Fighting – Finishing – Faith

When you pick someone to fight, be careful about the illusion of outward appearance that can be deceiving. Nobody except God would have picked the little shepherd boy David to fight a nine-foot tall Philistine Goliath. (Tweet this) What you see on the outside doesn’t always measure what is on the inside! An old adage says “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog!”

Let me give you some modern examples of effective fighters:

A Brazilian mugger recently attempted to rob a woman. She appeared to be an easy target. Little did he know that she was a mixed martial arts champion. Monique Bastos, 23, is a professional MMA fighter. She knocked the man to the ground and wrapped her legs around his neck in a “lion killer choke” until police arrived. It was videoed by an onlooker. The mugger picked the wrong woman to deal with!

A great American fighter died in 2015. His name was Ben Kuroki. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Ben wanted to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Force. He was rejected by recruiters – they doubted his loyalties since he was the son of an immigrant Japanese farmer.

Ben drove 150 miles to another Army recruiter who signed him up. He had to endure a lot of doubts and racial slurs, but once people began to see his skills, they made him a B-24 tail gunner. Despite the policy that people of Japanese descent could not serve aboard bombers, Ben flew missions over North Africa. The rule was superseded because of his superb talents. He said, “For the first time I belong.”

He also went on missions in northern Europe and took part in raids over Nazi oil fields in Romania. 310 fliers in his group were killed. When he finished 25 missions, the policy was to let people go home. Kuroki insisted on flying more raids “to prove my loyalty.” By outward appearances, he was considered “ineligible.” But inwardly he made a difference in American history. His crew mates nicknamed him “Most Honorable Son.” In 2005, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. At the ceremony, he said, “I had to fight for the right to fight for my own country, and now I feel vindication.”

Another Japanese American who fought a different kind of fight is my friend Rev. Ben Sawada. He was constantly fighting against Satan who seeks to destroy – Ben always won! He grew up in Mobile, Alabama and entered the Methodist ministry. He had to endure the same kind of doubts and racial slurs that all Japanese Americans endured during the 1950s and 1960s. Ben is one of the finest Methodist ministers I’ve ever known. I’ve spoken at a lot of churches where he has served, and he is always referred to as one of the most beloved pastors of that church.

Ben Sawada has a keen sense of humor. He once was invited to speak at a banquet that drew people from several states. A high ranking Methodist was also at the head table and just assumed Ben couldn’t speak English. He made such statements as “like-ee tea or like-ee coffee? Like-ee food?” Ben said nothing. After Ben gave a stirring speech using impeccable English, he sat down, and the man and his table mate were embarrassed and astonished. Ben, in his inimitable way, looked at him, smiled and said, “Like-ee speech?”

Whether you are fighting giants, muggers, American enemies, or Satan’s forces – don’t judge an effective fighter by an outward appearance. Be sure you are wearing the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18). Be like Paul who finished his career saying “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7-8).

Are you ready to fight, finish, and keep the faith?

Perseverance Pays Off!

Adrianne Haslet-Davis was one of the spectators at the 2013 Boston Marathon when she experienced the explosions ripping through the crowd.  She lost the lower part of her left leg.  While recovering, she set a goal to run the Boston Marathon someday.

This year, 2016, she did just that.  She is 35 years old and had to stop at the seventh mile for an hour because her stump began to swell up, causing problems for her prosthetic running leg.  She kept thinking, “I can’t pull out.”  She knew she had to finish.  She gave a lot of credit to her “pit crew” on whom she leaned in order to experience the emotional finish.  She said, “If you put your mind to something, you can get there.”  That’s perseverance!  No quit in Adrianne!

Ingeborg Sylim-Rapoport was a student in Nazi Germany.  She was not allowed to complete her doctorate because her mother was Jewish.  Getting that PhD was a dream she had. 

She was 102 years old last year when she got a second chance of finishing her education at the University of Hamburg.  The university officials heard about her case on her 100th birthday.  This is 80 years after she had written her thesis on Diphtheria.  She successfully took her final oral exam and graduated magna cum laude!  At 102 years old – she never quit.  She accomplished her goal, and she did it in fine order!  That’s perseverance!

Micah McDade was born with cerebral palsy and has been confined to wheelchairs his entire life.  His goal was to receive his diploma standing on his feet.  He went through two grueling years of physical therapy, conducted largely in secret.  Micah’s big day came when he made his way across the stage at his graduation from Okmulgee High School in Oklahoma in June 2016.  He shocked his fellow students and parents by slowly rising from his wheelchair and taking his first steps.  Everyone at the graduation ceremony erupted with applause.  The announcer said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have been doing this a long time, but this is the best ever!”

Michael Valudreuil had a plastering business that went out of business eight years ago.  He got a job as a college custodian cleaning classrooms at Massachusetts Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  WPI employees could take classes free.  He started studying engineering.  He worked his classes and his studying around his custodial job.  In June 2016 he graduated with a mechanical engineering degree. 

His accomplishment made national news, and job offers started pouring in.  He has accepted an engineering position at a Connecticut aerospace firm.  Michael didn’t quit, and his degree and his job are value rewards for his perseverance.

How many times do you think Adrianne, Ingeborg, Micah and Michael thought about quitting?  They went through a lot of tough times, but quitting did not seem to be an option for any of them.  They endured and persevered and continued until they finished!

Winston Churchill, speaking at Harrow School, his alma mater, said, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in!”  Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in quitting; the most certain way to succeed is always to try one more time.”  I remember my Dad saying, “It’s always better to have one simple goal and complete it than to have a big goal and never get around to finishing it.” 

We are reminded in Hebrews 12:1 to run our race with perseverance and never give up.  Paul said that good works always produce a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:9). 

Perseverance pays off!

How Do You Look at Things?

What do we see when we look at things?  We can see the best in that situation, or we can see the worst.  I believe my attitude toward the situation is more important than the reality of the situation itself.  (Tweet this)

There is a story of the seven-year old boy who was getting ready for the Little League baseball season.  He had his uniform, his baseball cap and bat and ball.  He decided to practice a little bit in the back yard. 

His daddy heard him saying to himself, “I’m the greatest homerun hitter that ever was.”  He then tossed the ball in the air, swung his bat wildly and missed.  The boy called out, “Strike one!”  That didn’t seem to faze him.  He picked up the ball again and boasted, “I’m the greatest homerun hitter in the world.”  He took another swing and missed again.  “Strike two!” he cried out.  At this point, he paused and examined his bat very carefully.  He readjusted his stance and a third time he threw the ball into the air saying, “I’m the greatest homerun hitter that ever lived!”  He swung again and missed a third time.

The little fellow cried out, “Strike three!”  Rather than feel defeated, he saw the best in that situation.  His daddy smiled when he heard him say – “What a pitcher!  I’m the greatest pitcher that ever lived!” 

What we see in a situation is our choice.  It was reported that Oliver Wendell Holmes once attended a meeting in which he was the shortest man present.  A man quipped, “Doctor Holmes, I should think you’d feel rather small among us big fellows.”  Holmes replied, “I do.  I feel like a dime among a lot of pennies.”

The best attitude is to look for the best in every situation.  There’s a story about a two-engine train that was traveling across America.  When it came to the Western mountains, one of the engines broke down.  One of the engineers said, “No problem.  We can make it to Denver and get a replacement engine there.”  They carried on at half-power.  A little later the other engine broke down, and the train came to a stand-still in the middle of nowhere. 

The passengers were somewhat confused and scared.  The engineer needed to address the situation.  He had a great attitude and made the following announcement – “Ladies and gentlemen, I have bad news and good news.  The bad news is that both engines have failed.  We will be stuck here for some time until the replacement engines arrive.  The good news is that you weren’t making this trip in an airplane!”

Jesus always saw the best in every situation.  When other people saw problems, He saw possibilities.  When an important citizen, Jairus, wanted Jesus to look after his very ill daughter, everybody looked at the situation and saw the very worst.  The child was dead.  It was a hopeless case.   Jesus looked at the same situation and saw the possibility of a young girl who could be alive.  The people laughed at Him, but He took her hand and said, “Get up.  The girl is not dead.  She is just asleep.”  The girl got up.  She started playing.  Jesus told them to give her something to eat.  Read Luke 8:40-56. 

Try practicing each day looking for the best in every situation you encounter.  Remember – all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).  God loves to help us change our attitude.  A Godly attitude will help create Awesomeness, Accountability, Availability, Authenticity, Authority, Action, Acceptance and Altitude.  In the school of life, a Godly attitude gets an A+!!

How do you look at things? 

Are We Drifting?

When I was about seven years old, I remember going out on a private pier at Perdido Bay.  A friend, about my age, and his father pulled up to the pier in a small motor boat.  The father told his son to hold the boat to the pier while he went to run a brief errand.  My friend and I were talking, and he let go of the pier and the boat started drifting away from the pier.  I couldn’t reach the boat, and my friend couldn’t reach the pier.  The boat continued to drift.  He didn’t know how to crank the motor, so I watched him drift helplessly out into the bay.

This could to be a picture of where America is today.  God has safely brought us to this point in history where we have enjoyed unbelievable successes.  He has told us to hold on to what is secure and safe, and we will be able to continue the journey He has for us.  Unfortunately, we have let go of the pier and begun drifting.

Here are some 2016 examples of how we as a nation could be drifting.  When I finished college, the polls showed that the number of non-religious people in the United States was just over 3.5 million.  Today the number is 50 million people!  The number of atheists in the U.S. has quadrupled in the past few years!  Are we drifting?

Ruth Provencal has worked five elections in Derry, New Hampshire.  She was recently ordered to stay home by county officials for saying, “God bless you” to voters.  Ruth had made a habit of saying, “Thank you for voting, God bless you” as voters left the polls.  County officials said using the word God violated the state’s ban on electioneering.  Are we drifting?

A 33-year veteran of the Air Force was forcibly removed from a retirement ceremony because he invoked God in a speech.  Are we drifting? 

Monifa Sterling is a U.S. Marine who is appealing her court-martial for refusing to remove a Bible verse from her desk.  She had the verse “No weapon formed against me shall prosper” taped to her desk.  Her supervisors deemed it to be “contrary to good order” because the work place must remain free of “divisive or contentious issues” such as politics and religion.  Are we drifting?

A group of students at the University of California at Irvine voted to remove the American flag from a campus building to avoid “triggering” students who see the flag as a symbol of American “colonialism and imperialism.”  The student group argued that displaying the flag was a form of “hate speech.”  Are we drifting?

The Brookings Institute monitors Twitter.  They have ranked the top nations in the world which make posts on Twitter in support of ISIS.  The United States is ranked fourth.  That’s right – fourth in the number of tweets in support of ISIS!  Only Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq ranked ahead of us.  Are we drifting?

In April security guards ordered 50 middle school students from North Carolina to stop singing the National Anthem at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City because it was considered a public demonstration.  Their teacher, Martha Brown, said it was their way of showing respect.  Are we drifting?

There is an answer to drifting!!  I remember that day on the pier when the father returned and saw the boat drifting.  He dove into the water and swam out to the boat, and rescued it and put it back on its correct course. 

My Heavenly Father wants to rescue us!  His greatest desire is to come to us where we are drifting, provide everything that is necessary for us to get back on the right track, and take us where He wants us to go!  Drifting stops when we accept His intervention!  My Heavenly Father is ready to swim!

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and I will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).

Let’s Get It Right!

Should we say “Under God” in our Pledge and should our coins bear the motto “In God We Trust?”  That is an ongoing legal, philosophic and religious debate.

Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow entered three law suits arguing that God should be removed from the Pledge and the coins.  He says the phrase alienates non-religious people in the United States.

An initial ruling in 2002 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Newdow.  Years later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed its decision and said that the phrase “under God” can remain in the Pledge of Allegiance because the phrase is religious but does not represent a prayer.  A similar ruling was issued about “In God We Trust” being our motto on our currency because it said the use of “God” is ceremonial and patriotic, but not religious. 

I am glad the Court reversed itself, but I regret it was done for the reasons stated.  I hope God never just becomes a patriotic or ceremonial term.  That has never been the case in the history of mankind, and specifically in the history of the United States.

The prophet Amos wrote, “For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: ‘Seek Me and live’” (Amos 5:4). The psalmist David wrote, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).                                                            

The first pilgrims made it clear that the colonies were being established “to the glory of God.”  The framers of our Constitution recognized the role of God in our independence.  Benjamin Franklin said, “The longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”  Thomas Jefferson said, “The liberties of a nation are secure only when there is a firm conviction in the minds of her people that these liberties are the gift of God.”

That doesn’t sound like God was being used as ceremonial or patriotic.

The Preamble to the Constitution of each of the fifty states contains some reference to God.  Forty states specifically call Him God, while the other ten refer to Supreme Ruler, Creator, Supreme Being, etc.

This debate was pretty hot at the beginning of this century.  A lot of that quickly changed when 9/11 occurred.  I understand that congressmen and government leaders on 9/12/01 quit debating about the use of God in public settings – they joined hands on the Capitol steps and started praying and singing “God Bless America.”  Baseball stadiums dropped the traditional 7th Inning “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and replaced it with “God Bless America.”

It is amazing to me that we even debate this issue.  We are here because of the goodness and grace of God.  We will survive and prosper only as we accept God’s grace and goodness and live appropriately.

When Francis Scott Key penned our National Anthem, he ended the first verse with a question, “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”  I believe that is a legitimate question to ask today.

Most people don’t know that there are other verses to the National Anthem.  Most people think the next verse is “Play ball!” 

The last verse ends with these words – “Then conquer we must / when our cause it is just / And this be our motto: ‘In God We Trust’.”  The verse ends, not with a question but a statement.  When we know what our motto is – “In God We Trust” – the future is not a question.  That verse ends with the affirmation “And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave / o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

Francis Scott Key got it right!  The Bible got it right!  Our forefathers got it right!  Isn’t it time we get it right?

The Good Life

Do you want more of God’s kindness and peace? Do you want to know God better? Do you want to be open to His power which gives many rich and wonderful blessings that He has promised? These are all questions that Peter asks in 2 Peter 1:2-7.

It all begins with faith. Faith is when we receive the gift of God’s grace and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord. Years ago someone shared with me an acronym of faith as Forsaking All I Take Him. That’s faith.

Peter reminds us that faith is the beginning, but not the end. Some people view faith as an insurance policy or ticket to heaven, but hope that it doesn’t interfere with their present lives. Faith is the beginning that leads to the life of peace and blessings and the gifts of God. Peter then lists four steps to what he calls “the good life.”

Step 1. “To obtain the gifts of God, you need more than faith – you must work hard to be good” (2 Pet. 1:5).

I’ve been around people who say they are Christians but are not very good people. Their faith hasn’t filtered down to their language, or attitudes, or pocketbook, or motives. I don’t think that’s real faith, because faith expresses itself in being a good person.

Step 2. “We should learn to know God better and discover what He wants us to do” (2 Pet. 1:5).

James reminds us that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Faith puts us in such a position that God’s gifts become evident as we use them to serve Him. The big struggle in life is determining whether we are doing what we want to do or doing what He wants us to do.

God has given each of us a gift. Many people are too often recruited to serve at church just to fill a slot. They feel guilty if they say no, so they try to serve in an area in which they are not gifted. That can end in frustration and burn out. People who know their spiritual gifts, and then deploy them in His service, discover the greatest joy there is in life. Jesus said, “When you lose your life in My service, you find Life” (Mat. 10:25).

Step 3. “Become patient and Godly, gladly letting God have His way with you” (2 Pet. 1:6).

Being patient means we are on God’s timetable and not ours. It means we don’t put a period where God puts a comma. Patience is not a weak term, but a strong term, because it requires us to allow God to be in charge of our motives and actions (Tweet this). The word patient is followed by the word Godly which means that we do things the way God would do them.

Peter says “gladly.” I’m afraid a lot of times in life we only reluctantly let God have His way with us. We even complain about it at times. When we submit to Him gladly, we open up the possibilities of what God can do through us.

Step 4. “Enjoy other people and like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply” (2 Pet. 1:7).

This means that we have to learn to relate to people. We have to communicate. We can’t harbor prejudice. We first begin to like people, then we can grow to love them. Read Matthew 22:37.

Peter then gives a warning –“Whoever fails to go after these additions to faith is blind indeed – or at least very short-sighted.” God has given us faith so that we “can live a strong, good life for the Lord” (2 Pet. 1:9).

The Good Life is a gift provided for us through faith and our works that are a result of that faith!

Retirement or Transition

The United Methodist Church has a mandatory retirement age for pastors.  The age was 70 when I had to retire eight years ago.  They have now moved the age to 72.  My brother George Mathison will be retiring this June from the Auburn United Methodist Church where he has served for 26 years.  In talking with him and others, I have been re-addressing some thoughts on retirement.  Retirement can be good or bad.

The word “retirement” does not occur in the Bible.  If retirement is viewed as a time when you quit working, then you will be in trouble.  People who are accustomed to working, then retire and go home and “sit down” often don’t live very long. 

Retirement creates many changes in lifestyle.  One wife defined retirement as “twice as much husband on half as much money!”  Someone told about his grandfather who for forty years put in long hours on his job.  He was curious about how his grandfather was filling his days since his retirement.  The grandson asked, “How has life changed?”  His granddad was a man of few words, but replied, “Well, I get up in the morning with nothing to do, then I go to bed at night with it half done.”

There’s a term being used today called “phased retirement.”  Instead of “cold turkey” withdrawal from the workplace, many people are negotiating work arrangements that include fewer hours, special projects, time flexibility, and the ability to work at home.  People who continue working seem to do much better emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Nearly half of human resource professionals surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management said that “workers are being offered reduced hours or part-time positions.”  CNBC.com reports that 37% of middle income Americans making between $25,000-$100,000 say they expect to stay on the job until they die.  A study conducted by Wells Fargo indicates that 34% say they expect to work until they are at least 80 years old.  This is up from 25% in 2011. 

Anthony Mancinelli has been cutting hair since he was 12 years old, and he has no plans to retire 93 years later!  He has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the planet’s oldest barber.  Recently he celebrated his 105th birthday in New Windsor, New York.  He is a beloved fixture at the town’s Fantastic Cuts salon.  He still drives to work, cuts his own hair, and works five days a week.  Mancinelli said, “I don’t get tired.  I’m going to keep working.”  His 79-year old son, Robert, says his father is a force of nature, admitting, “He’s in better shape than I am.”

Chester Arthur Reed retired recently at 95.  He ended his career without taking a single sick day!  He attributed his ability to work every day to a diet of watermelon, alkaline water and an onion sandwich with mayonnaise.

People ask me, “Are you retired?”  I’m not an expert in etymology, but the word “retired” could be “re-tired.”  That would mean that you are tired again.  Placing “re” in front of a word means that something is considered again, such as revisit, renegotiate, renew, retrace, rehydrate, etc.  I think the word “tired” with “re” in front of it means we need to be active enough with something to make us a bit tired. 

Instead of the word “retirement,” I suggest we replace it with the word “transition.”  Retirement is not an end, but a transition.  I believe that “transition people” are one of the greatest assets to the Church today.  They have more experience, time, resources, wisdom, etc. that God can use.

I never dreamed that transition could be as fulfilling as I am experiencing it.  I know my brother George will experience the same thing.  The transition is from one place that God has been using him to another place where God will use him in a bigger way!

Land Mines

Matt Bell lives in Arkansas and was working on a construction job.  He thought he found a solid-metal 32-pound cannon ball and loaded it up in his pickup truck and drove 65 miles to meet with a historian to figure out exactly what he had discovered.  He was advised that he was holding a live, 150-year old pressure-activated land mine.  Bell immediately called 911, and an active bomb squad evacuated his neighborhood and blew up the device at a nearby land fill.

What he thought was a harmless souvenir turned out to be a potential instrument of death.  When he discovered what it was, he did the right thing – he called for help and the land mine was defused.  Land mines are a constant threat to our military as they serve in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.  They are very well concealed and contribute to a lot of deaths and injury to American soldiers.  Land mines are dangerous.

The land mines that we confront in life may be hidden and look harmless, but they are dangerous.  May I suggest a few land mines, and if any of these are in your possession – call God – Psalm 55:16 “I call upon God and God will save me.”

  • Marijuana.  So much has been written praising the good things about Marijuana, but extensive studies also show there can be tremendous damage.  Studies show that college students are smoking less tobacco but more marijuana which is known as a gateway drug.  Even though it has been legalized in more and more states, the long-term ill effects of marijuana are still not known, but I have a hunch they will be bad.  This is a land mine.  If you are fooling with marijuana, call Psalm 55:16.
  • Road Rage.  With more and more traffic on the road and more pressure opportunities, it creates road rage.  I was going south on I-85 in Montgomery about 4:45 pm on Friday afternoon, May 6, and I arrived a few minutes later at a road rage situation where gun shots were fired.  That’s here in Montgomery.  I also went through Union Springs on a Saturday afternoon a couple of months ago, and road rage led a high school student to take the life of a father of small children.  Road rage is a landmine.  Call Psalm 55:16.
  • Anger.  So many people today don’t know how to handle anger.  Remember, anger is just one letter short of danger.  It can lead us to say things and do things we never thought of doing.  Many words are said that we wish we could take back.  Anger creates marital conflict.  One man said, “My anger is just my cross to bear.”  A friend responded, “It’s your family’s cross to bear.  It’s your problem that needs to be dealt with!”  It is a land mine.  Call Psalm 55:16.
  • Distractions.  It’s easy to be driving and engaged with some kind of device that distracts our attention.  We all think the distraction is not serious.  I have a few friends who are no longer alive because of distractions while driving a vehicle.  Distractions are also dangerous while walking.  Device distractions are a land mine.  Call Psalm 55:16.
  • Alcohol.  Alcohol consumption continues to grow around the world.  Most auto accident deaths are alcohol-related.   It’s often considered a harmless drug and should pose no danger.  The problem is that most people who begin to consume alcohol tend to consume more and more of it.  The biggest problem I’ve encountered with people abusing alcohol is the person who has the problem doesn’t recognize it is a problem.  Family members and friends do, but the user doesn’t.  It is a land mine – Call Psalm 55:16.
  • Temptations.  Temptations are a part of life.  When a married partner innocently spends time sharing with someone other than a spouse, this is seldom considered dangerous but that’s where “affairs” usually start.  Temptation is a land mine.  Call Psalm 55:16.

The list could go on and on.  Add to these with your own list.  Matt Bell was lucky to drive 65 miles with a 32-pound land mine in his pickup.  Don’t count on luck – call Psalm 55:16 and blow up the land mine in your life.

 

Complaining Is A Choice

A dangerous trend I see in society today is the quick response to complain about things.  We have more at our disposal today to make life as easy and fulfilling as any time in history – yet our response is to complain.

One example is airline travel.  The Associated Press reported that travel complaints about air lines jumped 34% in 2015.  It is the highest level since the year 2000.  This comes despite the fact that data shows more flights arrived on time and fewer bags were lost, according to an annual airline quality report.  More on-time flights and fewer bags lost – yet 34% more complaining!  We have a choice in every situation in life – we can respond with a grateful heart for what we have, or we can complain about what we don’t have.

I remember a cute story about a man who entered a monastery of silence.  He was told he could only speak two words every ten years.

When he had finished his first ten years, he was brought before an inquiry committee, and they said, “You have two words, what are they?”  He simply said, “Hard beds.”  He went back to the monastery.  Ten years later, he came before the inquiry committee, and they told him to speak his two words.  He said, “Bad food.”   He went back to the monastery.  At the end of the next ten years, he came before the inquiry committee.  When they gave him the privilege of saying his two words, he said, “I quit.”  The committee immediately responded, “We think that is a good thing.  All you’ve done since you’ve been here is complain, complain, complain!!!”

Sam Matthews shared a story about an elderly woman who had always wanted to take an airplane trip but never had the opportunity.  She constantly expressed her desire, so her family presented her with an airline ticket on her birthday.  She would fly to a city where some friends lived for a short visit.  It was a dream come true!

On the day of the flight, she boarded the plane with great excitement and anticipation.  After she had arranged her bags and packages and settled in, she realized the upholstery on her seat was stained.  Complaining, she picked up everything and moved to another seat.  Again she arranged her packages and bags, but she discovered she was sitting in front of a crying child, so she complained and changed seats again.  Just as she got settled in for the third time, she discovered that the sun made her new window seat too hot.  As she got up to shift seats again, the flight attendant announced that the passengers should fasten their seat belts to prepare for landing.  This elderly lady who had dreamed of flying on an airplane, sat in disbelief and remarked, “If I had known that the trip was so short, I wouldn’t have spent so much time complaining.”

The trip of life is short.  Don’t spend time complaining.  Benjamin Franklin said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do.”  Someone quipped, “When complaining that things ain’t what they used to be, don’t forget to begin with yourself.”

We choose to complain or compliment.  It takes little aptitude to complain – it takes a healthy attitude to compliment – but the consequences are amazing! (Tweet this)

Paul writes, “Do everything without complaining and arguing” (Phil. 2:14).  Jude writes, “The people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their own desires” (Jude 1:16).  In the Bible there is a connection between the fact that when the people complained, the Lord was displeased, as in Numbers 11:1 and 17:5, Deut. 1:34, John 6:43, and many others.

Life situations can become stumbling blocks or stepping stones.  William Ward said, “You can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them.”   What’s your choice?

Remember! Remember!

In 1863 some women in Columbus, Mississippi went out to the local cemetery to place flowers on the graves of the Confederate soldiers.  They noticed a section of the cemetery had graves for Union soldiers.  They placed flowers on those graves also.  They honored the dead soldiers and offered prayers for the families.

A couple of years later, Henry C. Welles in Waterloo, New York, closed his drug store on May the 5th and invited the entire community to honor the soldiers who had given their lives.  They also placed flowers on graves and flew the flag at half-staff.   Many communities participated.  This was first known as Decoration Day.  At the end of World War I, the memorial emphasis was shifted to people who had given their lives in all American wars.  In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a National Holiday by an Act of Congress.

Memorial Day is designated to recognize those who have paid the supreme price in their military service.  It is not just a legal holiday where people enjoy family outings and barbeque bashes – it’s a day to remember.  Remembering is something many of us are not very good at doing.  It takes no effort to forget – it takes a lot of energy to remember (Tweet this). 

For many years, Frank Harrington served as senior minister of the Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.  He once told about a friend who was traveling in England.  His car broke down, and while he was waiting for the car to be repaired, he decided to walk around the small town.

In the corner of an old and quaint cemetery, he noticed a stone wall.  In that enclosed area were 50 graves of young men between the ages of 17 and 25.  The men were from New Zealand, and they had died in that village during World War I.  At the entrance to the area was a marker with this inscription – “We shall never forget in this village their sacrifice.”  This triggered the imagination of the visitor, so he wanted to find out what these young men had done.  He walked around the village seeking an explanation for their valiant service.  Nobody knew!  When he asked, all the villagers looked at him with quizzical expressions on their faces.  The village – which had promised to remember – had forgotten. 

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses talks a lot about all the blessings of God.  He tells about how we drink from wells we did not dig and eat fruit from trees we did not plant.  Then comes a stern warning – “Be careful lest we forget” (Deut. 6:11-12).

The 2016 graduating class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point will be given graduation rings.  Each ring will contain small amounts of steel from the World Trade Center.  It will be a graphic, constant reminder to them of the 9/11 terror attack on this country.   The ring will help them remember.

Freedom isn’t free.  We stand on the shoulders of over 1.1 million people who have given their lives for our freedom.  While today we see many people in this country who do not honor our history and our flag, that does not take away from the honor and sacrifice of people who gave their lives.  No greater sacrifice has been given for us than for those brave men and women, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, who have paid the ultimate price with their lives.  Celebrate Memorial Day for its real meaning.

2 Peter 1:12, 15 says, “I plan to keep on reminding you of these things even though you already know them and are really getting along quite well . . . hoping to impress them so clearly upon you that you will remember them long after I have gone.”

Remember – remember – remember this Memorial Day.