Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Kent Benson's ABCs of Success

Today the Butler Chamber of Commerce hosted legendary Indiana University basketball player Kent Benson. Benson is best remembered as the center of IU's 1976 undefeated national championship team. He played 11 seasons in the NBA and was named to the Olympic Basketball team.

Benson spoke on "The abc of Success and Excellence." Here they are:
A - Avoid habits that lead to failure.
B - Believe in yourself.
C - Champions. "Champions focus on what they're going to, losers focus on what they're going through."
D - Desire, Determination, Dedication, and Discipline. "Successful people do the things that unsucessful people don't or won't do."
E - Excellence.
F - Family and Friends.
G - Give more than you plan to give.
H - Hang on to your dreams.
I - Identify the obstacles that are keeping you from meeting your goals and dreams.
J - Just do it!
K - Keep on keeping on.
L - Live, learn & love yourself first, after God.
M - Make it happen. Magnificent obsession.
N - Never lie cheat or steal.
O - Open your eyes and see things as they really are.
P - Perfect practice makes perfect.
Q - Quitters never win, and winners never quit.
R - Read study and learn about whatever is important in your life.
S - Stop procrastinating. "When we procrastinate, we delay our own success."
T - Take control of yourself and your destiny.
U- Understand yourself.
V - Visualize it - see it, believe it, achieve it.
W - Want it more than anything.
X - Examine yourself and your motives.
Y - You are uniquely made by God.
Z - Zero in on your target.
Benson also asked a thoughtful question: "Is 'average' the best of the worst, or the worst of the best? - Do you really want to live in that area of mediocrity?"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Room Full of "Godiologists"

The scene: a lavishly decorated Santa Barbara ballroom. The occasion: a $250 per plate formal dinner fundraiser. The incident: a man slumps over, the victim of a sudden heart attack. The bad news: the dude is dying. The good news: the fundraiser is for the American Heart Association and the room is wall-to-wall cardiologists.

The Associated Press reported that quick-thinking physicians, including Dr. Richard Westerman, were able to revive the man. The ambulance was called, and the fortunate victim is recovering at a nearby hospital.

If you have to have a heart attack, it is good to be in a room filled with heart doctors.

If you have to have a soul attack, it is good to be in a room filled with "soul doctors."

Soul doctors don't necessarily have advanced degrees hanging on their walls. They probably don't wear lab coats, and most don't drive Beamers and Mercedes (although some do.) Who is this cadre of "pious paramedics?"

The church.

If you don't think you're under soul attack, you're in denial. The Bible tells us, "Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, New Living Translation) You and I are under constant attack from Satan and his minions.

How do we survive? We ban together. We bind the wounds of those who are spiritually sick, those who are at risk for a fatal soul attack. Most importantly, we don't try to go it alone. You see, I need you. And, you need me.

The Apostle Paul wrote to encourage Christians in the ancient city of Thessalonica. They were under attack too - both spiritually and physically - as persecution began taking hold in the Roman Empire. Paul told them, ". . . speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it. (1 Thessalonians 5:11, The Message)

Sounds like good advice. So take some time this week to visit with your fellow spiritual practitioners at church. It won't cost you $250 to attend. You won't need a tuxedo or evening gown. Yet, the life that is saved might be your own.

Monday, January 23, 2006

It's Just a Car, Lady

Saturday I was reminded that there are some people who just don't get it.

We loaned our mini-van to a friend. Their son had a birthday party, and we thought it would be more convenient for them to be able to drive all the children (including my two sons) in one vehicle. As our friend was pulling into a parking place at a local eatery, she dinged the SUV that was parked next to her. As misfortune would have it, the SUV was a Mercedes. No big deal. Just exchange insurance information and move on, right?


An over-exercised woman verbally assaulted my friend. "How could you be so f------ stupid?! Where did you learn to f------ park?! You're a f------ idiot!" Of course my friend burst into tears and before long the irate woman was trying to apologize for her inexcusable behavior and console the very person she had just attacked .

I met the Mercedes owner today to make sure she had all the insurance information she needed. She was . . . difficult.

She reminded me that there are always going to be some folks who love things and use people. Now my friend, she loves people and uses things. She gets it. That is why she can borrow or loan a car. It is why she is pretty much universally loved. But the over-tanned, shrill-voiced, I-drive-a-Mercedes-so-I-am-better-than-you person I met today - she doesn't get it, and I'm guessing she never will. She kept talking about her car as "her baby," and "her ride." She has personified an object.

The problem with such behavior, of course, is that personifying objects is usually accompanied by objectifying persons. That is what, I am afraid, Mercedes woman has done, who she has become. And, Frankly Speaking, that is very, very sad.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A New Weight for a New Year

Here are my latest before and after photos. The first one is of me July 4th, 2005 with my friend Fred Lab at his lake cottage. I weigh about 340 pounds. The second is two weeks ago. In it I weigh 254 pounds. I've since broken the 250-barrier and weigh 249.8! My goal: to reach my college weight of 220 pounds and then re-evaluate to see if I need to stabilize or drop some more. Thanks to all who encourage me so faithfully in this journey toward better health!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Looking Down

Recently my almost-teenage son introduced me to Google Earth. It was inevitable that Caleb would surpass me in technological savvy, and this was just one more instance of him leaving me in the cyber-dust. Google Earth is a free program you can download that will "fly" you to any location on the face of the planet. In certain locations, the resolution is astonishing. For example, I was able to view our Youth Minister’s house from about 1100 feet in the air. Together, Scott and I were able to pick out missing shingles on the backside of his roof (which have since been repaired.) The neighbors cars are clearly visible in their driveways. The stagnant water in their swimming pools is green and filled with autumn’s rotting leaves.

From Ft. Wayne, I was able to "fly" to Florida to see where my long-lost brother-in-law is living. Turns out he is ensconced near the beach on a channel that leads to the Gulf of Mexico. With such an expensive piece of real estate, I guess he’s doing all right.

Such satellite imagery isn’t just for entertainment. There is more high-tech spying going on than ever before. Even the United States Department of Agriculture is in on the act. According to a recent news report, tomato farmers living in North Carolina were convicted of fraud and ordered to pay $9 million when satellite images revealed them spreading ice cubes in their fields and then hacking their tomato plants. Their goal: to mimic hail damage and collect on their crop insurance.

Yes, Virginia, there is a satellite. And it’s looking down on you.

But the technological marvels orbiting our globe aren’t the only earth-watchers peering down on us. Solomon wrote, "the eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good." How is that possible? How is it that a being can see everything all the time? It would take an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing God to do that. And that is just the kind of God we serve.

The Apostle Peter, quoting Solomon’s father, David, wrote "The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil."

Simply put, what Mary Pearson taught me in the third grade really is true:

Oh be careful little eyes what you see . . .
Oh be careful little ears what you hear . . .
Oh be careful little feet where you go . . .
Oh be careful little hands what you do . . .
For the Father up above is looking down in love,
So be careful little eyes what you see.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

When my missionary sister is back in the United States on home assignment, she lives in Wisconsin. This joke is in honor of the fine citizens of Wisconsin who show them such wonderful hospitality:

A Polish immigrant goes to the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles in Milwaukee to apply for a driver's license and is told he has to take an eye test.

The examiner shows him a card with the letters:


"Can you read this?" the examiner asks.

"Read it?" the Polish guy replies. "I know the guy!"

Monday, January 16, 2006

You've Got to Really Want to Go to Church

With icy roads, howling winds, and plunging temperatures, many preachers are amazed when the church fills up on Sunday morning. You’ve got to really want to go to church to brave the kind of weather we’ve been experiencing.

But then again, people having been putting up with hardship for years in order to go to church. In Communist Russia (remember that?), people endured the threat of imprisonment in order to go to church. The sixteenth century Anabaptists had to meet in secrecy in caves and barns to avoid being burned at the stake for going to church. I guess they had to really want to go to church, too.

Then there is the early church - the one that began in Jerusalem forty days after Jesus returned to heaven. Those people had to really want to go to church. For them, going to church meant being rejected by their families, being pursued by the temple police and in the case of a man named Stephen, even being stoned to death. The Bible tells us that when Stephen was killed, ". . . A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and all the believers except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria." (Acts 8:1b) Those people had to really want to go to church.

But persecution isn’t a thing of the past. As you and I gathered round our Christmas trees last month, Christians around the world were being locked up for celebrating the birth of Christ. Believers in China, Israel, Indonesia, and Eritrea were arrested.

After leading his village congregation in a Christmas service on December 22 in the Asian nation of Laos, Pastor Aroun Voraphom was tortured and his throat slashed before his family found his lifeless body in a creek, according to Christian Aid. The government claims it was a robbery, but that assertion remains highly disputed.

The more I think about what some Christians the world over endure, the more absurd staying home on Sunday to avoid the weather seems.

George Barna writes that the true measure of whether or not a church is able to grow is it’s members’ willingness to be inconvenienced. He's right. The Church is spreading like wildfire in nations where believers are persecuted. I wonder, will the church in America continue to grow when we're merely inconvenienced?

For more information on the persecution of Christians, including more details on the incidents above, see
The Voice of the Martyrs Website.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Sports Fans Anonymous

Hi. My name is Frank. And I . . . freak out at my kid’s ball games. Is there a group for people like me? A couple of folks in our church probably think I could use one when they sit near me at the gym.

My biggest fear is that one day a couple of "zebras" will show up in church and begin heckling me as I preach. I can hear it now. "That illustration was horrible! Horrible! How much are they paying you?! My mother is a better preacher than you. You call yourself an Arminian?! Joe Stalin had more sermons on free will than you!" Or the preacher’s version of the air ball chant: "Boooooring!"

And then what will I do? At least a referee can give a fan a technical and throw him out. I’ll be powerless while two ushers and a greeter drag the ref (who’s doing his best impersonation of Bob Knight) up the center aisle kicking and throwing offering plates and church bulletins at the pulpit.

There is another fear, of course. I worry that some person who doesn’t know me will take one look at my exercised state and figure, "If that guy’s a preacher, count me out." That really does bother me. To that person, let me say three things:

First, there are worse things than having your kid know that you’re so in their corner that you die with each pitch and bleed with each free throw. There are worse things than having your son or daughter look up in the crowd and get red-faced when they see you hold your glasses out in the direction of the official. There are worse things than your child sometimes wishing you weren’t at their game. Like, for example not being at their game. I’m not saying that my behavior is always exemplary (although it does seem more subdued when we’re winning). I’m just saying that my children have no doubt whatsoever that, because they bleed green and white, so do I. Say what you may, they know I am in their corner.

There is something to be said about passion, too. I can’t understand how people can go to a hot contest and not feel their heart race and their ears pound. Okay, I’ll admit, maybe that’s just because I’m fanatical. But I sometimes wonder, if you don’t ever feel like something dies each time your team loses, just how much are you alive anyway? Am I passionate about sports? Yes. But I am just as passionate about loving my wife and being with my kids and serving my church. To those who think I am a possessed preacher I say, "Yes, I’m wild. But I’m wild about my church and wild about Jesus and, when you connect with Christ and this church, you’ll find that I’m wild about you, too."

One final thing. There are limits. Last year a woman accosted my family at a game. Another fan threw an empty pop bottle in her general direction. Her team was losing by twenty points and both her daughter’s coaches had received technical fouls. Assuming we were the guilty party, she snapped. I tried to calm her down. I got between her and my family; I made sure I was sitting down and trying to be non-confrontational. I spoke to her calmly.

None of it worked. She got thrown out of the game and her husband ended up choking a school official in the parking lot before police were called.

There are limits, and they can’t be crossed. Competition is fine. Passion is fine. Yell, holler, cheer - get really worked up. But know where the line is and don’t cross it.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if all of us brought the same passion, energy and intensity to our relationship with Christ. What would happen if we were as fanatical about our work in His church.

If that happened, I think we could change the world.

Truth is, pop-bottle-crazy-woman incident scared me. While I honestly don’t think I would ever cross the line between fan and fanatical, maybe I need to show a little more reserve at the ball game. But then again, maybe I (and you, too) need to be a little less reserved with our faith. Passion misapplied is dangerous. Passion rightly applied is powerful.

And we could all use more of that.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Spire Ware

Copyright 2002 Dan Pagoda and Christianity Today International. Used with permission.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pulling Over for Henry

Where I live people still pull off to the side of the road when a funeral procession passes to show their respect for the dead and sympathy for the family - most of the time, anyway. Earlier today his family and friends laid Henry Ford Carr to rest. As we drove from the church to the cemetery the opposite shoulder was crowded with vehicles ranging from Saturns to semis with their hazard lights on and their drivers' hats off.

I like that.

It reminds me that there are events in life that are more important than rushing to work, or to an appointment. Is it inconvenient to wait while a hearse and a Cadillac lead their slow parade of bereavement. If you're in a hurry, you find yourself checking your watch. You fight the temptation to begin to inch along a bit or call ahead on your cell phone.

What stops you? The realization that your inconvenience is nothing compared to that of the folks you see dabbing their eyes as they file by. A funeral - even when it is for someone you don't know - is a reminder that you too will one day make the journey from the funeral home to your final resting place.

And even if you're pinched for time, a moment spent pondering all of that is worth the wait.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Creative Use of Cardboard!

Copyright 2002 Joseph Farris and Christianity Today International. Used with permission.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Letter from an airman

The Butler Sons of the American Legion and several individuals combined to create a very Merry Christmas for Airman Trevor Thompson. Trevor is a young man from Butler Church of Christ who is serving in the United States Air Force in Great Britain. Together, we were able to purchase Trevor a laptop computer with which he can email his fiance, family and friends. Here is an email I received from him today, typed on his new computer:

hey frank, how's it goin in butler, indiana? things are goin pretty good here... i'm stayin pretty busy with work... i love workin on these F-15's.... i am glad that i got this job for the most part... i love what i do, but it is a pretty demanding job.... and it is long hours.... which will be kinda stressful for when abby first gets here getting settled in to a new house and a new country and me working a lot, but we will be ok... we can make it work!!!

anyways... i wanted to apologize for just now being able to write to you.... i have wanted to for quite a while now but all i get done is work and sleep and work and sleep... but i just wanted to say thank you a million times for getting this computer for me! i can't tell you how much it means to me.... i had a pretty expensive phone bill calling to the states last month, but now i can e-mail all the time and i talk to abby on instant messenger, so i can still stay in touch with everyone at home and save a ton of money (that i can put towards a wedding ring, and a car when she gets here, and furniture for our house on base, they don't come furnished) so i am saving back almost everything i am making... i only spend money on groceries every once in a while... so this computer is helping me out a ton in more ways than one....

but i gotta get going for now.. it is 0400 and time for bed! hope all is well at home and i hope things are going good at church....

Things are going well at church, Trevor. And they are going well here at home because men and women like you are keeping us safe and free. God bless you, brother!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Hmmmmmm. . .

Copyright 2002 Christianity Today International. Used with permission.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Missed Blessings

The story of the ancient patriarch Abraham is one that reaches across nations, cultures, and religions. God chose Abraham. He selected him from among all others to bestow his special blessing.

I was reading Abraham's story the other day and noticed something I had never before seen. In Genesis 11, we learn about Abraham' father, Terah, and his extended family:

Terah took his son Abraham, his daughter-in-law Sarai, and his grandson Lot (his son Haran's child) and left Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. But they stopped instead at the village of Haran and settled there.

Here is what I am wondering: why did Terah stop? What interrupted his trip to Canaan and prompted him to settle down in a town that bore his deceased son's name?There is something else about this overlooked verse that makes me go "hmmmm."

Is it possible that the covenant relationship God established with Abraham was intended for Terah? Did he miss out on that incredible blessing because he stopped short of the Promised Land? Of course, that is all conjecture.

What isn't speculation is this: every time I stop short of complete obedience, I cheat myself out of the blessings God has for me. There is no such thing as "partially obedient." And, I suspect, there is no such thing as "partially blessed." God wants my complete obedience, and He wants to completely bless me. Now if I can just get out of the way so He can.