Got Potential?

You bet you do. You were created for a unique and eternal purpose.

Got Potential? header image 1

Practice the present moment

January 7th, 2021 · No Comments

Practice the present moment

Living in purpose and living on purpose (living intentionally) is something practiced in the present moment. Far too much of our attention is spent in the past or in the future. 100% of our actions, however, are practiced in the present moment.

Traveling through a North Carolina town several years ago, I passed an old textile mill. It was made of brick. The building was huge, covering several blocks. It was the largest brick structure I had ever seen. With a little guessing and some quick calculations, I estimated that there must have been a half-million bricks in just the exterior walls.

At one time, before a single brick was laid, the mill only existed in the mind of the builder. At one time, maybe it’s already happened, the mill will be razed in the name of safety or progress, or because the town decides it needs a new strip mall. Then it will only exist in the minds of those who remember it. But the mill itself, the structure that housed industry and people’s livelihood, that supplied goods and fed families, that underwrote churches and schools, was built, brick by brick, in the present moment.

The world existed before we entered into it. It will, with any luck, exist after we leave it. Before we were born, the thought of us may have lived in the hopes and dreams of our parents. After we die, our memory may live in the minds and hearts of our children and those we served. But our lives themselves are built, brick by brick, in the present moment. This is what we control.

→ No CommentsTags: God's purpose

Begin with the End in Mind

November 26th, 2014 · No Comments

bigstock-Vintage-compass-on-paper-backg-54136208“Begin with the end in mind” – That’s another one of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. I didn’t want to steal Covey’s ‘habit’ for my title, but it’s a pretty good fit, so we’ll let it stand.

Covey asks you, gentle reader, to close your eyes and imagine that you have just walked into a funeral. He describes the décor and the lighting, the mood and the guests; then, he asks you to walk up the aisle to the casket, only to discover that, as you look down to view the ‘guest of honor’ – it’s you! This is your funeral!

Covey’s point is to imagine your life after it’s over; what would you have accomplished? What relationships would have been important? Who would be attending your funeral and what would they have to say about you? Covey’s lesson – ‘begin with the end in mind.’ Live your life today in such a way that would guarantee the kind of funeral you’d like to see when that day comes

… ooookay …

Sounds a little weird, but we get the point – whatever you do, picture the end result you wish to achieve before you begin. Covey offers the ultimate end result (to him) in his funeral scenario. It’s not a bad lesson; in fact it’s darn practical. Instead of just jumping into a project, a commitment or a job, ask yourself what the ‘final outcome’ is going to look like. If it’s what you want, keep that picture in your mind and work toward making it a reality.

Where Covey falls short, for me, is that I’m looking forward to a greater final outcome than my own funeral. I agree, ‘begin with the end in mind’ is great advice; but the ‘end’ for me isn’t death – it’s life.

For those who have been ‘born again’ into a new reality, what we’re experiencing here and now isn’t life waiting for death; it’s just the opposite – death waiting for life. “For while we are in this tent (this life on earth), we groan and are burdened because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal (already dead or dying) may be swallowed up by life (eternal life, the real final reality into which we’ve been born again). Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose.” (2 Corinthians 5:4-5)

My mission isn’t to live my life on earth in such a way as to have a great funeral; it’s to live my mortal life in such a way as to enter into real life, forever, when I finally dispose of this temporary ‘tent’ I’m wearing now. So, in light of this greater reality, how can we, as Mr. Covey recommends, ‘begin with the end in mind’?


Jesus was talking to his disciples about the end of the age and told them a parable about what the Kingdom of Heaven would be like at that time. The story is recorded in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25:14-30 and in Luke 19:12-27.

A man of noble birth was going on a long journey to another country where he was to be crowned king. Before he left he called in three of his servants to give instructions as to how his affairs should be conducted while he was gone. To the first servant he gave a substantial amount of money and told him, “Put this money to work for me until I return”. To the second servant he gave half as much as the first, with the same instructions, “Put this money to work for me until I return.” To the third he gave half as much as the second; his instructions to the third servant were the same, “Put this money to work for me until I return.”

The man was gone for a very long time, but eventually he returned. He called his three servants to him for an accounting of the money he had left them to invest on his behalf. The first servant had doubled the money given to him by his master. The second servant had also invested wisely and doubled the amount of money entrusted to him. To each of these servants, the master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” The third servant approached his master and said, “I knew you were a hard man, always expecting a profit from the work of those who serve you. So I dug a hole in the ground and hid your money fearing I might lose it if I invested poorly. But here’s your money, safe and sound, the same amount you gave me when you left.”

His master cried out, “You wicked and lazy servant! You knew I was a hard man; you knew I require a profit from all those to whom I entrust my wealth. You didn’t even put my money into a bank to earn a little interest! “Take the money from this man” he commanded, “and give it to the servant who made the most from my money. And toss this wicked, lazy servant of mine into a place where he will suffer forever.”

Wow … the master was a hard man. While he was gone (and it was a long time) his servants were living in the master’s house, eating his food, and enjoying the comforts of their employment. I’ll bet it was pretty easy for those servants to forget that they were there for a purpose; they were there to make a profit, so that when their master returned he would benefit from their work. The master had been gone such a long time, that I’ll bet it was pretty easy to let the assignment he had given them slip their minds.

But the master did return and he did require an accounting. And the third servant was correct; the master wasn’t to be taken lightly. You make him a profit and he’ll reward you richly; you squander his money and he may have you killed while he watches (Luke 19:27).

Everyone likes what happens to the first two servants in this story, but we tend to sweep the fate of the third servant under the carpet.

Fact: This parable, like all parables, is really a story about us. Our Master left for a long journey. He has invested in us and he expects a return on that investment, and there will be a day of accounting. He’s been gone a long time and, living in the Master’s house and eating his food, it’s easy for us to forget the work He has assigned us. But He does expect us to turn a profit with what we’ve been given. For those who remember that and invest their Master’s wealth wisely, magnificent things are in store. For those who squander his wealth or hide it in a hole in the ground because they’re afraid to act on behalf of their Master, a terrible fate awaits.

Covey was on the right track but, like the rest of his success philosophy, eternally speaking, he falls dismally short of the mark. ‘Begin with the end in mind’ is great advice, but don’t bother imagining your own funeral, you won’t be there anyway (remember, that body you’re wearing now is just a ‘tent’ you’ve been loaned for a short time. The real reward for a life well lived is the day your Master looks at what you’ve done to ‘turn a profit’ with what He has given you and says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)

Whatever you do today with what He has given you, remember to ‘begin with that end in mind.’

→ No CommentsTags: Site News

Obedience vs. Proactivity

June 25th, 2010 · No Comments

Management guru Stephen Covey says that being ‘proactive’ is the first of seven habits of highly effective people. According to Covey’s ridiculously popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (of course), being proactive doesn’t just mean taking initiative, it means choosing your response to what happens to you. Covey writes that most people don’t act, they re-act, based on ‘social mirrors’ (how others perceive us) or on ‘bad maps’ (how we see the world – what Covey calls paradigms). His advice is that we act based on ‘right principles’ – timeless natural laws of conscience embraced by all major world religions and belief systems throughout human history.

That’s pretty inclusive of him; how can you argue with a guy who says we ought to behave in a way that everyone, regardless of religion or culture, agrees is a good way to behave. These ‘right principles’, Covey says, are present in every world religion, every people group and every major belief system. So everybody’s right and nobody’s wrong – just act according to ‘right principles’ and you’ll be on your way to becoming one of Covey’s coveted “highly effective people.” That’s nice.

Don’t get the wrong impression – Covey’s human potential advice is probably the best the world has to offer. Over the course of my management career I’ve bought every book, tape program and time management system the man produced – so have several million other people. In a sea of success literature sewage and human potential guru whackos, Covey stands out with thoughtful, practical, workable advice on human effectiveness. Like I said, he’s probably the best the world has to offer – that’s the problem.

I don’t belong to the world and I don’t answer to every major religion, people group or belief system. I died to this world, and then I was born again. As Covey would say, my ‘paradigm’ has changed. I have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe and I do what He tells me to do. I’m not nearly as interested in being proactive and I am in being obedient.

Obedience is more than adhering to a set of ‘right principles’. Obedience is a relationship. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing …. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples …. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love …. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” (John 15:5)

God’s purpose in you has already set in motion how He expects you to behave and what He expects you to accomplish in this life. He’s written the general instructions in a Book. The two critical instructions that cover all other instructions, we discussed in the last few weeks: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

He’s also written what He wants you to do with your life (what Jesus meant by ‘bearing fruit’) on your heart and in your DNA. You don’t need to go out and ‘find’ your purpose; it’s already inside you – He’s had it planned for a long, long time. How you ‘hear’ that purpose within is by walking in relationship with Him (what Jesus meant by ‘remaining in the vine’). You walk in relationship with Him by obeying Him – doing what He tells you to do.

Outside of this relationship you can’t ‘hear’ so you can’t obey, and if you can’t obey you can’t fulfill the purpose He has planned for you. Going it on your own doesn’t work; you can’t fulfill your own purpose because it’s not your purpose – it’s His – fulfilled through you. Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing.”

The universe – from the furthest star to you and me – is held in place by God’s purpose. He’s got a reason for its (and our) existence. He says, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:10)

The amazing thing is that He incorporated my life and your life into that vast purpose He has in all creation! He actually considered you and me and how we would fit in, when he set the stars and planets in motion. Wow!

Do you know what that means? Our purpose is tied up in His purpose – there’s absolutely no way we can fail with that kind of backing. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Our purpose in life is to be a part of His purpose for the universe. That’s pretty big stuff. But how in the world do we know what to do next? That’s easy – just do what He tells us to do. And we’re only going to hear Him if we’re around Him; that’s relationship. And He’s already told us how to have a relationship with Him – obey what He tells us to do. And He’s already told us the two most important things we’re supposed to do: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we work on the big stuff first, He’ll show us the little stuff as we walk along.

Being a part of God’s purpose for the whole universe is what you and I were destined for. It’s bigger than we can imagine, but it’s not difficult. Remember this: Destiny equals obedience, obedience equals relationship, relationship equals obedience, obedience equals destiny. It’s that simple. There problem is that people are always looking for a map instead of a journey. Life is a journey. With Him you don’t need a map, just listen and obey. He’ll take you where you need to be.

→ No CommentsTags: Site News

The Definition of Success

June 11th, 2010 · No Comments

For the last two weeks I’ve been promising you twelve keys to a truly successful life; but all I’ve shared with you are two commandments from the Bible. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I also promised that this week I’d tell you what these two commandments have to do with success and why they mean more than any other belief, practice or activity you could possibly have or do to assure that your life will be a real success.

To accomplish that, the first thing we’ll need is an accurate definition of success. Imagine that sometime in your early childhood Mama showed you a rutabaga and said “apple”, and from that point forward whenever you see a rutabaga you think “apple” and whenever someone says “apple” you think rutabaga. Now when your spouse asks you to pick up apples at the grocery, you come home with a bag of rutabagas. If your definition is wrong, you may get what you’re looking for, but it won’t be apples.

Here’s the key to success: Achieving true success in your life starts with having an accurate definition of success. If you’ve got the wrong definition you may get what you’re looking for, but it won’t be success.

Success, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is defined as, “the accomplishment of what is desired or aimed at.” In other words, success is the fulfillment of that which was originally intended. For example, if I stand at the base of a mountain and my original intent is to climb to the peak, then I would be successful (I would have fulfilled my original intent) when I reached the top of the mountain.

Because we live in such a materialistic, self-guided world, our definition of success has become a very blurry thing. We’ve been fooled into believing that success has something to do with the things we possess or the amount of time we pursue leisure, or cool those who don’t know us think we are. What the world tells us is ‘success’ is a very twisted and fake imitation of the real thing.

Have you ever walked into a restaurant and seen the plastic models of cuts of meat or desserts on display? The plastic imitations are on display to demonstrate the kind of steaks or desserts the restaurant has available on the menu. Restaurants use the plastic imitations because if they put the real food on display it would soon begin to rot or go stale, so they purchase plastic imitations of real food and put them on display to give the customer an idea of what the real food looks like. The plastic imitations don’t rot like the real food but they’re not the real food, and eventually they’ll show signs of aging as well. Exposed to the display case lights day after day, the colors begins to fade and dust settles on the fake food. After a while the plastic models don’t even look like good imitations of the real thing.

That’s kind of where we are now. The world we’ve built – the world of stuff, and leisure, and distractions, and the lust for people we don’t know to see us as important or special, and calling our personal accumulation of all that stuff and leisure and false regard ‘success’ is like the faded, dusty plastic food in the display case; not only is it not the real thing, it’s not even a decent imitation of the real thing.

So what is the real thing? What is ‘success’?

Let’s go back to Webster: success is “the accomplishment of what is desired or aimed at.” So, as far as my life is concerned, I can be considered a success if I accomplish what I desire or aim at in life? Yes, that’s part of it, but not all of it. My true success in life is much bigger than me.

What Webster doesn’t share with us in his definition of success is just ‘Who’ is doing the ‘desiring or aiming’. We assume that success means accomplishing what we desire or aim at. But that’s because we don’t really know who we are or why we’re here. And if I don’t know who I am and why I’m here, how can I know that what I’m desiring or aiming at is worth accomplishing? Like the man said, “I spent my life climbing the ladder of success only to find out it was leaning against the wrong building.”

How can we know our ladder of success is leaning on the right building? By understanding who we are and why we’re. If you’re under the impression that your presence here on earth is an accident, then I can’t help you. If your existence is an accident any definition of success will be as good as the next. I’d recommend getting whatever you can to make your time here as comfortable as possible before you return to the oblivion of non-existence (generally that’s the plan most of the world is on so it should be fairly easy to find material focused on what to do before returning to the oblivion of non-existence; best of luck). If, however, you’re of the belief that your existence here was an act of creation and somewhere behind that act is a purposeful Creator, then the place to start would be asking what His ‘desire or aim’ is – as it pertains to you.

So what is your Creator’s ‘desire or aim’ in putting you on earth? That one’s easy – He wants you to live. That’s His plan; always has been. Remember the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:22)? That’s always been the plan – for us to live forever, to enjoy our time with Him forever.

God spelled it out for the Children of Israel before they entered the Promised Land. “… I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

After we threw our lives away by rejecting His purpose for us, God sent His own Son to restore that purpose. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The meaning of success just isn’t that complex. It’s ‘achieving an intended desire or aim.’ God’s purpose for us, His ‘desire or aim’ is that we should live and enjoy a relationship with Him and with each other forever. And we’ve got instructions from Him as to how to go about doing that:

“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’

He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’” (Luke 10:25-28)

True success begins with understanding the definition of success. What’s His definition of success as it pertains to you and me? That we live – not just the few years we’re allotted here on earth, but forever. Any definition of success other than the original one leads to … well, death.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Everything else is just details. Next week (and for nine weeks following) I’ll give you some nuts and bolts (the details) for practicing a truly ‘successful’ life daily.

In Him,


→ No CommentsTags: Site News · success

How Big is Your Neighborhood?

May 31st, 2010 · 1 Comment

Last week I gave you the number one rule for a truly successful life: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Here’s rule number two: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It’s an old one. I bet you’ve heard it already … but do you know what it really means?

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” was put on the books (The Book, actually) about 3,400 years ago. God gave it to Moses to give to the Israelites when He was making His covenant with them at Mount Sinai (Leviticus 19:18). It came to be known as ‘commandment #2’, right behind ‘commandment #1’ (you guessed it – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”).

Over time, the Pharisees (they were the super legalistic sect of Jews who managed the ‘righteous behavior’ of the common folk) ‘improved’ on God’s command, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” by adding “… and hate your enemy.”

It only makes sense, I guess; there’s got to be a flip side. If God wants us to love our neighbor, then we’ve got to assume that he wants us to hate our enemy. At least that was best of Pharisee reasoning, and over the ensuing 1,400 years ‘love your neighbor’ morphed into, ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ Which opened up another can of worms – ‘just who, exactly, is my neighbor?’ If applied with enough pharisaical precision, one could narrow down neighbors to a very short list, which, of course, expanded the possibilities of those whom one could rightly consider enemies. This ‘improvement’ made the list of neighbors whom one was required to love much more manageable and opened vast territory for those whom one could rightly hate. The ‘improved’ law fit quite nicely the goal of maintaining a well managed, closely knit community protected from outside influences, so naturally, those doing the managing – the Pharisees – were all for keeping it.

By the time Jesus came along the Pharisees and their ‘improved’ laws were well in control of the Jewish community. For those in charge of the status quo, Jesus was a difficult issue. On one hand, he was obviously a miracle worker and displayed an uncanny wisdom in his teaching; the crowds loved him. On the other hand, he showed a particularly public disdain for the authority and teaching of the Pharisees. As the popularity of his teaching grew, the influence of the Pharisees over the Jewish community diminished. The man was, no doubt, a trouble maker and needed to be exposed as such.

One expert in the law asked, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus answered, “What is written in the Law? How do you understand the question you just asked me?”

The expert answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Jesus was impressed. “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

The conversation should have ended there, but the lawyer just couldn’t help himself. Looking for a loophole he asked Jesus, “… and who is my neighbor?”

That’s when Jesus told him a story about neighbors:

‘A man (we assume a Jewish man) was going from Jerusalem down to Jericho and on the way he was assailed by robbers, beaten, stripped and left for dead. When a Jewish priest came by and saw the situation he passed by on the other side of the road, apparently not possessing the time or the compassion to come to the aid of one of his own. A Levite (these guys were set aside by God to serve the spiritual needs of the Jewish people; their nickname was “God’s gift to Israel”) crossed the road to avoid his beaten brother, doing as the priest had done. ‘God’s gift to Israel’ must not have been in a giving mood that day.

Then a Samaritan came by. Jews hated Samaritans. They considered Samaritans to be a half-breed, cultish mishmash of human leftovers; a miserable result of the last thousand year history of civil war and foreign conquest. The Samaritans, as you can imagine, weren’t very fond of the Jews either. So it was quite a surprise when a Samaritan happened by, saw the broken and naked Jew lying in the ditch, took pity on him, dressed his wounds, placed him on his mount and brought his to a place where he would be taken care of. The Samaritan paid for the man’s room and board and promised to cover any unpaid bills when he returned.’

“Who,” Jesus asked the lawyer, “do you think was this man’s neighbor?”

“Well … um … the one who had mercy on him, I guess.” The lawyer answered (he was stuck – what else could he say?).

“Go and do likewise.” Jesus replied.

With this story, Jesus blew the doors off the Pharisees’ concept of just who one’s neighbor might be. It wasn’t about just the neighborhood anymore; it was bigger than that. Even people who they thought it was perfectly permissible to hate up to this point could possibly be considered their neighbors. They’d have to tear up their current ‘neighbor/enemy’ lists and start again from scratch. This did not sit well with tradition.

But Jesus wasn’t finished with them …

Imagine the consternation of the Pharisees when Jesus completely reversed the ‘neighbor’ law by telling the crowds who came to listen to his teaching: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ….” (Matthew 5:43-44)

Not only was “love your enemies” contrary to what had been handed down to the people as ‘law’ by the Pharisees over the years, it flew in the face of ‘community management.’ Loving one’s enemies would create absolute chaos! Where would the boundary lines be drawn? From whence would the Pharisees draw their authority and influence in the community if those in their spiritual charge all of a sudden started loving theirs enemies!?

I’m guessing that’s when Jesus’ name was scratched off the Pharisees’ short list of ‘neighbors’ and added to their long list of ‘enemies’.


So, why did Jesus need to redefine their (our) concept of ‘neighbor’ and teach them (us) to love their (our) enemies?

The difference between a love that covers just those closest to us (selfish) and those who love us (reactive) and a love that encompasses every person (whether or not we know them, whether or not they treat us well) lies in whose definition of love we’re using. Jesus wants our love for others to be defined solely under the terms of His love for others. He wants our love for our neighbor to reflect His love for our neighbor. Loving our neighbor is no longer about us – no longer dependent on whom we prefer or how we are treated. The sole reason for loving our neighbor is that He loves our neighbor. His definition of, “who is my neighbor,” becomes our definition.

From God’s perspective, holding our world, as it were, in the palm of His hand, it is easy to see who my neighbor is. Loving my neighbor as myself is really seeing my neighbor through God’s eyes and loving my neighbor as God loves me. It’s a love defined by a respect that comes from the fact my neighbor is loved by the Creator of the universe, and a mercy that comes from the mercy that He has demonstrated in loving me.

This love, this definition of ‘neighbor’ becomes our identity. It is how the rest of the world knows who we are and to Whom we belong.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)


But what does, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” have to with success? That’s what I promised you right? Twelve weeks discovering twelve rules for a truly successful life?

I figured you’d ask that question. The answer? Everything. Let me explain … next week.

Until then, go explore your neighborhood.

→ 1 CommentTags: love · Site News · success

The One Thing

May 21st, 2010 · 6 Comments

Remember the movie “City Slickers”? Three guys facing middle age and accompanying crises, wanting to reassess their lives, embark on a two week cattle drive – a sort of hyper-dude-ranch, real cowboy experience for ‘city slickers’. During the drive, one city slicker, ‘Mitch’ rides along with tough as nails cowboy ‘Curly’, and Curly shares with Mitch the secret to life, “One Thing.” Once you find the “One Thing” in life, nothing else matters.

In the real world, however, Curly’s philosophy on life (which, incidentally, is about as good as one’s philosophy on life can get if they don’t understand the real “One Thing”) falls short. But Curly was right about one thing – there really is “One Thing” that is the key to how you experience every other thing, good or bad, in life.

Last week I told you that I was going to share with you over the coming weeks twelve keys to a truly successful life. And I told you that, push come to shove, only two were absolutely essential to making our time here on earth mean anything. But out of those two, the first thing, the “One Thing” drives and shapes every other aspect of our lives, every other element of our experience. The “One Thing” is the only thing ultimately that will determine whether or not our lives can be counted as a ‘success’ from an eternal perspective.

So, as Mitch inquired of Curly, “What is the ‘One Thing’?”

About two thousand years ago a group of religious leaders asked Jesus the same question.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:36-38)

You probably already knew that, didn’t you? After the big build up about the ‘One Thing’ telling you something you already knew might seem kind of anti-climactic. Even though you know that I’m right, that “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” really is the ‘One Thing’; maybe you were hoping for something newer or fresher … or maybe just something easier.

That’s the problem. Everybody is always looking for a newer, flashier ‘one thing.’ That’s what the success and human potential gurus trade in – trying to convince us that there’s a newer, sexier, flashier, easier ‘one thing’, and we can buy it from them. But there isn’t. There’s only ‘One Thing’; it’s been around a long time and it’s very costly, but it’s not for sale.

If you’re still thinking that, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”; although a lovely Bible verse, is a little abstract as a declaration from which to gauge the success of your existence, let me tell you the whole story.

When Jesus answered the religious leaders, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He was quoting what Moses had told the children of Israel some 1300 years earlier, just before they were to enter the Promised Land. He had just given them the ten rules for a successful life in the Land and now he was giving them the ‘One Thing’ from God – the single rule that would make the other ten possible and meaningful. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

I keep quoting that rule because I want it to sink in, but I’m not doing it justice. I’m writing and you’re reading in English, but Moses and Jesus didn’t speak English. The language of Moses was Hebrew and Jesus spoke in Aramaic (his words were recorded in Greek) and the language in which they originally communicated this ‘One Thing’ went a little deeper than the English words we’re using to translate them today. Let me take it apart for you.

‘Love’ – the Hebrew word Moses used was ‘ahab. It means ‘to have an affection based on a close relationship, sometimes in comparison to other persons with a lesser relationship – have a desire for – focus on a preference of one thing over another. Jesus gave deeper meaning to “Love the Lord your God,” when he answered the religious leaders by using the word ‘agapao’. Agapao goes beyond affection into the will. Agapao is a love of attention and action; it spurs us to focus our attention and will on the One we love and act on behalf of that love.

‘Lord you God’ – ‘Lord’ – ‘Yahweh’ in Hebrew – is a euphemism for ‘Adonai,’ the personal name of the one true God – this name focuses on two attributes of God, His sure existence and His relationship with a chosen people. ‘God’ in Hebrew is ‘Elohim’ – the object of worship, the one true God as opposed to lesser gods.

‘all’ – ‘kôl’ in Hebrew; ‘holos’ in Greek; ‘completely, the totality of any mass.’ It doesn’t mean on ‘just on Sunday’ and it doesn’t mean ‘a big part of my life’; it means every atom of my body and every moment of my consciousness. It means ‘all’.

‘heart’ – ‘lebab’ in Hebrew; ‘kardia’ in Greek. This is the innermost organ – the core that pumps lifeblood into the human body. This is the very center and essence of everything thing that makes us human beings; our thoughts, our feelings, our choices.

‘soul’ – ‘nephesh’ in Hebrew; ‘psuche’ in Greek. This is the vitality and essence of life – it is the thing that departs when one’s body dies. ‘Nephesh’ has its roots in ‘breath’; as when God ‘breathed’ life into Adam – literally ‘the breath of God.’ Your soul is the ‘God’ part of your being; it’s what allows you to be a child of His and what lifts you above the animals, and it’s what puts you accountable to the God that breathed it into you. Whatever choice you make in this life, your soul will enjoy (or be left holding the bag) in the next.

‘strength’ – ‘meh-ode’ in Hebrew; Jesus used the word ‘dianŏia’ or ‘mind’. The closest English word we have to ‘meh-ode’ is ‘vehement’ – ‘showing or arousing intense feeling.’ It’s pretty close in meaning to the word ‘violent’ – ‘the exercise or production of very great force.’ The closest picture I can give you for the proper meaning of ‘meh-ode’ is that of a pot of water at full boil or an Olympic athlete at the precise moment of his most intense effort. ‘Dianŏina’, the word Jesus used, is everything that encompasses your deepest thoughts, imagination and understanding – your entire mental capacity.

If I was going to re-write ““Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” in the Steve Amplified Version it would go something like this:

“You shall have a relationship with, a preference and affection for, above everything and everyone else, the Lord, the one true, surely existing God, Who has chosen you to have a relationship with Him. And this love, affection, preference, relationship shall be with every atom of your being – everything that makes you fully human and with every ounce of life God has breathed into you, with your entire body, mind and will and with your entire soul – the part of you that inhabits your body and goes with you into eternity. And you shall demonstrate this love, this relationship, this affection in every fiber of your will, your effort, your energy, attention and focus. You will live out this love to the very pinnacle of your possibility.”

Wow! That’s pretty radical.

Yup. It’s supposed to be.

Like I said, it’s very costly, but it’s not for sale.

Everything else in your life – your own desires, your spouse, your children, your parents, your job, your status, your possessions – everything else – is subject to and seen through the lens of this one single relationship. This first and greatest commandment from God is the primary building block of human existence – your existence – as it was meant to be. Get this ‘One Thing’ right and everything else follows along like the cars of a train.

Next week we’ll cover the second ‘essential’ key to a truly successful life. It’s related to the first (isn’t everything?). Jesus said that if you got the ‘One Thing’ right and got the second thing right – even if everything else in your life went wrong – you’d still be considered a success in His eyes. That’s pretty cool.

Until next week – focus on the ‘One Thing.’

Goodnight Curly,

→ 6 CommentsTags: agape · love · Site News · success

Why Am I Doing This?

May 13th, 2010 · 2 Comments

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart …” (Jeremiah 1:5)

I missed sending out a ‘Purpose Weekly’ letter last week. Elaine and I went away for four days so I could write … ironic, isn’t it? There’s a book I’ve been putting off for a while now and the story is going to outrun me if I don’t get on it, so I did. I got a good start last week – at least I got a good idea of a good start. I’ll keep you posted.

Speaking of books, I don’t know if I ever told you why I started True Potential Publishing, Inc. six years ago, or this ‘weekly’ newsletter almost four years ago (wow! … has it been that long?). If I’ve already told you the story, humor me, I’m going to tell it again.

Elaine and I were married in 1982 and we moved to South Carolina, Elaine’s home state, in 1983. The day we arrived at our new home, a 1930’s frame farmhouse with no heat (I’m lying; it had electric baseboard heaters in the main room, we just couldn’t afford to turn them on) with all of our worldly possessions in a U-Haul trailer and one month’s rent paid in advance, I tallied up our cash reserves which came to a grand total of just under fifty bucks, plus a collection of around 2,000 pennies in a Sparklettes bottle. I didn’t even want to think about the credit card debt we hadn’t figured out how to pay off.

We were real close to broke, in a new (for me) place, no job, no skills, no prospects. Two weeks later, after we had just blown through our penny stash, I landed a job cleaning carpets on nights and weekends. It wasn’t steady but it put gas in the tank and bought meager groceries. Several months later Elaine’s dad, Monroe, set me up with an interview for a job at a manufacturing plant. I had never seen the inside of any sort of manufacturing plant and I think the guy was just trying to do Monroe a favor. I got hired at $3.50 per hour and was told to show up on Monday and find a place on the floor to fit in. It was a start. I believed if I could just get my foot in the door, I’d figure things out. Elaine got a job in accounting at Montgomery Ward (remember them?); we put our heads down and went to work.

Twenty years later we raised our heads to look around. I still worked in a manufacturing plant (two, actually), but now my name was on the door, and on the mortgage. Elaine was still in accounting but it was our money she was counting. And I had stopped saving pennies a long time back. We weren’t rich by a lot of standards, but compared to that first South Carolina afternoon in 1983 we felt like Warren Buffet and family.

Like I said, we looked up. For the first time in twenty years we asked ourselves why we were doing this. We knew the answer in the beginning – survival. But survival hadn’t been an issue in a while and we just forgot to stop working. There had to be a new reason why we were doing this – was it success? I guess a lot of folks would call it success; it sure looked that way from the outside. But for us it didn’t feel that way on the inside. There were no reasons why we were doing what we were doing that were good enough for us to keep doing it. What we were doing and the reasons for doing it didn’t mean anything – at least they didn’t mean enough. That day we decided to sell the company and the buildings and do something that meant something.

But what?

At eighteen the notion got into my head that I wanted to be a publisher. I had no background, no education, as far as I knew, no talent. I had no idea what function a publisher actually performed. I liked to write (I thought I liked to write – one actually has to begin writing to know for sure) but that was about it. I had this vague eighteen year-old concept of the glamorous and fulfilling life of a publisher, based on nothing more than … well, based on nothing.

By the time I reached forty-six I had scraped together an education and had gained some quasi-experience writing through my sporadic journal entries over the last twenty-five years. I still had no clue as to what a publisher actually did for a living but the hankering had never left me. We were going to stop manufacturing and start publishing! Good luck.

My work experience over the previous twenty-years had ended up with me spending a lot of time in sales. And to be a good salesman, I studied all the popular sales literature and listened to all of the success tapes. These ‘motivational’ guys all had their own twists on the subject of ‘human potential’, but when I boiled it down, it was pretty much the same message – ‘get what you can, get as much as you can; try to be happy (or at least comfortable) in the process, and if possible, try to make your family happy too’ (it’s funny – a lot of the success guys I studied were working on their third or fourth marriage – I guess they hadn’t perfected the ‘make your family happy too’ part). In a lot of ways their ‘success’ message was okay, but like my job, it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t interested in their personal patented version of success and their funky, vague, new-age concept of human potential; I was looking for the real meaning of success – true potential.

True Potential? …hmmm – maybe we’ve got something here.

Anyway – that’s how it started. I would research ‘True Potential’ and write a book on what it means to be truly successful. Now, almost six years later we’ve got us a publishing company (not big – about forty titles and a half-dozen authors) but still no book on ‘True Potential’ – and it’s not the one I started writing last week.

But that’s about to change, and we’re going to start right here. There are, as near as I can understand, about twelve facets of a truly successful life. And really there are only two that are essential – the other ten are bonuses that make the relatively short time (eternally speaking) we spend on this planet more productive for you and more pleasant for those around you. For the next twelve weeks – I promise not to skip – we’ll touch each of these facets of “True Potential’, starting with the most important first.

I’ll give you a hint for next week: read Deuteronomy 6:5.

Until then, be blessed (you really are, you know?)


→ 2 CommentsTags: God's purpose · success

One Mustard Seed

April 26th, 2010 · 3 Comments

“What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches” (Luke 13:18)

Elaine and I are going on a little camping trip. The park we’ll be staying at is pretty big and we won’t have access to a car so I figured I’d better bring our bicycles. The bicycles hang from hooks screwed into the garage ceiling. I know they’re there because that’s where I put them … four years ago.

Our bikes aren’t new, even by old people standards, but they’re decent, and as you’ve probably guessed, they’re not over-used. One of the reasons (not the best one) that they’ve been hanging from the garage ceiling for four years is that last time we had them out the back wheel on my bike developed a ‘wobble’. I figured that the wheel bearings were going bad so I stopped riding and hung it in the garage until I could get it repaired. Elaine’s bike worked fine, but it followed mine into the garage; we bought them together and rode them together so I’m guessing it just didn’t want to be alone.

Like I said, that was four years ago. Now that we ‘needed’ them again it was time for me to pull them off the ceiling and get my wheel wobble repaired. I checked the Yellow Pages for “Bicycle Repair”. It was early morning and my brain wasn’t really in forward gear so I started at the front and flipped my way toward the “B’s”. On my way to “Bicycle Repair” I had to navigate through the “A’s” which, I discovered, meant I had to travel through “Attorneys”.

Well, there are a lot of “Attorneys” so I flipped pretty fast … but they just kept coming. I flipped faster … they wouldn’t give up! The listings were endless; it was like trying to take roll call in the Chinese army! Finally I outlasted the “Attorneys”, leapfrogged over “Automobile Dealers”, blasted by “Bakers”, “Bathrooms” and “Beads”, and found “Bicycle Repair”.

One listing.

There was a single listing for bicycle repair. I know we don’t all ride bikes, but come on, one listing? Greenville and its immediate surrounds hold a good half-million people, and apparently all of us are counting on one bicycle repairman.

Being easily side-tracked I got to thinking about attorneys again. I thumbed back to “A” and began counting how many yellow pages were dedicated to “Attorneys”. I was amazed. Sixty pages. A greater metro area of 500,000 people, one bicycle repairman and sixty pages of attorneys.

What does that say about us?

Since the Yellow Pages are an exercise in pure supply and demand market forces (the only economic reason that many attorneys pay for that many ads is because they work) I’m assuming that we, Greenville’s populace, want it that way. And Greenville’s a pretty average place; if anything we’re more bicycle friendly and less of the litigious persuasion than most cities in the US. So my guess is that it isn’t just Greenville; the attorney to bicycle repairman ratio is most likely similar in phonebooks throughout the land.

I don’t have anything against attorneys or for bicycle repairmen per se. Each profession serves a vital role in our society. Attorneys fight for our rights when we’ve been wronged (or perceive we have), they fight to free the wrongly accused (and the rightly accused) and they keep honest people honest by spelling out in extended contracts what we used to agree on with a handshake. Bicycle repairman … well, they repair bicycles.

The whole ‘attorney’ industry is built on the premise that we’re going to harm, do wrong, or cheat one other. The whole ‘bicycle repairmen’ industry is built on the premise that sooner or later, if we own a bicycle, something on it is going to break.

Jesus never said anything about bicycle repair, but he said a lot about the reasons we hire attorneys.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12)

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned . Forgive and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:36-37)

“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ be ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37)

The teaching of Paul follows in the footsteps of his Master.

“The commandments … are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.” (Romans 13:9-10)

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)

Changing the Yellow Pages’ “Attorneys” to “Bicycle Repairman” ratio is a pretty tall order. What can one person possibly do turn something this big around?

Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. Mustard is a tiny little seed – not of much consequence, even in the seed world. But if you plant it and nurture it, it can grow into a pretty big plant – big enough to give shade and shelter to others.

What I do, how I choose to treat others and how I react to wrongs committed against me may not seem to amount to much in the grand scheme of things. But that’s not what Jesus said. He said that even a tiny mustard seed, if you nurture it, could have a profound footprint in the garden.

The next time I feel my ‘feelings’ or my ‘rights’ have been violated, maybe I’ll keep in mind what Jesus said and just let it slide. Maybe I’ll get better at forgiving others and maybe others will see that and take a notion to do the same, and maybe someday the Yellow Page ratio will come down a little.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – I took our bikes down to the repairman for a tune-up. In and out in one day! That guy needs more business.

Have a good week, forgive someone … ride a bike if you’ve got one.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Justice · love

Jesus and the Third Grader

April 13th, 2010 · No Comments

Last week I told you about my friend Roger and that Roger’s son, Eric, died as child, unexpectedly. That was twenty-five years ago; Roger hasn’t ‘gotten over it’ but he has learned to live with it. The promise that has allowed him to come to terms with the tragedy is that he knows he will, one day, see his son again and death will not separate them again.

Roger has been gracious, in spite of the pain of dragging up memories, to share his story and the lessons that have come out of his experience. Last week Roger introduced Eric and told of the events of his passing ( This week Roger shares lessons learned in the aftermath of pain and healing.

Jesus and the Third Grader, Part 2

When Eric’s schoolteacher cleaned out his desk she found it stuffed with evangelistic pamphlets. I had no idea he had taken the free literature from my office! In his short tenure as a third grade student, Eric had touched the lives of his classmates so strongly that it was necessary for his teacher to gather the entire class in a circle on the floor, go over his life, and then tell them about Jesus – friends, we’re talking public school! Yep, you guessed it. She was a strong Christian, too. Chalk up another lesson for dad. Never underestimate the power of a child – especially one carrying the testimony of redemption and being led by his Savior!

Although we may have more questions unanswered than answered in life, God has taught me that when I wake up enough to look for His plan more than mine, He often blesses me with a touch of insight more than words can express!

Soon after Eric’s funeral I recalled the day he told me of his salvation experience. The historical event happened after a Sunday morning service. Prior to moving to Southern Indiana, we had been attending a large church in Ecorse, Michigan. After arriving back home, Eric came into the bedroom and announced, “Dad I need to tell you something.” After he delivered the news bulletin, I asked him to tell me the details. “Well there is not much to tell”, He replied. I later learned that little boy had been talking with him in children’s church and after the service took him aside into a room and fulfilled his mission when he witnessed our son, praying and receiving Christ.

After Eric’s death, although months had passed, I wanted to locate the little boy, thank him, and challenge him never to stop. I contacted the church and a few weeks later, they returned my call. The senior pastor informed me that he met with the youth pastor and as many of the children, as they could assemble who were present that day. All remember seeing Eric and his friend talking and the youth pastor even watched through a window as the boys entered a room. Strangely, no one knew the identity of the other boy and, if that were not enough, all the witnesses said that it was the first and last time anyone saw him! Think what you will. We have to believe he was on assignment from God! What an honor and privilege to serve the only true God who can see off into eternity and yet come into our lives when invited!

When Jesus comes for me, be it at death or in the rapture, God’s Word has assured me that I will see him again! That is my future!

What have I learned? To list all that I have learned from Eric’s death would be impossible. Although some of what you will shortly read may have been new lessons, much was a strong reaffirmation.
1.    I do not have to have all questions answered in order to go on.

2.    At first, we seemed to be stuck in a perpetual state of shock. Within about two weeks most of our friends and relatives, although deeply touched, returned to their lives while ours remained shattered. The pain was very real and seemed to be permanent. There is no quick fix or fast avenue to get away from the pain.

3.    I discovered that it was very hard for me to take counsel from someone who said, “I know what you’re going through”, when in reality I knew differently.

4.    Close friends are essential and they will be there when needed. Many may never attempt to say much but their presence is a priceless commodity!

5.    I learned the value of striving to never isolate myself from what was left of our family. All family members deal with the same thing in different ways. As a rule of thumb, when we give of ourselves we receive from others. This is difficult because grief desires for us to pull away and focus upon our personal wounds. To succumb to this can be devastating!

6.    If you need counseling – get it. Having the assistance of a trained professional can be priceless. These folks can assist us in discovering resources and resolving issues.

7.    Guilt is a terrible thing to live with. The tendency of parking and permanently focusing on the death seemed to be the natural thing to do. Just the thought of doing otherwise made me feel like I was betraying Eric and pushing him out of my life. Eventually I realized that this was absurd. Even though I could never forget Eric, I still had responsibilities as a husband, father, and scores of other things. Time moved on and so must I.

8.    I never got over Eric’s death, rather, I learned to adjust accordingly and go on.

9.    We were just Eric’s parents and, as such, he was an individual over whom we were mere temporal stewards.

10.    I regret not spending more time with Eric as he grew. For years prior to his death I had spent most of my time either working, in school, or both. After he died, I realized how little I really knew the little blond-haired, blue-eyed son of mine.

11.    You can never say you lost someone if you know where he or she is.

12.    Since Eric’s death, all of life’s battles have never seemed as frightful and as difficult as they were prior to his departure. Surviving the biggest of battles supply faith, courage, strength, and experience for all the rest.

13.    Since hindsight is better than foresight, I have noticed that God has greatly used time to our advantage. The wounds of grief crave time to heal.

14.    Most things in life come and go but no one can steal nor destroy your memories. Find some way to use them for God’s glory and watch what happens!

15.    Last but greatest of all is the fact that God has made the journey with us. “…God [is] our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psa. 46:1)” His Spirit, His Word, and His people, especially my wife, make up the primary ingredients that keep me going – even to this day!

For Roger’ Luther’s full letter go to:

→ No CommentsTags: God's purpose · Heaven · suffering · Thriving in Tough Times

When a Child Dies

April 7th, 2010 · 1 Comment

I like to think I’m pretty good with words, but a few times in my life I’ve been speechless. At those moments anything I could have thought to say would have been less than required. Words of advice or comfort or empathy would have been wooden and miserably weak. There wasn’t a thing I could say that would approach the pain of the person I was talking to. In each circumstance I was on the phone with a friend. In each circumstance my friend had just told me that their child had died.

The first time was a few years ago. My friend’s baby had died suddenly and unexpectedly in the night. I shared the story with you a while back ( The last time was a few weeks ago. I don’t think it was as sudden or unexpected, we haven’t talked about it; it’s still too raw. I imagine the pain is the same in either circumstance.

But the truth is that I can’t imagine the pain. I don’t know that anyone who hasn’t experienced the death of a child could. So words from me, however well meant or even true, lack any dimension equal to the hurt.

I have a very good friend, Roger. Roger and Rita lost their little boy, Eric, twenty-five years ago. I trust Roger’s heart and his spiritual maturity. I knew I would be digging into an old wound but I asked him to tell us about Eric. Roger agreed because he cares more about easing the pain of others than protecting his own. My words, because I hadn’t tread that path, don’t mean much, but Roger’s words do.

Because if the length of his letter I’ve excerpted parts of it and broken it into two installments. The first is below; the second I’ll send to you next week.

Jesus and the Third Grader

In the spring of 1984, I accepted the call to pastor a rural Baptist Church in Southern Indiana. Soon thereafter my wife, daughter, two sons, and I loaded all our belongings in a big U-Haul truck and embarked on our pilgrimage from Wyandotte, Michigan. Soon the church began to grow a little and every day seemed to dawn with a new sense of expectancy. From my perspective, all things appeared to be going well. The following March something happened that would change our lives from that day forward.

Early one spring morning our little dog woke me to let her outside. As I went down the hallway I noticed a light on in the bathroom. When I gazed in, to my surprise our eight-year old son, Eric, was lying on the floor sleeping. I fussed at him to get back in his bunk. When I came back through I returned to the bathroom to turn off the light and shockingly noticed some blood on the floor. I glanced back at Eric and he was fast asleep. When I arrived back in the bedroom I woke my wife and informed her of what I had seen. She jumped out of bed and watched him until daylight. Soon after breakfast, she and Eric made a trip into town to visit our physician. A few hours later Rita phoned me from the local hospital and frantically informed me that our physician had admitted our oldest son as a patient. After securing a babysitter for the other two, I made a beeline to be with them.

Test after test failed to produce a diagnosis that would empower our physician and pediatrician to treat our helpless son who seemed to be gradually fading away. Later that evening Eric was transported about forty miles away to Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. While he was being relocated, it was necessary for me to return home to be with the other two children. After finally arriving back at Children’s Hospital, I discovered a bunch of the church folks standing around in the hallway. I rushed by them and burst through the doors frantically looking for my son and wife. I was quickly escorted back into the hallway and told to stay there until Dr. so-and-so spoke with me. While waiting I ventured off to the restroom and when I returned the tending physician invited me into a room. A very dear friend accompanied me in, shut the door, and leaned against it. As soon as I was seated she said something that shot through me like a bolt of lightning and still rings very clearly twenty five years later, ‘Mr. Luther, Eric is gone!” For the next few seconds I frantically tore into my big friend, exhibiting a type of temporary insanity. Eventually, the physician escorted me down to the next floor to be with my wife. It’s bizarre when I think that one minute he appeared to be healthy and eleven hours later he was gone!

My objective in sharing the above was to briefly lay the foundation that, by His grace, might permit me to point out a few of the many ways God intervened in order that we might live, retain our sanity, bear witness, be strengthened, and somehow be better equipped for the many trials that lay ahead.

I am positive that very few pastors (thank God!) have found themselves sitting with their wife in a funeral home early on Sunday morning staring at funeral arrangements for their eight-year-old son while their congregation gathers for worship back at the church.

In spite of our tremendous level of mental and emotional anguish, we faced one of most horrendous nightmares that any two parents could face – making our third grader’s funeral arrangements. As we helplessly and ignorantly met with the funeral home director, seemingly out of nowhere came an aunt and uncle. Years before they both were previously married and suffered tremendously as they parted company with their original spouse. Let me assure you that they were truly a God send! Somehow, they filled in the blanks we could not deal with. Aunt Olive even volunteered to pick out Eric’s casket, when we could not bear to go upstairs to the display room. Days later the funeral home director informed us that Eric’s funeral was one of the largest in the history of the facility. Although the crowd was extremely large and the wonderful guests poured out their hearts, the terrible pain deep within was still there and did not show any signs of leaving anytime soon.

Days later, after the funeral, we were asked to meet with the physician and pediatrician in a hospital conference room to go over the results of the autopsy. My wife and I arrive early and as we sat waiting a thought popped into my mind – our eight year old son had lived, was a Christian for about six months, and now he was gone from us for the rest of our lives! After all, aren’t we supposed to go first? Second, I realized with shock that in a few years no one will know he existed! I jumped up, approached the telephone operator, and asked for some paper and a pencil. That’s the first and last time I can remember words strangely flowing in the fashion they did early that morning. When I finished I returned the pencil and the remaining sheets of paper to the young lady at the phone and asked her to look over the little tribute. When she returned it she was weeping. She has just confirmed its completion. Eventually the physicians arrived and we learned that Eric had died of pulmonary hemorrhage due to Goodpasture’s Syndrome. In 1985, this rare, rapid, and fatal disease was beyond the medical expertise of the time. Many years later, in the late nineties, a kidney specialist friend of mine from U. of M. Medical Hospital informed me that a blood transfusion would have saved his life. Once again, we were reminded that God had spared our first-born son from tremendous suffering!

What happened to the tribute I had written to Eric? After leaving the hospital we went to the local newspaper and had it printed verbatim as you see before you. This is a small copy of the original 4 x 8.

Little did I know that this small local newspaper had a circulation of 21,000. Over the next few months, we received approximately 2,200 hundred dollars in the mail, much of which was given anonymously. Although warmly received, I was afraid that my original intention had been completely misunderstood! As time progressed, though, I learned that God had used the simple article to bring a number of folks, especially children, to the Lord. While conducting a revival meeting about fifty miles north, a lady I had never met came up to me after the service, opened her Bible, and there it was – glued in the front. She had been using Eric’s tribute as a witnessing tool to her grandchildren! Even after death, the little fellow still served on the mission field!

Next week we will share the rest of Roger’s story and the lessons he learned out of his family’s personal tragedy.

For Roger’ Luther’s full letter go to:

→ 1 CommentTags: faith · Heaven · suffering

Wes Smith in Haiti … the rest of the story

March 28th, 2010 · 2 Comments

I hadn’t heard from Wes Smith in a while. Remember Wes? I wrote about him and his Haiti rescue team deploying do the earthquake ravaged island right after the tragic event. You can review the posts here: “Haiti Relief, January 17” and “Haiti Update, January 18”

Haiti team member John Fussle commented on the follow up post , “Wes contracted a bacterial infection in his lungs and started coughing up blood. He was taken to the hospital where they drained his lungs and stabilized. Shortly thereafter, he was evacuated to the USS Compassion where he is recovering. Pray for him.”

Wes did get sick in Haiti … I had no idea how sick. Wes sent me an update letter last week; I’ll share it with you:

“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” (Psalm. 147:3)

Lloyd and Darlene Smoker asked me to go to Haiti with them to be an emotional support. They were in the U.S. when the earthquake struck their mission in Carrefour, Haiti, killing more than thirty of their most faithful converts.

So on February 3 we met in Ft. Lauderdale and then flew on a private plane to Haiti. The evening we arrived at the Smoker’s mission was something I will never forget. The three of us started walking down the street together.

But we just barely got started when person after person met us and threw their arms around Lloyd and Darlene, hugging their necks and kissing them. I have never witnessed such wailing, crying, and mourning in my entire life.

These were people who had lost husbands, wives, children, parents, and loved ones. In a moment of time tons of cement had compacted the life out of the people in this world they loved the most.

Some of the people died instantly; others died slowly and in great agony. One man had a piece of iron through his stomach that came out his back. Arms and legs were severed, heads crushed.

One story I will never forget is from a young man who came to the clinic with a crushed arm. The interpreter told us that when the earthquake hit, his mother instinctively fell upon him to protect him. But the weight of the demolished building on her head took her life. She died so that he would live!

The second day I was in Haiti I met a 22-year-old young man named Nelson. We hit it off instantly, especially when I found out that his father was dead. He wanted me to teach him English, so each morning at ten O’clock we met. Soon we had nineteen people in our class. We studied the Bible for two or three hours each day.

It was absolutely wonderful!

There are so many other things to tell, but I’ll try to keep this as short as possible.

The day before we were to leave Haiti and return to the United States my fever spiked to 105.7, a very dangerous level. Heidi, my daughter who is a nurse, knew instantly that I needed some serious medical attention.

She rushed me to a hospital nearby, which was over-crowded with earthquake victims. I was placed on a gurney on the floor along with many other patients.

Dr. David Marks, from San Antonio, Texas, had just put in a twelve-hour shift at the hospital and was leaving for the night to get some rest. Heidi asked him to stop by and check me. He immediately determined that I was near death’s door, secured a private room for me, and began a 13-hour non-stop medical procedure to save my life.

He gave me nine liters (about two and a half gallons) of saline solution and inserted a pick-line in my chest. The only thing that kept me alive was watching Heidi cry out to God to spare my life. Knowing that the girls lost their mother seventeen years ago, I did not want to leave them as total orphans. Jesus, and only Jesus, gave me the will to live.

I was in so much agony and pain that it would have been so easy to just give up and die. Everything in me wanted to be released from the pain of my lungs being full of my own blood. For almost the entire night I felt as though I was drowning. It was a most unpleasant experience.

By morning Dr. Marks felt that I was stable enough to be moved to a hospital ship, the S.S. Comfort, which was anchored about one mile offshore from Port-au-Prince.

Back in Indiana my daughter, Konda, was making telephone calls and sending emails to the Pentagon, the State Department, and to every contact she could think of, in a desperate effort to save my life.

Brigadier General Robert C. Nolan took the bull by the horns and ordered a helicopter to pick me up in a field nearby. So I was carried on a stretcher to a rickety old van driven by a Haitian who could not speak English.

He thought he was supposed to take me to the Port-au-Prince airport, so he headed the wrong way and we were locked in a traffic jam for more than an hour in almost unbearable heat.

The helicopter pilot called and said he could not wait any longer. He had other missions that took priority. Brooke (a woman who was in the van helping me), Dr. Marks, and Heidi pled with the pilot, but to no avail. The chopper left without me.

This pretty much sealed my fate.

But God stepped in and moved upon the pilot’s heart to fly back to the empty field and wait for us to arrive.

Finally, after more than an hour in the ninety-degree heat and smothering traffic jams, we met the helicopter.

Dr. Marks and several others carried me on a stretcher and I was placed in the helicopter. But the pilot said that Heidi could not go with me.

For the next three days I felt so alone.

But Senior Chief Mike Holmes, aboard the Comfort, kept assuring me that he would bring Heidi to the ship.

It was Saturday, February 20 when I was flown by helicopter to the floating hospital.

This may all sound glamorous, but when you are as sick as I was, there was nothing alluring about it.

The next day, Sunday, my lungs filled up with blood again. I was panting just to take a breath. Dr. Killian somehow “just happened” to come by my bed (definitely another God thing) and immediately ordered me to be taken to the ICU.

For another 12 hours a team of specialists worked on me to keep me alive. I was told later that I was within minutes of death.

It all seems like a dream . . . no, a nightmare.

After almost 150 trips abroad the Old Warrior finally went down on the battlefield. And I mean DOWN!

But for some reason God kept me alive.

By Tuesday, true to his word, Mike Holmes brought Heidi to the ship. I will never be able to express the joy that came into my heart when I saw her. I tore the oxygen mask off my face, sat up in bed, and we hugged.

As I look back it is easy to see that God spared Heidi from seeing me almost die the second time. His mercy is everlasting.

Heidi stayed with me on the ship until Thursday morning, when we were taken to shore by a small boat. Breathing the salt air was glorious. I will never forget that ride.

Beside me on the boat was a 12-year-old Haitian girl with a broken back. The five days I was on the S.S. Comfort she screamed night and day from her pain.

I don’t speak Creole, but I do know a couple songs that I’ve memorized. So I sang one of them to the little girl. She broke out into a wonderful smile.

I wondered what she was going back to in Haiti. I never saw her again.

Heidi and I were placed in a leaky old van and endured another hour and a half ride through the heat to the Port-au-Prince airport. After waiting an hour or two the huge U.S. Air Force C-17 airplane that was scheduled to airlift us to Mac Dill Air Force base in Tampa arrived.

Within four hours we landed . . . back in the United States.

The Tampa Fire and Rescue team was waiting with an ambulance and whisked us to Tampa Medical Center. Those young men were so gracious and kind to us and kept thanking us for the relief work we had been doing in Haiti.

When they heard me tell someone that I’d pay ten dollars for a bowl of chicken noodle soup, one of them went to a restaurant and bought Heidi and me our evening meal. I had barely eaten for seven days.

After waiting four hours to get a room, by midnight I was in bed for the night.

April, my other daughter who lives in New York, flew down and joined Heidi and me. They slept on the floor of my room in the hospital and waited on me hand and foot. I call them Super-Daughters, and I’ll never be able to thank them enough for giving me spiritual and emotional support.

The next five days I was given test after test after test. For someone who has barely seen a doctor in 72 years, it was a huge shock for me. One doctor told me that I was getting my one hundred thousand mile check-up! It was more like my million mile check-up.

And so was the bill! $42,571.47 for a five-night stay.

By the fifth day I was determined to leave the hospital. So I tore the eight patches off my chest, told the nurse to pull the IV out of my arm, and started getting dressed.

The hospital staff said that I must sign a waiver releasing them from all responsibility. I eagerly signed it. April picked up her rental car and we drove to Orlando where I rested for eleven days.

During that time Heidi and April flew home and returned to their jobs as nurses. But Bryan and Konda Koorey and their family replaced them and gave me more TLC.

By Saturday, March 13 we determined that I was fit enough for travel, so I flew home, where I am now resting and trying to get my strength back.

There is much, much more to tell, but this is already way too long.

Thank you for your prayers, financial gifts, love notes of encouragement, etc., etc. I feel as though I need to thank the entire body of Christ.

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

If I did not know that I was loved, I sure know it now.

My determination is to pass love to everyone I meet until the day I die. For I know that it was love that kept me alive. Starting with my daughters, Dr. David Marks who saved my life the first time, and the team of doctors aboard the S.S. Comfort who saved my life the second time.

God bless you all!

In His Service,

Wesley Smith

Full Life Crusade, P.O. Box 398, Winona Lake, IN 46590

Tel: (574) 267-7546 Website: Email:

→ 2 CommentsTags: Site News

Running with the Wind

March 18th, 2010 · No Comments

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

I’m a Baby-Boomer and an American. For a lot of us that means we attack the world with effort. Need more cash? – work harder! Need more time? – work harder! Things aren’t going right? – work harder! Economy bad? – work harder! Economy good? that spells opportunity – work harder! It’s the Puritan work ethic, the American Dream and the secret to success all wrapped up into one universal tool – work harder!

Well … ‘work harder’ doesn’t always work. The ‘American Dream’ morphs into the ‘American chronic disease’ – exhaustion, burn-out, frustration, broken relationships and too much stuff. It doesn’t get any better when you’re working for something you consider ‘worthy’; usually it gets worse. That’s because we allow ourselves to believe that working ourselves to death for a good cause is more honorable than working ourselves to death for money. In a world like this it’s easy to believe that our work equals our worth. “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”

God does have a job for you to do, but He’s a lot more interested in your obedience than He is in your effort. A new friend, Bob Regnerus, is discovering this in his own life. Bob’s fairly young and he’s been fairly successful … as far as working hard goes. But hard work isn’t necessarily what God wants from him right now. As Bob says, he’s trying to get used the “new normal.”

Bob and his partner, Matt Gillogly, founded Christian Business Daily. It’s a great resource for Christians in business and, I think, Christians in any walk of life. You can check out what Bob and Matt are up to by visiting Here’s an excerpt from Bob’s great post, “Running With The Wind, or Against It?”

For me, I’m still stumbling my way through what my wife and I are calling our “new normal“.  12 months ago, things were changing, but they were certainly different than they were today – financially, spiritually, physically.  I had a growing business, growing staff, growing status, growing confidence, and unlimited opportunity.  On the surface, you could say I was doing pretty well.

Fast forward to the present, and our new normal is a struggling business, shrinking staff, shrinking status, shrinking confidence, and seemingly limited opportunity.  A little over 5 months ago, I was in the hospital, completely burnt out, suffering from physical and emotional manifestations of stress and anxiety.

Looking back, it was certainly a low point, but more of a turning point.  That started my road to caring more for myself. Physically, I started to exercise again, eat right, and get enough sleep.  Emotionally, I started to deal with issues of confidence, pride, and happiness.  Spiritually, I’ve been led away from a performance-based lifestyle – at home, at church, at work – basically all aspects of my life.  God has been slowly and painfully chiseling away a lot of rough edges, and I’m honestly telling you it’s longer than I want, and more painful at times than I care to admit.

I figured September 28 was the lowest day I’d have to experience, but I was in for more.  Many more very low days since then, and a very significant low day on January 28 of this year when I had to make the most dramatic and painful business decision of my life that dramatically affected many people that I dearly love.

Fortunately, Papa had a release for me, and that was a 5 day trip to Florida to visit my dad.  It was both the worst time and best time for a trip.  But I was sure that the trip was all part of a plan, and timed perfectly to take me out of the fire for a few days.

The trip was amazing in so many ways, both on a personal and spiritual level.  A few weeks ago I shared an experience here on the blog where God showed me a picture of what spending time with him looked like.  It was so cool. (If you didn’t read it, I invite you to – here’s the link).

There was also a very powerful experience I did not share with you yet, and I felt led to do that today.  It was an experience for me that struck at many levels, and like many powerful experiences, it hit me physically, spiritually, and personally.  It was an experience that spoke to me about my personal life, my relationships, my business, and my “walk with God”.

Let me set the scene. It was a crisp, 50 degree, sunny Florida Gulf day in early February.  Warm by my standards, freezing by local standards.  The “breeze” that day was stiff, and better characterized by terms like “wind” or “gusts”.  There was a constant breeze of at least 10 MPH, with frequent gusts into the 30 MPH range.  I’m on the beach stretching, ready for a run.  The surf is crashing the beach and the waves are topped with white caps.  The pelicans who are flying into the wind appear to be hovering, not getting anywhere until they turn and head the other direction.  Since I’m running the beach, I’ve got a choice to run “up the beach” or run “down the beach” to start, and then will have to reverse my direction on my way back.

Because I’m just starting to run again after MANY years, I choose the wise path to run “up the beach” against the wind to start, and then have the wind with me as I head home down the beach.

Starting out, I begin to understand what the pelican was going through.  As I attempted to run, I felt like that wind was not only sanding me up, but actually pushing me back and I wasn’t making much progress.  I might as well have been running up a steep hill because it didn’t take more than 500 yards for my legs and my lungs to burn like fire.  I slowed my pace from a jog to a fast walk, and decided to just face the winds at a walking pace for a couple miles.  It was just no use fighting the wind, it was going to wear me out too soon.

So I trucked up the beach with the wind at my face for a good 2 miles, if not more.  My mind wasn’t really too occupied at the moment.  I think I was even listening to a podcast of Darin Hufford or Wayne Jacobsen at the time.  But as I reached a point near the end of the beach, I sat down and just stared out into the ocean for 10 minutes.  (Hey, I was quite winded even though it was a walking pace!) I don’t recall the details of what I was thinking or doing, to be honest.

Once I got my own wind back, I set to start running back down the beach.  Boy, did I feel like Forrest Gump – “I was RUNNING!“.  My pace was swift, and my stride was solid.  I felt good.  But because I am still working my way back into shape, and because I already walked about 2 miles, I started to get fatigued and winded.  I had run about a 1/2 a mile at this point, and I figured that I might just walk a couple hundred yards and then start jogging again.  As I was about to stop, a gust of wind came up from behind me and felt like it picked me up off my feet.  As I was feeling light on my feet, I kept running.  About a 1/2 mile later, I was starting to get really tired again, I figured I deserved to slow down and catch my breath.

Again, a swift “breeze” hit my back and pushed me again – so I kept running.  Over that last mile, every couple hundred yards I’d think about stopping, yet each time would be swept up by the wind and carried further.  Sooner than I imagined, I had reached the condo, and I had run the whole 2+ miles back without stopping.  As I hunched over with my hands on my knees, watching the sweat bead off into the sand, I said to myself, “God, thank you for that wind.  It really pushed me.”

At that moment, as I was hunched over and enjoying the moment, a voice welled up from my heart and said, “Son, you’ve been running into the wind far too long. Wouldn’t you like to run with the wind at your back from now on?”


Boy did I know what Papa meant by that.  It was a flood of emotion, and I just stood there stunned.  In that moment, I was reminded of the struggles of the past 5 months, the disappointments, the unmet expectations over the years, the feelings of 1 step forward, 2 steps back – all of it.  Right then and there, I just said, “Yes, I’m really tired of running against the wind.  I want you to show me how to run with your wind at my back“.

It’s only been about a month, and I’m going to confess – I haven’t figured it out yet.  I find myself falling back into old habits, old mindsets, and old routines.  And I have to tell you it’s as if I was running smack into the wind.  Yet, there have been a few surprises personally in our family that could only have been God, and didn’t have a single thing to do with me.  It was all him – running with the wind at my back.

So as I reach the end of this post, I’d like to have a silver lining, a proverb, or a happy ending for you to tie it all together.  But I don’t.  I’m adjusting to a new routine within our family, opening up fresh revelations in regards to God, fighting constant struggles and trials with my business, and fighting with a loss of confidence and security I enjoyed for 39+ years.

Just yesterday, God spoke to me about my focus and my depth.  I’m just trying to sort that out, because that’s a painful word that’s going to involve a lot more change, I think.

Peter writes in his letter, “In this life, you will have troubles”.  Amen, H*** Yeah, and No Kidding.  He was writing from experience folks, and I (and probably you too) can testify to that.

So as I work out what “running with the wind at my back” looks like for me, I’d love to hear from you: What does it mean to you to have the wind at your back?  I want to hear your personal experiences and so would our readers.  What has that looked like in your life?  What about running against the wind? Ever done that?

Thanks Bob, we’re with you.

Until next week, keep the wind at your back,

Steve Spillman

→ No CommentsTags: Obedience · Site News · success

A Perfect Day

February 24th, 2010 · 2 Comments

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matthew 18:10-13)

My friend Dave called last week. We grew up together. I haven’t seen him in a few years – he’s west coast, I’m east. He had just returned from a writer’s conference in San Francisco, he was excited about it and he wanted to share. It was a good conversation.

It wasn’t always good. Dave has had a bumpy ride. He’s made some bad decisions, had some bad luck and has taken some casualties along the way. There were times when he disappeared from my life and, honestly, I didn’t know if he was alive or dead. Neither one of us are spring chickens and as the calendar worked its way toward the back page I wondered if he’d ever get over his hurdles and find some peace and purpose in life.

I like to say, “God is faithful and He never gives up on a person.” I like to believe it too. But, c’mon, there’s a clock we’re working with here; at some point the game needs to wind down and God’s patience has got to wear thin. Mine certainly does. But, thank God, His patience is longer than mine, His faithfulness is greater than mine and He really doesn’t give up on those He considers His own.

God considers Dave one of His own.

It doesn’t matter how many days and years were lost. It doesn’t matter how far off the track one has wandered. It doesn’t matter how many bricks have been knocked down. Redemption is right there.

Jesus said that his Father in Heaven is happier about finding one sheep that has wandered off than about the ninety-nine who never strayed. That’s something. It’s really not about anything we do, is it? It’s about what He does. When we wander off, He finds us. And the angels rejoice.

I don’t know every wrinkle in Dave’s story, but I do know that if God refused to quit searching until He found Dave again, then I know He’s not going to give up on any other of his flock that may have wandered off. And that means that none of us that are ‘in the fold’ should give up on the ones outside. It also means that we’d better hold the ‘lost sheep’ in the same regard as our Father does. God didn’t choose us for how ‘good’ we are. He chose us because He chose us. And if one of us gets lost, He’s broken hearted. That means if one of us is lost we’d better be broken hearted too. And if a lost one ever gets found, we’d better be rejoicing right along the angels.

My brother Dave called last week … it was a good conversation.

A Perfect Day

The Texas sun

Low and to our backs

Shining, through us,

On the road ahead

Leading up to camp

The day’s work behind us

Walking side by side

No words between us


A perfect moment;

A perfect memory

It was a perfect day

→ 2 CommentsTags: Site News

Everybody loves the Promised Land but nobody likes the trip

February 15th, 2010 · 3 Comments

“The vision is always a fact. It is the reality that is often a fraud.” (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy)

I’ve been to Israel a half dozen times in the last few years. You’d think it would get old after so many visits … it doesn’t. There’s something about Israel, the Promised Land, that’s different from any other place on earth. The weather is great, but it’s not the best weather on earth; the summers are too hot. The food is great, but lots of places have great food. The history, of course, is awesome; I love to wander around the archeological sites and imagine what it was like when Jesus walked this land. But it’s not the ruins or the history of past civilizations that makes Israel truly different. What makes Israel different than anywhere else on earth is that it is the place and the people God claims as His own personal property.

“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 32:8-9)

Israel belonged to God before the first man took his first breath and when this age is over and God comes to earth to live with man, the land of Israel will be His home address. That’s what makes Israel different.

I love being in Israel … I don’t love getting there. The trip each way involves a day and a half of waiting in airport terminals, TSA security lines, taking off my shoes, emptying my pockets, checking my bag, finding my bag, explaining why I’m going, explaining why I’m there, and lifting my arms for the guy with the magnetic wand.

Let’s not forget the highlight of the trip – at least two flights and 15+ hours of flying time. I try to put out of my mind that I’ll be locked in a metal tube with 341 other people (not including crew) and that the tube weighs 328 tons fully loaded. I know there are laws of physics involved, but in my mind nothing that heavy has any business being airborne. And that my seatmates and I will be spending the night and a good chunk of the next day locked inside this too heavy metal tube hurtling through the stratosphere in excess of 600 miles per hour defies my personal laws of common sense.

About my seatmates … I’m sure I would love spending personal time with each and every one of them … someplace else and one at a time. A metal tube six miles above the earth is certainly an intimate setting, but it’s not the best place to meet 341 new friends, and share two aisleways and six bathrooms for thirteen hours. After about eight hours together the air gets stale, our bodies start to rebel and we all get a little cranky.

Like I said: I love being in Israel … I don’t necessarily love getting there.


“Without a prophetic vision, the people throw off all restraint;” (Proverbs 29:18, Complete Jewish Bible)

I’ve been reading the story about the Israelites being delivered from slavery in Egypt and given the Promised Land.

Great beginning – Moses meets with Pharaoh, says, “Let my people go.” Ten plagues, the Egyptians load the Israelites down with booty and their off!

Great ending – The waters of the Jordan part, the people walk over on dry land, Joshua blows a horn, the walls of Jericho fall down, the Israelites take over the Promised Land!

But the middle … man that was a bummer! They get chased by Egyptians, the people say to Moses, “Was it because there no graves in Egypt that you brought us out here to die?” God parts the Red Sea and drowns the Egyptians

Then they came up on some bad water and “grumbled against Moses.” God turns the water sweet.

In the desert supplies got a little lean and they complained again; “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!” God sends manna (bread from heaven) and quail.

Water gets a little scarce and the people say, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die of thirst?” God makes water pour from a rock.

Are we starting to see a pattern here?

When Moses left the people alone for forty days they deserted God, built an idol and started an orgy. Moses comes back, has the ringleaders killed and God spares the people and leads them to the Promised Land. But on the way (you guessed it) the people complained. God was losing patience; He sent fire to burn up the suburbs.

But the Israelites, slow to get the message, just kept griping. For better than a year now they had been eating manna, bread from heaven, supplied daily by God. Manna wasn’t matzo; it was good … sweet with a taste of coriander and olive oil. But the people wanted some variety; they wanted fish and cucumbers, leeks and garlic and onion – all the wonderful produce they remembered from Egypt. Forget that they were slaves in Egypt and the menu they remembered probably wasn’t the menu they had. But now they were bored and they wanted more – bread from heaven wasn’t good enough.

They wanted meat … they got meat. God sent quail again, lots of quail – three hundred square miles of quail ([Numbers 11] figure a day’s journey in any direction equals ten miles; if ten miles is the radius and A[area] = Ï€r2 the area of the circle is 314 square miles. *note to young readers: high school math really is handy for some things later in life). So, the people got their meat, about 1,200 quail per person (more math). So much meat they choked on it. While the meat was still in their mouths God struck them with a severe plague and many died. Bon appétit …

They finally reach the borders of the Promised Land. Moses sends out twelve spies to get the lay of the land; they come back forty days later, laden with big produce and bigger stories. The land is ‘flowing with milk and honey’; a cluster of grapes is so big two men are required to carry it. But, speaking of big, some of the bad guys the spies saw in the Promised Land were huge! And the cities were fortified. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. But two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, remembered that God had delivered them from the Egyptians, led them through the desert and provided food and water for two million people for nearly two years. If God could do all that, the big men and the big cities of Canaan shouldn’t pose much of a problem. But the people, of course, listened to the ten spineless spies … they didn’t want to go.

God, always providing an answer to whatever they complained about said, “Fine! If you don’t want to go into the Promised Land you won’t.” He caused them to wander in the wilderness until that complaining, rebellious, unbelieving generation died out. Only their children would inherit the land promised by God to their ancestor Abraham.


The moral of my rant?

There’s a plan and purpose for each of our lives – there’s a destination. Getting there involves a trip. The trip can be long and, at times, unpleasant. Sometimes it’s easy to focus so much on the trip that we forget that it’s how we get to where we’re going. The story of Israelites taught us that if we spend too much time complaining about the trip we may never get to our destination … that would be a tragedy.

Another thing the story of the Israelites taught us it that no matter how hopeless and miserable we think the trip is, God always provides a way for us to keep moving. He planned the destination; He really wants us to get there.

If your trip is getting a little long and miserable, take a lesson from Joshua and Caleb – focus on the Promised Land.

→ 3 CommentsTags: faith · God's purpose · Israel · Site News · Trust

Time Travel

January 26th, 2010 · No Comments

“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

I remember watching a movie as a boy; “The Time Machine”. The movie, I later discovered, was loosely based on the H.G Wells book of the same name. The movie version has been remade a couple of times; the last version in 2002. If you like old fashioned science fiction, it’s a pretty good story.

The idea of traveling through time fascinated me as a kid … honestly, it fascinates me as an adult. The problem with the hero in the story (as far as I was concerned) was that he always traveled into the future. If it was me, I’d travel into the past. If I traveled into time past I’d be able to fix what went wrong and then, by the time I caught up with the present, things would be a lot better than they are because I had a chance to go back and fix them.

If I could go back in time, and if I was able to remember what happened when, I’d warn people of impending disaster – natural and man-made. By knowing what bad was going to happen in advance, I’d have a chance of preventing it from happening, or at least warning others to prepare for some terrible event I couldn’t stop.

I’d also know who was going to win the World Series and the Super Bowl. But I’m not great at remembering things like that and, besides, it would take the fun out of watching.

Privately, if I was able to travel back in time, I could undo a lot of the dumb things I’ve done in life. I’d finish college at twenty-two instead of dropping out at nineteen. I’d take my time and energy and youth a lot more seriously. I’d put more into the days I wasted. I’d do the things I should have done then, instead of regretting not doing them now. Mostly, I’d not say and do the things I’ve said and done over a lifetime that have hurt others. If I could go back in time and start fresh I’d be a lot better person.

I was thinking about time travel and what I’d do differently when it occurred to me that, because of my human nature, even if I could travel back in time, there’s no guarantee I’d behave better. There’s a pretty good chance that going back in time wouldn’t fix anything because it would still be me who was going back; a time machine isn’t going to fix that. Like Forrest Gump’s momma said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Once I gave up on the notion that I’d behave differently if I was given another shot at the past and gave up the notion of a science fiction time machine, it occurred to me that a real time machine might exist.

A real time machine?

Yeah, I know it sounds like I’m back in science fiction land again, but it’s true; I’ve discovered a real time machine. This time machine doesn’t go back in time, it goes forward – but not super fast like the one in the H.G. Wells story; the real time machine moves forward in real time.

That was my first mistake in thinking about time machines, there’s no reverse gear; just like time, they only move forward, never backward (H.G. Wells was right on that point). My second mistake was in my thinking about time itself. I thought going back into the past would fix my present situation. But I learned, since I can’t go back in time, that I can only fix where I am now so that as I go forward I can look back and not regret where I’ve been.

Confused yet?

Time only moves forward and my time machine only moves forward – at the same rate as time. I can time travel into tomorrow … but, since my time machine operates in real time, it’ll take me about twenty-four hours. The only way to affect my future is by what I do in my present. What I do today will have an effect on where I find myself tomorrow. So I can change tomorrow by what I do today. I can fix my future-present by how I behave in my present-present.

I also discovered that my time machine has a fine-tune adjustment; even though future time extends out forever, present time happens right now. If I want this time travel thing to really work right, I’ve got to be at the controls moment by moment.

Wishing for a time machine that would fix my past in order to improve my present was all wrong. I can’t travel back in time – only forward. When that finally clicked in my head I realized I was already traveling in time – I was traveling forward! I can’t go back and fix my past, but I can move forward and create a better past as I go.

I can’t undo all the dumb and hurtful stuff I’ve done and said in the past. Thankfully, God knows that and He can undo my past by forgiving me and giving me a clean slate today. My job is to travel forward in time, doing what I know is right and not doing what I know is wrong, creating my past as I go and not regretting a minute of it.

I admit, this whole time travel concept can be confusing; but now that I know which direction it goes in I’ll travel with it – right here and now.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

→ No CommentsTags: Site News

Haiti Update

January 18th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Wes Smith (who I wrote about yesterday) Filed an update last night and today. They’re on the ground and working! I wish the big guys could move as fast. Please, please, please, keep Wes’s team in your prayers. Here’s the update:
January 18 update:
Efficiency, Speed, and Simplicity:

The Haitian believers at Lloyd’s mission have rented a truck. When our plane lands in Port-au-Prince all of the medical supplies and workers are whisked away. Within 30 minutes everything and everyone that was on the plane is at the mission.

The third and final round-trip flight with volunteers and medical supplies left Ft. Lauderdale at 4:30 p.m. The team is in the air between Florida and Haiti as I type this.

WSBT Chanel 22 from South Bend called this morning and asked for a television interview about Haiti. The interview was taped a few minutes ago at the Hampton Inn here in Warsaw, Indiana.

You can view it at the following hours:

5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6:00 p.m., 11:00 p.m.

And 6:00 a.m. till noon on the 19th of January.

It is noon on Monday as I post this. Today is the first full day that our team is on the ground in Port-au-Prince. Pray for strength as the girls clean wounds and help with their nursing skills.

January 17 update:

8:45 p.m. Our team is in Haiti at a place called Carrefour, where Lloyd’s mission is located. It is about 12 miles from the airport in Port-au-Prince. They are all going to sleep in a tiny house there for the night. Thank you so much for your prayers. They called on the Sat Phone to let us know their whereabouts and that they were safe.

Just in from the Holy Ghost: “I am a Lion! I am King of the Jungle!”

The plane will land in Port-au-Prince this afternoon. Jon Fussle, Katrina Smoker, Heidi Smith, April Smith, and Ricardo are on board. They called on the Sat Phone to say that they are getting fuel in Turks before going on to Haiti.

A big “Thank you, Jesus!” that they were given permission to land in Port-au-Prince.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Site News

Haiti Relief

January 17th, 2010 · 3 Comments

On Tuesday January 12, at 4:53 PM local time a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, its epicenter 15 miles west-southwest of the city, struck Port-Au-Prince Haiti. By now you you know that.
On Saturday Paul Antoine Bien-Aime, Haiti’s interior minister told Reuters. “We have already collected around 50,000 dead bodies. We anticipate there will be between 100,000 and 200,000 dead in total, although we will never know the exact number.”
There’s nothing in my frame of reference me that allows me to comprehend a tragedy of this proportion. I see reports on TV, shake my head, pray for the people, and check out ways to help the relief effort, but the reality and depth of the devastation just doesn’t compute. My life, fairly ordinary in American terms, has been so insulated by privilege and abundance that the poverty and hardship of a typical Haitian before the earthquake was incomprehensible; their plight today, I can’t begin to understand. I want to, but I can’t. Shame on me.
My first prayer is for God’s mercy on those struck by this tragedy. My second prayer is for the scales that prevent me from loving others as Christ loves me fall from my heart .
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!”
(Philippians 2:4)
The letter below is from my friend Wesley Smith.
Wesley’s wife Primrose (she’s in heaven now) was a Haitian, the daughter of a Haitian minister. Wes and his family have dedicated their lives to ministering to people around the globe, both spiritually and physically. The people of Haiti were and are a very big part of that.
Wesley and his team are on their way or already in Haiti as I write this. Keep them in your prayers and know, with my personal guarantee, that any money given to the relief effort described below will go directly to minister to the physical needs of Haiti’s people, as Wes and his family have ministered so faithfully to Haitians’ spiritual needs for years.
January 16 update:

A very, very important way you can help is to send this address to everyone you know:

The plane loaded with medical supplies (thanks to local doctors and Kosciusko Community Hospital) left the Warsaw airport January 15 at 10:00 p.m.. Our team of nine people rendezvoused in Ft. Lauderdale today and will then head on to Haiti.

The team consists of:
My two daughters (Heidi and April Smith) who are nurses, my two grandchildren (Travis and Katelyn), my son-in-law (Bryan Bartow), Katrina Smoker (Lloyd’s daughter) pilot (Jon Fussle), and two Haitians.

And a big THANK YOU to David and Vivian Poulos who are hosting the team in Florida!

Right now the greatest need is for finances. The plane and pilot have been donated, but the fuel cost is $100 per hour. It was seven hours to Florida and each round-trip flight (shuttling supplies and people) from FL to Haiti will cost about $1,000 to $1,200.

We have also been given $50,000 for the purchase of 8 Hydro Wells, 24/400 unit bundles, which is 9,600 individual life packs. However, this product is in Portland, Oregon and needs to be flown to Florida. In Florida we have a large plane waiting to take the product onward to Port-au-Prince.

The last “hitch” in this process is to get the Hydro Wells from Oregon to Florida. Flying would be fastest, but more expensive. They could be trucked to Florida from Oregon, but that is a very long drive, and in the meantime precious Haitian people need clean water. Pray!

A big priority for us is to help Lloyd Smoker’s mission in Port-au-Prince. Almost everyone in his congregation was crushed to death during an evening worship service. Every building he spent 26 years erecting has been demolished. He and his wife just happened to be in the states when the earthquake hit January 12, or they would be dead, too. The Lord works in amazing ways.

Since pure water is so very important to sustain life, we feel that at this time water is a priority for Haiti. After that we will concentrate on some other things like medical attention, housing, and drilling wells. As a Primrose memorial we want to drill one well at each of our church sites in the mountains surrounding Jeremie, Haiti, where our mission is located.

Thank you for your concern and your prayers.

Believe it or not, Jeremie, Haiti, where our mission is located, is unscathed by the 7.0 earthquake that hit January 12.

Lloyd Smoker’s mission in Port-au-Prince, however, is totally wiped out with many people killed. Tens of thousands of people are homeless in the PAP area and just roaming the streets without water or any place to go.

You can send help through Full Life Crusade, P.O. Box 398, Winona Lake, IN 46590. 100% of the money will go to Lloyd’s mission or the cost of getting the pure water product to Haiti. Be sure to mark your check: “Lloyd’s mission” or “Water”.

Another very, very important way you can help is by sending this blog address to everyone you know:

Haiti’s airport is running out of room for grounded planes and is becoming a logjam. Volunteer pilots have flown in supplies and workers but there is no gasoline available for them to refuel.

The main prison in Port-au-Prince has completely collapsed. Many prisoners who were not crushed have escaped. It is estimated that three million Haitians have been affected by the power of this earthquake. All main roads into the capital city are clogged and impassable.

A massive humanitarian effort is underway to send help there. The runway in PAP is usable, although log-jammed at times; but planes are going in with water, food, and medical help as I write this. More than 250 Creole-speaking nurses have already volunteered and are on their way to Haiti, too.

Those who are experienced in disaster relief tell us that the next stage will be the worst. Human corpses are already beginning to rot in the ninety-degree heat beneath the heaps of concrete and other debris. Cholera, dysentery, dehydration, heat stroke, no water/filthy water (people cannot go without water for more than three days), looters, stench of death, rats and dogs feeding on dead bodies are just a few of second-round devastation to hit Haiti.

This is apocalyptic, and of Biblical proportions!

We can be so proud of our nation at this hour. When many countries are criticizing the United States of America, guess which people on this planet help the most when there is an earthquake, tsunami, or some other major disaster. Forty nations have sent help to Haiti so far; but shame on you other countries who criticize, but do not act with mercy during emergencies like this.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Site News

A Pottery Lesson

January 4th, 2010 · No Comments

“Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand …” Jeremiah 18:6

I’ve been reading in Jeremiah for the last few weeks – boy is it a tough book. A lot of folks avoid Jeremiah; they think it’s too difficult to understand, too depressing and too long. They’re right … but only in the wrong kind of way.

If you’re thumbing through the Bible for a quick ‘pick-me-up’ verse, Jeremiah is not your best bet; unless context isn’t an issue and you’re just looking for a good one-liner.

Jeremiah 1:5 has always been one of my favorites. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” That was God talking to Jeremiah. Steve translation: “Before you were born I knew you and had a plan for your life and a very special role in the world in fulfilling my great purpose.” That’s positive! By itself, that’s a verse that can give me the spiritual warm fuzzies.

But dig a little deeper into the story. Jeremiah didn’t want to be “a prophet to the nations” and God’s assurance wasn’t all that assuring. “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.” (1:7-8)

Rescue me from what!?

The task God set Jeremiah ‘apart’ for wasn’t a pleasant one. His life’s mission was to, “uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” (1:10) All this uprooting, tearing down, destroying and overthrowing, of course, really upset the course of normal society. Everybody hated Jeremiah. The king, the priests, the other prophets, esteemed citizens – nobody was interested in what he was selling.

Jeremiah’s job, the one God had set aside for him before he was born, was to tell the people of Israel (what was left of them) to either turn or burn … and he wasn’t speaking metaphorically.

Speaking of metaphors, God told Jeremiah to visit the house of a potter. As he watched the potter work to form a jar from a lump of clay, the clay was marred and refused to form in the potter’s hand. So the potter shaped the clay into something else; not the vessel he had intended, but something less, something the clay had allowed him to make of it.

God told Jeremiah that Israel was like the clay; they refused to be molded and shaped as God had intended so He was going to shape them into something else – change their destiny because they refused to ‘run in his hand’.

Jeremiah 18:6 says, “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.” A lot of folks take this passage to mean that God chooses us and shapes as he desires – we really don’t have much of a say in it at all. But that’s not what God was saying to Israel. He was saying, “I chose you, to mold you into something I desire, but you refuse to submit to my hand and now I’ll mold you into something else, something you will allow.” The decision of what would become of Israel, was ultimately up to them. But they refused to listen, refused to submit to God’s hand and made plans to do away with Jeremiah.

Then God told Jeremiah to buy a clay jar from the potter and bring some of the elders and priests of Judah out to the Valley of Ben Himmon, a nasty place known for sacrificing children to the pagan gods Baal and Molech. There Jeremiah prophesied that this place would be renamed ‘The Valley of Slaughter’ because the people of Jerusalem would be slaughtered here, and then he smashed the clay jar to the ground. God spoke through Jeremiah, “I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired.”

Like I said, Jeremiah is a tough book.

The lesson I take away from this story about the potter and the clay is this: The potter chooses a lump of clay and throws it on his wheel with the intention of shaping it into the vessel he has planned. But if the clay refuses to be shaped into the vessel the potter has intended, he will crush the work he has begun and will re-form the lump into another, less desirable vessel. Eventually, whatever the clay has allowed the potter to make of it will be fired in the kiln. Firing will make the clay no longer formable, but rigid, forever in the shape it has become, and brittle, easily broken if dashed to the ground.

Applied to my own life:

  1. I am the clay.
  2. God is the potter.
  3. God has chosen me, and he has a shape in mind for me to become.
  4. In order to shape me into a vessel fit for his use, he throws me on a wheel and starts it turning. My experiences are the turning of that wheel and his hand on my life as he shapes me into what I am to become
  5. If I refuse to take the shape he has intended, he will unmake what he has begun and reform me into something less than his original intention, allowing for my willingness (or unwillingness) to be shaped by his hand.
  6. There may come a day when any more shaping is either unnecessary or fruitless and whatever shape I have allowed myself to be molded into will go into the kiln. When I come out I will be what I have allowed him to make of me – good or bad. After the firing, there’s no reshaping; my form is rigid and that’s the way I’ll stay.
  7. If what I have become is useful and to his intention, I’ll serve him as he has intended and nothing on earth will be able to shape me into something else. If what I have become is not useful or unworthy of his effort I may very well be dashed on the rocks and broken to pieces. Then the only usefulness I would serve is as an example to others of what not to become.

Jeremiah is a tough book but it holds some big lessons – allow the potter to shape you – don’t refuse to run in his hand – submit to his touch. He’s got something in mind for you that’s beautiful and unique. There’s not a lump of clay in the world as well suited as you to fulfill that particular purpose. But there comes a day when you’ll go into the kiln and become forever what you’ve allowed him to make you.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of the darkness,’ made his light to shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)

→ No CommentsTags: Site News

Gifts of the Magi

December 18th, 2009 · No Comments

By O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling–something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mme. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation–as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value–the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends–a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do–oh! What could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?”

At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “Please God, make him think I am still pretty.”

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two–and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

“Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again–you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!’ Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice– what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”

“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?”

Jim looked about the room curiously.

“You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you–sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year–what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! A quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs–the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims–just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

“Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

“Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.


→ No CommentsTags: Site News

Explaining Heaven to Bears

December 1st, 2009 · 1 Comment

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

At True Potential Publishing, we’ve been checking into making all of our printed books available in e-book format as well. E-books have the advantage of being free from printing, inventory and shipping costs – three major expenses for publishers – which get passed on to the reader.

A reader just downloads an e-book and begins reading – no wait, no postage, no UPS truck. A lot of folks read (or try to) e-books on their computer screen. But it’s not easy; computer screens are hard on the eyes after awhile and they’re not conducive to curling up with on the couch or bringing to your bedside for a little pre-sleep read.

So the e-book folks invented e-book readers. They’re portable electronic devices, about the size of a paperback, that store and display e-books in a way that mimics a normal paper book page.

Since I’m planning on getting into the e-book business I figured I’d better buy an e-book reader. There are about thirty different readers on the market right now. Before buying I read some reviews so I could be sure I was doing the right thing. One excellent review (by John Biggs) gave ten reasons to buy an Amazon Kindle and ten reasons not to buy a Kindle. Reason number seven for not buying a Kindle was: “Flight attendants will tell you to turn it off on takeoff and landing. You can’t explain that it’s e-paper and uses no current. You just can’t. It’s like explaining heaven to bears.”

“Explaining heaven to bears” – that line sold me – I bought a Kindle.

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you were explaining heaven to bears? I have.

A friend asked me recently why I do what I do for a living (publishing books with an authentic Christian message); he asked if I did it for the money. I laughed to myself and my internal chuckle spilled out into our conversation. I shared my private joke with him. No, I don’t do this for the money. In fact, the idea that I’d do this for the money has become so irrelevant to me that when somebody asks, I’ve got to laugh.

Then, not to seem rude, I tried to explain why I laughed at his sincere and reasonable question. Depending on who asks, trying to explain why I do what I do is kind of like explaining heaven to bears. It’s like somebody asking if we chose our home because it has flush toilets.

Our house does have flush toilets, and I’m glad it does, but it doesn’t occur to me as the primary reason for living here. In fact I don’t give them much thought at all. I might change my tune if one of them ever stopped doing its job; but then I’d just fix the problem and go back to not paying them much attention.

I understand that if a person had never seen a flush toilet it might be so unique and the prospect of having one in the home so potentially life changing that he might, indeed, live in a house just for the toilet. But for most of us the novelty has worn off. Our homes already have them, they’re useful, even critical appliances, but they’re not our main reason for living in the house.

I remember when money was the main reason for doing what I did ‘for a living’. Some days the job was okay, other days it was miserable … but I always looked forward to payday. And the actual work involved in ‘working for the money’ wasn’t necessarily worse than what I do today. And it isn’t that my ‘working for the money’ job was meaningless. The manufacture and sale of our products were necessary to industry, contributed to the local economy and employed people in the community. I don’t employ anyone in the community right now and our products aren’t ‘necessary to industry’, so on that scale, ‘working for the money’ contributed plenty to society that my current job doesn’t.

The biggest difference between ‘working for the money’ and what I do now, the reason that making money takes up as much of my consciousness as flush toilets, is that now I feel like I’m doing what I was put here for and before I felt like I was waiting to do what I was put here for. It’s the difference between living and waiting to begin living.

I still have frustrations at work but, if anything, it’s the frustration of not doing enough. It’s not the underlying frustration of waiting to begin.

Does that make sense to you?

I don’t ‘work for the money’ anymore. I work for God. I don’t tell people who I work for very often because preachers and other ‘religious professionals’ have made ‘working for God’ into a cliché. But if you get down to brass tacks, that’s Who you’re working for when you’re doing what you were put here to do, and that’s what I’m doing so that’s Who I work for.

About the money: my comparing money to flush toilets doesn’t mean that money doesn’t matter to me anymore. Money matters … every bit as much as flush toilets. It’s great to have. It makes life a lot easier. Like flush toilets, money has become a necessary domestic device. I’m sure I’d miss it if I ceased to have access to it. But it doesn’t fill my waking hours. When I don’t need it I don’t think about it and when I do need it, enough is there to meet the need. It’s just that life has become so much more important, that money gets pushed back to a supporting role. Besides, working for God and worrying about money is infinitely more stupid than working for IBM and worrying whether or not the company will make payroll. God can afford you … relax.

I feel like I’m explaining heaven to bears again. Jesus did it much better.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:22-26, 29-31, 32-34)

I love my job.

→ 1 CommentTags: purpose · Site News · success · Thriving in Tough Times