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

 

 

Is God Good?

 

Is God good?

Does your answer to that question depend on the mood you are in or the particular circumstances you are confronting? It is very easy to say, “God is so good” when everything is going your way. If you have your health, enough money to pay your bills, and your family relationships are in pretty good shape, you may have no difficulty in saying “praise God from whom all blessings flow.” 

But, what do you think about God when troubles come and your life seems to be falling apart? What do you say about God when a child dies or you are personally stricken with an incurable illness? Is God good when you lose your life’s savings or your job is terminated?

These questions strike at the heart of an issue important to every true believer; is God good? Is He purely good with no trace of evil or deception in His character?

What happens to my life if I don’t really believe God is good? It means I believe I can’t really trust Him. If I can’t really trust Him, I live in doubt about His care for me and lose my interest and zeal to live according to His teachings.

 Remember the story of Job? Satan’s contention was that he only served and trusted God because he had such a good, trouble-free life. God allowed Satan to test his theory. Job lost his children, his possessions, his health, and the support of his wife and friends. He complained and wondered why God would allow him to suffer such misery but he never lost his confidence in the goodness and righteousness of God.  

In my last blog, “Thinking about God,” I wrote about how Satan wants to deceive us and cause us to doubt God’s goodness. Satan is a Liar. According to Jesus, he is the father of the lie (John 8:44). What do you think Satan wants you to think about God? Does He want you to believe God is good, that you can trust Him? No, he wants to plant doubts in your mind about following God’s will.

 Remember his misleading words to Eve, “You will not die because God knows that when you eat your eyes will be opened and you will be like God.” Genesis 3:4-5. One of the takeaways from the temptations of Jesus is that Satan would go to any length to distract Him from God’s ultimate will for His life. Satan’s deceptions of folks Jesus came to save culminated in the cross at Calvary. Satan is serious about deceiving people into believing a lie about God’s goodness. Do you think for one moment Satan isn’t interested in doing this to you?  

We are living in times when evil all around us. It seems we are reaping what we have sown as a nation. Have we been so busy chasing the “American Dream” that we are now facing a moral nightmare? I am not an alarmist but the crime and murder that’s happening in the streets and neighborhoods of our country causes me to ask, “When is this lawlessness going to get personal”?  Unless a spiritual revival takes place, our children and grandchildren are going to be living in a country where the freedoms our founding fathers risked their lives for will be greatly diminished.

There is a lot of focus on politicians as the reason for our current problems. I believe the political stalemate and the acrimony that seems to characterize much of D.C. is a symptom of a deeper, spiritual issue. Politics will not solve our problems. Many of our politicians could sure help a lot more if they would, but they are not the solution.  The ultimate solution to our nation’s ills lies with us, God’s redeemed people. Politics won’t heal the soul as a nation. Only God can restore us.

 Perhaps some of us need to pray for our leaders as God tells us to do. Maybe we need to spend more time in the word and less time watching the news programs that support our political views. It may surprise some of us to discover that God isn’t a Republican or a Democrat. He loves all of us regardless of whether our views are liberal or conservative.  

God is good. His ways are right. And, he blesses those who trust in His goodness and follow Him, “How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments!” Psalm 112:1.

The bottom-line  solution to our nation’s ills is clearly stated in 2 Chronicles 7: 14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear them, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Yes, God is good and that reality carries weighty consequences. We are to act like our Father. We are to love as He loves. We are to do good in evil times. We are to pray for our enemies. We are to be salt and light in a dark and decaying world. And, we are to live with the confidence that our Father, as Paul tells us in Romans 8:28, “causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

Bill Haslam, former governor of Tennessee, has written a helpful book for those of us concerned about our role as people of faith in a hostile environment. The book’s title is Faithful Presence-The Promise and Peril of Faith in the Public Square. Concerning Jesus’ expectation of the role believers will play in the world, Haslam writes, ” They were and are to be people who do for the world what salt did for meat in the days before refrigeration: keep it from spoiling. If the meat went bad, it was the salt’s fault, not the meat’s. (page 192 ). 

Don’t despair. God is good and He will prevail. But, you and I need to be sure we are faithful to follow Jesus in the way we respond to today’s challenges.

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.

Thank You, Mrs. Robinson

 

Mrs. Robinson was an attractive, elderly lady who served in a staff position at the college I was attending. We had exchanged friendly “hellos” when we would happen to meet on campus but I didn’t know her very well. I had no clue about the role she would play in a life-long paradigm shift in the way I would think about the meaning of love.

Timing is very important in sharing advice with people and the time was right for me.  I was in a very frustrated state of mind about relationships with young women. The way I had approached these relationships had left me disappointed and empty. I believed the Hollywood idea of love and romance and expected the other person to somehow make me happy and complete. I had dated some really good people but the “magic” hadn’t happened. What I was thinking and doing wasn’t working. I was ready for some help and God showed up.

 Mrs. Robinson walked by and asked to join me on the bench where I was sitting. She must have sensed God leading her to sit with me. She was a good listener and very careful in the way she gave advice. After a few pleasantries, I felt comfortable telling her what was troubling me. She heard me and understood the hunger for love and meaning that was being expressed in my words. She discerned the wrong thinking that had left me frustrated and empty and offered a new way of thinking about love. “Cos,” she said, “Concentrate on how to be a loving person, not on how to be loved.”

 I studied Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, and other great thinkers in college but that was the most profound idea I heard while pursuing my degree. And, it remains one of the most meaningful concepts I have ever heard. The essence of what Mrs. Robinson was saying clearly lines up with the teaching of Jesus and the way He lived and died.

What we think at a conviction level is seen in how we live. Mrs. Robinson was attempting to show me a biblical way to think about myself and others. She was saying, without really saying it, that I needed to change my thinking about how to have the meaning and purpose I wanted from life. To do what she suggested would mean to allow Christ to change me into the caring person He wanted me to be. (Romans 8:29).

Have you noticed how our culture worships at the altar of the wealthy, powerful, and popular? Much of the junk we experience in politics, entertainment, education, and media can be traced to the lack of one thing: we don’t value character anymore. We need lots of folks like Mrs. Robinson who have deep convictions about biblical values and are willing to help those who will listen find a better way of thinking. Will you be that person for someone? 

Thank you, Mrs. Robinson, for listening and giving me something to consider that has made a real difference in the way I  try to live. And, Mrs. Robinson, I’m still working on what you advised, and trying to pass that idea along to others who will listen. 

 

     

 

Worth Fighting For

This blog is written on May 31, 2021, Memorial Day. This particular date is important to me for a couple of reasons. First, it is a federal holiday set aside to honor the countless men and women who have died in battle to gain or preserve the freedoms we so often take for granted. In the year 1969, Memorial Day was on Saturday, May 31; a day that forever changed my life. It seems that anything worth having in life will cost us something. Let me tell you what I mean by that.

 The founding fathers who declared independence from England in 1776 realized they were putting their lives and all their possessions at risk.  At the close of that long war, many widows were left to raise their fatherless children. Our country was founded on the sacrifice and blood of thousands of men whose names we will never know. 

For three months in sweltering Philadelphia heat fifty-five men met to produce the constitution of the United States of America, the outline of how our country would function under separate branches of government. At the insistence of the colonies, a Bill of Rights (amendments 1-10) was added before approval. Those amendments include such things as freedom of speech and religion, the right to bear arms, and freedom from unlawful search and seizure of property, etc.

Ben Franklin, at 81, was by far the oldest delegate at the constitutional convention. Once the lengthy debates for approval in the state conventions were over and the thirteen colonies became the United States of America, Franklin is recorded saying something to the effect, “ Now we have a republic, let’s see if we can keep it.” Franklin was a very wise man, knowing a great deal about human nature and the threat our form of government would be to the power-hungry within and outside our borders. There is a great price to pay for the freedoms we enjoy. Memorial Day is supposed to help us remember that fact.

I have traced the name of a family member on the Viet Nam Memorial wall in D.C. and stood in awe and felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and gratitude as my tear-filled eyes surveyed almost ten thousand white crosses at the national cemetery in Normandy, France. These young men laid it all down for us and the preservation of freedom in Europe. Our freedom isn’t free. But, I’m concerned that we have become so lazy, forgetful, arrogant, and ignorant that we are about to lose much of what others valued to the point of sacrificing their lives.

My primary concern about losing the country so many have died for has little to do with China, Russia, Iran, or Korea. The founding fathers understood that only a moral people could maintain the form of government for which so many have died. God has not abandoned us. We have abandoned Him, little by little. Godless laws promote the killing of the unborn; a society that has been deceived into exchanging materialism for the One True God. Commonsense is not “common” anymore.  Our national soul is in trouble. We are in dire need of repentance and a return to an emphasis on godly character. It’s time for all believers to wake up to the reality of our gradual slide to destruction. God is our hope and help.

The second reason this day is special to me is because 52 years ago today Cecelia and I made a commitment to God and each other that we would live in obedience to God in our marriage “until death do us part.” We have had our share of “fights,” as is true of most good marriages. But, we have fought for our marriage by protecting it and growing in a kind of oneness that God has intended. We have been able to put aside petty differences and focus on the goal of making our marriage work as it should. Good marriages and families will cost you something that cannot be purchased with money.

 Our marriage is not a good one because we have “survived” more than a half century. It is good because we have fought for it by doing  three things pretty well; we have maintained our commitment to God and each other; we have learned to communicate with each other, and we have been able to use our conflicts for better understanding and adjustments. We have worked at it. I believe marriage is what people make it. By the way, Marriage is What You Make It is the title of one of my books you can find at www.cosdavis.com. You may know someone who could use some helping in how to fight for their marriage. Marriage is one of those precious things worth fighting for. Good marriages are not produced by the weak or lazy. It requires people to graduate from a high school, Hollywood view of love, and experience what real love, married love is all about. If isn’t easy but it’s well worth fighting for.