Saturday, July 29, 2017

How to Win a Lifetime Achievement Award

HOW to WIN a 


You are probably familiar with the Olympic games which take place every four years. You may even know about the famous Boston Marathon, but did you know Marathon was the name of an ancient Greek village?

Greece once consisted of small provinces. Legend has it that after the people of East Attica defeated the Persians in 490 B.C., a messenger ran twenty-six miles from the town of Marathon to Athens to report the victory.

No wonder "marathon" became a word associated with an endurance race. Have you ever seen hundreds of marathon runners line up at a starting line? To me it looks crowded and confusing. But at the starting signal, the crowd always spreads out. All are headed for the same goal, but each runner hits his own stride. The goal is so far away as to be unseen, but it's pulsating in every heart.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is known for its listing of spiritual pilgrims and patriarchs. Each is an example of a lifetime marathon completed by faith. We are following in their footsteps.

The Apostle Paul understood that it's easy to get weary and lose heart, but he had a solution. Instead of focusing on self, or the people around you, Paul advised that we focus on Jesus. He's the "author and finisher of our faith" who empowers us all the way (Hebrews 12:2, NKJV).

What better example of enduring to the end could there be? Paul said Jesus fought through pain and shame while coming to the end of His earthly life. In spite of great opposition from non-believers, He remained focused on one thing . . . the joy ahead of Him in the presence of God (Hebrews 12:2-3, NKJV).

The goal of a marathon is to run the distance. At the finish line, the timing of arrivals is quite varied. But even the last man in is congratulated for not being a quitter.  

How can you win your spiritual Lifetime Achievement Award? Paul gave some practical advice in Hebrews 12:1-3. This is how I think of it:

  • Look to Jesus, who is with you from start to finish, supplying faith for the race
  • Throw aside unnecessary things that drag you away from your spiritual goal
  • Eliminate sin that cleverly entangles you and impedes your progress
  • Knowing the race is long and challenging, remain steady to the end
  • When weary, remember Jesus' example of perseverance in spite of opposition
  • Like Jesus, focus on the joy you also will experience in the presence of God

How many people do you know who have completed their earthly marathon and are awaiting their spiritual Lifetime Achievement Award? I know many, and I'll bet you do, too. So, let's take further advice from the Apostle Paul and "not grow weary" while running this race, for we shall win if we "do not lose heart" (Galatians 6:9 NKJV).


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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Who Needs a Flashlight?


The other night, during a storm, we had a power outage. What we needed was a flashlight, but the big one we counted on didn't work. We had a problem, but we didn't give up. Further searching produced four more of various sizes.

We stood in the dark trying them out. Two of the four were useless. Though large, they had no energy left to shine. We were relieved when the two smaller ones flashed right on.

What Size Is Best?
In the dark, a flashlight of any size is useful. Have you seen those key ring flashlights? Small as they are they can pierce the darkness enough to let you accomplish one important task, entering your home or car.

I was once given a small thin flashlight. Only two inches long, it would have fit on my key ring. But I choose to keep it handy to check our furnace settings at night.

When you're in the dark, it's disappointing to find dead batteries and no light. Instead of taking our flashlights for granted, we should have made sure they were powered up before they were needed. The old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is still true.

I've yet to be in deep darkness as described by Eugene H. Peterson in The Message. "Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness." God said, "Let there be light," and His power changed things for the better (Genesis 1:2, 1:3).

Jesus was also interested in light. He said His followers are lights in the world because they do good works (Matthew 5:14,16 NIV). President George Bush, the younger, considered such "points of light" important in meeting the country's needs.

Amazing Power
I always find it interesting that batteries work when a negative and positive charge come together. In the same way, it takes a lot of positives within us to meet a world full of negatives. Bad attitudes and wrong actions are negatives in any society. But when positive attitudes and helpful actions rise up to meet them, light is produced that makes a difference. 

Who needs a flashlight? People with problems in a dark place. What size do they need? Any size that is ready to shine. So . . . be ready. Your light, big or small, can make a difference.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Shelf Life Awareness


When shopping for groceries, do you consider the dating on canned goods and frozen food? I do. Sometimes I hit a good bargain and buy more items than I can quickly use, but I keep an eye on things. People wiser than me have dated the product to be used at its best.

I once knew a lady who stockpiled food. Perhaps you're thinking smart lady. Yes, she was . . . but storing and not using created some problems. After she died, her heirs were stuck with an abundance of bulging cans and food with freezer burn.

Actions Vs. Good Intentions
College roommates will tell you I hated throwing food away. Little leftover containers were filled with my good intentions and stuck in the refrigerator, only to be forgotten. Soon my roommates were asking, "What are you going to do with your biology garden?"

In spite of my desire not to waste food, my lack of action did just that. I'd open a container and see green mold or dark fuzzy crystals. Sometimes it even smelled bad. I got rid of it as fast as I could.

We all knew I'd have leftovers again, but I had made our lives much better by dealing with annoying items.

What's in Your Cupboard?
Let's say each life includes a Character Cupboard. It's filled with good things like honesty, generosity and determination. Also stored are emotions like joy, peace and love. Life is good.

What brings things to a halt, or at least slows us down, is when items get stuck in the back of the cupboard. Forgotten and out of sight, they turn rancid and sour. For example, love turns to hate, joy to sorrow and kindness to jealousy. Hope becomes disappointment and peace becomes anger.

Now and then someone pushes into our emotional cupboard and produces a bulging or rusted can. We would love to avoid cleaning out the offending product, but we can't. Others are waiting to see what we do.

Let's Get Real
One particular valid emotion comes stamped with a short shelf life . . . anger. Ephesians 4:26 says, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry."

Leave anger canned too long and it may explode, spewing out insults, bitterness and accusations. Who wants to be hit by the ugly contents of that emotional outburst? Not me. I much prefer people who are "slow to anger and abounding in love" (Psalm 86:15).

Anger is real. We don't have to pretend it's not. Anger toward injustice can even motivate us to do good. But it also comes in less appealing varieties such as wrath, exasperation, fury or indignation.

It's Personal
The sun comes and goes, and so should our anger. But we can avoid wasting energy on any negative emotions. Once aware of them, just give them a short shelf life. Don't let them sit in your character cupboard until they explode.

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

What's It Like To be a Writer?


The life of a writer is many things, but four words immediately come to mind: 
  • Challenging
  • Lonely
  • Creative
  • Satisfying
Here's an example of challenging. I was given the opportunity to write "a short poem about writing." Poems don't come easily to me, but I started on "A Writer's Challenge." 

I drafted four versions before I settled on one. Then I did several rewrites by email as I worked with the person who had given me the assignment. Sometimes revision was simply exchanging one word for a more expressive one. Here is the result:

By Darlis Sailors
Thoughts are great, but can't be shared
Till captured as words on a page.
We write and rewrite; we rephrase a phrase;
We read and reread as we edit.
It's work to compose from the inside out,
But our minds will not rest till we're done.
*Oregon Christian Writers, June e-news, 2017

I was not aiming for rhyme, but rhythm. Clap your hands as you read it aloud and you'll see how "done" gives a sense of finality. Writing is like developing a baby in utero. There must come a day when the baby is born and the job is complete.

Writing is different because I'm not working with a peer group like I did in other jobs. I miss that, and it's one reason I consider writing a lonely business. On the other hand, I don't have to get dressed and go off to work. I can go to my desk and write in pj's or casual clothes day or night.

In my opinion, opportunities to be creative far outweigh being alone to get the job done. I've always enjoyed writing encouraging notes, letters and emails, but writing has many genres. My short stories are inspirational, but they are also memoir in the form of creative non-fiction. Children's stories are where I create fictional characters and settings to get a point across.

Though writing may be challenging, lonely and creative, it is also very satisfying. I came across a verse the other day that explains my heart for writing: "Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you (write) will do good to those who (read it)" (Ephesians 4:29, Good News Version).

I like being a writer. Thank you for being a reader. Though not face to face, we are doing life together. That's what makes putting words on a page worth the effort.

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Modern Samaritans


There's nothing like a good story to get a point across. Aesop taught some moral lessons with talking animals. His fables are still relevant.

Jesus knew how to teach with a good story, too. We call them parables, and perhaps the most famous is "The Good Samaritan" (Luke 10:30-37). You've probably seen hospitals by that name, or perhaps you've heard of Samaritan's Purse. Each was so named for good reasons.

The story of The Good Samaritan begins as a spiritual discussion and ends with an earthly application. It's about a man in need and the opportunity of passersby to help him. Three travelers illustrate human attitudes.

Personal Choices
Two of them were religious men. They saw a needy man, but he was from an unpopular neighboring country. Their prejudice outweighed their compassion. On that basis they chose to pass him by and continue with their own agendas.

The third traveler might have been a businessman. He understood the value of money to help people. He was even willing to be billed for future expenses. But the real key to his actions is in five small words. When the Samaritan saw the wounded man, Jesus said, "He took pity on him" (Luke 10:33). 

Pity can sometimes imply contempt. That's when the person in need is seen as being weak or inferior. But the King James Version of the Bible says the Samaritan felt "compassion."

What Are You Feeling?
Whether pity or compassion, it means feeling for another's troubles or suffering. In fact, it may even motivate people to help without being asked. Voluntary help . . . does that ring a bell? Compassion has founded some wonderful charities that thrive on volunteers. The Salvation Army, Red Cross, Make-A-Wish Foundation and Angel Tree are just a few out of thousands.

Compassion does not originate in religion or duty. It's an inward moving of our spirit to care about hurting people.

In Jesus' story, three men were headed toward their goals for the day. None were looking for projects or needs to take up their time. The religious men remained focused and avoided any involvement. The businessman, who knew time was money, shared both. He voluntarily went out of his way to give assistance.

Let's Get Personal
Compassionate giving funds a lot of charitable organizations. But there's plenty of room for personal involvement, too. Has anything moved you with enough compassion to make a difference?

I have never forgotten the story of a compassionate preschooler. A little boy was crying uncontrollably on his first day in preschool. One little girl observed him, then walked over to her cubby and brought him her blanket. Compassion has no age limit.

As modern Samaritans, being a volunteer or entering into charitable giving are only two examples of doing good. Just as there will never be a day without needs, there will never be a limit on creative ways to make a difference.

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