Monday, October 24, 2011

Some Great Advice

Don't date because you are desperate.
Don't marry because you are miserable.
Don't have kids because you think your genes are superior.
Don't philander because you think you are irresistible.

Don't associate with people you can't trust.
Don't cheat. Don't lie. Don't pretend.
Don't dictate because you are smarter.
Don't demand because you are stronger.

Don't sleep around because you think you are old enough and know better.
Don't hurt your kids because loving them is harder.
Don't sell yourself, your family, or your ideals.
Don't stagnate.

Don't regress.
Don't live in the past. Time can't bring anything or anyone back.
Don't put your life on hold for possibly Mr/Mrs Right.
Don't throw your life away on absolutely Mr Wrong because your biological clock is ticking.

Learn a new skill.
Find a new friend.
Start a new career.
Sometimes, there is no race to be won. Only a price to be paid for some of life's more hasty decisions.

To terminate your loneliness, reach out to the homeless.
To feed your nurturing instincts, care for the needy.
To fulfill your parenting fantasies, get a puppy. Don't bring another life into this world for all the wrong reasons.
To make yourself happy, pursue your passions and be the best of what you can be.

Simplify your life.
Take away the clutter.
Get rid of destructive elements: abusive friends, nasty habits, and dangerous liaisons.
Don't abandon your responsibilities but don't overdose on duty.

Don't live life recklessly without thought and feeling for your family.
Be true to yourself.
Don't commit when you are not ready.
Don't keep others waiting needlessly.

Go on that trip. Don't postpone it.
Say those words. Don't let the moment pass.
Do what you have to, even at society's scorn.
Write poetry.

Love Deeply.
Walk barefoot.
Dance with wild abandon.
Cry at the movies.
Take care of yourself. Don't wait for someone to take care of you.

It is true that life does not get easier with age. It only gets more challenging.
Don't be afraid.
Don't lose your capacity to love.
Pursue your passions.

Live your dreams.
Don't lose faith in Jesus.
Don't grow old.
Just grow YOU!

- Unknown

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Lord's Prayer... Really?


"Our Father which art in heaven."

--- Yes?

Don't interrupt me. I'm praying.

--- But you called me 

Called you? I didn't call you. I'm praying. "Our father which art in heaven."

--- There you did it again.

Did what?

--- Called me. You said, "Our Father which art in heaven." Here I am. What's on your mind?

But I didn't mean anything by it. I was, you know, just saying my prayers for the day. I always say the Lord's prayer. It makes me feel good, kind of like getting a duty done.

--- All right. Go on.

"Hallowed be thy name."

--- Hold it. What do you mean by that?

By what?

--- By "Hallowed be thy name?"

It means... it means... Good grief, I don't know what it means. How should I know? It's just a part of the prayer. By the way, what does it mean?

--- It means honored, holy, wonderful.

Hey that makes sense. I never thought about what "hallowed" meant before.

"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

--- Do you really mean that?

Sure, why not?

--- What are you doing about it?

Doing? Nothing, I guess. I just think it would be kind of neat if you got control of everything down here like you have up there

--- Have I got control of you?

Well, I go to church.

--- That isn't what I asked you. What about your temper? You've really got a problem there, you know. And then there's the way you spend your money - all on yourself. And what about the kinds of books you read and what you watch on TV?

Stop picking on me! I'm just as good as the rest of those people at church.

---Excuse me. I thought you were praying for my will to be done. If that is to happen, it will have to start with the ones who are praying for it. Like you, for example.

Oh, all right. I guess I do have some hang-ups. Now that you mention it, I could probably name some others.

---So could I.

I haven't thought about it very much until now, but I'd really like to cut out some of those things. I would like to, you know, be really free.

--- Good. Now we're getting somewhere. We'll work together, you and me. Some victories can be truly won. I'm proud of you.

Look, Lord, I need to finish this up here. This is taking a lot longer than it usually does.

"Give us this day our daily bread."

--- You could cut out the bread. It would help you lose weight.

Hey, wait a minute! What is this, "Criticize me day?" Here I was doing my religious duty, and all of a sudden you break in and remind me of all my hang-ups.

--- Praying is a dangerous thing. You could wind up changed, you know. That's what I'm trying to get across to you. Keep praying. I'm interested in the next part of your prayer...

(Pause) Well, go on.

I'm scared to.

--- Scared? Of what?

I know what you'll say.

--- Try me and see.

"Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."

--- What about Ann?

See? I knew it! I knew you would bring her up! Why Lord, she's told lies about me, spread stories about my family. She never paid back the money she owes me. I've sworn to get even with her?

--- But your prayer? What about your prayer?

I didn't mean it.

--- Well, at least you're honest. But it's not much fun caring that load of bitterness around inside, is it?

No. But, I'll feel better as soon as I get even. Boy, have I got some plans for that neighbor. She'll wish she had never moved into this neighborhood.

--- You won't feel any better. You'll feel worse. Revenge isn't sweet. Think of how unhappy you already are. But, I can change all that.

You can? How?

--- Forgive Ann. Then I'll forgive you. Then the hate and sin will be Ann's problem and not yours. You will have settled your heart.

Oh, you're right. You always are. And, more than I want to get revenge against Ann, I want to be right with you. (Pause)...(Sigh) All right.
I forgive her. Help her to find the right road in life, Lord. She's bound to be awfully miserable now that I think about it. Anybody who goes around doing the things she does to others has to be out of it. Some way, some how, show her the right way.

--- There now! Wonderful! How do you feel?

Hmmm. Well, not bad. Not bad at all. I feel pretty great. You know, I don't think I'll have to go to bed uptight tonight for the first time since I can remember. Maybe I won't be so tired from now on because I'm not getting enough rest.

--- You're not through with your prayers. Go on.

Oh, all right. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

--- Good! Good! I'll do that. Just don't put yourself in a place where you can be tempted.

What do you mean by that?

--- Don't turn on the TV when you know the laundry needs to be done and the house needs to be picked up. Also, about the time you spend with your friends, if you can't influence the conversation to positive things, perhaps you should re-think the value of those friendships. Another thing, your neighbors and friends shouldn't be your standard for "keeping up." And please don't use me as an escape hatch.

I don't understand that last part.

--- Sure you do. You've done it a lot of times. You get caught in a bad situation. You get in trouble and then you come running to me: "Lord, help me out of this mess, and I promise you I'll never do it again." You remember some of those bargains you tried to make with me?

Yes and I'm ashamed. Lord, I really am.

--- Which bargain are you remembering?

Well, there was the night that my husband was gone and the children and I were home alone. The wind was blowing so hard I thought the roof would go any minute and tornado warnings were out.
I remember saying, "Oh God, if you spare us, I'll never skip my devotions again."

--- I protected you, but you didn't keep your promise, did you?

I'm sorry, Lord I really am. Up until now I thought that if I just prayed the Lord's Prayer every day, then I could do what I liked. I didn't expect anything to happen like this.

--- Go ahead and finish your prayer.

"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen"

--- Do you know what would bring me glory? What would really make me happy?

No, but I'd like to know. I want to please you. I can see what a mess I've made of my life. And I can see how great it would be to really be one of your followers.

--- You just answered the question.

I did?

--- Yes. The thing that would bring me glory is to have people like you truly love me. And I see that happening between us.

Now that some of these old sins are exposed and out of the way, there is no telling what we can do together Lord, let's see what we can make of me, OK?

--- Yes, let's see...

Kinda hits home doesn't it. Don't just say the Lord's prayer - mean it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ugly the Tomcat

Everyone in the apartment complex I lived in knew who Ugly was. Ugly was the resident tomcat. Ugly loved three things in this world: fighting, eating garbage, and, shall we say, love.

The combination of these things combined with a life spent outside had their effect on Ugly. To start with, he had only one eye and where the other should have been was a hole. He was also missing his ear on the same side, his left foot appeared to have been badly broken at one time, and had healed at an unnatural angle, making him look like he was always turning the corner.

Ugly would have been a dark gray tabby, striped type, except for the sores covering his head, neck, and even his shoulders.

Every time someone saw Ugly there was the same reaction. "That's one UGLY cat!"

All the children were warned not to touch him, the adults threw rocks at him, hosed him down, and squirted him when he tried to come in their homes, or shut his paws in the door when he would not leave. Ugly always had the same reaction.

If you turned the hose on him, he would stand there, getting soaked until you gave up and quit. If you threw things at him, he would curl his lanky body around your feet in forgiveness.

Whenever he spied children, he would come running, meowing frantically and bump his head against their hands, begging for their love.

If you ever picked him up he would immediately begin suckling on your shirt, earrings, whatever he could find.

One day Ugly shared his love with the neighbor's dogs. They did not respond kindly, and Ugly was badly mauled. I tried to rush to his aid. By the time I got to where he was laying, it was apparent Ugly's sad life was almost at an end.

As I picked him up and tried to carry him home, I could hear him wheezing and gasping, and could feel him struggling. It must be hurting him terribly, I thought.

Then I felt a familiar tugging, sucking sensation on my ear. Ugly, in so much pain, suffering and obviously dying, was trying to suckle my ear. I pulled him closer to me, and he bumped the palm of my hand with his head, then he turned his one golden eye towards me, and I could hear the distinct sound of purring.

Even in the greatest pain, that ugly battled scarred cat was asking only for a little affection, perhaps some compassion.

At that moment I thought Ugly was the most beautiful, loving creature I had ever seen. Never once did he try to bite or scratch me, try to get away from me, or struggle in any way. Ugly just looked up at me completely trusting in me to relieve his pain.

Ugly died in my arms before I could get inside, but I sat and held him for a long time afterwards, thinking about how one scarred, deformed little stray could so alter my opinion about what it means to have true pureness of spirit, to love so totally and truly.

Ugly taught me more about giving and compassion than a thousand books, lectures, or talk show specials ever could, and for that I will always be thankful.

He had been scarred on the outside, but I was scarred on the inside, and it was time for me to move on and learn to love truly and deeply. To give my total to those I cared for.

Many people want to be richer, more successful, well liked, beautiful, but for me. . . I will always try to be Ugly.

Author Unknown

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Are You Telling God What To Do?

A Unique Way to Pray 

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God."1

Terry tells how she "was in the habit of praying very specifically for what she wanted. She told God in great detail about the kind of job, the kind of husband, the kind of life that she envisioned for herself. And Terry was frequently frustrated. But one day, Terry's friend suggested that she try a different tack. 'Give God a blank sheet of paper,' the friend suggested, 'and let God give you his list for your life.'

"Not long afterwards, Terry went back to school—something she hadn't anticipated doing. And she met a wonderful new man, whom she eventually married. He didn't fit the criteria of her earlier lists, but he was everything she wanted in a husband. When Terry turned her life over to God's will, God provided for her needs in ways she couldn't have imagined."2

Another excellent way to pray is, taking off on the famous quote by JFK: "Ask not what God can do for you but rather, what can you do for God—today?"

Suggested Prayer: "Dear God, in light of all that you have done for me, what can I do for you today? Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen." 

1. Philippians 4:6 (NKJV).
2. Terry Fitzgerald Sieck, found in Stories of God's Abundance for a More Joyful Life (Lancaster, PA: Starburst Publishers, 1999), pp. 196-198. 


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

From Christ-Companions to Christ-Bearers

When the two disciples recognised Jesus as he broke the bread for them in their house in Emmaus, he "vanished from their sight" (Luke 24:31).  

The recognition and the disappearance of Jesus are one and the same event.  Why?  Because the disciples recognised that their Lord Jesus, the Christ, now lives in them ... that they have become Christ-bearers.  

Therefore, Jesus no longer sits across the table from them as the stranger, the guest, the friend with whom they can speak and from whom they can receive good counsel.  He has become one with them.  He has given them his own Spirit of Love.  

Their companion on the journey has become the companion of their souls.  They are alive, yet it is no longer them, but Christ living in them (see Galatians 2:20).

Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hurtling Through Space

It was just a day at Darien Lake, an upstate New York amusement park.

My daughter, her friend, and I were standing in the usual long, snaking line to ride the park's roller coaster, called the Viper. It was our first ride of the day, and we like roller coasters, both wood and steel.

In line with us was a group of teenage African-American girls. They were passing the long wait by joking and laughing and just having a good time. In their care was a little girl, about nine years old, just barely tall enough to reach the magic mark of amusement park adulthood that earns access to the Viper.

When we reached the final point-of-no-return before launching, I noticed that the little girl was an odd number in her group, and therefore, without someone with whom to ride.

I hesitated. After all, I was a stranger and a white man. On the other hand, I was with my own kid and her friend, so, I would probably be considered "safe."

I didn't have a fellow rider, either. The older girls suddenly noticed their predicament and were talking about what to do -- where would the little girl ride? I finally mustered the nerve to speak up.

"She can ride with me, if she wants." They asked her. "OK." They had her get in the chute next to mine.

I let her in the car first and pulled down the safety bar. The coaster started up. Then the little girl turned and looked up at me.

"Would you hold my hand?" Shocked inside, I just replied, "Sure."

She put her little hand inside mine, and we climbed the first hill. When we started down, she squeezed my hand for all she was worth, closed her eyes so tightly that they were barely visible slits, and cried as intensely as she possibly could.

We were hurtling out into time and space and the universe together, just the two of us, this little African-American girl and this white Anglo stranger.

I had been there before, but this was new and frightening for her, and she trusted me for her safety and comfort.

Everytime we reached a level area, her eyes opened and she relaxed her grip -- a little. She never let go completely. But whenever we went into a dip or turn, she bore down, and the tears fell again.

At the end of the ride, I think that she was proud of herself. I told her older friends that they should buy her a special "I survived the Viper" button. They smiled and left for other rides.

As our groups turned to go their separate ways, I thought about the little children who had been hurt by adults over the decades and the centuries. I thought about the responsibility that we adults have toward them. I thought about the tremendous privilege inherent in that responsibility.

And I thought about trust. This little girl had not bothered to see a stereotype, what I might appear to be on the outside. She just knew that she needed someone to trust. In just a few moments she had given me the best lesson I have ever had in trust, both how to trust others and how to respect, value, appreciate, and enjoy the trust given by another person.

Years later, I can still feel that little hand inside mine. Thank you, little girl -- I wish I had asked your name.

As human beings on this planet, we are thrown together into many situations and roller coaster rides. We hurtle through space at thousands of miles an hour.

The single most important aspect of our ride is how we treat those in the car with us.

- By Vance Agee

Monday, October 3, 2011

When It Hurts Too Deep To Weep

By Albert Kang

Mary (not her real name) came for counseling after she heard my Sunday’s message on how God can heal inner hurts and pains. The prim and proper lady in her mid-thirties sat facing me and next to her was one of our lady associate pastors. In a stoic manner, she shared her inner struggles as if she was talking about someone else’s pain. Her gaze was at the table in front of her but she was actually looking down the hallway of time and memory. Her pain was hidden by the walls she had so successfully built up over the years. As she droned on, tragic tales of being raped and violated by the one whom she trusted – her father.

I advised her to avoid the detailed descriptions and took that short interruption to pray for her. Then the crack came – a soft sobbing amidst the prayer. When I opened my eyes, I saw tears streaming down her cheeks. 
Mary’s hurt was deep… very deep indeed – too deep to even weep about it. She was not only violated at a very young age but when she told her mother about the rape, she was promptly blamed for her father’s offense. In fact, her mother was so afraid of him that there was absolutely no confrontation to resolve the matter.

For years, Mary was treated by her parents as, in her own words, “the blood-sucking witch of the family”. Within her hurting heart, she reluctantly accepted all the blames and unfair treatments. The sexual abuse did not stop until she was 17 and only after she went to stay with her grandmother in another part of Singapore. 

At the time of counseling, Mary was about 35 years old and her mother had since passed away. Her father had had a stroke and she and her only brother placed him in a nursing home. Mary came back three more times for counseling and prayer. Her disposition was getting better with each visit. Subsequently, she was able to look at us in the eyes and even smiled. Something had happened inside this lady. Some emotional walls had crumbled and come crashing down. In fact, God was doing His healing miracles – transforming those walls to become bridges.

What happened next shocked all of us. One Sunday, Mary, along with her brother, wheeled a feeble elderly man in a wheelchair into our church service. I suspected it was her father but that was too much of a miracle for me to take in one gasp. What type of forgiveness was that? Later, I learned that Mary had taken the forgiveness from God and offered it to her father. Her father wept and begged her forgiveness, she said.  A full reconciliation followed suit, and that day saw the power of God’s love in action. Mary’s father subsequently accepted Jesus as his Lord. Another piece of good news is that Mary is now married and has become a mother of two children.

This is one of the most amazing inner healing cases that I have ever encountered. Why was Mary able to forgive her father? Why was she able to stop blaming herself? How did she overcome her fear of men and got happily married to one of our church leaders? 
Here are six things that Mary did after she received the healing Word of God.

1. Her Pain Was Real
After Mary heard the Word of God that Sunday, she refused to ignore her inner hurts and pains any more. For years, she had buried these under piles of work. As long as she kept herself busy, she could easily shove them away. Whenever she found a solitary moment, depression hit her. Self-hatred and self-blame became the order of that instance. She had become so tired of being controlled by such negative thoughts that she followed her friend’s advice to seek help and attend our church. By refusing to lie to herself, she took the first step to recovery.

2. Her Blame Was Real
Silently, Mary blamed herself for all the tragic events. She hated herself as much as she hated her parents. When her mother passed away, she did not shed a single drop of tears. She felt that she was not the ideal daughter to her mother. She said that in a way, she was happy that her mother was no longer around to make her feel guilty. She discovered that she had also indirectly blamed her brother for not protecting her. All these barriers were torn down after she spent time with the Lord following the first counseling session. Each time the depressive thoughts came, she rebuked them in the name of Jesus. She actually stood up and commanded these thoughts to leave because all the past hurts and pains had been carried by Jesus on the Cross. She declared loudly that they had no hold over her!

3. Her Fear Was Real
Being an intelligent person, Mary noticed that she was behaving different from all her colleagues and friends. Each time the girls in the office talked about guys, she would excuse herself to the toilet. She was afraid of men and wanted nothing to do with them. When her male boss talked to her, she would look at the floor. To numb her pain, she quietly drank alcohol in her own bedroom so as to avoid being discovered by her brother. She only stopped drinking when for a couple of mornings she was too sick to go to work. The hangovers were getting the best of her. Having a healthy relationship with a man was definitely not on her list of needs. Men, to her, were just too untrustworthy and dangerous to mess with.

4. Her God Is Real
When Mary came to accept Jesus Christ as her Saviour, she had become quite desperate. Suicidal thoughts had become too regular for her to ignore. She finally confided with a friendly Christian colleague. The thought of having God as her Heavenly Father was difficult at first. The only father she knew had abused her; how different could this Heavenly Father be? Through regular encouragement from her cell members and her own prayers, Mary had learned to love this Heavenly Father and become very attached to Him. The best part was that she was willing to obey every word of the Bible, although many of those scriptures caused her great discomfort. I believe that it was her genuine desire and sincere faith in God that helped her recover so rapidly.

5. Her Hope Is Real
Mary has learned a powerful secret of recovery: hope in Jesus. She said that the Lord had gone through far worse than what she had ever done. She recognized that she could bring all her sins and shames to the Cross and that was what she frequently did. During her recovery, Mary was regularly comforted by 1 Peter 1:3-7 that speak of the fact that we may suffer some trials in this life but God “… in His great mercy, has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade”. 

6. Her Security Is Real
Today, Mary’s security is in God even though she appreciates her supportive husband and all the encouragement and love given by Christian brothers and sisters. Her father has gone to be with Lord. Her brother has migrated to Canada. Mary is actively serving God with her family in the new church that her husband pioneered. She gives thanks to God for fully restoring her in both emotion and spirit. She says, her miraculous recovery is best described by Psalm 18:16 - “He reached down from on high and took hold of me, He drew me out of deep waters”.

Four Words That Make Life Worthwhile

Over the years as I’ve sought out ideas, principles and strategies to life’s challenges, I’ve come across four simple words that can make living worthwhile.

First, life is worthwhile if you LEARN. What you don't know WILL hurt you. You have to have learning to exist, let alone succeed. Life is worthwhile if you learn from your own experiences—negative or positive. We learn to do it right by first sometimes doing it wrong. We call that a positive negative. We also learn from other people's experiences, both positive and negative. I've always said that it is too bad failures don't give seminars. Obviously, we don't want to pay them so they aren’t usually touring around giving seminars. But that information would be very valuable—we would learn how someone who had it all then messed it up. Learning from other people's experiences and mistakes is valuable information because we can learn what not to do without the pain of having tried and failed ourselves.

We learn by what we see, so pay attention. We learn by what we hear, so be a good listener. Now I do suggest that you should be a selective listener; don't just let anybody dump into your mental factory. We learn from what we read, so learn from every source; learn from lectures; learn from songs; learn from sermons; learn from conversations with people who care. Always keep learning.

Second, life is worthwhile if you TRY. You can't just learn; now you have to try something to see if you can do it. Try to make a difference, try to make some progress, try to learn a new skill, try to learn a new sport. It doesn't mean you can do everything, but there are a lot of things you can do, if you just try. Try your best. Give it every effort. Why not go all out?

Third, life is worthwhile if you STAY. You have to stay from spring until harvest. If you have signed up for the day or for the game or for the project, see it through. Sometimes calamity comes and then it is worth wrapping it up. And that's the end, but just don't end in the middle. Maybe on the next project you pass, but on this one, if you signed up, see it through.

And lastly, life is worthwhile if you CARE. If you care at all you will get some results, if you care enough you can get incredible results. Care enough to make a difference. Care enough to turn somebody around. Care enough to start a new enterprise. Care enough to change it all. Care enough to be the highest producer. Care enough to set some records. Care enough to win.

Four powerful little words: learn, try, stay and care. What difference can you make in your life today by putting these words to work?

—Jim Rohn