Category Archives: Life

The Pitfalls of Being a “Self- Made” Man

James HJames Mom%20%26%20Jamesallmark is a good friend of mine…and I am proud to call him”friend.”  He is a pioneer in television in these parts beginning his work with KRBC when it was tiny studio up in the hills of the Callahan Divide overlooking Abilene.  We found we had a lot in common having both begun work when TV was just a kid.  I was on the “floor crew” at KMID, in 1960 moving cables and cameras around.  James was beginning his career as an announcer and doing voice over for commercials.  He has been responsible for telethons every year…hard, detailed work.  But best of all he is a strong, faithful, committed Christian.  He writes a great article nearly every week as you will find out when you read the post below

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” Someone once used these words to describe a man that he knew. Cutting but true! The world has convinced mankind that a self-motivated, self-serving lifestyle is his right and obligation. The self-worshipper is “full of himself” and thinks nothing of ignoring others and even God, if they stand in the way of his agenda and human nature’s desires. He deliberately keeps God and others at arm’s  length. The Apostle Paul described the self-driven lifestyle in these words: “And that means killing off everything connected  with this way of death: sexual promiscuity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like It, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. “That’s a life shaped by feelings and things instead of by God” (Colossians 3:7 MSG).

Let’s dig down deep and see if we can discover our spiritual enemy and how he has always worked his will in our lives. Let’s set aside the image of Satan as having horns, wearing a red suit (fire resistant I presume), and carrying a pitchfork. He is the general on the battlefield of our spiritual life, who dispatches his army of demons to torment us and take us as prisoners of war. Satan ensnares us by manipulating the man of flesh that resides deep within each of us. This man of sin is easy pickings for Satan and his hordes.

Self-control is the only weapon we have fight off the enemy. The problem that we have is that most of us don’t have sufficient ammunition to fight off the invaders. Their concept of self-control is that they, themselves, control our lives and actions. And, of course we as human beings excuse our bad behavior with the lame blaming that “after all we are only human”.   That leaves us holding the bag!

Self-control means that somehow we must exercise control of our choices. Let’s look in the mirror and see our ego-centric self is what we must overcome, and we have to be able to admit that it is out of control and uncontrollable without divine help. The truth of the matter is that until we can overcome the influence of our human nature that rules in our lives. our lives can only get worse…never better!

Several years ago I discovered that hyphenated words that start with “self” run up a red flag. I’m talking about words like self-indulgence, self-fulfillment, self-absorbed, self-motivated, self-love, self-driven, self-pity, self-centered, to mention just a few. I’m sure that others may come to mind. Our problem is that many of these appear to be good characteristics that we have been taught to nurture. Now, substitute “God” for “self” in each of these words and you may be surprised at the cleverness of our enemy. Replacing “self” with “God” brings into sharp focus the kind of live we are prone to live, left to our own devices, and the real life that God offers. It has been suggested to me that sin is a perversion of God-given. When our instincts for security cross an invisible line it can morph onto pride, greed, and envy and anger. Our human need for companionship can turn into lust and lust into sexual impurity. Our need for self-preservation can find expression in angry outbursts and gossip. It has occurred to me that all of my unacceptable behavior can be traced back to my self-centered distortion of legitimate human needs that are carried too far. My responsibility is to learn the difference between my “wants and “needs.” He leaves the choice with us. Do you want to be a self-made man or the Creator’s creation?

A few years ago, a commercial ran on national television that really caught my eye. It was a commercial for the Edward Jones financial people. It opened at a nurses’ station at a hospital. A doctor is on the phone with a patient, who is at home. Try to visualize this scene. The doctor is instructing his patient on how to do surgery on himself. The doctor said: “Now, make an incision about six inches long between your third and fourth rib.” The camera cuts to a very distraught man standing in his kitchen with shirt unbuttoned. In his hand is a butcher knife from the kitchen. He had broken out in a cold sweat, and muttered nervously: “Doc, shouldn’t you be doing this?” The spiritual surgery that must be performed to set a person free from himself is drastic and painful, but absolutely necessary. You must decide whether you want a scalpel, or do you want the Great Physician to take over?

Archbishop Fenelon was a spiritual advisor in the court of King Louis the XIV in France some three hundred years ago. He ministered to a small group of faithful Catholics and often wrote letters to them to encourage and instruct them. Here is an excerpt from one of the letters. “The death that God brings pierces deep within. Soul and spirit will be divided. He sees all in you that you cannot see. He knows exactly where the fatal blows should fall. He heads straight for that which you are most reluctant to give up. Pain is only felt where there is life. And in this situation is precisely the place where death is needed.”(The Seeking Heart-Fenelon, pg 5).

The Christian life was never meant to be a self-improvement program because it requires that we nail our old self to the cross of Christ. When we have carried out this self-crucifixion, God immediately goes to work recreating man in the image of his Son. As Peter wrote, “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust” (II Peter 3-4 MSG). Read Peter’s words again and absorb the significance of what they mean about the daily, intimate relationship that our supernatural God wants to have with each of us.

It boils down to choosing whom we will believe. We have to decide whether we will believe the lies of the father of lies, or take the word of the One who created the universe and mankind. Many years ago I put my trust in God, and have never regretted my decision. I have even begun to experience God working in my life, and that brings me peace, and hope that the world cannot comprehend. I am not willing to be a self-made man any longer, I much prefer becoming A God-fashioned man.

I am content to be the clay and put myself in the hands of the Master Potter to turn a pile of mud like me into something beautiful.

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Filed under Awareness, Christlikeness, conversion, Courage, Culture Wars, Discernment, discipleship, Encouragement, Heart, Holy Spirit, Initiative, Integrity, Jesus Christ, Life, Meaning of Life, Mind, morality, Peace, Persuasion, Philosophy, Redemption, Religion, Scripture, Selflessness, Supernatural, Trust

The 10,000 Hour Rule

Among the things I wish I had learned before it was too late was the 10,000 hour rule.  Malcolm Gladwell’s amazing book, Outliers, was my first exposure to this principle.  Stated simply: If you want to become an expert in any given endeavor, it is necessary to involve yourself (study and practice) for a minimum of 10,000 hours.  You want to be a great musician?  Learn the basics of music and your instrument and then practice for 10,000 hours.  You want to be a great scientist?  Get the basics of your field and then research, experiment, collaborate, etc. for 10,000 hours.  Baker, butcher, chef, artist, salesperson, preacher, teacher, actor, you name it…after 10,000 hours of serious pursuit you will achieve expert status.  You can read more here.

My attention, sadly, has always been divided.  I have always had too many irons in the fire.  I have been too interested in too many things.  I see something that interests me and I think, “Hey, I can do that!”  Maybe so…but without the dedicated pursuit and practice…no achievement of expertise.  Now, I find myself at the “twilight years” able to converse about many things but not as a maven, guru, whiz-kid, ace, go-to-guy, virtuoso or hotshot.

I may come close in a couple of areas where I have some native ability, but it’s a bit too late to become a real expert.  What was needed was to find my passion of passions and then focus, focus and focus.  Hopefully, it is not too late for you.

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Filed under Aging, Biography, Book Reviews, Ignorance, Initiative, Life, Music, Preaching/Teaching, Science

Dylan Was (is) Right

If you want to read a thoughtful and thought-provoking post, I recommend “The Times, They Are a-Changin'” by my good friend and brother in Christ, Bob Odle.  You can read it here.

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Filed under Apologetics, Culture Wars, Discernment, Good & Evil, Integrity, Life, Meaning of Life, morality, Music, Music and Poetry, Peace, Philosophy, Politics, Post Modernism, Religion, Skepticism, Supernatural

It’s About Time

Part of an advertisement for a fancy thermostat: “Instant readings are available within 10 seconds.”

My immediate reaction was how can it be both?  It is either instant or it is within ten seconds.

Of course, there’s “instant” and then there’s “real quick.”  When I was a kid, we used to play outside (those were different times) and, come suppertime or bedtime my mother would say, “Come inside this instant!”  “We’re coming!” we’d reply…but we weren’t doing any such thing.  We were still playing.  We were going to squeeze every bit possible out of the interval between her expectation and our compliance.  She wanted instant action; we wanted to delay her desire in favor of ours for as long as we could.  It was a delicate balance between what she wanted and what we thought we could get away with.

When my wife (who, incidentally, is a gourmet cook whose culinary creations are not to be missed) tells me “Dinner is ready,” I know she means that I should stop studying, writing, carving or gardening, and wash my hands, a process taking up to five minutes or so.  It really means, “Dinner will be ready about the time you have finished getting ready to come to the table.”  We have that understanding developed in our nearly fifty years of marriage.

So, I’ll give you all of that but I still don’t understand how something can be “instant” with the possibility of a ten-second delay.  Sorry, advertising agency, I can’t let you get away with such a contradictory claim.  You might call it nitpicking.  You can feel free to express that in the comment section and I will instantly give you my reply sometime.

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Filed under Advertising, Contradictions, Humor, Life, Love and Marriage, Random Thoughts, Thinking, wordplay, words

Blasé to a Fault

I just watched another of those “Flash Mob” videos…truly amazing.  I have never been in one of those favored locations but I have watched a half-dozen or so on my computer screen.  What a kick to be in the midst of an unexpected performance by a dance group, choir or band!  I hope it happens to me sometime.

What has impressed me each time is that some of the shoppers continue shopping as if nothing were happening.  It almost seems as though they are stubbornly resisting being impressed or even interested.  They just go right on looking for an item of clothing or examining the eggs or pricing the butter.  What’s wrong with these people!?  What will it take to impress them?

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Filed under Adventure, Humor, Life, Meaning of Life, Music, Random Thoughts, Singing, Thinking

Are You Lonely?

Ah, look at all the lonely people.

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

(“Eleanor Rigby” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney)

In the near future, it will be my honor to conduct a wedding ceremony.  In my remarks I nearly always quote the passage: “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).  If all goes as planned, this couple will grow old together.  They will experience work and play, sorrow and joy, love and heartache, victory and defeat.  Most likely one will die before the other and the one left behind will know (as they never could otherwise) what it means to be lonely.  Their years of togetherness will be a wonderful, glowing memory.

Humans were not created to be alone.  We are a “flocking animal.”  Some animals are “loners” by nature.  They wander solo through most of the year and only congregate with others of their species at mating season to reproduce.

Oh yes, a great number of our sort seem to seek the lonely life.  They live alone, eat alone and, aside from the occasional one-night-stand, sleep alone.  Even in a crowd they may seek to be alone.  But we humans were meant for deeper relationships.  When we keep things shallow we miss most of the richness and consolation of life.

Loneliness seldom works for long.  It seldom works well.  Early in my backpacking days I was warned to “…never hike alone.”  If you’ve seen the film, 127 Hours, you know what I’m talking about.  Too many things, some deadly, can happen – falls, snakebites, sprained ankles, encounters with unfriendly animals, getting lost, getting stuck and other situations and circumstances where companions become lifesavers.  We all need companions, comrades, confidantes, confessors…friends to share life’s joys, triumphs, sorrows and challenges.

There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,  yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless— a miserable business!
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:8-12)

Are you lonely?  Are you trying to fly solo through an empty sky?  May I suggest a way to land safely?  In every community of size there’s a group of people who will eagerly befriend you.  They meet together one or more times a week to connect with their Creator and each other.  Oh, they’re not perfect (just like you) but they’re not lonely.  They’ll take you in and overlook your faults if you will theirs.  It is a safe place where God teaches us how to love Him and each other.  They pray together, sing together and seek guidance in God’s Word together.  And, every so often they will sing:

Blest be the tie that binds, / Our hearts in Christian love,
The fellowship of kindred minds / Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne, / We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, / Our comforts and our cares.
We share our mutual woes / Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows / The sympathizing tear.

If you are seeking an end to loneliness, let me know where you live and I will do my best to help you find a group of friends who just might be seeking you.

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Filed under church, Community, Encouragement, Life, Loneliness, Love, Love and Marriage, Singing, Trust

LIFE CHOICES

Funny thing about the choices we make in life. Age, experience and hindsight make it so easy to see that some of them were the wrong choices. I have often wished I could have another go at life and, with the accumulated wisdom and experience I now have, plus a solid dependence upon the indwelling Holy Spirit, make different and better choices. Alas, such a thing is never to be. You and I will have to live with the choices we made and where they have brought us, regrets and all.

If, however, you are young enough to have a good deal of your life ahead of you, you might benefit from some fatherly advice about the choices you will be presented with.

  1. Choose your life’s work based on your talent and passion. God has given you certain abilities. Put them to work in your life. If you choose a career outside of your God-given aptitudes, you risk mediocrity. Passion will drive you to take your lumps, pay your dues and earn your stripes.
  2. Listen to your gut. Believe it or not, your gut knows more than your head. You can rationalize nearly anything but if your gut tells you it is wrong, believe it! Your choice may not be logical but gut feelings are not based on logic and reason. Your gut is much more fundamental. It is based on your whole being. This is not to say that you won’t make some decisions you regret but, for the most part, you will make better ones.
  3. Take the advice of others with a very large grain of salt. They are not you.  They have their own interests, beliefs, passions and agenda which they will happily transfer to (place upon) you. Don’t let others force you into their mold. Listen to them, talk to the Lord about it, but make your decision based on ability, aptitude and, once again, gut.
  4. Marry well. Marriage is a huge and, hopefully, permanent decision. Choose wisely the person you will live with for the rest of your life. Look below the surface (beauty, wealth, etc.) and find the “real person” (integrity, honesty, spirituality, etc.). Later on down the line if you make the wrong choice, you will be miserable. Think you will just divorce? Ask around, divorce is one of the most painful experiences you can go through, especially if children are involved. Become respectful, trusted friends before you marry.
  5. Seek fulfillment, not money. There are plenty of rich people who will confirm all the old sayings about money, love and happiness. To use your God-given abilities to the very best you can is the only true and lasting fulfillment.
  6. Get a clear and accurate understanding of success. When we say someone is “successful” we are usually referring to the money and material they have accumulated. That’s not success! Success is when you fulfill what God created you to be and do. Again, what is your talent? What are your abilities? Have you used them? If so, then you are successful no matter how much money you make.
  7. Be ready to be treated harshly and unfairly. Sorry, that’s the way life is. In the course of your life, you will encounter plenty of difficult and harsh situations. Even some people you have trusted will betray that trust. You will probably have your share of unfair bosses. You may be used, abused, walked on, gossiped and lied about. Don’t be surprised and remember, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
  8. Take joy! In between the difficult episodes, joys will fill the gap – if you let them.  Don’t miss out! Enjoy your spouse, enjoy your kids, enjoy your friends. Count your blessings and be grateful. Dance. Sing. Love.
  9. Cultivate mature friendships. True friends are a rare and valuable.  George Eliot said it so well: “Friendship reaches maturity when there is reciprocity, shared inner life, positive affection and equality.” The benefits of friendships are too numerous to mention. Men need men friends and women need woman friends. Speaking for us blokes, we need other guys who understand prostate difficulties and the many unique challenges of manhood.
  10. Be honestly, relentlessly introspective. If you are in a problem relationship (marriage, business partnership, friendship, team), recognize that in any relationship, the only person you can ultimately change is yourself.
  11. Be nice.  That means be polite, civil, respectful.  Love your neighbor and your enemies because it is the right thing to do and love covers a multitude of offenses.
  12. Don’t be a wimp.  Take chances. Try new things, new experiences (food, music, clothes, books, associations, techniques, strategies – you name it). Dare to fail because failure is the greatest teacher. Better to have tried and failed then not to have tried at all.
  13. On the other hand, don’t be stupid. Watch your money. Choose your friends wisely. Enter partnerships with your eyes wide open. Be loyal and faithful to your spouse. Practice personal purity. Look before you leap. Wear your safety gear.  Practice moderation. Remember what your mama said.
  14. Be part of a fellowship.  We were not meant to go through this life alone. We need God and each other. We need to be aware of each other’s problems, difficulties, trials and tribulations so we can comfort and encourage one another and pray for each other. When life batters you about, who you gonna call? Become part of a fellowship that worships, prays and sings together. If you don’t need others at the moment (I assure you that, in time, you will) they could certainly benefit from your strength.

Now is the time for you, dear reader to add to this list. Whether you are young or old, give us the benefit of your thinking. Between us, we can probably help our fellow-humans, young or old, to choose wisely and well.

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Filed under Adventure, Aging, Blessings, Discernment, Holy Spirit, Infidelity, Life, Love, Love and Marriage, Meaning of Life, Men's Issues, Religion, Suffering, Trust