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)

 

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!

Where the Magic Happens

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” (Mark Twain)

Don’t be afraid…just believe. (Mark 5:36)

Magic Dreams
Magic Dreams

For the past month or so, I have been searching for members of two of my former Cross-Country teams.  I probably could have said two of my “old” teams since one was from 1979 and the other from 1983.  Let’s see,..that would make them all in their mid to late 50’s.  How on earth did they get so old!  They could be parents or possibly even grandparents by now!  How they must have changed over the years!

Some I have been able to stay in touch with over the years, but most I have not seen since they graduated from high school.  Each of those teams will be honored by being inducted into the Narragansett Regional Hall of Fame on October 21 in recognition of the All-State Championships that each team won.  While their accomplishment obviously doesn’t measure up in importance to recent hurricanes, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria or to the earthquake in Mexico, it’s still an impressive feat in the local scheme of things.  How many people can claim to have been a part of such an accomplishment.  Today, being the very best at something is often considered too much of a challenge.  We want more teams to feel like they’re the best, so we have leagues, divisions and classes so that a team can win over a smaller selection of teams–teams that may be smaller or less talented than the one, very best team.  We don’t want our children to feel less adequate or less appreciated, so everyone gets a trophy or a ribbon.

The young men (actually, middle-aged men) that will be recognized for their accomplishment really were the best in the entire state.  There were no divisions or classes for those races.  It was simply them against the rest of the state and the state lost.  Was it easy?  Definitely not!  They had to devote time, energy and lots of sweat.  I’m proud of each and every one of them.  And I’m equally proud of all those who, over the years, tried, but never reached that pinnacle of success.  Nevertheless, they made the effort.  they, too, worked hard to the best of their abilities and earned personal success.  I never had the ability to run fast for long distances, but by just being around these hardworking and dedicated young men, I became a better runner and, ultimately a better person.

So, as Mark Twain also said, “Throw off the bowlines.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”  Who knows where your greatest success may lie?

Better With Age

young then old

Once I was young, but now I am old and yet I have never seen God abandon a good man or his children. (Psalm 37:25).

Have you ever noticed that when you get up in the morning or when you go to bed at night you don’t see any difference in what you saw the last time you looked.  Age has a way of sneaking up on you.  One day you’re 20 years old with your whole life ahead of you.  Then, suddenly, you’re beyond middle age and in the twilight of your life.  For those of you who haven’t reached those advanced years, remember, they’re coming faster than you can imagine.  Think of the children you have and how quickly they are growing up.  Think of all the things you’ve always wanted to do, but never seem to have the time to do them.  Since you can’t change the past and have no control over the future, remember to actually live in the present.  You’ll never have another chance to do so.

When I was younger and played basketball, I had a vertical leap of nearly 30 inches.  Now I’m lucky if I can clear a piece of paper…on a good day.  I could eat anything I wanted in any quantity at any time.  Now I eat much less, have to avoid certain foods and shouldn’t eat after 7:00 PM.  When I was a kid, my parents would get after me because when I would go to bed, I would take a flashlight and read under the covers for hours.  Now I almost always fall asleep when I read at night–sometimes with my book still in my hand.  I’ve even been known to fall asleep in the middle of a conversation.  In high school, I could type 67 words per minute.  Now my fingers are lucky if I can get through a sentence without having stop and correct several errors.  (I made six different mistakes in this last sentence.)

When you feel that you’re approaching  the twilight of your life, remember that twilight occurs not just as the sun is setting, but also when it rises in the morning.  Looking back at your life is okay, but looking ahead is what will keep you young.  Rise to meet it with a smile and a spring in your step, ready face the world and what it has for you that day.

Just some thoughts on getting older….

“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be again.”  Eleanor Roosevelt.

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.”  Abraham Lincoln

“Any one who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”  Henry Ford

“Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been.”  Mark Twain

So appreciate where you are in life, make each day count, keep learning and do it all with a smile on your face.  Not only will your life be more fulfilling, but so will the lives of those around you.