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Category Archives: Discouragement

Sharpen Your Saw!

Have you heard the story about the two guys who were pitted against one another in a wood cutting contest? They both were given brand new chain saws, all the fuel they needed and the rules were that they would cut firewood for eight hours and the one that had cut the most wood would receive a cool million dollars. That’d be enough to motivate just about anybody.

There was a twenty foot curtain between the two woodcutters and enough downed trees to keep them busy for a long, long time. The starter fired his gun and the cuttin’ commenced! They were going at it with everything they had. One of them never let up. The only time he stopped his saw was to refuel. But there were plenty of times that he noticed that the other guy’s saw wasn’t running at all. That just made him that much more determined to cut more wood. After a few hours he was getting weary but he still kept cutting, determined to win that million dollar prize. He could hear the other guy’s saw part of the time but part of the time it was silent….so he knew he must be a long ways ahead of him with his growing pile of firewood.

The contest went on for, seemed like forever. It finally came down to just a few minutes left before the end of the eight hours. The one woodcutter was utterly exhausted but was confident that he was way out in the lead. He never stopped cutting all day; only stopped three or four times to get a drink but immediately went back to work. He was feeling pretty good despite being completely worn out. He knew there was no possible way the other guy had cut as much wood as he did. Too much time with the saw not running. He was already thinking about what he’d do with that million dollars!

The official signaled the end of the contest. It was now time to drop the curtain and see who the winner was. When the curtain dropped the determined, exhausted…but confident woodcutter was totally dumbfounded! He couldn’t believe his eyes! The other guy had cut nearly three times the amount of firewood as he had. How in the world could that happen!?

He had to ask, “How could you have possibly cut that much more firewood than me?” “I never let up; I never took a break; I just barely stopped long enough to get a drink of water”. And, all day long I noticed quite often that your saw wasn’t running.” “What were you doing all that time that your saw was silent?”

The other woodcutter calmly replied, “I was sharpenin’ my saw!”

About everyone I know is doing all they can to keep up in life. For most there’s no lack of effort and hard work. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if we’re winning or not. But it makes sense in this day and time to learn how to work smarter, not harder. You should ask the Lord what that means for you. The details will be different for each of us but there’s no doubt about it……….we all need to sharpen our saw!

Here’s the audio version:

 

 

 

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The Lessons I Learned from Jeff

The last year we lived on the ranch in the Texas Panhandle I had the responsibility of taking care of 2500 head of cattle. About 1800 of those were close to 40 miles away north of Canadian, Texas on the expansive Urschel Ranch. I’d go up about three times a week and spend the day horseback checking the cattle; getting a decent count on them, making sure they had water, making sure none of them were out of the pastures they were supposed to be in. It’d make for a long day but it was enjoyable to me.

I was about three years into my walk with the Lord. Didn’t know much but I was learning a lot. I had given my testimony a couple of times and was already feeling the call for ministry…even though I had no idea what all that might mean. A friend and I had a cowboy church service (years before anyone ever heard that term!) at the Hemphill County Expo Center in Canadian and I preached the message. That was a first! I have no idea what I preached about but I do remember that one of my friends since childhood (a few years older than me) got saved that day. Let’s just call him, Jeff.

Jeff was a cowboy and had been in some of the very worst combat fights in Vietnam. In three different battles there were over a hundred US troops under fire….and all three times less than fifteen came out alive. Jeff was one of the ones each time. But, it had left an indelible mark on him. He struggled with deep depression, was separated from his wife, had trouble sleeping and agonized over the things he was ordered to do in Vietnam. Jeff was a scary looking guy, well actually if you weren’t friends with him….he just didn’t look scary….he really was scary. He’d done plenty of crazy things and the locals weren’t sure what he might do next! He hair was cut short on the top but long in the back…..way down past his collar. He had about 6 top front teeth totally gone! He wore denim shirts with the sleeves cut out of them and he had lots of tattoos; something not that common in those days. He spent a lot of his spare time at the gym pumping iron and was quite a specimen of a man.

Part of my regular routine the times when I’d go up to check cattle was to make it back to the Dairy Queen on my way home and catch Jeff after he got off work. I made it a point. I was doing my best to encourage him and give him good, sound advice. I’d pray with him every time before I headed home. One particular time we were in the DQ when a Greyhound bus made its stop there. The place was completely full of people. Jeff got there before I did and saved me a spot. His intimidating look had the attention of just about every person in there. Bear in mind that when he talked, Jeff talked really really loud; maybe louder than anyone you’ve ever known! I asked him that day, as I always did, “Jeff, how are you doing?” He replied in his loud voice, “Andy, I’m doing really good!”. I knew that I needed to press in a little more. “But, Jeff, …..how are you really doing?” And in a voice a lot louder than you need to be talking in Dairy Queen he said, “Yep, Andy, …….I’m doing so good I got rid of all my plastic explosives yesterday!!” You could’ve heard a pin drop! Every eye in the house was on us! It was funny, ….in a crazy kind of way; all those people started gathering up their food without saying a word and getting out the door as fast, but as inconspicuous as they could. It was like they didn’t totally believe him. I bet some of them are still telling that story today!

I learned a lot in my experiences with Jeff. I made it a mission of mine to help him. I wanted him to be OK; I wanted him to be well. Julie and I had planned a little vacation and were planning on being gone for about a week. I got real worried that if I wasn’t there to check on Jeff that he wouldn’t be alright. I even told Julie as much. I was actually afraid to go on vacation fearing he would implode. But, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that point and said, “It’s Ok, Andy, …..you’re not the one that’s taking care of him anyway.” That put it in perspective for me. God always knows the right thing to say, and always at just the right time.

I wish this story had a happy ending….but it doesn’t. Several years later Jeff was living downstate in Texas and took his own life. I can’t help but believe that the Lord has lots and lots of grace for people like Jeff. 

I’ll never forget the things I learned…and I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.

Try these:

“It’s Not Your Job to Fix Them!”

Identity Theft

The Thing About Unconditional Love

Double Check Your “Invitation List”!!

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Weapons of Mass Distraction

WMD’s, weapons of mass destruction; that’s a fairly new term we’ve started hearing over the past fifteen years or so. WMD’s are defined as: a nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological or other weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans or cause great damage to human-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere. There are those out there so devious as to devise these ways to wreak havoc on the masses. It’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around anyone wanting to do that kind of harm to humanity….but it exists. And the potential for the use of WMD’s is probably growing rather than diminishing. Pretty scary to say the least!

You know, the Bible says that we have an adversary, the devil, who loves to kill, steal and destroy. he (caps left off on purpose!) doesn’t have a lot of tricks….but he’s very good at the ones he does have. he’ll do anything he can to keep us from coming to the Lord to begin with. It seems that there’s always someone in front of us that is over-religious and arrogant about it to boot. Those folks can come across in ways that make some people think we’re all like that. I know a couple of these people and it bothers me that in their perceived zeal for the Lord that they actually repel people from coming to the Father. Tragic, but it happens.

But, even after we’re born gain there are plenty of distractions thrown our way to keep us from the best that the Lord has for us….and to cause us to possibly miss our destiny. Many of these distractions are not the work of the ‘enemy’ (but plenty are!) at all but just the details of life, ….which we all agree, can be very distracting.

So, “what”, you might ask is such a big deal about distractions? Distractions have a profound way to keep us from our real purpose in life. God has a plan, an intricate one, for our entire existence on the planet. Our lives will never take on the value God has placed on them until we’re moving in unison with His Spirit. And, if we lose sight of that because of our distractions we end up questioning, or doubting, even our importance to the Father.

If we’re going to fulfill the plan of God for our lives it just makes sense to start now to learn some inventive ways to deal with distractions. If not you could be dealing with these little things from now on. It’s important to note that these things fight directly against your faith. That’s a pretty important thing to remember!

It might take a little work to identify what your distractions are and how you’re going to deal with them, but you can do it! …..

…..And you’ll have to if you’re going to keep these Weapons of Mass Distraction from stealing from your destiny!

What are your distractions??

Try these, too:

Weapons of Mass Construction

“You Are Here”

It’s Either a Blessing or a Curse!

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“If You Could See The Big Picture”

That’s the words I heard from the Lord twenty three years ago when our little Cord went to heaven. It was a devastating time for all of us….and even now, twenty three years later, I can’t talk much about it without getting a lump in my throat and tearing up a little. It’s not painful, just missing him and wondering what might have been. The reality of our upcoming reunion always seems to overshadow the tears. God always knows the right thing to say and always at just the right time. Right square in the middle of our deepest heartbreak He said to me in that ‘still small voice’, “Andy, if you could see the big picture, you’d know that everything’s alright”. It’s amazing how that set my heart at ease. We still had lots of tears but, somehow, we were better. He’s really good at what He does!

You see, we’re limited in what we can see…and really what we can even imagine with our little finite (limited) minds. But not God; He sees with infinite (def. – limitless or endless; impossible to measure or calculate!) vision and perspective. His ways are higher than our ways, the Bible says. I think I’d add to that….His ways are not just a ‘little higher’ than our ways, …..they’re monumentally higher!

Even though that was a specific word for our family, and for a specific time and situation,….I think it’s a good word for all of us….and maybe for all of the time. We can get so intimidated by our circumstances that we just can’t see out, sometimes. But God has a lot better perspective about our problems. It’s because He can see the big picture. He can see the beginning and the end! He knows, full well, our future….even into the vastness of eternity. And, even though we may feel that we’re at the end of our rope…and there’s no way out of our dilemma….He’s not worried. Why?? It’s because He can see the big picture!  He loves you too much to NOT rescue you!

I’d be really surprised if many of you aren’t going through some kind of trial in your life right now. I also wouldn’t be surprised if you think you’re not going to make it.

But if you could see the big picture, …..you’d know everything’s gonna be OK!

Here’s a couple more:

Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Perspective; It Makes All the Difference!

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“Good Tidings of Great Joy”

The angel…along with a multitude of the heavenly host praised God and announced, “Glory to god in the highest, and on earth peace”. It was arguably one of the very few most important events that would ever take place within the context of time, itself. But the announcement wasn’t made before a multitude of people; it wasn’t made at the temple before the religious folk; it wasn’t even made on the town square. No, it was announced far away from all these, seemingly obvious, places way out in the middle of nowhere. The angel appeared to the shepherds and made his proclamation. What an unlikely place to bring such an important message to the world!

But, it’s typical of the Lord of Hosts to defy logic, conventional thinking,….even common sense. He can do what He wants to do, when He wants to do it….and how He wants it done.  And we can rest in the reality that He never makes a mistake…..and that everything He’s ever done, or will do, is always to our best interest….and to benefit us!

I have an opinion as to why He chose the shepherds to reveal this incredible happening on the earth. You see, the job of a shepherd in those days was the lowliest of nearly all the other jobs. They were out in the middle of nowhere; it was a lonely job as they were nearly always by themselves; it could be a dangerous job. David had to fight off a bear and a lion in his twelve-plus year stint as a shepherd; it was a thankless job and I’m guessing the pay wasn’t all that good either. It would be easy, if you were a shepherd, to think that life has passed you by, that you’ve been overlooked and forgotten about. But, it reveals the very nature of God to pick that very bunch to announce the most important happening in the whole universe, up to that point in human history.

Why did He do it that way?? I think to let them know that even though society looked down on them and made them feel like second-class citizens of the planet………He didn’t! He’s like that, you know!?

I’ve become aware over the years that this season, for many, is not a fun time. Maybe  you’re lonely; maybe you feel like you’ve been overlooked or forgotten by loved ones. Maybe you’re going through a hard time physically or financially and feel like giving up. But remember the shepherds. They were ‘greatly afraid’…but the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” It was “good news”.

Give Him the chance to love you like He wants to! He’d like to prove to you that you haven’t been forgotten!

Let it be your “good news” in this season!

Check these out:

It Ain’t Just “Good News” …… It’s “Great News”!

You ‘Can’ Get There From Here!

He Won’t ‘Put More On Ya’ Than You Can Stand

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“Sticks n’ Stones”

“Sticks n’ stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I can remember my Mom & Dad teaching me that little thing when I was just a kid. Kids can be cruel with their words. Sometimes it overlaps into adulthood, too. This is just a little rhyme that teaches us to not let those words spoken against us land in our heart…and take root. It was first recorded in 1862. I don’t know who, initially, came up with it but my guess is that it was someone who was forced to deal with some kind of negative barrage of words or criticism from someone else.

It’s good advice, no doubt about it, and if we can learn to appropriate it into our life we’ll be a lot better off for it. But the truth is that words can…..and do hurt. In fact they can cause tremendous damage to young and old alike. Words have extreme potential on both the negative and positive side. The Bible even talks about the importance of words more than a few times.

If we, as victims of those negative words, don’t find a good, positive way to navigate through them and not let them have their effect on us we can easily end up falling prey to their power. I know a lot of people who have allowed those critical and mean-spirited words spoken over them define their entire lives.

So, I think the little rhyme has merit and value for each of us if we’ll just ascribe to it. If we can make the determination within each of us that we won’t let those words hurt us, we’ll be OK. It’s a fact of life; we’re going to have plenty of cruel words hurled our way….but in all reality they can only hurt us if we let ’em.

It should also be a good reminder to each of us to watch our own words…and not to carelessly throw them out there where they can do damage to someone else!

You might like these, too:

What’s ‘Right’ With It?

You Can Live in the Past if You Want To…..But There Is a ‘Downside’

The ‘Magic’ Words

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Life’s Like Football, It’s a Game of Inches

I was watching a high-school football playoff game a week or two back. It was a very close game involving two really good teams. It caused me to remember what I hear sportscasters, even sports fans, say about football often; “It’s a game of inches”. There was no less than half a dozen times during that game that the ‘game of inches’ concept came into play. A couple of critical fourth down measurements when in one instance the team gained the first down by maybe three inches; another time late in the game deep in the other team’s territory the measurement on a fourth and one….was short by less than six inches and kept the team from a possible touchdown. Another time a wide receiver caught a pass in the back of the end zone with one foot down in play….but only by, maybe two inches. Those close calls were critical in the overall outcome of the game. Football really is a ‘game of inches’.

It started me thinking along the lines of how life can be much like football, in that respect, …..a game of inches. For instance, when we ‘give’ our life to the Lord something truly miraculous, and supernatural, happens. There has been a literal transformation in the deepest, eternal part of us….our spirit. But that transformation takes the rest of our lives to fully manifest. We begin to think differently about nearly everything. And those thoughts, hopefully tempered by the Holy Spirit, lead us to begin reasoning, acting and behaving differently, as well. Most of the time it’s not a huge behavior swing (could be, though!), but more so just a step at a time. You know,……. incremental change. A game of inches! But over the long haul it’s truly an amazing transformation.

It can work in the negative as well. For instance a marriage doesn’t get bad in a moment. More than likely there has been a lot of little things over a long period of time that have steadily eroded the relationship. It’s a game of inches. But, in the same respect, when a couple can agree to start to really work on their marriage it can start to turn around. It’s not a perfect science but a good rule of thumb, I think, to expect the marriage to get good again in about the same distance of time that it took to get bad. That might be years. But the amazing thing is, and I see this all the time, as soon as the relationship starts to move in the right direction both parties immediately begin to feel better about it. It’s a game of inches! I could give a dozen more examples but you get the picture.

Take yourself for instance; we’re often silently disappointed in ourselves because we aren’t growing in the Lord at the pace we think we should. I’d like to encourage you to ‘not’ get frustrated about that.

Relax a little, enjoy the journey and remember….it’s a game of inches!

Try these:

The Silver Bullet Lounge

You Got to Me Too Late!

The Thing About Unconditional Love

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