Yogi not Yoga

yogiMy love for the game of baseball started at an early age.  It’s a game I played with my dad, my brothers, and my friends.  Summer nights were spent at the ball diamonds where I was either playing or shouting words of encouragement to my buddies who were.

One of baseball’s most loved players is Yogi Berra.  During his 19 years as a catcher for the Yankees, he played in 14 World Series.

While Yogi is remembered for the way he played the game, he might be better known for his Yogisms:

  • This is like déjà vu all over again.
  • A nickle ain’t worth a dime anymore.
  • When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
  • Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.
  • You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.

Yogi also said, I never said most of the things I said.  Like Yogi, some people will remember us more for what we said than for what we accomplished in life.

Words are dynamic, and they have the power to hinder and to humiliate, and they are also endued with a robustness to help and to heal.

Solomon reminds us that, Pleasant words are like a honeycomb: they drip sweet food for life and bring health to the body (Proverbs 16:24).

Everyone needs to hear a pleasant word at some time, and there will be someone, somewhere, who will begin today as an indigent pessimist due to the overwhelming trial they are facing.  When you meet them, will you simply smile, turn your back and walk away or will you engage them with words of encouragement?

mogher tMother Teresa has said: Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.

If words are an echo, may our’s resonate with a melody that is loving, positive, uplifting, encouraging, and life-giving

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

Are You Garden Wise?

kindnessWhen I posted to this blog yesterday, I wrote a little bit about my garden.  Since I made that post, I’ve thought about the first garden and Adam the first farmer: “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it (Genesis 2:15.)”

Gardens and farmers are metaphors that are found throughout the Bible. In Galatians 6 the metaphor of farming is expressed in the principle of sowing and reaping.  People often interpret Paul’s words in a negative context; however, they should also be considered from a positive perspective as well:

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith (Galatians. 6:7-10).”

St. Basil may have been thinking about these verses when he said: “He who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

Taking the words of Paul to heart and applying the saintly advice of Basil, what type of seeds have you been sowing and what kind of harvest have you been reaping?

The importance of sowing seeds of kindness is found in a comment made by Leo Buscaglia: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

Kindness is a form of communication that is not limited by ethnic or social barriers. It is a language that even the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

I encourage you to make a difference in the life of someone today—give them the gift of kindness. “Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.” ~Mother Teresa

The Insanity of Profanity

watch your languageLearning a new skill can be difficult, but it might be even harder to break a bad habit. Learning how to tame your tongue might be a new skill that also manages a bad habit.

James addressed untidy tongues when he said:  “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body (3:2).”

When James used “word” in the verse above, he chose “logos.” In classical Greek “logos” was more than just the spoken word; it also included the inner thought that gave birth to the spoken word.

We live in a time when too much of our language is mono-syllabic, four letters, and laced with profanity.  James said the tongue is “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”  He went on to say that it’s not logical to think that you can bless God in one breath and spit out a steamy tirade of cussing that belittles your fellow man in your next breath:

No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?  Can a fig tree, bear olives? Can a grapevine bear a fig? No, and no spring yields both salt water and fresh (3:8-12).”

The first 6 words in the verses above hold the key to taming the tongue.  You can’t do it by focusing on what you say.  You need to concentrate on the thought that precedes the talk.

If you fail to focus on the thought your talk will continue to conform to the profanity of the world.  It’s when you begin to manage the mental component  of communication that you can begin to experience a transformation of your tongue.

When you read this section of James, the insanity of profanity includes more than just cussing.  The discussion also centers on any communication that’s vulgar, uncouth, and unrefined, and it includes gossip and lies.

Since “logos” takes into consideration both the spoken word and the thought behind the word, you can change your talk by changing your thought.  Here are some tongue-taming thoughts for your consideration:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. . . and the God of peace will be with you. ~Philippians 4:8

The words that spring out of your mouth will be less salty and more pristine if the thoughts that precede them are noble, just, and pure.  Take some time today to meditate on these things.

Standing in the Need of Prayer

boy-and-dog-prayingI rolled out of bed at 4:30 this morning with the same thoughts that were on my mind when I crawled into it last night—the prayers of Samuel and Paul.  Both of these men, one from the Old Testament and the other from the New Testament, were prayer warriors.

One word in particular was on my mind, and it was used by both men.  It’s the word “ceasing.”

  • I Samuel 12:23: God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way.
  • I Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without

When you read the writings of Paul, it’s easy to see that he was a man of prayer:

  • Colossians 1:9-10: We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will…so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects.
  • Ephesians 3:16-17: I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
  • Philippians 1:9-11: And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

I think the Achilles heel of too many people is that we cease without praying instead of praying without ceasing.  Only heaven knows how many lives have benefitted from and were changed by the prayers of Samuel, Paul, and people like you and me.

May we not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray. . .

 

Standing in the Need of Prayer

The Truth About Truth

truthianmAs I watched the evening news last night and the skilled manner in which the politicians spun the truth, I thought of the words of 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

If the truth will make you free, can you make the assumption that a life of habitual deceitfulness leads to bondage?  To be free, you need to have the courage to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Some people have lived a life characterized by manipulation and deceit to the point that they wouldn’t recognize truth if it appeared to them as their firstborn child.  To help you recognize it and understand it, take note of a quote or two:

  • G.K. Chesterton: “Right is right even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it.”
  • George Orwell: “In a time of universal deceit — telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
  • 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.”

I’m not sure if Billy Graham had Martin Luther King, Jr in mind when he made the statement above, or if King was thinking of Graham; but the two of them made complimentary statements:

  • Billy Graham: “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
  • Martin Luther King, Jr: “Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency ask the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But, conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”

I’ll close with Psalm 85:10 from The Message: “Love and Truth meet in the street, Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss! Truth sprouts green from the ground, Right Living pours down from the skies! Oh yes! God gives Goodness and Beauty; our land responds with Bounty and Blessing. Right Living strides out before him, and clears a path for his passage.”

Gentle Answers and Harsh Words

confused-by-creditThere was a time in my life when I suffered from a severe speech impediment, but I slowly overcame it when I quit sticking my foot in my mouth.

Foot-in-your-mouth-itis must have been a common affliction in New Testament times because it was a large focus of the book of James:

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body. ~James 3:2

Other than the book of Proverbs, you’ll find more about the tongue and communication in James than anywhere else in the Bible.  James is full of practical principles for life.  Here’s two of them:

  • The tongue is the index of the heart. What you say reveals what is hidden deep down inside of your heart.
  • Your emotions act as a barometer and reveal your level of maturity. When people get angry, they stumble in many ways and often say things they later regret.

Thanks to James, I’ve noticed three patterns of communication that are characteristic of most people:

  • Some people implode. When they get angry, they say very little, withdraw, and hold everything in.
  • Other people explode with salty language, and they let everything out. These people can be as volatile as the Iran nuclear deal..
  • There’s a third pattern in which a person reloads and wises up. James describes this person in the words below:

Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness . . . the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.  ~James 3:13-18

Which pattern defines you.  Do you implode, explode, or reload?   You may see your pattern in these wise words from Solomon?

A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.

~Proverbs 15:1-2

Be Still and Bear Fruit

prayerYesterday I walked by a table and, I heard part of a conversation in which one person said:  “It’s a mute point.”

Mute means silent, and I have often made a point of being silent, and I have even pointed silently. I cannot, however remain mute about a key point of that conversation.

Mute and moot cannot be used interchangeably—they are not synonyms.  Moot is used to refer to some item or point of discussion that is debatable, but of no practical value.

While moot points are often hypothetical in nature, making a point to be mute can have real value.  In Psalm 46:10, there is a clear command to be mute:  “Be still and know that I am God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed the importance of this principle in a letter to some friends:  “Daily, quiet reflection on the Word of God as it applies to me becomes for me a point of crystallization for everything that gives interior and exterior order to my life.”

The words of Bonhoeffer serve as a commentary on God’s instructions to Joshua:  “This set of instructions is not to cease being a part of your conversations. Meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to carry out everything that’s written in it, for then you’ll prosper and succeed (Joshua 1:8.”

Mother Teresa suggested that silence is an essential of practical Christianity:  “The fruit of Silence is prayer. The fruit of Prayer is faith. The fruit of Faith is love. The fruit of Love is service. The fruit of Service is peace. “

I encourage you to take time out of your schedule for a mute point, so you can “be still” and bear fruit . . .

A Heavy Mettle Discussion

867bfc01-5e47-4d5f-a8e9-9a3d2f48f421_zps40643497I heard the sad story of a man who died recently. He had crawled under a house to steal the copper wiring and was electrocuted.

This is sad for a couple of reasons:

  • Copper prices are at historic lows, and this man lost his precious life trying to take something so cheap.
  • His attempt to steal was evidence of a steel less and easily tempted character

This copper incident reminds me of the judgment discussion that Paul had with the Christians at Corinth:

“You are God’s building.  As a skilled and experienced builder, I used the gift that God gave me to lay the foundation for that building. However, someone else is building on it. Each person must be careful how he builds on it.  After all, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that is already laid, and that foundation is Jesus Christ.  People may build on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw.  The day will make what each one does clearly visible because fire will reveal it. That fire will determine what kind of work each person has done.  If what a person has built survives, he will receive a reward.  If his work is burned up, he will suffer the loss. However, he will be saved, though it will be like going through a fire.”               ~I Corinthians 3:9-15

In the verses above Paul offers a  Double M Lesson:

  • The first M is Metal or the gold and silver.
  • The second M is Meddle or the wood, hay, and straw.
  • Paul uses these objects to frame his argument in the context of a quality of life versus a quantity of life perspective.

The metal and meddle aspects of your life will be judged by fire which “will determine what kind of work each person has done.”  The difference between your metal and meddle may be your mettle or the manner in which you confront the challenges of life and faithfully persevere.

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy he engaged in a little heavy mettle discussion:  “When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.”  ~2 Timothy 2:3-5

I encourage you to do what Paul admonished Timothy to do in the verses above:  “Think it over.”

Simply and Complexly Marvelous

Beauty-of-NatureIf you want to spice up a conversation, bring either religion or politics into the discussion.  There are many diverse opinions on both subjects, and the topic of creation can stir the pot among both the believers and skeptics.

Some people believe in a random Big Bang form of creation, others espouse a view known as intelligent design, and then there are those who embrace the Genesis account of creation.

I find it hard to look at the intricate design of the world and believe it just happened by chance.  In Psalm 9, David writes:  “I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.  I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

When was the last time you paused and reflected on the “marvelous works” of God?  What would a flower be without its fragrance?  How dark would the night skies be without the light of the moon and stars?  How different would birds be if they were drab in color and whistled and sang out of tune?

The sunrise, the sunset, and the rainbow are the canvas on which the Master Artist paints in vivid colors, and the day would be much different if it began and ended in a colorless brown instead of  fire-red hues.  Speaking of fire, what would fire be without its warmth on a cold night or water without its refreshing coolness?

How about food?  What would chili be like if there was no spice or a breakfast roll without cinnamon?  And, it’s almost too painful to consider a world without ice cream!

How mundane would life be without this complicated, yet marvelous thing we call love?  Isn’t love the WOW factor in everything that God created?

When you read the book of Genesis, you see God at work.  After He had spoken the physical world into existence, God formed Adam out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life.  Next in line was the creation of the animal kingdom, but God wasn’t finished until He created woman.

Adam thought he had seen it all, but then he saw Eve.  To Adam she saw the marvelous WOW-inducing work of God

Take sometime this week, to marvel at the works of God, and the way He has blessed you.