The Definition of Insanity

Most of us have heard Einstein’s definition of insanity, “doing the same things over and over, but expecting different results.”  There’s no way to argue with this point of fact.  It is a truth like 2 + 2 = 4.  There’s no changing it.

However, it seems that no matter how much I agree, I find myself trying to change this fact by the way I live.  In the south we call it “beating your head against a wall.”  In a sense, I myself am the definition of insanity.

The best way for me to describe this in my life is to talk about my process of dieting.  I’ll eat right for a few days, lose a few pounds, feel good about myself, give myself “permission” to splurge, and then “take a couple of days off” assuming that it won’t hurt me.  That leads to a weekend where I proclaim, “Monday is a great day to start back again.”  A week later when I step on the scales, there it is–the truth!!  Insanity strikes again!

We do the same thing spiritually.  We vacillate between good and bad, doing the right things and allowing the wrong into our lives.

Here’s the way Paul described it,

“We know that the law is spiritual, but I am not spiritual since sin rules me as if I were its slave.  I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate.” –Romans 7:14-15 NCV  

This is THE spiritual struggle.  We all find ourselves in it.  The question is, “How do we escape this pattern?”

It’s really all about how we THINK.  As Paul continues to write he says,

“If people’s thinking is controlled by the sinful self, there is death. But if their thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace.” –Romans 8:6 NCV

But how do we get to this kind of thinking?  Is it really about choice?  Is it really about lifestyle?  What is it that compels some to be successful in their thinking and others to fail?  Why can I not always choose the right thing?

I think it’s less about my will to “think” and more who is in control of my spiritual mind.  Our very power to be and to do what God has called us to is wrapped up in the power of the one who rules us.  Listen to Paul’s answer again.

But you are not ruled by your sinful selves. You are ruled by the Spirit, if that Spirit of God really lives in you. But the person who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ. 10 Your body will always be dead because of sin. But if Christ is in you, then the Spirit gives you life, because Christ made you right with God.”  –Romans 8:9-10 NCV

Thanks be to God for Him giving us Jesus–the very power who helps us get out of this insanity.

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Pride Leads To Destruction

“Pride leads to destruction; a proud attitude brings ruin.” Proverbs 16:18

“Proud people will be ruined, but the humble will be honored.” Proverb 18:12

Don’t you you just love people who are proud of themselves!  They prance around like a prize winning stallion!  They talk about their accomplishments as thought they were the only person ever to have achieved success!  I especially love it when they run over people they are close to as a show of power and control!  They love to keep their thumb on those who are weaker than themselves.

I hope you’re getting the sarcasm of all of these statements.  In fact, the exact opposite is true.  No one wants to be in the presence of cocky, prideful, people.

The irony of pride is that it always catches up with us.  I know that to be true in my own life.  Like all sin, it will find us out!  It’s amazing how I can look back in my life and see the places where I was on top of the world in some situation, get a little (or a lot) cocky about it, only to have God remind me how small I am without Him!

Just think about the places in your life where you have the most control.  It may be at home, work, school, in a marriage, in a dating relationship, with friends, etc.  In those situations where you have control, how do you wield your power?  Do you take care to not act like you are better that those around you–even if the truth is that you are?  Do you exercise caution when handling the feelings of others around you?  Do you go out of your way to serve instead of be served?

Jesus has to be the greatest person to have ever been born.  According to scriptures, he is perfectly sinless (Hebrews 4:15).  Yet, the only place that I can think of where Jesus describes His own character, He says, “I am gentle and lowly in heart…” (Mathew 11:29 NKJV).

Did you get that?  Jesus says, “I am gentle.”  He is creator!  He is almighty! He is awesome, but never forget His example of being gentle.

Lesson?  Let us be gentle to all those around us–especially those to whom we are the nearest.


Misunderstood and Offended

In my “profession” where I teach, preach, and write, there are ample opportunities for me to say things that hurt other people.  Of course hurting others is only one facet to a huge diamond.  I can also be very easily misunderstood.  I can be taken out of context.  I can be generalized, which means, people can sometimes feel that what I say applies to “all” of a particular group, when I didn’t mean that at all.  If I thought long enough about it, I could come up with a few more items on that list.

I can recall my mother saying things like, “I know you better than you know yourself.”  She did this partially because it was somewhat true.  She also was wrong many times about that–not that I was allowed to say that she was.  When parents say those kinds of things, they too generalize and make all kinds of assumptions.  Sometimes they get it right, but more often than not, the simply have misunderstood.  The point here is to not make any assumptions about what another person might say.

How do you deal with misunderstandings?  Are you easily offended by others?  If so, why so?  If not, why not?

I think we would do ourselves a big favor if we could practice discipline in the choices we make as to what we will and will not allow to offend us. After all, when we allow others to control our thinking to the point that we get easily hurt by things they say, we are basically giving control of our thinking and actions to everyone who is around us.

What are some thoughts you might add to this conversation?

Scriptures to think about:  1 Corinthians 13:5, Proverbs 11:12, Matthew 18:15-17, Colossians 3:13


Passion Community Life

It is so encouraging as a speaker to hear someone say afterward, “I was really inspired by what you said today.”  I don’t pretend to think that I’m anything when I get comments like that.  When we as preachers speak from the heart (and I’ve been guilty of not doing that before—preaching canned sermons because of time or whatever excuse I could come up with) and we trust God to place within our heart those things that we need to be saying, we have to think and believe and have faith that it is actually God who does the speaking.

 As a spokesperson in the kingdom, we also have to believe that it is God who leads our hearts and we simply give to you what is on that heart that he is leading.  (Again—no pride here—no pomp and circumstance—no thoughts of perfection—and certainly no accolades or thoughts of grandeur on my part in saying these things.) To God be the glory!

It’s a humbling thing to believe that God is placing dreams into your heart in order for others to see His presence—His heart—His dreams—His visions.

 When I begin to think and dream about the future and God’s kingdom in Limestone County and beyond, I can’t get away from the thoughts of seeing a passionate group of people creating community and fellowship for the people of our culture who are nowhere near as fortunate as I’ve been.  

I see people who are hungry being fed.  I see people who don’t have a nice coat for winter wearing one.  I see people whose homes are devastated by wear and tear having those homes repaired or rebuilt.  I see church buildings take down their signs that separate our “doctrines” and “theologies” and replace them with something like, “God’s People Meet Here.” I see racial barriers demolished in the wake of the love of God who sees no color or nationality.  I see young people being motivated by other young people to seek out Jesus like they never have before.  I see older people teaching younger people about life and what’s important.

That list reaches into the heart of Jesus to the two greatest commands,  and begins to develop us as we seek to do His will.  We can ask, “When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, sick and in prison and take care of you Lord?”  His response,  “When you reached out into your community and touched the lives of others.”  (Matthew 25 paraphrased and condensed).  Or he might phrase that answer to us today, “When I saw you get out of your pews in the buildings you erected and go out and be the kingdom.” 


The Rigors of High School

I really don’t even know what “rigors” means exactly, but it sure sounded good in this title.  I think it indicates that high school was a very daunting task.  So, that being the case, you do understand the sarcasm of the title.

High school was anything but rigorous (wow there’s another form of that word) for me.  I guess the school work was kind of hard, but it just never bothered me being a “CD” student, and you know I’m not talking about “compact discs.”  They weren’t around yet.

I struggled with math, history, and science.  English was never a difficult thing for me.  I seemed to be able to get through it with good grades.  I remember doing well in business math, but once they started putting letters with numbers, I was done!  For some reason, I didn’t care what “X” was–and still don’t for that matter.

I guess the real rigors of high school for me was my dating life.  I dated the same girl for the last 2 1/2 years.  We got pretty serious, but it never panned out.  We dated through about half of my senior year and she decided to broaden her horizons.  Found out she was going out with other guys.  I thought my life had ended.  

I did what a lot of people do with dating.  I thought that I was not good enough for any one else.  I thought no one wanted this overweight, big-eared, freckle-faced person.  I think I tended to forget that I had talent to play drums, had a great sense of humor and was, for the most part and honest upstanding feller.  

It’s funny how time fixes things.  I met the love of my life and married her.  We’ve now married 29 years.  My high school sweetheart went on to be married several times.  I’m not judging her.  I feel bad for her.  But I’m so glad that things worked out the way they did.  God is good!!


My First High School Experience

I don’t remember the day of the week (probably a Monday), or the day of the month, but I shall never forget that day.  I can’t describe to you how nervous I was just walking toward the school building.  I felt like what a country boy must feel like walking into New York City for the first time–overwhelmed and scared to death.  Little did I know that it was the beginning for four of the best years of my life.  Back then, we all wanted to get it over with.  Now, what I’d give to go back and do it all over again (with the obvious changes of course).

She was sitting by herself as I walked toward her.  I didn’t know why she was there, but I knew it must be her first time there too.  She looked almost as scared as me.  Her name was Charlotte.  She was the first person I spoke to in high school.  As we talked we learned that we were there for the same reason–drum camp.   As I recall, we did discuss how we had anticipated drum line, but really didn’t know what to expect.  Having met each other was probably a good thing because we were able to understand that neither of us were alone in our fright.  It was a good first encounter and from there we became very good friends.

Drum camp always started two weeks before band camp.  By the time the band got to camp, we had already learned how to march and could play the cadence to which the band marched into the stadium.  I remember it being very hot and difficult.  As freshmen, we got to march all the instruments that no one else wanted to.  We carried bass drum, cymbals, and sometimes the tri-toms, all of which were heavy.  Our drum instructors were upper classmen who already knew the music and how to march.  They were, at times, very hard on us.  They taught me a lot about discipline and working hard to achieve something good.  I remember once  learning the bass drum part to the cadence and thinking I would never get through it.  One of the guys told me that we were going to practice until we learned it or until we could not straighten our arms.  We paid our dues alright, but it was all worth it on Friday night when we got to march the show.

Charlotte and I went on to make it all four years in band.  I stayed in the drum line battery, playing bass, tri-toms, and snare.  She played mallet percussion and went on to be the drum major her senior year.  That was an incredible growth for her.  I saw her last year at a band competition where her child was playing.  I too had all of mine go through band at some point in their school years.  That was pretty cool to hear us talk about our kids playing.

Were it not for band and chorus, school would have been completely miserable.  (Lunch was pretty cool too.)  Band was my reason for going through the whole process.  I wish now that I had had enough sense to know that if I applied myself, I could have done both quite well.  It’s too late to worry about that now.

In the past week, I’ve played in an orchestra for the local drama group’s version of Guys and Dolls with my chorus teacher from high school and went to a concert where my high school band director was actually still playing.  He is in the Shoals Area Community Concert Band.  They did a gig at our church building in honor of Handy week.  It was a blast to see them.  They all look great.  It’s pretty cool to get to see the people who had such an impact on my life so long ago.


Choosing A High School

Choosing a high school in our town in 1978 was a big deal.  Basically, you were choosing sides, claiming territory, and placing loyalties that would never be changed.  It was either Bradshaw or Coffee.  This rivalry was fierce.  In our day, the rivalry between Bradshaw and Coffee was worse than that of Alabama Auburn. 

Everything from vandalism to bad jokes were hurled back and forth.  There were jokes about the school in the cow pasture (Bradshaw) and the school on goat hill (Coffee).  One tradition that happened was the painting of various things on one another’s property.  This happened so much that Bradshaw actually placed a large rock in front of the school that could be painted called the “graffiti rock.”  During rival week, one could expect any number of “events” to take place. 

In my junior high school, Weeden, the majority of people chose Coffee.  It was actually closer to the people in our community is the biggest reason I’m guessing.  However, my family leaned toward Bradshaw.  My cousins went there and back then I did just about anything my cousin Donnie did.  I had heard, too, that their band program was a bit stronger.  Also there were important things like which school had the best colors.  I did not like the colors black and gold together and there was something just not too appealing to me about being a “Yellowjacket.”  Bradshaw had the colors orange and brown.  They were unique.  No one looked like that.  They had a Bruin (large bear) as a mascot too–much stronger than bees a buzzin!

It was such a rare thing to choose Bradshaw over Coffee from our school that only one other student (my good friend Fonda Fletcher) and myself from our junior high school band chose that school.  Both of us chose it because of the band. 

Even though it was rare to choose this school, I’m so glad I  did.  I made friends that will always be in my heart and some with whom I still hang out.  The class I graduated with in 1982 were very close.  We had 292 students in that class and I certainly did not know them all, but many I did know and still have fond memories of most of them. 

The rivalry between these schools no longer exists.  The city decided a few years ago to combine the schools and make “Florence High School.”  It was a decision that I have not liked since the day it came to pass.  It seemed for many of us to take away a special tradition that will never be able to happen again.