Thursday, June 29, 2017

DANGLING CARROTS

While here in Ruston, I have been working on a couple of business projects.  It has been a stark reminder of how business can sometimes work.  When I tell you I will do something, when I offer you a service, whatever I even imply I will do---it is going to happen--I do not make idle or rash promises.  In business your reputation is only as good as your word.  Not everyone takes this attitude.




I am deeply disturbed by dangling carrots and then jerking them away.  What may be even more disturbing is when not one, but two times someone jerks the carrot away.  What's that old saying--Fool me once shame on you--Fool me twice shame on me.  



There are very few things we have in life that cannot be taken away.  Our integrity and reputation are examples of lasting legacies.  Once we breach our word and compromise our principles the damage can seldom be recovered.  We are known for our honesty and scruples and a good reputation follows us all the days of our lives.

Think about Thomas---we all still label him as "Doubting Thomas".  All he did as a disciple, how he served Jesus is all over-shadowed by his one moment of doubt that forever named him as a Jesus Doubter.


Think of Peter--the rock upon which the church was built--the cornerstone--the Beloved Disciple.  We cannot think of him and not picture his denial--three times before the cock crowed.  His life was dedicated to Jesus and The Way--and yet we label him with his one moment of fear and denial.




All to say---careful with your word.  Everything of this world will be stripped away--but our word--our good name cannot be stolen--unless we allow it to happen.  Think before you speak--do not make rash promises--and remember the value of a good reputation.


A good reputation and respect
    are worth much more
    than silver and gold.
Proverbs 22:1

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

REDEMPTION OF THE UNRESOLVED

A dear friend told me a story this week of loosing a friend they had unresolved issues with.  They were incredibly sad and angry--that there would never be a chance to "clear the air", "speak their piece", "talk it all out".  With the departure of an earthly presence, the ability to resolve the situation was lost and they were devastated with the knowledge it will never be closed.



As I pondered their hurt and frustration, I began to remember those unresolved issues in my own life.  I have posted previously concerning long kept secrets and the tailspin I went into upon the revelation of the truth.  There is no way to resolve this here upon this terrestrial ball.  I will have to live with the truth and either always wonder why or put it behind me and move forward.



How I would love one more conversation with my mother and father!  There are words which were never said--that I long to speak to them.  In the moments of loosing them, the focus was not on unspoken words, but only on the pain of them leaving.  There were things left unsaid--now to never be said.



I dare say, most of us have unresolved issues with others which will never be resolved.  How do we learn to live in the flux of torment which comes with broken or cracked relationships?  Is there any redemption for the unresolved?


There is NO unresolved conflict in Heaven.  We can live with the certain assurance we will live in peace and harmony in His presence.  All that was broken on Earth will be mended. 



As I pondered The Word, I came to one conclusion, Jesus redeemed all of the unresolved.  Though we may never experience an earthly conversation to resolve the conflict.  There is NO conflict in Heaven.  Jesus has resolved all our pride, arrogance, and stubborn refusal to resolve conflicts here upon this earth.  His death and resurrection is the sure redemption of any and all conflict we inflict upon one another.  Though we refuse to remedy our disagreements, He will rule in perfect agreement in Eternity.  We will not be looking around to avenge old hurts, but instead we will be standing in awe and worship of a perfect God.  I am  so thankful for the peace that He will redeem  all the unresolved 

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
I Corinthians 1:30

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

RUNNING DOWN STREAM

As I took my early morning walk yesterday, I noticed the water flowing out of the side of a hill here in saturated Louisiana.  Cindy dropped buckets of water on this beautiful state late last week.  Once the ground is totally sated, the water has no choice but to bubble to the surface and seek the lowest point.



The water was running across the road and then forming a stream heading down the hill.



As I moved along the road, I noticed the water was pouring out of the side of the hill all along it and the stream of water was growing as it continued in a downward path.



Eventually the stream emptied into a pond which sits within eyesight of the road.



On the far side of the pond there is another stream that provides the overflow for the water when the pond is completely filled.



As we continue to follow the water, it empties into a small river which empties into a lake.



The water spills over the lake dam and pours into a larger river.  This river empties into a larger river and eventually the river empties into the ocean.



As I walked and thought of all this water and where it eventually ends up, I began to think of God's love.  He is willing to pour out His love upon us to the point where we are saturated.  The natural course of His love then flows out from us and affects those who we come into contact.  Those who are influenced by our outpouring of His grace are then prompted to allow His love to spill over and influence those in their wake.  God's love continues to saturate the world around us until it empties into the vast world we occupy.  For all this to happen we must be willing to stand in the midst of His outpouring through searching His Word, Seeking fellowship with Godly community, and petitioning Him through prayer.  Once He has filled us--we cannot help but overflow upon the world.  What a great blessing that there are lessons of God and His character all around us.  We only have to turn our eyes upon Him and He will teach us and use us for His Good Pleasure.



7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you,

 or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;

8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,

 or let the fish in the sea inform you. 

9 Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? 
10 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
Job 12:7-12

Monday, June 26, 2017

THIS IS NOT NEW YORK

One of the many professional mentors (and boss) I have had in my lifetime was R.F. Shadoin.  Mr. Shadoin was the Vice-president of the bank where I worked-- long enough to figure out I needed to return to school and finish my degree.  My favorite Mr. Shad story has to do with New York Prime Rate.  For all you non-business people out there--New York Prime Rate is the rate charged in the banking industry for the best of their clients.  It is the benchmark for the beginning of rates charged for borrowing money.  


Mr. Shad had a client come in to negotiate making a loan.  As the rate for lending was discussed, the client informed Mr. Shad  what the current New York Prime Rate was.  Mr. Shad never missed a beat--telling the client


"This is not New York and you are not prime."

Drum roll and cymbal crash!  Nothing else need be said.



Ruston is a FAR cry from New York.  No offense to you New Yorkers, but for that I am thankful.  One lesson I have learned from living in the Big City--you absolutely feel invisible quite a bit.  Going about your day to day business it would be more unusual to see someone you know than to be negotiating the crowd of strangers you are always surrounded by.  While there can be a certain freedom in being invisible, it also can leave one feeling quite detached and alone.  There is no greater reminder of one's aloneness than walking among strangers.


The beauty of small town life is you are NEVER truly alone.  I have not been a single place in almost a month that I was not recognized.  I have hugged more necks in three weeks than I have in the past four years.  As I recognize--I am also recognized.


God created us to live in community and with community comes relationships.  A basic need of mankind is the recognition which comes with relationships.  We all want someone to love us--be our friend--desire our presence.  Truly-no man is an island.


It is life giving to know we are recognized and appreciated for who we are.  One of the greatest things about the past four years has been really thinking about who I am.  Such a happy surprise to finally determine-- I like me!  Though I certainly have plenty of  short comings and would never be accused of being at the top of the heap, I now understand and am very satisfied with being in the middle.  With this recognition of not being "Prime", I have learned to embrace The Middle of the Pack.  There is security among numbers and what greater safety than being smack dab in the middle of things?



I am thankful for God's gift of the friendships I have here in Ruston.  I am thankful for recognition as I go about the day to day. I am thankful for being in the midst of small town life here in Ruston.  But I also am thankful even in the midst of strangers--He recognizes me, He seeks me, and He considers me prime.  What a gift and blessing--to always be thought of as prime.


The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
 he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love;
 he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

MEANWHILE HERE IN THE OTHER HOOD

IN CASE YOU ARE WEARY

OF ALL THE PLACES

I HAVE EATEN



WE CELEBRATED

MY BROTHER'S BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK


AND I VISITED

WITH THIS PRECIOUS

GREAT NIECE


I GREW UP

ON JAMES AVENUE

WITH THESE CLASSMATES


POOR HERO

WOULD BE INCENSED

OVER MR. B

SLEEPING ON OUR CAR


HE SEEMS TO BE SURVIVING

MY ABSENCE

AS LONG AS HE DOES NOT KNOW ABOUT

THE CAT



I HAVE BEEN

EATING

DELICIOUS RUSTON PEACHES


POP'S BLUEBERRIES


TROPICAL DEPRESSION CINDY

HAS STEPPED UP MY

SEARCH FOR

A PIROGUE



DOWN TO THE

FINAL DAYS

BEFORE I HAVE TO GET

MY HEAD

OUT OF THE FEED BUCKET

AND HEAD BACK TO TEXAS


LIVING LARGE

HERE IN THE

BAYOU STATE

Friday, June 23, 2017

RAIN RAIN-GO AWAY

I am here in Louisiana enjoying the anticipation of Tropical Storm Cindy dropping buckets of rain as she heads north-east


It looks like she should be right over Ruston early Friday morning.  UNFORTUNATELY-  the Louisiana Peach Festival is scheduled for this weekend also.  Cindy has no respect for the plans of man--and will be spoiling the party for most.  

My friend who is in Baton Rouge for a meeting this week, swears she has grown gills.  HATE she will be driving home right in the big middle of the mess Friday.  You begin to wonder---WHERE does all that water come from?  

The REALLY scary thing about these tropical depressions is when they stall out and pour rain for hours on end on the same area.  Do you remember this sweet lady from last August who lost EVERYTHING she had in the Big Flood?


Lives were altered, property was lost, and life went on to never be the same again.


Going back in November I found the recovery slow going.  My good friend, Mike, just spent the first week in June in the on-going recovery project.  It will be years before the area is back to normal.  All from rainfall--over extended periods of time.


We all know the story of the greatest stall out of a system ever---40 days and 40 nights of rain and the world was wiped clean.  God did a reboot--when the world  began crashing.  Noah and his descendants were the second chance man probably did not deserve.


There are times we get caught in the storms of life and feel like a drowning rat being sucked down the storm drain.  We can't seem to catch a break and trying to keep our heads above water is an endless task.  About the time we think we see dry land another thunder clap breaks over our head and we are pulled back into the crashing waves.  

Take heart--Cindy will finally run out of steam and rain---the sun will come back out and we will all dry out.  Rain falls on the good and bad alike and sometimes the clouds hang around far too long.


Hang on---we have a promise that the clouds will lift and the rain will stop.  Keep looking for the break in the clouds where the sun will surely shine through.  Floods will come and floods will surely recede, but we have the sure assurance of a refuge and protector in the storm and rain.

There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, 
and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.
Isaiah 4:6

Thursday, June 22, 2017

WHERE THE HECK IS THE FUNNY FARM?

ALL of my life, I have heard I belong on the "Funny Farm".  Here I was thinking everyone thought I was really funny---turns out they really think I am slightly crazy.  GUILTY!




During many of my conversations while here in Ruston, there has been a common thread---Life Is NOT Easy!  If you think you have a corner on the market of hard and pain---you don't come close. It is a level playing field loaded with players.   All of us have our struggles,  problems, and kick you in the gut life occurrences.  There are many in the same boat--in fact--I don't know how the boat stays afloat!  I have never seen anyone who does not have some sort of struggle in life.  Not struggling today---wait until tomorrow---it will come.


  

One other thing I have noticed---in the midst of the most serious conversation--one filled with anguish, disappointment, or grief---somehow we always managed to laugh.  And in the midst of tears---we found a thread of hope with our laughter.  We always remembered the sweet times--times filled with joy and laughter and the dark somehow lightened with our chuckles.



When I found this lyric, I thought it summed up precisely what I am trying to say.  God has given us this marvelous gift of laughter to remind us of the joy of life.  What better balm for pain, anger, and dismay than remembering the good, the silly, and the ridiculous.  As long as I am able to laugh, I know there is a promise for a brighter day.

I may belong on the funny farm--but there are worse things!  I am thankful for God's  marvelous gift of laughter and pray I am abundantly blessed with it all the days of my life.


“Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy;

 then they said among the nations,

 “The Lord has done great things for the.”

Psalms 126:2



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

AN EMOTIONAL INTELLECTUAL

Recently I read a stream of conversation on social media debating emotional versus intellectual Christianity.  One friend does not think it a good idea to debate this on social media.  As I thought those comments over, I began to realize that right-wrong-or indifferent social media has become the mode of conversation in today's world.  I personally prefer to sit down and discuss ideas-but unfortunately I would never have the opportunity to sit with most of you.

This will be short and sweet.  After thinking this over and considering The Word, I have determined I am an "Emotional Intellectual".  Here is how I came up with that label.




We are created in God's image---we are emotional creatures--The Word tells us Jesus was emotional as well as His disciples.  Throughout The Word--we find emotion of all types.  Read Song of Songs, Psalms, the story of the money changers, praying in The Garden of Gethsemane, and on and on.  Emotion is laced all through out The Word.  Emotion is not a bad thing---I have found it to be breath-taking beautiful at times and filled with fire and spit at others.  If we are created in God's image---He is also a God who has emotion.




God gave us The Word as His instruction book.  Before we had The Word, He sent prophets and teachers who He directed us through.  Once The Word was sent and He caused it to be compiled into one book, we then had His teachings at our fingertips.  It became important to know what The Word said--the instructions are not suggestions, but instead His message to us on how to traverse this fallen world.  We are charged with spending time in The Word, studying what He has given us and applying it to our lives.  Head knowledge is essential.



When my emotions betray me, my head knowledge becomes essential.  I am an emotional creature and my emotions cannot always be trusted to be truth.  That is when head knowledge--the intellectual understanding of The Word is vital.  My righteous indignation has to line up with the instructions in The Word.  The warm feeling of God's love during worship does not always carry forward when I hit the cold hard wall of The World---BUT the assurance of His love is contained throughout His Word.  God is always truthful.  So when the world is falling down around my shoulders, all seems lost, and I call into question how God can allow bad things to happen---I KNOW what The Word promises--and it can be counted upon as being the absolute truth.

I am a very emotional Believer--but I also carry the sure knowledge of God's Word in my heart.  How beautifully He created us all with this tapestry of emotion and intellect weaving us into His very image.


I delight in your decrees;
    I will not neglect your word.
Psalms 119:16

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A PLAYER

One of the fun things I do with my Ruston friends is play games.  We had a rousing round of "Mexican Train Dominoes" last week.  As we played, I began to think about all the personalities and persona's of the players that night and in games in the past.  



EVERY game played always has "The Rule Follower".  Don't think for one minute you are going to get away with short cutting the rules.  They have their "Eagle Eye" on your every move.  You already know, I play a number of games by "Lulu Rules" with the grands and children in my life.  My adapted rules are for the sake of a shorter game.  Little people have short attention spans--I don't want to send them running out the door when I mention playing a game.  I intend to teach them to love playing and hope they will develop a life long love of interacting with others over a board game.  The Rule Follower would be APPALLED if they knew my alteration of the rules.  There is only ONE WAY to play in their book---BY THE RULES and they are the self appointed rule police.


And there is always "The Dumb Blonde".  DO NOT FALL FOR IT---she is not even a real blonde to begin with!  They sit there puzzling over every move and acting like they do not have a clue about what is going on.  IT IS ALL AN ACT!  They lull you into feeling sorry for them--immediately before making the BIG PLAY and sweeping the board.  BEWARE--of anyone saying, "Now let's see"--it is all a con.  OH--and they like to change up the rules to favor their needs.  In this case you should be glad--the rule police are monitoring every move.  The repeated request to bend the rules is all an effort to take you to the cleaners with a sweet innocent smile on their face the entire time.


One of the players ALWAYS takes the game far too serious!  Life or death consequences seem to ride on each and every play.  No casual throwing out of a game piece, but instead long period of intense direct deliberation.  You will never catch this player making a wrong move---for they have a plan of action which will carry them to ultimate victory from the first glance at what they are holding.  NOT very happy when things don't go as planned--they tend to act as if the outcome of the game will change the course of history.  A little serious in my book.


Perhaps the player who deserves to be watched the closest is the "Quiet One".  Almost appearing indifferent--no one ever feels threatened by this one.  The first time they win--everyone takes it as a fluke.  Then WHAM!!--they let you have it---stealthily--with seeming boredom--they sweep the board, take all the marbles, play the Rook---GOT YOU!  Everyone is left reeling from the death blow and wondering what happened as the quiet winner still vows surprise as they walk out the door with a gloat on their face.


There are several other types of players we could talk about, but you get the drift.  The important thing is all the the players are in the game.  They are not sitting on the sidelines, not refusing to play, not merely observers--but instead in the midst of the action.  You miss a lot of fun and all of the excitement if you refuse to play the game.  What a shame!  Surely God created us to enjoy one another--to live and laugh and join in the game.  No matter what kind of player the game is only complete if we are willing to join in!


You make known to me the path of life;
 in your presence there is fullness of joy; 
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore
Psalms 16:11

Monday, June 19, 2017

AN EAR TO HEAR

As I have made the rounds and spent time with old friends and family, one of the things I have noticed is we all need an ear to hear our life stories.  Being a good listener is something we must practice and develop.  I do not think any of us are born with a genetic predisposition to listening.  We all like the sound of our own voices far too much.  Listening is a learned art.  



As I began to ponder how we love to hear ourselves talk, I thought about the fact that we do not sound the way we think we do.  When we listen to a recording of our own voice, we are shocked and surprised that it does not sound  the way we hear ourselves.  There are a combination of factors that cause this--all other sound reaches our inner ear through sound waves transmitted through the air.  Our own voices are heard through these same sound waves, but also the internal vibrations of our vocal chords and airways.  This distorts the sound and causes us to "hear" a different sound than what is actually heard by others.



Perhaps this is why we need someone to listen to our stories--we need an objective interpretation of the story---NOT how we perceive it.  Internal influences--our perception, our biases, our heart, our prejudices--on and on -distort the story we hear.  When we talk through life with another, we may begin to realize this is not what I thought.  I have allowed my personal perception of reality to cloud the truth.  

Often we don't really need any feedback from another, we only need to give voice to our story to realize we have gotten off track from the truth.  Other times, we must have the feedback--take it and mull it over--and then realize our version of our voice is not the complete truth.  Either way--clarity is gained by having someone you trust to bounce the story off of.  
 God gave us ears to listen--what a precious gift.  How we listen is up to us!


My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
 Everyone should be quick to listen,
 slow to speak and slow to become angry.
James 1:19