Sunday, July 31, 2011


Part of how we love other people is not to make them the butt of our jokes. If you could see how much your humor sometimes hurts other people, you would be slow to repeat some of the jokes you hear. Why would you hurt someone else for the sake of a momentary laugh? That is not a loving thing to do, is it?

I remember telling a joke a long time ago that mocked a certain category of people. The man I told the joke to didn't laugh. He didn't reprimand me. He just didn't laugh. His non-participation in my buffoonery was a powerful lesson to me.

Never tell a joke that mocks any group of people. And don't laugh at their jokes either.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Picture this in your mind: a paralyzed person with 20/20 vision being pushed by a blind companion with full use of his limbs. This is a metaphor of the two halves of ourselves - our mind and our strength, our head and our gut, our feelings and our will, our emotions and our commitments.

The goal of living is wholeness - getting the two halves of ourselves together so that we do what we know to be right; our behavior is guided by truth. If we are not working at this kind of maturity and wholeness all the time, we end up being morally disabled.

What do you know to be the right thing to do today? Do it without fail.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Opposition

Let me ask you a question: If I paid you millions of dollars and assembled 80,000 people to cheer for you, do you think you could carry a light piece of leather for a mile? I'll bet you could.

And yet, a strong, skilled athletic football player is rarely able to carry a piece of pigskin one-half mile in an entire football season. A 1,000-yard season makes a football player a superstar; and 1,000 yards is only a little more than a half a mile.

So why are you able to do more than the best football players are not able to do? The reason is the opposition. Why do we have moral failures? Regardless of what you call it - evil, Satan - there is another team on the field.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Twentieth Century Tragedy

Early in the twentieth century, a tragedy was averted on an English estate when an alert gardener heard the cries of a young boy who had fallen into a pool. The gardener dove in, rescued the boy from drowning, and brought him to his parents.

As a reward, the English family sent the gardener's son to college. Decades later, when Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of Great Britain, he came down with pneumonia. The best physician was called in to keep him from dying. It was Dr. Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin. Fleming treated Churchill and he was healed. Ironically, Dr. Fleming was the son of the gardener who had saved Churchill from drowning in childhood.

Sometimes the best investment you can make is in helping someone get a good education.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Some Great Truths

Here are some great truths that we all learned as children:
  • When someone hits you, never hit back. The second person always gets caught.
  • Don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.
  • Don't wear striped underwear under white shorts.
  • When Mom is mad with Dad, don't let her brush your hair.
  • Never try to hide food you don't want to eat in your milk.
  • Don't lie. But don't squeal on your sister or brother either.
  • If you ever tried to walk your cat home by its tail, you've learned something you just can't get out of books.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Importance of Self-Control

Here are two quotes from Robert E. Lee, the Confederate General, that teach the importance of self-control:

The first is an observation Lee made about how he hade made military command appointments. He said, "I cannot consent to place in the control of others one who cannot control himself."

The second is Lee's response to a mother who asked the General to give her infant son a blessing. Lee said to her, "Teach him to deny himself."

These are great quotes. People who cannot control themselves are disqualified for leadership. And the way we learn self-control is by learning to deny ourselves.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Good Name

At the close of the Civil War, the General of the Army of Virginia, Robert E. Lee, was one of the most famous people in America. Offers of business, which would have made him a wealthy man, poured in from everywhere. General Lee chose to accept the presidency of the tiny Washington College, later renamed Washington and Lee.

Soon after Lee moved to Lexington, Virginia to assume his position, he was visited by agents of a Chicago Life Insurance Company. They offered him a fantastic salary - $10,000 a year. "And what would be my duties?" General Lee asked. "There are no duties," the guests responded. "We simply wish you use your name."

"Excuse me, sir," came the General's rejoinder. "I cannot consent to receive pay for services I do not render. My name is not for sale."

The Good Book says, "A good name is more precious than silver or gold!"

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Grandparents are very important people.

According to anthropologists, about 30,000 years ago the human life span was about twenty years. At that time, people started living longer - thirty years and beyond. And what caused the dramatic shift in longevity? Suddenly there were more grandparents around. Parents were able to help their sons and daughters, and to pass on what they had learned to subsequent generations. This wisdom, in turn, helped children and grandchildren survive to an older age.

If you have grandparents, hang around them. Get them to tell you their stories - to pass along their wisdom to you. Who knows, you may live longer because of it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Chinese Proverbs

The Chinese are famous for their wisdom. Here are some of my favorite Chinese proverbs:
  •  People who confine themselves to one geographic location develop prejudices.
  •  When you drink too much, truth tumbles out.
  • The people who know most say they know least.
  • Once a word is spoken, few horses cannot drag it back.
  • Heroes are made by the times.
  • The more laws made, the more criminals created.
  • The truth is often disguised as jest.
  •  Few people love virtue as much as beauty.
  • Watch your words and your deeds; your words will be quoted, and your deeds will be copied.

Friday, July 22, 2011


When I was a freshman in college, I did not have a car, but I had wanderlust. I was determined to travel the United States on school breaks. So I hitch-hiked.

Here is how I did it. I wore a white shirt, with black pants, sox, shoes, belt, and bow-tie. I am 6 feet 6 inches tall, so I looked pretty weird. I wore a "rat hat" – a small baseball- type hat indicating that I was a freshman in college. And I had a huge poster that said, "Freshman College Student - Take Me Home to My Mommy." I never had to wait long for a ride.

People would look at me, see the sign, laugh, and say, "He can’t be dangerous. Let’s give him a ride."
I am not telling you this story to encourage you to hitch-hike. Times have changed, and it is much more dangerous today than it was forty years ago.

My point is that it is sometimes a mistake to have too much pride. If you are willing to come down to other people’s level, you’ll get along better with folks.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"No One Gets into and Out of this World Without Pain."

Some of us are fortunate enough to go through life without going to jail, losing a job, or suffering disability. But none of us will succeed in going through life without the sky falling on them. As someone once said, "No one gets into and out of this world without pain."

If you have a spiritual understanding of reality that tells you that if you are a good person and faithful to your religion that bad things will never happen to you – you’re in trouble. It is just not true. And when the sky falls on you, the disappointment is going to be incredible.

 The cathedrals of Europe are empty because good Christians thought bad things could not happen to them, and then World Wars I and II happened. Israel is full of atheists because good Jews thought bad things could not happen to them, and the Holocaust happened.

Bad things do happen. The only advantages believers have are the power to see it through, and the hope that the worst can be the means of something good.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Just Get By."

If you are in school, let me tell you what your greatest enemy is. It is feeling like it’s O.K. to "just get by.
"Who wants to be the valedictorian! Just so long as I can get by."

"I know I’ll never be a star on the team. I just plan to get by."

These folks are aiming for the middle of the pack. They are doing little more than passing by the skin of their teeth, being an "also-ran" on the team.

So what’s wrong with that? After all, they are getting by. Yes, but they are developing habits that will punish them for the rest of their lives. And sometimes, as a result, life trips them up, and they don’t get by.

Always do your best. Never hold back. You may not become the valedictorian or the captain of the team, but you’ll develop habits that will ultimately make you a winner in life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Negative People

I have a confession to make. I don’t like being around negative people. Sometimes I have to be with them, and I try to be nice. But I remove myself as quickly as possible.

Let’s face it. Some people are critical by nature. The cup is always half-empty.

I wish I could say that church folks were never grumpy and grouchy, but it would not be true. I’ve known folks in the church that I thought might have been baptized in vinegar. Their faces look like maybe they’ve been eating crab apples.

Negative people wear us out. They suck the life out of us.

Let me ask you a couple of hard questions; try to be honest: Are you the kind of person who puts life into people or takes life out of people? Are you a positive person or a negative person?

Choose today too be positive.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Did you see the movie starring Tom Hanks called Castaway? It is the story about a fellow who worked for a delivery corporation who is flying in a company plane over the South Sea. The plane crashed, and he became marooned for four years on a deserted island.

The character played by Tom Hanks is all alone. All he had were the clothes on his back and a few packages from the plane that washed up on the shore. One box contained a volleyball which he eventually painted a face on and named "Wilson." Wilson became his only friend. He talked to the volleyball like it was a real person.

We are not made for isolation. We were not intended to talk to volleyballs. We are made for heart-to-heart, intimate, inter-dependent friendships.

Don’t try to go it alone out there. Decide to be a friend and to run the risks necessary to have friends.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Nothing is more misunderstood than prayer. Prayer is not magic. It is not "whiffle dust" that we sprinkle on top of our requests.

There is a sense in which we should not ask the Creator to do things for us that he wants to do through us. In other words, God will not do for us what we can, and should, do for ourselves.

To be sure, usually our past in answering our own prayers is small. But God does not usually do his part until we have done ours.

Someone has calculated that a farmer’s part in growing a crop amounts to only 5% of the energy required to produce a harvest. But God will not produce a crop until the farmer plants the seed. Crops don’t grow by themselves.

So pray hard. But don’t ask your Creator to do for you what you need to do for yourself.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Do you know why we spend so much money on entertainment? To escape from the realities of our lives for a few minutes. We want to get away from our boring existence and vicariously engage in things that are stimulating, exciting, adventurous. We know it is escapism, make-believe, even illusion, but we want some relief.

 So we go to movies. We attend concerts. We read love stories and fictional stories. We watch television "reality" programs. We go to athletic contests. We’ll do anything, go anywhere, spend anything, in order to get away from things as they are and bathe our souls for a brief while in the world of illusion. And whenever the pain of reality returns, we go back for another fix.

 Some even say that religion is sweet illusion. I think not. The only enduring realities are the eternal. And your Creator can enable you to face the world of reality.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I feel sorry for people whose life is wrapped up with money. They spend the first half of their lives trying to take it away from other people, and the last half of their lives trying to keep everybody else from taking it away from them. Then they come to the end and give it to people who quickly spend it, or lose it.

I’m not saying that money is unimportant. You have to have money to take care of your family and survive in life. There are things you have to possess which can only be purchased with money: food, clothing, housing, transportation, health care.

But making money should not be our first priority, and it should not be how we keep score or value people. You should not decide on a profession based on how much it pays.

If you make a lot of money, good. But don’t forget that we are blessed to be a blessing.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Unrealistic Expectations

Much of the unhappiness we feel in life is due to our unrealistic expectations.
Can you imagine how much difference there is between your expectations and those of your great-grandparents 90 to 100 years ago?

Take marriage, for example. We demand so much more of our spouses relationally, in terms of communication and sexual openness, that there is almost no basis of comparison between the two generations. And if our expectations are not met, we file for divorce – something that would not have been done 100 years ago.

Our high expectations are expressed in every aspect of our lives: professional, financial, even spiritual. And some of these expectations are completely unrealistic and lead to great disappointment.

How realistic are your expectations?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lack of Characteristics That we Desperately Need

What can we do when we realize that we lack a characteristic that we desperately need?

Shakespeare said in Hamlet, "Assume a virtue if you have it not."

In other words, act yourself into actuality. If you lack a personality characteristic, a behavior pattern, a way of being, don’t give up. Instead possess it, practice it, assume it, realize it; live as though it were part of your life.

But you say, "That’s hypocrisy." No, it is a fact that the only way you can change your behavior is to act your way into a new way of being.

If you wanted to become a pianist, you’d have to sit down at the keyboard until you were one. If you want a personality characteristic, you’ve got to practice living it until it becomes a reality. Only then can the new nature replace the old, and what once seemed unnatural becomes natural.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Which one of us would not like to be "up" all the time? We would all like to live on an emotional high, to feel joy and peace all day, every day. But life is not like that, is it? We are assaulted by negative feelings. We battle adverse moods. Our serenity and tranquility is irregular and fluctuating at best. All of us suffer from discouragement, disillusionment, and depression.

But there is one spiritual characteristic we can maintain which will hold us steady even when contrary emotional winds are blowing. It is called hope. We can hold on to hope regardless of circumstances: sunshine or shadow, weal or woe.

Hope is the stubborn conviction that we are not in a closed universe. We have a Creator who loves us, is with us, and is going to have the last word. All is not lost because we are still breathing. Who knows? Things may turn around today.

If things are going badly for you, tie a knot and hold on to hope.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Will Rogers' Quotes

Here are my favorite Will Rogers’ quotes:

• "Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco."
• "Never kick a cow chip on a hot day."
• "There are two theories about how to argue with a woman: neither works."
• "Never miss a chance to shut up."
• "Always drink upstream from the herd"
• "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."
• "Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back."
• "There are three kinds of folks: the ones that learn by reading; a few who learn from observation; and the rest of us who have to be on the fence to find out for ourselves."
• "After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. A hunter heard him and shot him. The moral: When you are full of bull, keep your mouth shut."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Manure happens."

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, "Manure happens." That’s not exactly what it said, but it is close. Manure represents all the things that happen to us that are painful and unpleasant.

 What do you do when life manures on you? You can’t bury it. It doesn’t decompose unless it is exposed to oxygen.

You can burn it, but I don’t recommend it. It requires chemicals, and it produces a very unpleasant odor.
 When life manures on us, most of us try to bury it through denial, or burn it with chemicals like alcohol and drugs.

There is an alternative. You can compost your manure. You can mix it with other things like positive life experiences, process it regularly, and it becomes fertilizer.

When life manures on you, turn it into fertilizer.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Fear is a paralyzing, debilitating disease. I call it a "disease" not because it is the result of a germ, but because of the word itself, "dis-ease." Fear creates dis-ease within us, and once it has us off balance, it begins to take over our lives. The more fear you have, the more you have. It lives off itself.

What fears do you suffer from? Heights, closed-up spaces, getting old, disability, senility? Do you fear change, failure, being rejected in love, loss of health or job? How about fear of death?

Fear is a thief. It steals from us. It is your enemy.

But there is an antidote to fear. It is trust. No wonder the Bible says 365 times, "Don’t be afraid."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Nell Part 5

I like my little border collie dog, Nell. No, I love her. She teaches me a lot about life.

For example, when Nell gets tired, she sleeps. When she’s thirsty, she drinks. She is in touch with, and responsive to, her needs.

Do you know what doctors tell us? That most of us do not get enough rest. We walk around with sleep debts, like zombies.

And they tell us we do not drink enough water. We drink caffeinated soft-drinks with sugar or sugar substitutes, while our bodies are dehydrated.

Let me give you a test: Do you get at least eight hours of sleep per night? Do you drink at least eight large glasses of water per day?

Learn from the border collie pup: Be aware of, and responsive to, your own needs.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nell Part 4

My border collie dog, Nell, is one of my best teachers.

The other day, we were out for a walk. She was running free off her leash when she discovered a dead bird. She gripped it in her teeth as though it was a trophy that she feared losing. The more I said "drop it," the tighter she held on to the carcass. I even tried to pry it out of her mouth.

 It was then that I remembered that I had a few treats in my pocket. When I held out the treats in my hand, Nell dropped the dead bird and grabbed the treats. She dropped what she considered good, so she could receive something better.

We are all like that. If you want to break a bad habit, it is not enough to say "no" to the good. You must also say "yes" to the better. You can’t just stop doing something that is weakening you; you’ve got to choose to do something opposite that strengthens you.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Nell Part 3

I love my little border collie dog, Nell. She is teaching me a lot about life.

For example, she has taught me that the more self-disciplined I am, the happier I’ll be.

 A dog that has not been taught to obey the simple orders of its master is an unhappy animal. It is also considered to be a bad dog.

 Nell is an obedient dog. She knows how to sit, to lie down, to stay, to fetch, to heel – even to go get the paper in the morning. She’s a sweetheart and a delight.

 I have a friend whose dog is completely undisciplined. He says his dog is hard-headed. What I know is that his dog is also unhappy.

When you live a rebellious life, doing what you want rather than what you know is right, you are not a happy person.

If you want to be happy, ask yourself, "What is the right thing to do?" and do it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Nell Part 2

We talked yesterday about what I’m learning about life from my border collie dog. I told you that Nell is teaching me how to trust my instincts.

Another thing I’m learning from Nell is how to live in the moment. When I come in in the evening, she is not thinking, "Where have you been all day? It has been tough duty all alone in this backyard." No sir, she forgets all about that. She is just glad to see me.

Nell doesn’t worry about what bad thing might happen tomorrow either. She knows she has a master who loves her and will look after her – no matter what.

Nell preaches a little sermon to me every time I see her. Her life says, "Let go of yesterday; don’t worry about tomorrow; and live with excitement in the moment."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Nell Part 1

I love my little blond border collie. Her name is Nell. She’s the only daughter I’ll ever have.

 I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that said, "My border collie is smarter than your honor student."
I’m learning a lot about life from my dog. She is teaching me about the importance of trusting my instincts.

 Nell is amazing. She sees things I do not see; smells things I do not smell; hears things I do not hear. She trusts her instincts about whether or not to be afraid.

By contrast, I live in my head. I make decisions based on logic. Rationality is a good thing, but the Spirit works best in the area of our instincts. What instinct is to animals, the Spirit is to us.

My friends, when it comes time to make an important decision, think logically with your brain, but you need also to listen and be responsive to your gut.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Learning How to Behave Properly

There are two ways of learning how to behave properly.

You can buy a book of etiquette at the bookstore. It will contain all the rules of manners. If you read them, learn them, and apply them, you’ll get along pretty well. The only problem is that you’ll probably come across as being unnatural, stilted, and artificial.

The other way to learn etiquette is to be around cultured people. If you associate with gentlemen and gentle-ladies, you will gradually and unconsciously assimilate good manners. Instead of having to make yourself behave, good behavior will feel natural and normal.

 The same is true of religion. If you want to learn the ways of your Creator, don’t just read Holy books. Hang around with people who are sincere and consistent about their spirituality.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Keeping Up with the Joneses

The big problem most people have with their finances is not the high cost of living. It is the high cost of keeping up with the Joneses!

There is a lot of truth to the old saying that we buy things we do not need to impress people we do not like. Why else do we break our budgets to buy something new, improved, faster, and better, when what we have is working just fine? Why do we continually increase our credit lines to purchase non-essentials?

The cost of keeping up with the Joneses is high. It keeps our nose to the grindstone when we ought to rest. It forces us to live in slavery to creditors. And sometimes it causes stress, fear, divorce, and bankruptcy.

Keeping up with the Joneses is what the Good Book calls "pride", and pride usually precedes some sort of fall.

Friday, July 1, 2011


There is a needlepoint quote attributed to Augustine of Hippo which is framed in our dining room. It says, "He who has an unkind word to say about another is not welcome at this table."

Can you imagine how much more pleasant our meals would be, how much better our food would digest, if you didn’t chew on other people?

Mealtime can be enhanced greatly by table talk. Europeans could teach us a lot about fellowship and food. They are not into fast food on the run. Their meals are events that last for hours. We would all be physically and relationally healthier if we did more table talk, but only if it is positive, encouraging, and wholesome.

Remember Augustine’s words: "He who has an unkind word to say about another is not welcome at this table."