Why I Carry On

Carry on my wayward son
For there’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more–Kerry Livgren

A friend of mine likes to say, “Everyone has problems.” I agree in principle, but some seem to get more than their fair share.

For instance, this morning  I was listening to a radio program which reads letters from listeners before beginning the message of the pastor whose sermons they play. This man in his correspondence talked about how his home had burned down, he had lost his job and he had been in a car accident. I would say that’s quite a lineup of adversity that most people don’t have to face.

Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond the illusion
I was soaring ever higher, but I flew too high
Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I’m dreamin’, I can hear them say
Carry on my wayward son
For there’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more
The words above from Kerry Livgren, a lyricist most known as a performer with the band Kansas, brings to mind Job–the poster boy of trials to mind. He is the biblical character who just for starters lost his fortune and 10 kids, as well as his health.
Job lived in an ancient land called Uz, which today sounds more like a potato chip. However, although scholars don’t know exactly where it is, it is presumed the country was somewhere in the Middle East.
Job was quite a businessman, caught up in the hubub of his day. He had much livestock: his herds numbered in the thousands. Think of a car dealer like the one in my hometown. This fellow’s property and name dominate the whole center of the city. Even the local civic center is named after him.
Unfortunately for Job, he got caught up in a celestial contest between God and Satan and lost everything in the battle. He caught the attention of the Evil One because he was a godly man. Because of this the Devil wanted to bring him down a peg or two. He accused Job of only following God because of the benefits. God therefore took Satan up on his suggestion that Job would falter in his faith if all the good stuff in his life was taken away.
What follows is cycle after cycle of suffering for Job. The Old Testament book that carries this patriarch’s name tells of his questioning of  God after Satan was given permission to smack him down.
It also details the poor advice of his friends. They meant well I suppose. They were a little bit like friends today who don’t know what to say during another’s misfortune and instead of being silent, come up with all sorts of (usually bad) remedies.
Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man, well
It surely means I don’t know.
We humans are a bunch of posers. I suppose there are a few select people like Albert Einstein with an unusual cerebral cortex, but most of us do not carry much wisdom around in our brains, even though we claim to.
I have  friends who are counselors who, after they give me advice, like to tell me in half jest to trust them because  “hey I am a licensed clinical social worker.”  I listen to these folks because I love them and they are my friends. Not only that, they DO have good judgement. We all need friends like that in our lives.
However, as a rule, the insight of humankind is clouded by a fallen nature and lack of knowledge. Only we know the intimate details of our personal lives and desires. Ultimately, we have to decide how to live our lives for ourselves.
On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about I’m like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune, but I hear the voices say
Carry on my wayward son…
In my own life I have made plan after plan and charted my way. I have gotten excited by what seemed to be a sure and certain and exciting path, only to have my dreams end up disappearing in the mist through no fault of my own.
In such circumstances, I have become  like an agitated bee who has been swatted at with a folded up newspaper. I do not know which way to turn and mainly I am just trying to survive.
But I  have pressed on. Perseverance is one of my virtues.
In that keeping on, though, I have also questioned God. One of my  counselor friends, when I relay a difficult circumstance in my life to him, likes to say “Where are you in this God?”  In my own way I have asked God the same thing.
But now, I don’t. Not anymore. I have finally gotten to the place Job reached after his awful suffering.
At the end of the Book of Job it is God who asks the questions. He begins thus:
“Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.”
He asks Job where he was when, for example, He laid the Earth’s foundations. After a couple of  chapters of such questions, he says to Job:
“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
    Let him who accuses God answer him!”
Job replies:
 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
    I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
    twice, but I will say no more.”
God doesn’t let Job off the hook so easily, however.
“Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.”
But after a couple more chapters of God questioning Job, the man admits he has no answer. He says to God:

“I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

“You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

 

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’

“My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.

“Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

Carry on, you will always remember
Carry on, nothing equals the splendor
Now your life’s no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you

I have reached the point, like Job, where I realize that God has His own agenda in my life. Does that agenda involve building my character? Yes. Does it include my involvement in some extra-dimensional spiritual warfare I cannot see? I presume so.

Could there be some judgement of past sin going on? Perhaps. Mostly, I think He is answering my lifelong prayer to know Him.

I became a follower of Jesus Christ out of a desire to have a purpose in life. Sadly, I think I have spent a lot of it seeking to carry out my own devices.

It has been said that God will not give His glory to another. My job from here to eternity is to make sure God gets glorified in my life: nothing more, nothing less. So…

Carry on my wayward son
For there’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more

 

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The only true source of empathy in a toxic world

The other day I walked into my local Starbucks and began talking to this young Latino barista. She’s maybe the friendliest of the ones that work there. (I might add that I am an older white guy.)

I asked her how she was doing.  She replied, “I am recuperating.”

I asked, “From what?”.

She explained that she had been off work for a while.

“I’ve been taking care of my father who has Alzheimer’s for two years. The stress got to me. Then, I was hospitalized from my pedestrian-vehicle accident.”

She told me she was walking and got hit by a car. Everybody has a story I guess but a lot don’t have this sad combination.

When a friend of mine posted on Instagram the old adage, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about-be kind”, I replied with her story. My friend responded by saying, “Empathy in action. Great story brother. Thank you for sharing it. You may have been like an angel to her that day just in how you showed that you care.”

My interaction with the barista was not an accident. I learned from the teachings of author and coach Brendon Burchard about using “triggers” to influence my surroundings. One he calls a “door” trigger. As you walk in the door of a place you ask yourself how you can be of benefit there.

In the current toxic environment in the US, such empathy is needed. Thankfully, there are folks out there trying to promote it.

For instance, one local group called Walk the Ridge is seeking to encourage civility and respect among people with different opinions. Another example, is author and researcher Brene’ Brown, who has written book about belonging.

One of the problems she outlines is that we’re so broken up into camps in the US that we aren’t willing to break out and be who we really are among folks on the other side. Brown encourages people to “brave the wilderness” (which is the title of her work) and first and foremost belong to ourselves.

If you pay attention to the media it seems we Americans are more into putting people down than showing respect. Even though I believe  that like a lot of other hype from that source, the problem is overblown, the issue needs to be addressed.

In a chapter called “Holding Hands with Strangers”, Brown makes the case that one reason we should be civil and respect one another is because we all have a spiritual connection due to all being part of the human family.

As much of the world is tuned into the World Cup, at least outside MY country, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of her examples of overcoming division is the respect garnered for Liverpool fans in Australia when a whole stadium full of them sang the club’s anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” These thousands of people showed what Brown calls “collective joy”.

While I get her drift, I notice when watching the YouTube video that  no one is holding hands among the 95,000 people in that stadium. Most of them seem to be using their hands to stretch out banners.

Of course, one of the most famous songs of all time about that subject is the Beatles song “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Here’s an excerpt:

Oh please say to me
You’ll let me be your man
And please say to me
You’ll let me hold your hand

Those lyrics are pretty shallow. In fact, one theory is that such songs  of that era, ones in which there was whining about not being loved, spawned the 60s hit “Somebody to Love” in reaction, most notably covered by Jefferson Airplane, featuring Grace Slick. Her husband Darby wrote these lyrics excerpted from the song:

When the truth is found to be lies
And all the joy within you dies
Don’t you want somebody to love
Don’t you need somebody to love
Wouldn’t you love somebody to love
You better find somebody to love

In her autiobiography Grace Slick said the song  is not sexual in nature but has more to do with practically serving others with a heart of concern for their welfare. She wrote:

“Rather than the loving you’re whining about getting or not getting, a more satisfying state of heart might be the loving you’re ‘giving’. Suggesting that adhering to the old Puritan cliche, ‘It’s better to give than to receive’, might actually make you a happier person. The idea of service and selflessness may sound like a tedious task reserved for bald monks, but the way Darby wrote the lyrics, altruism didn’t seem like such a lofty and unattainable state. He gave the impression that giving could even be an enjoyable adventure.”

I thought today that having an inner focus on someone else is a healing potion. It takes the mind off of my own emotional pain. I would imagine that a lot of  heartache  comes not so much from not being loved, but in not having someone to love.

I have concluded that I can’t love everyone, but I can love some. I also have determined that I can at least respect all people because they are created in the image of God.

While in some ways I can generate this love and respect, I can’t really manufacture it completely on my own. I need a power I don’t have to do it fully.

Any capacity I have to care for others effectively really comes from God. In fact, the God-Man Jesus is truly the only Person who perfectly loved and respected others.

Although He is God, He also is fully human. He lived 33 years down here, where he experienced all the toxicity of mankind as we have, but without sin.

As one who has received Him and trusted in  Him to deliver me from my selfish sinfulness, I believe what the Bible says about Jesus dwelling in my heart.

He can empathize with people’s weaknesses and struggles through me. Living in my heart, Jesus can use me to show the same concern He has to those in my sphere.

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Starbucks Empathy

I like to hang at the local Starbucks. When I sent a friend a video clip of its environment, with the hustle and bustle and music, they said, “How can you work with so much noise?”.

I told them that I am one of those people that work better with distractions. Some, for example, like to have the TV one while they work. The Starbucks has my attractions: coffee, music and an occasional conversation.

I meet interesting people at the coffees shop. There’s Vinny from New England, for instance. I discuss the baseball standings with him because he’s an avid Boston Red Sox fan. I am a follower of their down and out rival that shares a division with them: the Baltimore Orioles.

Henry is an older man I have not seen for a while. When I do, we discuss his birth country of Finland. His real name is “Heikki”.  Henry was born during World War 2, and with the chaos of that conflict, lived in several countries in Europe before landing in the United States.  I spent several years in Finland.

I struck up conversations with these men because of the baseball caps they were wearing. Vinny was wearing his Red Sox cap when we met. Henry had on  lid that read “Sisu”. It is a colloquial Finnish term loosely translated into English as “guts. I knew he must be related to Finland somehow because no one would wear such a cap unless they dug it out of a bargain bin somewhere.

In my last post I discussed the internal war we are having in America caused by enemies dehumanizing one another.  Researcher Brene’ Brown advises that one of the antidotes  to  this general-level hate is to move in closer and get to know people on the other side as individuals.  I believe she is on to something.

A close friend and I were discussing yesterday how we have worked with or met with people from other races, sexual orientations, religious beliefs or political stances and gotten along just fine. We both have even made friends with the folks we have encountered. How did this happen?

“People are hard to hate close up,” says Brown.

The other day I was walking to the Starbucks when an African-American man who appeared homeless (he was pushing a cart) saw my tee with a coffee-related theme on it and said, “Like your shirt.” I told him my sister-in-law gets them for me. Although we didn’t know one another and obviously came from different backgrounds, we had an an instant connection.

Right after him a young, burly looking white fellow with curly black hair and an accompanying beard stopped me and gave me some advice. He was half my age and probably thought this old coot needed it. “Get some water up ahead,” he said. Instead of feeling insulted that he must think I am an old  boob, I thanked him. I appreciated his concern. (I did wonder if I should upgrade my wardrobe though. Did he think “I” was homeless due to my raggy attire?)

In any case, the people I run into on the way to and in the Starbucks share things in common and we go out of our way to connect on that basis. Coffee shops are places where I seem to be able to exercise my empathy with folks.

Even today I noticed a couple of minority men in Air Force uniforms come into the store. I knew they were sergeants because they of the stripes on their sleeves. However, one had more of them.

I approached this African American man and asked the difference. He told me that he was a tech sergeant and the other was a master sergeant. It was trivia, but it was nice for this old white guy to connect with this soldier. I respect the military for a lot of  reasons.  One of them is that I have found the people in our armed services themselves are very respectful toward their fellow human beings.

I recall meeting one of my best friends in recent years at a Starbucks in another town. In fact, it’s where we always hooked up.

Tim is a former triathlete who became disabled after developing some physical issues. We had a lot of things in common.  We shared the same first name. (My nickname from him is “Tim 2”.)  We liked sports. We had similar personal issues. We both were followers of Jesus Christ.

The inability to walk a mile in another person’s shoes is at the heart of a lot of woes in our society.  For instance, one of the reasons sexual predators do what they do is because they lack empathy, A recent Time Magazine’s cover story describes how therapists working with sex offenders are trying to teach these men to understand how their victims felt at the time of the crime and the effect on them later.

While it is debatable as to whether or not sexual offenders can be cured, minimally they need to confront how they dehumanized another person in order to keep them from re-offending.  Lisa Anderson, an attorney who represents rape victims, told Time that “it’s hard for me to believe that someone could violently ignore the will of another and then be taught not to cross that line. But if it’s possible to teach them empathy, then that should be mandatory.”

Is it possible to learn empathy in this digital age?  The physical and emotional distance that is part of computerized communication makes it difficult.

One offender told Time of how the nature of computerized communication in chat rooms led to his crime:

“It led to a devaluation of whoever was on the other side,” he says. “They weren’t a person. They were a means to an end.

I never actually hurt anyone physically. But I left an emotional holocaust.”

To empathize with others, we have to find what Jesse Jackson called “common ground.” In a speech to the 1988 Democratic National Convention he said:

“Progress will not come through boundless liberalism nor static conservatism, but at the critical mass of mutual survival. It takes two wings to fly. Whether you’re a hawk or a dove, you’re just a bird living in the same environment, in the same world.”

We can empathize with others because we not only share the same planet, but we also were created by the same God.

I will expand on her idea in my next post.

 

 

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America’s internal war

I’ve recently begun watching episodes of the 1960s World War II drama series “Combat!”. I’m a sucker for movies, TV shows and documentaries of that traumatic period in the 20th century.  (Note that my last post centered on a film involving a group of soldiers holed up in a basement.)

In a program entitled  “I Swear by Apollo”, the American GIs who are featured in “Combat” are not in a house but out in the open, escorting a French partisan with important intelligence. As they move through the countryside a shell lands near the man and he is wounded in the back.

The squad of infantrymen, led by Sergeant Saunders, eventually wind up in a convent inhabited by nuns who have taken a vow of silence.  As the Frenchman and other wounded are dying, the nuns go about their business. They pray. They scrub floors. And they ignore the soldiers and their plight.

To be fair, the Mother Superior, the only nun who is allowed to talk, allows the men to stay as long as they keep the war outside. Also to her credit is that one of the nuns with medical expertise is allowed to even be involved with the surgery on the Frenchman.

That procedure is conducted by  Dr. Belzer, a German doctor who the Americans have gone to great pains to capture in order to save the French partisan. Belzer is not only a doctor, but also an officer in the German Wehrmacht.

As matters unfold, Saunders and Dr. Belzer play a game of cat and mouse in the convent. It is clear that the physician does not want to aid the enemy.  Furthermore, it is also transparent that Saunders does not trust Belzer. He threatens to kill him if the Frenchman dies.

After some tense moments, the surgery is a success. Afterwards, Saunders and Belzer confront one another about their ethics.

Belzer asks,” Sergeant. Tell me something. If the Frenchman did not have military information you considered valuable, would you have gone to so much trouble to save his life?”

Saunders answers, “There’s a war going on. I don’t like it but I do what I have to do–like you.”

Now you tell me something. If I hadn’t put a gun up to your head, would you have operated–DOCTOR?”

Dr. Belzer stands erect with a grim expression. He does not answer.

As the episode ends, the GIs leave the convent, walking by the sisters. The nuns ignore the soldiers as they dig a grave for one of the wounded who has died. They are doing their perfunctory duty.

Sergeant Saunders and Dr. Belzer know intuitively that in war, normal moral principles do not necessarily apply.  In war, when participants encounter a situation such as that faced by these two men, all bets are off.

Their tones and expressions during their confrontation about each others’ motivations reveal that theirs is not a friendly discussion. They are enemies. They question each other in an atmosphere of hostility and in an attempt to belittle the other.

Even so, Saunders concedes that Belzer and he are both human beings caught in an unusual and precarious set of circumstances where they perhaps have to act outside the realm of decency.  Thus is the nature of war.

We find ourselves in early 21st century in a similar set of circumstances as these two soldiers in “Combat!”.  While our war may not be a shooting one, the conflict is real.

In America at the moment the political and ideological divide is extreme. People are at odds and violence does sometimes occur.

How can people attack someone physically just because they hold different beliefs about how society should be governed?  The answer is that they justify it in the same way that the Nazis excused their murder of millions of  Jews or 19th century Americans rationalized enslaving black human beings.

University of Houston Professor Brene’ Brown explains that these people could commit their atrocities because they dehumanized their victims.  They demonized them.

For example, Brown notes that the Nazis portrayed Jews as vermin in their propaganda . “They called Jews rats and depicted them as disease-carrying rodents in everything from military pamphlets to children’s books”,  she writes in her book “Braving the Wilderness.”

“Dehumanizing often starts with creating an enemy image,” Brown says. “As we take sides, lose trust, and get angrier and angrier, we not only solidify an idea of our enemy, but also start to lose our ability to listen, communicate, and practice even a modicum of empathy.”

Dr. Belzer’s inference in his question to Sergeant Saunders was that he lacked empathy for the Frenchman’s plight. He was just a tool to be used to gain an advantage for the enemy.

Saunders countered with his own accusation against Belzer. He suggested that the doctor, a man who was bound by oath to heal all his fellow human beings, was a hypocrite. Belzer also saw the Frenchman as a tool–one he would prevent being used against  his side.

Even the nuns, women who claimed to serve God, couldn’t be bothered. They tried to stay aloof from the suffering of the French partisan because he was part of a war they saw as evil.

Lack of empathy characterizes Americans today. This is because we are at war with each other.

I hope to address  the effects of this failure of compassion and possible solutions in later posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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America lacks the iron will to solve school shootings

Bivouacked in a building’s torn-up basement during a fight with the Germans during World War 2, a squad of American GIs face a dilemma. One of their buddies, a clumsy man named Small,  is stuck in a muddy foxhole in the middle of  a street under the eye of an entrenched enemy gun position.

In the 1952 film “Eight Iron Men”, most of the group finds out about their trapped comrade as they are divvying up a fruitcake received by Muller, a fellow member of their squad. They spot Carter and Ferguson returning from patrol without Small.

The men debate what to do about the stranded man. It’s risky to try and retrieve him from that hot spot. The argument is complicated by the news that their outfit has been ordered to withdraw to the rear that evening. No one is really excited about risking their lives under such circumstances.

Even so, they can’t leave Small behind. He is a brother soldier, a comrade in arms.

One hothead named Coke lobbies squad leader Sgt. Mooney all afternoon to convince him to send out men to retrieve Small from his predicament. Mooney’s problem is that he is under orders to avoid losing any more men on what his captain calls a “wild goose chase. ”

Together on guard duty, Mooney continues his fight with Coke. As Coke lays into him once more, the sergeant tells him to shut up. “I’m thinking,” he says.

Finally, Mooney decides to send out a rescue party. He knows such an action could cause him his stripes, but he decides to do it anyway.

While the soldiers trying to help Small are gone, Trelawny learns of Mooney’s disobedience and shows up at the basement. He berates Carter for not stopping the sergeant.

However, Carter convinces Trelawny of the need the men have for rescuing Small. He tells the captain that if they didn’t try they would live with the guilt for the rest of their lives.

The rescue fails and the men return to the basement. They prepare to leave for the front lines but when they hear machine gun fire they realize that team member Colluci is gone. They also realize that he has gone out to retrieve Small on his own.

Colluci is the last man they would have expected to exhibit such bravery.  Normally, he is a wisecracking GI who gripes about his plight in the war. Colluci presents himself as a nobody, an average citizen who somehow got put in the army and doesn’t want to be there. He is viewed as someone who tries to avoid real work or fighting. Colluci is more interested in dreaming about women and getting seconds on the fruitcake.

In the end, Colluci wipes out the machine gun nest and returns to the basement carrying the injured Small. Always the wiseacre, Colluci complains that now much will be expected of him in the future.

I watched “Eight Iron Men” this weekend, an eventful one in which 10 people were killed at a high school in Texas by another crazed lunatic student. For some reason, this particular shooting broke my heart. It wasn’t that I had become callous to these murders in schools, but this one just took all the air out of me. I realized I was fed up.

When one of my friends commented on the shooting, I told him that it was high time our society quit the political posturing and finally decide to do something about this epidemic of school killings. I also told him that I was not hopeful.

Where are the iron men today? They don’t seem to exist.

Sgt. Mooney was played by the hard-as-nails actor Lee Marvin, who is described by the website Celebrities Galore a born leader. Marvin had drive and determination.

His profile goes on to say of him: “Insisting on his right to make up his own mind, he demands freedom of thought and action, and does not let anything or anyone stand in his way once he is committed to his goal.”

Mooney’s character certainly fit this description.

In America today Lee Marvin seems like a complete anachronism. There is a distinct lack of courage among our leaders in 2018.

Our politicians in particular seem to avoid any action that might cost them.  A good many of them are empty suits.

This type of leadership is nothing new.  J. Vernon McGee observes that Saul, ancient Israel’s first king , was an actor. “He was not a king,” said McGee.

Saul lacked the character and skill to be a leader. He was only tall and handsome.

When someone was indeed heroic, Saul sought to take the credit or even have them killed. Such was the circumstance when his own son Jonathan won a military victory.

McGee notes that Saul was willing to put his own son to death because Jonathan disobeyed an order to fast in order to seek God’s favor during a battle. Jonathan ate some honey. In truth, he had already been victorious when he supposedly disobeyed Saul.

The average American does not appear to be willing to take risks either. Rarely do we see a Colluci type of citizen-soldier who takes the bull by the horns and attempts to solve a problem, even at great risk to themselves. When someone DOES try to solve a real-world issue, they expose themselves to human piranhas with political motivations.

Certainly few have been willing to rise to the occasion when it comes to actually doing something practical to stop these school massacres. Most of us seem to either shrug our shoulders, wondering what we can do, or just ignore the issue entirely and go on about our own lives.

The only folks who have made noise over actually doing something are America’s children, those most affected. However, their protests seem to have been co-opted by adults with an agenda.

Unfortunately, the world seems to have too many distractions to actually give it’s full attention to things like school mass murder.  For instance, this weekend’s media coverage was mostly taken up with a royal wedding in England of a minor prince and an American actress to give the Santa Fe shootings the attention it really needed.

Our priorities are all wrong. Like the pre-heroic Colluci, we are more interested in dessert than opening a can of worms and dealing with real-world troubles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Winning and losing: a Christian’s perpective

Be a winner.  That’s what American’s have been saying for most of the country’s history.

This might be changing, as more and more it seems that no one is supposed to rise above the crowd.  I think the US has seen a seismic shift is attitude during my lifetime. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan is probably the last vestiges of it.

On a personal level, I am trying to see myself as a winner. Circumstantially though, this is becoming more and more difficult.

Sometimes I think I am cursed.

Right now I am borrowing a friend’s expensive set of wheels. As I was driving to the bank this morning, one that was grey and gloomy with a mix of rain and snow, I noticed that the upholstery along the windshield on both sides was rumpled. It even looked a bit wet.

I began to panic, wondering what in the world I could have done to cause this, if anything. Even if I didn’t, I know how it is when you borrow something. As one guy told me when he tossed me his keys years ago, “You wreck it. You own it.” (And I was helping this guy move.)

The issue of borrowed property reminds me of a story in the Bible. A group of men were cutting down trees along a river when the axe head of one of the fellows broke off and flew into the water.

He looked at the prophet Elisha, who had accompanied the men on their wood cutting trip, and said “Alas, master, it was borrowed.”

The prophet asked where the axe head was located in the river, and when the man told him, Elisha threw a stick into the water at that location. The axe head rose to the top of the water.

I never took physics in school, but I know enough that I am aware that a piece of  iron does not float.

I feel like I need such miracles in my life because it seems that whatever my hand touches, the results are terrible. Just read my last two blog posts about an important project I was working on. It fell apart.

That’s not the first time this has happened. I recall as a young man I worked very hard writing a marketing piece for a product. I even won an award for it. Sadly, the product never sold.

I really hate working on things that lack no purpose.

I don’t believe in luck or fate, but sometimes I wonder. Last night is an example of how I feel things turn out for me.

I was on a mini-vacation and  decided to take in a major league baseball game. I drove to the park hours early.

On the way I ran into a humongous traffic jam in town-on a Sunday no less! It took me an hour to get to my destination.

I was not familiar with the area around the ballpark and drove around looking for parking lots, only to find that they wanted huge amounts of money to deposit my car.

I asked a young woman who seemed to be getting ready to direct traffic where I could park cheaply. She asked her coworker. He said, “You’re in the high rent district.”

When I told him I was going to just drive outside of town and take the subway in, he noted the difference in price, making gestures as he did so. We both laughed.

As I drove on the  freeway leaving town, the traffic was still heavy. I managed to get off at a metro stop and park my car in what seemed like a safe location–for free no less.

I had a little trouble buying a subway card because the machine didn’t offer clear directions, but I managed. Finally, I arrived at the park.

I would describe my seat as being in the nosebleed section, except it was so cold last night that if my nose did bleed, the blood would have frozen. There was a bitter wind too. One of the outfielders even wore a facial scarf.

I decided to go down on the lower levels and just watch the game from the concourse. Between breaks in the innings, I walked to the rest room to warm up.

After three innings, I had had enough and left. All I wanted to do was to get warm. Lots of time, travel and expense for little return.

Even on the micro level, I felt like things didn’t work out at the game. I was filming the home team’s best player at bat, a surefire Hall of Famer when he retires, when I stopped. He then hit a home run. I regretted I didn’t catch it on film.

Finally, I decided to leave. The opposing team had the bases loaded. I didn’t care because I was pulling for the home team.

As I walked away, I  heard the crowd react. The opponent’s own potential Hall of Famer had hit a Grand Slam. I walked toward the train with a huge regret that I had missed it.

To me, that’s what losers do. They miss out. It seems to me it happens a lot in my case. I not only miss good photos, though. This morning someone drove into a prime parking space I had spotted just as I aimed toward it.

What occurred next was an object lesson for me. I found an even better one.

When I look back at the ball game, I also found some positives. I figured I had shown perseverance to even get to that game, and despite only seeing a bit of it and missing the Grand Slam, I had ventured into a fairly new ball park I had never been to before and got to experience all the sights and sounds.

I also have figured that in God’s economy, winning and losing may look different than it does from the human race’s perspective. After all, things didn’t look too good for Jesus when he was on a cross being crucified.

What mankind didn’t know at that point is that Jesus’s death resulted in the salvation of all of mankind. Not only that, but His story didn’t finish there.

He rose again from the dead, providing a pathway for all of those who follow Him to do the same.

I spent a lot of my weekend pondering the meaning of my lost project which, as I have noted, I discussed in my last two posts.. I thought of the passage in Job where the title character, after losing his possessions and kids, said in mourning, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I read several commentataries on that passage and they were mixed. Some took what Job said as an exclamation praising God for His wise providence.

Others claim that Job was theologically unsound. Those authors noted that God is not the author of evil and doesn’t sanction things like the death of our children.

I don’t know where I come down on the subject, except that I do believe that God is good. He can fix messed up upholstery. Further,  He can turn missed opportunities and lost projects or parking spaces into blessings.

I shall wait and see what develops, and try to keep trusting God with my circumstances.  It is all I can do.

Whether I am a winner or loser in the eyes of people doesn’t really matter. All that really matters is that I get a “Well done good and faithful servant”  when I meet up with Jesus after this life is over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Baseball, Bible, Christianity, culture, Donald Trump, Faith, God, Jesus Christ, religion, Spiritual Warfare, spirituality, Uncategorized, United States

A New Field of Dreams

As I am wont to do, this morning at 5 am I took a look at my phone. I know enough not to do that but I did.

The Email subject line read “URGENT!”.  It was from the sponsor of a project I have been working on. I referred to my difficulties with that endeavor in my last post. I noted how the project had stalled due to issues with people who I needed to help me.

We scheduled an online discussion at 8 am. I did not sleep between the time I spotted the Email and the appointment. No one writes “URGENT!” on a subject line when they have good news.

I had my morning prayer time, took a shower, and waited for the call. A few minutes after 8 am my phone buzzed its arrival.

“This is a hard call for me,” the person told me. I was told that the project was off due to the decision of some higher ups.

This was no difficult slog through the mire to accomplish some goal, as it was when I wrote yesterday’s piece. In this case, the rug had been pulled completely out from under me.

My partner and I wished each other well and promised to keep in touch. I doubt this will happen.

Although I knew that something like this could occur given the nature of the powers-that- be who are responsible, the cancellation came as a hard blow. The symptoms that could explain what is going on inside of me today have been all over the map.

I generally fill like I have been body slammed. On the other hand, I also feel a slight bit of relief because the daily hassles of the project have come to an abrupt end.

The minute I get some decent perspective, I notice that my stomach is churning like a vat of butter. The 5 hours of sleep haven’t helped, either.

Gaining perspective is key in this situation. Attitude is everything.

I am old enough and smart enough to know that I am at a crossroads. I can either cash in my chips and quit, and lose a lot of progress I have made as a human being,  or I can absorb the shock, keep my boat afloat and move forward to new vistas.

I chanced on an article in Sports Illustrated this afternoon about a professional baseball player who almost quit the game after years in the minors. Tommy Pham has spent 11 years laboring in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

The SI story describes how that, despite his talent, Pham has been overlooked by management. He’s had some tough breaks, such as injuries. Lesser players have been promoted above him while he lit up the minors.

However, Pham has not lost his mojo during these years. He continues to believe in himself. In fact, he has been quite vocal  to management about how he has been treated.

The administrators in the Cardinals organization have been quite unfair, Pham told SI. He noted that  when he asked for his release or a trade so he could pursue opportunities with other teams, the team denied his request.

The magazine also mentions how Pham may have lost millions of dollars because of his treatment by the Cardinals. Even now, when big things are expected of him by the team, he is still underpaid because he is under contract for a lesser sum for a few more years

SI describes Pham’s tough life and how it shaped him. His father has been incarcerated for decades and during his childhood his mother had to work a lot to support him and and his sister.

However, Pham doesn’t regret the poverty of his youth. He has managed to maintain a good perspective on his past.

Pham has played with wealthy players and says, “When things got harder for them, they always crumbled. I think where I came from helped me persevere through all my injuries in everything because I saw a lot of guys fold.

“The most successful people in the world came from the smallest beginnings, which makes me think it’s not about where you’re from or how you come up but where are you going!”

Which brings me back to my own dilemma. Where do I go from here?

I think the title of my last blog post still applies: “Trust God and Keep on Keeping On”, I wrote yesterday.

The last several months I have been acknowledging God’s supremacy in my life. In the mornings, I pray back to Him the words of David in I Chronicles 29 in the Old Testament:

Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.

Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.

 Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.

As I lay in bed after receiving my colleague’s emergency Email during the wee hours, I thought of these words. It came to my mind that God is testing me as to whether or not I truly mean what I say. He asks,

“Are you really mine?”

“Am I truly exalted in your life?”

“Do I really rule in your life?”

I also just recalled a prayer I made yesterday I believe. It is one Pastor Erwin Lutzer of Moody Bible Church  uses in his own relationship with God.

“God, glorify yourself at my expense.”

Could it be God is answering that prayer? I was nervous about praying it, but did. Now I kind of regret it.

I suppose now I will find out the answers to these questions. This project was a dream of mine. Now it’s gone.

It’s time for  me to believe in God, that He will  give me a new field of dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

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