Tuesday, April 27, 2010


We never failed to fail, it was the easiest thing to do.
(Crosby Stills and Nash. “Southern Cross.” Daylight Again. Atlantic Records. 1982)

Do you ever feel like a failure? Most of us at some time or another have felt that way. For some, it seems that their entire life is one big failure. If you have ever felt like a failure at anything, then you will appreciate this story.

James was the son of a failure. Every career his father tried, failed in some way. The failure gene must have been passed on to James. James was sent to boarding school at 10, ran away to sea at 14, and later worked as a minister, miner, photographer, organist and songwriter. None of his ventures were any more successful than his father’s, at least not in his lifetime.

It is very possible you have heard the story of this family. The story was brought to national attention by Robert Fulghum in his book, It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It. He got the father and son mixed up, but told a wonderful story of how a man, who by the world’s standards, lived and died a failure. Fulghum writes, In one very important sense, [James] Pierpont was not a failure. Every year, come December, we celebrate his success. We carry in our hearts and minds a lifelong memorial to him. It’s a song. Not about Jesus or angels or even Santa Claus. It’s a terribly simple song about the simple joy of whizzing through the cold white dark of winters gloom in a sleigh pulled by one horse. And with the company of friends, laughing and singing all the way. No more. No less. “Jingle Bells.” [James] Pierpont wrote “Jingle Bells.”

How many times do we write off failures in our lives, only to find that God uses them for either our benefit or the benefit of others? For example, in 1974, a man named Arthur Fry was singing in his church choir. He liked to use slips of paper, to mark the pages in his hymnal, to find the pages faster. However, the slips of paper kept falling out. He knew he couldn’t tape them because that would damage the paper and paperclips were too cumbersome.

Mr. Fry remembered that a colleague of his, named Dr. Spencer Silver, who worked for the 3M chemical company, had been trying to develop a new glue. He remembered that his friend had been very frustrated, because the glue that he developed didn’t stick very well, and had labeled it a failure. However, when Mr. Fry tried it on his slips of paper in his hymnal, he found that it stuck enough to keep those slips from falling out, but not enough to damage the pages. From that perceived failure, Post-It Notes was born.

This year, Post-It Notes is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its nationwide launch. Since 1980, those little square note pads with “just enough” glue, has become a household word. Many people, even in this age of Blackberry’s, i-Phones, and other high-tech gadgetry, have no idea what they would do without the Post-It Notes. What began as a perceived failure, changed the way people remember appointments, communicate, and in some cases, decorate their cubicle or computer monitors.

What is there in your life that you consider a failure? Perhaps you have done something so wrong, that you think you failed God and He could never forgive you. Be assured that God loves you. He can and will forgive you. Not only will He forgive your failures, but He can use those failures to guide you into His will. Maybe through your failure, you will be stronger and able to help someone else, who is going through something similar.

Read the words of King David as recorded in Psalm 103:8-14. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. God forgives us and remembers that we are nothing but dust. He created you and knows that you will make bad choices and mistakes. But just like an earthly father, God will not turn us away.

Isn’t that wonderful news! My prayer for you this week is that you will receive and acknowledge God’s forgiveness in your life. When you do, you will no longer feel like a failure, but as a forgiven and restored child of the God of Heaven!

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit….We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:1, 28 NKJV)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What's in a Name?

I remember Thanksgiving Day of 1999 pretty well. However, it’s not for reasons you may think. My wife and I were watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and getting ready to visit family. As I passed by the television screen, I heard the announcer mention something about the next marching band was Silver Bluff High School from Petticoat Junction, SC. I was stunned. I thought I had heard of all the towns in South Carolina, but I had never heard of Petticoat Junction.

I loved the television show, Petticoat Junction as a kid, but had no idea there was a real place with such a name. I also had no idea that just a few years later, I would be living pretty close to it. You never know where God will lead you!!

If you travel much in the state of South Carolina, you are bound to notice some other odd names of towns. I attended college and seminary in a little town called Due West. There are bumper stickers and t-shirts available at the school bookstore that read, “Due West of what?” As far as names that give directions, there is also North, South Carolina.

Perhaps you would like the simplicity of having a number for a town name like, Ninety Six or Sixty Six. You can make people think you are a world traveler if you visit Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. All of these are about an hour and a half from Edgefield and you can visit them all in one afternoon.

I read an article this week about some other funny, small-town names in America. Some of the examples were: Truth or Consequences, New Mexico; Boring, Oregon; Cool, California; Uncertain, Texas; Last Chance, Idaho; Accident, Maryland; and Normal, Illinois. The article included some of the theories on how those town names came into being.

What is truly in a name? Sometimes a name describes a person, place or thing. Sometimes the name is not very descriptive at all. Many times the name of something simply doesn’t match it at all. For example, when Erik the Red was exiled from Iceland for murder in the 10th century, he sailed to a large island that was largely inhabited by Eskimo-type people and a few Icelanders and Norwegians. He decided to call the new country Groenland, or as we know it Greenland, in order to attract more settlers, although it is far from being “green”.

In Acts 11:25-26 we read, “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” We may read this and think, “Wow, That’s great. They finally got identified with Jesus.” However, the term “Christian” was not a term of endearment. It was coined by non-Christians, who were in essence labeling and making fun of those who were followers of Jesus.

When someone refers to you as a Christian, does the label match up with your life? Does the name fit? Could someone observe the way you behave, the way you read your Bible, the way you pray and discern on their own that you are a Christian?
As I stated before, sometimes names do not always reflect the item they are labeling. Many times one must dig a little to find the origin of the name. We as Christians must live so that there is no doubt who we serve, and how we live that service out. We are God’s children and we are called by His name.

Let’s do all we can to uphold the family name. I love the following poem. You may have read it before. It was written for children and fathers. However, this time I want you to read it as the father being your Heavenly Father. I think you will find that it takes on a brand-new meaning.

You got it from your father. It was all he had to give.
So it's yours to use and cherish. For as long as you may live.
If you lost the watch he gave you, it can always be replaced;
But a black mark on your name, can never be erased.
It was clean the day you took it, and a worthy name to bear.
When he got it from his father, there was no dishonor there.
So make sure you guard it wisely, after all is said and done;
You'll be glad the name is spotless, when you give it to your son.

Thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. (Isaiah 43:1 NKJV)