Financial Slavery

“…Anyone who borrows is a slave to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)

Financial Slavery

I’ve always been rather fanatical about keeping track of our family finances.  We have a detailed monthly budget that we usually stick to.  We update and balance our checkbook regularly—often each day.  We use credit cards, but always pay them off the same day as the purchase.  Yet, twice I’ve had a problem with one store credit card.  Both times I forgot to follow my “pay it off immediately” rule and, for some reason, I never received their emailed monthly statement.  Getting late notices (somehow those managed to reach me) and knowing how our credit score will be affected is driving me crazy.  This store has me at their mercy.

This reminded me of a story I read about a handyman who had been called out to a millionaire’s mansion to refinish the floors.  The rich man’s wife said, “Be especially careful with this dining room table.  It goes back to Louis XVI.  The handyman replied, “That’s nothing.  If I don’t make a payment by next Friday, my whole living room set goes back to the furniture store.”

It’s been said that the average person today drives a bank-finances car, over a bond-financed road, on gasoline they bought with a credit card, to a department store to open another charge account, so they can fill their house that’s mortgaged for thirty years to the bank, with furniture purchased on an installment plan.

People seem to be divided into three categories: the “haves”; the “have-nots”; and the “have-not-paid-for-what-they-haves.”  It’s not wrong to borrow money.  It’s just wrong to put yourself in a position where you cannot repay it.  According to Psalm 37:21, “The wicked borrow and do not repay.” And for New Englanders (and everyone else), that would be “wicked” bad.

 

Use it or lose it!

Good Fruit

 

My nephew owns an apple orchard.  He manages several more.  He also has blueberries and hopes to have peaches and plums.  He’s in the finishing up stage of this year’s crop.  There are certain qualities that make a good apple or any other fruit.  When he grows his fruit, he wants to sell it, so people can eat them.  The fruit isn’t just for show.

Suppose you were to stop at a roadside produce market with your heart set on buying fresh vegetables.  You see homegrown tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and several varieties of peppers.  Just as you start to select your items, the farmer who owns the stand says, “Sorry, this produce isn’t for sale.  I just like to grow it and enjoy looking at it until it rots.  Then I throw it away.”

You probably have never run into that situation (at least I hope not!) and never will, because farmers and customers know that produce is for consuming.  Sure, it’s beautiful to look at, but the purpose is to bring nutrition and health to people.

Our lives are a lot like those vegetables.  There are certain qualities that each of should have love, joy peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness and self-control.  Just like fruit and vegetables, these are not for show.  They are for sharing with others.  Otherwise, they are like fruit that was left to rot or not even grown to begin with.  So, shine yourself up, and give those fruits to others.  They will feed and nourish them and give you the chance to continue to grow and provide more fruit.

22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

23-24 Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified. (Galatians 5:22-24)

Just do it!

 

Just do it!

Have you heard the one about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody?

It seems there was a rather important job that needed doing and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.  Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.  Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job.  Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.  It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

You’ve probably heard this story before.  And, like me, you’ve probably been a part of a similar story as at least one of the characters.  But, the way many of our lives are heading, don’t be like any of these.  Our cities and towns, our nation, the world–are headed in dangerous directions.  Somebody needs to begin to do something.  Anybody can do it.   Everybody knows it needs doing, but nobody seems to be doing anything about it.  Be the one who does it—whatever it is.  It would be  a good start.

When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks.  Just do it – quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes. helps you out (Matthew 6:3-4)

Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t do it are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. (James 1:23-24)

 

So you think you’ve got troubles?

Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. (Isaiah 41:10)

Trouble? Really?

My wife just returned from the hospital to recover from a partial nephrectomy, where they removed part of her kidney to get rid of a cancerous tumor.  She had never stayed at a hospital for any health issue before.  So, after all these years, this initial admission was quite scary.  The fear of what the surgery might find, the actual pain of the surgery itself, her frightening experience with a bad reaction to her meds—were all new experiences to her.

Finally, after 5 days, she was discharged and headed for home-sweet-home.  Except she now discovered what 6-8 weeks of recovery meant.  The limitations included no serious bending or twisting, no lifting anything over 5 pounds and taking a lot of pain meds.  She hates swallowing pills.  It makes her feel like throwing up.  To avoid the nausea, she needs to have food in her stomach.  But it’s hard to put food in her stomach because it makes her feel like throwing up.  Kind of a catch-22.  None of which helps in alleviating her pain.  But she’s always been a tough person and she’ll get past all this—probably much quicker than the projected 6-8 weeks.  Certainly, much quicker than I probably would.

It made me think of the Apostle Paul.  Think of the trials he faced.  First, he was dumped of his donkey and was blind for 3 days.  He was put in prison a number of times,  he was whipped more times than he could remember, he faced death over and over, he received 39 lashes from the Jewish religious leaders 5 times (40 lashes were considered a death sentence), he was beaten with rods 3 times, he was stoned once, he was shipwrecked 3 times, he spent a day and a night in the sea, was in continual danger from rivers, robbers, from his own countrymen and everyone else, he was often weary, in pain, and without sleep. Yet somehow, he managed to write nearly half of the New Testament (13 out of 27), start at least 14 churches and then revisit many of them as they grew.

And sometimes I think I’ve got troubles?  Really?

 

Leave no one left out or left behind

                   (I Thessalonians 5:11)

One of my pet peeves while I was teaching, coaching and leading a youth group was the impatience some kids had with the other members of the groups who weren’t quite as talented, as athletic or as quick to learn something.  It made those kids feel like they had nothing of real value to offer others.

An unknown poet once wrote,

            One song can spark a moment;

One flower can wake a dream

            One tree can start a forest;

One bird can herald spring.

            One smile begins a friendship;

One handclasp lifts a soul.

            One star can guide a ship at sea;

                        One word can frame the goal.

            One vote can change a nation;

                        One sunbeam lights a room.

            One candle wipes out darkness;

                        One laugh can conquer gloom.

            One step can start a journey;

                        One word can start a prayer.

            One hope can raise our spirits;

                        One touch can show you care.

            One voice can speak with wisdom;

                        One heart can know what’s true.

            One life can make a difference;

                        You see…it’s true.

The question we should ask ourselves is, which one are you?

It was the best of times…

You’ve all been to the course and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. (I Corinthians 9:24-25)

 

1979
What’s taking them so long!             
  1983

With apologies to Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times…”

I recently had the pleasure and great honor to have two of my All-State Cross-Country teams inducted into their high school athletic Hall of Fame.

I took even greater pleasure and felt honored by the stories and memories several of them shared with the audience.  To them, running was fun.  It was cathartic. It became an attitude—a way of life.  One they learned from those who ran before them and then passed on to those who followed.

I think the most notable thing during that time of sharing was what I didn’t hear.  They rarely mentioned the meets they won or the championships they earned.  If there was a funny story involved, or a lesson to be learned from a particular race, then it was alright to share it.  Otherwise, the topics ranged from the stories they shared, the friendships formed, the lessons learned and the effect their running experience had on their lives.

These were guys that had married, had children, had furthered their education and worked at a variety of jobs.  But they all started as kids from a little school in north-central Massachusetts.

Narragansett Regional is a small Massachusetts high school with a population of 382 students.  This opposed to, let’s say, Brockton High which checks in with 4,174 students.  The numbers range down from there for all 1,854 schools in Massachusetts.  This gives you some idea of the enormity of their accomplishment.  But we had one “advantage.”  By a special dispensation from the State, 7th and 8th-graders were eligible to try out for the varsity teams.  Imagine the “advantage” that gave us—running 12 and 13-year-olds against teams with 30-40 members, many whom were upper classmen.  Not only that, but our athletes could also choose football, soccer or golf.  It left a small pool of athletes to choose from.

But compete we did.  From 7th grade on.  And each year, we got better.  And soon, the older runners were looking out for the younger.  Members of the same family began to join.  Former runners became coaches.  A tradition was created.  And the expectations began to rise to the point where any loss was considered an insult to the program.

I suppose there was a certain amount of arrogance involved.  But is it arrogance if you really are better than everyone else?  We would always “jog” the course before any meet.  Intimidating?  How about having brutal workouts the day before a meet?  Or climbing Mt. Monadnock twice the day of a meet?  Or running in championship meets with a broken arm or a broken toe?  We worked hard and believed we worked harder than anyone else.  Ergo, we should win.  If we didn’t, it meant that we needed to work harder.  And we did. And, by the way, our girls’ team was right with us each day working just as hard.  We had dozens of trails we named that ranged from ¾ of a mile to 10+ miles.  We ran on trails, on dirt roads, on tar roads, through swamps and rivers, on trails and off trails, up 60-degree inclines and down the same ones.  We ran distance, middle distance and sprints.  We did repeat workout for every distance up to a mile.  And we did it regardless of the weather.  It actually seemed like the meets were our easy days

I know this must sound like all work and no play.  We worked hard and played hard—nearly every day.  Yet, it was fun.  We enjoyed beating on each other and ragging on each other and sometimes even fighting with each other.  But we all had each other’s backs.  We could harass each other, but anyone from the outside did so at their own risk.

Notice I used “we” through most of this writing.  The teams we honored treated me as more than just a coach and I truly appreciated it.  So, they worked their tails off and I went along for the ride.

And what a ride it was!

Heart and Soul

Coach Timing

Whatever turns up, grab it and do it…heartily (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much more laid back and more of a behind the scenes kind of guy.  When I was younger, teaching and coaching, I was just the opposite.  I was excited about what I did and passed that enthusiasm on to my students.  Maybe they didn’t all jump on the bandwagon, but those that did became quite successful at what they did.

Recently, circumstances have placed me in a position where I have been required to make numerous phone calls (which I dislike), chair a 10-person committee (so much for acting behind the scenes) and speak several different times (progress reports to the church body, remembrances at a memorial funeral).  Plus all the prepping that each of these activities required.  And all this in the span of a few overlapping weeks.  Definitely out of my comfort zone!  But, I did each thing to the best of my ability, and now feel that I am a better person for it.

Solomon writes, “Seize life!…Each Day is God’s gift…Whatever turns up, grab it and do it…heartily!  This is your last and only chance at it.”  Professor Howard Hendricks wrote, “Recently I lost one of my best friends, a woman eighty-six years young.  She was the most exciting lay-teacher I’ve ever been exposed to.  The last time I saw her on planet earth was at one of those ‘Christian parties’ where everyone sits on eggshells and tries to look pious.  In she walked, looked at me and said, ‘Well Hendricks, I haven’t seen you for a long time.  Tell me, what are the five best books you’ve read in the last year?’ (That’ll change the group dynamic in  a hurry.)  Her philosophy was, ‘Let’s not bore each other…let’s get into a discussion.  And if we can’t find anything to discuss, then let’s get into an argument.’  She was 83-years-old on her last trip to the Holy Land.  She went with a group of NFL football players.  And one of my most vivid memories is seeing her out in front yelling back to them, ‘Come on, men, let’s get with it!’  Recently she died I her sleep at her daughter’s house.  Her daughter told me that just before she died, she’d written her goals for the next ten years.”

So whether you are nine, nineteen or ninety, whatever turns up, grab it and do it…heartily.  In other words–put your heart and soul into it.

Courtesy of The Word for You Today.