Fragile: Handle with Care

What I didn’t know could have killed me.  What I came to know thrilled me.  It took a scary situation to learn a tender truth.

Image           We put up lots of hay when I was growing up on a farm and ranch in Eastern Colorado.  One day my Dad and I were loading a truck with bales of hay to be taken to our feedlot.  He was operating the tractor with the front end hay loader and I was stacking the bales of hay on the back of a large farm truck.  When we finished, I was stuck on the top of the hay I had stacked on the truck.  Since it was close to 15 feet from the top of the truckload of hay to the ground, rather than climb down, Dad offered to give me a ride down with the tractor loader.

This was a common practice for us so I didn’t hesitate to grab on to the loader for the quick and easy way down from my perch high on top the truckload of hay.  Since Dad was an excellent loader operator and in a good mood, he decided to surprise me with a thrilling ride down to the ground this time.  Unfortunately Dad didn’t let me know his plans, and so he didn’t know my grip on the loader was only sufficient for a boring ride down to the ground.

I was hanging on to the loader with more than 10 feet of empty space below me when my grip gave way to Dad’s playfulness with the loader.  As I started my freefall, my short life flashed before my eyes.  I must have lost consciousness for awhile as I woke up with my Dad’s tear-stained face staring into mine.  He was gently shaking me and asking me if I was alright.  He needed to know if I thought I had any serious injuries.

Evidently I had fallen on my back and shoulders and it had knocked all the wind out of me.  I didn’t think anything was broken, but my chest muscles were really sore.  Eventually I was able to breathe normally and Dad was able to help me to my shaky feet.

Needless to say, Dad couldn’t stop apologizing.  He had so much confidence in me and my grip on that loader that he thought I would enjoy a little fun after doing so much back-breaking work.  But his good mood had been shattered by his ill-advised plan and my potentially life-threatening fall.

We both learned valuable lessons that day.  And the one thing I learned that surprised me the most, had nothing to do with putting up hay.  My Dad cared about me far more than I had realized!

We shouldn’t wait until a crisis comes along to let a loved one know how much they mean to us.  We need to do it the next chance we get!  Life is often more fragile than we realize.

Killing A Mosquito Can Be Tricky!

I have yet to find someone who likes mosquitoes!  In fact, the vast majority of us probably see mosquitoes as pests!  Accordingly, our normal instinct is to kill a mosquito as soon as possible.  Sadly, I’m convinced that few of us have been adequately trained in the art and science of mosquito elimination.  Consequently, let’s consider some options for laying a mosquito (or any other pest) to rest.

heal_your_mosquito_bite_quicker_by_using_ice_and_antihistamines_to_relieve_itch             I’ve been told hand grenades are very effective at eradicating most living things.  Of course they are not readily available to the public at large.  One cannot help but wonder if that may be a result of their lack of precision, and their potential for killing or maiming the person attempting to use them.  I’m pretty sure an online video would not be appropriate training for using hand grenades, even if the disclaimer, “Kids, don’t try this at home” was prominently displayed.

Guns can be effective in dispatching pesky life forms.  Since they are readily available and generally affordable, there are many options from which to choose: handguns, rifles or shotguns.  Depending on the choice you make, the cost of the ammo may limit your options.  All of them are more than capable to nail the offending mosquito with one accurate shot.

Bows and arrows have been well known to be a trusty duo for killing.  Unfortunately, modern technologies have minimized their popularity and few people have easy access to them.  And since mosquitoes are generally small targets, accuracy developed through hours of practice would be essential to their effectiveness.

Knives have been used since ancient times to eliminate offending parties.  But not knowing the most vulnerable parts of a mosquito’s anatomy could make killing it more difficult, especially since it is so small.

Clubs (things we swing) have been used for taking care of undesirables for eons.  While the sizes and shapes of clubs has changed over the millennia, their relative availability and frequent effectiveness have often made them the solution of choice.

Bare hands have been known to kill as well.  Needless to say, they are always available (since they are firmly attached to our bodies) and inexpensive (most of us were blessed to have them come as standard equipment).

With all these options in mind, you may have noticed that I have failed to point out that we all too frequently discover mosquitoes on a person’s body, most often our own.  This complicating detail (not that “minor”) should not be minimized when choosing which method we plan to employ to terminate said mosquito.  Touché!  Killing a mosquito is not that simple after all!

This ridiculous scenario should help us keep from using an inappropriate solution to a given problem.  Pests come in all sizes, from mosquitoes to grizzly bears.  Accordingly, use a solution that is readily available, most often effective, least expensive, and that yields the least amount of collateral damage.  This principle is also very helpful for taking care of countless other problems, not just pests.

Investors and Cheerleaders Needed!

            As it turned out, my room was right next to our dormitory’s Resident Assistant (RA) room at college.  Though Frank, my RA, was older, bigger, stronger, more athletic and handsome than I was (that didn’t take much), he seemed to enjoy spending time with an underclassman like me anyway!

 Image           Not long after settling into the Bible college routine, Frank came to me and asked me to be the “Prayer Chairman” for our floor of thirty one guys.  I didn’t know what a position like that entailed, but with his encouragement, I decided to give it a try. 

            Frank also worked in the “Dish Room” at the college cafeteria.  That’s where the dishes, cups and silver were washed and then put back into the serving lines.  He suggested I apply for a job there to help with my expenses.  So I gave it a try and was accepted (even though I had very little dishwashing experience from home!)

            As my first year of college began to draw to a close, Frank encouraged me to apply for an RA position my next year.  This was a big surprise to me.  RA positions were highly coveted in those days and very difficult to get.  He said he would put in a good word for me, and he did. 

            Though I made it through the interview process, I didn’t get the job.  Frank seemed more disappointed than I was!  Surprisingly, he didn’t stop encouraging me.  Before long he had convinced the leadership in the “Dish Room” to promote me to a shift supervisor. 

            Towards the end of my two years with Frank, I asked him who would take over my job as “Prayer Chairman” of our floor when I left.  He said he didn’t know, but it was his smile that encouraged me to dig deeper.  He finally admitted that he had “made up” the position to give me a chance to show if I had any leadership potential.  When he saw the way I handled that responsibility, he looked for other opportunities for me to pursue that would help me to grow as a leader.

            I was surprised, humbled and honored.  Frank had seen potential in me that I hadn’t seen.  And he always supported me and encouraged me along the way, especially when the going was tough. 

            Frank could have been just an RA to me.  That’s all he was compensated to do.  But, he went the extra mile and became my friend and my mentor.  And because it was a pivotal time in my personal and spiritual development, Frank, maybe more than anyone else in my young adult life, helped me to see that God could use me, maybe even as a leader.

            Almost forty years later, I want to be more like Frank!  I want to see the people God puts around me the way Frank saw me.  People who may have hidden potential that is just waiting to be brought out and nurtured.  People who may need to have some responsibility, even if it has to be invented!

            The path for me to become a leader was significantly enhanced by an RA who made me “Prayer Chairman” and then became one of my best cheerleaders.  I thank the Lord for Frank, and for all the others who have invested in me in like manner.

            As it turns out, God probably has put people around you who also need a chance, who need a cheerleader.  Who are they?  What are you waiting for?  Invest in people!  Maybe forty years later they will still remember you also!

Car Shopping With My Two Fathers

Dad and me1970-ford-mustang-1

I was just out of high school and needed a better car.  Since my dad was the expert on mechanical things and negotiating, he agreed to go car shopping with me.  We visited a few car lots before I found the car of my wildest dreams, a blue 1970 Mach 1 Mustang, only three years old back then.

Of course it was priced several thousand dollars more than our predetermined spending limit.  So, we moved on and looked at several cheaper cars.  Unfortunately, nothing looked interesting to me after my heart had been stolen by the Mustang!

Though I hadn’t noticed this trait in my dad before, I realized that he empathized with my disappointment.  He suggested we go back and offer them our two thousand dollars in cash for the Mach 1.  I was excited; and embarrassed at the same time.  My dad wanted to try to help me get the car of my dreams!  But, I couldn’t imagine how ridiculous we were going to appear to the salesman.

However, my desires won over my pride and I allowed my dad to make our humble offer.  The salesman was both insulted and amused.  There was no way he could even consider such an offer for that a car.  My dad thanked him for his time and told me to head back to the car so we could continue our shopping.

I was not surprised, but I was heartbroken.  As we were preparing to drive off the salesman hurried over to our car.  He had decided he should at least take our offer to the sales manager.  What followed was a lengthy test of my dad’s resolve versus the negotiating skills of our salesman.

Eventually my dad told me to go back to the car.  I assumed we would drive off and continue shopping.  Instead, dad suggested we pray about what to do.  So right there in dad’s car, we prayed; out loud, asking God for wisdom.

I have to admit I was a bit embarrassed to pray while the salesman watched us.  After all, I didn’t know if God even cared about the process of buying cars, especially for a kid like me.  But my dad didn’t care about what people thought, he was only concerned about doing the right thing in God’s eyes.

When we finished praying, dad suggested we make our original offer one more time.  If the Lord wanted me to have this car, they would accept our offer.  If they didn’t, the Lord would have a better car for me somewhere else.  I was skeptical, but we had prayed and dad was confident.

Shortly thereafter, I drove that very same Mustang out of the car lot with our salesman shaking his head in amazement.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had done a miracle, just for me!

That miracle was just the first of many that I can still remember to this day!  Miracles that have convinced me that God cares about me, and the ordinary issues that concern me.  Since then I have learned much more about my gracious Heavenly Father.  He cares about you!

Crazy Good!

Alexander was born into a Puritan home in Scotland the end of May in 1701. Since his extracurricular activities were significantly limited by his strict father he often entertained himself by tracing words through the Bible.
Alexander left Scotland and moved to London. He became a recognized scholar and was said to be fluent in Greek and Latin. Accordingly, he found work as a tutor, printer, proofreader and bookseller. He also took upon himself the title, “Alexander the Corrector,” making it his life’s duty to protect his country from all vices; from misspelling and poor grammar, to all matters of morality. He often carried a sponge with him and whenever he encountered any inappropriate writing he would symbolically wipe it clean with his sponge!
While Alexander fell in love on a number of occasions, the objects of his affection inevitably rejected him, and so he never married. Consequently, his significant accomplishments were punctuated with romantic embarrassments that rivaled insanity and so led to most of his numerous stays in lunatic asylums. He would eventually come back to his senses and be released; until he would commit his next social blunder.
During his early days in London, Alexander began the laborious work of putting together a Bible reference book. After working long hours on his job, he would come home to read his Bible, recording on thousands of sheets of paper his tedious findings. He recorded every one of the 777,746 words in the King James Bible and noted every place each one occurred! All this by himself, and with no modern technology! The fruit of his painstaking work was the most comprehensive and useful work of its kind ever published! The first edition was presented to Queen Caroline in 1737, and Cruden’s Concordance eventually became a best seller and has remained in print ever since!
Charles Spurgeon was said to have written in the flyleaf of his copy of Cruden’s Concordance, “For ten years this has been at my left hand when the Word of God has been at my right.” After Cruden’s death, Spurgeon was quoted as saying, “This half-crazy Cruden did better service to the church than half the D.D’s and L.L.D.’s of his time.”
Towards the end of Cruden’s life he devoted himself to studying the Bible, helping the poor and downcast, and handing out gospel tracts. Though he was known to be very benevolent and pious, his contemporaries had little respect for him. He was found dead in 1770, on his knees, his head lying on the open Bible in front of him.
Though dead for hundreds of years, his work still lives on! And it continues to give life to all who avail themselves to it! Evidently it took a crazy man to undertake the monumental task of compiling a complete concordance of the Bible in his spare time and in his humble home!
Cruden’s life teaches us to not discard an unusual person’s value too quickly! One generation’s trash can become many generation’s treasure!

Remember

    A number of years ago a fictional story from an unknown source circulated on the internet. This is the way I remember it.

    A deadly virus broke out in a distant part of the world. The virus was easily transmitted and led to terrible sickness and death within
days. As soon as the authorities verified the seriousness of the virus, they embarked on finding a cure. Meanwhile, the death toll mounted into the millions within a matter of months.

    While extreme measures were taken, the virus continued to spread to other parts of the world. Widespread sickness and death quickly followed. Soon it became all too obvious that the entire human race faced extinction in the not too distant future. Not surprisingly, governments and health authorities pulled out all the stops as they frantically
raced to find a cure.

    Finally, the experts found the virus had a weakness. Evidently a very rare blood type held the antibody necessary to manufacture an effective antidote for the deadly virus. A worldwide search began for anyone who might have this rare blood type.

    While sickness and death continued to ravage the planet, a young boy was discovered who had the rare blood type needed to stop the pandemic. After rushing him to a hospital for further tests it was determined that the boy’s blood would enable an effective antidote for the virus to be quickly manufactured. As the encouraging news leaked out, the world finally had a reason for hope!

    Meanwhile, the parents of the boy were told the ominous news. In order to get enough antibodies for the quantity of vaccines that would be needed, all of their son’s blood would be required. If the son didn’t immediately give up all his blood, the world would perish before enough vaccine could be produced and disseminated.

    Incredibly, the parents broke down and gave the doctors permission to take their son’s lifeblood, all of it. After exchanging heart wrenching goodbyes with their innocent child, the parents watched their only son’s life slip away while his precious blood was taken from him. While the rest of the world rejoiced, these parents sobbed uncontrollably.

    True to the promise of the experts, the vaccine stopped the spread of the deadly virus and mankind was spared extinction. As the world began to work through the rebuilding process, many suggested a worldwide holiday to remember the sacrifice that had been made for their salvation.

    Once established, the first few observances of this holiday were quite meaningful. But as the years and generations marched on, the holiday soon became like so many other holidays. Some extra time off work, and an occasion to enjoy more family outings. Few people took the time to stop and remember that if the son hadn’t died, they wouldn’t have lived.

    As it turns out, not all of this story was fiction.

Elephant Essentials

elephant-in-room

The following four principles, like their namesake, are huge! And to the surprise of many, elephants are far more common in your area than you may imagine! So this warning is for you, and it prods me to share a primary guideline.

First, do not ignore the elephant in the room—especially if it is in one of your rooms!

Beware! Elephants can show up anywhere! For instance, they are often found in family rooms. Case in point, someone in your family has a big problem, but everyone goes on acting as if the issue doesn’t exist. Since the elephant takes up so much space, everyone tries to work around it without disturbing it. And addressing the elephant directly may be painful, so you continue to allow it to cramp your space and limit your possibilities.

Of course elephants can be found in many other rooms as well: workplaces, churches, and boardrooms, to name a few. Elephants come in many varieties, but they have one distinguishing mark: they are very large and they essentially squeeze out any hope of growth and progress!

Second, eat elephants one bite at a time—no matter how big they are or how many bites it will take!

Since elephants are large by their very nature, many folks assume they cannot be eaten. However, if a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step, then it must follow that eating an entire elephant begins with one bite. Just get started as soon as possible since you will be having one menu item for a long time!

Since elephants are rarely eaten, many people assume they won’t like the taste of elephant. Let me suggest they probably taste a lot like chicken, since it seems every unfamiliar meat known to man tastes like chicken. And since most everyone likes chicken, most everyone will probably like elephant! Just give it a try, chances are good you will like it!

Third, eat your elephant with as many other people as possible—invite all your friends and foes alike.

The more elephant eaters you have, the quicker the elephant is eaten! Do the math! Help others discover the advantages that will emerge once the elephant is eaten. Help them see that the sooner the elephant is gone, the sooner more productive projects can be undertaken.

Fourth, don’t ever let another elephant through the door—even a cute baby one.

Sadly, I’m fairly sure that even baby elephants will grow faster than you can eat them! Accordingly, you are far better off in the long run to slam the door in an approaching elephant’s face! Set up some elephant barriers as well. Ensure you never forget how tasking and time-consuming it is to acknowledge and eat an unwanted elephant!

The Secret to Getting There!

One of the greatest joys I had when I was an instructor at Moody Aviation was having my students come to our home for an evening of food and fellowship. Without exception, we found each of them had a fascinating story to tell and many unique qualities to respect! Nevertheless, getting them to find our house in the country was a continual challenge! Therefore, I made a map showing them how to get to our home and distributed it to my students as needed.

    However, since the way to our house involved lots of narrow, winding roads, and my map was crude at best, some students would get lost along the way. In the end, I found the most effective way to get them to our place was to meet them at the airport and say, “Follow me!” While giving them a map was much easier for me, allowing them to follow me was much easier for them. Sometimes my students would get lost following my map, yet not one of them ever got lost following me!

    I wonder if God doesn’t give us too many detailed instructions for our lives because He knows how easy it is for us to get lost following a map. Yes, we have God’s Word to give us general directions, but so many personal details aren’t given in there. And while He certainly could make a way to give us a more detailed map for our lives, He has taken the more helpful approach by simply saying, “Follow Me!”

    Moment by moment, decision by decision, day by day, season by season, we are expected to follow His heavenly GPS signals. “Go straight, turn left, turn right. Speed up, slow down. Avoid that pothole, watch out for that drop-off, beware of that other car!” And we certainly don’t want to hear that dreaded GPS announcement, “Recalculating” that indicated we missed a turn! So we listen carefully to our Mapmaker and Master, and we obey Him without question or delay. It’s the best plan, it’s God’s plan.

    When we make our own plans, or when we follow someone else’s map, we are destined to get lost. Even so, some people encourage us to follow our hearts. Yet the Bible says our heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, and who can know it? Others tell us to follow the crowd since the majority must have it right. But Jesus said the gate is wide and the road is broad, and the majority will follow the path of least resistance, even though it leads to their eventual destruction.

    We must walk by faith in Jesus! When we do, we will not only make it to our final destination, we will please God every step of the way! Jesus said He is the Way, the only Way: through the maze of this life, and to the bliss of eternal life. We don’t need a detailed map for our life. Our Mapmaker simply says, “Follow Me!”