Hide and Seek: A Moral Dilemma

9th Street Bridge

I stopped by the 9th street bridge yesterday morning about 5:45 and snapped the picture to the left.  When it comes to the relationship between light and darkness, this picture is worth a thousand words.

It has been said that darkness is the absence of light, and the power of these opposites on our moral choices has been the subject of much discussion.  Recent research  suggests that darkness creates a psychological feeling of secrecy that may lead to amoral behavior.  Whether it is closing the eyes during a game of hide and seek or wearing a pair of sunglasses,  the self-induced darkness can reduce our sense of morality.

Apparently the seclusion of darkness provides an incognito mentality that is expressed as, catch me if you can.  The more popular version is, what happens in Vegas stays in  Vegas.

This reminds me an of old Latin phrase: In absentia luci, tenebrae vinciunt.  Which means:  In the absence of light, darkness prevails.  I believe there is a connection between this statement and the Broken Window Theory.

This theory helps to explain some self-perpetuating problems.  Any part of  society that appears to be void of law and order can become  a  fertile seedbed in which the weeds of lawlessness grows.  As an example, a vacant building  that has a few broken windows that are not replaced will soon become a vacant building with many broken windows.  To keep this from happening, the small problems need to be addressed before they become big problems.

To accomplish this, we may benefit from the words of Paul who challenged people to cast off the darkness and to put on the armor of light (Romans 13).

Let me give you a thought to keep you thinking:  Could it be that darkness is not the absence of light, but it’s the absence of you?

The Law of Returns

I am always amazed at people when they assume the negative when the positive is equally present with its life changing potential.  A case in point is the New Testament principle of sowing and reaping. Stated in a few words it says that you will reap what you sow.

Far too many people try to put just a negative                                                                             emphasis on a single verse of this passage of Scripture.   When read in its full context, it is pregnant with potential.

Newton’s cradle is a good demonstration of the principle of sowing and reaping.  Newton posited that “action and reaction are equal and opposite.”  When one ball is released (action), a ball from the opposite side swings out in equal distance (reaction).

Jesus taught this same principle in a discussion of forgiveness:  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).

How much different would your world be if you focused on sowing seeds of kindness and giving the gift of forgiveness to those who have wounded you? Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

What is it that is within you?  It is the potential to love others as Christ loves you.  This was Paul’s exhortation to the church at Rome:  Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good (The Message).

I hope this is a thought that will keep you thinking.

Riddles and Such

I spent many childhood hours in the tiny town of Sallyards.  My grandparents were some of the last people to live in this almost forgotten spot in the oil patch.

One of my vivid memories is of a black cocker spaniel.  Hardly a Summer went by that he wasn’t snake bit, and every time I visited he entertained me with the perplexing habit of chasing his tail.  I never figured out why he did it, but I never tried to get him to stop it because I laughed every time I watched him do it.

At the time, I had no idea who Winston Churchill was, but a quote of his defined the tail-chasing display.  Churchill said:  It’s a riddle, wrapped up in a mystery, inside an enigma.

As I’ve wandered through life, I’ve come to wonder about several things:

  • Why can you put 2 socks in the dryer, but only 1 comes out?
  • How can a black cow eat green grass and give white milk?
  • Does eating natural foods cause you to die a natural death?
  • If an illiterate person eats alphabet soup, does he know what he is eating?

Even Solomon, the wise sage of the Old Testament, found life to be perplexing:  Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless. I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 14).

The same gold and silver that garnished Solomon’s life tarnished his wisdom and life became meaningless.  His worldly affection was somewhat of a genetic infection. In a like father like son scenario, he nearly succumbed to the seductive power of the world.  His father David wrote:  But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73).

After much thought and consideration, Solomon realized there is no lasting happiness apart from the living God.  He ended Ecclesiastes with these words:  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil (Eccl. 12).

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking:  If you spend your life running in circles, you’ll travel a familiar path, but you won’t get far.  You may end up like Solomon–dizzy and disoriented.

Signs of the Times

The sign to the right is one I see when I stop at Sam’s to purchase gasoline.  Every time I see it,  I think of the way it is worded.  Evidently the pumps have the ability to see.  Look at the directive words: stay outside of the vehicle in view of fueling nozzle.

The ability to see and comprehend were synonomous with Sam Walton.  While he was creating his empire,  his competitors thought the Wizard of Walmart was all seeing and all knowing.  What was hyperbole concerning Sam, is an accurate depiction of God.

There are three terms that define God, and each begins with the prefix omni.  They are:  Omnipotence:  God is all powerful;  Omniscience:  God is all knowing; and,  Omnipresence: God is fully present everywhere at the same time.

These characteristics of God are comforting to me.  They tell me that God has all power, all knowledge, and He is always present.

Let me pose a question about our never absent God:  Has it ever occured to you that nothing has ever occured to God?  He is aware of all things; comprehends all things; and, He never has a need to acquire new knowledge.

There are those among the naysayers who would try to refute my beliefs with a question:  What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?  While they suppose this hypothetical event would limit God, their argument collapses on itself.

If an irresistible force ever met an immovable object and the object moved, it would not be immovable.  On the other hand, if the object did not move, the force would not be irresistible.

The more I come to know God, the more I find myself agreeing with MosesOur God is awesome!  With this attribute in mind, I encourage you to take a moment to listen to this song:  Our God is an Awesome God.

This song always blesses me with thoughts worth thinking.

Chump or Champ

He stands 6′-11″, weighs 211 pounds and wears number 7, but Billy Cundiff’s luck ran out on Sunday.  During the season he scored 84 points and was accurate 76% of the time, but his missed field goal attempt led, in part, to the Raven’s loss.

Even though Cundiff is the 4th best kicker in the NFL, he will be remembered more for the kick he missed than for the 28 he made.  Like an elephant, Cundiff will never forget, and this will weigh on him just as heavily.

Fans were outraged because Cundiff missed the kick.  At the time, few people were aware of a scorekeeper’s mishap that altered his preparation.

Cundiff, like most kickers has a well-ordered sideline sequence that prepares him for his on-field performance.  He  uses the down and distance information on the scoreboard to walk him through his routine.  On Sunday, Cundiff worked through his first-down prep and checked the scoreboard.  Then he went through his second down prep and looked at the scoreboard.

Suddenly there was confusion on the sidelines.   Coaches were shouting “field goal,” but Cundiff still thought it was 3rd down.  The scorekeeper had failed to advance the scoreboard stats,  and it indicated 3rd down when it was 4th down.  Cundiff was forced to break his routine, rush on the field, and he missed the uprights.

Cundiff illlustrates the need for a healthy routine and what happens when we break it.  A mentor of mine, Raymond Barber, told me that, You don’t lose your religion in a blowout.  You lose it in a small leak.

Small changes go unnoticed until the cumulative effect is felt.  A person can benefit from a disciplined life or suffer the consequences of neglect.

A disciplined routine prepared Samuel Grady for the 1984 Olympics where he won a gold medal in track and field.  Grady has said, All through my professional and amateur career, I worked a little harder and trained a little extra.  I was the first one at practice and the last to leave. 

Let me share a definition of discipline:  Doing the things that need to be done even when you don’t feel like doing them.  Whenever you’re doing the things that need to get done, keep the words of  Solomon in mind, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might (Eccl. 9:10).

I hope this thought keeps you thinking.

Thoughtful or Thought-Filled?

I’m not sure that I’m a thoughtful person; however, I have no doubt that I am thought-filled.  My mind races from one thought to another at a speed, that even NASCAR can’t match.

If all these thoughts were positive and constructive, I’d be the envy of the world.  The trouble is that many of them are negative and destructive.

I’ve come to realize that either I control my thoughts or they control me.  Our thoughts are seeds that blossom into feelings and behaviors that make us either blooming idiots or citizens of substance.

Dick Tracy

The increase in technology is directly connected to a decrease in thought-regulating quiet time.  Think with me for a moment about the rapid changes in society.  I can remember the Sunday edition of the paper and the watch-like apparatus Dick Tracy wore on his wrist.  Dick could be seen talking to a fellow detective with this device that was a pre-cursor to cell phones and video conferencing.  Most everyone thought this was far-fetched-thinking that would never happen in their lifetime, but we’ve gone from party-lines to cell phones with video capabilities in just a few short years.

And shortened years just might be the diagnosis, if we don’t learn how to slow down and still keep pace.  The question is:  How can we slow down, when the computer keeps us ramped up?

Here’s something I’m trying.  Every time I do a Google search, I pause just a second before I begin and say something positive and spiritual.  Prayers like this  have their roots in the words of the Apostle Paul:  Pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17); and in the thoughts of the old Quaker theologian, Rufus Jones:  Let a person’s inner being be fortified with a faith in God and all his creative powers are quickened, his marching strength is heightened and his grip on everyday things is immensely increased. It is as though he had tapped a hidden reservoir of power.

Let me share a few quick phrases that can be effective keyboard prayers:

·        Bless the Lord, my soul.

·        May Your will be accomplished in me.

·        Not my will, but yours.

·        Teach me. Guide me. Keep me

·        The Lord is the Rock of my salvation.

Instead of embracing the mentality of Atlas and trying to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, I’m learning to use these mini-prayers as pace-setters as I walk with the Lord.

I think these words of Jesus from The Message provide a good summary of my thoughts:  Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (Matthew 11:28-30).

I hope this thought keeps you thinking.

What’s In A Name

Most people who know me call me by the shortened form of my name.  Although my birth certificate reads, Stanley Lee Seymour,  most people call me Stan.   An etymological search of Stan reveals that it is Old English in origin and means rocky meadow or from the stony field.

Etymology, however, had nothing to do with the selection of my name.  Because my last name starts with an S, Mom and Dad thought it would be trendy for the first name of each of their children to start with an S.  My older brother’s name is Steve and my younger brother’s name is Brad.

Before he was born Brad’s name was going to be Stuart, but Mom was already having trouble calling Steve, Stan and Stan, Steve, so Stuart became Brad.

I think recent events show the power of a name.  Due to the bankruptcy of 2001, the name Enron is associated with corporate greed.  More recently, investment scams have come to be associated with the name Madoff.

Within the last couple of days, a new association has been given to the name  Schettino.  Captain Franceso Schettino has been accussed of dereliction of duty and cowardice.  If he was an officer in the United States military, he would be court-martialed.

In each of these examples, the absence of character was present.  For every ounce of character that Captain Schettio lacked, a pound of it was present in the cockpit of another captain.

The name Chesley Burnett Sullenberger III or “Sully” is associated with courage and integrity.  When faced with tragedy, he made a quick assessment; and, he landed his jet on the waters of the Hudson River.  His heroic efforts made him a household name.

Even though he attended the Air Force Academy, his actions remind me of the Army Cadet PrayerMake us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.

The disciplined life that Sully developed as a cadet, was on display on that cold January day of 2009.   Each of our military academies provide a daily regimen that builds the type of character and integrity that defines Captain Sullenberger.

The absence of character and the decline of morals was the focus of study by the Institue for American ValuesIf a central task of every generation is moral transmission, religion is a primary force in American life — historically, it has probably been the primary force — that transmits from one generation to another the moral understandings that are essential to liberal democratic institutions. Religion is especially suited to this task because it focuses our minds and hearts on obligations to each other that arise out of our shared createdness. By elevating our sights toward others and toward ultimate concerns, religious institutions help us turn away from self-centeredness . . .

I’ve been told that character is an Old English word that comes from the print shop and means the mark left behind.  Schettino or Sullenberger, what mark defines your name?

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking:  A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).

Dig A Little Deeper

Even though the good people of Kansas live in an area identified with agriculture, there are some among us unfamiliar with the concept of breaking up the fallow groundFarming practices have changed over the years, but it used to be that the mule-drawn plough dug into the earth the same depth year after year.  This created a hardened layer of soil beneath the surface.  Every few years, the farmer would need to plough a little deeper to breakup up this shelf, so moisture and nutrients could penetrate it.

There are times in the life of an individual  or an organization when it is necessary to break up the fallow ground.  This is because the long-cherished tried and true is no longer getting results.  I believe this can be said about issues relating to hunger and poverty, and I believe, Numana, a local nonprofit is a vibrant example of breaking up the fallow ground.

Numana has compiled some sobering statistics:

  • 1 in 6 residents in El Dorado go to bed hungry
  • 56% of USD 490 students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program
  • 21% of Kansas children live with food insecurity
  • 52%  of El Dorado residents are considered low to moderate income

Numana is taking a fresh approach to an old problem with the development of a garden and food system.  Stage one of their concept is in the incubator  now and will come to life this Spring with the birth of  “Community Gardens” and “Communal Gardens” (numanagardens.com).

While there are many different questions to the why of hunger, I know there is at least one answer to the what of hungerWhat can be done?  People can get off their backside, go outside, and work alongside of Numana to give hope to the hungry.

If you’re not local, you can still do something at a distance.  You can contact Numana and give a gift to help.  If you are physically incapable, you are still prayerfully able.

 Mahatma Gandhi stated it this way:  Be the change that you wish to see in the world.

I would be remiss, if I failed to give the spiritual application to the concept of fallow ground.  Because we can get into a spiritual routine, there are times we need to dig a little deeper.  So, if your sweet disposition has turned a little sour; if your rosy optimism has withered; if your fountain of faith has run dry; and, you know a little change is needed, I may have the answer.  If you are willing to set aside just 3 minutes a day, you can start digging a little deeper.

The tools to do this can be found at rbc.org.  This ministry has several positive and uplifting mediations that you can either read or listen to as a podcast.  These are tools I use each day and I give them priority status.

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking:  There are 1,440 minutes in a day, and just 3 of them can make a difference in your life.  Start digging!

Ever Been Am-Bushed?

Have you ever been ambushed?  Not many of us have, and  I doubt this elephant was expecting to withdraw his trunk with a crocodile attached.

While most of us haven’t had anything close to this African experience, many of us have said:  I’m bushed.  There are those times when we are weary, worn-out, and at the end of our rope.  If this sounds like an all too familiar scenario, you may want to get ambushed.

To understand my terminology,  the terminal state of the Hebrew people needs to be considered.  During the Old Testament days of the Pharoah, the Jewish people were in bondage and in need of help.

Their help came in the form of a desert-dwelling, leather-skinned, sheep-herding soon to be deliverer by the name of Moses.  Because he wasn’t living the life to which God had called him, Moses was running on empty.  He was yearning for that elusive something that would change his life.

Then it happened, and it was anything but ordinary.  Moses saw a burning bush, heard a voice, and turned aside to wipe the sand out of his eyes.  Was he seeing a mirage?  Was he dizzy due to the searing heat of the desert?

It was no mirage–it was majesty.  The burning bush was a bush that didn’t burn.  It was ablaze, but it wasn’t consumed.  From out of the bush came the voice of God saying:

  • I’ve seen the affliction of my people .
  • I have heard their prayers.
  • I know their sorrows.
  • I’m going to deliver them.

Even more shocking to Moses was the news that he was to be the deliverer.  In need of confirmation, Moses asked, who shall I say sent me?  God replied, I AM THAT I AM.

Moses’ life changed on that day when he was Am-Bushed.  Moses thought he lacked  eloquence, but God knew he was a diamond in the rough.  Moses was empty, so God filled him.  His life was meaningless, so God gave him purpose.

This divine declaration from the desert reminds me that, There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle ( Albert Einstein).

The good news is God has a miracle for you.  Why not let Him Am-Bush you today?

I hope this thought keeps you thinking.

Guilt, Grace, and Grudges

The thought never occured to me that I would use CHER as a reference in this blog.  Yes, I  mean the CHER of I Got You Babe fame.

As I was giving some thought to the subject of forgiveness, I came across an old hit of hers—If  I Could Turn Back Time.  The lyrics of the song are a powerful plea to forgive and to be forgiven.  Where is the power to forgive?

Some people have an incredible capacity to forgive those who have offended them.  CBS news told the story of Mary Johnson who lives next door to the man who murdered her son—and she is friends with him!  While I know that forgiveness is a defining principle of New Testament theology, I’m not sure that my well of forgiveness runs as deep as does Mary Johnson’s.

Several years ago I coined a phrase,  forgiveness is forwardness liveness, with the idea that we cannot afford to carry a grudge.  This is because the  health benefits of forgiving far outweigh the disadvantages of nursing a grudge.

Fred Luskin, PhD, is a health psychologist at Stanford University, and  he is the author of Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness (Harper Collins 2002).  Luskin says that carrying a grudge raises your blood pressure, depletes immune function, makes you more depressed and causes enormous physical stress to the whole body.  Forgiveness interrupts this downward spiral by purging the toxic mixture of anger, bitterness, hatred, and resentment.

Whenever I think of forgiveness I think of Joseph.  His brothers sold him into slavery; he was falsely accused by a woman and imprisoned by her husband; but, through all of these trials his faith never wavered.

After the death of daddy Jacob, Joseph’s brothers knelt before him and asked him to forgive them.  Here we see the guilt of the brothers and the grace of Joseph:  You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.

Joseph could have wasted his life by seeking revenge and nursing a grudge; instead, he took an eternal perspective.  His life focus was not on past grievances but on future goals.

We can’t turn back time, but we can do something about the here and now.  Like  Bil Keane (Family Circus) said:  Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

I encourage you to use the present to give the gift of forgiveness.  The one who gives will be as blessed as the one who receives.

I hope this thought keeps you thinking.