May I Borrow Your Slingshot?

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Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a fascinating book titled, David and Goliath.  A portion of his book details the rivalry between the Philistines and the Israelites. These two groups were enemies who at this particular point in time had taken up battle positions directly across from each other.

Gladwell noted that typical battle strategy at this time in history was for one army to send out one person who would battle someone from the other army.  Whichever person won would win the battle for their army.  In this particular encounter the representative for the Philistines was a man named Goliath.

Through the research done by Gladwell, he determined the following about Goliath:

  • He stood at least 6’9”.
  • He wore a metal helmet, metal leg armor, and full body armor weighing about 125 pounds.
  • He carried a javelin for throwing, a sword, and a spear for thrusting. The spearhead alone weighed 15 pounds.

Goliath would come out each day and torment the Israelites challenging someone to come fight him. David, who was bringing food to his brothers, showed up and became incensed that Goliath was treating the Israelites like this.  David decided to take on the challenge and fight Goliath.

Remember, David was not a military man.  He was a shepherd.   When the king of Israel, Saul, heard David wanted to fight Goliath he gave him armor to wear and a sword to use.  However, David ultimately refused the armor and the sword. He decided to fight this battle in his own way.

Here is the lesson.  Many times, we feel that God needs to answer our prayers in the way we want things done.  We expect God to give us armor and a sword.  In reality, the way God does things isn’t the way we do things.  Here is what Isaiah 55 says:

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the Lord. And my ways are far beyond anything you can imagine.

David realized that he could not fight a battle the way everyone told him to fight.  He realized he needed to simply rely on God to use the skills God had given David.  David needed to fight on his terms…which meant giving the fight to God.

So, with a slingshot and stones David defeated a giant armed and protected with the best that was available to soldiers at that time.  David had used a slingshot before.  He was a shepherd.   David knew how to protect his sheep probably with that very slingshot.  David let God use the skills he already possessed to accomplish the job.

Next time you are facing a challenge let God use what He has already given to you.  Don’t search for the latest armor and sword to solve your problem.  Allow God to work through your slingshot.

Tell Someone Thanks

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I like to run.  I always have.  Where I live now I have two courses I usually run.  One is at Toccoa Falls College which is a beautiful spot to just enjoy a run.  The second spot is a local cemetery.  I know that sounds strange but there is something just peaceful about running there.

Over the course of many miles, I have had the chance to read many of the tombstones.  One family plot really got my attention.  This plot is a small section containing four headstones.  Mom and dad are there.  Dad lived to be 62.  Mom lived to be 78.  One interesting thing is the two small headstones next to mom and dad.  Two children are buried here.  The first is a son who lived for one day. Dad was 24 when his son died.  Mom was 22. The second is a daughter who also lived for only one day.  Dad was 23 when he lost his daughter.  Mom was 21. There is no indication the family had any other children.  I just stood next to the graves wondering about what this family had endured.

It is hard for me to imagine losing a child.  Losing two children when you are in your twenties?  That’s hard to take.  Then going the rest of your life with no children had to lead to some deep feelings for both mom and dad and some interesting private conversations.

So, as we approach Thanksgiving why even talk about this?  Here is why.  Many of us have family members who are still living.  Yet, we get caught up in non-stop work, texts, email, and other things that rob us from spending time with our family.  We get so busy with the daily grind in our lives that we forget to tell our family how important they are to us and that we really do love them.

We forget to ask our kids what is happening in their lives and what is important to them.  We forget to listen.  We get into a routine that keeps us from spending time with our spouse doing something that is important to them.  We don’t intend to let time get away from us but it just seems to happen. I would bet that the family who lost their two children would talk privately about how they would give anything to have their kids with them throughout their lives.

Many of us do have our kids and our spouse with us every day.  They are gifts.  Be thankful for them and let them know it this Thanksgiving.

For those who are not married or do not have children…you have others who care about you.  Mom and/or dad, brothers, sisters, friends, etc. There is someone in your life who really cares about you.  Let them know how thankful you are for them too. I bet someone in your life would love a phone call this Thanksgiving.

Do You Need Some Help?

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Most people want to improve. We are unhappy with some aspect of our life or personality.  We suffer from a host of ills that just need improvement. How can we be a better speaker? How can we be a better father or mother?  How can we become a better writer?  How can we become rich? The list is endless.

According to Kyle Francis, Director of Marketing and Data Analytics at My Peak Plan, Americans spend $10 billion on motivational products every year.  Francis says this:

The problem is that 50% of all traditional motivational books are never read past the first chapter and 90% of motivational books are never finished.  This means that people really want to improve but don’t know where to start or how to finish reaching their goals.

Francis is right. We all want to improve our lives but just don’t know how to do it.  We get stuck looking at how to improve from within.  We are looking for some great strength  inside of us, fooling ourselves to believe that we can really change by ourselves.

But what if there were a way to really change within each of us that involved something bigger than just you and me. Suppose we looked to God for that change.  Rather than looking to a self-help book written by others who probably read self-help books themselves, let’s look to the creator of the universe for help.

The writer of Ephesians (4:22-24) says this:

…throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

A new nature, renewed thoughts and attitudes, created to be like God, throw off your former way of life…there is a powerful message here.  Think about the possibilities for your life.  Don’t look internally for a life change.  You can’t do it by yourself.  Let God be your driving force. Then you will experience a real change from deep within.

 

They Loved Deeply

Our recent November 6thelection had people pointing fingers in every direction.  One candidate telling us why we should not vote for their opponent and the opponent telling us why we should not vote for the other candidate.  The news and social media were mostly about the negatives.  There was very little positive.

If we are always tuned to the latest news stories and social media, this electronic rudeness seems to be the foundation of much of what transpires in our culture.  However, don’t be fooled.  There is still real goodness in the world.  Today’s story authored by Rose Minutaglio, is about two people who found remarkable love.  Here they are below…Isabell and Preble Staver.

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Isabell and Preble met in the 1940’s and were married in 1946.  They were married for 71 years.  Even after all this time together they would still take naps together just holding hands.  It was clear they deeply loved each other and had loved each other through all their years together.

One morning Isabell died. She was 95.  Preble’s daughter told him that his wife had just passed away and that “It’s OK for you to let go now”.  Meaning, of course, that it is OK for Preble to pass away.  His job on earth was complete.  At about 8 PM on that same evening Preble passed away. Together for 71 years both husband and wife passed away on the same day.  They existed for each other.  Preble spent his life making certain his wife was OK and Isabell did all she could to take care of Preble through the years.

When you hear this story don’t you just wonder about your priorities?  Don’t you wonder why as a culture we spend so much time on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram instead of taking time to talk with our spouse or children about something important to them? Do you wonder if the best use of our limited time on earth is to engage in rude interactions about politics?  We spend our time talking about things with so little lasting value.

Preble and Isabell got it right.  They knew that life was about kindness, generosity, selflessness, and love.  They spent a lifetime refining these traits and caring for each other and their family.

We can all learn many lessons from the Stavers.  Let’s spend less time watching funny videos on Facebook, less time staging the perfect shot on Instagram, and less time arguing with people on Twitter.  Instead let’s focus on things that enrich our lives, the lives of those in our families, and the lives of those who cross our path.

 

 

You Can Be Sad Too

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Sometimes I like to just sit and watch people.  If I get to the airport early I watch the folks traveling.  Sometimes at shopping malls I just sit on a bench and watch.  You can learn a lot about people just by watching.

You can see how folks discipline their children, you can see their preferences about fashion, you can see their reactions to various events, you can even begin to see a bit of who they are as a person.

I often find that I am the person being watched. Someone will stop me and say they saw me in a particular store or restaurant.  Yet I had no idea that person was even there.

Last week I saw a lady in the grocery store with a bag of Cheetos.  I didn’t know her but thought I would have some fun with her.  I told her that anyone who would buy Cheetos could be a good friend of mine.  Her response? She said, Thank you, Bob.  She surprised me.  I still have no idea who she was but she certainly knew me.  Doesn’t it make you wonder how many folks watch us as we go through our normal day?  What example did we give these folks as they watched?

When we call ourselves followers of Christ, people intentionally watch us.  People want to see what makes us so different as Christ followers.  Sadly, for some, there is no observable difference between the behaviors of Christ followers and the behavior of others who make no such claim.

I see some who claim to be followers of Christ who are sad all the time, feel like the Bible is a weight around them keeping them from the fun in life.  With sad faces and much complaining these people invite you to follow Christ too!

After watching some of this sad behavior most people would run from an invitation to follow Christ if the result is perpetual sadness.

For those who really are true followers of Christ, scripture talks about the joy that comes from a relationship with Christ.  In fact, scripture mentions the word joy over 300 times!  Scripture mentions happiness more than 30 times.  Joy is actually one of the fruits of the spirit mentioned in Galatians 5.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…

As I look at another verse in Matthew 7 I find this:

Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

So now I must wonder about those who profess Christianity but are terminally sad.  The sad fruit being produced identifies that person.  Something is missing in their relationship with Christ.  It has to be.  The scripture is clear on the fruit that must be in the lives of a follower of Christ.

Let’s build our relationship with Christ so we exude joy and happiness.  This doesn’t mean we’re laughing all the time and don’t have problems.  It simply means that we can experience joy knowing that God will see us through whatever we may face.

For all those people watchers watching us, let’s make sure that folks realize the tremendous joy that comes from being a follower of Christ. Let’s give the watchers a desire to experience the joy found in Christ.  Someday someone may ask what makes you so different from others because they witnessed your joy.

 

 

 

Guest Post: Progress or Hypocrisy?

Here is a guest post by Joy Myers, a 10th grade student writer.  Feel free to post comments.


The United States of America is a country founded on equality for all men and women, a country that has never deviated from those principles. It is often said that we are a country that is superior to all other countries, a place where opportunities are available and equal for everyone. We are a country where equality is valued more than anything. People often say that the United States is a country that the rest of the world should imitate because we are simply the very best.

All of these things are principles that Americans choose to believe. They are things that we want to be true, the sugar coated version of our country’s reality. In a country where all of those things are true, life would be wonderful, nearly perfect. It would be the ideal place to live.

However, what if these beliefs are false? Most of the beliefs previously noted are wishful thinking. America might have been founded on the idea of freedom, but we have never quite managed to stick to our beliefs without keeping a few skeletons in our closet.

This country was never a place for Americans. It belonged to the Indians, the native Americans. It was never rightfully ours, we simply took it because we wanted it and because we had the power to do so. That has been a consistent pattern in American history, we take what we want; no matter who we push aside in the process.

Indian tribes such as the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw tribes were forced out of their homes to accommodate us. We took their homes and their lives. When we traveled to America we brought diseases that killed large numbers of the Indian population. We thought they were a threat simply because their way of life was different than ours. That is another pattern in America’s history, the idea that different equals bad. Anyone or anything that is different than us is frequently assumed to be wrong. Could it be that we really are a closed minded nation and we always have been?

When the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, they included this phrase:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these
are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Notice how they did not say most men are created equal. They chose the phrase all men, and yet, the very men who wrote these words were slave owners. They were participating in a practice that contradicts the very idea that everyone is equal. They were using someone else’s life for their own benefit. Maybe that’s why they wore so many ruffles and wigs, to cover up their hypocrisy.

George Washington, the first president of the newly founded free country, owned over 300 slaves. The fact that someone can be this blatantly hypocritical and so easily have this part of his life forgotten is a bothersome idea. Many presidents that followed after him also followed in this practice. These are the same men that we idolize. The men we teach our children to look up to, the young nation that we use as a pattern for others to follow.

Could it be that America was not founded on equality but on oppression? The voices of the oppressed were silenced, as they have been throughout all of our country’s history. While America was being established as a nation where everyone had the opportunities to live however they would like, our country had entire groups of people fighting just to survive. Their cries for help fell through the cracks and were kept there under lock and key for our own convenience. As a country, we had finally found a little bit of power, and we abused it. The only people who truly had freedom were white, property owning men. Women were allowed very little influence in any aspect of our country, they were not even given the right to vote. Thousands, possibly millions of Indians were killed in America by settlers. About 450,000 slaves were transported to North America, forced to work, live, and die in terrible, inhumane conditions.

Our founders knew how it felt to be oppressed, to be discriminated against and controlled; and yet had no problem with it when they were the ones benefiting. We are a nation, as a whole, who lives for our own benefit.

People have always clung to the idea of progress. Progress is a good thing, but it depends on how it is achieved. Progress does not have to include destruction, but in most cases it does. If one group is benefiting, there is most likely another group that is suffering. The founders may have believed that they were being progressive in taking over a country and claiming it as their own, but the Indians suffered immeasurably from the founder’s actions. In the same way, slave owners in the newly established America looked at the idea of slavery as something that was necessary for them and the country to thrive. The people who frowned upon the idea of slavery could have easily been seen as standing in the way of progress.

America today is the same way it was centuries ago, but instead of covering it up with ruffles and wigs we cover it up with labels such as inclusive or tolerant. As long as we continue to label ourselves with these things anything we say goes.

One of the things many Americans see as progress today is abortion. If we want to take the life of an innocent child because they do not seem to fit into our life plan, then we can do that. Not only do we have the opportunity to do so, but we will be patted on the back for being brave. Since 1973, the United States has aborted about 60,007,125 babies. Millions of innocent lives wiped away without so much as a chance to live. Why is it so inconsequential for us to take a life?

None of these groups of oppressed people were given a voice to speak out against it. All of these lives taken under the justification of a label of progress. When our nation was founded, taking the innocent lives of Indians was seen as progress. They had no voice to fight it. When our nation was young, using other humans as slaves was seen as progress. It was seen as something that we could not live without, something that was a normal part of life. Now, abortion is seen as progress, as a normal part of life. Hurting an entire group of people for our own benefit has always been part of our supposed progress. Today, if you look down on something like abortion, you are seen as standing in the way of the progress of our nation.

We are a hypocritical nation. We always have been. People will cling to any idea that seems beneficial to them. We are experts at tunnel vision, at only seeing what we want to see. We see progress, not violence and discrimination. We see an inclusive, accepting nation, not the self-centered one we truly are. If something is currently seen as acceptable, we are all quick to jump on the bandwagon and agree with it. We have a history of taking the easiest path to get what we want, no matter who we take down on the way. We are very good at hiding the suffering that we do not want to see, all in the name of progress. We are a nation built on hypocrisy, and it is up to us whether or not our future continues on that path.