A SQUARE PEG IN A ROUND HOLE

square peg in a round hole

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Some problems are more easily solved than others, take driving to Disneyland as an example. Even if someone hasn’t been there it seems obvious that there might be more than one way to get there. A mathematical problem is a completely different animal, you miss one step or process and you’re sunk.

Who doesn’t love a good shortcut? Not me that’s for sure. I enjoy streamlining processes, turning tasks or goals into regimented steps to get things done systematically and light years easier.

Sometimes in many processes there are no short-cuts, following the given or natural directions is the only way to complete a task successfully. Some of us catch on quicker than others…

It seems one of the most important keys to unlocking the solution to many of life’s problems a little more quickly and easier is that elusive trait of patience.

I’ve watched small children play with their Fischer-Price type toys, you know the ones that have basic shapes like balls, square blocks, and triangles, made to fit into the corresponding hole in the housing of the toy.

Some kids patiently, methodically work through the process looking and thinking. Other kids insist on forcing that square peg a round hole. That trait follows some of us around for our entire life, but sometimes even the patient and intelligent kids lose patience. The same is true in adults.

Even my wife who generally rolls with the flow loses it sometimes. We found out the last flight we took leaving for spring break was delayed after we were dropped off at the airport. Not surprisingly to was delayed again, add another delay before backing out of the gate and my wife finally said, “Good Grief”! “What’s taking so long”! “Who knows”! I answered with agreeing colorful sarcasm.

When we finally started moving toward the runway we must have taxied for ten minutes. My wife finally hit empty on here patience meter, “ARE WE GONNA DRIVE THIS THING TO CALIFORNIA”?!!! It was hilarious and broke down the tension a bit.

We as Christians, who are held to different laws than the lost world, are often like the stubborn child insisting on forcing the square peg into the round hole of our lives.

We all get difficulties and many of us have our share right now. Even though we have the wisdom to know from past experiences that the tough times usually result in blessings and more wisdom, we fight them like a war and dread them like the plague.

How much time do we spend praying and striving for the tough times to go away? Isn’t that like trying to fit the a square peg into a round hole?

I’ve spent my fair share of time like many of us doing the praying and striving for the weight of difficulty to be lifted from my shoulders. God seems to have made it pretty clear we won’t find the correct answer to this equation by taking any shortcuts. No fancy word prayers or even earnest desire will streamline this process.

It is my opinion that we have the cart ahead of the horse so to speak. God causes or allows all things according to His perfect will. God is in the business of changing hearts and a changed heart is a changed perspective.

Maybe the proper perspective and the key to unlocking the next path of our journey should be to pray and strive to be OK or good despite our difficult times.

It could be the only things holding us back is ourselves, the fear we nurture in our flesh, and impatience with the process…

I can tell you first hand trying to fit our square spirit’s into God’s round shaped spirit holes can get a bit painful. We’ll need to take a step back and take the route God’s leading us in and has shaped for our lives.

For the record, the plane did finally get off the ground…

Just not in our desired time frame…

 

HONEY! HAVE YOU SEEN MY SELF CONTROL?

!have you seen my self control

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There I was, going along, making my way, doing pretty well. I was walking above my flesh for the most part subconsciously thinking, “I guess I’m doing alright, God’s done some pretty good things here.” Then “PRESTO” I go from zero to Floyd in less than 100th of a second.

I didn’t even see it coming! He was back in an instant, almost like he never really left…

We were headed back home after a week out of town on Spring Break. The problem was that so was everyone else in the city and Southwest Airlines had canceled a good portion of their flights due to a maintenance breakdown on a flight the day before.

There were people sitting on the floor everywhere, hardly enough room to even walk through to get to the gate. When we arrived at our gate there were only a couple of seats available and none all together for all of us.

My wife sat in a seat at the end of an isle and my daughter sat on the suitcases next to her as I went off for a bottle of water. I’m not good in crowds…

When I got back to the seat my wife got up and announced her and our daughter were going to get something to eat. As my wife was getting up for me to take her place luggage watching I noticed the guy next to her seat’s foot.

He was a big guy and very tall, his crossed leg was half way to about the center of our seat. It would be difficult if not impossible for me to be able to actually navigate a path into the seat successfully, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself, I never actually got to that part of the thinking process.

I heard a sermon many years ago by Kent Hovind. Hovind used the analogy of a simple nail to represent the weakness in our flesh. A simple nail a carpenter might use to fasten pieces of lumber together.

He pointed out that our life’s like a brand new unblemished shiny nail start the same way, but in a short time nails like our lives can bend. Once a nail is bent, even after meticulous re-straightening it will be prone to bend in the exact same spot when pressure is applied. Just like our weaknesses in life.

I didn’t even realize pressure was being applied to the head of my nail and I was about to lose self control. God either caused or allowed another blow from the mighty unseen spiritual hammer, I bent before I even knew it.

The big guy was bullying or at least being rude and inconsiderate to the people surrounding him, but not his wife, he could have just as easily crossed his other leg in front of her face. Oh No! Not Mr. Tough Rude Guy…

At this point, I’m all human, no Mr. Christian good guy blog writer. He’s gone… The potion had been administered and Dr. Jekyll was nowhere to be found, leaving only wild-eyed, incensed, ready for action Mr. Hyde.

“YOU’LL NEED TO MOVE THAT FOOT”!!!!! I demanded as I started to push it with the outside of my thigh as I was nearing to sit. Mr. Bully Tough guy moved his foot back over his boundary line. I’m not done, the potion is still in full effect. I immediately took the biggest portion of the arm rest between us.

Dear reader and God forgive me, I went back to by gone days and saw the vision in my mind of a violent situation. Then? I reached for my pad of paper to write my Christian blog……….Wow…

The potion or poison did wear off,  although I still believe the man was rude and basically a bully. I can’t remember how many times as a kid my dad made me apologize when I didn’t want to, even when I knew it was the right thing.

There I was now being compelled by my heavenly Father to do the hard thing once again. As we finally got up to stand in the line like cattle I said to my new pal, “If I was rude earlier I’m sorry.” I pause and continued, “I apologize” holding my hand out to shake his. He gave me a good hard grip, I returned it, grinned and walked off…

How many times my nail has bent there is countless…

Only God knows that number…

It’s the same number as the times He’s forgiven me for it…

 

BOB

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Big personalities seem even bigger in small towns, maybe the “big fish in a small pond” analogy has some merit, then again maybe the personalities would be gigantic anywhere. I grew up in a small town and everyone pretty much knew everyone else, but we had ourselves some bigger than life fish.

Of all the local yocal famous folk, there was none bigger than Bob. Bob started catching everyone’s attention even as a kid, I guess he was watcha’ might call a “man-child.” Bob just seemed to be full grown overnight while in early Jr. high and he never had what us regular folk called an awkward phase as a kid.

No Sir, he was just big, fast, quick, and what some of the parents considered handsome, not to mention he had some brains to boot.

In Jr. high while most kids were stuck in class trying to get a passing grade, Bob was paling around with the vice principle in his fancy car traveling over to the high school to arm wrestle the guys on the football team, only thing Bob had to do to keep good grades was just keep winnin’. He never did lose…

Bob use to make extra money by bettin’ kids how far he could ride a wheelie on his bicycle. I saw him ride around the block twice, I swear… I ran beside him to make sure he wasn’t doin’ any cheatin’. This was long before the BMX bikes became what it is these days.

I can’t recall how many bicycle frames Bob snapped jumpin’ over cars, creeks, kids, or anything that struck his fancy. A few years later when people started drivin’ the foreign jobs, Bob would bet people he could pick up the back of em’. Did one while the car was tryin’ to back up…

No one was too surprised when Bob took playing football seriously, after all he had what it took. More than the sport itself, we all knew Bob didn’t mind puttin’ the hurt or a beat down on someone he thought deserved it.

Don’t get me wrong, Bob wasn’t a trouble maker, you might say he was more like a good old fashioned vigilante. If someone was picking on weaker kids or disrespecting friends, Bob never stopped to consider anything other than his own brand of justice.

Those of us who knew Bob well knew that certain smile on his face meant certain pain and damage to someone else…

Bob took that physical dominance with him to the football field. You might say football fit Bob just like a glove, wasn’t too long and he was even more famous in our little town than before. Folks can over look a lot in a small town when they’re football team is winnin’ football games.

Soon even big city folk took notice too, Bob got letters from colleges all over the country. Seems they all wanted that big ole’ frame with his speed, quickness, agility, and skill.

Some things just aren’t meant to be I guess, least that’s what Bob says nowadays. See. A teacher, prone to mistakes like all of us made a couple of em’ that changed the course of his life and Bob’s life forever. The teacher pushed the wrong girl, then with the teachers throat in the big left hand of Bob, he made one last mistake. He hit Bob in the face…

They hauled the teacher off in an ambulance and Bob was kicked out of school, had to go finish the school year in another state. The big city colleges weren’t too interested after that, I guess they figured Bob was one wild bronc they couldn’t bust… They were right…

To hear Bob tell the story at first you might think he’s still wild, he’s not, that’s just passion. He’s got no regrets. Bob says God himself broke him, quieted his soul.

Bob will go on to tell you that everything happens for a reason and he wouldn’t trade his wife, kids, or grandkids for anything, definitely not any amount of fortune nor fame. He says God’s blessed him more than he could have ever imagined.

I talked to Bob just last week, I’ve talked to him quite a bit over the years. The folks who never really knew Bob would never guess how much he’s taught so many. Then again, only a handful of folks outside our home ever really got to know my big brothers, especially Bobby. If I don’t miss my guess, they probably likened Bobby to handling a stick of lit dynamite…

Bobby doesn’t talk like he use to these days, he talks like God really did calm the raging beast inside him. In fact, right before we hung up the phone he said, “I love you brother”…

I said, “I love you too Bobby”…

I guess I’m pretty blessed to have older brothers that give me good reason to look up to them.

Interesting how different the reasons are now than they were then…

 

 

TUGGIN’ ON SUPERMAN’S CAPE

superman's cape

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There are some things in life that you’re just not supposed to do. The list is enormous, but there are some popular “don’t’s” that stand out. We heard them as kids and if a person is lucky enough to get old will probably repeat them.

“Don’t play with fire!” Did anyone, or maybe more accurate a question would be, did any boys ever keep that command? My mom didn’t catch me in the act, but she definitely knew someone had burned our cats whiskers off and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I was the culprit.

We all know the rules, the do’s and don’t’s, but we tend to break them anyway. “No scuffling in the house!”I can’t remember how many stitches I’ve had from breaking that one. “Look both ways before you cross the street!” It took me a while before I started paying attention to that one too.

There were the so many as a kid how could we remember all of them? “Don’t pick your nose!” –  “No double dipping!” Blah-blah-blah…

Jim Croce a popular folk/pop singer from the early seventies even had a song using some popular cultural fictional icons and common sense to make a point in the song, “Don’t Mess Around With Jim.” Here is the chorus, at least the way  I remember it.

“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape

You don’t spit into the wind

You don’t pull the mask off the ole’ Lone Ranger

And you don’t mess around with Jim.”

Point made. Jim was a tough and dangerous guy. Although young, I understood the connection and enjoyed the bit of humor. If Jim was in the same category as Superman and the Lone Ranger, then Jim was one bad dude! I mean, only a fool would tug on Superman’s cape, spit into the wind, or pull the mask of the Lone Ranger!

Some more serious rules were talked about back then as well, namely the Ten Commandments, the Biblical belief or perspective that our country was founded on. I find it interesting that our society now kind of picks and chooses which of the Commandments they agree with for their life. Many of us will justify actions that come in contrast with the Commandments we do agree with.

A society that tries to enforce the rules like the Ten Commandments as rules or laws for life  without acknowledging the sovereignty of the Law Giver perverts the laws. The first four rules or Commandments that our forefathers based our Constitution on are the laws that acknowledge the author of life and all laws- God himself.

The fifth law is more like the first four in that it’s about acknowledging and honoring someone else. In this case, it is our parents who God calls us to honor. Not that all parents deserve honoring but have you witnessed some people who haven’t honored their parents? What do their lives look like? Hummm. Maybe there is something to these laws after all?

The other laws most everyone agrees with, in general are, no murder, no adultery, no stealing, no lying, and no jealousy. The Commandments are obviously given in order of importance. If a person doesn’t think the first 5 have merit, they will certainly struggle with the last 5.

As a reminder to some who think we are evolving and becoming like “gods.” The standard we’re held to was defined by Jesus Christ. He reminded us that if we commit any of these acts in our minds we are guilty as if done in the flesh. With that as the standard of good, we all fall short… No wonder we need a Savior.

Looking back, tuggin’ on Superman’s cape and taking the mask off the ole’ Lone Ranger seems like harmless child’s play compared to mocking The Almighty…

FEAR AND DIFFICULT TIMES

fear and difficult times

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I remember a lot from my childhood, that may or may not be a good thing for you the reader, but it certainly gives me many things to reflect, ponder, and share.

I watched my dad step toward a small group of men working on a tire at a gas station, the tire obviously had the men frustrated. We were stretching our legs as my dad was pumping gas into our car.

“HEY”!!!!! “YOU WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE OVER THERE”!!! My dad yelled startling me and everyone else. The  man who was doing most of the cursing stood there stunned with a tire iron in his hand. My dad left his big index finger at the end of his outstretched arm pointing at the men for a few seconds after he confronted them.

I watched wide-eyed as the men studied my dad… I’m not sure if they realized there were women and children around or if they saw their potentially dangerous future in my dad’s eyes, but they were silent no more cursing.

My sister and I had already heard all the words they were using to express their frustrations, I know my dad probably knew it too, he just couldn’t allow something he considered wrong to go down in his presence without taking action.

I also recall my mom and dad helping others including family, friends, and strangers who were in need financially. This while dealing with their own financial difficulties.

It’s during those tense moments that define a person’s life. Will we keep silent for fear of physical harm even though we know what the right thing to do is? Will fear of not having enough keep us from helping out people who are worse off than us?

I was reminded of these type of things this week. My brother who lives in a different city about 3 hours from where I live is in a city affected even worse from the economic downturn than most. The last statistic I heard was that the particular county where my brother lives is leading the nation in home foreclosures.

We had a piece of equipment that we sold last week for less than half of what it was worth a couple of years ago, but we sold something in a place where to have sold anything could be considered a bonafide miracle.

My brother took his portion and divided it with his youngest son who works with him. That very day a good friend of their family and fellow Christian called my brothers son offering to sell them his very elaborate metal working tools for less than 10 cents on the dollar.

My nephew knew his friend was in a desperate situation. That same nephew and his family who are in their own financial difficulties told his dad he was going to take his portion to his friend. My brother gave him a third of his portion to go with my nephew’s.

When my nephew arrived at his friends house unexpectedly to drop off the money, he found his friend was in such a bind financially the only thing in the house to feed his wife, children, and himself, was baby food…

One of my mom’s famous sayings from our childhood came back to me once again… I heard it in my head like it was yesterday, she’d say, “You can’t out-give God.”

Since all things come from the hand of God, I’d say she’s right. My brother has more than enough reasons to not have shared with his friends, but that’s not the man God made my brother in heart, having been shaped by the hand of God through our parents. Nor is my nephew the man to fear the world when others in his shoes might fall apart like wet kleenex, due to the same shaping of God through his parents.

In this world, there will always be fear and difficult times ahead, but I’m not so sure there will be enough people left like my brother and nephews…

There’s a very good chance the legacy we leave behind won’t be measured by material things, but by the decisions and actions demonstrated during the tough times.

Fear my friends isn’t from God. I’m glad my brother reminded me of that this week…