Let us “live thankful”! #12

I met Norton Mullens in 1964 – and he made a lasting impact upon my life. Soon after I was ordained and became an assistant pastor, I was asked by the senior minister to visit Norton. He was an attorney and had taught an adult Sunday school class for over 100 every Sunday morning for many years. Norton now had Multiple Sclerosis and was no longer able to leave his bed.

As I walked up to Norton’s front door, one of his two teenage daughters greeted me and took me to her father’s room. From the door I could see a very frail man in his bed, his eyes moving with a jerking motion. As I stood there, stunned by what I was seeing, Norton called out in a high, rather unsteady voice, “Who’s there?” And I responded with “Chuck Gieser, from the church.” Norton said, “You sound scared” “I am – I have been asked to bring you comfort, and I am not sure how”. Norton responded, “Come here boy; let me tell you about the goodness of the Lord!” And he did!!! I would often visit Norton to receive his wise counsel and encouragement. Norton lived out the joy of the Lord – which was his strength.

Dr. Stan Barnett MD was a Green Beret, a triathlon athlete, and a DL Lone Eagle. I asked Stan to bring the charge at my Lone Eagle ceremony. He quoted to me: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:8-9

Stan and his wife returned to DL for two weeks about fifteen years after my ceremony. Stan had become a prisoner in his own body. Due to disease he could barely walk, his skin would not let him smile, and his voice had very little volume or endurance. When he brought devotions at the 7:00 a.m. staff meeting he had typed out what he would say so, when he was no longer able to speak, his son Shawn could complete his devotional challenge. Throughout the day staff person after staff person went to Stan, who brought to each his wisdom and encouragement. Stan lived out the joy of the Lord – which was his strength.

The Bible includes a multitude of examples of people who were in incredibly difficult situations – and they continued to praise God their Savior. Joseph in prison, Daniel in the lion’s den, Stephen when being stoned, Paul while in jail.

When life is tough, sometimes beyond measure, and there is nothing that we can realistically do about it, do we live with thankful hearts? Norton and Stan lived with thankful, trusting hearts long before the struggles of this life hit hard!

A thankful heart comes from our understanding of, and belief in, the love and wisdom of God. A thankful heart means that we will be thankful in the context of daily living. This is a tough assignment…just as living out the fruit of the spirit is tough! Discipline is required…along with our understanding. Satan seeks to pull us from thankfulness. A thankful heart does not suddenly arrive when the difficult challenge comes. Our foundation of thankfulness must be built, must be a life attitude. If for no other reason, we can be thankful that God is with us in our present struggles…even as He will be with us in eternity.

I am thankful I have known Norton Mullens and Stan Barnett. These men demonstrated thankful hearts throughout their lives – regardless of their circumstances. Thursday morning I receive a hip replacement. If all goes well, it will be easy to be thankful. And if it does not, will my daily attitude of thankfulness continue? A friend in our church, a great golfer who has shot 7 “holes in one”, has had hip replacement problems, and now struggles to walk.

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. — Ephesians 5:19-20

Lessons in Integrity #11

As a first grader, I watched my teacher, Mrs. Kay, use a tool shaped like a very small crow bar to pry up thumb tacks. One day I took her thumb tack puller (it probably cost all of five cents) When my mom saw the puller, she asked if Mrs. Kay knew I had it. I admitted she did not know. My mom took me by the hand back to Mrs. Kay’s class room where I had to tell my teacher what I had done and return the tack puller. I was in tears. I remember Mrs. Kay taking me up on her lap and giving me a big hug…while reminding me never to steal anything again.

I was the Associate Pastor of a large church when I heard a staff member tell a secretary she would be getting a raise when he returned from his vacation. While away, the secretary’s old car broke down. She asked me if she could count on the raise – it would affect the car she bought. I confirmed that she would receive the raise. When the staff member returned, the secretary did not automatically receive the raise. She went to the staff person, told what had happened and that she needed the promised raise. The staff person denied he had made the promise. I went to the staff member and again he denied he ever promised the raise. Since I was the person who told the secretary she could count on it, Sally Jo and I gave her the amount needed until, several months later, she received the raise.

George Clark was a good friend and the CEO of the second largest bank in Dallas. While at a gathering in the Clark’s home I overheard someone tell George he understood the federal bank examiner was coming to Dallas to check out the banks there. When I asked George if he was concerned, his said “Why should I be?” George Clark was man of integrity.

I personally knew a camp director who drove large, sometimes overloaded trucks of building materials up to the camp. He knew the road to camp very well, and I was told that if the truck was over-loaded he would get off the main road so he could go around the weigh station on a back road. When I asked the camp director about this, he said it was true, but that in the Lord’s work it was sometimes necessary to do this to reduce transportation costs. His lack of integrity disappointed me

As the result of these, and other experiences, I have worked to live above reproach and often said at DL “do what is right – every time” and “never do anything that you would not like published on the front page of a news paper”

I told the DL staff that if they said I said something, I would accept their understanding as being true. I was determined that no staff member would ever be able to think I had been dishonest. In my 23 years as the DL Director I believe only one person took advantage of my promise.

Before I became Director of DL there was no annual audit. I insisted on DL having an annual CPA audit. I told the Board of Directors that if I had made mistakes, I wanted to know about it. I could accept the auditor or DL Board telling me I had made a mistake…but I did not want them to ever be able to say I had been dishonest.

At the end of camp, during the final sharing/communion service, Garret Larsen said he had learned “integrity” that summer at DL. I am certain Garret already understood integrity. His summer had underlined the importance of integrity. Garret is now the Director of a camp in Texas. There is no question in my mind: Garret is a man who lives and leads as a man of integrity.

I remember the words of a Billy Joel song….”Honesty is such a lonely word”.

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity” — I Chronicles 29:17

If we are going to Live In Partnership With God, we must accept the on-going challenge of Integrity.

Excitement – Satisfaction, Indifference…Lasting Satisfaction and Joy #10

My freshman year at Wheaton Academy, the football team lost their last game…and the championship. Jim was a senior, and was selected as a tackle for the all-conference team. I wondered what it must feel like to be all-conference. My junior year we won the conference championship – wild excitement! Our school had just over 200 students! Shortly thereafter I learned I had been selected for the all-conference team. My excitement was short lived, for I soon realized I was the same person I had always been and people treated me just as they always had. Life went on as usual. My senior year we went undefeated and I was again selected for the all-conference team. Excitement – and then life was back to normal. Just last year the school asked the members of the undefeated team to return for a 50th year celebration. At the half time of the homecoming game we were each given a football. Does anyone want my football? This year my un-defeated college team is planning on getting together for a reunion. I have decided there is no point in going. Neither my children nor grand children really care that I was a good football player. Excitement – Satisfaction – Indifference.

Sally Jo’s parents traveled extensively, and after each trip her mom would put together a wonderful scrap book….pictures, tickets, notes. It was fun to go through the scrap book with her mom, for through the scrap book she would tell the story of their trip. When her mom died, the scrap books stayed with Sally Jo’s dad. When he died, no member of the family really wanted the scrap books. Excitement –Satisfaction – Indifference.

This past Tuesday, Jonathan Clements, a financial columnist for the Wall Street Journal, wrote his “Parting Shot: what I learned from writing 1,008 columns” “The short answer is, you save now so you can spend later. But what will you spend your money on? People dream of endless leisure and bountiful possessions. Unfortunately, after a few months, endless leisure often seems like endless tedium. Similarly, you might imagine that a flashy new car or a fancy new home will be your ticket to eternal bliss. But a year after you make your purchase, the thrill will likely be gone, and you will be lusting after something else. My point: The right life of popular imagination is no great shakes. Money can give you the freedom to pursue your passions. Ideally, you want to spend your days engaged in activities that you find absorbing and satisfying, that you feel you are good at – and where you feel you’re doing good. Indeed the happiest retirees are typically those who have a sense of purpose, whether it is volunteering for their pet cause, coaching a children’s sport time, helping their church,…”
Excitement – Satisfaction – Indifference…or Purpose, Investment in People, Satisfaction.

I attended Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. One afternoon when I returned to my dorm room, I was totally surprised to find my father taking a nap on my bed. When I walked in he woke up. “Dad, what are you doing here?” He said he had come to Emory University for a medical conference – and to see me. He went on to say “your mother and I want you to know how proud we are of you. Chuck, all that matters in life is what we do for the Lord.” We stood there, both in tears. He gave me a big hug, told me he loved me…and left.

I thought what he said was over-kill. But I have come to believe the absolute truth of what he said.

I work at being a man God can work through – at living In Partnership With God. It has been good to experience the reality that when I obey and trust the Lord, and invest my life in the care and feeding of His children, God often brings change and joy into their lives, and into mine. Almost weekly I receive an e-mail from a person I know through which he shares the impact of my life upon his. This past week it was an e-mail from Andres Segovia, a DL counselor from Mexico, who is now a school teacher in Bolivia.

What I have done as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ has mattered.
Lasting Satisfaction and Joy!!!

Pitfalls to God’s provision! #10

Twenty five years ago we began the planting of well over 200 Colorado blue spruce, red and white pine trees on our five acres. The trees grew and provided incredible privacy for the deck and back yard. Wonderful!!!

A few years ago I got to thinking that I should take out a few 25’ red pines and replace them with 6 to 8’ blue spruce trees. They would grow and provide continued privacy, even if the red pines got a disease. Good planning!!!! Two years ago I asked a friend, Ken, to come with his chain saw to cut down selected red pines – to be replaced with the blue spruce trees. Ken went to work…and it was going so well that I decided we should cut a few more…and why not open up the side yard a bit by cutting a few white pines?

When Sally Jo returned home from a wonderful day in New York City, she was stunned by what she found, but she said very little. One night I woke up and heard Sally Jo crying. When I asked why: “the trees reminded me of our cabin at Hills Lake.”

Trees have been transplanted and will grow… but it will take years before the privacy we enjoyed returns. I feel ashamed of my bad decision…made because I was caught up in the excitement of the moment. Daily I am reminded of the foolishness of my decision through seeing the impact it has had upon our property. Physical and emotional scars remain.

There are many other ways we can create scar tissue – much more significant scar tissue! Twice in high school attractive, wonderful Christian girls asked me to have sex with them. Emotion almost overtook reason…but I never crossed the line. But oh, so close! With both girls I had to stop our relationship. If I had accepted the invitation, think how my life would have changed. Through one emotional decision I might have become a father…and chosen my wife. I would have disqualified myself from receiving the wife God had prepared for me. I have not forgotten what happened – and what could have happened! Scar tissue remains.

This week I received the following e-mail: “…The past two years has felt like a roller coaster. I made the mistake of getting into a relationship with a woman that really brought me away from everything that I had believed in…my priorities got completely flipped upside down. I’m finally now starting to get things back on track. I got out of my relationship which helped me stay focused… Spiritually, I was struggling a lot, but have recently been trying to get back to where I want to be. I won’t lie though, it’s been a struggle. After being away from it for 2 years, it’s been a slow process coming back.” Scar tissue will remain!

God gave us His Ten Commandments for our good. When we break the Ten Commandments, in a sense, we break ourselves. Scar tissue will come to us if we covet, steal, lie, miss-use the Sabbath (this commandment has more explanation than any other), worship success, murder…dishonor our parents,

Paul wrote: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” I Corinthians 10:13

But…let’s be real….”If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” I John 1:10& 9 BUT even with sins forgiven and relationships restored, scar tissue will remain.

Let us work at Living In Parnership With God…so we do not waste precious time – time during which we could be receiving God’s perfect provisions for us – to enable us to do the work which He has prepared for us to do! Let us not miss the continual joy, excitement and challenge of Living In Partnership With God!