Risk vs. Reward

 

About twenty years ago Cecelia and I were blessed with Anna Katherine (A.K.), the first of our four grandchildren. Wanting to do something for her and others who might follow, I built a sturdy structure for a swing close to the creek that runs through our property. That swing has witnessed lots of laughs and screams as A.K and the three grandsons have enjoyed it through the years. I think I enjoyed watching them swing as much as they enjoyed using it.

A couple of years ago I realized that the old structure wasn’t seeing much use and decided to bring some enjoyment and laughter back to it. This, I thought, would be a perfect place for an adult swing; a place to relax, to be quiet, and enjoy the babbling of the creek and the beauty of our back yard. It is all of that and more! But there is a risk I take every time I go there to rest or meditate. Bird poop! Let me explain.    

For several weeks I was frustrated that almost every time I wanted to use  the swing I had to be clean off the bird poop. Being the “problem solver” I am I attempted several things to discourage the bird’s lack of consideration, including covering the swing with plastic. The plastic worked but who wants to look at a swing always covered with a poop-smeared sheet of plastic. This called for drastic measures. I decided to construct a spike-board over the swing to stop the birds from landing on the overhead beam; sometimes you have to get serious and take action to mitigate the risk. I’m sure the AAPCA would frown on what I’ve done. This 6 ft. board has 130 nails daring any bird to land there to do their business. ”  

The spike board worked! For several days I visited the swing to reassure myself I had taken the risk out of using the swing. It was clear that the birds were avoiding the spikes! However, a day or so ago I went to enjoy the solitude in the swing to discover a familiar deposit on the swing; bird poop. Wondering how this had happened, I cleaned the area and sat down to relax and meditate. I did not know what was about to hit me. Yep. You guessed it; right on the left thigh of my pale blue pants. It was a long-distance shot from a tree behind my swing.

Well, what am I going to do now? I’m not going to cut the tree and I’m not going to stop using the swing. I’ve weighed the benefit vs. the risk and I think what happened may happen again, maybe one chance in a hundred. I enjoy that swing and a little bird poop is not going to stop me from using it.

Life is risky, isn’t it? Almost everything that is worthwhile involves taking a chance. Marriage, children, friendship, loving someone, driving, flying, investing, sitting in a swing, and many other things come to mind. But what is life worth if you allow yourself to be controlled by the fear of what might happen. We can’t control what is outside our control but we can do what we can to mitigate the risk. Still, there will be “bird poop” or other kinds of stuff we will encounter.

My little story can serve to illustrate some great truths for myself and others who will listen:

  1. Life isn’t supposed to be easy. We can learn what’s really important through the troubles and frustrations God allows to come our way. I don’t learn much when life is easy. We have to weigh the benefit vs. the reward.
  2. With God’s help, we can deal with the challenges of marriage, child-rearing, jobs, investing, friendships, and health issues by absorbing His word and putting it into practice. Don’t give up on what’s really important to you. I like what Psalm 1:1-2 says about those of us who rely on God’s Word to guide us: How blessed is the man who “Delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night.”
  3. Life is a faith adventure. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will lead you on the right path.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
  4.  Remember the big-picture plan God has for us. God is working in everything to make us more like Jesus. Romans 8:28. We need to adjust our life purpose to align with     His plan.

Longing for the “Good Ole Days”

While considering what to share with you today I ran across a piece of commentary by Paul Harvey (1919-2009). Harvey was the guest speaker at my graduation from Belmont in 1966 but is better- known for his radio broadcasts for over a half-century. He specialized in telling “The Rest of The Story.” He took the basics of a news event or story and  went behind the scene to explain the extraordinary details of human sacrifice and compassion which were not part of the news; thus, “The Rest of the Story.” He was a brilliant communicator who left you smiling and encouraged every time you listened to him.

The commentary you are about to read probably strikes a wishful chord in most of us. I long for simpler days; less hurry and bustle, more love and less hate, more caring and less cruelty. Would a return to the “Good Ole Days” solve these and other issues we face today? As you read Harvey’s “Dirt Roads” think about what he seems to be suggesting. What can be done to solve the challenges our society faces today?

Do me a big favor. I would like your “take” on this piece and what you think we believers can do to be salt and light in our culture.   

                                                                                                                                         Dirt Roads

What’s mainly wrong with society today is that too many dirt roads have been paved. There’s not a problem in America today, crime, drugs, education, and divorce delinquency that wouldn’t be remedied if we just had more dirt roads because dirt roads give character. People that live at the end of dirt roads learn early on that life is a bumpy ride. That it can jar you right down to your teeth sometimes, but it’s worth it, if at the end is home….a loving spouse, happy kids and a dog.

We wouldn’t have near the trouble with our educational system if our kids got their exercise walking a dirt road with other kids, from whom they learn how to get along. There was less crime in our streets before they were paved. Criminals didn’t walk two dusty miles to rob or rape, if they knew they’d be welcomed by 5 barking dogs and a double barrel shotgun. And there were no drive by shootings, motorists were more courteous, they didn’t tailgate by riding the bumper or the guy in front would choke you with dust and bust your windshield with rocks. Dirt roads taught patience.

Dirt roads were environmentally friendly, you didn’t hop in your car for a quart of milk. You walked to your barn for your milk. For your mail, you walked to the mailbox. What if it rained and the dirt road got washed out? That was the best part, then you stayed home and had some family time, roasted marshmallows and popped popcorn and pony rode on daddy’s shoulders and learned how to make prettier quilts than anybody. At the end of dirt roads, you soon learned that bad words tasted like soap. Most paved roads lead to trouble, dirt roads more likely lead to a fishing creek or a swimming hole.

At the end of a dirt road, the only time we even locked our car was in August because if we didn’t some neighbor would fill it with too much zucchini. At the end of a dirt road, there was always extra springtime income from when city dudes would get stuck and you’d have to hitch up a team and pull them out. Usually you got a dollar…always you got a new friend…at the end of a dirt road.  Paul Harvey

Let me hear from you. Cos

 

 

Toxic Thinking

Have you ever known someone whose thinking has been poisoned by the words and actions of others? I’ve known several folks like this. Many of them developed toxic thought patterns about themselves because of verbal abuse by a wounded parent. There is an old saying in Scripture that goes something like this, “The parents have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Toxic or poisoned thinking is often a generational issue; the grandparent is angry from an unhealed wound, afflicts their child with their bitterness and on and on it can go generation after generation.

 Hopefully, someone down the line will learn to think more healthily and break the destructive pattern. “I want my daughter to grow up thinking much better of herself than I did.” This woman, a successful businessperson, and going through a divorce, had come to see the negative impact her mother’s words had had on her. She was determined to heal and stop the cycle of toxicity. You would probably be surprised at the number of people I counseled who had dealt with such toxicity at home.

 I grew up watching how this kind of poisonous thinking affected one generation after another. A boy I grew up around, let’s call him Josh, received the brunt of some of his mother’s angry outbursts. Instead of gently correcting him, she would hit him with a broom or with her fist. But, what probably hurt him more deeply were the toxic words he came to think or believe about himself, “You can’t do anything right.” I was around this situation several times and knew Josh was just a “normal” kid, certainly not deserving this awful treatment. I felt sorry for him but it was difficult to relate to his situation since I never experienced this kind of abuse at home. Josh and his family moved to another town just before he became a teenager and I would only see him occasionally or when our schools would compete in basketball.

It would be years before I began to see how that message, “You can’t do anything right,” seems to have affected Josh. Somewhere along the way, he must have believed and adopted his mother’s view of himself. If you hear your parent’s message often enough and long enough you tend to believe it is true. Believing a negative message can have devastating results.

Josh began falling behind in school and eventually gave up and dropped out of high school. He left the state to find work and eventually despaired of his life but failed in his attempt to end his misery. Two marriages ended in failure. Thankfully, Josh came to embrace God’s love for him and some deep healing took place. Tragically, for most of his life he had allowed the toxic, evil thinking of someone he loved to dominate his thinking. That way of thinking had almost destroyed him but, thank God, he found acceptance, forgiveness, and grace in Jesus.     

When you look in the mirror do you see someone who can identify with Josh? Somewhere deep within you do you believe you are worthless or unloved? If you do, you have believed a lie straight out of hell. God loves you and wants the best for you. If you see someone in the mirror that identifies with Josh’s mother, please get help for the healing and help you need to correct your toxic thinking.

Toxic thoughts produce negative feelings about yourself and others. Your feelings are what they are but they are not based on truth. Healing will come when you acknowledge your feelings, forgive those who have hurt you and, change your thinking to agree with God’s estimate of your worth.  God loves you so much that He gave His only Son to die for you.

Perhaps my words cause you to consider the impact your words and actions, good or bad, can have on someone you love. Bless them with your loving words and encouragement. May God give you the power to bless those you love.

How Is Your Spiritual Vision ?

Several years ago I had an experience with “floaters” which caused me to do some research and thinking about my eyes. Your eyes are a marvelous testimony of the ingenuity of our Creator. If you haven’t done so, take some time to investigate some of the marvels of one of the most intricate and wonderful parts of your body, your eyes.

For many years I had perfect (20/20) vision. But as I continued to age, I needed glasses with a corrective lens to enable me to read and see things up close more easily. Another change came and I now wear glasses to correct my vision at far, intermediate and close distances. This is the last step before I will have surgery to replace the lenses in both eyes to remove cataracts and correct most of my vision issues. I take care of my eyes in order to see correctly. 

Vision is important, physically and spiritually. I encourage you to take care of your eyes, protect them from injury and get the medical help you need for them to serve you well until you don’t need them any longer.

What is spiritual vision about? It is how you “see” life. It involves such things as attitude, prejudice, selfishness, gentleness, honesty, faith, love, hope, and many other moral and spiritual qualities. Someone has said, “We don’t see life as it is, we see life as we are.” We bring our personal interpretation and perception to everything we do? You deal with your spouse, children, family, friends, and strangers based on your spiritual vision.

Spiritual vision, the way you “see” life is what Jesus is referencing in this statement, “…if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”  Matthew 6:22-23.

Your spiritual vision has been formed through how you have interpreted your life experiences. Good for you if you have chosen to believe and act on some very healthy perspectives on life from parents, teachers and other authority figures. On the other hand, you may have been very stubborn and prideful and chose to learn some lessons “the hard way.” Have you interpreted life through the lens of  God’s Word? If not, where do you get your outlook on life?  

How is your spiritual vision? My ophthalmologist checks my vision by having me read four lines of different letters and symbols of different sizes. That is his standard to determine the accuracy of my vision.  Where do you go to have your spiritual vision checked and corrected? We need to go early and often to Jesus to correct our thinking. Go to His teaching, go to his actions and think about how you are to do life. Paul prescribes the cure for  prejudice, selfishness, and pride which can distort our thinking, “Have the attitude which Jesus had..” Read the entire prescription to fix your thinking in Philippians 4:4-8. Blessings, Cos   

Why Do you Think The Way You Do?

It’s encouraging and refreshing to deal with honest people. I had an experience recently that made my day. I took my car to a repair shop to get the front brake pads replaced. I had been told by another shop that I would need this work done soon and went to the second place for another opinion. The mechanic at the new shop did a quick look, without removing the wheels, and estimated I had a couple of thousand miles left on the pads.

 I liked the price of the work at this shop and decided to let them do the work. I brought my car back in a few days and went home expecting to return that afternoon to get it. Instead, a couple of hours later, I got a call from the service manager, “ Mr. Davis, you don’t need new brake pads. You have about half the life left on the ones on your car.” We discussed the situation to my satisfaction, and when I went to get the car I said, “George, thank you for being honest with me. You could have done the work and I would not have known the difference. Why?” He told me he never did work that didn’t need to be done on a vehicle. “Why?” I repeated. Then he told me why he thought the way he did about being honest with people, “When I was growing up, I wouldn’t be able to sit down for days if my dad caught me in a lie or doing something dishonest.” He also told me of another repair shop he left because his employer wanted him to be dishonest in dealing with customers.

George’s dad is no longer around to punish him if he varies from the early lessons concerning honesty. Thankfully, George has decided to continue to think and act honestly with people. As a result, I and others who come into this repair shop will be treated well because He has developed a pattern of thinking that prompts him to treat people with respect.

 Those fixed, unconscious patterns of thinking such as George operates by are important to each of us. Think about these questions. How do you view life? What do you think is really important? How do you think about God? Yourself? Others? Take a few moments and consider how you are thinking about these things.

Next question, “Where did you learn to think this way? “  Do you just go along with the crowd and never dare to really think deeply about important stuff? Do you get your ideas from the brilliant politicians in D.C.? Who or what has had a strong influence on the way you think?  

What do you use as a measure to determine if what you are thinking is true or false? What role does the Bible play in helping you formulate the way you think about the things that really matter?  

 At the close of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7), Jesus tells a story about two builders.  The fool refuses to build his life on the teachings of Jesus and faces the destruction his choice brings. The wise man adopts Jesus’ teachings as his way of thinking and acting and his life withstands all the assaults and storms life can throw at him. There are consequences to how we think about God and His plan for our life. Think well and deeply about that. 

 

 

Where’s the Evidence?

Many years ago there was a question being asked from pulpits and in Christian writings that went something like this, “If you were arrested and put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Today, Christians are being persecuted in many different parts of the world. And, the way things seem to be trending in our country, the idea that you and I could be put on trial for our faith in Christ may not be far-fetched

What if you were arrested today for your faith? Would there be enough indisputable facts, witnesses for the prosecutor to convict you as a follower of Jesus? What do you think your accuser would look for as evidence against you? What would be the conclusive proof, that one thing that would leave no doubt in the jury’s collective mind?

What if John, a neighbor or family member, is called as a witness concerning your faith? Imagine the prosecution’s line of questions: “Does ( put your name here) profess to be a follower of Jesus, a Christian?” “Yes,” John answers.

“Does (      ) attend and support a local church?” Again John answers, “Yes.”

“Does (        ) pray and read the Bible?” “I have reason to believe they do.”

“Why do you believe they do?” “Because (            ) has told me they pray for me and my family. And, they talk with me from time to time about things in the Bible.”

After hearing these things, the prosecutor presses for John’s conclusion to convict you as a Christian, “So, on this evidence that (           ) claims to be a Christian, attends and supports a church, prays and reads the Bible, that you believe he is a follower of Jesus?”

“No,” John answers, “There is something more that has convinced me.”

The startled prosecutor continues, “More, what do you mean?”

“(               “ is the most caring and consistently good person I have ever known. (              ) has dealt with lots of stress and loss but it hasn’t changed their basic approach to life. I believe this is true because (            ) has a personal relationship with God. I don’t know any other way to explain it.

The prosecutor says, “John, I have one other question for you. Are you a Christian?”

“No, I am not. But, if I were, I would want to be one like (            ).

Conclusion      

Do you love Jesus? “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15.

Are you a disciple of Jesus? “By this all men will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

Where is the evidence? It is in the way we live in relation to the truth in these verses. The life of faith in Jesus produces the kind of evidence that proves our guilt.

Paul was proud to be found guilty as a follower of Jesus, ” The life I  live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.

Your Child’s “Best Friend”?

Is it healthy to be your child’s “best friend”? If you want to love your child in a way that is good for him you need to avoid things that may harm him. Being his “best friend” is one of those things you need to avoid. 

Being your child’s “best friend” is not a part of healthy love. Your child needs you to be his parent. You are not equals. You are the authority for your child and both of you should always understand that boundary. One day you may become your child’s “best friend” but this is reserved for a time when you are both grown and they are no longer under your authority.

This may sound harsh but it is for your child’s good that you not make decisions based on whether or not he/she will agree with or like you for what you do. Your love for your child should have a balance of friendliness and firmness. Going too far in either direction,crossing either of those boundaries creates problems for your child.

Your child may be very winsome and adorable. However, they do not generally look out for their own best interest. No, they learn how to charm and manipulate rather early in order to get what they want when they want it. Don’t take seriously their promise to” be your best friend” if you will let them have what they want. They’re not capable of being a real friend to you. Neither are they very capable of judging what is healthy for them.

If you are somehow wanting your child to be your best friend you may want to ask this question: “What is this about?” There could be many answers to this. You may be divorced or in a lonely marriage. You may not like to deal with confrontation with your child. You may feel it’s your role to make your child happy. Remember, trying to make your child happy with you may ultimately lead to their ruin.

Keep the lines clear as to who is the parent and who is the child. Your job is to be an adult and to assist your child to grow to be as healthy and functional as possible. Sometimes this will mean your child won’t like your decisions and will not claim you as their friend or parent. You must be emotionally mature enough to deal with their displeasure without giving in to their threats and demands. If you want to be your child’s “real” best friend, concentrate on being his parent.

What is Parenting About?

What is Parenting About?

Perhaps the most central question we need to ask ourselves as parents is: “What is parenting really about?” In other words, what is the main role or central purpose I, the parent, need to fulfill in relation to this child that has been entrusted to me?

Unfortunately, for some reason, this may be an area of concern which some parents never consciously consider. Many are so caught up with their personal agendas and the busyness of life that they don’t take time to talk about, much less put into action plans related to their primary role as a parent.

I would venture to say that many parents don’t have much of a clue as to what their main purpose as a parent really is. With our society’s rapid advance toward materialism and secularism it is no wonder that we are losing our sense of what life is really about.

This secular mindset defines what many think life is really about. Consequently, they rear their children in this godless approach to life where all values are relative and human life itself is becoming less and less valuable.

What do you think is the bottom line in parenting? What is parenting about to you? My next blog, “North Star Parenting” will attempt to provide a direction for you to consider.

 

Our Family and What’s Going on Today

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Are we coming apart as a society? What, if anything, does the shooting in Las Vegas say about the reality of evil? What role does the family play in the development of a stable society? Why does trust or the lack of it affect our society?  

The Trust Factor is critically important in life. There’s a lot in the news nowadays about trust, or the lack of it, when it comes to our government leaders. Folks all over America are doubtful of the motives and capability of many of those we have elected to serve us. We have a real ”crisis of confidence” in our country and there doesn’t seem to be much prospect of it getting better. How did we come to this place and how can it be fixed? Let’s learn to built trust in our families and with each other by what we say and how we treat each other. 

TRUST is a very important ingredient in life. It is present in all healthy relationships; marriage, friendship, business, parent/child, government and between leaders in the international community. Trust is foundational to the orderly and productive functioning of life. Without it we live in uncertainty, doubtful of the word or actions of the other person or country. President Reagan said, concerning agreements with other countries, that we should “trust but verify.” There is much wisdom in that idea; trust that the other person (country) will keep their word but understand that trustworthiness is proven by action consistent with one’s promise or agreement.

I believe the family is the basic unit of our society. As the family goes, so goes the world. Families produce children and children grow up to serve many different functions in our world. Some become congress people, some senators, some become Supreme Court judges and a few have the honor of becoming President of the United States.  

Everyone comes from a family of some type. But every family has the responsibility to attempt to instill the character values which make a person trustworthy. Character matters and there is no place where it matters more than in your family.

As for me, I will continue to live as a follower of the Light of the World and light my little candle in the terrible darkness. What about you? 

 

 

Do You Really Want to Build Trust?

Do you  really want to build trust in your marriage? If so, you need to see how things you do or do not do everyday affect your spouse’s ability to trust you.

Marriage has multiple demands that go beyond maintaining and growing the relationship with your spouse. Work, child rearing, financial management, and such things as maintaining where you live play a part in how trust is built or destroyed in your marriage. With effort a deficit of trust in any of these areas can be overcome in time. However, an unwillingness to address trust issues will lead to a growing distrust and possible destruction of your marriage.

The real issue in making your marriage work well is CHARACTER. By this I mean that people of good character really want to mature and do those things that are healthy for their marriage. They will make mistakes but will also admit them and attempt to correct them. You will not need to try to change a person with good character because they will want to change for the sake of the marriage. So, it all comes down to a couple of things: heart and head.

The “heart” part has to do with will or intention. “In my heart, do I really want to do the right thing?”This question gets at the essence of the issue. If the heart is wrong or selfish then only a deep personal change such as conversion can change this.

The “head” part has to do with knowledge or understanding. A person can have a good heart or intentions but lack knowledge. For example, you may want to live within your means but are challenged when it comes to knowing how to make a budget. This principle applies in many areas of marriage and family life. Trust grows when each of you shows yourself willing to learn new skills which are important to the overall management of family concerns. Likewise, trust in these areas deteriorates when such issues are not addressed.