A Give and Take World

recipThe world in which we live seems to be more take than give.  The focus is more on what I can take from you than on what I can contribute; in a conversation, it’s more talk than listen; and in the marketplace, it’s more sabotage than service.

Mark Twain aptly said, “The principle of give and take is the principle of diplomacy— give one and take ten.”

The words of Twain are the motto of many, and they are akin to a concept called reciprocity. While the word may be little spoken, it is more than lightly practiced. Reciprocity is the ledger book of the mind that keeps a tab on indebtedness—Who do I owe and who owes me?

Reciprocity is the tally sheet of guilt and entitlement:

  • A person who believes he has received too much and given to little may feel a sense of guilt.
  • When a person thinks, he has given too much and received too little he may believe he is entitled to more, i.e. more money, recognition, etc.

If you are dissatisfied with your lot in life, I encourage you to consider three questions before you take any action:

  • What is it that I wanted but did not get?
  • What is it that I got but did not want?
  • Am I thinking in terms that embody the Christian ethic of the Golden Rule?

While turning the other cheek, loving your neighbor as yourself, and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, are laughable to some, they are principles that need to be removed from the shelf, dusted off, and put into practice.

As Paul said, we need to, Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love. Make every effort to preserve the unity the Spirit has already created, with peace binding you together. . . Banish bitterness, rage and anger, shouting and slander, and any and all malicious thoughts—these are poison.  Instead, be kind and compassionate. Graciously forgive one another just as God has forgiven you (Ephesians 4).

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heal that has crushed it.

 ~Mark Twain

Lightening Bugs

firefly-by-jessica-lucia-cc10:30–that’s 4 1/2 hours from now.  That is the designated moment when I am scheduled to say a formal “goodbye” to Johnny Browning.

Words can be brutally forceful and full of strength, but in other instances they seem so inadequate.   Mark Twain said: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and a lightening bug.”

When I gather with Johnny’s family today, “goodbye” is a lightening bug.  How do you say goodbye to a lifelong friend like him?

  • I honestly can’t remember a time when I did not know him
  • I went door to door as a kid and sold the TV Guide, and Johnny bought them
  • When my dad died, Johnny was one of the first people at the house to see if he could help my mother and her three young sons.
  • He let me live, rent free, in one of his houses for a couple of months.
  • He worked side by side with me for the 25 plus years I’ve been the pastor of FCC.

I have walked with Johnny in both times of sorrow and joy.  I have seen him bury a son, his wife, a daughter-in-law, and another son, and I’ve seen him fight cancer and there was never a time his faith wavered.

I think “thanks” is more appropriate than “goodbye.”  So, today, I give thanks to God for my memories of Johnny, and I thank Johnny for taking the time to make them.

Take Time To Read The Fine Print

read-booksFrom the time I first learned to read, I’ve had a love for books, and an article I read in WSJ Online, reminded me of the importance and great benefit of reading.

The author, Jeanne Whalen, believes that reading just 30 minutes a day will:
• Improve your ability to concentrate
• Reduces your stress levels
• Deepen your ability to think, listen and empathize

Whalen isn’t alone in touting the benefits of reading:
• The Journal of Neurology cited a study of 300 elderly people that suggested regular engagement in mentally challenging activities, including reading, can slow the onset of memory loss.
• Developmental Psychology (1997) showed a correlation between a student’s first-grade reading ability and his 11th grade academic achievement

As I read this article, I thought of the promise and encouraging words that God spoke to Joshua (1:5-8): “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Mark Twain once said: “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” It is to your advantage to take time to read. I have often been blessed by reading a good book, and every time I read The Good Book, I am doubly blessed.

I conclude with a statement made by David Josiah Brewer (1837 –1910) who was an associate justice of the Supreme Court for 20 years: “No nation is better than its sacred book. In that book are expressed its highest ideals of life, and no nation rises above those ideals. No nation has a sacred book to be compared with ours. This American nation from its first settlement at Jamestown to the present hour is based upon and permeated by the principles of the Bible. The more this Bible enters into our national life the grander and purer and better will that life become”