In Marriage, Always Remember, Be Specific

One of the more difficult tasks I do far too often is marriage counseling. When I meet with a couple, I try to give them assignments to help them rekindle their relationship. Aside from words of affirmation, and gifts of service, like the man helping around the house, I offer them humor. Besides the daily words of encouragement of scripture and positive statements, I like to share stories that will help them drop their defensive walls and laugh. One of my wife’s favorite stories she loves to share on communicating properly is the following:

The waitress had never seen this stranger before. His dusty shirt and companion was strange in these parts. Actually, they’d be strange in any part. As the man approached the diner counter to place his order, the woman couldn’t help but size up the oddity. He had as a faithful companion an ostrich. Despite the fact the stranger had never been in the diner before, he acted as if he knew the menu quite well. He began, “I’d like to order a hamburger, fries and coke please!” Immediately, the bird cleared its throat and said, “Yes indeed, I’ll have what he’s having too!” Taken back by the fact that the ostrich could talk, she turned to the gentleman and said, “That’ll be $14.73 please. Without looking, he reached into his pocket, pulled out the exact change, and set the money on the counter. He and the bird then turned and walked to a table an waited for their order.

Each day, the lunch time ritual was repeated. Whatever he ordered, the bird ordered the same thing, and he always had the exact change in his pocket. Finally on Friday, the stranger opined, “I haven’t eaten very healthy this week so I’ve decided to have a steak, baked potato, salad and a tea.” Immediately, the bird nodded its head in agreement and excitedly said, “Yah, Yah, Yah, that’s exactly what I want. I’ll have that too!” The waitress scratching her head turned to the stranger and said, “Your order today will cost $26.43. Again as he had done everyday, he blindly reached into his pocket and pulled out the correct change and sat down at a table.

By now the waitress’ interest was piqued and she approached the man. As he looked up she exclaimed, “You come in here every day, you order and the bird gets the same thing you do. On top of that, you always have the exact change and you’ve never seen our menu. How can you do that?” To which the stranger began to recount a story, “Several years ago while walking along the beach, I tripped over something in the sand. As I dug down, I came across an old Aladdin’s lamp. Rubbing it, a genie popped out. Out of shear gratefulness for being set free, the genie offered me two wishes.” He continued, “I am a man of simple means and despite the temptation of wealth and fame, I just wanted to make my life a little easier. I asked the genie that whatever I wanted to purchase in life, I’d have the exact change in my pocket.”

The waitress was impressed with the strangers wisdom and said, “That’s brilliant! That means you’ll never run out of money.” He agreed. Continuing, the waitress then added, “I’m really interested now. What did you make as your second wish?” The stranger paused for a moment, turned and looked at his companion and said, “This ostrich!” Shocked, she blurted out, “You asked for a talking ostrich?” Pausing a moment he said, “Actually no, I should have been more specific. I simply asked for an impressive chick with long legs that agreed with everything I said.”

Moral of the story: In marriage, if you want something of your spouse, make sure when communicating, you are specific. Otherwise if you aren’t, you may end up ruffling a few feathers.

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The Thorns That Still Talk

Finding answers to life’s perplexing questions can be daunting. It seems like much of life appears to be an escape room. You spend an inordinate amount of time seeking clues and scratching your head on the best way to proceed to your escape. I have found answers and directions in my life in the most unorthodox places. For one Biblical character, his epiphany still has us talking some 5000 years later.

A product of royalty, having been adopted into the most powerful family in the world, Moses’ youth and indiscretions found him in self-imposed exile on the back side of Mt Sinai. He was as one would say, in the middle of nowhere. Even the word “Sinai” according to Jewish tradition means, desert. Scattered among the godforsaken landscape grew bushes with no value whatsoever, the thorn-bush. Moses was no doubt all too familiar with its sharp edges and ability to cause pain when confronted with it. The lowly thorn was first mentioned in Genesis 3 as the result of Adam and Eve’s sin. Now stretching the desert floor for as far as the eye could see, the thorn was an ever-present reminder of the accursed life Moses had now inherited.

One day, while tending sheep, Moses saw something that had to be investigated, a burning bush. Jewish rabbinic tradition indicates that the bush on fire was not only the “lowliest” of thorn briers, but the most dangerous for feeding a wildfire. As he got closer to it, he saw something that left him speechless, this highly combustible shrub wasn’t being consumed at all. Centuries later, some rabbis contend that this burning object represented the oven Hebrew youth Shadrach, Meschach and Obednego were thrown into and lived. This conglomeration of thorns, according to Jewish tradition, indicated it was the “lowliest” place for the Lord to be among His people. It was through thorns, God shared His plans for Moses, His people, and showed His compassion for us even today.

Imagine the lowliest object on earth, thorns, God using to affirm His direction and love for His people. Sixty-six times the word thorn or brier is used in the Bible, but none were more important than the ones referred to in Matthew 27:29. It is there that it speaks of a “braided crown of thorns placed upon Jesus’ head” prior to being crucified.

The Bible is filled with symbolism and meaning. But wouldn’t you agree that it overwhelms us even now when we think that through the cursed thorn, like Moses, we too can find direction? As we reflect on Good Friday, the thorn once again plays an important symbol of God’s love. As Jesus hung on the cross, it was through this cursed object upon His Son’s head that He spoke to us, and still does. No matter how low our live’s have sunk, God meets us there and His message is still proclaimed through the thorn. Isaiah 53:5 New Life Version (NLV) says, But He was hurt (thorns) for our wrong-doing. He was crushed for our sins. He was punished so we would have peace. He was beaten so we would be healed.

It’s been over two-thousand years since the original Good Friday, but isn’t it amazing, the “Thorns” still talk?

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Stop Squishing My Bug

When my father was young boy growing up in New Hampshire, he visited a family friend who had a vast collection of bugs and insects. One such “bug” that drew his attention was a large tarantula. The long-legged bug now dead, was affixed to a board with a pin holding it in place. The owner had several types and seeing how much my dad was intrigued by it, offered it to him to take home. He readily accepted the gift. Knowing my grandmother, I can only imagine she wasn’t too thrilled with it when he got home. I’m sure she saw all she wanted of those things when she lived on the farm in Oklahoma.

The next day my dad had a plan. He was going to share it with his classmates at school. As each gave impressive “oohs and awes” to the bug that spanned the full size of his hand, one little girl in pigtails did not share his enthusiasm. Turning to present it to her, she shrieked, slapped his hand soundly, and promptly ran away. What once was the finest specimen of a menacing spider ever seen, was now relegated to handful of dust. She had obliterated it in the blink of an eye. My dad was a prankster and I’m confident his impromptu show-and-tell moment was designed to bring levity and a little drama to his classroom. The sad part was his glee was short-lived.

I inherited my Dad’s penchant for humor, and I believe that’s one of the qualities, (among many) that drew people to him. There is nothing wrong with laughter, but I’ve met many a person who would disagree with me. One day after posting a funny story on my Facebook page, an old high school classmate sent me a stinging rebuke. He penned a message to me stating that in light of the world’s sad affairs, I had no business offering anyone levity.

Being the grown up in the room, I thought about his counsel. After reflecting deeply over his rebuke for a long ……two minutes, I clicked the unfriend button and haven’t heard from him since. This option is the few things I enjoy about Facebook.

Lately however as I scroll through my Facebook feed, I imagine I feel like what my dad must have felt like when his bug got squished. Happy and laughing one minute, then in the blink of an eye, my own happiness gets flattened. After being upbeat and happy starting my day, I frequently see pictures of deathly sick people, babies, and pets. Some of my Facebook friends seem most drawn to the worst of humanity. What gets me is the majority of these sad and devastating pictures they share, they don’t even know the individuals or the circumstances personally.

I get it, there are bad things around us, but why choose to dwell on just those things? The Good Book says in Ecclesiastes 3 that there is, “A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.” So why should I choose but one emotion? Who Doesn’t like to laugh? If you and I are all made in the image of God, why can’t I have His funny bone?

I have one plea for those who are friends with me, stop dwelling on the sadness of this world and start looking up. This quote from an unknown author, sums up my thoughts today. “Happiness is the art of making a bouquet of flowers from the blooms that are within our reach.”

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It’s All in the Name

Early in my healthcare career I found it most difficult to be separated from my family for great lengths of time. To ease the burden of being away from my small children for weeks and sometimes months at a time, I’d go shopping. I found looking for small gifts for my three children and wife, made me feel like I was keeping them ever in the forefront of my mind.

A little tourist store called Dog Patch near the town I worked, was a frequent stop for me. I could buy little Knickknack toys or t shirts relatively cheap. One such day, I found the perfect t-shirt for my little three-year-old daughter. Red, it had emblazoned across the front in big white letters the words, “I Love My Daddy”, then in smaller letters under that sentence read the words, “This advertisement paid for by him.” It became one of my daughter’s favorite shirts until she outgrew it. Once hanging nearly to the floor, it seemed after only a few short years, her little legs had grown like gazelles and it now fit perfectly. That shirt did two things for me, it identified who that little girl belonged, and it gave evidence everyday that my “little” girl was no longer so little.

Several years ago while on vacation to Florida, I had forgotten a most important item. I had forgotten the power cord to a medical device I needed. Calling several medical equipment businesses, I found one place in Tampa that had the exact cord I needed. The individual on the phone told me that it would cost $40 plus tax to secure it. Grumbling, I had no choice, I told the lady I would be coming for it within the hour.

Since I was on vacation, I had my ever present New England Patriots ball cap on when I entered the establishment.
The receptionist pointed me to a large and loud salesman and as he approached, his distinct Bostonian accent was clear. Before I could say a word, He said, “Are you a New England-dah too?” I replied with the most authentic accent I could muster, “Yessuh, I am.” I was bawn up nawth of Bosty in Andovah! With a big grin, he said, “You wore the right hat today, I’ll sell you the cord much cheapah because of it!” We parted with a smile as he was glad to help a hometown person, and I was most happy to save some coin.

I’ve grown up hearing the adage, “It’s who you know.” But I gathered something a little deeper. As believers in Christ, it’s not enough that we wear some article of clothing professing our association; what is most important is, is His identifiable mark on us somewhere? Do we profess Him with our actions and deeds? When we open our mouth, like the Bostonian salesman, can people readily identify where our true home lies?

It would be so easy if we had a shirt like my daughter that showed progress on how much we’ve grown over the past year; not physically but spiritually. No I’m not going to get rid of my ball cap that reads, “Prayer, Just do it! It’s still one of my favorite hats. I’m hoping that maybe today and everyday, whomever I come in contact with, they will look at me like they once did my little daughter and see that I’m growing, and know that God does loves me and I Him. Oh, and if I did wear such a Christian shirt proclaiming His love, it would have to state, “His advertisement “the cross” was paid for by Him.

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