Sometime in our academic careers, many of us had to write a paper which compared and
contrasted a subject. For me it was one of the more difficult things to do. It was an exercise in
finding how two points were similar, then conversely writing how they were different.
During my time with the State of Arkansas, one of my responsibilities was to write
opinions of state-level grievance decisions. These opinions were for the Chief Operating Officer
for the state. The COO’s office reviewed the decision and decided to either uphold the decision
of the panel or to overturn it. The decision came from two papers – one to uphold and one to
overturn. I just thought it was difficult to compare and contrast subject matter. Now I was
writing one paper in favor of and one opposing a decision! At times I felt like I had to develop a
In all the decision papers I had to write, one thing was absolutely necessary, which was
emotional control to prevent a skewed opinion. I had to write equally fair opinions. So many
times, we let our emotions highjack our thinking which then leads to behaviors driven by
feelings rather than logic and control. For instance, if we have an overwhelming feeling of
danger we might react in an anxious manner. If we think someone has “stepped over the line” in
their interaction with us, we might react in anger. But if we have a mindset of wanting to
contribute positively to the world around us, we might act with a sense of accomplishment and
pride. Yes, a contrast of positive versus negative thinking.
So how do we have a thankful mindset? One way is to not be introspective. If we look
inward and the situations we are in, we might feel anger, guilt, or embarrassment. But if we look
outwardly and appreciate what we have received or what we have in our lives (not what we don’t
have), we feel a sense of gratitude, and gratitude leads to behaviors such as giving back and
What contributions are you making to the world around you? It would be very easy
during our present times to completely isolate ourselves in our homes with the television as the
only outside contact we have. As an old saying goes, “You can’t make sweet grape juice from
lemons.” We must filter the bad information coming into our lives, look at it with a logical
mind, and not let it drive our mindset.
So, how do we set our minds on the “thankful track” every day? The best way is putting
pressure on your knees – prayer. Jesus knows our emotions, our trials, and our sufferings. Who
better to talk to than someone who has “been there, done that!” Alone we cannot be at our best.
But with Christ as our coach, mentor, advocate, and friend, we can change the world around us
by allowing Him to change our perspective!
My wife and I have had the luxury of seeing a great deal of the United States on the back
of a big touring motorcycle. Our country is so diverse and so beautiful, with towering buildings
in the big city to the towering Sequoia pines in northern California. And the smells are no less
different. I can even say the rains are different as well, from the pure rain in the Ozarks to the
muddy rain in the Mojave Desert. Yes, our country is a tapestry, woven together to be quite
We would plan out our big trips after months of talking about what sights we wanted to
see. One such trip was up the Pacific Coast Highway eventually ending up in Glacier National
Park. We planned for months with our traveling partners, selecting stops along the way for rest,
doing laundry, and of course the local tourist attractions. We always had the end goal in mind,
but we had to plan one day at a time to avoid a long day on the motorcycle. Eventually, we
reached all our planned sites and made it to our ultimate goal safe and sound – home.
Our trips were not without struggles and breakdowns, from the extreme heat in the
deserts of the Southwest to breaking down 155 miles from the nearest Harley dealership in
norther Arizona. Struggles are just part of the experience, not unlike life.
Looking back over our nation’s journey, there have been wonderful sights and sounds but
there have also been some struggles. Things “break down” along the way and we have repaired
the brokenness. The repairs must take place to continue on the journey. Our life’s journey is the
Matthew 6:25 and following tell us to plan our day one at a time. Yes, we have an
eventual goal, but God only promises us today. Matthew’s words tell us not to worry about
tomorrow, nor the food we will eat or the clothes we will wear. God clothes the fields with
beautiful flowers and provides food for even the smallest bird.
We are part of God’s wonderful creation. However, how important are we in it? I will
tell you, we are the only part of creation made in the image of our Creator! If He cares for the
lilies of the field and smallest of birds on the ground, how much more will he care for us?
Yes, we are on a journey. We’ve experienced great times and some hard knocks as well.
When we reach our ultimate goal, our forever home, we can look back and see the wonderful
tapestry of our lives God has woven for us, a beautiful creation woven by the Master’s hands.
“In five-hundred feet turn right.” “In one-mile bear left.” These are just a few phrases we might hear if we have a navigation feature in our vehicles. Things have been made way too simple for us these days! Gone is the way of the paper map.
When I entered the military a long time ago, we learned to navigate by many different means. One way is navigating by the stars. If you could find the north star, you easily knew the cardinal points on a compass. My father taught me at a young age to navigate in this manner. Another way he taught me was to use a compass.
By the time I grew of age and entered the military, I had a head start on the rest of my recruits. All I needed was a map and a compass and I could find any point in the woods. For our final test in land navigation, we paired up, were given one map and one compass, and several points to plot on the map of which we had to physically find. The hard part was this: once we plotted the locations in pencil on our paper map, we oriented it to north with our compass. Then the drill sergeant took away our compass!!! That is how we learned to navigate by terrain. But little did we know, the drill sergeant placed a compass in our backpack and only told us of its existence if we gave up and called in on the radio.
Our lives are no different. We think we have plotted out our lives by setting goals like a fancy car, a prestigious degree, and maybe a big house behind a gate with big columns. Life throws us curves with peaks and valley, steep hills to climb, and definitely some rocky roads on our way to our goals.
But sometimes we get disoriented and lose our way. We look at our “life map” to try and figure out what went wrong, and even think about back-tracking to start over. It’s hard to figure out where you are when you’re tired of going up and down, up and down over life’s terrain.
When we gave our life to Christ, He set a path for us. It may include some of our own life goals or maybe not, but it certainly included His. We can get down, lose our way, become discouraged, and even think we’re lost in the woods without God anywhere around. Even so, we have two things in our “backpack” to help us: a way to call to God, and a holy compass.
James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” We cry out to God and He pulls us out of any predicament, just like Jesus pulled sinking Peter out of the water. And to find your way, all you need to do is open the Bible – His Holy compass.
Sometimes we think we have gone a long way from God, but I assure you, the journey back is only one step long. Turn your eyes (and your Holy compass) upon Jesus!
Many of us can remember going to our doctor when we were young. If you grew up in a small town like I did, there was only one and everyone knew Doc Bailey. He treated people for just about every ailment they had. He was calm, collected, and had a confidence about him that eased the fears of the patients in his office. Only when something was very serious and required surgery did people head to the hospital.
The medical community has changed in the past 50 years hasn’t it? What used to be the family doctor (a great title) is now known as a PCP – a primary care physician. This new name denotes they do primary care only and anything past the basics requires a physician called a “specialist.” There are doctors just for eyes, just for your ears, nose, and throat, for the outside of you (dermatologist), and even one who sees patients just for the feet. From a medical standpoint, the parts of the human body have been reduced to the lowest common denominator for treatment and healing.
We navigate this maze of specialists when we need treatment. We search, research, and ask our good ol’ family doctor to refer us to the next level. Hopefully, we choose wisely relative to our necessary illness. But I ask you, why do we not go to a podiatrist for a tooth filling? Or why do we not go to an ophthalmologist for knee replacement? These are silly questions at best. We go to the right doctor for the right procedure.
But what about our spirits? It’s said that a person with a broken spirit is a broken person indeed. There are doctors and medications to help us mentally, but do they really address our spirits? We need a specialist for that, and his name is Jehovah Rapha – the Lord your Healer.
There are many names for God and for Jesus as well throughout the Bible. Jesus is even referred to as the Great Physician in the John’s gospel. In chapter 5, Jesus heals a 38-year-old man who has been crippled since birth. Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed. The man thought only of his physical condition, but Jesus was also referring to his spiritual condition of being a sinner.
We often think of our physical conditions first just like the man by the Pool of Bethesda. I submit we should be thinking of our spirits first. If we are in tune with God, we can easily carry out the greatest commandment: to love God with all our hearts, our minds, and our spirits.
As we get anxious about our world, or maybe even our physical ailments, let’s first turn to our Heavenly Father as our “primary care Physician” and have a “spirit check-up!” He can accomplish things no other earthly physician can. Praise God!
A few years ago, there was a popular song by country singer Toby Keith titled “Who’s Your Daddy?” Recently there has even been a television show and a video game by the same name. I can’t recommend the TV show or the game as I haven’t seen either. Nevertheless, the phrase caught on in society and was widely used whimsically.
Several decades ago there was a show that aired in the beginning of the great sitcom era called “Father Knows Best.” A local insurance salesman balanced his business, civic duties, and the “Anderson” family needs quite well. His children would go to him for advice when things weren’t got rocky for them, or unsolicited advice was given when Dad found out about an issue. Usually that issue involved his oldest son, Bud. No matter what the need of the family, whether it was a dance recital, a baseball game, or an anniversary dinner with Mrs. Anderson, the Anderson patriarch always put the needs of the family above all others, including himself.
Many experts have given their opinions on the state of the family unit in America today. While they cite many reasons for the decline in the cohesiveness of the family, one sticks out in to me more than the others – the changing role of the father.
Is the father of today the same as it was in the 1950’s? Some would argue yes, but I emphatically say NO. While environmental factors have certainly changed, the role of a father remains the same: to give of himself to the family and placing their needs above his own.
There is another reason I say a father’s role hasn’t changed and that is our example has not changed. God is the perfect example to all earthly fathers and He hasn’t changed, ever! 1John 3:1 says this: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” There is only one way to the Father, and that is through His Son, Jesus. God’s love is so great, He sent His only son to die for us, so that we might have a loving relationship with Him. As our Heavenly Father, He offers His love to us unconditionally. What better example to all fathers everywhere – unconditional love of the family.
When you become part of God’s family, you are covered with a love from a Father that is boundless. If you are a father, dad, or whatever name you are called, look to our Heavenly Father as an example in your love and care of your family, and look to His Book of Instructions to see your directions!