust him? If we consider my fear, we might say I partly trusted him. But if we consider my obedience, we say I absolutely trusted him. Obedience verifies trust.

What was it dad said? “Eugene, if you can’t trust me, how will you ever learn to trust God?”

As I grew older, I learned to trust God with my entire life.

How would my faith in God have been affected if dad dropped me? That’s hard to say because dad caught me. However, Dad most likely would have picked me up, apologized profusely to mom (who was watching), and tenderly talked to me about what went wrong. And because of that, I think I would still have learned to trust God.

Since I left my parents’ home, I’ve experienced many situations where I could have forfeited my faith and lost trust in God. But I am reminded of John 6:65-68. Many of Jesus’ disciples left Jesus, and Jesus asked if the twelve would also leave. “Peter responded, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Job was one of the richest men in the world, and he lost everything. He lost his children, livestock, respect, and admiration of friends and business associates. He was accused of being a terrible sinner.

But in spite of all of that, Job never lost his faith in God. He wanted to talk with God face-to-face and defend himself, but he never lost his faith. Job 13:15a says, “Though he [God] slay me, yet will I trust in him.” In chapter 19 verse 25, Job proclaims, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will eventually come to the earth.” And God, in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, did come to earth to redeem us.

Human mistakes and misfortunes should not deter us from trusting God. Jesus said if we love him, we will obey him. And Obedience is a manifestation of trust.

So, whom do you trust?

Lesson from the Flock: Wisdom

Chickens are curious creatures: they want to get into everything, fly over anything their limited flight ability will allow, and go where no chicken has gone before. But while they will run from a person who is trying to catch them, and run from another animal coming at them, their little minds cannot understand the inherent danger involved in leaving the protection established by their keeper.

The birds in our flock cluck their way around the yard as they scratch for bugs, hop onto the trailer, crawl under the BBQ grill, and fly up to look into our windows. But what got my attention was when I found three hens sitting atop the gate of our chain-link fence. Obviously, their wings are getting stronger. (This took place a week before we were given Elona – the fourth pullet.)

“You might need to clip their wings” Carol prophetically intoned. I shouldn’t have been surprised the next day when I went out to feed them, but found only Fred – the rooster.

Oh, I forgot to mention the names of the pullets. The bird with thin white feathers along her neck is Whitey. The one with a dark red neck on top a lighter colored body is Red-Head. The even-colored bird is Goldie. And, as I said, the rooster is Fred. (Don’t ask – I don’t know why.)

As I said, the three girls were gone. Carol reminded me that, when I found them, not to attempt to chase them back into the yard because with their non-rational reactions they will scatter like cockroaches – creating a ruckus in the process.

I found them in the neighbor’s front yard and called them. Getting their attention, I dropped grain – which they dearly love – behind me as I walked toward the gate. Carol was right. When they saw the grain falling from my hand, they ran to me and willingly gobbled the grain as they followed me home. The situation reminded me of the Pied Piper, but my motives were good.

The four birds have a quarter-acre to roam, eat, run, fly, scratch, lay eggs, fuss with each other, eat more, cluck to their heart’s content, and enjoy life. So why do they spend an inordinate amount of time at the gate looking out? Within the yard, they have all they will ever need. They are safe from all kinds of predators … and cars. Yet with their half-inch-long brain, there is no way they can understand the dangers outside the fold. Neither safety nor danger enters their little minds, so they roam wherever they feel like it at the moment.

Surprisingly, I know some people who act in the same irresponsible manner – and they have a three-pound brain. So, the problem doesn’t lie in the size of our brain, or even with the ability to rationalize; but with wisdom and understanding.

Wisdom can be defined in many ways. One definition is: the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience and knowledge. Another definition is: the ability to apply what I have learned to life’s situations. Some folk say wisdom is common sense. Properly understood, I agree.

But wisdom depends on something else. Proverbs 9:10 (KJV) says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” The NCV says, “Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord, and understanding begins with knowing the Holy One.”

As the space shuttle needs a base from which to launch, and as a building needs a solid footing, wisdom needs a firm foundation. So Proverbs 9:10 informs us that knowing, respecting, revering, and obeying God is the foundation upon which wisdom is built. The emphasis is on obedience. Sacrifice was the highest form of worship in the Old Testament, but I Samuel 15:22 tells us that obedience is far better than sacrifice.

God gave humans our three-pound brain to operate our bodies. Within that brain, our mind thinks, analyzes, and ponders; but wisdom goes beyond that.

Wisdom enables us to see through problematic situations; to understand and heal wounded relationships; to formulate a plan of action. Wisdom enables us to avoid hurting others and helps us to understand and love more completely. Wisdom enables us to accomplish our God-given goals. Wisdom helps us to understand Who God, what He desires of us, and to obey Him. As we remain obedient to the Lord, He grants us wisdom to understand and enjoy life.

The chickens finally learned to stay home. In like manner, we need stay close to God.

The Sparrow Hawk

Some years ago Tom and Shirley Whittlesey were visiting us in the hills of Northern New Mexico. Our house was situated on a half-acre with 78 pine trees throughout the yard, and eight acres of meadow and forest were next door. We were at 7,830 feet altitude and it was a cool autumn day with no clouds in the blue sky. A light breeze was blowing which caused the pine trees to gently sway, polka-doting the ground as they dropped their pine cones. As we sat on our deck, Carol brought out iced tea and sandwiches as we discussed whatever came to our minds. We’ve known the Whittleseys–who now live in Tulsa–since October of 1970, and they are life-long friends. Correction: they are eternity-long friends.

Suddenly, we were startled by what sounded like a baseball bat whacking a ball, but no one was within a mile of us. We wheeled around to see what had happened. About fifty feet into the meadow, we saw a flurry of feathers floating downward and a small bird hit the ground. A hawk with a red tail zipped down to where the bird had fallen. It picked up a lifeless sparrow with its needle-sharp talons and flew away.

We all chuckled when Tom said, “That’s the first time I saw a sparrow hawk catch breakfast on the wing.”

I had heard of sparrow hawks for decades but never knew much about them, and I certainly had never seen one in action! This was particularly interesting because killing its prey by impact is not its normal way of catching breakfast.

The sparrow hawk is an American kestrel in the Falco sparverius group. The word “falcon” means hawk. The early ornithologists thought these raptors fed primarily on sparrows, therefore the nickname of sparrow hawk. By the way, the term “raptor” is derived from the Latin word “rapere” which means “to seize or take by force.”

The Bald Eagle is America’s most famous raptor, and is also called a sea eagle because in the wild it feeds mainly on fish.

All raptors, hawks, eagles, vultures, or any other term that may apply, are opportunistic birds of prey. That is, except for the vulture, those birds are characterized by keen vision. While flying, they can detect prey more than a mile away. Vultures, including the California Condor, depend mainly on their sense of smell to locate food. Many hawks can spot a tiny mouse from more than a mile away. Or in the case of fishers, the birds have polaroid vision and can spot fish below the surface of the water even through the reflection of the sunlight on the water.

In Pagosa Springs, Colorado, I saw a Bald Eagle swoop down and grab a fish, but was almost pulled under water. After a brief struggle, it managed to lift off with a sixteen-inch rainbow trout in its iron grasp. Struggling to gain altitude, it managed to fly a hundred yards to a tree. Then, after resting for a few minutes, while almost dropping its catch, it finally began eating its fresh trout dinner.

These birds survive by stealth. Out of sight of their prey, they sit on a tree limb, glide on updrafts, or hover on their own power until they see dinner appear. Then depending on the bird, they dive anywhere from 45 to over 200 mph to grab their hapless victim. And once the victim is in the grasp of the talons, it is normally the end of the line for it.

Do you know that humans are often trapped like that?

Throughout human history, devious people have waited patiently for their hapless victims to come along, then they pounce on them using various kinds of weapons. These evil people want our money, our property, our identification, and our reputation. They use scams, casinos, pyramid schemes, loan shark offices, guns, online threats, and even steal information at ATM machines. Concerning casinos, one man said that as long as you’re willing to expose yourself to the money-losing game, the casino operators need only sit back and wait. And with increasing availability of casinos across the U.S., they don’t need to wait long.

You may have worked hard to acquire your financial status, but human vultures or hawks want your hard-earned cash. If you’re intelligent, you’ll remain vigilant and stay out of their grasp, and you’ll stay out of the casinos. Psalm 111:10 says, “Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.”

So honor God in all you do, and use Godly wisdom to avoid the sparrow hawks who are after you.

Peace in the Storm

Our daughter, Rebecca, called and said, “You need to hear this! You will laugh your socks off!” And she proceeded to relate the following scenario.

Adjacent to their driveway is a chain-link fence covered with vines. Birds annually build nests in the intertwining tendrils because they know they are safe in the leafy maze. Our granddaughters play all around the yard, including near the vines, but the birds know the girls are not a threat to the eggs and fledglings.

But there are historic menaces that lurk nearby – cats! So the parent birds are always diligently on the lookout for approaching prowlers to prevent them from invading the nest and having breakfast. Rebecca’s cat is named Lilly.

Lilly had eaten her Meow Mix breakfast, walked around the house, and sat down on the driveway near the fence. It was a warm sunny day with a light breeze, and Lilly was apparently enjoying life.

Suddenly, the parent bird came swooping out of the sky and feinted an attack on the seeming intruder! Lilly just sat there, didn’t budge or even flinch at the furious frenzied flyer, but continued gazing across the lawn.

After the scare tactics of pretending to dive bomb the cat didn’t produce the desired result, the bird flew up five or six feet then actually dive-bombed Lilly! After enduring the physical assaults several times, Lilly glanced over her shoulder, stood up and sauntered a few steps, then sat back down and steadfastly resumed her peaceful outlook on life. Lilly seemed to know that the three-ounce aviator wasn’t a real problem. I suppose the bird finally also realized that Lilly wasn’t a problem, and flew away.

After a minute or so when the cat stood up and ambled away, Rebecca said, “I have to call dad!” We shared a hearty laugh.

I told her that reminds me of Taffy – my 18-pound Maine Coon cat years ago – and the golden retrievers next door when we lived in New Mexico. Although separated by a five-foot chain-link fence, the retrievers wanted to kill Taffy and always “barked their heads off” every time they saw him.

One day I could hardly believe my eyes. I was harvesting beets from the garden when the pooches began barking – again. The fence began rattling and the barking became more agitated, so I looked up.

Taffy was walking directly toward them with eyes locked onto theirs. The retrievers were trying to push through the fence; the hair on their neck and back was standing straight up as they made all the noise their vocal chords could muster!

In the midst of the pandemonium, Taff walked directly toward the would-be killers to within two feet of the fence and made the customary 3-circle rotation. Amidst the cacophony, he then proceeded to lie down – and with head resting on paw, resumed looking directly at the barking dogs. The cat then very slowly opened his mouth and released one long disdaining HISS!

The dogs lost their minds! But Taff’s ears weren’t even laid back, for he was at peace in the midst of the storm.

Why didn’t Taffy and Lilly run for protection? How did Taff endure severe mental and audible abuse, and how did Lilly endure mental and physical abuse?

They both knew they were safe. That got me to thinking about the storms humans face.

A debilitating sickness and a diagnosis of a terminal disease are major storms. Loss of a job, a divorce, death of a close friend or family member, and personal rejection are storms.

Note: in order to keep our storms in perspective, remember that every day people around the world are being murdered because of their faith.

So, what storm are you facing right now?

Yes, these storms are real for the person in midst of them, but we don’t have to “lose our minds” or lose emotional stability. We also need to remember that we cannot face them alone. We need help. Friends and family are the primary human support system, but a deep, enduring faith in Jesus Christ and dependence on Him is our main support and protection.

We should not fear death, for it is the door to heaven for a Christian. And in the midst of the storm remember what Hebrews 13:5b says, “I [Jesus] will never leave you nor forsake you.” We need to trust Him. No matter the storm you are facing, you will not be overcome if you lock your eyes – your faith – onto Jesus Christ.

Does God Decree Everything That Happens?

This topic has been a major debate among theologians, and is based on a religious philosophy that predates Christianity by several hundred years. That belief, which had been picked up by a portion of the Church, wrongly teaches that God engineers and approves everything that happens – including theft, murder, and rape.

Some folk refer to that belief as Calvinism, but that is short-sighted because John Calvin got it from St. Augustine, but it doesn’t stop there. Here is a brief history lesson. Please understand that this is an ongoing debate among theologians, and it won’t end with this writing. But I will, nevertheless, shed some historical light on the subject.

Augustine’s mother (Monica) was a Christian, but Augustine immersed himself in immorality and pagan religions. One of the religious philosophies that he used to condone his lifestyle was belief in the goddesses called, in modern English, The Fates.

The Fates, or The Moirae, were supposedly goddesses who assigned to everyone at birth his or her personal destiny in every matter of life. 

The three main goddesses were: Klotho (spinner), who spins the thread of life for the person; Lakhesis (apportioner of lots), who measures the length of the thread; and Atropos (she who cannot be turned), who actually cuts the thread of life. At birth, the Fates supposedly predetermined the entire life of the individual. That included everything the person thought, did, said, what happened to him, what was done to him, or what was said about him. This concept gave Augustine the freedom to live a debauched lifestyle, because he figured the gods predestined him to live this way.

Augustine eventually returned to his Christian upbringing, but he created a Christianized version of the belief. Some call it fatalism. That is, we cannot change what has been predestined for us. And he misapplied Romans 8:29 to support him. It says, “For whom he [God] did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son.” The emphasis was meant to be on foreknow, but Calvin put it on predestinate. Paul wasn’t talking about God choosing whom He will save. Instead, he is talking about God’s omniscience – the fact that God knows everything, including who will eventually ask the Lord to forgive him or her and allow them into the Kingdom of God.

However, according to Augustine, based on the Fates, some people have been predestined to go to hell no matter their lifestyle (good or bad), while others have been predestined to go to heaven – again, with either good or bad lifestyle. He believed our lifestyle and decisions about serving God do not change our fate or our destiny. God decided for us.

The Church carried that erroneous belief through the centuries and John Calvin picked it up. In the Reformation, Calvin broke with the Church but brought this concept with him. Developing his theology, Calvin produced an acronym called TULIP, and you can look it up on the internet.

Calvin formalized his doctrine and wrote The Institutes of the Cristian Religion. His view of predestination is in book 3 chapter 21 titled, “Of The Eternal Election, By Which God Has Predestinated Some To Salvation, And Others To Destruction.” Some call this hyper-Calvinism. It is not Biblical because there are many verses in the Bible that prove God wants everyone to turn from a life of sin. God wants everyone to live a good life and go to heaven.

In attempting to prove God’s ultimate and total sovereignty (which is Biblical), Calvin taught that God planned for Lucifer in heaven to rebel (which is anti-Biblical). The concept goes against Scripture and against the nature of God. Scripture emphasizes over and again that God is love, and loves all mankind. That’s why Jesus came to earth to rescue us from destruction.

Believing that nothing happens unless God specifically ordains it impugns God’s integrity. Here are several examples.

In Genesis 3, God told Adam NOT to partake of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. But Adam disobeyed. Therefore, Calvin taught that God both planned and ordained the disobedience. That would make God flaky, capricious, the and unstable; therefore, untrustworthy.

God planning and approving every single thing that ever could happen in the world, as Augustine picked up from Grecian mythology and Calvin taught, would mean that God plans and approves the abduction of little children. It also means that God plans and approves of the people who rape and brutally murder the children. It means that God makes sure that it happens. Where is the love of God in this evil work?

God planning and approving everything that happens in the world means God is the author, instigator, and approver of all the heinous evil and brutality the world has ever experienced. And this is supposedly all for the glory of God.

PICT0217Friends, that is not the God of the Bible.

God is omniscient, so He KNOWS what will happen. But knowing it and making it happen are two entirely different concepts. And we must never forget: God is Love.

Think about this. The first commandment states, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” But many in the world do worship other gods. So is God contradicting Himself by making people worship false gods? No. We must understand the disobedient nature of man and the immutable (unchangeable) nature of Almighty God.

Is God still sovereign when evil people behead others? Of course He is, but God doesn’t ordain murder. The sixth Commandment says, “Thou shalt not commit murder.”

God is sovereign and His ultimate plan will be accomplished in spite of evil humanity who disobeys Him. But the question is: will we participate in God’s plan, or will God need to set us aside for disobeying Him?

God did not create robots to mechanically perform His every wish. That would never bring glory to God. Instead, God created both angels and humans with the ability to choose to obey and worship Him. Obedience glorifies God.

According to Scripture, our rejection of God determines our eternal punishment, but our acceptance determines our eternal rewards. (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9)

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.

I Can’t Get Lost

1951 Del Mar FairWhen I was five years old, my parents took my four sisters and me to the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, California. My paternal grandparents went with us, so Dad was not paying as close attention to me as he normally did.

We entered the east gate and the first exhibit we encountered was the reptile building. Snakes, especially big ones like the boa constrictor and anaconda, had my attention. Boas and anacondas are non-poisonous constrictors and kill their prey by squeezing them. Green anacondas grow to about 30 feet, weigh up to 550 pounds, and live about 10 years; while boas can grow to 14 feet long, weigh up to 100 pounds, and live up to 30 years. Female Boas can give birth to litters of up to 60 live babies that are two feet long.

I was spell-bound by the size of these critters and was fascinated by the way they moved, so I didn’t notice when the family walked away. Dad probably called my name and expected me to follow, but I heard nothing because of the high volume of thoughts racing around the corridors of my little mind.

At one point, a sheriff walked up to me and asked, “Son, are you lost?” Startled, I said, “I’m not lost because I know where daddy’s car is.” Because of the potential for getting lost in a crowd, dad ALWAYS made sure we knew where the car was.

When the sheriff asked me where my parents were, I looked around, and not seeing them I said, “I guess my mommy and daddy are lost.” Chuckling at the rationale of this five-year-old, the sheriff took my hand and said, “Well, let’s go and find them.”

We hadn’t walked far when I saw dad walking quickly toward us. I said, “That’s my daddy!” When the sheriff asked, “What’s his name?” I said, “Daddy.”

“Well”, he said, chuckling again, “I guess your daddy’s not lost anymore.” After explaining the situation to dad, he suggested to him “go light on the boy” and not punish me. But he also advised him to keep a tighter rein on me.

This concept of not being lost has followed me through life. It doesn’t matter where I am, I’m never lost because I always have a fixed point of reference. Whether it was daddy’s car as a child or my home as an adult, I always have a “home base.”

Oh, I might have an interesting time finding a place where I have never been – Carol calls that getting lost. But for me, “being lost” is not knowing how to get back to the house. But I don’t get lost because even without a GPS unit, I always know how to get back home and that brings comfort to my soul. I have a deep-seated security knowing where home is and how to get there.

Carol seldom drives on our trips because I enjoy driving. But one time I needed a break so she drove for several hours. When I woke, she said that she might have made a wrong turn and wanted to know what to do. I waited for a few minutes to see the next highway sign. I knew we were in Illinois, so when I saw South I-57 I said “We’re not lost. Keep going until you reach I-70 and turn west. That will take us toward Saint Louis, and that’s the direction for going home.”

When Carol and I decide to stop traveling, we know that someday we will have one last trip to make. That will be an exciting trip because we know our destination – heaven. We know how to get there – having accepted Jesus into our lives, He will take us. We know how long it will take to get there – immediately upon breathing our last here on earth. And we won’t have to pack anything because we will take nothing with us.dscn0464

Oh, at times I forget to follow Jesus closely, such as when I lingered too long at the reptile building at the fair. But when I ask the Lord to forgive me, I quickly get back on track.

Jesus, as presented in the Bible, is my fixed point of reference. Because I’ll serve Him and live for Him to the best of my ability for the rest of my life, I’ll never be lost. Have you made appropriate plans for your last trip?

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.