The Missing Thread

Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting and getting to know people from every strata of society. I have met government officials, those in the military, those who hob-knobbed in Hollywood and even church leaders from many denominations. I have met the wealthy, those on welfare and those who are the hard-working backbone of the nation. I have traveled overseas, crossed nations, crossed state borders, crossed cities and crossed my own street. In all this, there has been a common thread that never fails to show up.

This thread is so prevalent, so important, that its presence in the fabric of even the most basic relationship is essential or it begins to unravel. I have seen powerful apostolic leaders, pastors of little country churches, fathers who lead their own homes, and even executives of million dollar corporations fail to include this thread. Wherever it happened, the end result is always the same. It destroys their influence and becomes the seed of destruction that poisons every relationship and kills everything they laid their hands on.

When this thread is visibly present there is a beautiful harmony and symmetry that settles the soul and makes people feel richly satisfied with all that is happening. It brings a cohesion and stability that provides an overriding sense of clarity and focus. However, without it, there is an unspoken but firm resistance that forces everything to a grinding halt. No one may speak about it, but everyone will feel it clogging up the atmosphere like invisible cement.

“What is this thread?” you may ask.  It’s honor! Honor is the key that allows a man to lead his family, or a president to lead a country. It is the backbone of the military, the glue of lifelong friendships and the weld that holds good marriages together. Honor is what makes someone die for their fellow man or refuse to speak a negative word when others are spewing forth a sewer of criticism. It holds itself accountable to do the right thing and needs no one looking over its shoulder to stay on course. Honor is the thread that connects a whole nation, or a single person to a higher standard of excellence, without any excuses.

Have you felt the growing tide of hostility and discontent that is swallowing up the nations? I can feel its dark tentacles getting a stronger and stronger hold on the hearts and minds of the people. Unless you want to be part of this incoming tide of destruction let me suggest to you a few things. These may help you recover the sweet voice of honor in what has become a very dishonoring world. 

#1. Let honor become the center thread in the tapestry of your life. Once it is a core principle, the actions of others will have no power to influence what you do or say.  

#2. Let the words of your mouth sow seeds of honor at all times. This will become the harvest you get back in the days ahead. That’s good to know!

#3. Never participate in or condone any form of dishonor. The smell of dishonor always gets on those who are near it. Remember, you don’t have to eat a ball of garlic to smell like you have!

#4. The highest form of honor is always the honor you choose to give, not the honor that is earned or deserved. This kind of honor does not just lift another, it ultimately lifts you. 

If you are willing to restore honor to it’s intended place in your life you will not just secure your own future, but you will be an influence for good in the lives of all you touch. In the end, isn’t that what makes life what it was meant to be?

The Rewards Of Honor

My wife Esther is a beautiful woman inside and out. She has a heart of gold, a wonderful figure and is just pleasing to look at and be around. When God gave her to me He knew exactly what He was doing. That being said, she also is a city girl who did stand-in work and stunts in the movie business. I however am a country boy who grew up in the back woods of the Adirondack Mountains. This fact of nature lends itself to some very interesting things in our life together. One such thing occurred right after we were married and Esther had moved from LA to my country home in upstate New York.

Our property at that time was nestled between some farm land, a pine forest and a nice stand of hardwoods. Best of all there was a huge patch of wild blackberries at the top of the hill, right on our property line. These created a perfect barrier and food source for a flock of turkeys that were in the area. So, on one particularly beautiful Fall day I planned to go turkey hunting, and to my surprise, when asked Esther said she would go with me.

With that fact,  I knew one thing for sure, there would be no turkeys brought home that day!  In fact I was so certain we would see nothing that I decided to take my old Remington, single shot 20 gauge and two shells with number 4 shot, just in case we flushed a partridge. The point being, this was my new bride, and her willingness to go with me changed the story. I was certainly not going to withdraw the invitation, and I thought to myself, “If nothing else, we will have a nice walk around our property”.

So, with the above in mind, we put on our camo, I gave her some brief instructions about the basics of hunting and we headed out the back door and up the hill on our property. Within 5 minutes we were standing behind the blackberry bushes and I whispered to Esther about where the turkeys might be. I pointed to the right along the hardwood line and then to the left along the freshly plowed field. Then in complete innocence Esther said “look at those big birds right in front of us, are those Turkeys?” Sure enough, there they were. The whole flock was in the freshly plowed field not 30 feet from where we were standing, and they had not heard us.

I told Esther to plug her ears and I fired at the closest Tom. To my shock the bird fell over while the rest of the flock sailed up into the air and vanished in the hardwoods. I quickly reloaded as I noticed the big bird starting to run, trying to get into the air. The second shot brought the bird to it’s final resting place and we stepped out in the field to claim our prize. In the eyes of my wife, there was now no doubt that she had indeed married a county boy. In her eyes I must have looked like the “mighty hunter”. We walked home together that day carrying our fresh Thanksgiving dinner after a 10 minute hunt!

What did I learn from this event? When we put others first God honors it. Had I stuck to my old thought patterns, not requested her presence, and left Esther at home alone, I would never have gone into the woods where we did. Because I wanted her with me, I took the path that was best suited for her, not best suited for hunting. That decision brought us to the very place we needed to be and God honored the fact that I honored my wife.

What lesson did I learn that day? If there had been a lack of honor between me and my wife  the outcome would have been very different. My question is this, is there any evidence of a lack of honor between you and your wife? Have there been blessing withheld, and opportunities missed because you did not honor one another as God intended? If the answer is yes, perhaps now is the time to make things right.

Men, we have no excuse. If God gave you a wife, she is a gift for life and He expects us to bring out the beauty that He placed within her. If your wife does not shine then you have failed to polish her as God intended and it’s time to change! Today, look for ways to begin nurturing your wife. Get your eyes off yourself and start to bring out the hidden beauty that is in her. The rewards last a lifetime and the blessings will overtake you from every direction. If you want the best God has, begin by learning the language of honor and then start using it on your wife.  You’ll be glad you did!

The Amazing Power Of “Off”

Think of all the things we do each day. From the moment we awake until we finally close our eyes at night, there are a thousand things pulling on our emotions and positioning themselves to grab our attention. Some are significant while others are a total waste of time. The average person does not recognize the importance of knowing which is which.  Thus, these “Time Suckers” constantly rob us of the greatest gift we have to offer; ourselves!

I have created a list of the biggest time-suckers in my own life. I had to do this or risk accepting their relentless pursuit as a way of life. I really struggled with this idea, but I knew it had to be done or I would  bow to the outcome of their final conclusion. That is, the reality that my life was being squandered on and invaded by things that have no real value, purpose or meaning.

The main offenders were easy to spot nearly every very place I went. I saw a couple out for dinner with their faces glued to their smart phones. Not one word was spoken until the check was brought and then they talked about the tip . Then there was the family on vacation at the beach.  The two children had Ipods plugged into their ears while mom read a romance novel on her Kindle and dad caught the baseball game on his radio. Once again not a word spoken between them for over an hour until the kids needed money for a cold drink.  And my favorite of all; the newlywed couple who watched tv monitors from the head table at their wedding. Why, you might ask….. because their wedding conflicted with their favorite crime show! What more needs to be said?

These chronographic leeches show up in church, at funerals, while driving in heavy traffic and even during intimate dates. They voice their presence in the middle of the night and disturb our sleep.They invade the dinner table, the boardroom, the bathroom and the bedroom. They break our focus and demand our immediate attention when we are with family. They even have the ability to break our heart-to-heart connection when we are with friends. I am convinced that unless we learn to exercise our right to hit the”off” button we are all headed for a rude and lonely awakening.

My list… well here it is, in no specific order or rating of invasive power. Smart phones, Ipods, electronic games, television, tablets, laptop computers, satellite radio, and now phone watches. These are among the biggest offenders.  There are others but if you take yourself offline daily from just these and have human contact with those you love, life takes on an amazingly personal quality. Before its too late, you may want to consider a list of your own. It has helped me reorder my life and priorities and I’m so glad I made it! I have rediscovered the amazing power of “off”, and so can you. 

 

 

 

The Power Of Communication

I am and have always enjoyed being a communicator. I love language and it’s power to convey ideas, present vision and provide avenues for people to learn about the secrets of the heart. Real communication can be the stuff of deep relational connection which is often missing in this electronic world we have created. When there is a breakdown in what was designed to be a perfect flow of face-to-face encounter, it leaves a hole in me and in my thoughts for quite some time.

I am before groups or people all the time, speaking truth, providing insight and giving instruction at many levels. When they “get it”, I can see a change in their facial expression. The connection that joins us for that brief moment is absolutely fantastic. There is a unity of purpose and a common vision that cements our different worlds into one and moves us forward to a common goal. That profound “sync” is so rare, that when it happens, there is a knowing that something unique and powerful has just taken place. It connects the dots for those involved and both our worlds are elevated into something new and wonderful.

Because of this gift to communicate, I travel a great deal in ministry. My wife and I are frequently away from our home church and our friends. We are invited nationally and internationally to address congregations, speak at conferences and provide fresh insight to leaders in different Church and business strata. Thus, our ability to clearly communicate spiritual and natural truths is put to the test continually, and this presents a very unique challenge that we take very seriously.

We are what is known biblically as “prophets”. This means God made us with the spiritual apparatus to hear and understand His voice, and speak His truth. However, from that position we hold an ever increasing responsibility to communicate more than just the truth. We are really called to communicate God’s heart, which is the key that really unlocks the lives of people. In other words our real calling in life is to speak the truth in love. In fact I am convinced that speaking the truth in love is the high calling of every person on earth.

Have you ever had someone speak the truth to you, but it came with such a sharp edge that it cut you deeply and wounded you in the most personal way? I’m not talking about the angry back lash from an uncontrolled mouth. I am referring to the words of someone you loved and trusted, but in a thoughtless moment of frustration they blurted out something that pierced your heart. How you respond to such communication sets a pattern in your life for offense or growth. Respond well and you will use it to change and mature. Respond poorly and you have set yourself up to live a life filled with hurt, self-preservation and continual offence.

A good response to bad words and actions, sets you free to grow, change, learn and become better equipped to live a satisfied life. By staying open and unoffended to even the most caustic people, you will become resilient and strengthened by each new encounter. Nothing will ever be able to stop you, and this is the victorious life God intended you to live. However, a bad response in the same situation makes you a prisoner to it. As you continue to relive what was said or done, this has the demonic ability to hold you captive forever.  In your life, it will accomplish what no chain or jail cell ever could.

We visited Africa not long ago and one man who hunted monkeys told me of a unique method he used to capture them without harm. He took a heavy clay jug with an opening just big enough for a monkeys hand to pass through. In the jug he place two bananas and then secured the jug with a rope to a near by tree. Monkeys would come, stick their hand into the jug and grab the banana but then were unable to pull their hand and the banana out at the same time. Since the monkey refused to let the banana go, it was now trapped and could easily be bagged up.

Whats my point? Some of you reading this blog have been trapped by what you have held onto in life. You have to let it go, all of it, or be held prisoner. What will it be? Will you allow the foolish actions of someone else control your life and destiny, or will you begin to take responsibility for your own emotions and choose what your life will be like? Forgive it, forget it and move on. Let it go!  I believe it’s time for many to just let things go, and once again begin to enjoy the life you have. Remember, it’s the only one you will ever get so be sure you make it a great one!

The Wonder Of A Grateful Heart

Have you ever considered how the simplest of things are there every day and we just take them for granted? I’m not talking about the car you drive or the smart phone that is glued to your ear. No, I am talking about those things that are just there day in and day out and we hardly even notice them. They have a profound impact on some, but we are so accustomed to them, and so busy, that they are nearly invisible to the adult world.

These things make life so much better and so much more beautiful, and they do it with an ease that causes us to miss their significance and importance. The eyes of children see these things with fresh wonder. Their boundless enthusiasm often overtakes me. I can watch them for hours staring with wide-eyed amazement at things we adults just walk by and never even give a second glance.

What are these hidden wonders that can transform a life filled with boredom, into a moment-by-moment masterpiece? They are the unrecognized, unnoticed things that cost nothing, give everything and are present to the moment for all who take the time to bask in their fleeting presence. Let me list a few that you no doubt have missed on your rush to live life.

  • A flurry of brilliant orange leaves painted on the canvas of a fall wind;
  • A lake of liquid diamonds glistening in the early morning summer sun;
  • The electric symphony of a thunder storm, flashing its way into a night sky;
  • The soft coldness of a million feathered snowflakes on a trackless field,
  • The fragile-winged delicacy of a Monarch butterfly on a child’s fingertip;
  • The ancient, lonely whistled-cry of a Loon on a summer evening lake.

Children stop in their innocence and are mesmerized by such things. It’s amazing to watch them become transfixed for an instant as they tumble through life. Their eyes will see or their ears will catch what all the adults around them have missed, and they are absorbed by it. I marvel that they can still see and hear the magnificent wonder of the simplest things. More than that, I am envious. They will take the time to pause, look with open-eyed wonder and drink that moment in while others blunder on with more “important” matters.

Such is the power of a grateful heart. It will stop at any moment and recognize the fleeting importance of a cloud studded sky. It will pause in mid-stride and drink in a crimson sunset or the rich, earthy smell of a wet spring field. It has vision to see the jagged beauty of a broken pane of glass or it can hold with attentioned-curiosity the tilted symmetry of a weathered barn that is leaning into a hundred and fifty years of wind.

If you have lost your child-like ability to enjoy life, let me encourage you to go back and find it. Return to the place of Godly simplicity and childish purity that gives your eyes the clarity to see  and your ears the sensitivity to hear the whispers of life that others miss. Best of all it unlocks the heart and makes it grateful for the simplest of things … like the taste of chocolate, the smell of fresh-baked cookies or the satisfied release that comes from an itch well scratched.

This is a treasure no money can buy for you, and no trouble can take from you. It is innocence as God intended, personified in the face of every small child I see. Find this peace once again and you will never lack a smile on your face or joy in your heart. You will continually rediscover the incredible beauty of all that God has placed around you. What I mean is, don’t just live your life. Start each day with wild, unrestrained, child-like open-mindedness and you will once again begin to enjoy the wonder of it!

Unseen Guidance

In my youth I often went with two of my buddies to climb the high peaks of the Adirondacks. We were adventurous and began to do this in January when the tourists were all gone, and other climbers were sitting in the warmth of their living room. However, for us the back country during these frigid months was a glorious time of solitude, challenge and unmatched beauty. Thus, one late January weekend we planned to climb Mount Marcy by parking below Marcy Dam on Friday afternoon. We would hike past Indian Falls and make it to the table land below the mountain by dark. After sleeping that night at the base of the mountain in lean-to #1 we would make the climb the next day and then hike back out.

I knew I would get a late start on Friday so I told the guys to go ahead and I would meet them at the agreed upon location after dark. That afternoon I was rushing to make up lost time and quickly grabbed my pack, some extra food, warm socks and gloves and headed for the area east of Lake Placid, NY. My friends had a two hour jump of me when I finally parked my jeep at the trail entrance below Marcy Dam. By the time I reached the dam there was about an hour of light left so I began to push myself hard up the trail towards Indian Falls. It was well after dark, my flashlight was nearly gone and I was tired and hungry by the time I made the falls. Thus, I decided to camp there for the night and meet my friends early the next morning.

As I set up camp and opened my pack I was stunned to realize what was inside. I had mistakenly taken my summer pack and out fell a sleeping bag that was better suited for a July evening at the lake then a January night in the wilderness. With that realization I decided to make the best of my situation and put on my extra clothes, get in the sleeping bag and just tough it out through the night. I ate the nuts, cheese and chocolate I brought with me to boost my energy, said a brief prayer and then fixed my mind on the fact that I was alone and must deal with a long, cold night.

That night there was a massive arctic cold front that ripped across the region. As it blew in from Canada the wind picked up and the temperature plunged. My thermometer read -10, -20 and finally -30 degrees.  I could hear the loud “pop” of Spruce trees as the sub-zero cold froze and expanded the sap, breaking wood fibers deep within them. I laid there from 6pm till about 1:30 the next morning doing isometrics and trying to stay warm. However, as the grip of cold got worse I was shaking and getting groggy and knew I had to do something to keep from freezing to death.

At about 2am I knew had to get up and start a fire. The light and warmth it created would make all the difference in that bone-chilling cold. Even if I was exhausted in the morning, at least I would be warm and alive. I crawled out into the blistering cold and found a covered area to build a fire. As I was getting down to my last match I managed to light a small bundle of dry birch bark and pine twigs. As they caught fire the yellow flame that sprang up was a thing of amazing beauty and it lifted my spirits. Best of all the heat it released began to warm me and settle my heart that all would be fine.

As I leaned back and pulled out my old coffee pot to melt snow and boil water for hot tea, something caught my eye. It was just a slight wiggle above my head but in the soft flicker of the fire I could not quite make out what was there. I threw a few more dry branches on the fire to increase the flames and turned to get a tea bag when it happened. The heat from the fire warmed the air above and the “wiggle” I noticed turned into an avalanche of snow. The warmth of the fire had released it from the branches above and the moment it fell it smothered my fire and my hopes of surviving the night.

I sat there surrounded by smoke and hissing wood. It stunned me and caused a rising panic to nearly choke the breath out of me. I had all I could do to calm my thoughts but in that forced moment of peace I made one last decision. I had to get back to my jeep if I was going to survive the night. Thus, I was shaking like a leaf from the cold, but as calmly as I could I gathered my pack together, put on all the warm clothes I had I headed back to Marcy Dam without a flashlight.

The light of the moon was bright that night and it was enough for me to just see the trail ahead. At times I still made wrong turns and found myself off the trail in a moonlit forest. Even though I ended up in unmarked areas I still knew the basic heading by the stars and continued a straight downhill course towards where I believed Marcy Dam would be. All that night I found my way around steep ledges and deep ravines. I pressed through thick brush and blow-downs deep in the Adirondacks. Just as the sun was showing on the horizon, by some miracle I came straight out of the woods less than a 500 yards above  the crossing at Marcy Dam.

In total exhaustion I walked the final leg of the trail to my Jeep. My legs were shaky and I was more cold, hungry and tired than I had ever been. Most of all I was glad to be back in civilization and was looking forward to a hot cup of coffee and a solid breakfast. As I sat in my Jeep and turned the key my heart sank. The bitter cold had killed the battery and there was not enough juice in it to turn the engine over. My starter made a few sharp clicks, my lights went dim and then everything stopped. At that moment I just sat there and began to cry. I put my head on the steering wheel and said “God is this what it’s like to die?” and I leaned against the side window and started to fall asleep.

As I began to drift off I felt myself being lifted out of the jeep and carried away. I really thought I was dying and being carried to heaven. To my surprise I heard two male voices and then found myself wrapped in an electric blanket and given multiple cups of hot coffee. In God’s providence I had parked my jeep near the driveway of a camp that was owned by two families. The husbands, for no reason, both awoke that morning with an unexplained urge to check on their camp. As they drove up and made the turn, one of the men spotted me in my Jeep leaning against the window. When they opened the door I was alive but groggy. They quickly pulled me from the vehicle and decided the best thing to do was warm me up in their camp. Within an hour I was fully awake, had been given a jump start for my Jeep and I was on my way home.

God had certainly found me in a “waste howling wilderness” as it says in Deuteronomy 32:10 and He had “kept me as the apple of His eye”. Even before I really knew Him, His watchful eye was upon me, keeping me safe. He had guided me back to the dam and provided help when I was unable to help myself. This is the kind of God our God is. His love is amazing and His heart is for us. If I ever doubt how much He loves me, this encounter changes my concept of Him every time. Perhaps it will change your idea of Him as well.  If you are struggling with the idea of the surrendered life to God, remember my night in the mountains and know that He is most certainly watching over you!

Hunting By Faith

Several years ago I took a buddy of mine hunting at one of my favorite spots one Saturday morning. We got a late start and the sun was already up on this beautiful November day in the Northern Zone of NY State. The dry leaves were crunching under foot as we crossed several valleys and an ice cold stream. When I finally placed him on his watch I really doubted if we would see anything that day. We were on the back side of West Canada Lake and the wind was blowing in off the water and up the valley was definitely not in our favor.

As quietly as I could I crunched my way down the windward side of a valley to his right and made it to what had once been a trout pond. The area was now filled in by moss but a nice stream still flowed from it and tumbled down a series of small falls to the lake that was about 2 miles below me. I knew deer passed by here on a regular basis to drink from the stream and browse on the tender vegetation that grew there. I also knew by the tracks that the deer usually used two ways to exit the area. One was up a ravine right by my friend and the other was around the end of the pond which would bring them to where I intended to sit.

I quickly settled down under a thick balsam tree and began to just enjoy the day and said a short prayer, asking God to send a deer my way. The sky was a deep, cloudless blue and the sun had warmed things up to a nice 40 degrees. There was a magnificent carpet of fallen leaves on the ground and the smell of them filled the air with rich earthy tones that no perfumer could ever match. There were chickadees and wrens, blue jays, chipmunks and red squirrels moving among the tree branches all around me. It was clear they were enjoying the sunshine and fattening up on the last of the fall bounty.

I had not been seated more than fifteen minutes when I heard the clear sound of another hunter in the distance making his way straight towards my location. He was slowly moving around the back side of the pond and I could hear the leaves sounding his location with each footstep. I knew each time he stopped to survey the hillside and each movement made to avoid a fallen tree or glacial boulder that littered the area. To my frustration it was clear he was headed right towards my hiding spot and I sat there ready to give this interloper a “wave off” and my best hunters “glare”.

Finally the intruder moved into view and to my great surprise it was not a hunter at all but a beautiful spike-horn buck. The young deer was solid, well fed, had a beautiful reddish coat and clearly was in “rut” searching of a doe that had passed by earlier in the day. In his distraction I realized he had failed to noticed me, and thanks to the shifting wind he had not scented me either. I slowly slid back under my tree and watch as this beautiful animal angled across the valley right in front of me, unaware that I was only 30 yards away with my gun scope placed squarely in his left front shoulder.

I squeezed off one shot and to my shock the bullet totally missed the animal. In my excitement I had failed to notice a small maple growing in the line of fire. The .243 I was using did not stay on course after grazing the side of the small tree. The deer bolted, not knowing where the shot came from, and began to run straight up the hill to where my friend was seated. At that very moment my friend yelled my name. He had lost track of where I was and called out to see if I was the one who had fired the shot.

To my amazement that yell made the deer stop dead in its tracks. It was now broadside to me about 45 yards away, staring straight up the hill in the direction of the noise. It’s tail was flicking back and forth and it’s ears were turned up the hill side trying to catch any additional sound that might be uttered. In that moment of hesitation I chambered another shell, pulled up and again squeezed off a single round. This time the bullet went straight to it’s mark and the animal did a complete flip in the air. The deer made three huge bounds back in my direction and literally made it’s final drop to the ground 10 yards from where I was standing. Our hut was over! From start to finish we had been gone a total of 3 hours and were soon headed home with fresh venison for the freezer.

What I learned from that day in the woods is that prayer does indeed work! We should never stop praying even if it seems as if the prayer is not going to be answered. In my mind we were on a nice walk in the woods but there would certainly be no venison brought home. The time was wrong, the conditions were wrong, the wind was wrong and the noise level was off the scale. I still prayed for God to bless our day but in my heart I really didn’t believe He would. The things contrary to it were all around me and they simply got most of my attention. In spite of my lack of faith, God still honored that simple prayer.

Don’t forget that God is never limited or lacking in any area. When we begin to think in limited terms it really is an insult to Him and His nature. The Bible says He is the eternal, all-sufficient One and nothing is impossible for Him. It goes on to say that He really wants to bless those who call upon His name. This day’s hunt was living proof of those simple Bible truths. If you have a limited view of prayer then you also have a limited view to the God who is over your life and answers prayer. This might be a good time to get rid of that lack of faith. God does not think in natural terms like we do. We need to ask for Him to impart a supernatural way of thinking and praying so that we can step over into all He has in store for us.