Razorback Rage

The news headline I read Tuesday morning caught me offguard.  I was surprised that it was happening in the the Bible-belt of Arkansas.   The situation I speak of involves the Arkansas Department of Human Services and their decision regarding the activities at state-funded preschools.

The activities of a preschool has become the focus of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.  This organization believes a preschool is  violating the First Amendment. 

How is this being done?  The preschool has religious pictures and Scripture hanging on the walls and even has the nerve to sing religious songs, read the Bible, and pray.  I seriously doubt this activity is detrimental to the health and well-being of these children. 

The action of the Arkansas DHS  is a corruption of the intent of the First Amendment.  If the State of Arkansas issued a mandate that required parents to send their children to a preschool that espoused religion, then the intent of the First Amendment would be violated. 

According to the Pew Foundation, Most legal scholars agree that the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S.Constitution limits at least some government funding of religion, but they disagree sharply on exactly what is permissible.  Participants in the debate fall roughly into two camps: On the one side are “separationists,”who broadly interpret the Establishment Clause – which prohibits all laws “respecting an establishment of religion” – to require that government refrain from aiding or promoting religion or religious institutions. Strict separationists therefore claim that most, or even all, government funding of religion is unconstitutional. On the other side are those who interpret the Establishment Clause much more narrowly, contending that government funding of religion is constitutional as long as the funding is neutral, meaning it does not favor religion over non-religion or favor a particular faith over other faiths.

No one is forcing parents to send their children to this preschool and the state funding is not favoring religion over nonreligion.  So what is the problem?  What is the real motivation and agenda of the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State?

The philosophical bent of this group and the intent of President Adams are an interesting contrast.  It was Adams who said:  Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

I think it is time to say, enough is enough, and I hope this is enough to keep you thinking.

Can He Hear You Now?

Introvert or extrovert, I’m not sure which category best describes you.  Even though I am an extrovert, there are moments when I take pause as an introvert.  If I walk into a room full of people I don’t know I may be less likely to speak.  I may wonder:  Do any of these people care about what I have to say?

This brings me to  something I find remarkable ab0ut  Jesus and His disciples–He listened to them.  He always wanted to hear them speak and tell Him what was on their hearts.

Eloquent speech is not a prerequisite to being heard.  God not only listens, He listens intently.  Our prayers are so precious to God, John said they are kept in golden bowls and have the fragrance of incense (Revelation 5:8).

The Gospels are a record of God responding to the needs of His people.  Jesus listened to the cry of a man who was born blind. The man received his sight, and the first thing he saw was the face of Jesus.

This was not a solitary event that was peculair to just this man.  Time and time again, Jesus listened to the people and responded.  The cripple, the deaf, the prostitute, and the leper.  Society had turned its back on them, but Jesus listened and welcomed them.  When others rejected them, Jesus listened and He loved.

The writer of Pslam 8 asked:  What is man, that thou art mindful of him?   Wow!  We are in the mind of God and on His heart.  And, He listens.

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking.  God is listening to you.  What is He hearing?

Man or a Mouse

There is a story from India about a fearful mouse that was rescued by a hermit with magical powers.  Because the little mouse feared cats so much, the hermit used his powers to change it into a cat.

The mouse that became a cat was very happy until one day when he was chased by dogs.  The hermit found the mouse-cat hiding and asked why he was frightened.  To help his little friend,  the hermit changed the mouse-cat into a powerful dog.

Everything was fine until one day when the mouse-cat-dog strayed too far into the jungle and met a tiger.  After a long and tiring chase through the dense jungle the dog finally escaped the tiger.

The mouse-cat-dog pleaded his case to the hermit, and the hermit once again used his powers.  The mouse-cat-dog was changed into a tiger, and he thought he would never fear again.

Sadly though, the day came when a hunter was walking through the jungle.  He spied the mouse-cat-dog-tiger, and the tiger ran in fear.  When he found the hermit, he pleaded for help.

The hermit looked into the eyes of the mouse-cat-dog-tiger and said:  I will change you back into a mouse for though you have the body of a tiger; you still have the heart of a mouse.

We have the courage of a mouse when we allow the ghost of the past to haunt the present and threaten our future.  Instead of wasting our energy on who we used to be, we need to realize that in Christ we are a new creation; old things have passed away and all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Running around in mouse-like fear is contrary to the Scriptures.  We need to take Isaiah 41:10 to heart:  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking:  If you want a tiger in the tank instead of a mouse in the heart, take a little walk with Jesus—with God, all things are possible.

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

Before the advent of the personal computer, summer days were spent at Graham Park, Skelly School, or some other ball diamond.  Those were days when baseball was undisputed as Amercia’s favorite game.

I enjoyed the games of “work up,” homerun derby, or whatever as long as it had a bat and a ball.  The many years I spent coaching my son through his little  league years were time consuming but very enjoyable.

As Papa, I am now watching my granchildren, and my advice to them is the same as it was to my children:  Keep your eye on the ball!  I had to remind a grandson of this a couple of weeks ago when a basketball rebounded off of his eye.  “Carson,” I said, “that is not what I meant when I said keep your eye on the ball.”

Over the years I’ve talked to some of the better hitters about technique.   Almost without fail, they have said the secret to getting consistent hits is vision:  You have to see the ball.

Seeing the ball means focusing on the seams of the ball and recognizing the spin.  Pitches can be identified by recognizing the rotation.  To help explain this, you can see a graph at this link.

One way to learn how to identify the curve ball is to stand behind a batting cage and watch a pitcher throw fastballs.  This may sound strange, but identifying what it isn’t helps you learn to identify what it is.

This is the technique Paul used when he was warning the Christians at Galatia.  They had been given the standard of truth, and Paul said they were to measure the “different” gospel against the pure doctrine.  They were to study and recognize the fastball theology they had been taught, so they would not be led astray by the strange spin of a curveball.

A comment by Joe Garagiola can serve as a thought to keep you thinking:  Nolan Ryan is pitching much better now that he has his curveball straightened out.  Was Joe putting a spin on his words or was he just stating a fact?

Three Cheers for the Nihilarians

A nihilarian (nick-el-arian) is a person who deals with things lacking importance.  I thank God for the people who are willing to do the tasks that may seem to be insignificant.

Unless you are an avid golfer, you might place caddies in the nihilarian category.  You could have the mistaken notion that all a caddy does is carry a bag full of clubs.  A good caddy is beneficial to the golfer because he knows the course; he can give advice; and, he can help with the mental aspect of the game.

I think most people fail to see the importance of nihilarians.  Because they are willing to attend to the small details of life they keep them from mushrooming into big problems.

This is the case with Robert.  He is willing to stay behind, so others can go ahead.  Each Sunday, he checks to make sure the lights are out, the doors are locked, and only then does he leave the building.

Then, there is the significant role of the ladies who come early to prepare communion and the ladies who work in the nursery–far too often people like these go unnoticed.  I say three cheers for the nihilarians.  Without you, my job would be much more difficult.

Romans 16 contains a list that names people who played this type of a role in the life of the Apostle Paul.  If not for the fact that Paul wanted to express his gratitude for these people, they would be anonymous to  history.

The profound importance of nihilarian-like gifts was emphasized in the teaching of Paul.  He wrote in I Corinthians 12 that  those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.  These gifts and these people are indispensable, necessary and an essential to the health of any church or organization.

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking:  Who is it that makes your life a little easier, and when was the last time you expressed your appreciation to him or to her?  Let the nihilarians in your life know that they’ve been noticed.

Tree Rings

A tree is such a common sight, that we rarely consider how uncommon it is.  In the spring when the saplings begin to appear, we may pause briefly to reflect on childhood adventures—tree houses, gunny sack swings, and puppy love initials deeply etched in the dark colored ridges of once skin smooth bark.

Trees are utilitarian—they serve and fulfill many of our needs.  Due to its thorny disposition, Osage Orange was idealized in the past century as fence material.  Oak has been the wood of choice to decorate the living quarters of many homes, and baseball enthusiasts are thrilled when they hear the exhilarating crack of an Ash-made bat launching a baseball into the depths of center field.

But, utilitarian is an insufficient adjective.  Unique is perhaps a more adequate description.  A tree, you see, never really dies.  Even though a tree may be harvested, milled, and kiln dried, it is reborn every time a craftsman touches it.

This remarkable aspect of the tree is often overlooked.  A good example of this is the community or school orchestra.  After hearing a stirring rendition of Bach or Beethoven, the concert attendee may comment on the beauty of the stringed section.  If, however, there were no trees, there would never have been a violin or a fiddle; and, what about the music that reverberates from these stringed instruments?  Do we hear the sound of the strings alone, or is it the life of the wood that lends its vitality to these artistic endeavors?

The life after death potential of a tree is almost unlimited.  The first  Psalm speaks about a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its  season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.  The roots of this tree run deep and the fruit it bears is seasonal and sweet.

Long after we die, and we are little more than a memory, the fruit of our influence will live on.  What will your influence be?  Will it be the sweet and melodious sound of a violin or will it be an unwanted round of chagrin?

I hope this thought keeps you thinking.


No the title of this article is not a typo.  It is a term that has the distinction of being one of the longest words in the English language and one of the most difficult to pronounce.  Floccinaucinihilipilification is defined as the act of esteeming something to be valueless.

Due to the nature of my work, I meet people from all walks of life.  Sometimes I am asked to help them with their personal and peculiar situations.  Low self-esteem is at the root of some of these problems.

Those who deal with issues of low self-esteem may spend too much time in self-floccinaucinihilipilification.  Their life is a mirage of self-deception that leaves them empty and hollow.

One of Aesop’s Fables comes to mind when I think of self-esteem.   It is the story of the Ass and the Lion’s skin.  One version of the story is:  An Ass once found a Lion’s skin which the hunters had left out in the sun to dry. He put it on and went towards his native village. All fled at his approach, both men and animals, and he was a proud Ass that day. In his delight he lifted up his voice and brayed, but then everyone knew him, and his owner came up and gave him a sound cudgeling for the fright he had caused. And shortly afterwards a Fox came up to him and said: “Ah, I knew you by your voice.”

While you can draw many principles from this story, I think it speaks to people who are not comfortable in their own skin.  This can be the result of childhood relationships.  If a person came from a family in which the relationships were close, strong, and positive, their self-esteem was nurtured.  If on the other hand, their family of origin was one of constant criticism and negative feedback, they may struggle with self-esteem.

How does a person begin to lift his self-esteem?  The first step is to become aware of your thoughts.  Negative thoughts that ruminate on your weaknesses and flaws are detrimental to your well-being.  Reframe these thoughts and focus on solutions and the positive aspect of your life. Instead of measuring your worth in pounds, weigh it in the value of a smile; see strength in acts of kindness, not bulging biceps; and see beauty in gracious words, not Estee Lauder.

The second step is to consider the potential of your relationship with God.  Some of the most uplifting words in the Bible are:  Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God (I John 3:1).  Think about those words–God wants to identify you as one of His children.

One way you can help another person with their self-esteem is to embrace Jesus’ principle: Love your neighbors as yourself (Matthew 19:19).  Why not lend a hand, so you can lift a life out of despair?  Diane Loomans captured the essence of this principle when she wrote:

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging and less tugging.

I hope you esteem this article as being a thought worth thinking.


Getting A Grip On Happiness

There are times when I read the words of Jesus, and I wonder about the stated principle.  When Jesus said treat others like you want them to treat you, I used to think His words were a quid pro quo principle.  After reading some research, I’ve come to realize how beneficial those words can be to me.

Living the Golden Rule and voluntering can enhance a person’s sense of well-being.  A study found that 41% of us volunteer an average of 100 hours a year with the following results:

  • 68% of volunteers agree that volunteering “has made me feel physically healthier
  • 92% report  it “enriches my sense of purpose in life
  • 89% report it “has improved my sense of well-being,”
  • 73% that it “lowers my stress levels,”
  • 96% that it “makes people happier,”
  • 77% that it “improves emotional health,”
  • 78% that it helps with recovery “from loss and disappointment”

Typically, people who give of themselves to others have less trouble sleeping,  and they experience less anxiety, less helplessness & hopelessness.  They also report better friendships and social networks, and sense of control over chronic conditions than people who are more self-centered.

Each year, Stephen Post updates his, It’s Good To Be Good, research.  Post says:  ….as one achieves a certain shift from selfishness to concern for others, benefits accrue.   His research suggests that a person may feel good when he gives a financial gift to an individual or a cause; however, the benefits of helping others are most pronounced in direct person-to-person “hands on” activities.

When we embrace the words of Jesus and begin to live the Golden Rule, a satisfying life is within our reach.  According to Post, one way to elevate happiness is to reach out in helping behaviors and contribute to the lives of others. That happiness in turn elevates giving, which in turn elevates happiness. The two fuel each other in a circular fashion – a classic feedback loop.

The words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer leave us with a thought worth thinking: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.

Playing Second Fiddle

Let the hype begin!  Today is Super Bowl Eve and the airwaves are full of football, football, and more football.  When football aficionados go to bed tonight, they will hang their stockings on the chimney with care in hopes that a win will soon be there.

While I am not a huge fan of either the Patriots or the Giants, I’ll probably cheer a little harder for Eli, his offensive line and the rest of the team.  I hope you noticed that I mentioned the seldom-credited offensive line.

Usually the offensive line is not mentioned unless a player jumps offside or gets called for a hold.  They are the perennial second fiddlers of the world of football.

Second fiddle can be a very important position.  A good example of this is Ernie Adams.  To be honest, today is the first time I have ever heard the name Ernie Adams.  In the story I just read, Adam’s is described as one of Bill Belichick’s closest advisors.  This second fiddler is the secret weapon of the Patriots.

As I was thinking about the important role of playing second fiddle, I found a comment by the celebrated maestro, Leonard Bernstein.  He was asked which instrument in the orchestra would be the most difficult to play.  Without hesitation, Bernstein said:  Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.

The words of President Harry Truman can be applied to the concept of playing second fiddle:  It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.

History has been full of people like Ernie Adams, we just don’t hear much about them.  They are more concerned with the melody and harmony of life than they are with the world acclaimed solos.

If it had not been for another second fiddler, the course of Christianity may have taken a different path.  Barnabas is the man of whom I speak.  He was called the son of consolation.  He was the guy who would pat you on the back and say:  You can do it.  Come on, I’ll help you get it done.

The most notable person that Barnabas helped was the Apostle Paul.  Because of his past history, Paul was shunned by most Christians.  Not so with Barnabas, he welcomed him with open arms.

The confirmation and encouragement of Barnabas empowered Paul as an individual and Christianity as a whole.  Barnabas wasn’t concerned with who was going to get the credit, he just wanted to accomplish something for the Cross.

Henri Nouwen may have captured the essence of playing second fiddle when he said:  When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

I hope you take the time to think a thought about who it is that you can help today or some where along the way.

The Smooch of Forgiveness

There are many symbols and legends that give accounts of people moving from death to life.  The mythological phoenix was a bird that would rise from the ashes to new life.  Another account is the biblical story (Numbers 17) of Aaron’s rod.  This was a dead piece of wood that budded to new life.

The death to life cycle is what we witness each Spring as the cold hard days of winter are vanquished by the warmth of the sun and flowers begin to dot the greening landscapes.  Hope, once again, is reborn.

In a few months people will return to their gardens.  The soil will be cultivated and seeds planted in eager anticipation of a succulent harvest.

A part of this process is the need to weed.  Tiny seeds will feed on the fertile soil, take root, and and become a nuisance.

The need to weed should also be at the top of a person’s daily agenda.  The fertile ground of the mind can be a garden spot of beauty or one that is beastly in nature.  It can blossom into the beauty of forgiveness or be parched with the dryness of bitterness.

The SMOOCH project addresses this need with their global documentary and online forgiveness initiative.   This project profiles individuals who have found the humanity in the very persons they thought they could never forgive.  Their team of  filmmakers and photographers hold  Forgiveness Shoots around the world that focus on both the offender and the offended.   These heart-touching stories culminate in the forgiver and the forgiven giving one another a kiss on the cheek.

Jesus made a turn-the-other-cheek comment that should be enough to keep you thinking:  Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously (Matthew 5:39).