The True Conquerors

Here is a famous quote about Alexander the Great:

“Alexander wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Actually…

There is no known record in antiquity that verifies the quote. In fact, it’s probably a misquote from something Plutarch wrote:

“Alexander wept upon hearing that there were infinite worlds, realizing that he had not yet conquered even one.”

Alexander
A Conqueror of Worlds

And Another Conqueror?

He wasn’t a general, or a conqueror, but he was used to help a nation become conquerors, the Assyrian Empire.

His name was Jonah and he was a prophet of God who was sent to the city of Nineveh, a tough assignment as prophets didn’t preach to Gentiles, didn’t go to their cities. 

In fact, he refused and boarded a ship headed the opposite direction. But he ended up in the sea, and in a manner of speaking, was rescued. So, he reluctantly went to Nineveh and preached a message of repent or parish. And they repented, even the King.

The Greater Lesson

There was a time when Assyria was in chaos and vulnerable. That’s when Jonah preached to them and turned them to Yahweh. But later, after regaining their supremacy, they turned away from God and became Israel’s nemesis.

Did God preserve the Assyrians, so he could later use them to attack and deport the faithless people of Israel?

Did Jonah understand what God was doing?  Could he see that the people he helped to turn to God would one day be used by God to attack his homeland? 

To Close

I don’t know if Alexander wept or not. But Jonah did. He wasn’t a soldier, a general, or a conqueror of worlds. He was a prophet and he served God’s greater purpose.

God has a great purpose for us as well. Perhaps less grand than that of Jonah, but still a purpose of divine origin: to build up, to encourage, to serve and to be the light of God.

Alexander wept for there were not more worlds to conqueror.

Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, it doesn’t really matter.

For we are the true conquerors.

 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Romans 8:37

A Box of Chocolates?

Forest Gump, from the movie Forest Gump, made this famous:

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”

romantic-box-of-chocolates-story-love-poem-idea

Can you tell which is which? 

Was He Right?

I can’t tell the ones with coconut from the ones with caramel. I can’t tell just by looking at them and sampling  doesn’t seem right, nobody wants sampled chocolates in the box.

What About Life?

If a box of chocolates is like life, then maybe Forest was right. We can expect something to happen, we just don’t know what it will be.

Some possibilities:

  1. winning the lottery
  2. a call from someone in the past
  3. some really good or bad news
  4. coming down with the flu
  5. getting promoted or terminated

Life’s unpredictable and tough to anticipate. Except for the lottery. Since I’ve never bought a ticket I can open the lid knowing a “lottery chocolate” won’t be in the box. But at some point, I have to stop obsessing about which chocolate is which. 

Hard Wired Behavior

 Some of us are positive and some are negative. Some are optimistic and some are pessimistic. Some have a little of both.

Some of us live with a carefree attitude and some worry about everything. Some live with a little of both.

I don’t want to live my life worrying, but I can’t ignore the realities of life.

What Jesus Said

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” 

“Do not worry.”

Tough teaching, hard to obey, difficult to live.

He began with “Therefore” meaning he was giving commentary to something he just said. Here it is:

“Do not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”


“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

To Close

Worrying is about the heart. If our treasure is heaven, then that’s where our hearts will be. But if our treasure is here, then our hearts are invested in this world. And that means worry and anxiety because everything here is temporary,

Wow, that’s challenging, bold, and demanding, and a little offensive. But is it true?

“Life is like a box of chocolates”

Thanks Forest, well said.

Shalom

What The Duke Said

“A man’s gotta to what a man’s gotta do”

John Wayne, in his movie “Stagecoach” is credited with making that line famous. But what he actually said was:

“Well, there’s just some things a man can’t run away from.”

stagecoach-poster-2

Charlton Heston, in his 1956 movie, “Three Violent People” had this line:

“A man must do what he must do”

Steinbeck, in his novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” wrote this:

“I know this man—a man got to do what he got to do.”

By 1962, the line had found its way into pop culture and was used in an episode of “The Jetsons.” George said,

“Ha, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”

And So?

Regardless of who said, what does it mean? Is it about determination or fate? Or is it a cliché justifying doing something bad because sometimes a man has to do bad things? I’m sure it has positive and negative applications, but mostly it seems to be negative. 

From Jesus

“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37

From James

“but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:9-10

The Things We Do

Almost daily I’m confronted with double sided speech, half-truths, and situational ethics. To be dodgy we spin our words, craft our story, and offer free-falling gossip like water over a dam.

Men will praise you and curse you. They will tell the story one way and then tell it a different way. They evade culpability by shaping their words with slanted intent.

To Close

It shouldn’t be like that. But it is and most of us are guilty.

If we are talking about being virtuous, then yes, we have to tighten our belts and step up to what’s right, regardless of the cost.

If we are talking about the other things, and justifying them, well, then it’s just wrong.

“sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”

Yep, we get it.

Shalom

Cosmo Said So

Vincent Gardenia, playing the character Cosmo Castorini in the delightful movie “Moonstruck,” said the following:

“Everything is temporary”

Why?
His daughter was sharing the news of her engagement to Johnny Cammareri. Cosmo was underwhelmed and asked about the ring. She raised her hand and he said, “It’s a man’s pinky ring!” Johnny hadn’t bought a ring and she wouldn’t accept his proposal without one. So, he gave her his pinky ring. Easing the tension Loretta said,

“Its temporary!”

Cosmo replied,
“Everything is temporary!”

A fair point. 

Cosmo and Loretta
Cosmo and Loretta

(BTW: It’s a charming movie and one my all time favorites)

Speaking of Temporary
When the Hebrew slaves gained their freedom, some 600,000 men and their families walked out of Ramses. They were headed for the Promised Land.

Upon arrival, twelve spies were sent to scout the land. On their return they offered a divided report, it was ten to two. Ten gave a negative report because they were afraid and two gave a positive report because they believed.  

The people sided with the ten.

As a result, everyone was sent back to the desert for forty years. None over the age of twenty would ever leave it. Of those twenty and above, none survived.

Think About It
They wandered a vast and terrible desert for 4 decades of:
1. no permanence
2. no houses
3. no opportunites
4. no improvements
5. a hopeless existence

They lived in tents, along with the adders, scorpions, the sand and the sand storms. Cosmo was right, everything was temporary.

To Close
The people had a change of heart, a crisis of faith, and turned away from God.

Living in the Promised Land would have still been temporary, but a big bunch sweeter. Life is always sweeter when lived under the protective hand of God’s richest blessings.

So, let’s keep a steadfast heart, a strong faith, and remain rooted in the center of His will.

“everything is temporary”
It certainly is, thanks for the reminder Cosmo.

Shalom

The Hard Is What Makes It Great

Tom Hanks, playing team manager Jimmy Dugan, said this famous line:

“ It’s supposed to be hard.”

“If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

The Hard

He was referring to professional baseball. Of how difficult it was, of its sacrifices and demands. As if baseball was tougher than what most athletes could handle.

He said it to his catcher, the best player in the league, who was quitting and going home because it got too hard, and did so just hours before game 1 of the World Series.

Did It Work?

His speech only deepened the catcher’s resolve. He lost his best player.

They lost the first couple of games, then found their stride, and battled back to tie it up with the deciding game to be played.

While warming up for the final game, the catcher finally had a change of mind  and showed up to play. Spirits soared, enthusiasm was high, and they had the lead through 8.5 innings. It came down to the last pitch and the last out. They lost.

The movie was, “A League of Their Own” a fictitious story about the “All-American Girls Professional Baseball League,” which was founded by Philip K. Wrigley and existed from 1943 to 1954. Over 600 women played, and they were popular. In 1948, league attendance peaked over 900,000.  

A-League-of-Their-Own

The catcher was Dottie Hinson, played by actress Geena Davis. It’s a good movie, but the kind of story only found in Hollywood.

Life Lessons

We face tough choices and make hard decisions that we have to live with. Rarely can we un-ring the bell and play in the final game. It makes for a fun movie, but has little resemblance to real life.

Except for this. Life is often hard. Life takes courage, fortitude, and strength. True success isn’t easily gained, if it were, everyone would have it. The hard is what makes it gratifying, and beneficial.

To Close

I’ll leave you with this:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9                                                                                                                               

“It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great.”

Shalom

It’s A Snow Day In Houston!

The 4:00 AM fireplace check list.

  1. Clean fireplace of ashes.
  2. Stack kindling wood.
  3. Use a piece of newspaper or turn on the gas.
  4. Have larger logs ready to go.
  5. Check the flue is open.

Wow, it’s a beautiful fire! And just in time because it’s a cold Houston morning with sleet and snow in the forecast. The schools are closed and if we get the sleet and snow, it’ll bring the city to its knees.

snow
Ah, palm trees in the snow! Not my street, but close, really very close.

I love it!

Apparently, Not Everyone

Lately, I’ve heard complaining about the cold weather. Houston has had more subfreezing days than normal. And more days in the 30’s and 40’s than normal. It’s almost like winter!

But people are getting tired of it, and I understand, but I’m not one of them and can’t share in the cold negativity.

For Seven Months

For most of the year Houston is a sauna. If Arizona has a dry heat then Houston has a wet one. Temperatures soar into the 90’s and triple digits are common. The humidity hovers like a wet blanket. It’s inescapable and void of value for human life.

The summer is when I join the complainers, when I’m suffering the smothering dampness of virtual asthma. 

Wait, Forgot Something

I had just begun blogging when I noticed the smell of smoke. A minute later, I noticed an uneven layer hovering above me. Uh huh, Check List Item #5:

Open the flue.

Oops. I would have bet the farm that it was open, but it wasn’t. Maybe that’s what I get for betting the farm. I don’t actually have a farm, I lost it years ago on a silly bet.

Do you agree with this, “Everybody complains about something?” Or maybe this, “If it isn’t one thing it’s another?” Or, “I wish they would give me the key to the thermostat box at church so I could set it where it belongs.”

There isn’t a key. There isn’t a thermostat that can be changed. It’s all software driven, a computer runs the entire system. But people still ask.

To Close

So, cheer up good friends. Hot or cold, windy or calm, dry or wet, life goes on so we might as well go with it. I’ll finish with:

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a depraved generation…”  Philippians 2:14-15

Shalom

Understanding Suffering, Hardly Ever

Keanu Reeves, as Ted in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” said this:

“Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.”

Ted was right. Strange things were happening and resulted in the boys having a grand adventure. But often, strange things are neither grand or adventurous, they’re just hard.

Faith & Trust

Sometimes I struggle with God’s word, a sign of weak faith, a lack of trust?

There are Psalms that tell of God’s protection, that he is a shield about me, and will deliver me from hardships. Then there are verses that speak of being pruned and disciplined, and how suffering is good for me.

open-bible

I don’t always know the what or why of the things that happen to me. Am I supposed to know? 

A Strong Faith

A healthy faith accepts the good with the bad. It gives thanks in all circumstances. However, when does the deliverance happen? Where is the shield that protects me?

Perhaps it’s always there? If he lifted his shield of protection, even for a minute, would I  realize just how much he’s doing for me, in spite of my confusion, pain, and grief?

Some Confusion, Pain and Grief

  1. our stillborn child
  2. sudden, tragic deaths of family and friends
  3. hurtful attacks from wolves in friend’s clothing

When experiencing those “strange things,” I don’t feel thankful, or delivered, or sense his shield is about me.

But later, I do. Strange, isn’t it?

We each face life’s trouble with our experiences and levels of faith, maturity, and knowledge. None of us are the same.

To Close

I’ve not yet found a simple theology that explains everyone’s pain and suffering to everyone’s satisfaction. So, I’ll leave you with this:

Paul wrote:

“—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

Don’t be scared of God, be in awe of him, and respect and humble yourself for he works his purpose within you and there is just no way to comprehend the depth of what that means.

“Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.”

Well put Ted, there are indeed.

Shalom

Yes, You Drive In The River!

Chris Farley, as motivational speaker Matt Foley, perfected the phrase,

“I’m living in a van down by the river.”

Rivers

Perhaps you’ve considered a simpler life with a riverside van, or maybe not? Some rivers are deep while others are shallow, some run fast while others barely move. In the winter, some don’t move at all.

A Recent River

My wife and I spent a few days at a secluded cabin in the Texas Hill Country.

We made the five-hour drive, found the place and checked in. We were looking forward to getting to the cabin, which, as it turned out, required a bit more driving. Now here’s the odd part. The road suddenly ended and it ended in a river. There was a dirt road and then there wasn’t, just a river without a bridge and no way to cross. However, there was a sign indicating that we were to turn left, into the river. At the bottom of the sign was:

“Yes, you drive in the river!”

The river was shallow, slow, and the bottom easily seen, but still, driving into a river seemed wrong, but I finally did, the river bed became our road to the cabin! 

Fall-on-the-Frio-River3
Not our cabin, or the river, and it didn’t have a van, but its close, really very close. 

Another Sign

Here is sign, of a sort, that the apostle Paul wrote:

“For we live by faith and not by sight.”

His message was clear: nothing eternal can be seen in this life. Nope, it’s by faith, by trusting in what our Father promised.

To Close

I read the sign, but my eyes were fixed on the water. The choice was obvious: trust the sign or sit there doing nothing. 

It’s the same with God. The choice is obvious: trust his word or sit doing nothing. It’s a choice we make every day. It’s how we walk by faith.

“Yes, you drive in the river.”

Shalom