Friday, March 26, 2010

Calming Anger Down

In a west Texas town a few years ago, employees in a medium-sized warehouse noticed the smell of gas. Sensibly, management evacuated the building, extinguishing all potential sources of ignition -- lights, power, etc.

After the building had been evacuated, two technicians from the gas company were dispatched. Upon entering the building, they found they had difficulty navigating in the dark. To their frustration, none of the lights worked.

Witnesses later described the vision of one of the technicians reaching into his pocket and retrieving an object that resembled a lighter. Upon operation of the lighter-like object, the gas in the warehouse exploded, sending pieces of it up to three miles away.

Nothing was found of the technicians, but the lighter was virtually untouched by the explosion. The technician that was suspected of causing the explosion had never been thought of as "bright" by his peers.

Years ago, Jim Croce, in his song, "You Don't Mess Around With Jim", used to sing about things that you don't dare do (pull the mask off the Lone Ranger or tug on Superman's cape, for example). He might have done well to add, "You don't flick your Bic inside a building with a gas leak"! In an explosive situation, the last thing you want to do is provide the spark.

We've all been around those kinds of situations (not literally, but figuratively) -- where someone was angry and it wouldn't take much to create an explosion. We have two choices in that setting, described by Solomon in this way:

"A gentle answer will calm a person's anger, but an unkind answer will cause more anger." (Prov. 15:1, NCV)

How I admire those people I know (and my wife is one of them) who have a calming effect on those around them (including me), gently stifling the flames of anger before they burst in flames.

"Wise people calm anger down." (Prov. 29:8b, NCV)

May God help us all to be wise.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Can You Give a Push?

A man is in bed with his wife when there is knocking on the door. He rolls over and looks at his clock. It's half past three in the morning.

"I'm not getting out of bed at this time," he thinks, and rolls over.

Then, a louder knock follows. "Aren't you going to answer that?" says his wife.

So he drags himself out of bed, and goes downstairs. He opens the door and there is a man standing at the door. It doesn't take the homeowner long to realize the man is drunk.

"Hi there," slurs the stranger, "Can you give me a push?"

"No, get lost, it's half past three. I was in bed," says the man and slams the door.

He goes back up to bed and tells his wife what happened and she says "Dave, that wasn't very nice of you. Remember that night we broke down in the pouring rain on the way to pick the kids up from the baby-sitter and you had to knock on that man's house to get us started again? What would have happened if he'd told us to get lost?"

"But the guy was drunk," says the husband.

"It doesn't matter," says the wife. "He needs our help and it would be the Christian thing to help him."

So the husband gets out of bed again, gets dressed, and goes downstairs. He opens the door, and not being able to see the stranger anywhere he shouts, "Hey, do you still want a push?" and he hears a voice cry out, "Yeah, please!"

Still being unable to see the stranger, he shouts: "Where are you?"

The stranger replies: "I'm over here, on your swing."

There are times we all need a little push from one another. In fact, that's one of the reasons that we gather together in worship. We could praise God alone, but we have the opportunity to encourage one another every time we meet together.

"And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." (Heb. 10:24-25)

It's not just reserved for Sundays, though. Know anybody that needs a push today?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not Nearly as Big

I heard a story recently about the University of Tennessee football coach. He bought a bolt of cloth thinking he would have a suit made out of it. He took the material to his tailor in Knoxville where the tailor measured him, examined the bolt of cloth, did some computations on a piece of paper, and said, "I'm sorry, coach, there just isn't enough material in this bolt to make a suit for you." The coach was disappointed, but he threw the bolt of cloth in the trunk of his car, wondering what he was going to do with it.

A couple of weeks later he was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama -- the home of the Crimson Tide (arch enemies of the Volunteers). He was on his way to the coast for a vacation. Driving down the main street in Tuscaloosa, he noticed a tailor shop, which reminded him that he had that bolt of cloth in the trunk. He stopped, thinking he would give it a try. He told the tailor he had bought this bolt of cloth and wondered if he could do anything with it.

The tailor measured him, measured the bolt of cloth, did some computations. Finally he said, "Coach, I can make you a suit out of this bolt. What's more, I can make you an extra pair of pants. And if you really want it, I can give you a vest out of this, too."

The coach was dumbfounded. "I don't understand," he said. "My tailor in Knoxville told me he couldn't even make one suit out of this bolt of cloth." The tailor said, "Coach, here in Tuscaloosa, you are not nearly as big a man as you are in Knoxville."

Paul warned each of us in Romans 12:3, “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” It is easy for us to make the mistake of being that we are "bigger" than we really are (the Pharisee who prayed in the temple next the the tax collector in Luke 18 comes to mind).

The church in Laodicea made this mistake. They said, "I am rich, have become wealthy and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17). Jesus responded to them by saying, in essence, "You don't realize how poor you really are." The sad part is that God can do nothing to help people who are self-sufficient, people who are "big" in their own eyes.

Jesus reminded us (both by his teachings and his life) that to be viewed as "big" in the eyes of God, we need to be willing to be viewed as "small" in the eyes of those around us, willing to serve, ready to find our significance not in our abilities, achievements, or possessions, but in the glory we bring to God in our lives.

"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14:11)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Of Primary Importance

It is reported that a magazine ran a "Dilbert Quotes" contest several years ago. The writers were looking for people to submit quotes from their real-life Dilbert-type managers.  Here are some of the submissions:

1. As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday and employees will receive their cards in two weeks. (This was the winning entry; Fred Dales at Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, WA)

2. What I need is a list of specific unknown problems we will encounter. (Lykes Lines Shipping)

3. E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business.  (Accounting Mgr., Electric Boat Company)

4. Quote from the boss: "Teamwork is a lot of people doing what 'I' say." (Mktg. executive, Citrix Corporation)

5. We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees.  (AT&T Long Lines Division)

6. We recently received a memo from senior management saying, "This is to inform you that a memo will be issued today regarding the subject mentioned above."  (Microsoft, Legal Affairs Division)

7. One day my boss asked me to submit a status report to him concerning a project I was working on. I asked him if tomorrow would be soon enough. He said, "If I wanted it tomorrow, I would have waited until tomorrow to ask for it!"  (New Business Mgr., Hallmark Cards)

8. This project is so important, we can't let things that are more important interfere with it.  (Advertising/Mktg. Mgr., UPS)

     Even though that last statement doesn't make any sense, it suggests the truth that there are some things so important that nothing else should get in the way.  Unfortunately for UPS (and other employers who may not realize it), that level of importance will never be attached to any project at work. It can only be attached to matters of spiritual commitment.

     "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)

     There is only one thing that is of "primary importance", and that should be our desire to do God's will.  May God bless you as you commit yourself to truly put "first things first."