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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Enough With The Jibber Jabber!

 "Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down."

~Proverbs 26:20

Gossip has been at the heart of every conflict I've know in my life. It's easy to partake in it, and it's easy to fall victim to it. And if you're the victim of it, there's nothing in the world you can do to defend yourself from it. The more vigorously you defend yourself, the more it looks like the gossip about you is true. 

Do you want to have peace in your life?  You want to have a nice work environment?  Enjoy your church family? Have a family that isn't constantly fighting with one another.  You'll never be able to accomplish that in an environment where gossip flourishes. I had a boss that understood that perfectly.  He had little patience for gossip. That was when the world was a little less politically correct--he'd be down in Human Resources in about two seconds today. He'd overheard a group talking about another employee and he'd come roaring out of his office, "Enough with the jibber jabber!" And if you said something about another employee to him, you better be able to back it up with cold hard facts. If you couldn't, you were finished. He tolerated zero gossip in his store. And it was one of the best places and happiest places I've worked. 

There two things you can do about gossip in your life:

Learn To Mind Your Tongue

It is so easy in a moment of frustration to say something bad about somebody else.  It is so easy in a moment of anger to say something about somebody else that is exaggerated due to your emotional state. It is so easy to be offended, especially by somebody we already don't like very much, and make that offense much bigger than it actually is. I think regrettably, we've all done that before.

Work hard at guarding that gate!  Just don't do it. Don't share bad thoughts about somebody. Don't delight with others in the problems or issues of other people. Don't try and belittle somebody because they have less than you do, or because maybe they have more than you do. Don't try to tear somebody down because they're better at something than you are, or worse.

We should be building each other up. We should pointing out the talents of others to each other not the faults. We should be appreciating the things they do. We should encourage them in areas where they're falling short.  We should be teaching our children about gossip, and just how destructive it can be. And we should be correcting our children when they say harsh things about other people.

Ignore Gossip 

I just really have no patience for drama. I'm somebody that loves a good joke. I enjoy being around people.  I enjoy great conversation. And I love to laugh. But I couldn't tell you how many times I've fallen victim to gossips. I've been driven to be successful at everything I do, and I'm willing to work harder to accomplish those goals than anybody else. But in every endeavor that I have ever tried to excel in, there's been those that have tried to tear me down. In my first management job, I was nearly fired over accusations that were later proven untrue.  I've dealt with it in church groups, at work, in my family, and in fraternal groups I belong to.  And it used to make me mad.  When I was younger, if you pushed my buttons I'd put on a really good show for you--and of course give the gossips more to gossip about in the process. I was actually doing them a favor by adding fuel to the fire.

Sometimes in a moment of weakness, I still slip up and react. But not as often as I used to.  I've learned. Just don't engage. You can't win. Like Mark Twain said, "Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference." Do what you know is right, and ignore the naysayers. They're not on your side now, there's nothing you'll be able to do to change that. You can't let other people determine how you're going to behave. You can't let other people get in your head and make you doubt yourself.  You can't let other people push your buttons and run your life by remote control. You have to shut them out. Life your life, do the things you know are right, and pray for them. Honestly pray for them.

But don't let gossips and naysayers drag you off your path!

Our society today is a mess. It's always been a mess, but these days, so much of our entertainment is so negative. You watch Dr. Phil, and delight in the problems of other people--we sit back and laugh at the dumb things they say, or the silly ways they react when he tells them how it is.  We watch "Big Brother" and watch a group of young people in a house destroy each other through gossip and alliances--think about that for a minute.  And our kids are watching a constant stream of funny videos of people doing dumb things, and then they make comments like "what an idiot" and "obviously not a college graduate."  And our media is constantly teaching us how to judge people that have different beliefs, and how to tear people down that think differently, and how to humiliate and "cancel" people we don't like.  And we're consuming all that.  

Are those your values?

It's no wonder we treat each other the way we do.  It's no wonder we don't feel empathy for the people we're destroying with our words. It's no wonder we fight rather than communicate. We have to do better. We have to teach our children better.  We have to teach them how to be human beings. We have to teach them to follow the example Christ gave us. We have to teach them to feel love for our neighbors . . .AND OUR ENEMIES. 

~TEC

Monday, August 17, 2020

Learning How To Protect Yourself

I never go to a concert with out some of these in my pockets.
"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes."

 Ephesians 6:11

When I was in high school, I went to my first rock concert.  It was an 80s hair band called Ratt, and they had a big song at the time "Round and Round."  It's funny, but they're featured on a Geico commercial right now you've probably seen--the couple in the ad loves their new home, but they have a "Ratt problem."  Then it flashes to a scene showing the band Ratt playing "Round and Round" in their kitchen.

That's the first band I ever saw in concert.  I didn't know what to expect.  I went with a couple friends--Chip was the only one old enough to drive, and of course Jim, too.  Anyway, when that opening act came out and started to play, I was overwhelmed.  It was so loud!  I grew up around farm equipment.  I grew up around guns.  I grew up blowing up things with fireworks.  But never in my life had I ever been exposed to anything that loud.  And when the opening act stopped playing, and Ratt came out it was even louder yet!  So loud I could feel the floor vibrating under my feet, and the drum beats felt like they were hitting me.  It was painful.  Too loud to even hear the music.  

But I finally got used to it.  And we had a great time.  It wasn't until we walked outside that I realized how loud it actually was.  I couldn't hear my friends talking.  I couldn't hear the motors of the cars driving by on the street.  My ears were ringing--that lasted a couple days.  That wasn't the last concert I went to, but it was the last concert I went to without ear plugs.  My friends made fun of me, but I didn't really care.  I love music.  It is such an important part of my life both then and now, even when I was young and dumb I was smart enough to realize I'd need my hearing well beyond my teenage years so I went to efforts to make sure I protected myself.

Sin is that same way.  You are really aware of sin when you're first exposed to it in the beginning. You know it's wrong.  You know it is bad for you.  You know you should get away from it.  You know there is no good that will come from it.  But if you don't pay attention to that sin, over time, you get used to it. And once you become acclimated to sin, it doesn't seem nearly as bad as it did in the beginning.  You can even begin to accept it.  You can get comfortable with it, even enjoy it. You can look around and see other people doing the exact same thing and think to yourself, well, if they aren't worried about it, why should I be?  Because you're forgetting the price you'll pay in the long term. When that bill comes due you'll feel nothing but regret. 

You've got to protect yourself from it or it will damage you forever--even beyond our mortal lifetimes. You're going to be exposed to it without doubt, but there are ways to protect yourself. 

You prepare yourself by putting on your armor. 

~TEC

I apologize to my regular readers for getting this up late--we've been working on a few home improvement projects, and my house has been all torn up this week.  It's been chaos around here!  But I hope you'll enjoy this week's piece even though it's late . . . 

What do you think?  You can leave a comment or email me at webmaster@toddcreason.org

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Shake Things Up Once In Awhile!

It's easy to fall into a rut.  Working from home, it's even easier to fall into a rut--sometimes I'm not even sure what day it is.  Last week when I thought it was Wednesday and it was actually Thursday!  That was kind of nice, because I was a little further through the work week than I thought I was.  

My wife said instead of just going right into my office and starting in the morning (sometimes two hours or more early) I should try shaking things up a little bit--maybe go out for coffee. What great advice! I've been having a blast! My mask in hand, I've been hitting a different coffee spot every morning!

And I've had some really exceptional coffee this week.  I've even tried some different varieties (which isn't really like me at all)!  On Monday, I started taking a picture of my daily selection and posting it on social media and I've been getting all kinds of great suggestions from my friends of where I should go next!  I may hit a spot tomorrow that was recommended that I've never been to before--looks like the same thing on Thursday and Friday.  I had no idea there were so many great places to get coffee within 15 or 20 minutes of my house.  

It doesn't take very much to get yourself out of a rut. Something as insignificant as going out for coffee can change your whole day.  This has been a pretty good week for me!  By the time I sit down at my desk in the morning to get to work, I've already had an adventure, met some new people, and enjoyed a new experience!  And I've even learned that even though I'm a dark roast kind of coffee drinker, there's a couple light roasts I've tried this week that I'll be drinking again!

So get out of your rut!  Explore a local park!  Try a different restaurant!  Read a book that doesn't fall into your usual pattern!  Listen to a different radio station!   Bring your neighbor a donut!  Maybe leave a comment on a blog you've been enjoying?  There's all kind of little things you can do to make your day more memorable, and maybe expand your world a little bit. 

~TEC

What do you think?  Leave a comment or email me at webmaster@toddcreason.org 


Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Timely Visit From The Past

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."
 
~Mark 11:24
 
A couple years ago, I was flipping through the channels and I ran across a Billy Graham revival. I love Billy Graham. Always have. He preaches a powerful message, and when I was very young man I had a chance to go and see him.  It was an amazing experience!

I decided to watch it. It was obviously recorded in the 80s judging from the hairstyles and clothing of the people in the audience. It was in a big stadium, and there were hundreds, probably thousands there to see Billy Graham.  And as I'm watching it, I was thinking I'd seen the program before, because the message was very familiar. 

And then something caught my attention, and I was suddenly grabbing for the remote!

When the camera flashed to the crowd, I saw somebody I knew!  I couldn't believe it!  I had to be wrong about that.  I paused it, and ran it back, and sure enough, one of the guys standing along a railing was a guy I went to Army basic training with and later to AITS at Fort Gordon, Georgia. And when he was off-duty and not wearing his Army issued glasses, he wore these giant red rimmed glasses--just slightly smaller than something Elton John would wear.  It could not have been anybody else. I hadn't thought about him in decades--I couldn't even come up with his name. 

And as if that wasn't weird enough, I recognized the guy standing next to him also--but not right away. It took a minute.  I hadn't seen him in a long time--at least the younger model. It was me!
 
That camera landed on us for a couple seconds during an hour long program, and I happened to see it.  Fifty-year-old Todd was looking across thirty years at twenty-year-old Todd. I remember almost nothing about that event at all--other than that's when I formed a very favorable opinion of the Reverend Billy Graham.  I couldn't tell you how we found out about him coming. I couldn't tell you how we got there or got back. I couldn't tell you very much about what he even said all those years ago before seeing it again. But I do remember all those people at the end that went down to the front of the stage where Billy Graham was speaking and received Christ.

Amazing coincidence, huh?  

Not really. Things like this have happened throughout my life. I don't believe in coincidences anymore, I see God at work in my life instead and try and understand what that "remarkable coincidence" is trying to communicate to me. 
 
So that's what I did, and the answer was pretty obvious. Fifty year old Todd was making some very difficult decisions when he saw twenty-year-old Todd again, and oddly enough, twenty-year-old Todd was making the exact same decisions about the exact same thing at the time. Both of us were watching Billy Graham and trying to make a decision between two paths in life.  Coincidence?  Absolutely not.
I was thinking about going into ministry even back then. But I took a different path, and I think looking back it was the correct path to take at the time. I don't regret it. I wasn't ready for that at all, and my expectations of what a life in ministry would be like were completely unrealistic. But here it is, thirty years later, and things have changed, and that second bite at the apple was right there again--along with my strong desire to explore it.  I had been struggling with the decision for weeks. I had picked up my phone to talk to my pastor about it too many times to count. But I made that decision right then and there watching Billy Graham with 20-year-old me. 
 
What is bizarre is how twenty-year-old Todd watched Billy Graham preach and decided he wasn't ready for ministry, and fifty-year-old Todd watched Billy Graham preach the same sermon and decided he was. And when the decision was finally made, all the pieces fell together--the support of the church and its leadership, the support of the ministerial program, discovering there was a seminary literally a couple blocks from where I work, the funding, and the time I'd need.  All the hurdles I'd been worrying about and using to try to talk myself out of it vanished into thin air.  Where this goes, I do not know, but I am walking the path and I'll find out where it leads.  There's no sense in worrying about it.
 
Too often, we overlook God's influence in our lives because we aren't looking for it. We don't see it, and if we do we all too often shrug it off as a coincidence. Sometimes we pray about things, and we don't see the answer when it comes. We have to train ourselves to look for the answers. Sometimes those answers are so obvious we can't help but see them. But sometimes they're a little more subtle.  Sometimes something remarkable happens that we're tempted to call an amazing coincidence.  Sometimes the answer to a single prayer, a single concern, comes twice--thirty years apart. 

~TEC