I live outside of Estacada, OR. Near my kitchen there is a door that overlooks in a wild area that is only populated with young trees, blackberry bushes, and all kinds of other greeneries.
On Tuesday night, before going to bed around midnight, I looked outside the window of that door to check if it was snowing when from within the bush I saw a light like those from a cell phone. “Someone is out there!” I thought. The light kept going on, then off; and off, and on again. I do watch TV crime shows and heard of several break-ins in the area. It was getting scary. I do have a BB gun on that porch and a conceal-carry license.
I kept watching till I saw a big shadowy 4-legged thing moving in the bushes alongside a 2-legged one. I really was wondering…! It is then that as the two shadows came out of the bushes I saw that it was our neighbor taking her anatolian shepherd dog to relieve itself from the discomfort of an over-full bladder.
The next morning I was texting her about the last night’s adventures, and this is how the conversation went:
--You scared the heeby-jeebies out of me last night.
--Haha, Shomer (that is the name of the anatolian shepherd) had to pee!
--Especially when I saw a four-legged creature accompanied with a person in a ski-mask, I thought it might be a robber or that the FBI had finally caught up with me
--I braced myself expecting to see assault weapons (you know with the news these days …)
–-Then I saw that it was only you and Shomer guarding the place.
She then said,
--- I should be thankful you didn’t shoot me first!
To which I replied,
–- I learned to stop, look, and listen, before shooting!
--Did you learn the hard way?
--Yes but not with guns, thankfully, but with my mouth and actions.
--Ah yes. Deep!
It is a deep, but yes, a simple lesson. I was talking to a friend this week who was wondering if the devil was responsible for the bad things that happened to him. I told him that the devil doesn't have to hardly do anything to mess up our lives. We are entirely capable to do that by our own selves as we act irrationally, omitting to take the time to stop, look, and listen before we do and say things.
I personally learned, (and am still learning sometimes) that it takes less long to take the time to stop, look, and listen before doing or saying something than to clean up the mess when we don’t!
Grigory Rodchenkov who was once the mind behind the elaborate doping program that helped Russia cheat in the Olympics was recently interviewed. He revealed that the competing Olympians of some twenty plus countries regularly use chemical stimulants to improve their performance. The more questions the journalist asked, the wider the problem seemed, until hefinally asked, “Will the Olympic Games ever be clean?”
In his slightly broken English, the Russian official answered, “You could believe, but in fact, it’s human nature; it’s our sins; it’s got nothing to do with sports. There are 10% or 15% who are incorrigible. You can do nothing. They are cheaters by their very nature!.”
I do not know the religious background of this man but he identified a few words of the reason for the problems of the planet.
Not only in sports, but from banks who profited on housing loans causing the recent recession to the politicians who played the system to finance luxurious vacations at our expense; from businessman who pay themselves 300 times more than their employee while refusing to hire help for their overworked workers because of the “cost”, to false advertisement, scams, hackers and ID thieves, it is all the same. We are dealing with sinful human nature with a percentage of people who are incorrigible.
It is easy to blame people’s behaviors on race, religion, or culture. We even sometimes blame it on the circumstances of their youth but the truth really is that we are all created equal. If one is bad, all are bad and if one is good all are good. The whole idea is that whether we believe in God or not, we all have within ourselves the potential to do good, and the equal potential to do evil. What we do with the responsibility of that awesome choice is ours and our Russian official acknowledged that a certain percentage of people in the world seemed to have made the decision to misbehave by acting selfishly and dishonestly. I think that sticks the blame right where it belongs: with us: the universal person.
Of all the creatures on the earth, we seem to be the one with the greatest ability to lead our lives through choice instead of by instinct. I saw a little illustration once. It represented the bust of a person with a small devil on one side of his shoulder and and a little angel on the other. Both were having a tug-of-war through the person’s ears thus illustrating that they both had influence on him. The tie would only be broken by the person’s choice. The flame of conscience within us can prevent us from doing the bad thing and even push us toward more unselfish choices. Ultimately, can we really blame our environment for the evil that we do? The choices really belong to us.
I was listening to one of these talk shows on radio where people ask advice on marriage and everyday life. It was in 2001 and this man was asking advice on how to tell his wife that he wanted to enlist for a tour of duty in Iraq. The talk show host is herself very military minded and has children who are enlisted, but she asked the man, –“Is it something that your wife and you talked about before you decided to get married?”And then she continued –“I want a man who is home at night for dinner so I made sure not to marry a surgeon. Has your wife agreed to marry a soldier who might or might not come back from the front lines?”
When people get married they enter a contract with each other. This is actually the whole idea of marriage. It is good to once in a while review this contract and what it says. It might even be a good Valentine’s Day project to take account of how we faithfully (or unfaithfully) execute the promises of our marriage vows. Please, note that I said, to review our part of the contract not assessing our spouse’s, but how WE personally are doing. Did we say, “For richer or poorer”? Or, “”In sickness and in health?”, or even “I promise to be there for you to cherish and care for you all the days of my life till death do us part?”
In the ancient world, contracts were written on a soft piece of clay later hardened in an oven. If one of the parties disobeyed the terms of the contract, the other had the option to take that piece of clay and break it as a sign that since the contract was broken, it was annulled. That’s why Moses broke the Tables of the Commandments. He didn’t go into a fit of rage; he just broke the contract God had made with Israel because Israel broke it through the making of the Golden Calf. Of course, the other party also has the option to forgive, which is what God eventually did in the case of Israel.
Once a contract is made, it cannot be altered without a nullification of the former one. This is true of all legal contracts from marriage to business associations. If conditions change, we need to sit-down and re-write a new contract. Our word is only as good as we are faithful to execute the terms of what we promise. It seems a small thing today to not abide by our word but in business, marriage, or a court of law, it has wide ramifications. It was part of the 10 Commandments to not break vows (Exodus 20: 7), and Jesus said that it is better not to make vows than to make on and break it! (Mat 5:33--37).
A good resource that I use for marriage counseling whenever I officiate a wedding:
This week I read about Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean who fled his country. He was raised in an orphanage where he saw many children die of hunger. One day, he tried to steal a few pieces of coal from a train’s cargo in hope of selling them or exchanging them for something to eat. Starving, he fell asleep on the rails exhausted from the weight of his sack He woke up as the train hit. “Surgeons amputated his left leg above the knee, and his left hand at the wrist. There was no anaesthetic. No blood transfusion. No painkillers.The doctor slapped him to keep him conscious every time he started to pass out. He still remembers the sound of the saw, cutting through his leg bone.” The article says.
He continued his miserable life without limbs but not without hope. In 2006, hobbling almost 10,000 kilometres on crutches that his father made for him he escaped North Korea, through China and South-East Asia to freedom. “The dogs of China ate better than my family in N.Korea!” he noticed. He did escape and now lives in South Korea as an activist to help rescue other defectors, especially crippled ones. This week he was invited at the State of the Union presidential speech.
As the President addressed him, Ji Seong-ho brandished the old crutches that dragged him through 10.000 kilometers to freedom. Though he now has prosthetic legs, he kept these crutches. “To me it symbolises that you can achieve anything if you do not give up,” he said. (Click HERE for full story).
Those crutches have become a symbol for this man, a remembrance of where he came from in case he should get complacent and whine about his lot in life. Not only should this story put our daily life complaints in perspective, but it should also challenge the many excuses we indulge in for not doing what we know we should be doing with our families, our community, with our lives. If any one had excuses to just roll over and die, he did. What’s ours?
If you appreciate these articles, support their upcoming publication in a book called, "REFLECTIONS OF A FIRE CHAPLAIN"