August 24, 2016

Get Out of the Boat

For most of my career, I was a college admissions officer, the school administrator charged with the responsibility for determining which applicants were qualified to study at my institution.

Because of my work in admissions, I was more than a little interested in a conversation I had with the chairman of a church committee appointed to determine the attributes and personality traits a person should possess to qualify for the ministry.

Pardon me, but I always thought people were "called" to the ministry. I didn't realize there were specific qualifications, or, as Max Lucado puts it in his most recent book, Outlive Your Life, "God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called."

Jesus called Peter to get out of his boat and, “Follow me.” With that simple overture, Peter was invited to leave his family, his friends and his way of life to walk with Jesus.

And who was this impulsive fisherman Jesus chose to be a disciple and his Rock? The New Testament describes Peter as a blundering, impetuous, hypocrite whose vocabulary was unpolished and coarse. But Jesus didn’t choose Peter because he was brilliant, well educated, sophisticated or because he scored well on a psychological test or personality inventory. Peter was not called because of what he was but what he could become.

It is astonishing to recognize that when we accept the call to “Get out of the boat,” it’s not because of who we are or what we have done. When we choose to follow Jesus, we are forgiven for the sins we have committed, and we are given an opportunity to change and to live the life Christ wants us to live.

July 12, 2016

Six Simple Rules for a Happy Relationship

David Isay, recipient of numerous broadcasting honors and author/editor of numerous books, is also the founder of a remarkable oral history project called StoryCorps. It’s a very simple idea. With help from a facilitator, a couple in a relationship or any two family members face one another and for forty minutes one asks questions then listens.

When the interview ends, the participants walk away with a CD of the conversation, and a second copy is sent to the Library of Congress so that someday descendants will hear their voices and their stories.

Isay’s newest book, All There Is, is a collection of stories about relationships gathered from those sessions. He calls it a “a testament to the heart’s remarkable endurance."

Eighty-five year old Leroy Morgan’s story is about his long and happy marriage which he attributes to the following six statements he and his wife, Vivian, use with each other: (1)You look great; (2) Can I help; (3) Let’s eat out; (4) I was wrong; (5) I am sorry; and, most important, (6) I love you.

Those six simple statements summarize in less than twenty words the key to any satisfying and happy relationship.

Leroy’s statements can also be paraphrased and applied to our relationship with God:

(1) Appreciate the beauty of God’s natural world; (2) Help those who are not as rich in blessings as you are; (3) Give thanks for your daily bread; (4) Confess your sins; (5) Ask forgiveness for your sins; and most important, the first and greatest commandment: (6) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

Link to StoryCorps

June 12, 2016

Dealing with Stress

Rising costs, increasing debt, lower home values, unemployment, natural disasters, lives lost in two wars and the longest recession since World War II would be enough to create stress for any American. But in addition, we can all have anxious moments just dealing with health problems, the pressures of work and family life, or our relationships with each other.

Stress is a common problem in our fast-paced action-oriented society, and it’s not limited to any income, education or socio economic status. Regardless of our station in life, we all regularly face situations which cause anxiety and even fear.

How is your courage and confidence when you face stressful situations that can make our lives miserable? If you are searching for the inner strength to face your problems, perhaps it’s time to reexamine your faith in God, for if you believe in God, you have the power to face stress and adversity without fear or anxiety. And that power is available to you any time, any place and in any circumstance.

We know because it is written again and again in Scripture. Here are just a few examples:
Joshua said it: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Timothy said it: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and love and of self discipline.
And David said it in Scripture we all know: “Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
In times of stress, in days and nights of trouble, I invite you to believe the Grace of God can help you find the strength and courage to respond with confidence to every problem, every difficulty, every broken heart and every human sorrow.

May 27, 2016

Are You Holding A Grudge

I recently read passages from The Forgiveness Solutions by Dr. Philllip Friedman. It is a practical book focused on providing the reader with techniques for learning how to forgive those who have disappointed, offended or betrayed you. 

Among the numerous stories Friedman offers is one about a client who went to see a therapist about his inability to forgive someone who had injured him. When the session ended, the therapist told his client he should leave the office through one of two white doors. 

The client, however, insisted he wanted to leave through a pink door. Despite being told there was no pink door, the client walked to what he believed was a door and crashed into a pink wall.

Finally, the therapist pointed out his client’s problem was like the imaginary door. The client could hold on to his resentments, pain and his grudges and continue to suffer (knock his head against the wall), or he could forgive, let go and seek a better past and future.

One of my favorite bits of advice regarding forgiveness suggests that we should never hold a grudge. While we fret and fume over some disservice done to us, the other person is . . . enjoying a round of golf.

Included In the Lord’s Prayer are the words “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If you find it difficult to forgive someone, perhaps it’s time to view this phrase as both a command and a prescription from the Master Physician for our emotional well being.