Sweetness Can Be Enhanced By Sweetness

It was a plain bar of milk chocolate, but it may have been the “sweetest” candy I have tasted.

No, it didn’t physically taste any different than any of the chocolate we can buy here in the States.  The “sweetness” came in the process through which I had come into possession of the chocolate bar.

“I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you!’ for coming down to help us and for all the work you have done.  I hope you enjoy it.”

A Peruvian young lady of about 20 years old chose these English words to explain the reason behind the gift. She worked as hard as any of us in the optical department of our medical campaign.  She sat for hours each day, translating the patients’ questions from Spanish to English, and then our responses from English to Spanish. Yet she did not want credit for the work she had done. She just wanted to say, “Thank you!”

Each of us received this same type of gift expressed in different ways.  The spontaneous, fervent hug a physical therapist received from the mother of a small child who is confined to a wheel chair, after the therapist had shown the mother therapeutic exercises which will help the child develop.  The bright smile those in the “lentes” (lenses) department witnessed when a patient received a pair of glasses which corrected his extremely poor eyesight. The voluntarily offered hand of a child who felt safe and loved in the presence of strangers who had invaded his neighborhood.

This morning, I thought long and hard about the chocolate bar.

I sat in a plane seat clutching a small bag of pretzels, waiting for the stewardess to pour me a cup of soft drink.  I expected this refreshment.  It was a part of my airfare. I had paid for it. I would have been disappointed had I not gotten it. Those pretzels and that cup of liquid were a symbol of the commercialized, materialistic world we live in; a world where almost everything is for sale, and very few things come without a price.

At that moment, I once again looked into the eyes of an energetic, smiling young lady as she sweetly explained, “I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you!’ for coming down to help us and for all the work you have done.  I hope you enjoy it.”

That was the one of the “sweetest” chocolate bars I have ever tasted.

“Give, and it will be given to you.  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38) ESV


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Why Am I So Spiritually Tired? I Would Have Thought That I Would Be Strong Enough By Now Not To Feel So Worn Out.

Our Trailblazer has enough power to easily pull itself down the interstate at 70 MPH.  When the cruise control is set at 70, the tachometer averages about 2000 RPMs and rarely goes above 2500 RPMs, even on major inclines.

The Trailblazer came equipped with a towing package. Today, I pulled an empty single-axle, medium sized lawn mower trailer to Bowling Green.  The trailer is fairly new.  It is well balanced and light weight. It tracks beautifully. It produces very little drag resistance.

Yet, when I activated the cruise control today, the tachometer varied from 2000 RPMs to as much as 4000 RPMs.  The amply powered engine maintained the set speed of 70 MPH, whether I was traveling on a level strip or up a steep incline, but it had to work much harder today than the times the vehicle has made the trip solo.

Today’s experience surprised me.  I would not have thought that the light weight, well-balanced trailer would have placed such a strain on a SUV which was designed to tow.  Yet, it did.

Spiritually, we may be struggling. We may be wondering why.  The reason may be that we are pulling along baggage; baggage which we believe we were meant to drag with us. It may be that the resistance the baggage produces is far more intense than we realize.  This baggage may be the result of sin and guilt. But it may also be the result of non-sinful cares, worries, and anxieties.

No matter how spiritually strong we are, even the lightest load of unnecessary luggage can cause us to work far harder than God intends us to.  It can cause us to doubt, to become burned out and worn out, and it can cause us to quit if we continue to drag it along with us.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) ESV

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6,7) ESV

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’ As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!” (Psalm 40:16-17)ESV

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Have You Reviewed Your Collection Of Tee Shirts Lately?

Our clothing tells those we meet more about us than anything else we put on our bodies.  More than makeup.  More than cologne.  More than hair gel.  Even strangers we briefly encounter and will never meet again receive a message from the clothing that we adorn.

This is especially true when it comes to the everyday, relaxed clothing that we wear; the kind that we just haphazardly pull out of the laundry basket or drawer, then rapidly throw on.

Everyday tee shirts that have a message printed on them definitely make a first impression on those we meet because they specifically express our thoughts in words and symbols.  Most of these shirts have accumulated through the years. They were once important to us. We bought them because they made a statement with which we proudly agreed, or maybe they illustrated a particular lifestyle in which we indulged.  Some of these shirts were given to us because we were involved in a charity or worthwhile event.

Through the years, these shirts were demoted from the “let’s impress someone” and the “let’s make a statement” wardrobe to the “let’s just be comfortable” drawer.  Yet, these tees still tell those we meet much about us.  They say that the message emblazoned across our chest is still important to us.  We have not discarded them, because the advertised slogan, lifestyle or event has become so much a part of our everyday lives, that we enjoy comfortably, openly proclaiming our approval of the printed message without so much as a second thought.

Do you want to know who you are?

Sometime, go through your everyday tee shirt laundry basket.  What do you see?  Save the whales?  Drink more beer?  Run for a cure?  Live for Christ?  Party until you can’t?  Go Cats?  Roll Tide? Sexually express yourself?  Curse the world?  Feed the poor?

If we haven’t recently taken inventory of those old messengers, the communication that the world reads on our chest may be totally different than that which we believe we are relaying.

“9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Col. 3:9-13 ESV) (Note: To “put on” means to “clothe one’s self”)

1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:1-5 ESV)
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When Only Tears Can Pull A Man Through

The proverb of old
Is what we were told;
We heard, “Real men don’t cry tears.”
We tried to be bold,
When the world was so cold
With all its tauntings and jeers.

But one day it came,
The inescapable shame,
Our eyes overflowing with fears.
They burned like a flame,
No one was to blame
Still we dreaded the ragging of peers.

We misunderstood
We thought the tears would
Show us to be weak and frail.
But off came the hood
Which had hidden the good,
The strength of a genuine male.

True strength won’t deny
The emotions that tie
And which show it loyal and true.
Strength shamelessly cries
With its loyalty tried
For there are times when only tears can pull it through.

Stoic bravado has its place
In the running of this race,
But I’m thankful that I outgrew,
“When men cry they lose face”
The false notion of disgrace,
For there are times when only tears can pull a man through.

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

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A True Appraisal of Property Cannot Be Influenced by Family History or Sentimental Journeys. But Sometimes Family History and Sentimental Journeys are the Only Appreciable Value of a Property.

Jesse Stuart’s short story, “This Farm for Sale”, tells the tale of a tired old farmer who decides to unload his acreage and move his family to town. The landowner hires a real estate broker to advertise his homestead in the local paper.  The agent visits the farm and then publishes a beautiful description of the land.  He details the warmth and nostalgic feel of the house, the history and usefulness of the barn, the life-giving beauty of the creek that winds through the bottom land, and the bountiful resources found in the farm’s orchard and berry thickets.

The story concludes with the old farmer reading the outsider’s glowing appraisal of his farm, and his deciding that it would be foolish to sell such a valuable treasure.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve thought quite a bit about that story.  I’ve thought about how sometimes outsiders can see a value in a specific aspect of our life which we ourselves cannot realize.  Perhaps we have become so determined in a decision that we cannot truly assess the situation.

But notice that I said sometimes.

Sometimes, it’s just the opposite.  Sometimes an outsider’s sole purpose is to give an objective appraisal of the actual value of one of our possessions. To do his job, he cannot be concerned about family history or walking down sentimental pathways.  He is simply concerned with facts, and the current condition of the object.  Not what was or what may be in the future, but what is.

Several years ago, as a part of the process of obtaining a refinance loan, I had to hire a certified appraiser to assess the farm.

The appraiser noted the following on his assessment (paraphrased): “Located on the farm are a small house, an old tobacco barn, and a small operational dairy facility.  Due to their size, age, and condition, and due to the current farm economy, none of these permanent structures adds to the value of the farm.”

This young man did his job professionally and accurately. His job was to determine a value for a piece of property based upon expert opinions and the opinions expressed by community members through their recent bidding and purchasing of similar pieces of property. He was correct in saying, the house, tobacco barn, and dairy barn would appear useless to most buyers in our community.

However, value, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder.

The house was built for my grandparents (on my mom’s side) shortly after they married.  It was the place where a young love and family began to blossom.  My Granny (on my Dad’s side) lived in the house for 35+ years beginning with my early childhood.  Memories of her stories, habits, eccentricities, love, and care abound in that house.  Many a night was spent sitting at her feet and listening to her read “This Farm for Sale” and other short stories.

The tobacco barn was built by my grandfather in the 1940’s. No, it would not hold a crop of tobacco now. But the ground it stands on holds the blood, sweat, and tears of several generations of family members who learned the meaning of cooperation, perseverance, and communication.

The milk barn was built by Daddy and Mama in 1976.  At the time of the appraisal, that small dairy operation had and was providing a basic living for three generations. Through the years, it has provided the groundwork for Christian character to be instilled within all who have worked, played, visited, and written their names on the back wall.

Neither an appraiser, nor a buyer can appreciate the history of the three buildings.  Truth be known, the next generation of Waddells will never fully be able to grasp the buildings’ importance in the shaping of that generation’s character and integrity.  Only those who have sat at the feet of a loving grandmother as she read “A Penny’s Worth of Character” by Jessie Stuart; only those who have listened to their parents, aunts and uncles, and other close friends laugh and enjoy each other’s company as they passed sticks of tobacco from one to the other while sweat poured from their skin; only those who have trekked to the barn in the dark in order to milk cows or feed calves before heading to school, can really understand why size, age, and condition are not always a true indicator of value.

As I said, I have been thinking quite a bit lately about that fictional story and that factual real estate appraisal.

I am selling a portion of the family farm; the section on which the small house sits.  Although the house is still structurally sound, and although it is filled with fond memories, in the eyes of the typical buyer, the house adds little or no value to the land.  It is outdated and unsafe for the average American family with all its electrical and plumbing needs.

But I am not selling the land to an average American family.  I am selling it to an Amish couple.  And they will find value in the house; for they do not have the need for plumbing or electricity.

It saddens me to see that portion of our heritage leave the family.  I have no doubt that all of us will grieve when it changes hands. But I am glad to know that someone else will be able use the land to begin filling their own treasure chest with valuable memories.

1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 
2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. 
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. 
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. 
5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:1-5)ESV


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Character Will Eventually Outshine Rumors

My family and I lived in Green County, KY for about 12 years. We have now lived in a neighboring county, Metcalfe, for about 15 years.  Some time back, I walked into a place of business in Edmonton, our current county seat. The store clerk noticed that the jacket I was wearing referred to Green County. He asked if I lived there and if I knew a specific man from that area. I will call the man, Jim.

I was familiar with Jim through the retail building supply at which I had worked.

“What kind of a name (reputation) does he have there?,” the young man asked.

I hesitated because from the first day Jim had walked into my former place of employment, I had been told by my peers, “Beware of him. He’s a miser and an ornery old codger. He may not cheat you or steal anything, but he will get as close to it as he can without crossing the line.”

The young man continued, “In my book, Jim is a man of character.” He then told how he had bought 3 beef cows from Jim at an admittedly high price, but their blood line made them worth the extra money. One of the cows died shortly after the purchase. The young man had not told Jim about it, but he heard the news of the loss through the grapevine. When Jim heard it, he contacted the young man and insisted upon giving him a replacement cow.

The clerk concluded with the simple declaration of, “That’s character.”

On that day, I entered that place of business with a long-held judgment of a man based upon rumors; when I left, my respect for the man was based upon an actual expression of character.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13: 6,7)

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12)

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Escape, Then Never Look Back!

I remember reading an article several years ago about the dilemma faced by many people living in Arizona and other arid states.  Over the years, several thousand people suffering from severe allergies had moved to these areas in an effort to escape high pollen producing plants.  However, the migrants found themselves missing the green grass and flowers which they had left behind, so they began importing and transplanting the more hearty varieties of grasses, flowers, and other vegetation.  At first, this action did not have a significant affect on the air quality, but as more and more plants were imported and established, the pollen count began to rise.  The migrants through their own actions had imported that which they were trying to escape.

Rural America is experiencing an influx of citizens who are leaving the fast paced rat race of city life.  These migrants move to the country hoping to escape many types of influences, lifestyles, criminal activities, and social norms.  However, after living in their new surroundings for a time, many find the slow paced, uneventful, conservatively moral lifestyle to be somewhat boring and unexciting.  They don’t want to go back to the city, but they want to bring at least a portion of the excitement which they left behind into their new surroundings.  So they start and promote movements to repeal 100 year old laws which prohibit some of the activities which they found exciting in their old community; not realizing that these activities form the root of many of the undesirable social characteristics they were trying to leave behind.  The migrants through their own actions import that which they are trying to escape.

Spiritually, lost, miserable souls turn to Jesus in order to escape the devastation of sin-filled lifestyles.  They seek salvation through forgiveness, and vow through repentance to live a new lifestyle.  At first, the newborn christian often finds his citizenship in Christ’s church to be a wonderful, exhilarating experience. However, as time goes on, the new disciple begins to miss some of the excitement which he enjoyed in his old lifestyle.  So he begins to look for ways to justify his becoming involved once again in just a few of his old vices.  He begins to search for biblical or ecumenical loopholes, examples, or statements which will excuse his giving in to his desires.  He doesn’t want to leave the fellowship of Christ and His church. He doesn’t want to go back to where he was before.  He just wants to bring a part of his old ways into the body of Christ with him.  And as a result, he eventually finds himself having to deal with the same miserable sin-filled lifestyle which he sought to escape.  The spiritual migrant through his own actions has entangled himself once again in that which he was trying to escape.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.  But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” (Colossians 3:5-10)

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.  What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:20-22)

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Body Language Can Say More Than We Want it To Say

Body language often communicates far more about us than we intend it to communicate.  Sometimes our movements, gestures, and stances accurately express our mood or intended tone, even when we are trying to hide our true feelings.  Often these bodily expressions are displayed more from subconscious habit than intentional effort.

Then there are other times when the observers of our body language misinterpret our mood or intended tenor; they read more into our movements and stance than our body language implies.

This was brought to my attention during our recent trip to Peru.  When I am frustrated, feeling helpless, or aggravated, I have a habit of clinching and unclinching my fists.  Two years ago, upon our arrival in Cusco, a couple of our Peruvian brethren met our small group and provided transportation to our hotel via a private vehicle.  During our trip to the hotel, we accidentally turned down a blind alley and had to perform some difficult maneuvers in order to exit the alley.  I don’t remember a great deal about the incident, but apparently my body language made quite an impression on the brethren.  They weren’t sure of my intended purpose for clinching and relaxing my fists.  Even today, those gestures highlight their memories of the trip. That which is a dim memory to me is still a vivid perplexity for the two brethren.

Since we do so much of our communicating through our unintentional, habitual bodily gestures, controlling the message our body language conveys can be very difficult; perhaps even more difficult than controlling the message our tongue transmits.  But even so, we should be just as diligent in guarding our nonverbal communication as we are in filtering our words.

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6)

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37)

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Don’t Blame Me, I Simply Took Advantage of Your Mistake.

The design of my milk barn allowed each cow to occupy an individual stanchion while she was being milked.  Each stanchion had a rear entrance door and a front exit door. Occasionally, when I was letting a cow in to be milked, I would mistakenly leave the entrance door to a stanchion closed and the cow could not enter her stall; in that case, if she wanted to, a cow could continue walking down the aisle, bypassing the milking stalls until she exited the barn. Also, sometimes I would mistakenly leave the exit door open, thus allowing the cow the freedom to prematurely exit the stall should she so choose.

Some cows, especially the older ones, would understand the oversight. These cows would patiently wait until I corrected the situation.  Other cows would sneakily take advantage of my mistake by literally running past the stalls and out of the milk room. It was if they were shouting, “Nanny, nanny, boo, boo. I get to skip being milked today, and it’s all your fault. Don’t blame me, I’m just taking advantage of your mistake.”

A couple of hours later, while the rest of the cows were contentedly laying in the pasture field, the sneaky cow could be found hanging around the milk barn, bawling; asking why she didn’t get her feed ration for the day and why her udder felt so uncomfortable.

The lesson for us? Taking advantage of a mistake made by another will generally hurt us far more times than it will help us.

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:31)

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” (Proverbs 11:3)

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Are Those Her Headlights?

I sat down to write a meaningful post based upon my past experience as a dairyman.  But I found myself looking through the window in front of me, wanting to see the headlights of her car coming down the road.

For her, it’s just another busy day at the office.  She hasn’t been gone that long (just a little over 14 hours), but some days that time seems like forever.  At the close of those days, when the darkness of night settles in, the loneliness settles in as well, and the desire to see her safely arrive at home intensifies.

There won’t be much said when she gets home.  She will be worn out.  I’ll ask her how her day was and she’ll tell me as much as is permissible using professional terms and combinations of letters which I don’t understand. I’ll tell her some of the events of my day.  She’ll eat a late supper while watching a TV program that I can barely hear or tolerate, and I will sit for a short time pretending to be interested in the program.  Then I’ll head to bed to read for a short period while she enjoys some alone time.

Her homecoming is not emotional, exciting, challenging or engaging, but it’s something we both look forward to and have for 35 years.  Our roles have changed over the years; I once was the one coming in from work.  The number and ages of the characters have changed over the years; our three children now have homes of their own.  But over the past 35 years, the thrill and anticipation of the nightly homecoming as only gotten sweeter.

I’m thankful for my momentary loneliness right now because it inspires me to cherish the beautiful, loving partner God has given me. I’m also tremendously thankful that the momentary loneliness is just that . . . momentary.

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:10-12)

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” (Proverbs 31:28)

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