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 #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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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #17

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Dear Son, God will make a way where there is no way.

It was the second week of August. My junior year at Liberty University was starting in two days, and I did not have the money to return.

I applied for financial aid, interviewed for an RA position, and worked all summer. But it was not enough. I exhausted all my resources, strategies and strength. I gave up hope of returning to Liberty… but then God stepped in.

It was Saturday evening when my dad received the phone call from David Graham, an old college friend and pastor. My dad had not heard from him in years.
“Do you know any students who would be interested in attending Liberty University this fall?” he asked.
“I know one,” answered my dad.
“Well I have a member in our church who would like to provide a full scholarship to one student this year, and you came to my mind,” said Mr. Graham.

My dad told his friend about my situation, and Mr. Graham said to pack my bags and everything would be taken care of. I packed that night and left town the next morning on the 16-hour drive from West Palm Beach to Lynchburg, Virginia.

When I approached the desk in the Business Office on Monday morning, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Mrs. Tomlin took out my file and looked inside. “It looks like everything is taken care of. You can check into your dorm and head to class,” said Mrs. Tomlin with a smile. “It also says the donor wishes to remain anonymous.”

I never found out the name of the donor, but I know Who made a way where there was no way.

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”   Genesis 18:14

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #16

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Dear Son, You become like the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose Wisely.

The next 5 years of your life are critical in the development of your character, relationships, and reputation.  The people you spend time with will play a major role.

I have been blessed with great friends and associates throughout my life. During my high school and college years, God provided protection and guidance through a group of friends and roommates. A few names come to mind: John, Jud, Herbert, Scott, Ward, Bob and Jeff. I would not be who I am today without their influence.

C. S. Lewis said, “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.” Surround yourself with people who build you spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend,” Proverbs 27:17 (NLT).

The Bible has much to say about the people that we spend time with. Here are a few verses to help you choose wisely:

  • “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.”  Psalm 1:1 (NIV)
  • “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.”  Proverbs 13:20 (MSG)
  • “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”  Proverbs 12:26 (NKJV)
  • “Bad company corrupts good character.”  1 Corinthians 15:33 (NLV)

I am not saying that we should never associate with people that are not of the highest character (please excuse the triple negative). I am saying we must be cautious of the amount of time spent and the level of connection shared. I love George Washington’s advice, “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”

Who are the 5 people you are spending the most time with? Is it a wise investment?

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #15

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Dear Son, Your reputation is priceless. Protect it!
Love, Dad

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.”  Proverbs 22:1 (NKJV)

Your reputation and name are inseparable. A short list of names demonstrates this fact, both good and bad: Ronald Reagan, Anthony Weiner, Tim Tebow, Aaron Hernandez, Paula Dean, Abraham Lincoln, Hitler, and Jesus. Each name conjures images of either a sterling or tarnished reputation.

A reputation takes a lifetime to build, but it can be destroyed in seconds. Therefore, you must protect it with vigilance. In recent years, one’s reputation is growing more difficult to protect due to two factors: increasing temptations and social media. You are not only being bombarded by an increasing assortment and access to temptations, it is also easier to get caught and published for the world to see for all digital eternity.

Reputation Protection Plan

  • Surround yourself with good people.
  • Be careful where you are. If you find yourself in a compromising situation, look for the escape and go. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)
  • Be careful what you are looking at and filling your mind with. Images lead to thoughts and thoughts can lead to actions.

If you fall, seek the forgiveness of God and any others involved. Remember, God will forgive, but people will find it difficult to forget.

If you damage your reputation, repair it with humility and diligence.

What do you want people to think when they hear your name?

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #14

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Dear Son,
“Thank You” are two of the most powerful words you can say.
Love, Dad

“Say thank you,” were words your heard from your mother and I many times while you were growing up. We were especially vigilant around Christmas and Birthdays. We reminded you several times before we arrived at the gift exchange. You ripped open the colorful paper, full of anticipation to see what amazing wonders awaited, only to be greeted by a 3-pack of underwear. We gave you the look. You took a deep breath and somewhat convincingly said, ‘Thank you.”

Saying “Thank You” is not always natural or easy – but it is always powerful. Showing gratitude has a deep impact on the receiver of the “Thank You”. They feel appreciated, loved, respected – and they will be twice as likely to continue the activity that prompted the “Thank You”. Being grateful is also very beneficial to your own health and well being. Psychological studies have demonstrated this “Gratitude Effect”.  Click here to watch an enlightening video by Derek Halpern about the power of “Thank You”

pt thank youHere is a super powerful secret:  “Thank You” notes are like a “Thank You” on steroids with lasers strapped to its back. It is a vanishing art that will not go unnoticed. In fact, I have a “Thank You” note you gave me on a special shelf in my office.

Thank God
Also remember to thank God for all of the blessings in your life. God is the true source. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” James 1:17(NIV)

What would today look like if you only had what you thanked God for yesterday?

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #13

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Dear Son,
Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do…find it.

I did not discover this secret to success in a business class or book. I discovered it in a funeral home.

I had the privilege to work and live in a funeral home the summer after graduating from college. I mowed the grass, greeted people and moved a few dead bodies (that may sound cold, but so were the bodies). I had low expectations for the job. I was just killing time until I found my career. I was wrong. I had much to learn, and the funeral home was a great place to do it.

I did what I was told  – nothing more – nothing less.
“Cut the grass.” I cut the grass then waited.
“Blow off the sidewalks.” I blew them spotless then sat down and waited.
“Help me move this body.” I moved the body, washed my hands, then waited.
I was dong my job and feeling good about myself.

After a couple weeks, the funeral director came to me and said, “You are wearing me out.” I was shocked. I was a college graduate and was doing everything they asked, how could there be a problem. He continued, “I am tired of having to find stuff for you to do all day. You need to look around…walk around…there is stuff that needs to be done everywhere.”

It was like a light bulb turned on in my head. In all my years of working in restaurants and going to school, no one shared this amazing wisdom with me. I put it into practice, and it has given me great advantages over those that sit around and wait to be told what to do.

Do what you are told to do with excellence – plus look around and find things that need to be done. You will be noticed, appreciated and rewarded with greater opportunities.

One side note: when you find something to do, make sure to let them know and get approval before you do it.

“Take a lesson from the ant, you who love leisure and ease.
Observe how it works, and dare to be just as wise. 
It has no boss, no one laying down the law or telling it what to do,
Yet it gathers its food through summer and takes what it needs from the harvest.”
Proverbs 6:6-8 (The Voice)

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