Mostly Good…

We are in a series of lessons at church called, The Master’s Touch. It’s a study in Mark. I assign my son Caleb a chapter to read each week and he is supposed to read it several times during the week. (crazy to assign your own kid reading, I know!) So a couple of weeks back I text Caleb and said, ‘did you do your reading in Mark 4?’ He says back, ‘yeah, a guy goes out throws seed around. Some lands on the path, some on rocks, some on good soil and some in the weeds – I read it.’

Later that night I followed up and asked, “So in the story about the farmer, what is the seed?” He said, “People?” Then I explained that the seed is God’s word. Each of the places where the seed landed represents people. I told him, “The ‘path’ is where the person’s head or heart is just so hardened that God’s word can’t get in and so it eventually just goes away. The weeds are like people who accept God’s word, but life is so busy and they have so much going, that it just chokes out God’s word completely. The rocky soil is the people that take the word in right away, but the roots never get too deep and when tough times come, the word just dies out. The good soil is the people who hear God’s word, accept it and it makes a difference in their lives.”

Then Caleb says, “I got it.” Then I asked, “So what type of soil are you?” And he looked up in his mind and pondered like a wise man for a few seconds and then said, “I’m mostly good…but with a few rocks.”

That’s’ my boy! I love his answer because it’s honest and because it’s where most of us who love God and want to please him, live. We have a desire for the Word and we allow it to affect our lives, but we realize that sometimes we are spiritually shallow. We know that we could do better at loving and serving. We understand that our sin harms the relationship we have with our Father and we regret when our love for him falls short.

But every now and then… in the sidewalk of our tiny souls, where a narrow little crack opens due to forces at work that we never see, a shoot grows up through that crack and finds life, because down deep, our soil is mostly good.

telemicus out

Settle Up

Cinderella ManDid you see the 2005 movie Cinderella Man? It was a good movie, sometimes hurt the heart, but it was good. It’s a true story about a fighter during the depression era named James Braddock. He falls on hard times, there’s no work, he can’t pay his bills and can’t afford the medicine one of his kids needs. A friend talks him into getting back in the ring to fight. Braddock is well past his prime. He’s a ‘has been.’ But he’s not fighting for fame or glory – he’s fighting because he loves his family.

In one of the most heart wrenching scenes of the movie this former well known and financially successful man has to go and seek public assistance. It’s a jab to his pride and right hook to his manhood at the same time. His fortune, like many in that day, was lost in the stock market crash. It wasn’t his fault he ended up in this place. It’s simply how life happened to him.

As he began to fight again, something strange happened. He won. He worked up through the ranks and reached number 2, earning him a shot at the title against a scary champ named Max Baer. He fought and won. He returned his family to security. One of my favorite scenes, he returns to the public assistance office and with humility and quiet grace, paid back what they had given him. The clerk was stunned and not sure what to do.

I heard last week about a lady who called a church in her town and explained that as a child she had gone to church with them. She is now a mom and her family needed some help with clothing and school supplies for her kids. The church met with her and helped with her needs. Some months later, she called the church and explained that she had requested and received help from the church. Then she asked, “Is there some way that I am supposed to pay that back?” The man she spoke to assured her that it wasn’t necessary and invited her to once again visit the church.

Whether we are talking about money, wise counsel, comfort or just a simple act of kindness, it’s noble to realize that we owe a debt and to desire, when possible, to settle up. Sometimes we need to pay it back, sometimes to pay it forward. Either way… if you owe a debt, to the degree that you’re able, settle up.

telemicus out

Fierce People

People have been saying it to me for years, “Are you mad? You look mad or upset about something.” Almost always I say, “No, I’m not mad, I just look this way.” But the truth is those who bear the burdens of care for others are often weighed down by that care. We don’t hate the burden. It is the price of love. You can not love your family and be blasé about circumstances that threaten it. You can not love your country and sit passively while it’s leaders enact policies that will harm it. You can not love the church and ignore the actions of ‘christians’ who betray the Lord who gave his life for it. You can not love God and wink at the things that are an offense to him.

My therapist friend would say this is my ‘black and white’ thinking. It creates problems for me. But the truth is that some things are black and white. Some things are wrong. Some things are bad. Strong feelings about negative things lead to an attitude and countenance that is stern or fierce. We do not look fierce out of deep anger, although anger sometimes is on the surface. The intense look and fierce demeanor are an expression of concern based on love.

I love with great passion; my family, the church, the Word, God the Father, Jesus the Son, God’s Spirit the Comforter, America, the Constitution, sports, classic Rock, Missouri, Mexican food and Mom’s banana pudding (and alliteration sometimes.)

When any of these things is maligned, compromised, betrayed, wrongly criticized, endangered or needlessly harmed, I am concerned and sometimes angry. Not because I hate, but because I love. It’s no fun to be frustrated. In the words of many moms I’ve heard, “Why do I care so much?” It’s because we love. Are there people who love just as passionately as the fierce people and yet have a joyful countenance and happy demeanor? Yes there are. So how do we become ‘happily concerned’ without looking fierce?

I don’t know.

It should be noted; not all fierce people are that way because they love. It’s not alright to beat your kids or your wife (or husband) and claim love is the motivation. We should not seek to justify bad behavior by saying that love is the motivation. I want to be known as a happy and loving person. I’m trying to do better. I fail at it a lot. But I wont accept the tag of being a hater or a horses a** because of stands I take or even fierce comments. I may say the wrong thing, but my motivation and concerns are noble at the core. Those of us who are sometimes misunderstood appreciate the people who believe in us even when we are fierce or not living in one of our better moments with the face of a cherub.

telemicus out

Breaking Beans with Nen

The lady in this picture is my mom’s mom (those two kids are my cousin’s.) We called her Nen; certainly one of the sweetest souls that ever walked the Earth. I sat with Nen on the front porch of her house one hot summer afternoon in that two-seat gliding porch swing you see in the picture. Nen had a big mixing bowl in front of her and her apron was full of fresh green beans from the garden.

She picked up a long green bean, broke the ends off and then broke it in half. When she broke them it sounded like dried twigs snapping. I said, “Nen, why are you breaking the beans?” And right there she taught me a lesson that I still have in my heart. It’s been more than forty years since we spent that afternoon on the porch.

Nen said, “Mikie (nobody is allowed to call me that but her) it makes them cook up better.” I asked why and she tried to explain it. She invited me to break some too, to help her out. I did a few and then I picked up a bean and tried to break the end off and it wouldn’t snap. So I tried the other end. No luck. I folded it in half, still wouldn’t break. Nen just sat and laughed at me. I was working so hard on something that was never going to change. She said, “It’s a bad bean Mikie, throw it away.”

We sometimes fail to get rid of things that should be set aside. It could be bad music, vile comedians, destructive habits and even toxic people. Not to be harsh, but sometimes we need to end relationships that are not healthy. We need to have the courage to put away those things that hinder our efforts to live good and holy lives.

In the Old Book, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age.” Matthew 13:47-50

Jesus taught, (and Nen did too), that the good should be separated from the bad. The bad is to be thrown away. What are the ‘bad beans’ in your life? Finding the good beans requires examination. It takes wisdom to know good from bad. It takes courage to make the choice. Be wise and brave.

telemicus out

I Shouldn’t Ask… Should I?

I started to pray last night. It jumped right out of my heart, this request of the Father. Before it could bounce off the ceiling, I snagged it out of the air and said to myself, “You cant ask for that.” You see, I’ve prayed for certain things for many years, and for many years God has been silent on these matters. But I guess the prayer leapt out of my heart before my brain had a chance to slam the lid on it.

Sometimes we don’t want to ask because of how often He says, ‘No.’ Other times we don’t ask because we don’t feel that we have a right to ask anything based on what we know is happening in our own hearts and lives. I’d love to tell you it doesn’t matter and that God wants to hear our requests even when our faith is weak and our love has failed. It’d be great if our doubts and struggles didn’t have an affect on how God views our prayers, and maybe that’s the case. But it doesn’t feel that way to me.

I have great convictions about your soul and your faith and your relationship with God. My counsel to you would be . . . Ask! Let your heart lead your prayers. As long as it weighs on your heart, release it to God and trust that He can handle not only the requests, but the condition of the person making the request.

However, when it comes to mine, well, I know me too well. I know how many times I’ve begged Him and how many times He’s said ‘No’. I know the condition of my own little soul and the shallowness of my frail character. I know the weakness of my flesh and the corruptness of my heart (on my less than quality days.) So, what to do? My heart loves God—serves Him and it wants to ask for His blessing in many things. But it rarely feels worthy of even asking Him for daily bread.

There’s an old hymn, (I really wish one of you musical types would update this) it’s called, Father Hear the Prayer We Offer. It’s beautiful poetry but the last stanza gives some direction that is wise and poignant.

Let our path be bright or dreary,
Storm or sunshine be our share;
May our souls in hope unweary
Make Thy work our ceaseless prayer.

telemicus out

Have You Met My Pop

Most people love their dad—I get that. Sometimes they forget to tell you why or they don’t have a chance. My dad is Jonathan Taylor, we call him Pop. The older I get, the more people I meet whose lives have been changed because Pop passed through their sojourn and proclaimed something of his character, the nature of God, the mission of the Kingdom and a love that he rarely spoke but felt deep within his stoic countenance. He was born in northeast Oklahoma. He worked as an iron worker by trade, preached the gospel and served several churches at God’s call. Now he drives a bus and spends his time loving my mom.

Growing up I remember his thundering voice. Scott and I have talked on occasion about wishing we had inherited that voice. But more than the tone, the message Pop conveyed to us was one that always called us higher. He challenged us to have integrity, to strive for excellence, to go the extra mile and to be noble in character. He set standards that seemed unreachable and then proved we could. I told him once that I couldn’t do something… he had me write ‘cant’ on a piece of paper and go bury it in the back yard. He told me often, “Cant is dead!”

I do not know, God knows, how many men are preaching the Gospel because of his influence. It’s a lot. Just this week a friend wrote me and expressed that he preaches because dad inspired his passion and God called him to it. Dad’s spiritual sojourn has been ahead of his peers for most of his life. He taught the active vibrant role of the Holy Spirit when most in our fellowship were still doubting it had a role at all. He focused on a working knowledge of the Bible and somehow instilled in me a love for the Bible that I do not even understand. I was a student of the Bible even as a boy. The world is different because of Pop’s ministry.

These are his hands. They’ve worked hard, served, and loved. Now they drive, lift grand-kids and ‘piddle around.’ He can be hard headed. He knows what he believes and holds to it with tenacity. But in recent years, he listens better and asks more questions. He’s gentler now and more tender. He expresses love more easily and tears come without restraint. He’s always been a softy, but didn’t show that side very often. (I recently found a picture of him in a crowd of people, he was sitting with a child pretending to talk on a toy phone—the old softy.) He’s growing as a person though he has some years on him. Don’t tell me people cant change. I’ve watched him become a different person in many ways over the years.

I cant tell you everything about him here, but this one thing I want to say. His kids love him. His friends love him and are the richer for knowing him. Pop plans to live to be 100. He has a thing he says that I adopted that goes; “Write this down wherever you write things down so you don’t forget.” Pop says this about his spiritual journey… “I don’t know everything or even most things, but I know this; I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!” So to my dad I just want to say, “I am one of the many who have been inspired by you and I’m honored to call you Pop. Happy Father’s Day!

telemicus out

My Other Mom and Dad

People say it so often it’s become cliché—“I’m blessed.” I’ve heard it from athletes, movies stars, casual acquaintances and friends. It’s good to say it and to recognize that God is the source of all good things. However, for myself, I don’t use the phrase often. So as I consider the remarks I’m about to share I don’t say these words without a good deal of thought. I have really great parents. But as I grew up in Kirksville, Missouri I became friends with Keith and Rick Louder. They shared their parents with me and as they grew, their younger brothers, Scott and Corey also became very good friends. I have a second family and my other mom and dad celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last weekend. I am blessed.

Everything I know about Janet and Larry Louder I know in the context of family and church. They have both served since the time that we met with selfless devotion. I remember mom as the cook at summer camp. She prepared great food and though I was a kid, I noted that this was no typical camp grub we were consuming . . . it was pure greatness. Larry was the camp ‘gofer’ back in those days. (I think he even had a shirt that said “GOFER” on the back.) He served in every area that you can imagine. One summer my car broke down and he and Glen Browning worked on it for many hours over several days while I enjoyed being at camp. Larry is one of the sweetest, gentlest men I’ve ever known.

A few years back they purchased an old house in Greentop, Mo. and remodeled it. The finished product was beautiful. It was very much a dream house, yet they sold it and moved back to town in order to be able to serve the kids at church more effectively. Dad was an auto body repairman when we met. Mom had the guys still at home of course. Later on, Dad moved to remodeling of houses and building things. Every time I’m home he takes me out to shop and shows me what he’s working on. He just finished a project building new bunk beds for the youth camp. Mom eventually went to work for the medical college. She is now semi-retired I guess we would say. She has skills in many areas; cooking, sewing, serving big groups, saving money. She knows more tricks for fixing things than a handy man. She seems never to get frazzled.

Dad is serving the church as an elder. They are still helping in all the ways they can. I watched them mature as Christians too. They’ve learned new ideas and embraced new concepts of spiritual life that impress me as a hunger for God. They have over the years that I’ve known them, served in more ways than I can ever explain. Their example has been one of frugality, generosity, service, kindness and love. They have reproved, re-directed and nudged me in positive ways. They shared their lives and they treat my family as their own. Even my kids call mom, Grandma Janet. Caleb said she was the “coolest old person he ever met.”

The Old Books says, “Give everyone what you owe him: … if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:7). I certainly owe the Louders respect, and I wish to honor them for their service to God prompted by love and for the love and kindness to a teenage boy of whom I was one of many drawn into their lives by the exceptional people they are. I call them, my other mom and dad—and I am blessed.

telemicus out

The Plus Side of Dysfunction

Have you heard people excuse their mis-behavior by saying, “I come from a dysfunctional family.” It’s time to drop that excuse. I’m not a sociologist, but as I see it, dysfunction can either be constructive or destructive.

What I am calling destructive dysfunction cripples through all forms of abuse. Its perpetrators and victims are unable, or unwilling, to construct better more functional lives because they continue to ‘live the dysfunction’ without the support or resolve necessary to make healthy changes that lead to greater functionality. As a result, another generation is raised in destructive dysfunction and the cycle repeats. But by the grace of God, sometimes people reach the place where they refuse to continue that cycle. So they seek the help they need to make healthy changes, they break the cycle and begin the climb out of the grave of dysfunction.

Most of us (those reading this) were raised in constructive dysfunction. By that I mean, our families were not the picture of perfect mental and emotional health, but we worked through those things that were not ideal. This journey toward functionality—developing maturity through ministry, counseling and growth we construct better mental and emotional lives. This generally happens across the family system, meaning parents as well as children continue to develop greater functionality over time. We grow by the process and through the dysfunction.

Our other institutions function in much the same way. Churches are sometimes lead by individuals who have not matured into healthy functionality and as a result, they abuse their people and the church is dysfunctional. We are seeing more and more that churches have moved to constructive dysfunction models. These churches are thriving today.

I think America is a constructive dysfunctional country. Sure we have problems. We don’t always function in a healthy way. But we learn from mistakes. We get help when we need it. We change laws that are unfair. We clean up messes. We are sometimes too indulgent and permissive. And sometimes we fail to respond when we should. When we elect bad actors, we replace them hoping to do better. When policies get out of line with functionality, we call the congress, write letters and protest at Tea Parties.

America is a great country, not because we are flawless, but because we are a constructive dysfunctional people. Our families are great not because we do everything in the most enlightened and healthy way, but because we have learned that dysfunction is our natural state, but it is not our permanent state. Hopefully we are always learning, always growing, always maturing and becoming better, healthier people. If we as individuals move from destructive dysfunction toward healthy functionality, then our families, our churches and America herself will move that direction as well.

telemicus out

Call It Like It Is

Why must we protect people from the truth? We are taught that truth can be hurtful and I suppose that is so. But you know what; sometimes those jeans do make them look fat. My son played flag football for several years but they didn’t keep score cause they didn’t want someone to lose. Everyday, people lose. It’s part of life. Our kids need to learn to be gracious in victory and defeat. Sometimes the food tastes bad—don’t eat it. Sometimes behavior is not simply

I’m not calling for people to be rude. We need to stop being so courteous that we protect peoples little feelings from the truth that should be faced. If you want the truth to be different, change it! Yes, you can change certain elements of truth. It might be true that you’re out of gas… so stop at Wal-Mart and buy some gas. You just changed your truth on that subject. If your out of shape, start working out. Get it back and change your truth on that issue. If you’re a jerk, get some help to be a better person and change that truth about you.

Franklin Graham is a good and honorable man. He serves in ministry and blesses people all over the world. After being invited by the Pentagon to speak on the National Day of Prayer, someone protested remarks he made about Islam and that invitation was pulled. His remarks were not complimentary, but they were true. He spoke about the abusive treatment of women that this religion practices. It is true. He spoke about the violence it propagates. It is true. He spoke about their need for Christ. It is true.

But in the name of political correctness (or cowardice) the Pentagon bows to the whiners and refuses the ministry of this good man. It’s an outrage. This was the problem when the Muslim soldier, Hasan shot up Fort Hood last year. They knew what he was, but for the sake of not upsetting the Muslims, they refused to deal with it. Thirteen people are dead as a result of their cowardice.

What needs to happen is that people who are Muslim need to stand up and speak out about what is wrong in the practice of this religion. But their leaders don’t do this. They don’t lead the way, they hide. Why, because if you go against these so-called leaders, they might come after you. Right now most of the Christian world is standing against a group of people from the Westboro Baptist Church. Their actions are despicable. And all of Christendom stands against them. When will the Muslims start changing their tone. When will they change their ways.

It’s time that we started calling it like it is. Franklin Graham is right. The Pentagon is wrong.

telemicus out

Goodbye – Hello

I bought this car from my little brother. He drove it for a while then it experienced some catastrophic mechanical failures and ‘sat up’ in my parents back yard for several months. A time came when I needed a car, so I made a deal with Scott to get it fixed and buy it from him. That was in about 1998. I drove it until about two weeks ago when it suffered another major break down. I decided it was time for me to get another car. So with that, I face the sad task of ‘doing something’ with the Laser.

It has seen a lot of good times. Scott had adventures that the world may never know about (and that is probably good.) Back in his day, the car was a sort of sea mist green or aqua color. In my day, when a fellow at a construction site lost control of his concrete saw, it rolled off his truck and into the side of the Laser. As a result, I changed the color to black. It was a great choice. The car has a beast of a motor for a 4 cylinder, it has a turbo and it will move! Its fun to drive. In its day, it was decked out–power everything and power to move as well.

Now its come to the end of the road with me. I put it on Craig’s List and the calls started right away. I’m sure someone is going to want to take it and bring the boy back to life one more time. It has about 224,000 miles. I have enjoyed it a lot. But I now have a new car (well, it’s new to me.) It’s a 2008 HHR Panel. I’ve always wanted a panel van and this is the perfect choice. My heart skips a beat when I walk out into the garage and see it sitting there. As you can see, it’s beautiful.

I’m very grateful for the Laser and all the good it brought into my life. I had a lot of fun with it and certainly got my moneys worth from it. I was very content with it even though its old and some things are not working like they used to… I can relate to that. I’m also grateful to have the Panel. It’s a thrill to see and drive it. I plan to keep it a long time. I don’t trade cars often. My philosophy is that if you pay 10K for a car, finance it for 5 years and then trade again, you paid 10K for that car. But if you paid 10K for a car and pay it off and drive another five years, well you drove that car for half price. So like the old Laser… the HHR Panel and me got a lot of miles to go.

One seeming negative to this story though—I filled up the Laser right before it broke down. Losing a full tank of gas was a big disappointment. When I picked up the Panel, I got in, looked at the gas gauge and found the gauge pointing proudly to full… I’m living in the bonus folks . . . grateful to be living in the bonus.

telemicus out