Unsung Heroes

True heroism is... very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others, at whatever cost. 

   Arthur Ashe

Yesterday, the sky was filled with smoke. I am looking out at a blue sky this morning because of two remarkable things that happened last night. The first, and most important, is that God answered our prayers. The second reason for being able to look at a blue sky this morning is because of heroes. Not the kind of heroes that you read about in books or see on t.v., but real heroes. Unsung heroes. Our heroes.

For a good part of yesterday afternoon and late into the evening, our unsung heroes fought a large fire just west of our town. The fire was fed by a combination of tall grass, a six month drought, and high winds that swirled and changed direction every few minutes. These men and women came from all over the panhandle of Texas - some paid, some not. They came to rescue their neighbors, their neighbor's homes, their neighbor's livestock and, to a very real extent, their neighbor's way of life.

They breathed in smoke for hours - first in the heat from the flames, and later in the cold of the evening and from their damp clothes. Now many will be sick for weeks because of what they put their bodies through, but they will answer the next call all the same, not because they have any desire to be recognized as heroes, but because they have that urge to serve others. Today when we thank them, and we will thank them, they will pass it off as nothing. But, it isn't "nothing". - it's the stuff that real heroes are made of.

They have, in a small way, what Christ had for each one of us. He spent His life in service to a people who were often unmindful and sometimes ungrateful, but He served all the same. Then, He was arrested and spat upon and beaten and put to death in an almost unspeakable manner for having performed that service. He didn't do all of that to be recognized as a hero, He did it because of an urge to serve others, and to save others, regardless of the cost. That urge is strange to many, but it has a name: It is love. I think that our heroes understand that noble urge to serve just a little bit more today... and we thank them with all of our hearts!

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 

   John 15:13, NIV  



Turning Down the Volume

Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she has laid an asteroid.

Mark Twain

Have you ever noticed how loud our politicians are? I think they must believe that the louder they say something, the truer it must be. Or maybe they just believe that's what the voters believe - so they are very, very loud.

It's the same way in my chosen profession. Many preachers seem to think that they must yell whenever they have an important point to make, but experience has proved something else to me. I have noticed that the best way to make an important point is to lower the volume a notch or two. This does two things: First, it allows those who wish to sleep to continue to sleep. Second, and more important, speaking in softer tones causes those who wish to listen to lean forward and perk up their ears (as opposed to backing up and covering them).

So, the next time you hear someone yelling, be it politician or preacher, ask yourself this question: What is so wrong with their message that they feel they must shove it down your throats with volume? The fact is that those who seek the truth will find it, even when it's whispered. Further, those who are perceptive will know better than to believe the lie, even if it is broadcast at high volumes over loudspeakers.

The quiet words of the wise are to be heeded more than the shouts of a ruler of fools. Solomon

Ecclesiastes 9:17, NIV


True Wealth

Our most valuable possessions are those which when shared, multiply. Our least valuable are those which when shared, are diminished. William Danforth

When we think of wealth, our hearts and minds immediately go to the physical. Ask just about anyone to define wealth and their definition will likely involve either money or the things that money can buy. However, if we were to consult the Lord, we would get a very different answer. We know this is true because the Scriptures continually reveal exactly what is and what is not wealth.

Consider, for a moment, the lowly dung beetle.

The dung beetle is all about that substance for which he is named. He looks for the stuff all day long. He longs for the stuff. He lives for the stuff. Now suppose this dung beetle were to wander across a feedlot in West Texas. Can you imagine his joy? The little fellow would probably climb to the highest point of the biggest pile of cow patties he could find. He would then survey his kingdom - nothing but cow pies as far as the eye could see. If dung beetles could talk, he would probably shout, "I'm rich - ha, ha, ha, - rich, gloriously rich - ha, ha, ha!!". But we would look at these so called "riches" and be appalled. What dung beetles think of as wealth is detestable to us!

We laugh at the lowly dung beetle, but I wonder if sometimes we are not the same. Do we not seek wealth for ourselves, in areas that true wealth cannot be found? Do not some people look for this stuff, long for this stuff and live for this stuff? Should they actually obtain this stuff, wouldn't they think they were rich? Wouldn't we?

The truth is that real wealth only exists in those things that do not diminish when shared. True wealth is love, it's companionship, it's hope and faith and service. Should we be fortunate enough to ever discover this truth during our lifetimes, it will be then, and only then, that we truly will become rich.

"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.  What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight."

Luke 16:13-15, NIV


True Religion has Deep Roots

"You can't make kids religious, they say, because it just won't take. Send kids to Sunday school and they too often end up hating it and the church. Don't you believe it. As far as I'm concerned, and I think as far as most kids go, once religion sinks in, it stays there - deep down. The kids who get religious training, get it where it counts - in the roots. They may fail it, but it never fails them."

What religious nut, you may be asking yourself, said that? It was none other than George Herman Ruth.

Babe Ruth had a tough start in this life. He lived in a room over a bar that his father owned and spent much of his childhood on the street. He said he hardly knew his parents. He ended up in St. Mary's Industrial School, a combination orphanage and reform school for the bad little boys. There he met Brother Matthias, an instructor who taught him about God and baseball. At first, it seemed, that it was only the lessons in baseball that took.

For years, Babe Ruth was the greatest player in America's biggest sport, in fact, he was to become what most consider to be the greatest player of all time - in any sport. He played hard and he lived hard, keeping to the "bad boy" behavior of his youth. He later commented on his disappointment in himself for letting the boys down by his lifestyle. He said that he was so anxious to enjoy himself that he guessed he just forgot the rules - or ignored them. This all came to an abrupt halt when illness struck and he found himself facing major surgery. It was then that a lifelong friend came to him and asked him if it wasn't time to get his house in order.

That's when the truly important lessons of his childhood came into focus, and George Herman Ruth did his best to put his house in order. Some years later, a few weeks prior to his death, Babe Ruth penned the lines you read above. It was so important to him, as his own life was drawing to an end, to speak of religion... true religion that does not leave you, even if you should leave it for a time.

Those of us who are parents would all love for our children to accomplish something important in this life - maybe even something as monumental as the Babe. If so, that's wonderful - by all means have your kids pursue excellence. But, don't ever forget where true excellence starts and ends - with true religion. Do you have such a faith... where it truly counts?

Do your children?

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6, NIV


True Religion

The greatest virtues are those which are the most useful to others. Aristotle

Perhaps the reason that so many seem to truly despise religion is that they do not understand what religion truly is: It is the fulfillment of the two greatest commandments - to love the Lord with all your heart and soul and mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. In short, it is service.

Today, I was privileged to watch true religion in action. Our youth group gathered for a few hours this evening to serve our widows. Each Monday during the summer, they mow lawns and weed gardens and take out garbage and do a hundred other little jobs that are of very small consequence to a young person in the prime of their strength, but of very great consequence to one whose strength is in decline. These fine young people do not perform these tasks for money; rather, they do it to lift a burden.

In a world where many of our church youth groups seem to exist only to be entertained and catered to, it is refreshing to watch these young men and women not only fulfill the requirements of true religion, but also thrive while doing so. And, by doing so, they discover what the genuinely religious have always found: The greatest virtues really are those which are most useful to others. Christianity was not designed as a perpetual vacation for its adherents. Instead, it is designed as a lifetime of service. Those who learn this lesson will not only find true religion, but they will also find true happiness.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...   James 1:27, NIV