A young man enrolled in a course on positive attitudes. The first session, the teacher asked him why he was taking the course, and he said, "I'm having problems with my wife." The class chuckled, but the teacher understood what the man was saying.
Several months after completing the course, the young man reported to the instructor that his problem had been solved. The instructor asked how it had happened, and the man replied: "I learned that when I am faced with a problem that involves misunderstanding with other persons, I must first start with myself. When I examined my own mental attitude, I discovered that it was negative. My problem was not really with my wife after all, it was with me. In solving my problem, I found that I no longer had one with her." (Ralph W. Stone)
CHILDREN -- Left alone
More than two million children in the U.S. spend some time after school without supervision, and the largest group comes from white, upper-income households, according to Census Bureau reports.
Increasing affluence seems to increase the likelihood of "latchkey children." In families where the mother works full-time, 10 percent of children whose mothers make $10,000 or less are left on their own after school, while 16.6 percent of children whose mothers make $35,000 or more are left alone.
CHRISTMAS -- Calls us to serve
Christmas becomes real to us when we realize that Christ's coming is a challenge to us to become personally involved in sharing His love.
As Charlotte Adelsperger put it in verse:
"Christmas came for me when I rejoiced, knowing Christ's tidings of great joy were to all people -- and I'm a messenger."
CHRISTMAS -- Quotations
"This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ." (Frank McKibben)
"A good many people with houses half empty on Christmas Eve have blamed the little innkeeper of Bethlehem because his place was full." (Roy L. Smith)
"Selfishness makes Christmas a burden; love makes it a delight." (Anonymous)
The husband spoke to his wife: "Honey, you have got to stop finding fault with everything. It drives me crazy. I'll bet you can't go one minute without criticizing something."
"OK, I'll take that bet," she replied.
Seconds later, she exclaimed, "It's horribly cold in here! Do you always have to keep the air conditioner so low?"
"I knew it!" her husband proudly proclaimed. "I knew you couldn't go a minute without finding fault."
She asked how long she had gone, and he replied, "Forty-five seconds."
"Forty-five seconds? You're crazy!" she challenged. "I told you not to buy a foreign watch. They never work right!"
During his years as a high school teacher before attending seminary, Rick Shannon had a student miss two weeks of school because of family difficulties. She was a better-than-average student, so all the teachers were anxious to help her make up her missed assignments, even though the absences were unexcused.
As she came to Rick to get a list of assignments, she expressed a desire to do well but surprised him with the comment: "But remember, I don't like to study very much or work very hard."
Says Rick: "I wonder how many Christians feel that the Lord should make them Christians with zest, strong witnesses, or spiritual giants without any investment of themselves in the process?" (Rick Shannon is pastor of Second Baptist Church, Greenville, KY)
According to a USA Today survey of sixty American companies, ninety-five percent have had "direct experience" with employees using drugs or alcohol on the job, an increase from eighty-two percent in 1981. More than forty percent believe that alcohol and drug abuse are rising among women. More than half are currently testing employees or applicants for drugs or are considering such tests.
FAITH -- Requires action
Jacques-Louis David was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte to paint the coronation of the emperor. Rather than paint the moment when Napoleon took the crown of gold from the Pope's hand and crowned himself, David painted the moment when the emperor placed the crown upon the head of Josephine, his wife.
The painting now hangs in the Louvre in Paris. Visitors are told that when Napoleon first viewed the great canvas, he exlaimed, "This is not a painting. It is alive." But it isn't -- it is only a painting.
It is easy for Christians to observe themselves sitting in their pews on Sunday and to exclaim, "This is faith!" But it isn't, for real faith must include action, service, if it is to be real.
"Ideals are like the stars. We never reach them but, like the mariners on the sea, we chart our course by them." (Carl Schurz)
George A. Buttrick told the story of Rupert Brooke, who was taking a ship from Liverpool to New York. Suddenly feeling lonely, it seemed to him he was the only passenger without someone standing on the dock to wave to him. So he ran down the gangplank, picked out a young boy, and asked his name.
When the boy replied that his name was Bill, Brooke said, "Well, Bill, you are my friend, and here is sixpence. Wave to me when the ship goes." So as the ship began to sail from the dock, there stood a little boy waving a handkerchief to his new friend.
How much lonelier is our voyage through life, says Buttrick. "The ship of this strange planet -- should we say of the cosmos? -- plunges on its way with no apparent port of departure, for nobody knows how or where or why our human life began; and no apparent port of arrival, for every passenger is buried in the deep. We are on a lonely voyage. When we confront that fact, biblical faith begins." (George A. Buttrick, Sermons Preached in a University Church)
Standing at the coffee machine, one worker commented to his colleague, "The reason I have such a wonderful memory for names is because I took that Sam Carnegie course."
John Huffman indicates that he is challenged by the example of William Wilberforce, the great British statesman of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
"After youthful resistance to the Gospel, he finally committed his life to Christ. He concluded that God had not seen fit to save him only for the eternal rescue of his own soul but to also bring His light to the world around him.
"He gave his life to the abolition of the slave trade. He counted the cost of this Christ-given task, first presenting his case to Parliament in 1788. Year after year he worked at this only to be beaten down in defeat. Finally in 1807 the slave trade was abolished. And then in 1833 the Bill for the Abolition of Slavery passed in the House of Commons.
"Forty-five years of dedicated hard work were climaxed by victory, a costly lifetime of effort instigated by Christ's call." (John A. Huffman, Jr., is pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, CA)
Neal Schooley tells about an experience while he was pastor of a church in West Germany. One day, as he looked out of the window of his home onto the street below, he saw an itinerant merchant of some kind walking down the street. As the man approached, Neal was able to hear what the man was calling out: "I buy broken things. I buy broken things."
Isn't that, in fact, just what our Lord does? He takes our broken lives and brings healing and redemption. With His own life, He bought the broken things of humanity, and with His love He made them whole again. (Neal Schooley is Associate Pastor of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL)
RESPONSIBILITY -- Try to avoid
John Killinger tells about the baseball manager of the minor-league time who was frustrated by the poor play of his centerfielder. Finally, disgusted with the player, he marched into center field, directed the player to leave the game, and assumed the position himself.
The first ball that came into center field took a bad hop and hit him in the mouth. The next ball hit his way was a high fly ball, which he lost in the sun -- until it hit him in the forehead. The third ball was a sharp line drive that he charged, arms stretched forward to catch it; unfortunately, it flew between his arms and landed in his eye.
Furious, he ran to the dugout, grabbed his centerfielder by the uniform and shouted, "You idiot! You've got center field so messed up that even I can't do a thing with it!"
Wouldn't it be nice if we could blame all our problems on the "other guy"? Yet personal responsibility is part of life. (John Killinger is pastor of First Congregational Church, Los Angeles, CA)
A chicken and a pig both lived on a farm. One day the farmer strode into the barnyard and told the animals the family desired ham and eggs for breakfast, and were there any volunteers?
The chicken nudged the pig and said, "C'mon, let's volunteer." The pig declined, saying, "That's easy for you to suggest. From you they want a little contribution. For me it's total commitment!"
Commitment to Christ does require more than a "little contribution." It requires a sacrificial surrender of our lives to His will.
STEWARDSHIP -- Important to give
Sometimes the most important lessons are modeled for us by parents and grandparents.
Jim Henry recalls his grandmother, Hazel Fisher (he called her "Momee"), who lived in a small country house on a 40-acre plot of land. They did not have a car or many luxuries. Some weeks he would see her gathering eggs and would say, "Momee, what are you doing with those eggs?" And she would answer, "I'm getting my church money." She sold eggs and ran a small barber shop in her home, and from that tiny income she gave faithfully to the Lord through her small Tennessee church.
Jim comments: "I learned from my Momee early on in life: It's not how much you give, it's that you give." (Jim Henry is pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, FL)
James A. Harnish reported on a book by Srully Blotnick, Ambitious Men: Their Drives, Dreams and Delusions. Blotnick studied a total of 7,000 American men over a period of years and concluded that sucessful American males come in four types.
There's the Clint Eastwood-type: strong, silent, masculine, direct; hates phoniness and doesn't care what people think. There's the John Davidson-type: articulate, suave, well-mannered, eager to please, ready to court favor. There is the Lee Iacocca-type: a hard-charging, self-made man who wants praise and recognition and loves to draw attention to himself. Finally, there's the Saul Bellow-type: the creative loner, intellectual, reclusive, original. Blotnick argues that in America today, successful, ambitious men fall into some combination of these four categories.
But how do we define success? Blotnick comments: "In America, it's fortune, fame, power and prestige. Success is something that can be measured quantitatively through performance and by dollars and cents."
Harnish goes on to point out the contrast between this portrait of American "success" and the portrait of Jesus painted by Paul, who noted, "Though He was equal with God He did not see equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, took the form of a servant, humbled Himself, came in the likeness of man, and was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
"I wonder what Blotnick would do with a man like that?" asks Harnish. "What will you do with a Jesus like that? What will you do with this Jesus who turns all of our ideas of success and ambition upside-down and inside-out? While you and I are so busy climbing to the top, what are we going to do with this Jesus who is so intentionally on His way down?" (James A. Harnish is pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church, Orlando, FL)
More than one million American teenagers (about one in ten) become pregnant each year, three-fourths of them unintentionally. There may be as many as 450,000 teenage abortions each year. Only about half of the young women who become pregnant before age eighteen will finish high school, and about thirty percent will become pregnant again within two years. About eighty percent of out-of-wedlock births to teenagers are to girls who were themselves born to unmarried teenagers. (Light, April 1987)
THANKSGIVING -- Quotations
"I don't think the Lord wants any pompous proclamation of thanks on one Thursday in November as much as He wants a little humble service from us every day in the year." (Burton Hillis)
"Were there no God, we would be in this glorious world with grateful hearts, and no one to thank." (Christina Rosetti)