Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Lost Art of Obedience

"A boy can learn a lot from his dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down."

One day while exiting a store I saw a woman entering the store while scolding her crying son. Umm, maybe I should rephrase that scolding part because it was more like threatening her 8-year old boy.

"If you don't quit your crying and misbehaving you will be cut-off from all technology for the entire weekend!", the mother exclaimed.

Yep, that's how it's done today. The ultimate punishment, take away their electronic devices and punish them into reading a book. Has anyone else noticed how much obedience and respect has disappeared from our culture?

  Oh how parents probably long for the days when all you had to do is just give your kids the look or the stare down and how quickly things fell back into place. In days of future past we were taught to obey and show proper respect to adults, policemen, teachers and anyone else in authority. We were simply taught obedience is a sign of respect.

Just recently I caught the film Sudden Death, an action film that stars martial arts expert Jean Claude Van Damme. The film takes place in a Pittsburgh hockey arena during game seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Van Damme plays a fire inspector for the stadium and gets 2 tickets to the game and brings his son and daughter. Once dad places his children in their proper seats, he tells his 12-year old son to watch his sister and then wags his finger in his son's face telling him,

"Do not leave your seat for the entire game! I don't care if the building comes crashing down, stay in your seat!"

Little did Van Damme know at the time that the arena was filled with explosives from terrorists who have taken the Vice President of the United States hostage in one of the skyboxes.

Van Damme's son picks on his little sister during the game and she runs off to the bathroom on her own and eventually ends up as a hostage too.  While Van Damme discovers what is happening with the terrorists, he begins to search the stadium for the bombs and begins to defuse them one by one. At the end of the story one of the bombs attached to the scoreboard suddenly goes off and the crowd and hockey players franticly disperse wildly to the exits.

Naturally, as any action hero film goes: the bad guys are caught, the rest of the bombs are difused, and the Vice President is safe. When Van Damme goes into the seating section of the arena to find his son, lo and behold, his son is still sitting in his seat and exclaims,

"See dad, I didn't leave my seat. I obeyed you. I did not leave my seat.!"

Obedience is an act of faith. Disobedience is the result of unbelief. Van Damme's son had so much faith in his father he obeyed him until the very end, no matter what the situation. The father-son relationship between the two of them was a relationship built on trust. Where there is trust there is obedience.

With our culture changing ever so rapidly and Christians modifying God's Word to fit into today's society so we don't offend anyone, sadly obedience has truly become a lost art. It's as if some Christians have sunk so beneath themselves that their disobedience to God's entire Word has brought them to an end result of unbelief in God's Word. Oh if they only knew how God's Word really works! Such as this story that quickly went viral this week:

Praying for the sick and they shall recover took on new meaning and enlightened the world the other day. On a recent flight from Atlanta, world renowned quarterback-turned-evangelist Tim Tebow prayed for a  passenger who was being medically attended to after the man collapsed from a heart attack.
As medical staff on board the flight worked on the man and struggling to revive him, Tebow prayed over the gentleman and he would then come to and recover. All Tebow did was obey God's Word and put it into action kind of like the Apostle Paul.

 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, just to make the Gentiles obedient(Roman 15:8)

Paul chose not to threaten the Gentiles into obedience, but rather let his life and his actions in obedience to God's Word have the final say. And of course, those miracles they saw through Paul's obedience would lead some to repentance.

Obedience is an act of faith. And when you put it into practice in your daily life you will see miracles.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rainy Day Sunshine

"Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please." - Mark Twain

In the movie A Country Called Home  Cole and his younger sister Ellie live in LA, a far cry from growing up in a small Texas town. They have chosen to live their own lives apart from their drunken father, whom they haven't seen in years. One day Ellie gets a call from her step-mother, whom she never met, and explains to Ellie that her father has passed away. Ellie decides to fly to Texas for the funeral, but her brother Cole doesn't feel obligated.

Upon Ellie returning home to Texas for the first time in years, Ellie realizes she regrets not making amends with her father as she exclaims, "I always thought I still had time before he died."
That alone is a message for all of us!

Ellie meets a lot of imperfect people similar to her, held back from their potential by the self destructive nature of a loved one. But in Ellie's case, she chose to move on and build a life of her own, but never forgetting where she came from. In fact, Ellie became a furniture designer inheriting traits from her father whom she watched as a kid as he built and refurbished guitars.

Many of the townsfolk considered Ellie an ungrateful kid for leaving home and never returning. But, many of them did not know what Ellie and her brother faced growing up in a broken home and she made those facts known to them:

1. Her father was an alcoholic, a tough man to live with.

2. He sold the kids clothes and toys in yard sales because they were poor.

3. Ellie and Cole were in the family vehicle when their dad was driving drunk one night and got into an accident which killed their mother.

4. And, Ellie's lasting memory of her father was him selling the violin he had specially made for her on her birthday because he needed the money.

Something for all of us to remember:

Everyone has a story to tell, don't judge them until you hear their story.

Upon first arriving in town, Ellie went to the hospital where a nurse would hand Ellie an envelope left by her father; a key was in the envelope. She didn't give much thought into that key until it was time to head back home. She goes to the bank, discovers the key is to a safe deposit box, and finds a hand crafted violin placed in it, a violin just like the one her father made her as a child, only this one is carved with her initials on it.

Sure, everyone can have a happy ending to their own story, but don't forget you can have a happy middle of your story, too. If you need to forgive someone don't wait until it's too late, just do it!


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sniff, Sniff

"Until you walk in another man's moccasins you can't imagine the smell."

And nor would you want to! Scent is the most powerful memory trigger and the reason is:

 Scent cells are renewed every 30 to 60 days. The sense of smell is the only cranial nerve (nerves that emerge from the brain and control bodily functions including eye movement, hearing, taste, and vision) that can regenerate.

Depending on where you live, there are certain scents/fragrances for different seasons.

 One of the great luxuries of Spring in the Midwest is the fresh scent of the blooming lilac trees. But you need to sniff quickly before they are gone. Here in the Chicago area a lilac bush or tree only stays in bloom for a couple of weeks. But their sweet fragrance will be etched in our minds until the following Spring. And when that next Spring comes, there I will be sniffing and searching for that sweet fragrance.

Now that we are in full summer tilt, the scent of colorful flowers or a freshly falling rain can either trigger a memory of summers past or help us to make new memories.
I used to drive into the city for work many years ago and on my regular route I would pass a candy factory. In the summer months the scent was strong and each days aroma was different. One day the air could be filled with the scent of bubble gum and the next day it could smell like chocolate. I loved the fact that each day was a scent surprise.
"For the sense of smell, almost more than any other, has the power to recall memories and it is a pity that you use it so little." - Rachel Carson
I can still recall as a kid: the smell of turkey cooking in the oven at grandma's house on Thanksgiving, or the smell of my Aunt Gert's chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven or yes, even the unfortunate smell of my clothes after a day of fishing with grandpa.
Scents can bring back memories, a lifetime of memories.
And if we don't stop and smell the roses on occasion we may pass up making memories for our future.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Stay Young or Die Trying

"Why shouldn't we go roller skating, Ralph? We're not that old.

"Face it Alice, the golden years are gone! We've hit the second plateau."

- Ralph and Alice Kramden, The Honeymooners

One of my favorite Honeymooners episodes is when Alice tries to convince Ralph to recapture their youth by going dancing and roller skating. And of course if your familiar with the characters, especially Ralph, you know things never turn out quite right. Ralph hurts his back and emphatically exclaims, "If we keep this up I'll lose my old age!"

And just like all of the other episodes of The Honeymooners Ralph ends with a bit of wisdom,

"Acting young isn't what keeps you young, but if you've got some memories of when you were young, that's what keeps you young."

Trying to stay young by doing things you may have done when you were younger can be dangerous, case in point would be Ralph. But aside from memories, if you can retain a childlike heart even in your older years some of that youth within you that's bursting to come out can be put to good use as you relate to the younger generations. Just having a childlike heart can keep you young as you build relationships with your children, grandchildren, and those you come in contact with.

On a recent Monday night while feeding the hungry on the streets of Chicago with the Night Ministry, we had a larger amount of young children than we usually have, probably stemming from the spectacular summer weather. On this particular night we had stocked up on lots of candy and treats for the children. As moms with kids in strollers stood in line for hot food, the little kids in tow were smiling, laughing, and grinning from ear to ear with all the extra attention they were given from our team as we handed them treats.

Upon setting up our supplies beforehand , an elderly gentleman had approached me for a bottle of water. As I gave him the water I mentioned to him to come back in one hour because we would be given out hot meals. His reaction was similar to those little children we handed out candy to, especially when I told him what was on the menu.

Later on, as the line began to grow about seventy strong, I saw the old man quietly standing in line. When I gave him his bag he just smiled and said, "Thank you."  In that quiet still moment I felt that this man had a childlike heart just as those little children who stood in line before him.

Jesus once told His own disciples that the secret to greatness was to be humble like an open and trusting little child:

2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. - Mathew 18

Carrying with you a childlike heart can take you much further than just recapturing memories of your youth. It will carry you for a lifetime and beyond.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

An Aha Moment

"Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments." - Rose Kennedy

With only one cashier, the line in the small store got longer. Not only did the line get longer, it got quieter. So quiet you could hear a pin drop. Most of the time long lines just brings out frustration, anger, and a whole lot of heavy sighs. In this line everyone's mood or attitude disappeared; all in sync as if each of us were in a band procession performing at half-time of a college football game.

So, what brought the long line of customers to a quiet stillness and an attitude halt that gave us an appreciation for what we have, you may ask?

Standing in front of me was an elderly man with one leg. He was dressed pretty dapper in a polo shirt and shorts as if he were going to play a round of golf.  And by the way, he moved around with that peg leg (wooden leg) like he probably could play a round or two of golf!

 What impressed me the most was how comfortable he was with his disability, not just wearing shorts, but when he went to sit upon the windowsill to wait for his friend, he crossed his wooden leg so naturally and sat there as if nothing was wrong. He was comfortable with his disability.

 As I looked around at everyone else in that line, I could see we all had no noticeable physical disabilities within us. This surely was an aha moment to bring us back to earth, a moment to be grateful for what we all sometimes take for granted.

It is always when you least expect it when those aha moments arise. And it's always on a day when you either feel yucky, inferior, imperfect, or just having a bad day. Hmm, maybe that's why they are called aha moments!

Aha moments are moments of progress.

Moments to bring us to an appreciation for what we sometimes take for granted.

Thank God for aha moments!