Sharpen Your Saw!

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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.

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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!

So Easy A Caveman Can Do It

Remember the Geico commercials? The storyline involved a couple of cavemen who lived in modern society. The point was that using Geico’s website was “so easy a caveman could do it”, indicating that being a caveman didn’t require all that much intelligence.

Their response that they were being discriminated against, or at the very least had their feelings hurt, drew a lot of attention and got a lot of mileage for Geico.

I think a lot of times we make our Christian life a whole lot harder than it ought to be. I’m not saying life can’t be hard; it can!

But, just the fact that we’re believers should simplify it in a very profound way.

cave man carrying lit torch walks dark path
Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Pexels

Think about it this way; There should never be a time or situation in our life where we don’t know what to do. We have the Holy Spirit living in us to show us the way at every turn. The Bible even says about us, “we have the mind of Christ”! We have the awesome assurance that when we leave this life we’re immediately in heaven.

Our eternal security is sealed! 

That should relieve us of a lot of unfounded worries! And, instead of having the daunting task of, somehow, trying to plan out our own life…He’s even already done that for us. We must, however, be ‘connected’ to Him to find out all the details of that plan. But…He doesn’t make that hard.

He’s even promised to never leave us nor forsake us; that in itself should make even the harshest situations easier to endure.

But, undoubtedly, the most important thing of all is that God is a Father. It’s a relationship that anyone can understand. He desperately desires to interact with us on a personal basis. He’s done everything possible to make that a reality for us. All we have to do is to engage…..and immediately begin to enjoy the benefits.

You’ve heard the term, “It’s complicated”, right?

Well, this isn’t complicated. In fact, “it’s so easy even a caveman can do it”!!

Check this one:

It’s Complicated

“You Didn’t Put a Mojo on Me, Did Ya’?!”

Years ago after we’d moved to Oklahoma and started the church I had a lifelong friend call me late one night. My friend was a brawler, didn’t mind a good fight, and had been known to conspire one up if it didn’t happen naturally.

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I doubt he’d ever been to church anywhere before. No criticism about that but, understandably, he just didn’t have much spiritual orientation at all. I could tell he was really bothered about something but he wouldn’t say, just what, over the phone. It was past 11 pm and he said he really needed to talk to me. So, no big deal pulled some clothes on and headed over to his house.

At the end of our conversation I asked him, “Well, do you want to be born again?”

He had all kinds of questions for me about the Lord. Some I could answer, some I couldn’t. He was very sincere. After a couple of hours we were winding up our visit and the subject of salvation came up. I’m not a pressure guy by anyone’s standards. Jesus didn’t do it….so I ain’t gonna do it either! But, I was quick to thoroughly explain the Biblical plan of salvation to my friend when he asked.

He was really struggling for an answer and it took him thirty seconds or more to say, “Well, I know I should but I just don’t think right now’s the time”. “You know I just bought this bar and all, and I just don’t think the timing’s right”. I said, “OK, no problemo. Let me know if you ever want to talk about it.” He agreed and I asked him if I could pray for him. After I prayed we said our goodbyes and I went home.

About two weeks later my friend called again, this time past midnight.

He started out, “You know, I bought this bar. I’m making more money than I’ve ever made in my life…..but something just ain’t right.” “I don’t know what it is but I just keep thinking about the Lord, …..and that ain’t like me at all.” I said, “Well, you know He does love you, and He’s just probably trying to prove it to you.” Then……..he finally got down to the real reason he called me. He said, “You know the other night when you prayed for me?” I said, “Yeah”. He said,

“You didn’t put some kinda mojo on me did ya’??!”

He was serious as a heart attack! I just busted up laughing. I said, “Son, the Lord’s got a mojo on you!” I explained to him that it’s just how the Lord works. My friend eventually gave his life to the Lord, sold the bar, and is walking with the Lord today. 

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When I tell that story today I still laugh! But the truth of the matter is that whoever you are…and wherever you are spiritually, the Lord does have a mojo on you! Not the kind you’d normally think about though. Certainly not a demonic spell or anything in the neighborhood of that. But, He’s out to get ‘ya, alright. ……and just like I told my friend, “He just wants to prove to you how much He loves you!”

You might like these, too:

Click on the highlighted link

I’ve Never ‘Led’ Anyone to the Lord, and I Ain’t Planning on Doing it Anytime Soon!

Have a Nice Day, Lord!

You Can Only Do What You Can Only Do!

Don’t Bring Me Down

The Electric Light Orchestrathe ELOis an English rock band formed in 1970 by songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lynne. Their music was characterized by the use of instruments not commonly associated with rock music such as violins, cellos, oboes, clarinets, French horns, and bassoons. Thus the ‘orchestra’ designation in their name. With the use of those instruments, you can accurately surmise that they had a very unique, but appealing sound. The band had a number of very popular songs. Interestingly enough, my favorite ELO song, “Don’t Bring Me Down”, (click on the link for video) recorded in 1979 was their very first song not to include a string section. It was ELO’s highest-charting song in the US, peaking at #3.

As an avid music lover, I’ve found that just about every song has a title, line, phrase, or sometimes even just one word that, with a little imagination, can reveal some content that makes for some good spiritual conversation. This song is such a one. “Don’t Bring Me Down”.

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We have incredible potential with our attitudes and words were spoken to those around us to do one of two things….lift them up, or…..bring them down. Looking back over my life I remember those who had a kind, encouraging, uplifting word for me. Those kinds of folks will do more for ya than you can imagine. Encouraging words lift us to another place. They help us believe in ourselves. I mean, if someone else believes in me then I must be OK, right?!

Uplifting words have a healing effect on the human psyche. You’ll find yourself gravitating to those who have a kind word for you. And, it’s exactly the opposite for that other bunch that doesn’t have any good thing to say about anyone. Chances are that person was surrounded by parents, friends, or peers who couldn’t say anything positive to them. And, it has become the norm; it’s contagious. I read recently that it takes 40 positive, affirming words to counter just one negative, condemning, or cruel critical comment toward someone.

I may miss the mark. I may not always say the right thing. I may not handle every single situation perfectly. I might even do something that is just plain dumb. But, say something that lifts me up. Give me some encouragement! Speak life into me! Tell me something that’ll help me.

But, ……don’t bring me down!

Try these:

“Critics, There’s One on Every Corner”

“Sticks and Stones”

“Unrestricted Access”

Photo by Angela Roma from Pexels

You see the passes at most every public event, especially the big ones; “All Access”. The placard, usually worn around a person’s neck is an indicator for every official on the grounds of the event that anyone wearing this placard can go anywhere they want to go, and….at any time. Those “All Access” passes also carry the often unsaid understanding that the wearers are obviously of some importance. You know, like a real VIP!

The person wearing that “All Access” pass must’ve evidently been given a level of trust not offered to everyone. With that particular pass comes some extra responsibility, too, I’d say. Take a rock concert, for example. Let’s say Bob Seger (one of my faves, especially since I can’t go see Tom Petty anymore) is performing at Red Rocks. Now, that’d be a great combo; great entertainment at a great venue. If you have one of those “All Access” passes you might get to be up close and personal with Bob Seger, himself. I’ll bet you could even get your picture taken with him and the band if you were really lucky. But, without that “All Access” pass, …..it ain’t gonna happen! But, most of us are resigned to just go to the concert and enjoy the entertainment from a distance. Nothing wrong with that, whatsoever. But, it’s just not the same as having the VIP treatment.

You’re a VIP!

The One Who created the Universe has given you an “All Access” pass to be in His presence anytime it strikes your fancy! There’s never a bouncer at the door, no one checking ID’s, nobody deciding if you have the correct credentials, not anyone there to turn you away because you don’t have the right clearance, nobody to stamp your hand in case you go out and want to come back in. You don’t even have to show your “All Access” pass! They ‘all’ know who you are! Nope, nothing, whatsoever, to keep you from engaging in conversation, face to face worship, fellowship, and communion with God, Himself! Think about that for a minute!

It’s true! You’ve been given (because we couldn’t earn it!) unrestricted access to God! That’s a BIG DEAL!

Question is, what are you gonna do about it??!”

Check it out:

Are You ‘Led’, or Are You ‘Driven’?

The Mountains are Talkin’!

….and you’ve heard ’em too, whether you realize it or not! There’s also a great possibility you’ve been listening way too much to what they’re saying! I bet you’re wondering just what I’m talking about. Well, Jesus knew we’d be facing mountains in the natural course of our life so He addressed it upfront for us. “Whosoever shall say to the mountain, be removed and cast into the sea, and doesn’t doubt in his heart that those things he says, he shall have whatsoever he shall say.” 

Now, realistically I can’t imagine why I’d ever want to move an actual mountain from one place to another. As far as I’m concerned they’re all exactly where they’re supposed to be. On second thought I wouldn’t mind having a couple of small ones out here in Western Oklahoma just to look at now and then, …..but it is what it is. One would then have to surmise that maybe Jesus wasn’t talking about a literal mountain at all but about the problems, obstacles, and potential dangers we all face in life.

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I’d be surprised if anyone reading this little piece didn’t have at least some obstacle facing them right now. It just seems to work out that way. Mountains talk a lot! And when you have one, the mountain will be in your face talkin’ smack from the time you wake up ’til you go to sleep at night. ……sometimes even in your sleep! “You ain’t gonna make it!”. “You’ve got cancer!”. “He doesn’t love you anymore!”. “Your friends are talking about you!”. “You’re a failure!”. “You don’t do enough good stuff for the Lord to love you!”. And, the list goes on and on. Mountains are relentless! They don’t let up! The more you listen, the more they talk!

“Whosoever shall say to the mountain, be removed and cast into the sea, and doesn’t doubt in his heart that those things he says, he shall have whatsoever he shall say.” 

Jesus

I know you learned when you were a little kid to not ‘talk back’. Talkin’ back would get you in big trouble in those days. That was good advice then. But now, well now things have changed. You gotta start talkin’ back! I’ve found, for me, the most effective way to talk back to the mountains is to find a scriptural promise that directly affects the lies the mountain is saying to me. Every time that mountain tells me I ain’t gonna make it, ……I’ll declare the Word of the Lord out loud to my mountain. You can bet your boots I’m gonna talkback! And, I’m gonna do it like I mean it even if it feels like I’m spittin’ in the wind.

That’s exactly what Jesus did when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Three times he appealed to logic in trying to deceive Jesus; each time Jesus answered with, “It is written…”. Worked then for Him, ……..and it’ll work now for you if you’ll just do it!

The payoff

You’ll find that your level of faith rises every time you declare the Word to your mountain. Your mountain will begin to diminish in size. It’s all about perspective. Your faith is being tested and your faith will grow as a result.

So, yeah the mountains are talking. The question is, “What are you saying to your mountain!?”

$$$ – Being a “Thousandaire” Might Just Be Better Than Being a “Millionaire”!

It goes against logic, I know. But after 60 + years of observation…I think it’s true. Now, for starters, I haven’t yet had the experience of being a millionaire….but I’ve been a ‘thousandaire’ for years. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve dropped below the qualification limit a few times down through the years…..especially during my illustrious rodeo career. But for the most part, I’ve been a steady thousandaire.

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I’ve noticed the last few years as I’ve gotten older that I don’t need as much ‘stuff’ as I use to think I needed. All those things that we ‘needed’ and thought would make us happier……didn’t! I think it’s part of actually growing up and maturing and learning in part, what’s really important in life.

I’ve observed throughout my life those who had lots of money. Even had friends growing up whose parents were very well off. There’s nothing at all wrong with that. In fact, it’s to be commended in most cases. It’s America; we can do just about whatever we want to do. And for those who really find their niche and do well financially, it’s a very good thing. I did notice that some of the rich kids didn’t try near as hard at sports as some of the less fortunate. They had enough athletic ability, alright,…..but the ‘try factor’ was lacking. It really showed up during my rodeo career. It’s a broad statement,….and not always true, but the rich kids weren’t nearly as gritty as those who had nothing to fall back on. 

“I’ve been hungry and I’ve been full; I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. I’ve learned to be content in whatever state I’m in”.

Paul

The human spirit is an amazing thing. We’re created to conquer and to succeed. Everybody loves the story of those who overcame extreme odds to succeed in life. It’s a very good thing to ‘have’ to get up and go to work and put in a good day…every day. It’s good to learn to manage our finances and resources and to live within our means. We can do a lot more than we think we can….but if it’s always been done for us….we’ll never know. If we never have to really ‘try’, we might just not ever do it.

I recently told a friend, “This time next year I’ll have 9 grandkids”. He jokingly said, “You’ll never be able to afford Christmas”...to which I replied, “I’ve never been able to afford Christmas yet!”(We raised 5 of our own!) But, you know what?? We’ve had great Christmases for, going on now, 39 years! We have somehow survived….just being ‘thousandaires’!

Paul said it in the Bible. “I’ve been hungry and I’ve been full; I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. I’ve learned to be content in whatever state I’m in”. He’d found the ‘secret’ to true happiness and contentment. His ‘joy’ was in the Lord!

I’m only a thousandaire but if family and friends and relationship with the Father were measured in money……I’d be a millionaire many times over!! I’m really, really rich in the things that matter most to me!

Let’s Start an “I Love You” Culture!

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I grew up in a household where the “I love you’s” were very common. I didn’t realize how important that was until I was all grown up. As a matter of fact, I don’t guess I really came to the stark realization of just how important that was until I began to encounter person after person who didn’t have the same luxury as me. It has been a bit of an eye-opener of how many people my age never heard their dad say, “I love you.”. From experience, I’d say that moms are traditionally a lot better to say it than dads. But, saying it is important……and more important than you might imagine.

In my part of the world, I’ve been in the Texas Panhandle or Western Oklahoma all my life, it seems to have been part of the culture. Not sure if the same would go for other parts of the USA or the rest of the world for that matter but it wouldn’t surprise me. Fact is there are myriads of people out there who didn’t hear “I love you” in their home, from their parents or their people and as a result, they don’t say it either. It makes an incredible difference to hear it. I can’t number the times I’ve sat in my office with people of all ages with one after the other recanting their heartbreak over wondering if they were loved at all. Of course, in most if not nearly all cases they were loved, ……just not told.

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I’m free with the term and I’ve found out that if you tell other people you love ’em in a little bit they’ll return the favor. For many who are not free with it, it may feel very awkward and unnatural at first but as time goes by it’ll start to feel like second-nature. My best example is one of my close friends; he grew up in one of those homes where he was loved but it wasn’t said. He caught the significance of what I’m talking about and started the process with his grown sons. It caught on! Now I’ll walk through our offices and hear him on the phone with one of his boys and they’ll finish the call with, “Love Ya”. It blesses me to hear that! It’s doable and you can do it too!

Now, here’s something serious to think about. If we didn’t hear it from our parents and if we believe we weren’t loved, when we start to connect with God, who is a Father, it’s extremely hard for us to believe that He can love us either. It profoundly affects the most important relationship you’ll ever have! The more you trust the Father, …..the more fulfilling your life will be! ………we need to fix this!

Tell me about your own experience. Is it easy for you or not? What difference have you seen with your people upon being told, “I love you”? Let me hear your stories.

So, here’s my proposition. I’m startin’ an “I love you” culture! It might even turn into a revolution. Wouldn’t that be something?!

Who’s with me?

Will the Randall Terry’s of America Please Stand Up!

*I wrote this blog several years ago but never posted it. With the current state of our nation and the controversy raging over abortion I thought it would be timely to post now. – AT

There are only a few people around today who would even remember Randall Terry. And those who know him and have kept up with him would probably shrug their shoulders in disgust at the mention of his name. Terry would undoubtedly be accurately labeled as a ‘right-wing activist’ especially by the liberal media in America. They hated him then and it’d be worse now! In fact, I remember a lot worse things said about him some thirty years or so ago; extremist, is another word used to describe Terry, and again it’s probably pretty accurate. But there are more than several thousand young men and women out there in America somewhere who owe their very existence to Randall Terry.

In the nineties, Randall Terry’s organization, Operation Rescue, was involved in bringing much-needed attention to abortion doctors and clinics around the United States who engaged in, among other things, third trimester and partial birth abortions. Operation Rescue and Terry, personally, were involved in almost every kind of lawful activity in their effort to stop young girls from having abortions. He was arrested and jailed too many times to count for picketing abortion clinics, but he did more than anyone in that era (maybe ever) to put a stop to the indiscriminate killing of unborn babies. He was a continual thorn in the side of Planned Parenthood and organizations like it.

Terry’s story doesn’t have a happy ending, at least up to this point. Since the nineties he was accused of adultery, ended up with another woman, made a string of bad business decisions, said a lot of dumb stuff to the media and gave up the reins to Operation Rescue which, it seems (since I don’t hear much about it today) is not making much of an impact against the killing of the unborn. To me, he is a hero fallen from grace; we should pray for him. I wonder who will take up the cause?

And for the thousands of thirty-somethings who are now alive, only, because of his efforts, I can’t help but wonder…..How will they vote in 2020?

A Lifetime of Faithfulness

I bumped into a Friend in the post office last week. He’s a retired pastor in his late 80’s.  He just sold his home and he and his wife are entering an assisted living facility in a neighboring town. He retired from the ministry a short time ago. Spent his whole life ministering in a small country church. A whole lifetime of faithfulness. I have a lot of respect for guys like that.

It made me think; I doubt he ever made much more money than to barely get by. Not rare to have to find some kind of supplemental income. Probably never got asked to speak at a big conference anywhere. Never gonna have his picture or an article in Charisma magazine. Not even gonna name a street after him in his little town. He’s not one to complain about that kinda stuff. It obviously wasn’t what was important to him. But, he kept on being faithful anyhow.

I bet he knew three or four generations of people there where he ministered all those years. Went through all the ups and downs with ’em. Everything from burying their grandpa to seeing a new baby boy welcomed into the world and entire families devastated by some of the tragedies life brings. Held their hands when they didn’t have any hope for what they were facing. Always clinging to, and pointing them to God. And, in a little church like that in a tiny community, the Pastor has to do everything. Preach every Sunday for decade upon decade. Marry ’em, bury ’em, and everything in between. All the while getting the usual criticism that goes along with the job. Think about how much wisdom he gained in a generation or more. Think about how much he would have to offer…….anyone.

In my conversation with my Friend, he lost his train of thought a time or two and apologized for it. He even said, “Well, that’s the problem I have now.”. I ‘felt’ his pain at that very moment and it grieved me. Even makes me tear up while I’m writing.

It’s been a whole lifetime of faithfulness, to the Lord and to the people He entrusted him with. It makes me wonder if anyone really noticed; if anyone did much more than say, “Thank ‘ya”. But, I have an opinion about men like my Friend. You don’t have to agree with me but I bet ‘ya when we get up ‘there’, you know, in Heaven that guys like my Friend are gonna be getting some heavy duty hardware when they start passin’ out the rewards. I think we might be surprised at how honored ‘then’ they might be as compared to those who won world acclaim here on earth. We should honor them now, ….but we probably won’t….

Some people just don’t appreciate a lifetime of faithfulness like that.

But I do!

….and I think the Father does too!

Well done!