Christian Genre

A Gift from the Past

A Gift from the Past

This one day was my typical day working at the mental health facility. I went in, did my rounds, checked with the staff to document any pertinent changes in clients’ behaviors, and got to work. One particular client was in a good mood; however, this was peculiar. See, this client had been depressed for about a week now since the most recent anniversary of his mother’s passing. He was speaking harshly about his family and himself for the past week, but now he was grinning from ear to ear.

I asked him why he was so cheerful today. We are taught in the medical field to monitor sudden changes like this, as they could indicate that the client has now become happy because he has a plan to relieve his misery. In other words, he may be planning to take life into his own hands in an irreversible way by ending it. It would not be his first attempt; however, he told me he was happy simply because he had finally come to terms with his mother’s death. I believed him after further conversation without alarm because his demeanor seemed genuine. He also told me that he had found Jesus over the weekend through the local church group that comes there and preaches.

Now, this alerted me. As many of us know, new converts are in for a surprise at just how strong and persistent the enemy can be because our acceptance of the “Good News.”  While I could not do anything medically to put him on watch or alert, my spirit was telling me something different. I felt that his recent conversion was much more of a red flag than his recent change in behavior. I asked him if he would like to pray because I wanted to participate in his new conversion and ask blessings over him. He gladly accepted. When we were done, I told him to please be on the lookout for the same present wrapped in a different package. When I said this, I thought to myself, “What did I just say?” It sounded like some cheesy fortune cookie statement or something.

When dealing with someone who is mentally ill, you never want to plant a thought with them that could manifest negatively. Therefore, I was careful not to tell him what I was really thinking, but I never thought it would come out like that. Who knows what one will say impromptu? However, I went home in hopes that this statement was just strange enough to give him anticipation and recollection should that time of challenge ever come.

He was discharged some days later, and as with all my clients, I had wished that I could keep in touch with him. However, it is definitely against all rules and better judgment to give a client your outside contact information. So, I have to rely on my prayers for them and the hope that they are doing well.

The other night I was blogging about some new medical website that had impressed me, and I checked my messages before signing off as I usually do. In my blog messages, I noticed that someone had left me a message from an email I did not recognize. It was on my blog that I had written about a year ago that spoke about overcoming challenges and being on guard – mostly written for new Christian converts. The commenter’s message said this: “when old packages come in new, shiny wrappings…send it back to the sender. Only God gives freely with no strings attached, and only God is the author of life.”

That’s all it said, but those two lines meant everything to me. Perhaps he had been faced with the temptation to end his life again. Perhaps the enemy had presented him with some other lie with the false promise that it would make his life better. I have no idea what the statement meant to him, or what he had been faced with since our last conversation, but the fact that I know he is still alive and still in God’s hand is enough for me. We never know how what we say today may impact someone tomorrow…or years later for that matter. “Dear God, please allow me to always follow the path you have set for me. Please allow me to always remember that you have divine foreknowledge and know how to weave today’s actions in with those of tomorrow. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.”

Quotes

Below is a list of my favorite quotes. Why? Just because…quotes make us happy!!! Have you ever stopped and thought about why? For one reason, there is some sort of “power” in being able to say so much in so little. We love the idea of being able to pack such a powerful punch in such a little package. Another reason is the inherent “wit” that comes with a quote. Everyone knows that the best quotes are ones that are short, sweet, lesson-teaching, and have some sort of pun or “spin” so to speak. Well, without further ado, here is my list of favorite quotes! Read, enjoy, and feel free to email me to share some of your favorite quotes as well!

“To know the road ahead, ask those who are returning” – Chinese Proverb

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you mind wind up some place else!” – Yogi Berra 

“Things turn out best for those who make the best out of the way things turn out” – John Wooden

“The best time to plant a tree was yesterday. The next best time is today!” - Anonymous

“The man who rows the boat hasn’t time to rock it” – Chinese Proverb

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” – Yogi Berra 

“Cool as the other side of the pillow.” – Stuart Scott

“Call him the bus driver, because he just took them to school!” – Stuart Scott

” Call him butter ’cause he’s on a roll!” – Stuart Scott

“Never mistake activity for achievement” – John Wooden (Legendary UCLA basketball coach)

“I was always too stupid to know I could fail – that’s part of the reason I’ve succeeded thus far in life” – me=) 

“I’ve haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas Edison

“I’m too busy watering my own grass to notice if my neighbor’s is greener” – Anonymous on Facebook

“Aim high and you won’t shoot your foot off” – Phyllis Diller 

“A closed door is every bit as important as an open one” - me=)

“Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours” – Yogi Berra 

“…but every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle” – Thomas Jefferson

“Little league baseball is a good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets” – Yogi Berra 

“History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme” – Mark Twain

“Forgive your enemies, nothing annoys them so much” - Oscar Wilde 

“The dictionary is the only place where success precedes work” – Quincy Jones

“The future ain’t what it used to be” – Yogi Berra 

“Make mistakes, make mistakes, make mistakes…it’s the best way to learn I always say” – Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus

“It ain’t over till it’s over” – Yogi Berra 

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – Ben Franklin

“If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!” – A Wise Man

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid” – Ben Franklin 

“Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes” - Jim Carrey 

“Normal people never change the world” – Me=)

“Do I not destroy me enemies when I make them my friends?” – Abraham Lincoln 

“Action is the ONLY reality. All else are just dreams or plans.” - Me=)

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

“The best method for elimination is prevention; the best method for prevention is preparation” – Me=) 

“Don’t get too comfortable from recent success; likewise, don’t be too cautious due to past failures” – Mike Tomlin (Steelers Head Coach)

“Man may be head of the house, but woman is the neck that turns the head!” – A Wise Man

“Display my enemies now, and save us all precious time and unnecessary peril.” - Me=) 

“I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!” – Voltaire

“Support bacteria. They’re the only culture some people have.”  - Anonymous

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky 

“Explanation alone is neither a reason nor justification for doing something” – Me=)

“For every failure, God plants a seed of success” – Church Sign 

“God is a verb not a noun” – Buckminster Fuller

“Perfectionism is but a fancy euphemism for procrastination” - Me=) 

“Don’t give up, even Moses was once a basket case” - Church Sign

“It is in the carrying-out of plans that we find God – Me=) 

“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get” – Ray Kroc (Founder of McDonald’s)

“Chance (luck) favors the prepared mind” – Louis Pasteur

“Goodness” is not a static measure, it occasionally moves” – Me=) 

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights do make a left” – Gallagher

“We are but a conglomeration of our habits” – Me=) 

“Faith is perhaps the most powerful force in the world – it can heal the sick, raise the dead, and make a crazy person seem smart.” – Me=)

“Life’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon” – colloquial saying

“They may have won the battle, but they haven’t won the war” – Common Proverb

“You have two choices in life: you can work hard now and play later, or you can play now and work hard for the rest of your life.” – wise man at my first job

“…we shall pursue perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly – knowing all the while we can never attain it.  However, in the pursuit, we can catch excellence” – Vince Lombardi

“If you have built castles in the sky…that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them!” – Henry David Thoreau

“I know God won’t give me more than I can handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much” - Mother Teresa (paraphrased) 

“I have found the paradox that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only love” – Mother Teresa

“If all Christians acted like the Christ in whom they profess, all of India would convert” – Ghandi (paraphrased) 

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians” – Ghandi (paraphrased) 

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does” – William James

“God is always the one driving the car. But, that doesn’t excuse me from having to put gas in it!” - me=) 

“In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths” – attributed to King Solomon

“Memories are made  everyday, but relationships are what determine their value.” – Me=)

“God is in the details” - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 

“Labels are never just ‘labels,’ but they are the names of spirits that we take on, and whose identities we assume if we are not careful.” – Me=)

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor” – Truman Capote 

“The greatest discovery…is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude” – William James

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you’re right” – Henry Ford 

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say” – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

“It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark” – Howard Ruff

“I did it because no one ever told me I couldn’t. And, if they did…I chose not to listen” – me=)

“Gnothi Sauton (Know Thyself)” – The Oracle of Delphi 

“True character is shown when you’re stuck in the rain without an umbrella” – me=)

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” – Semisonic’s song “Closing Time” 

“Beware men of thought, for they are often prone to inaction” – Philosophical Proverb

” Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” – Alfred Tennyson 

“We ride and never worry ’bout the fall; I guess that’s just the cowboy in us all” Tim McGraw’s song “Cowboy in Me”

“Thoughts are often involuntary or present themselves without warning; however, acting upon a thought is the one thing that we can control, and yet we pretend as if we are helpless in the matter.” – Me=)

“For we walk by faith, not by sight” – Paul from the Bible 

“I can do all things through Christ whom strengthens me” – Paul from the Bible 

“Neither life nor success is a straight line; instead, both are sinuous peaks and valleys of trials mixed with tangential moments of glory and asymptotical divinity. Yet, one thing is certain – the peaks and valleys are cyclical, so neither tarry nor seek comfort in either one for too long.” – Me=)

“Forbidden fruit makes many jams.” – Church Sign

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” – Jesus

When Flaw Became Awe

The Following is an excerpt from my forthcoming eBook titled: “Lessons from the Village…”

When Flaw Became Awe

Many readers will remember growing up with left-handedness being viewed as a stigma. People once scolded their children into using their right hands, thereby forcing them to do things the “right” way. For instance, Ronald Reagan was forced to use his right hand after being born a left-hander. Languages across many cultures speak for themselves concerning the right way of doing things. For instance, the Latin word for left is sinistra (which has come to mean evil), and in French it is guache (which translates into awkward or clumsy). In the English language we use left-handedness in phrases with negative connotations such as “a left-handed compliment” (which nobody wants) or someone smoking “left-handed cigarettes,” which no parent wants to hear of his or her child. In contrast, the Latin word for right is dexter (the root word for dexterous), and in French, the word for right is droit (the root word for adroit).  During Medieval times, one always shook with the right hand, for the left hand was used to do – let’s just say euphemistically – the “dirty” work. Therefore, attempting to touch or lay hands on people with the left hand was not right, or courteous. Left-handed people, although they are in their right minds (biologically anyway), were once viewed by society as possessing wayward, cursed qualities.

My daughter is left-handed, and I even found myself trying to correct her a time or two as she began taking preference during her developmental years. I just wanted her to be like the other 85% of people in the world and have it easy; however, I was reminded of a good war story. Now, whether you are a Christian or not, everyone loves a good unsung-hero war story. Therefore, I share with you Ehud from the Bible (Judges 3:12 – 28). First of all, he was a Benjamite who was left-handed. An irony exists here which further highlights the point, for Benjamin (his parental tribe) literally means “son of my right hand.” Therefore, the Bible wants you to know that something is different about Ehud. There is a unique quality about him that is unlike most others.

When Ehud went to face the sinister king of Moab, he had to first sneak past the guards. The guards frequently checked the left thigh of people upon entry, for most people were right-handed (even back then). Any war veteran knows that you do not want to draw either a sword or dagger from the same side as your fighting hand, but the weapon (unless a gun) should be placed on the opposite side. Therefore, the Bible notes that the left-handed Ehud strapped his dagger to his right thigh. Thus, he would now be able to go in undetected. Ehud and the children of Israel entered the courtyard to bring a present to the King of Moab, named Eglon. After delivering the present to Eglon, Ehud asked the others that came with him to leave, for he had a secret message for the King.

The King then dismissed all that were with him as well, and Ehud was able to approach Eglon alone. As the King stood up, Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” Ehud then proceeded to draw out the dagger from his right thigh and stab the dastardly King Eglon in the belly, and the fat enclosed the blade; the Bible apparently also wants us to know that the King was fat, among other gross things if you read one line further.

But, my point is this: Ehud’s supposed societal “flaw” afforded him the opportunity to do something no one else could accomplish. In fact, it was his “flaw” that enabled this great story of “awe.” Perhaps my daughter’s left-handedness is alright after all. Of course, I am joking. I love my daughter just the way she is. Our own unique differences afford each of us an opportunity to accomplish tasks that others cannot. As it says in I Corinthians 1:27, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (NIV) So, I encourage everyone to find his or her weakness, or perceived flaw, and see how it can in fact be a hidden strength. We all know left-handers smear ink when writing, can’t use non-electric can openers, and have a harder time learning to drive a stick shift than righties; however, southpaws are also more intimidating in the ring and always in their right minds. I personally would take these positives over the negatives any day!

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A Humble Lesson in Humility

The Following is an excerpt from my forthcoming eBook titled: “Lessons from the Village…”

A Humble Lesson in Humility

I believe I am the most humble man in the world. In fact, I know of no one who has more humility than I do. Of course, there is something wrong with these statements. A person who truly possesses the quality of humility will not brag. However, humility is a characteristic worth noting. In my humble opinion, no greater virtue exists.

“Humility,” the English noun, derives from the Latin humilitatem (nom. humilitas) which means “lowness” or “insignificance.” The word “humble” comes from the Latin word humilis, meaning “lowly” or literally humus (of the earth).  In English, “humility” literally means the quality or condition of being humble.

We have all eaten humble pie a time or two. Some may refer to the act as eating crow – a disgusting scavenger bird for which it was a humiliation to eat. Rudyard Kipling illustrates this idea graphically in his story “The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes.” Surprisingly, humble pie actually comes to us from the term “umble” pie, a medieval meat tripe dish. Umbles are the inner parts of an animal (offals) such as the heart and liver, etc. – considered to be low-class victuals. Not much was needed to eventually put the “h” in front of it to have a nice punderful way of now saying “humble pie.” Isn’t that punny?

Much like Morrowbie Jukes, I found myself one day declaring something I would never do. My wife and I began our marriage in an extraordinary manner – financially anyway. We got married when she was 17 and I was 21. We somehow convinced her mother to sign the papers giving Jessica (my wife) the legal right to marry. Life was great for us, with many laughs. For instance, do you know how funny it was when we went out with friends and she was 19 years old? By then she was married and had a child, was attending college and managing a store, but she still could not enter certain restaurants! I was a lead person at a government-contracting facility with over 500 employees, and she was a dollar store manager. We were not yet 23 and had amassed more in cash than any couple we knew personally – $20,000 to be exact. No one had to tell us – we already knew we were rich.

We frequently made donations to the Goodwill Center and Salvation Army for tax purposes. I dreamed of one day handing out one of those big Ed McMahon checks to some lucky person or facility and appearing on the front page of the paper. Or maybe I would go somewhere and put on a fake hard hat, hold a shovel toward the ground, have my picture taken, and say that I broke ground helping with some new building project. I had pretty big dreams, huh? My britches were pretty tight, and my hats were a little small back then. Anyway, as I saw many of my friends getting clothes and other items from the Salvation Army or Goodwill Center (some of which I had even donated), I often wondered why they didn’t just become good, upstanding Christian citizens like my wife and me. We went to church, gave tithes and prayed, and Voila! God gave us money and positions because he wanted us good, upstanding Christians to be happy. Now if I had been a betting man at that point, I would have bet the bank account and house that such hubris would eventually get me into trouble – and it did.

My wife and I decided we had enough money in savings (the $20,000 bank account) for her to quit her job and begin nursing school full-time while I transferred to a part-time job. Life was still great…until one night our daughter got attacked by a dog. The attack was so horrible it left meat barely hanging on under her right eye socket, with visible bone showing. Her face required plastic surgery in at least three places. Without plastics getting involved, permanent scaring was inevitable. We told the doctors we wanted whatever it took in order to save our child, while affording her minimum scaring and a safe procedure. They in turn told us it would be $20,000 up front to begin the process! With all of our life savings drained, plus two new credit cards maxed out at $5,000 each, and my two new part-time jobs (making it three total), I realized something; I was now the one frequently going to the food shelter, Goodwill center, and Salvation Army myself in order to provide for my family. For the first time, I understood that life is no respecter of persons, and neither is God. It does in fact rain on the just and the unjust – just the same. During those times, my wife had to suspend school for a semester because someone had to hold our daughter throughout the whole night, for our daughter could not roll over against her face.

Now, I have learned to be thankful for both the good times and the bad ones. Furthermore, I cannot help but think of the Bible verse that reads, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12 ESV) For this reason, I never miss a chance to eat a nice slice of humble pie. Either way you cut it, I also prefer mine with a lot of hummus on it to boot, and I believe that has much deeper, more nutritious roots in it than chickpeas!

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Forbidden Fruit Creates Many Jams

The Following is an excerpt from my forthcoming eBook titled: “Lessons from the Village…”

Forbidden Fruit Creates Many Jams

I believe we all like to look at a few good church signs now and then. Some of my favorite are as follows: “Jesus – Don’t Miss Him for the World!”; “What in the World are You Doing for Heaven’s Sake?”; “Don’t Be So Open-minded That Your Brains Fall Out!”; “Wal-mart is Not the Only Saving Place.” I saw one sign that paraphrased an Oscar Wilde quote; it read, “Forgive Your Enemies – It Messes with Their Minds.” Another one that I came across caused quite a stir, although it had good intentions. The church sign read, “Call 911, This Church is on Fire!” But, after a few short days the sign had to be reworded to say, “Please Don’t Call 911, But This Church is on Fire!” apparently many 911 calls had ensued.

My favorite church sign though is one that read, “Forbidden Fruit Creates Many Jams.” How sweet is that? Many of our worse temptations come from our own personal forbidden fruits – which always seem to taste the sweetest. Of course, the whole concept of forbidden fruit comes to us from the Garden of Eden in the Bible. For whatever reason, it was frequently symbolized in Renaissance paintings as being an apple. Although the origins cannot be ascertained, many scholars believe the apple’s inclusion came as a result of mixing Greek mythology with Biblical history. In the Greek story known as the “Judgment of Paris,” a golden apple is plucked by the goddess of discord, Eris, and taken to a party. On the apple was inscribed “for the fairest one.” Three goddesses fought over who should deserve the prize apple, and Zeus decided for a mortal, Paris, to make the call. The story then proceeds with Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena all tempting Paris and revealing sexual parts in order to persuade his decision.

In Latin, a nice pun exists between apple and evil – both words are listed as malum! This Latin root word serves as the basis for such words as “malady,” “malignant” and “malfunction.” According to legend, the apple that Adam ate following Eve’s persuasive dialogue got stuck in his throat. For this reason, we now have an “Adam’s apple!” It is quite interesting though that an apple became the tainted fruit. I mean after all, it was fig leaves that Adam and Eve used to make garments following their sinful act. Therefore, would not a fig be the most logical speculative fruit?

At any rate, my daughter is now six years old. I have noticed the hint of rebellion in her. If I ask her to eat any of the M&M’s except for the blue ones, because they’re my favorite, guess which ones she begs for permission to eat? In St. Augustine’s timeless book “Confessions,” he tells of the famous “pear-picking” story. He would steal pears from his neighbor’s yard, not because he was hungry, but only for the thrill of stealing pears. Upon deeper reflection, St. Augustine states that he does not even like pears and did not even want them at that time! Judges in chapter 14 in the Bible tells of a great story regarding forbidden sweets – it’s about Samson.

Now, Samson was a Nazarite. This is not to be confused with a Nazarene. A Nazarene was someone from Nazareth like Jesus Christ (who was sometimes referred to as “the Nazarene”). A Nazarite was someone who took the Nazaritic vow found in Numbers chapter 6, which meant they would abstain from the following: drinking wine or any similar drink, cutting their hair, coming into contact with anything dead. Many people remember Samson’s incident with Delilah and declare this his downfall; however, Samson actually backslid on his Nazaritic oath long before Delilah.

In Judges 14, we see Samson secretly killing a lion in verse 6, but being careful not to tell his mother and father what he had done later. I wonder why? Well, the Bible stresses that Samson had “nothing in his hand” and that it was the overwhelming “spirit of the Lord” that came over Samson to give him this kind of strength. Afterward, in verse 8, when he is going back to get his fiancé, he sees the carcass of the lion laying there with a swarm of bees surrounding some honey. Then the rest is told in 14:9: “He scooped out the honey with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they too ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion’s carcass.” (NIV) Whoa! Wait a minute! So, Samson literally killed something, and then after he had caused the death, he actually went back and willfully, voluntarily reached into the dead carcass of it just because a sweet morsel caught his eye!?!  Here is the crux of the story.

God had given Samson super-human powers that he would not have otherwise had in order to slay something that was upon him and meant him harm. The Bible compares Satan to a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV) How many times have we had some hidden sin, or some consuming lust or sick behavior that we could not shake, but by the grace and mercy of the Lord, he allows us to conquer it bare-handedly? But, then what do we do next? We reenact what Samson did; we go back to that which God has helped us to slay, and we reach back into that dead carcass to stir it up again! Let a dead dog stay dead! Why did Samson do this? And, why do we do this all the time? We often rekindle an old sin because something sweet or tasty has brought our attention back to it.

Samson notices the sweet honeycomb with the buzzing bees surrounding it laying there in the dead carcass. Therefore, this causes his lust to overtake him, committing him to do an act that he knew was against God’s will. Often, we follow suit. Perhaps your sin is a pornographic site and you just couldn’t get away from it despite many attempts. God finally allows you the strength to conquer and slay your situation, but then you start wondering if any new material has been uploaded since your last visit. So, you re-visit it just out of curiosity. Do you know what the Bible says happens when we stir up old conquered sins? It’s pretty scary: read Luke 11:24-26.

Something interesting is revealed in this story too. Notice that Samson cannot just eat the fruit himself. He has to offer it to someone else. We don’t like to feel alone when we do things we know are wrong, do we? That’s why there are porn communities on the internet. So that we can justify our lusts of the flesh and feel that it’s alright – we are not alone. We like to have a sort of camaraderie for comfort when we do our deeds. Hence, Eve tempts Adam after biting the fruit, and St. Augustine went with friends to steal pears. Likewise, Samson offers the honey to his parents as well and does not tell them anything of where it came from. Sound eerily familiar? What we see here is a cycle. The duped become the dupers; the sick become the viruses themselves. For whatever reason, we do not like to suffer alone.

In conclusion, I would like to say this: whenever we pray to God to give us the strength to conquer some habit, sin, deeply rooted lust, etc., and he actually does what we pray for…let’s be careful not to go back and stir it up again later – no matter how sweet the forbidden fruit may seem. Remember: “Forbidden Fruit Creates Many Jams.”