Life Suckers

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. Mat 5:10-
barnabas

I remember working in the old Lincoln Education Center in Billings, we were renovating the 3rd floor so that Billings Senior could send their freshman there to alleviate the overcrowding in the High School. One day the ceiling contractor showed up, he was not supposed to be there yet-I had him scheduled for a couple of weeks later-and he said: “I got done early on another project so I thought I would come over here and start doing the ceiling grid in the hallways.”

I told him he couldn’t do that because we still needed to get all the electrical conduit in above the ceiling and if he put up the grid that would be very difficult. He grumbled about needing to get his hours in so I told him he could put up his wall angles but nothing else.

Apparently he went and told the electrician he was putting up the ceiling grid because a little while later one of the estimators from the office of the electrical contractor showed up and started yelling at me: “If he puts up this grid we won’t be able to get our conduit in! Can’t you control your subcontractors?”

Well this didn’t set well with me. I told him to calm down, that he was just putting up the wall angle, about that time the ceiling guy walked up behind us on his stilts, and the electrician shot back. “He said he was putting in the grid.” I turned around and looked right at the ceiling guy and said; “If he starts putting up grid I’m going to knock him off his stilts! —let’s all just chill out here.”

The ceiling guy just grunted and walked away, the estimator went back to his office and the electrician had time to get his conduit in and we all got along fine for the rest of the job.

Being a peacemaker can be a challenge sometimes that’s for sure. One time I was telling Donna about refereeing some dispute at work, Jessie, who was about five I suppose, overheard it and told Donna later: “Poor Daddy, he has to babysit bad boys at work all day.”

Unfortunately, that’s exactly the way it seems sometimes. And it’s the part of the job I hate. I certainly don’t enjoy the strife.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3

Does anyone enjoy strife? I know that sounds like a no brainer but I really think some people enjoy strife, I mean, we all know people who just seem to go from crisis to crisis and just love telling everyone all about how their world is falling apart today and the universe is conspiring against them. Or people who just seem to go out of their way to antagonize people, causing arguments—just challenging people to correct them— it’s like they go through life saying to themselves; “I’m going just say whatever comes to my mind, the most obnoxious and contradictory thing I can think of and it will be right just because I said it.”

Drama queens, debaters, antagonists, hypochondriacs–some people are always looking for a struggle or a fight. I have known several people like that, and I call them life suckers; because after you pour into them over and over and they just keep coming back with bigger and better ‘woe is me’ stories, you realize that they are not being helped and you are finding yourself more and more depleted every time they walk away from you.

And the ones who feel the need to constantly correct or challenge you suck all the joy out of you and leave you feeling defensive and angry—life suckers they are.

Here’s a life sucker test for you:

  1. Do people walk away from you when you head their way?
  2. Do people seem to pretend they didn’t see you?
  3. Do people avoid asking you how you are doing but you tell them anyway?
  4. Do people get defensive when you talk to them?
  5. Do you find yourself apologizing a lot for something you just said or having to explain what you meant even though you actually meant it the way you said it but now realize how bad it sounded?
  6. Do you use the phrase: “Yeah but” a lot?
  7. Do you ask for prayer more than you offer it?

If you answered yes to more than a couple of these questions, then you are probably not a peacemaker- you could be a life sucker. But good news; recognizing it is the first step to recovery!

No one truly likes conflict, often we just use it to mask the fear and self-doubt that plagues our hearts. We need to reverse the flow of life so that we are giving it rather than taking it. We become peacemakers by giving the life that is so abundantly given to us, speaking life into the hearts of others rather than sucking it out of them by whining or condemning and demanding.

If you are your first priority; “What can I get, what can you give me? Bless me, heal me, love me!” Then you will never have peace and you will engender conflict everywhere you go because people will always push back against that. God cannot bless that selfish attitude and the world does not respond well to it either. It’s the givers who are blessed, the givers who are loved and from their abundance they can give and love even more.

Perhaps being a peacemaker has more to do with the words we speak to others, the words that cut to the heart where we all long for peace. Freely you have received, freely give.

 

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Lucy the Wild Eyed Calf

6c6ae9137081e7f09483dd2580087fb5God sets the lonely in families -Ps. 68

We all want to be a part of a family, it is the condition of the human heart, we need the love and security that only family can give.

Family was God’s idea, it is his design for humanity, for all of nature really, we all need each other. We need a place to grow and flourish emotionally, physically and spiritually. God goes out of his way to make sure we all know that and have opportunity to be joined to family—even if he has to be the one to fill the roles of missing or dysfunctional family. And he does it quite well.

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his Holy Dwelling. God sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:5,6

A quick story-

Lucy

A while back when we were still in the cattle business one of our heifers, Karen, had her first calf. As is customary for cows, she went to a secluded place to have her calf.  For the first few days of their lives calves don’t usually move too far from the spot where they were born, relying on remaining motionless to keep them hidden for protection.

I went out to check on this calf the day after it was born, while Karen was at the feeder with the rest of the cows.  Like I said, most calves when they are that young won’t move from where mama put them until she comes back, but not this calf; I didn’t get within twenty feet of her before she jumped up and ran as fast as her unpracticed, wobbly legs could carry her in the opposite direction from mama, the feeder and the barn.  I followed from a reasonable distance thinking when she got to the fence she would stop, well she hit the fence without even slowing down and stumbled right through the strands of barbed wire and kept going. 

Now I had a dilemma.  I knew if I didn’t retrieve her, Karen would never know where her baby, who was now on the wrong side of the fence, had gone.  So I crawled over the fence and took off running, I managed to get in front of her, turning to face her as I waved my arms and hollered in an attempt to get her to turn around.  I’ll never forget the sight of that calf coming at me swinging her legs wide and stiff, not quite mastering this running thing yet, with eyes that were looking straight ahead but not seeming to be seeing anything.  She blew on by me like I was not even there.  Well, all I could do was continue the chase.  She was like a calf possessed and I decided right there her name was “Lucy”, (I’ll let you figure out why).

It seemed to become a challenge for her to plow through every fence she could find, barbed wire and electric.  After following her through three more of the neighbors’ fences I knew nothing was going to stop her.  I had been hanging back hoping she would just find a place to hide so I could go back and get the pickup and lasso and haul her back.  Instead she was getting closer and closer to the highway with apparently no intention of stopping so I knew I had to do something, and soon before she was lost for good.

Once again I ran ahead to intercept her. This time as she ran toward me with that wild unseeing look in her eyes, I dropped to the ground and swung my leg under her, knocking her feet from under her.  I then quickly jumped on top of her.  Well, there I sat on top of a ninety-pound calf, both of us out of breath and pumped up with adrenaline wondering what to do now.  I had no rope and was about a half mile from home.

I took stock of what I had, which was the shirt on my back.  I took off the long sleeved denim shirt I was wearing and used one sleeve to tie Lucy’s front legs together and used the other sleeve to tie the hind legs together.  Thus I left Lucy hog-tied, lying in the neighbor’s field while I walked back home in my undershirt on this chilly March day to get my pickup truck.  Once I got to my truck I drove, partly on the road and partly cross country, back to where Lucy lay, retied her with some bailing twine, which is forever present in the back of any ranchers’ truck, reclaimed my shirt and, with great effort on my part, threw this heavy squirming calf into the back of the pickup.

I then hauled her back to what I’m sure she thought would be some terrible fate at the hands of this big scary monster that had captured her.  I drove her up to the feeder where Mama Karen and the other cows were still eating and dropped the tailgate to reveal a bawling terrified calf.  As I unloaded her onto the ground all the cows came to look at this calf that was making all the commotion and before Lucy knew it her mama had recognized her.  Instead of the awful fate Lucy had expected, she received a few comforting licks and a warm dinner of milk from her mama.

Since she was now also in the barnyard, Karen led her into the barn after her meal, where they both spent the night bedded down in clean warm strawLucy, the wild eyed calf, whom I thought for sure was loco, turned out to be our best replacement heifer that year and raised several fine calves of her own.  Go figure.

 Thoughts on “Lucy”

          We all need a safe place, Lucy found a safe place–at least she was taken to a safe place. Even though she tried to run away for fear, afraid of the rancher who only wanted to help. Too many of you come from messed up family situations we cannot even imagine- God wants to give you another chance, a chance to be joined with a much larger eternal family, to find a safe place.

God does indeed place the lonely in families. Perhaps you have been running from the Rancher, fearing the Good Shepherd thinking: “Surely God cannot be pleased with me, cannot possibly forgive me, or even care about me anymore.” You could never be more wrong, He has been watching you, even chasing you, wanting you to just stop and see him, to recognize that he just wants to take you home, to bring you to a safe place.

He loves you, you may not realize it but he has even tackled you, thrown you into a rig and brought you here to read this today. Not so you could be shamed and ridiculed, not so you could go away wishing you could have half the joy you see other’s reveling in. He brought you here today to rescue you, to show you how much he loves you and just wants you to trust him, trust him to heal, forgive and restore you, to put you in a family— the family of God.

To prove his love and to secure for you that place he gave his Son. The Good Shepherd himself, laid down his life, shed his blood, took our punishment to ensure that we could come home safe and sound with nothing preventing us from lifting our eyes and our voices to heaven and proclaiming, “I am a child of God and Jesus is my Lord!”

A real family is a place of unconditional love, of acceptance and peace— today I want to extend the invitation for you to become a part of Family, the family of God—if you are not already. This is a family with a Father who loves you unconditionally, always has and always will and he is just aching for you to come to him—just as you are—to open up your heart and allow his cleansing Holy Spirit to enter into your heart and remove the last barrier that has prevented you from knowing and feeling that love, sin, that politically incorrect word that nobody uses anymore yet still haunts the heart and wreaks havoc on everyone who doesn’t know Jesus.

Jesus didn’t come and die to condemn you, quite the contrary, he wants nothing more than to take away the guilt and shame, the fear and doubt that has become a barbed wire fence around your heart. If you’ll just let him. Even if you have known Jesus for years, you can still feel like you have run too far and crashed too many fences to ever come back— that is a lie from the pit of hell—you do not have to fear the good shepherd— your Father is waiting for you.

Today you can become part of the family of God, you can come home. Just ask, and he will hear.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Rom 10:9

Pray: “Lord I believe, help me overcome my unbelief. I want to be part of your family, today I trust you as my Lord and Father. Now help me to find some brothers and sisters to share the journey- place me in a family! Amen.

Snoose Me

What drives you?

Working in Miles City MT lately I’m reminded of back in ’79 when I went there to work on re-Skoalsiding a trailer house. I was 17 and was hired by a neighbor who worked for a mobile home dealer. There had been devastating hail storm that people in Miles City still talk about. So I rode up with him and another hand to work on repairing damaged siding for a day.

I had started chewing Skoal sometime before this and apparently had become quite addicted, though I didn’t realize yet—I would before this day was over. Sometime in the morning as we were working I reached into my back pocket, pulled out the round cardboard can with the tin lid and took a pinch of snoose. It was very dry, yuck. Apparently I had gotten used to having a fresh can everyday—it was only 35 cents a can at this time—so after a less than pleasurable chewing experience I decided I was going to toss this can, literally, I tossed it to the top of a very steep hill next to the trailer we were working on just to make sure I didn’t lower myself to putting any more of that dried out snooze in my mouth.

Sometime later that afternoon that dried out can of Skoal was calling my name louder and louder until I couldn’t stand it anymore, I had to have a chew and we apparently weren’t going to any stores any time soon. So when the boss, my neighbor, wasn’t looking I climbed to the top of the hill to retrieve my dried out Skoal. I couldn’t find it, worse, the boss walked around the corner of the house looking for me; “Dan, where are you?” “Aahh… up here.”

“What are you doing
up there!?” I was embarrassed to tell him I was having a nicky-fit so I just said, “Well, I was done with those windows so I just wanted to see what was up here.” He very gruffly said, “well you should have come and asked me what I wanted you to do next, we don’t have time to screw around!” All I could say was; “Sorry.”

I don’t know what was worse, the embarrassment of the boss thinking I was just screwing around or the fact that I still didn’t have any chewing tobacco. Later that evening when we finally got don
e
and stopped for dinner on the way home I was able to run to the gas station next door to the cafe and buy a fresh can of chew.

Thots

Now, the reason I tell you this story is because it’s a good illustration, one many of you can relate to, of what it means to be driven. I had what would become an all-consuming passion to have a chew and it made me do certain things, it made me say certain things, on that day it certainly dominated my thoughts- “Need a chew, need a fresh chew, need any chew, where’s my chew? Can we stop so I can buy some chew? —Aaahh, finally some chew.”

Years later, and unfortunately after a few other life and thought controlling addictions, another passion would consume me. The feeling of love and power, the feeling of being alive, and even important, to the one who mattered most, the God of the universe. It was a feeling that would consume me and put a fire in me that would move me and drive me to do certain things, to say certain things, it would dominate my thoughts and pervade every aspect of my life.

In fact, I used to fear—because I knew the ways of an addict—that I would soon tire of the feeling or that it would fade. Or even realize that it wasn’t real and move on seeking another, more exciting thrill as the joy of the one I was currently pursuing waned or wore me down.

It didn’t. I have sometimes lost sight of the significance of who I am in him, the feelings of passion and zeal have come and gone, not to be replaced with something better, but only with fears and anxieties, feelings of fear and unworthiness, loneliness and frustration. But I have come to see that it is only when I believe the lies of the enemy, succumb to the deceits of the religious or the lusts of the flesh that the fire fades.

We need to continually remind ourselves who we are, who our God is and realize that we have no higher purpose and that our calling is irrevocable no matter what other people or situations may tell us. So the questions remain: “What am I appointed to do?” and  “What drives me?”

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Cor 4

What are you called to do? Do it and do it boldly, you might not get another chance, each day passes away with the sunset. People come and go, kids grow up, neighbors move away, loved ones die, and one day, sooner than you realize, time has slipped away and you are yesterday’s news. And when you read that old story, the story of your life, will it be full of regret, or will you look back and say, wow, I had no idea just that simple act of obedience would have such an impact!

All I’m saying is- Don’t miss your call because you are up on the hill looking for your snoose can.