Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Find and Fight for Freedom

Find and Fight for Freedom
Brenda Black

“I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” With passion, Patrick Henry implored the citizens of Virginia to join the American Revolution. But his fighting words were premised by far stronger convictions. This patriot and founding father of our nation believed in unseen forces and supreme influence. “Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us [2 Chronicles 32:8].”

Henry would later say: “It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

There is unquestionable evidence that the founding fathers governed from a biblical perspective. They founded America on faith and set their hearts on freedom. The framers of our U.S. Constitution believed in The Founding Father who created heaven and earth and “governs in the affairs of men,” as Benjamin Franklin stated, based on Daniel 4:17.

The God who existed before the foundation of the world is the One who pierced the hearts of those men and emboldened them to declare freedom to follow Him. This same God is no less present or active today. He is the Founding Father in every way. Independence Day, then, is more than just patriotic picnicking. It is a reminder that what the Son sets free, is free indeed! (John 8:36)

The Founding Father charges us to come unto Him when we are weak and heavy laden. He promised rest long before Miss Liberty. Yet, the iconic statue symbolizes God's loving invitation. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” wrote poet Emma Lazarus. In the early 1900s, a plaque with the entire poem was mounted inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Some people explored here, some people were fortunate to be born here and some risked life and limb to just touch the shores of America. Why? Because in America we have the unique freedom to fully access God and experience both liberty in the land and liberty of the soul. For that I am thankful this Independence Day. Are you?

The Founding Father charges us to come then changes us into new creations. He takes the wretched refuse inside of each of us and radically forgives our sins through the blood of Jesus. For that I am thankful this Independence Day. Are you?

The Founding Father challenges us to live not just for ourselves, not even just for Him, but for all the tired and poor, the huddled masses, the homeless and tempest-tossed. For if freely we have received, so freely we must give. Will you?

Independence took the lives of brave, young patriots. It took the dedication of forward thinking visionaries who ratified our Constitution. It took desperate times and enormous sacrifices from men, women and children in every generation to sustain such liberating status.

This Independence Day, remember the price that was paid. Remember the founding fathers who intelligently launched a free nation based on biblical truths. Remember The Founding Father that gave His Son on the cross. Remember, like Patrick Henry did, that liberty is worth the fight. God help us to not lose our Independence. Without such freedom, we are tired, poor, wretched and homeless once more.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blog Overhaul

New look, new feel...new Blessings from Brenda. Tell me what you think about the changes.

Business Tips from Boaz

Business Tips from Boaz
By Brenda Black

Dog eat dog corporate climbing and greedy management never modeled an ideal business, yet many buy in to selfish and spiteful tendencies to look out for number one at all costs. And look where it got us. Stock market crashes. Corporation bailouts. Factory suicides. Company closings. If only we would run business more like Boaz, we might see success, integrity and generosity make a comeback and businesses thrive again.

A successful business is run by a boss like Boaz. Watch how he treats his staff in this example from Ruth 2:4a: “Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, 'The Lord be with you!'”

Boaz addressed his employees as friends and cheered them on in their work. He didn't threaten pay cuts or lay offs. He did not speak condescendingly to them. He never raised his voice in anger or publicly scolded or shamed a worker. He treated them with respect and offered encouragement. He blessed his crew and they blessed him too.

“'The Lord bless you!' they called back. (vs. 4b)

Imagine an office filled with smiling clerks and department managers. Envision the greater productivity of contented employees. What a difference a kind word and a humble demeanor can make when the CEO treats his staff with respect instead of disdain. Boaz was the real thing. He ruled with a loving spirit rather than an iron fist and it rendered great success. He was a man of means, but he was also a man of standing. Boaz' business style was respected in the community.

A successful boss knows the company – how many men and women, their assignments and their duties. I think Boaz must have expertly discerned the difference between involved supervision and micro-management. He was on location when the sun beat down and he slept on the damp and hard threshing floor right along with the laborers when the sun set. Such attentiveness helped him notice a new face one day at the work site.

“Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, 'Whose young woman is that?'

“The foreman replied, 'She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.” She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.'” (vs. 5-7)

A successful boss makes new employees feel welcome. “So Boaz said to Ruth, 'My daughter, listen to me. Don't go and glean in another field and don't go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.

“At this she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, 'Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?'

“Boaz replied, 'I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband – how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.'” (vs. 8-12)

Imagine the relief Ruth felt to be welcomed. Think about how helpful the thoughtful and explicit orientation Boaz offered that covered employee rules, breaks, safety and provision. I'd say her on-the-job interview went quite well. Integrity on the part of the one hiring, as well as the one hired, provided the perfect combination for success. He and she both would benefit.

Gratitude for good workers is a rarity. Respect for those who oversee is even less demonstrated these days. If 21st century executives and laborers would bring to the business their best, likely mutual admiration would exist as it did between Ruth and Boaz.

If Boaz hasn't yet received your nod for “Boss of the Century,” wait till you see his generosity.

He said to Ruth, “'Bring to me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.' When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her...” (vs. 15)

A successful business is run by a boss who will go the extra distance. Boaz' bonuses weren't parsimoniously doled out. He gave generously and he imparted with purpose. Boaz not only blessed his workers, but he blessed their families.

Imagine a bread-winner arriving home from work feeling satisfied and rewarded for his efforts. Envision families whose needs are met through the noble efforts of their wage earner and the generosity of the business owner who pays fairly and esteems the works of the laborer. Business as usual would look entirely different and there would be no need for bankruptcy, welfare or bailouts. Boaz got it right when it comes to business – he worked as unto the Lord and he hired those who shared his vision. He communicated clearly and kindly his expectations and the employees worked for him joyfully. Instead of failure and loss, a Boaz business profits all involved – in more ways than money.

Follow the Boaz business model “in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work...” (Colossians 1:9-10)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wrestling with Words and Water

Wrestling with Words and Water
by Brenda Black

As articles spew facts, forecasts, water depths and wave heights from two separate news events this past weekend, speculations and shocking responses gush forth just as furiously. Teenager Abby Sunderland was rescued amid 30 foot crashing waves from her sail boat in the Indian Ocean, while entire families were swept away by 23 foot flash floods in the Arkansas Mountains. Harsh opinions and bold defenses have surfaced for the 16 year old adventurer. Deep sympathy and numbed silence grip lonely survivors who remain to face the horror of losing a spouse or child or both instantly. Each headliner begs the question: Is any place truly safe?

I've read both cruel and compassionate feedback to these stories. I've wrestled with my own cynicism toward the one and tearful sympathy for the others. And I've had to stop and think how often we are quick to judge another's judgement.

The teen mariner, experienced beyond her years according to her boat-building father who taught her how to sail, set out to fulfill a dream. She wanted to prove something to herself and others who might notice her sea savvy grit. Her boat was equipped with high tech communication systems and the hull stocked with ample provisions. She just never counted on a 30 foot wave. Could she have anticipated it? Possibly. Could she stop it? No.

The families that ventured into the Arkansas hills for some tranquility simply set out to get away from it all and enjoy the great outdoors along a peaceful creek bank. They had nothing to prove except to teach little ones how to cook a hot dog over an open fire or catch a minnow along the water's edge. Their tents and campers were packed with paper goods, life jackets and snacks enough for the weekend. High tech gadgets like cell phones and computers were put to rest intentionally. They just never counted on needing them and they never expected the sudden rise of a trickling stream during their sleep to engulf them. Could they have anticipated it? Possibly. Could they stop it? No.

No matter how prepared or trained, the fact remains: we never know what we'll ultimately face each day. On solid ground rather than rolling waves, we can crash during a quick trip to town. Even if we heed the warnings of approaching storms and shelter ourselves in concrete bunkers, there is no guarantee we'll survive the fury of a tornado. Life is precious. Life is precarious. We should never be so presumptuous to think any one exempt from tragedy or sudden death.

That's why it is imperative that we live life ready for the waves. Not in fear or dread. But prepared. Not in gloomy doom. But in great security that no matter what unexpected force blows our way, we face it with courage and confidence. What a tremendous peace is offered to those in dire circumstances and those left to deal with the grievous loss, if they know the crashing forces in this life launch us to a fairer shore.

As I check my own quick judgement on the judgements of others, I pray that these families caught unaware and a young girl bold beyond her years know the Creator of the seas and the rivers and the rains. It is His judgement that matters, not mine. It is His will that Sunderland was spared. It is His mercy that will heal broken lives of shocked campers. It His desire that people be ready at all times in all places because we just never know if this day is our last. So live your life pursuing your dreams. Just make sure the passion you pursue brings you closer to the Lord. And spend your time where you enjoy. Just make sure that wherever you camp, you dwell near the heart of God.

“'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.'” (John 3:16-17)

May the Lord make each of us ready for what we may anticipate, but what we cannot change.

Need something for a great summer read? How about a stirring biography, a daily devotional or a rainy day story for the grandchildren. Visit http://www.thewordsout-brendablack.com and get your summer started with a book by Brenda.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Truth About Spiritual Stupidity

The Truth About Spiritual Stupidity
By Brenda Black

A 2006 study of college students, conducted by Bryan Farha at Oklahoma City University and Gary Steward Jr. of the University of Central Oklahoma, reached the same conclusion. Belief in the paranormal – from astrology to communicating with the dead – increases during college from 23 percent among freshmen to 34 percent for post graduates.

That's not surprising considering the downtrend in interest of legitimate religion among coeds as indicated in a braggadocios blog post by John W. Loftus in 2007 at “Debunking Christianity.” He writes: “According to a survey by the Higher Education Research Institute, students entering college are staying away from religion in record numbers. Nineteen percent have no religious preference, and more than 23 percent have not attended a religious service in the last year—a new high in the thirty-nine-year history of the survey.”

But one reader responds to Loftus with his own observations. “As a university student who is a Christian I think I can provide some context here...The fact of the matter is, as any sociologist of religion will tell you, religion is not dying out because of some sort of huge intellectual skepticism towards religion, its simply flat out ignorance. Most university students are basically so uninterested in the matter that they just reside in some sort of fuzzy "I believe in something out there" belief. Its not even an intellectual deism... I've met persons who call themselves atheists who believe in souls, ghosts, aliens and everything else so it doesn't surprise me that such poll numbers would suggest this.”

The numbers indicate people feel compelled to believe in something. How about telepathy? A a national survey of 1,721 people in 2005 found nearly 30 percent think it is possible to influence the physical world through the mind alone. How about holding a séance? More than 20 percent figure it is possible to communicate with the dead. What if we made a reality t.v. show about ghosts? Nearly 40 percent believe in haunted houses. Just think, all of this data is derived pre-vampire craze. So my guess is the numbers are even higher these days.

If, by human nature, we are so predisposed to believe in the supernatural, why is it so hard for people to put their hope in God, the creator of the world? And why are professing Christians dabbling in darkness when He is the Light of the World? In another national survey published in the journal Sociology of Religion in 2009, 1,700 people were queried by a Baylor sociologist who found something revealing. Among Christians, those who attend church very often are least likely to believe in the paranormal. Conversely, those Christians who do not attend church very often (maybe once or twice a year) are the most likely to hold paranormal beliefs. And yet another study published in December 2009 in the Review of Religious Research, showed that those who go to church are much less likely to consult horoscopes, visit psychics, and purchase New Age items. However, among those Christians who do not attend church, there is a much higher level of participation in these phenomena.

Voila! We've hit on a pattern. The more devoted you are to the Lord, the less you have to do with the invisible, mystic, unseen, evil forces. The paranormal may exist, but it is not just another spiritual option. Interest in and participation with such darkness is an abomination to God and Christians should have nothing to do with it!

“Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord...You must be blameless before the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-13)

The idea that any ol' spirit will do, won't do. “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

If you believe in God, have nothing to do with the Enemy and his legions. That's the losing team who was defeated at the cross, yet still trying to destroy us. If you profess the Lord as your Savior, live for Him solely. If you have experimented with evil, turn from the wickedness and cry out to the One True God for forgiveness and protection. Then worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth. It's your only guarantee to avoid spiritual stupidity.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Barbed Wire and a Box Turtle

Barbed Wire and a Box Turtle
by Brenda Black

The great gulf between man and woman has once more been confirmed. The evidence was collected in a field study in which I personally participated. While millions floated on lake barges or sipped cool drinks beach side this past holiday weekend, I worked alongside my husband shuffling cattle to different pastures and erecting a barbed wire fence. The nearest body of water was a moss-covered pond and our icy cool drink came from a shared, insulated jug.

After man-handling panels, prodding cattle and bouncing in the cab of a 4-wheel drive truck over washed out gravel roads and through bumpy pastures, I thought my workout sufficient for the weekend. But the husband had other things in mind and to the farm we went for a second day of it. No sand warmed my toes, but shoulder high fescue did tickle my nose. We waded, tromped and drudged through tall grasses and tiptoed past thorn trees over and over as we unrolled wire for the project.

We actually worked quite efficiently together and I enjoyed our time away from typical work and phones and kids. I even merited the Memorial Day sunburn like all those lake visitors. And rather than dip into the waves for a cooling reprieve, I ducked under a big old locust tree and was cooled quite adequately by a gentle breeze.

My hubby's expert fence building was impressive. He measured and marked and marched up and down that taught, wire line over and over to get it near perfect. Sometimes I waited, ready to hand a hammer or fish out a fence clip or post steeple. Other times I watched for slippage as he loosened the come-along and finished wrapping the corner posts with steely thread. My biggest job was shouldering half the load of a roll of wire and walking the line side by side with my beloved. Of course, Alan bore the heaviest chores in every regard, but I carried my weight. So throughout the day, out of concern, he kept asking, “Are you okay?” To which, I would answer in the affirmative.

On one of the unrolling trips with a few hundred feet less of a load, I noticed a tortoise in the smashed path where we had driven the truck a half dozen times already that day. Without dropping my end of the bar that skewered the wire spool, I transferred the heavy load to my left hand and with my right scooped up Mr. Turtle, then continued on to the end post. I knew his shelled armor was no match for the big truck tires that surely would crush him with our next pass. I also was keenly aware that the man on the other end of that iron bar was practicing extreme patience with my side-tracked mission. He never said a word and did not ridicule my childish concerns. We placed the wire roll and bar down on the ground and I ushered my turtle friend across the drive and headed him another direction, then returned to my post ready to supply whatever tool necessary.

I'm guessing based on past experience, that Alan never would have noticed that little critter whose protective coat color matched the grasses through which it traveled. But he did notice that it mattered to me that I protect it. Throughout the day, I noticed our different approaches to many other things. At fence building, I wanted efficiency so I worked ahead untangling clips and anticipating the next tool needed for the task. He wanted perfection and plunked wires as if tuning a guitar just like his dad taught him. He wore long sleeves. I rolled my t-shirt up and out of the way. He could hoist the heavy stuff and I organized all the little things. He was wholly focused on only the work at hand and my mind drifted, wondering how long were those thorns or how long since anyone fished in that pond. And, by God's design, our differences worked harmoniously all day long.

“[Wives] your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.” Good thing because I was wearing soiled shirt and jeans and smelled quite un-lady-like “Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4) Gently holding a turtle does counts.

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner...” I'm sure we went at a slower pace hauling that wire than if either of my strong sons were holding the opposite end from their father. “... and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (1 Pet. 3:7) No fussing all day meant no reason to have to apologize later.

At the end of a hot, but rewarding day, six strands were up and a turtle saved. More importantly were the words we exchanged in an air-conditioned truck ride home. “Thank you for helping me today,” he said to me. “You were great help and made the job go so much easier and quickly.” And I replied, “I enjoyed working by your side.” Then we kissed, still sweaty and filthy. But knowing my man, I bet that didn't bother him one bit.

**Cowboy Pete has ridden into town! Purchase your copy of Brenda's latest release, a hardcover, full color, glossy child's story book about Cowboy Pete and his pony Apple Dumplin' at new release special pricing by visiting www.thewordsout-brendablack.com