Putting On A Show

doggyI’m not sure where we had been, but when John Hayden drove up his driveway, his little mutt ran off the porch and begin to bark with the attitude of a junk yard dog.  John looked at me with his characteristic ear to ear grin, and said:  “That’s the best little watchdog I’ve ever had.”

I chuckled, and said: “John, that dog is just putting on a show for you.”   I went on to tell my mentor and friend that his little watchdog never barked or even moved off the front porch when I approached his house.

This incident reminds me of Paul’s instructions in Colossians 3:22: Obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.

The word eyeservice is found only in the King James Version, but I like this unique rendering of Paul’s instructions.  It clearly explains the modus operandi of some people: Some are known as men-pleasers while others are noted for their sincerity of heart.

Sincerity is the ethic that inspired the Apostle Paul, and Philippians 1:21 is the maxim that guided his life:  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Paul lived for Christ because he loved him, and we would do well to accept his challenge to, Be imitators of God as dearly loved children  and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. ~Ephesians 5:1-2

From POW to Ambassador

11755266_873460132744096_7210495943791147530_nFor several years now, veterans have gathered at El Dorado Lake to renew friendships and to reminisce.  The event began 30 years ago as the Kansas Vietnam Veterans and Family Reunion, but the name was changed to the Kansas Veterans and Family Reunion in 2007.

As I thought about this annual event, I remembered a man I’ve never met.  His name is Pete Peterson.

During Viet Nam, Captain Peterson’s plane was shot down during a bombing raid and he spent the next 6 years in the Hanoi Hilton as a POW. He returned to Hanoi on May 9, 1997 on a different mission; he returned as the first post war Ambassador to Viet Nam.

Peterson believed God had saved him for a purpose.  He resolved to use the remainder of his life to be an agent of healing and the power of his office to accomplish his mission.

Among the many citizens of the USA, very few will ever be appointed as an Ambassador; however, there is a higher calling and an office open to all; and, that is to be an Ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20):

We are now Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were appealing direct to you through us. As his personal representatives we say, “Make your peace with God.” ~Phillips

Peterson’s mission was to bring peace and healing to the people of Viet Nam.  Our mission is a message to the world and it is one of hope and reconciliation between man and God.

When Air Fare Isn’t Fair

ann-coulterOver the weekend, Ann Coulter raised a ruckus on Twitter because Delta re-served the reserved seat she had booked and paid for in advance of her flight.  Evidently, it never dawned on Delta that Coulter had a good reason for booking the adjoining seat.

While Delta was a bit fickle and forced the bellicose commentator to bid adios to her rightful seat, there’s a promise of another one that Peter said is an inheritance that’s imperishable, undefiled, unfading and reserved in Heaven for God’s faithful.

The Coulter-Delta brouhaha reminds me of something Paul said to the Colossians: If you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth. Or, might I say, not the seat below.

Seeking Peace

seek-peace-and-pursue-it-2Some people live their lives wildly chasing dreams that eventually leave them feeling empty and hollow.  I thought of this yesterday when I read five words from Psalm 34: Seek peace and pursue it.

As I thought about this verse, it occurred to me that a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction is the result of what we pursue in life.  The writings of Paul validate this statement:

  • Romans 14:19: Pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another
  • I Thessalonians 5:15: See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.
  • I Timothy 6:11: Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

It’s been said that whatever catches your attention, catches you.  Have you been ensnared by the false hopes of groundless dreams or have you captured the peace of God that is beyond human reasoning?

As you start a new week, I hope the words of Peter will encourage you to focus your thoughts on the peace of God. He said: Seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer (I Peter 3:10-12).

Christmas in July

christmasWhen thermometers record the sizzling summer heat in triple digits, and people seek the shade instead of the sun, they are rarely thinking of Christmas.  For several years now, some merchants have been trying to refocus your thoughts and stoke the fires of your holiday spirit by offering Christmas in July.

The always sentimental Hallmark runs a series of Christmas-oriented movies during the month of July.  Their hope is that their feel-good movies will get you out of your recliner and into their stores to make a purchase for that special someone in your life.

The powerhouse of seasonal sales is Amazon—the behemoth who is bringing brick and mortar stores to their knees.  Amazon’s annual Prime Day sale, set records again this year. The e-commerce giant has said that last week’s 30-hour event surpassed last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

Even though events like these are experiencing success, there will be some things that we will always associate more with Christmas and less with July.  One these is a prophecy found in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

The words of this prophecy might be the gift you need on this July morning.  When you unwrap this gift from God, you will discover some timeless truth:

  • Jesus is more than just the Wonderful Counselor, He is your Counselor, and you can turn to Him at any time. You can approach Him with confidence to find the grace and mercy that you need.
  • Jesus is the Mighty God, and the pages of the New Testament are a record of His magnificent and miraculous power. He gave sight to blind, healed the crippled, and calmed the raging seas.
  • Because He paid the price of peace, Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and you can experience both the peace with God and the peace of God.

Whether it is December or July, the gift that keeps on giving is Jesus; and, He can make every day a Prime Day.

Truth: A Graphic Contrast

truth-2One evening last week, I read Psalm 85 a few minutes before I watched the evening news.  There was a graphic contrast in the manner in which the two considered the subject of truth.

As I watched interviews of politicians and their proficiency in spinning the truth, I wished they had taken the time to read Psalm 85 and to consider the words of both Jesus and Solomon:

  • John 8:32: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
  • Proverbs 12:17: Truthful witness by a good person clears the air, but liars lay down a smoke screen of deceit. ~ The Message

The need for honest assessments and truthful dialogue has been the subject of discussion since the advent of man, and I’ve selected a comments as examples:

  • K. Chesterton: “Right is right even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it.”
  • Albert Einstein: “Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.”
  • Augustine: “The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.”

Stephen Covey has said: Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships. Trust, however, can be victimized when we are too casual with the truth, and too comfortable with deceit.

The life motto of some people seems to be a question: Why tell the truth when a good lie will do?

The spiritual environment of Ephesus was a polluted atmosphere of toxic distrust due to a litany of lies perpetrated through the worship of Artemis. Because of this, Paul encouraged the church to no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes, but speak the truth in love, so you will grow up into Christ (Ephesians 4:14-14).

I will end this post where I started, and that is with the words of Psalm 85:

Mercy and truth have met. Righteousness and peace have kissed.

Truth sprouts from the ground, and righteousness looks down from heaven.

The Lord will certainly give us what is good, and our land will produce crops.

Righteousness will go ahead of him, and make a path for his steps.

Psalm 85:10-13

Words Like Honey

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Nitro’s Elhew Legacy: “Hank”

I enjoy the outdoors, and I usually take at least two walks a day with Hank as my companion.  Regardless of the season, Hank is smelling the air, and checking it for the scent of quail.

This time of year, my attention is less on quail and more on song birds and cardinals crested in red; however, I’m easily distracted by the buzzing of bees as they meticulously go from flower to flower harvesting pollen.

The bees prick my mind and enliven the memories of Fern—not the plant, but the person.  Fern was my great-aunt and she was a beekeeper and a woman who crafted elderberry-based home remedies.

I was reminded of Aunt Fern this morning when I was reading the Proverbs: Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (16:24).

I know Aunt Fern could be firm when necessary, but I remember her more for her pleasant words of kindness, for her love, and for her shelves full of large sticky jars of honey that she had collected from her bees.

When today is history, will people remember you for your pleasant words that were healing and helpful or for tirades that were hurtful? Today may be the last chance you have to make a positive difference in the life of someone you meet; so, I challenge you to take these next few words to heart:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. ~Ephesians 4:29

The Secret to Happiness

smileA recent Gallup poll surveyed the happiness levels of Americans and has found that the levels are at a four-year high. Almost 60 percent of Americans say they feel happy, and they do not have a lot of stress or worry.

The Center for Disease Control looked at another aspect of life and found that about 40% of Americans haven’t discovered a satisfying life purpose, and almost 25% of Americans report they do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful.

The quest for happiness and the search for meaning have different results. Researchers agree that when a person engages in a single-minded quest for happiness he discovers a pot of dissatisfaction at the end of his rainbow.

This was the sad case of the prodigal son. Victor Frankl showed an understanding of this paradox when he said: “It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”

Frankl’s understanding of meaning, life’s purpose, and happiness was formed under the harsh conditions of a Nazi concentration camp. Frankl wrote of his experience in the 1946 best seller Man’s Search for Meaning. He had come to the conclusion that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing—meaning. His fellow prisoners who had found meaning in the dire conditions of the death camp were much more resilient than those who had not.

Frankl’s conclusions have been supported by research that shows the value of having purpose and meaning in life:

• It increases overall well-being and life satisfaction
• It improves mental and physical health
• It enhances resiliency, and self-esteem, and it decreases the chances of depression.

The Journal of Positive Psychology reported on research by Jennifer Aaker of Stanford Graduate School of Business. Aaker and her colleagues, found that “Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker.”

The Apostle Paul knew a little something about givers and takers: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

How about you? Are you a giver or a taker? When you find the answer to this question, you may find your purpose in life.

Sand on the Seashore

Sand carver Shanin works on a sculpture during the Sand Sculpture Festival "Disney Sand Magic" in OstendHave you ever wanted to visit Cinderella’s castle, stand side-by-side with Captain America, or get investment advice from the curmudgeonly Scrooge McDuck? If so, you might want to schedule a vacation to Belgium.

Sand sculptor enthusiasts have transformed a beach in Belgium into a giant sand gallery of larger-than-life characters.  Visitors to the beach will see the super heroes and cartoon characters who were part of their childhood fantasies.

The Sand Sculpture Festival of Ostend, Belgium, is scheduled to run until September’ unless, a character flaw is revealed.  Each of these sculptures has an Achille’s heel; they are made of sand, and can easily fall prey to a drenching thunderstorm.

The same is true with anyone who tries to build a life on an unstable foundation.  Are you trying to build on a solid rock or shifting sand? Jesus said: Whoever hears these words of Mine and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain came down. The water came up. The wind blew and hit the house. The house did not fall because it was built on rock.  Whoever hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. ~Matthew 7:24-25

castle

A Yellow Rose For Dad

roseHi Dad. I think about you every day, but it’s been quite some time since I last wrote.  I’ve never been much of a fan of greeting cards—Hallmark would go broke if they depended on me.

Anyway, since today is July 7th, and your 88th birthday, I thought it was time for a little talk.  A lot has happened since May 25, 1965—our last goodbye. You walked out the door and headed to Cities Service for another eight hours of work in the oil patch, and you never came home.

You were about two months shy of your 36th birthday, and I was 12 and in 6th grade.  I thought you were old, but now that I’m 64, I know how young you really were—perspective is a strange thing.

I’m thankful for the memories that I have of you.  They were formed through the things you taught me, and I’ve passed those lessons on to my kids.

Speaking of my kids, there’s a little bit of you in both of them.  I coached Wade throughout little league, and he learned to hit, catch and throw the same way you taught me; and he’s now coaching his daughter and son.

I remember how much you loved to whistle and sing.  Jennifer has your appreciation for a good song, and a beautiful voice. You would enjoy listening to her sing.

I never told you, but when you showered, I would sit outside on the patio and listen to you sing: Mocking Bird Hill, Red River Valley, and Get Along Home Cindy were your favorites.

Whenever I drive East towards Eureka, my thoughts still turn towards Sallyards, and your mom’s chicken and noodles, cherry pie, and singing while she played the piano; and, I can’t forget Grandpa standing on the piano bench.  He would have Uncle Jim and Harold Dale standing back to back to see who was the tallest.

By the way, Jim called Monday.  He’s the last of the 6 Seymour siblings, but I guess you know that because the rest are with you.

I hope Uncle Kenneth and Aunt Catherine kept their promises to me.  I spent quite a bit of time with both of them while they were dying, and asked them to tell you “hi,” and to let you know that I still love you.

Well dad, I better wrap this up.  I’ll stop by the cemetery a little later today with a yellow rose; they were your favorite—I still remember.

Happy Birthday and I Love you!

Stan

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. ~John 11:25