The Heart of a Young Servant

He profits most who serves best.   Arthur Sheldon

It was the second time that I had seen the boys. Zack and Trevor had the day off from school and were driving around town in their golf cart. Both times I was at the house of some of our widow ladies and both times they asked if I knew of any work that they could be doing.

I had to smile, because when I was their age (about 12 or 13) I was always looking for ways to make some extra spending money. The second time they caught up to me, I was just finishing putting some boards around an air conditioning unit. It was pretty much a one person job so, when they asked if they could help, I told them that I thought I had it. Then, I just casually asked if they were out trying to make some money. It was their answer that both surprised and delighted me, and that I wanted to write about today. "No", one of them said, "not really. We have just been going around to all of the old ladies' houses in town to see if they could use some help."

Now, that's impressive!

The boys, I later found out, had indeed been going around town to all the houses of our "old ladies" (with apologies to these sweet women), not to make money, but to see if they could ease their burdens. One of our widows later called to let me know that these two boys had been by and had taken her trash out. Since she had just got out of the hospital, it was a great help. More importantly, it was a great lesson.

Sometimes we parents forget just how neat our children are. We are quick to see all of their petty shortcomings and irritating habits. But, we often forget that they are learning many of the lessons that we can only dream that they will learn. So, when we see in them a desire to help - not for money or praise, but just for the sake of helping someone who truly needs a hand, we realize that we are seeing something quite profound: We are witnessing something that is no less than greatness... in the heart of a young servant.

On the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."   Mark 9:34-35, NIV

Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:4, NIV


The Greatest Generation

It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced. Tom Brokaw

Pretty high praise coming from a newsman - but who was Tom Brokaw talking about? It was the generation that came of age during World War II. When you think of this group of men and women, and what they accomplished, it is nothing short of remarkable. Americans in the late 1930's and early 1940's considered the threat of evil men, heard the pleas of those who were suffering at the hands of these wicked people, and they answered the call.

During World War II, America sent it's young men across the Ocean to fight for the freedom of others. The women stayed behind and supplied the greatest war effort that has ever been. Those who lived during that era know of the sacrifices that we just read about. Mothers and fathers willingly sent their children into harm's way for what they knew to be a noble cause. Wives and husbands and sweethearts were separated. Children were raised without fathers for years. Some never saw their dads again. 

Stateside found the rationing of gas and food, rubber drives and scrap metal drives - you name it, and it probably was needed for the war effort. People coming out of the Great Depression took their life savings and bought War Bonds. Money that had been so precious was now gladly used in an effort to make sure that their boys had what they needed to do the job and come back home. Women went to work making planes and tanks and bullets and bombs. And the men? They paid with their blood and sweat and tears, and sometimes with their very lives. America was united.

What has happened to us?

It is time, dear people, for another great generation. Not to go to war, but to combat America's serious problems. We have been divided by men who thirst for power and money, because it benefits them to do so. If our generation does not wake up soon and begin the next great generation, then the America we know from history may become just that: History. The next great generation will start with you and with me and with our children. It will require sacrifice beyond what any of us have been willing to make for quite a number of years. It will require commitment, it will require a rediscovery of honor, it will require a renewal of love for our fellow man and, more than anything else, it will require a love for God.

Are we ready to become the next "great generation"? Here is what it will take:

Whoever wants to become great among you must become your servant.

Matthew 20:26, NIV


The Gossip

A gossip separates close friends. King Solomon

Some time ago, a small boy was playing outside his house near an open window. Inside, his mother sat listening to her dear friend pour out her heart concerning something that her son had gotten himself involved in. Later, after the friend had left, the mother realized that her son must have heard the conversation.

"Son", she said, "if my friend had left her purse here in my trust, would it be alright if we were to take her money out and spend it?" Her son quickly said that it would not be honest, to which his mother replied, "You are right. But today, my friend left behind something of far greater value: A confidence. She has entrusted us with that confidence and it would be just as wrong to misuse that trust as it would be to spend her money had she entrusted us with her purse".

Would that every one of us could learn the lesson this wise mother passed along to her son. How many times have we been the victim of a loose tongue, suffering the embarrassment and humiliation of a trust betrayed? Indeed, I wonder how many times we have caused great harm to a friend, by innocently passing along something said to us in confidence.

When it comes down to it, there are few things in life that seem so insignificant as passing along a juicy piece of private knowledge, and few things so harmful as the consequences created by doing so. I guess we all have wished that we had been a bit more prudent when it came to safeguarding the confidence of a friend - especially on those occasions that we realized, too late, that we had deeply hurt that friend. Maybe, if we all looked upon these trusts that we are given from time to time in the same manner that we view the responsibility of holding something of physical value, we would all not only save ourselves from embarrassment, but we would also become something quite rare in this world: A good friend!

A gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid a man who talks too much. Proverbs 20:19, NIV 


The Good Life

The only way to make good coffee is to put some in.                                                                                                   David Starr Jordan

Brilliant! That's what I thought when I read this quote from the former president of Stanford. No wonder he was president - with a mind like that. But, the more I thought about this statement, the more brilliant it actually became. I doubt if there are many people who do not believe that their lives could be enhanced in some way or another. The reality is that if you want  more enthusiasm, excitement and passion for life, you are going to have to put some in. That was the point Mr. Jordan was trying to make to his students over a half a century ago, and the point is still just as valid today.

A lot of people are looking for excitement in their lives through illicit behavior such as drunkenness or promiscuity, while some even seek excitement through illegal activities. Such conduct might provide a temporary rush of adrenalin, but is a poor alternative to the quality life that God has designed.

It is that the life God recommends (and commands) that holds real excitement, and it comes with benefits that are truly exciting as well. But the life the world recommends (and sometimes demands through peer pressure and political correctness) is exciting only in its consequences - not its rewards - for there are no genuine rewards for sinful behavior.

So, which will you choose? To put something worthwhile into your life or follow the crowd in  what passes for the excitement of the day? You cannot have quality results without quality input, nor can you ever achieve any kind of worthwhile life without first putting in something of value.

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Jesus, as recorded in John 10:10, NKJV


The Cure For Loneliness

Life is a place of service. Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness. 

Leo Tolstoy

When I was a kid, we moved around a lot. I would eventually make some of the best friends that I would ever have, but some towns were difficult. Denver was particularly bad because I left a neighborhood filled with great friends and went to an area where I knew no one - and, at 13, I became lonely and stayed that way for several years. I was just too shy to make friends at a very awkward age.

Years later I moved back to Wyoming right after college. It was at church services, of all places, that those old feelings of loneliness returned. This was strange because I was now married to my best friend, but with the church I was having a hard time fitting in. I found myself returning to the same bad habits I had when younger and waiting for people to come up to me to visit. And loneliness turned quickly to self-pity.

When I realized how silly this was, I started looking for others who were just standing around with no one to talk to. I swallowed my shyness and walked up to them and introduced myself. After a few weeks of doing this, I noticed a change. I had met so many people that now would gravitate to me just so they would have a familiar face to visit with.

This process led to an amazing discovery: It was only when I looked outside of myself and towards the needs of others that I became content. It was when I stopped focusing on my own discomfort and started looking to make others feel more at ease that I finally lost that loneliness that had haunted me for so long.

So, are you lonely? May I suggest that the only sure way to cure that loneliness is to look outside of yourself and begin to find out how you can make others feel more comfortable. Begin by introducing yourself to someone who looks ill at ease. Volunteer for something, call someone on the phone or send them a quick e-mail, just to say, "Hello". It may take a while, but I believe I can safely guarantee that you will never be overwhelmed with the self-pity that springs from loneliness ever again, if you will just start looking to the needs of others.

The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 

Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 23:11, NIV