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The story is told of ancient times when a very unhappy man is a carrier of water. Each day he would make the trip to the community well and fill large clay pots with water. He tied the jars to a long pole and placed the pole across his shoulders. He would then carry the jars filled with water back to his master’s house. He despised his job and wanted very much to make a change. However his master did not allow him to change and therefore he continued to make the trip two times each day to gather water for the household. He was very unhappy and his disposition carried over to everything he did. He eventually realized that while he could not change his job, his job did not determine who he was as a person. He had no control over the job the master gave him, only how he would perform it.
One day a fellow traveler motioned for him to stop. The carrier of water lifted his water-filled jars over his head and rested them on the ground.. The man said he had wondered about something for a long time. “it has to do with the clay pots,” the man said. “One jar is perfect in every way. It has no cracks, chips…the lid fits tightly. It is free from any blemish. Not a drop of water is lost from this jar. But the other jar has cracks and chips everywhere and the lid wobbles terribly. Water spills from this jar. The jar has to be half empty by the time you reach your destination. Why don’t you replace it with another jar? A new one, one more efficient!”
Looking back at the path he had just traveled, the carrier of water smiled and said with great delight, “Look my friend…..you tell me. On which side of the road do the flowers grow?
Reverend Wendell E. Metty, retired pastor, has seized upon this story and written a book titled, “On Which Side of the Road Do the Flowers Grow?” The book traces the lives of several people and the stories of their life as Dr. Metty illustrates the flowers produced in their lives. A wonderful read for self-help, recreational reading or as a devotion. Available on Kindle and hard copy.
My friend, Jon Paul Kirkham, recently returned from his 10th trip to Cuba. He started this process before Cuba was friendly to outsiders, especially Americans. His mission is to share the Gospel of Christ with people who don’t know Him. Does that sound like a novel idea? Ironically, I have another friend who told me, “I no longer call myself an Evangelical.” How can two individuals professing to be Christians, who have regular attendance in church, appear almost diametrically in opposition to each other?
The world has become a banner of disrepute. Evangelism and “sharing your faith” has become disfigured by political pundits, muddled by protestors from the left and right, and brought into dishonor by self-proclaimed spokespeople who excuse inappropriate behavior and language as the necessary price for political power.
He, Jesus, told us that we are like branches and He is the vine. He promises that if we remain in Him, like a healthy branch well connected to a vine, we will bear much fruit. Imagine that—branches overflowing with clusters of grapes. What an image. He continues with this promise: “Come harvest time, the vine and the branches will both share in fullness of joy…..and My joy will be in you and your joy will be made complete.”
Upon Jon Paul’s return from his numerous trips, there is a glow about him and a pure delight of life. A stream of satisfaction, that we all dream of having, is flowing from his very being. This type of “sharing” has shifted, and many evangelicals and believers wonder where they fit. Consequently, they remain silent about their faith. The second friend who is/was an evangelical says he feels a bit embarrassed and he has chosen to avoid the term and even the identity of being a Christian. He is not alone. The term and behavior associated with “sharing the gospel” is deeply emotional. Consequently, large number of Christians have gone silent.
Anyone who has ever gone on a spiritual retreat has experienced the joy that comes from such an activity. God’s Joy is our Joy!! Remember what Christ said to His disciples? Paraphrased: “you are going to be like sheep hanging out with wolves.” I can identify with this. “Many people are going to reject you.” Been rejected! You think the disciples were reluctant and filled with fear? I would have been. I remember my first retreat with a group of teenagers who said before we left: “do we have to go?” “this is not going to be fun,” “boring.” Upon our return from the retreat as we pulled into the school parking lot it was different from their initial sendoff. Instead, they were singing praise songs with gusto. A common comment from parents of these young people was “what did you do while you were gone?’ “ I have never seen my child so happy and joyful!” “Come harvest time the branches and the vine will both share in fullness of joy.”
At this time of year when colleges and secondary schools are having their commencement programs I would echo the words of Francis of Assisi when he said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words.” Whatever you do stay connected to the vine.
The British relay team had worked diligently honing their skills for the 2012 summer Olympics.
The four members of the team were considered some of the fastest in the world. One aspect of the relay race, the passing of the baton, had been rehearsed and rehearsed. The criticalness of the ‘pass’ could not be over emphasized. In the relay race one runner comes to the end of his/her ‘leg’ of the race and begins to run tandem with the next runner for a period of time until the baton has been passed.
It was with great anticipation as the stadium spectators stood to their feet to view this very exciting event. At the end of the first ‘leg’, there was a gasping of breath and the onlookers could not believe what had happened. The first runner failed to make a smooth transfer of the baton to the runner. The baton had been dropped and the team lost valuable time resulting in their failure to finish in a winning position. I use this illustration as a means of emphasizing what I consider to be a dropping of the baton when it comes to our society of millenniums (ages 30 and below).
In our society there are two curricula; a formal curriculum usually taught in school and a second informal curriculum taught at home. In a genderless society both parents must carry the baton, however, traditionally MOM carried the baton with the hidden curriculum. It was mom who reminded us of the basics, put your napkin in your lap, sit up straight, get your elbows off the table, don’t play with your food, don’t interrupt when someone is talking, wait to eat until everyone is seated, and so on. The big one was, wait to start eating until everyone has been seated. It’s mom who, more often than not, is the enforcer. The one who can control the situation with that ‘look.’ But most importantly it is the positive example she sets for her children that makes the difference. It is the same stuff she learned from her mother and her mother from her mother.
Our freedom seems to impede our baton passing. What ever happened to those ‘lady’ lessons that all young girls learned? Use proper table manners, sit up straight, grace with style, gentle, community minded, honest, nurturers, and my favorite, being a good cook.
When the race of those teen years is over what will your children be doing? They will be doing the things you have taught them. When they step on that college campus or in the world of work it will be the core values, i.e baton, you have taught that will guide them.
Mom, Dad, I encourage you to have a family meeting and make a list of all the things you do in your daily lives that represent social etiquette, respect and responsibility. Some will be best taught with Dad carrying the Baton. Some will be best taught with Mom carrying the baton. In any case they are the values you want your children to possess when they leave your home. Remember, the four R’s of a happy home. Rules and Regulations without Relationships lead to Rebellion. Don’t drop the baton. If the baton has been dropped, pick it up.
The garden spot was adjacent to our house and lay waiting for the magical moment when planting would start. My dad had made it clear we would begin the process on “Good Friday.” “Why Good Friday, Dad?” His reply was less than scientific and not filled with agricultural insight. “ We’ve always done it that way.” Besides, “the nights are warmer after Easter and the seeds come up quicker.” Therefore, in my bare feet holding a cloth pouch which mother had sewn and filled with seeds she had saved from the previous year’s harvest, I set about following the rows Dad had laid out by dropping the seeds at a prescribed distance, albeit …a half stride or a full stride apart. After the seeds were in place I mastered a technique whereby I could walk down the row with a foot on each side and push the dirt over the seed. It was the original ‘boot scoot and boogie.’
As a young boy I enjoyed playing in the freshly-plowed ground. You worked hard and you waited. I can vividly remember examining the plants as they brought fourth the beginnings of vegetables. Then we would wait some more. Not everything we plant comes to fruition on our timetable. And then there is the possibility, for unknown reasons, the plants don’t grow, the tomatoes don’t produce, the broccoli flowered and failed, the corn had beautiful stalks with no corn. All of these events happened and we could not do anything about it. Nature teaches us many lessons and sometimes the most valuable one is patience.
More current is the fact Ruby arrived at out house after her extended trip to South America. She left last October after storing up for the long flight. I find it interesting her global positioning system (GPS) guides her over the long trip while I get lost in Atlanta. It is probably because Ruby’s GPS was given to her by God and mine was given to me by the Ford Motor Company. Equally as significant as Ruby the humming bird’s arrival is the activity surrounding the recent bird house I placed in the backyard.
The birdhouse was primarily ornamental and was attached with a small chain and hung from a limb. It moved with the wind and at times turned complete circles. But there he was…..a beautiful blue bird sitting for a long period observing the bird house. Finally, he decided to enter the house. I waited anxiously to see if he could still fly after being in the house with its movement. But exit he did and departed. Didn’t expect to see him again. Not only did he return but he brought his wife who after careful observation entered the house. After her tour I was expecting the crew from “fixer uppers” to arrive, but apparently she decided to take it “as is.”
A flurry of activity surrounded the bird house with the two birds, who marry for life, busy carrying straw and other items constructing a nest that a graduate of Georgia Tech would be proud to claim. In short order mother was staying home and the incubation process began. Dad sat outside on guard and occasionally changed places with the expecting mother while she took a break.
God did it again it’s Spring.
I sat with amusement listening as the Superintendent of Schools presented his rationale for changing the opening time of school from 7:45a.m to 8:30 a.m. “The students are coming to school tired and lacking of sleep.” He reinforced his argument by quoting several articles which supported his argument to change the time of school opening. I had to pinch myself to be sure I was fully ‘awake’ and hearing the argument correctly.
How vivid is my memory when young boys and girls were awakened ‘by the rooster’s crow’ to tend to the farm animals and other chores on the farm before catching that early morning bus for the 8:00 opening of school. The same work habits were repeated in the afternoon. If perchance you played sports and had after school practice the entire process was extended into the late afternoon. Could it be the current generation is suffering from the lack of sleep because they are not going to bed early enough. Duh!! Or, could it be they are addicted and can’t go to sleep because they need a fix?
It is alarming when I read the growing number of youth and adults who are suffering from a obsessive compulsive disorder to the stand point of becoming addicted. A decade after smart-phones were introduced into our lives, research suggests our digital habits are triggering behavioral addictions in 40% of digital users. Digital addiction is no different from other types of addiction in that it scratches a psychological itch. It is an action you return to in the short term that you enjoy and strongly want, but diminishes your long-term well-being.
All of us have seen the full blown version of digital addiction. The constant e-mail checker who can’t engage with their family over a meal, the video game fanatic who mostly stops eating and sleeping to play for days at a time, and the constant ‘staying in touch’ provided by the Iphone crowd. The ultimate is the family or couple who go to a restaurant and never speak but spend their time on the Iphone.
Wanting feedback is what gets some people hooked. Psychologically we feel a ‘high’ when someone is interested in something we have said. Unlike heroin addicts who avoid drugs to stay clean, digital addicts can’t fully escape a wired world.
My advice to the Superintendent who wanted to start school later, at the next PTA meeting or school gathering let parents take a pledge to place all Iphones, Ipads and similar devices on the kitchen table before going to bed. Create sacred parts of the day that are screen free—start with dinnertime and expand from there. Your goal is to reach a point where you will not be craving a “digital fix.’ This is an addiction with far reaching ramifications and must be stopped
The World Wide Webb and its instant library, WEB MD and the monthly accounting of abnormalities that impact us, coupled with my love of research has made me a shade tree guru of geriatrics. Frequently I am asked if I am a medical doctor to which I reply ‘no’ . I quickly remember my mother after attending my graduation where I received my doctorate, being asked, “what kind of doctor is he?” to which she replied, “he is one that doesn’t do anything.” This being said, I find myself making inferences and observations without adequate information and even prescribing …….. However……….
It is my observation that a strange phenomenon occurs to most married couples that I have labeled ‘the wall.’ Somewhere between the child’s first tooth and the youngest daughter’s graduation they lose each other. It is like a tangled ball of string with stubborn knots. There is a slow unraveling.
Sometimes the wife lays awake at night trying to figure out who she is while the husband lays beside her snoring like a hibernating bear completely oblivious the winter of their lives is approaching. Slowly, the wall between them rises, cemented by the mortar of indifference.
Rapidly the couple try to find themselves. The wife enrolls in a course of her liking and the husband begins to have meetings with the ‘fellows.’ Inside, each is complaining about the insensitivity of the other. Each has begun to climb inside a ‘tomb’ and love begins to die.
When love dies, it is not in a moment of angry battle, nor when fiery bodies lose their heat. It lies exhausted at the bottom of a wall it could not scale.
A man was walking in a wilderness. He became lost and was unable to find his way out. Another man met him. “Sir, I am lost, can you show me the way out of this wilderness?” “No said the stranger, “I cannot show you the way out of the wilderness, but maybe if If walk with you, we can find it together.”
Recently I met a lady I had not seen in many years. Her immediate response to me was, “you haven’t changed a bit. You look just like you did the last time I saw you.” Thinking silently, I said to myself, “she has a severe problem with her eyesight!” I am old and I have numerous wrinkles on my face. However, my observation of my friend was quite different. She did not have a wrinkle on her forehead or other parts of her face. In fact she looked as if her ‘ponytail’ was too tight. I thought she looked considerably better before the obvious facelift.
In my youth, I recall the conversations of people my current age. These conversations revolved around ‘aches’ and ‘pains’ or what medications they were taking. I can vividly remember declaring that I would not go down the same conversational path. This path is a tough one not to enter. It is fraught with danger to your well being. Let me explain.
My thoughts came as a result of my background in psychology but more readily from a daily devotion as I was reading Psalm 92:14, ….”they will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh….”
As often as I can I visit my 92 year old brother who is in an independent living facility. The residents run the gamut with their daily attitudes. Many are negative and grouchy and you can become tired just being in their presence. There is another attitude within the same group that is characterized by aliveness, smiles, engaging. You immediately become energized by their presence. From these two illustrations, I readily promote an attitude of positiveness to eliminate wrinkles.
The same Psalm previously quoted also says……’proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night……..” A wonderful approach for the aging. It goes like this: I proclaim and declare I will not say anything negative today about anyone. Begin each day with this plan of action and at evening prior to going to bed review your thoughts and plan for the next day. Don’t become a recluse, stay active. Don’t shun trips, gatherings or places that you feel are for ‘older’ people. Don’t deny your age.
It is wonderful to be young, with
clear sight, acute hearing, elastic
step, pulses drumming to the march
of exhilarating health. But old age
has glories that youth cannot know. It
is a blessed old age indeed if it ends
brightly at evening time.