One day, while sitting by a brook, a shepherd noticed a steady trickle of water hitting a rock. It was only a drip, but it was constant – drop after drop after drop. The man observed something incredible: A hole had been carved out by that steady drip of water. He wondered how that could be. He concluded: If something as soft as water can carve a hole in solid rock, how much more so can the Word of God – which is hard as iron – make an indelible impression on my heart.
That marked a turning point in this indentured shepherd’s life who did not even have his own flock. Though at the age of 40 he was still illiterate, he committed himself to studying the Word of God, and went on to become one of the greatest scholars of his generation. He worked hard at what he wanted to learn. He was consistent at it and as a result people from all over came to him for answers.
Sometimes we look at people who are good and know a lot about their field. They are good at what they do; they seem to naturally flow with it and we wish we could be and do the same. It is easy at these time to forget that knowledge is not transferred to our brains with a flash drive, it is learned unit by unit; that efficiency is not passed on by downloading an upgrade, it is drilled exercise by exercise.
At drill last Wednesday Mark kept saying, “We learn for knowledge and drill for efficiency!” There is really no other way to develop a well of knowledge than by going through facts unit by unit. Sometime it may feel like drops of waters working away at a stone, but our shepherd rightly acquiesced with the Word of God that “Water wears away stones” (Job 14:19).
As it is with skills, it is with virtue. We cannot expect to be the people that we need to be just because of one repentant prayer. It takes the daily practice and drill of making the sometimes hard but right decision with every situation we meet. Then it becomes second nature to do and think what is right.
So when we see people who seem to have a good handle on either skill of virtue,we must remember that it is mostly though the daily dripping of learning for knowledge and drilling for efficiency. The great pianist Paderewski was once asked how come he could play so fluidly. He said, “Like anyone else, I practice seven hours a day! If I miss one day, I know it. If I miss two days, my friends know it. If I miss three days, the world knows it.”
Two weeks ago I went to the drill at the Clackamas training center by 130th and 112th. It was a cool breezy evening. Night fell as firefighters practiced their skills.
The exercise was to ventilate a burning building by cutting openings on the roof. Trying to keep their balance on the sloped surface, one by one the firefighters took turn at the chain saw. The biggest problem was the sawdust which kept causing them to slip. The solution was to have one, two, even sometimes three other firefighters behind for safety.
I found this exercise quite interesting.
The main job was to cut an opening with a chainsaw on a sloped surface. It looked dangerous. Slipping and falling while operating a chainsaw could have devastating results. I saw firefighters losing balance several times. Each time they were rescued by the crewmates behind them. In order to do this cutting, the “cutter” had to completely trust his crewmates. It is this trust that allowed him to let go of trying to keep balance and do his job.
It made me think about many things in life. Sometimes we try to do things on our own and we find ourselves slipping on a dangerous slope resulting in life changing errors of judgement causing injuries, hurt, and pain which could have been avoided had we engaged the help and support of others.
Working with, though, or even under the covering of others, be it technical, legal, spiritual, or emotional, has its benefits. It helps us not have to carry the whole load by ourselves. With the cover, vetting, and support of those around us, we have the assurance that someone ‘has our back’, and we can do our job more effectively.
“HELP! I’M UNDER ATTACK!”
I saw an article this week on Facebook where someone was complaining of being under attack. It did not specifically say so, but the idea seemed to be that the person in question was under spiritual attack from demonic forces. In that person’s mind, her projects were so important that the cosmic forces of evil were out to get her and that’s why she had all the trouble she had.
I do not doubt the reality of forces of evil being at work in our world, but what I have noticed is that we do not need them in order to make a mess of our lives. I have, in fact, made the great cosmic discovery that we are often our own worst enemy; and that with friends like ourselves, who needs enemies?
At the end of the day, most of the time (and I did not say 'all the time’), a house burns down because of unattended fire; illnesses are often the results of unhealthy lifestyles, and financial problems are due to unrealistic handling of money. Our problems with relatives, neighbours, and collègues are also often due to our lack of wisdom or even worst, to our vindictive, vengeful, and selfish attitudes. Everything could change or be different were it for a little more carefulness, healthy habits, austerity, kindness and being less self-centered. As long as we blame external circumstances, we will never find solutions. I think this principle works from the individual up to every institution of life, even government doesn’t go anywhere as long as they blame the other side.
Not only that, but to think that the forces of evil are out to get us attributes an undue sense of importance which ot only feeds our natural pride, but keeps us from looking the problem in the face and finding solutions .After all, “It's not my fault”; “The devil made me do it!” In both cases we absolve ourselves of responsibility thus continuing the vicious cycle of denial through blame.
Maybe realising mistakes are never free but that their fixing always involve some sort of fee somewhere either by us or someone else would help us to live more consciously. Another thing I found out is that many mistakes can be avoided if we stop being so proud and enroll the help of others. Like they say, “Two are better than one!”
This was the question a friend of mine was asked this week. For lack of better terms, social media is “flooded” with “fiery” observations and comments concerning the non-stop onslaught of disasters about whether this is some like of ‘judgement”. Whether they are human caused or as Insurance companies call them, “Acts of God” is clearer for some than for others. I have always wondered about Insurance companies suddenly acknowledging God at such times. Is this a way to tell us, “Look, we don’t have to pay; it’s not our fault; it’s God’s fault; ask Him for restitution of property!”
Going over the unbridled comments on FB, one things seems to be sure, that it is at such a time people do stop looking down at their digital devices and start wanting to take a look inside themselves as well as up! While the social media rhetorical venum is already toxic when observations are mixed with the already acrimonious politics of the day, it is fatal when it is mixed with religion. A sad state of affair where instead of joining the ranks of the brave dedicated people who fight the waters and the flames, they sit home placing blame at the other denomination, or political party, and/or God.
While my wife and I were on the road this summer, we dodged a very bad hail event that could have destroyed our car, much of our equipment and put an end to our tour. With one less vehicle, it would have also rearranged our lives and finances for the worst. We decided to leave the freeway at the last minute just because my wife was hungry. Then while at the restaurant, we get a weather alert of hail as big as softballs right in the direction we were going, at the time we would have been there. As we passed by later, we saw about 25 cars with shattered windshields, and two overturned semis. In the middle of summer, they were cleaning the roads with snow-plows. We felt very honored to have been spared and thank God for it. But my wife kept asking the question, “Why? These people also have lives to get to. They have families; children; jobs; financial issues. There are also in the mix people who do well by God. So why were we spared?”
These are valid questions. Some try to simplify the answers by saying that God spares people because their job for Him is important; that He loves them; or they are part of the right political party and/or religious affiliation. They feel that God favors them because of a certain sense of righteousness that they have. These are very dangerous conclusions because it implies personal goodness while deducing that others are villains. As we do that, we lose the sense of compassion to help others feeling that they get their just dessert, but we indulge ourselves in the delusion that we are sort of righteous chosen ones while the others are bad. These are erroneous conclusions that are against many biblical injunctions.Why God does things, we are not able to always tell, but it is not our job to tell anyways. We’re We say don’t get a say in it. Our job is to come to the rescue of those around us who need help. "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Mat 7:1-2)
I have travelled all around the word and lived with people of many different colors, religion, and political views. I do not think that we have within us the ability to rightly discern who is just and who is unjust; who is punished for sin or who like righteous Job is being tested. We certainly can’t define it by people’s religions or politics. I have witnessed with my own eyes the words of Jesus, the only wise judge who knows the depth of the heart of man, He who judges true righteous judgments, not by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, (Is 11:3); discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12); and who says that His Father makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Mat 5:45).
I guess this could be a part 2 from the previous article, “Curse not the deaf!”
All week we have been following the devastations of Hurricane Harvey. It is all the more strange for us because it will be hitting near some of the areas of the Southeast where my wife and I were last month.
Thursday night the news related of someone known as Jim McIngvale, or, Mattress Mack who opened the doors of his 160.000 square foot Gallery Furniture showroom as a shelter for the Houston flood victims. “These are my people; black, white, brown, white it doesn’t matter; these are my people and I’ve got to help my people!” he says.The call of the people having lost everything made him do this, he declared.
It was not the first time for Jim. Hurricane Katrina was also a time when the call to help overwhelmed him. “That’s who I am!” he says, “That’s what me and my wife try to teach our children: service above self!”
This is what he teaches his children, but what I found the most amazing is that when the journalist interviewing him commented, “I get the feeling that you don’t say ‘no’ very often!”, Jim answered, “My father never could say, “no! I don’t either!”’”
Apart from pointing out the beautiful fathers-to-sons heritage of compassion brought out in the story, it came to me that there is One in Heaven that many of us call “Father”, and He doesn’t say “No” to anyone. Should we?
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