Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #24

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Dear Son, The woman you choose as your wife, will make all the difference in your life.

It was my senior year in college. I had all but given up hope of finding my wife and decided to focus on finishing well. I had put down my radar, and then she walked in. I am not sure how we missed each other over the last three years, but we did.

After only a few dates, I knew that we would be together for the rest of our lives. It wasn’t just that I wanted to be with her. It was that I could not imagine life without her.

Luckily, your mother had the same thing in mind and heart.

It was the best decision I ever made (besides the decision to follow Jesus). There has not been a greater influence in my life for good. No better source of love and encouragement. No greater source of grace and strength. No better friend. God has blessed us in our marriage.

But for the grace of God, the opposite could have been our reality. Over the years, I have seen suffering and destruction resulting from a bad choice in marriage. Some failure was caused by bad decisions after marriage, but many just chose the wrong person. Not that good things can’t come out of a bad marriage, but do everything you can to make it great.

Some of the best advice I found is in Proverbs 31:

A good woman is hard to find,
    and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
    and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
    all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
    and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
    and brings back exotic surprises.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
    for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
    then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
    rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
    is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
    diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
    reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;
    their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
    and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Her husband is greatly respected
    when he deliberates with the city fathers.
She designs gowns and sells them,
    brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
    and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
    and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
    and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
    her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things,
    but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
    The woman to be admired and praised
    is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
    Festoon her life with praises!

I pray God will guide and protect your heart until your path is complete.

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #23

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Dear Son, Carpe Diem!

It was my freshman year in college. I sat in a theater with a small group of friends and watched Dead Poets Society. It is one of the greatest movies of all time, but one scene burned into my brain. On the first day of class, Mr. Keating led a group of high school students into the hall and expounded the philosophy of Carpe Diem…. to seize the day. The concept jolted my senses.

As you prepare for the rest of your life, do not miss your life.

Kindergarten prepared you for elementary. Elementary prepared you for middle school. Middle school prepared you for high school. High school prepared you for college. It can feel as if you are constantly preparing for the next step. As if someday in the near future – you will arrive – you will be prepared to finally live and make a contribution.

As you prepare, do not miss the great and small opportunities that are part of this day. Pay attention and participate in what is going on around you. Yes, grab hold of big opportunities, but don’t miss the small ones. Most of life seems insignificant, but it is in the small things that we build relationships and skills.

Do not miss this season of your life. Do not miss today’s challenges and rewards. Make the most of this season – it will soon be a memory. I leave you with the wise words of Solomon:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #22

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Dear Son,
Do not grow weary in doing good.

Eighty seven faces stared at us as we stepped off the boat onto the muddy Amazon shore. The village chief stepped forward and said, “Welcome” in timid, broken English. Thus began our fifth and final day on our medical mission trip down the Amazon River in Peru.

It was the summer before your fifth grade year, and your first trip out of the country. Your assignment was to play soccer with the village children. My assignment was to do whatever was needed.

I went with grand visions of how I was going rescue the people. I pictured myself as Billy Graham speaking and the whole village giving up their pagan ways. I pictured myself as the Crocodile Hunter jumping on the back of a hungry crocodile just in time to stop it from chomping one of the sick children being cared for by one of our nurses. Then I would say, “I’m no hero…I just did what anyone would have done.”

Back to reality. Each day the group leader gave out assignments. On the first day he read my name and said, “You will be working in the Servants Station.” That sounded good and christian to me. Then I found out that my job was to wash feet…all day long.

I was ready to wash feet. If it was good enough for Jesus, it was good enough for me. I thought it was a good starting point and I would work my way up.peru2

Day 2 – “Mike Thomas you are assigned to the Servants Station.”
Day 3 – “Mike Thomas…Servants Station.”
Day 4 – “Mike Thomas…Servants Station.”

We reached day 5 and I was growing weary of washing feet. I have nothing against feet, but most of them had never worn shoes so they were pretty dirty. “Mike Thomas you are assigned to the Servants Station,” said the group leader for the final time. About three hours into it, I had enough. I felt like I had wasted the entire week. I had not saved any souls or rescued any children. I left the Servants Station and took a walk to try to find something amazing to do before we left. Surely God had something great for me to do.

As I walked around the small village, I watched a man have an infected tooth pulled. I saw a young boy take a pill to protect him from malaria. I saw an elderly lady put on glassed and see clearly for the first time in her life, and she just laughed. I saw you running and playing soccer with a group of boys.

I made my way back to the Servants Station. It took me by surprise to see that we had the longest line. I saw the smiling face of a small girl as she walked away with clean feet and a new pair of flip-flops. The smiling face of someone who felt truly cared for. It hit me hard right in the middle of the chest – I was a part of something bigger than me. I just had to take a few steps back to see the big picture.

No matter how hard your task may be – do not grow weary.
No matter how long it takes – do not grow weary.
When it seems you will not make it – do not grow weary.
When it seems like no one is noticing – do not grow weary.

“And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #21

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Dear Son, The war is won, but the battle rages on.

It was Friday afternoon, and the weight was almost too much. The mockers were mocking. The followers were scattering.  The underworld was jeering and cheering.

“It is finished!” shouted Jesus as he gave up His spirit.
A shout that changed everything.
A shout of victory in the midst of defeat.
A shout of triumph in the tragedy.
A shout that announced the war is won.
Death is dead and sin is shattered.
God’s kingdom will reign forevermore.

May you find comfort and confidence in the fact that the war is won, but may you not grow complacent or callous because the battle rages on – the battle for your mind, heart and community.

Be vigilant to protect your mind and heart. In Romans 7:21- 25, the apostle Paul shares his inner struggle between good and evil. He final concludes, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Paul goes on to offer a solution to this inner struggle in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The renewal of your mind is a life-long endeavor. Make it your practice and your goal to love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul.

There is also a battle for our community – both local and international. Jesus calls us to be salt and light. Our very presence preserves and lights the way.  May you not loose your flavor or grow dim.

We must engage those who wish to bring our community down. The engagement must be in love but not innocuous or inaudible. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:4-5

In Ephesians 6, Paul shares this advice as if he were a General sending word to the front lines, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

May God be with you as you engage in the battle.
May He protect your heart and mind.
May He hold you up as you stand.
May He guide your steps as you extend His Kingdom.
May you be able to join Paul in saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

The war is won, but the battle rages on.

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #20

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Dear Son, Remember who you are.

“Rewind it please,” you requested.
So I pushed the rewind button on the VCR. The whirling sound began as The Lion King videotape circled back to the beginning. You must have watched it 1,375 times, and I joined you on many of the viewings.

One scene always got me.

Simba lost his way in life. He turned his back on his family and destiny…all because of a lie. He settled for something less because he forgot who he was and what he was created to be.

Rafiki to the rescue. Rafiki reminds Simba who he is. Rafiki returns Simba to himself beyond the lies and guilt to the powerful words of his father Mufasa, “Remember who you are.”

There will be times in life you will fall.
      Remember who you are.
There will be times you will succeed.
      Remember who you are.
You will face distraction, distortion and destruction.
      Remember who you are.
You will be tempted.
      Remember who you are.
You will be cheered and jeered.
      Remember who you are.
You will want to give up.
      Remember who you are.

“You are God’s masterpiece. He created you in Christ Jesus, so you can do the good things He planned for you long ago.” Ephesians 2:10
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #19

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Dear Son, Do not underestimate the power of a handwritten letter.

When I was a freshman in college, I walked to the Liberty University Post Office to check my mailbox every day. Most days it was empty, but oh the joy that filled my soul when I peeked through the little mailbox window and saw something inside.

photoIt could be anything; a bill, magazine, grades, or the highly-prized “care package” from home. Whatever it was, it was a connection to the rest of the world. You must remember, this was way back in the 1900’s before we had the intsa-gratification offered by the modern-day smart phone.

It was a brisk fall morning. One particular piece of mail caught my attention.It was a white envelope containing a handwritten letter from my grandfather on my father’s side. The letter spoke of his days in college at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I still have the letter to this day in one of my Bibles. The content was not as important as the time and attention it took to write and mail the letter.

In these days of text, tweets, email, and facebook, a handwritten letter may seem old-fashioned or obsolete, but you would be missing a golden opportunity. The handwritten letter is still very powerful – if not more powerful than it was in the past. The scarcity and novelty only increase its effectiveness.

You would be hard pressed to find a more powerful way to say “thank you”, “I’m sorry” or to show someone you care. It is a great tool in building relationships in your life and future business ventures.

Just think of your own experiences of receiving handwritten letters and notes. They become highly valued objects kept in special places physically and in your heart.

Your mother and I have guided you in this art and hope you will continue to practice it for the rest of your life.

Who are 3 people you should write a handwritten letter to this week?

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #18

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Dear Son, With great power comes great responsibility.

It was 2002. You were seven years old, and we went to watch Spider-Man in the big theater on Cason Lane. You were a Batman fan, but you compromised. It was the first non-cartoon we went to, so it was a big deal.

Spider-Man did not disappoint. The movie was filled with special effects, menacing villains, and heart-pounding battles. Everything you would want for your first live-action hero movie.

But the one scene burned into my brain was a quiet scene at the end. Spiderman was leaving a graveside funeral (he was not in his costume). As he walked away, he remembered these words of wisdom from his Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The origin of the quote has been attributed to Voltaire, FDR, Stan Lee, and others. But I fall in the camp of those who ascribe it to Jesus.

In the middle of a large crowd of followers, Jesus pulled his small group of disciples aside and shared a few parables and these words, “To whom much is given, from him much is required.” Luke 12:48

You have been given much: ability, training, love, opportunity, friendship, travel, leadership – so – much is required.

Do not view this as a burden or stress. It is a wide-open opportunity for the rest of your life. Paul expresses this in one of his letters to the early church, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

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