Monday, August 11, 2008

Avoiding Leodacian Christianity: God's Work In Me As A Teenager

"And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,

'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.'" -Rev 3:14-16

"But the lukewarm has been within reach of the holy fire, without being kindled into fervour; having religion enough to lull the conscience in security, not enough to save the soul." -from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary on Rev 3-14-16

Hello Friends,

Attitudes certainly influence our lives in a big way. Any three year old will tell you that having a positive attitude is better for your well being than a negative one for example. Each attitude that comes in our life affects our actions. During my teenage years, I've had a whole variety of attitudes that have either built me up or torn me down. Perhaps the most egregious attitude I have had during my teenage years is, "that's good enough." I would have that thought in my heart when any task would be considered "too hard" and I just wanted to do enough to get the grade or to pass the test. When I would have the opportunity to do better, I would deny it. I became comfortable with "good enough." 2,000 some odd years ago, this attitude was true of an entire church congregation in the city of Leodacia (in modern day Turkey). The Disciple John saw how hurtful this could be and wrote a message to them in Revelations 3:14-16. In his message, John used an example that the Leodacians would recognize immediately. Leodacia was well known for its hot springs, where people would go for therapy and relaxation. However, in order for these springs to be effective, they would need to stay hot. Lukewarm water invited bacteria to form in it and would cause anyone to vomit if they drank it. John compared their faith to be lukewarm water, indicating that the Leodacians had some commitment to God and Jesus Christ (as a little religion is better than no religion, in their eyes), but had no total commitment or spiritual power. They had put themselves in a situation where they believed they were safe. Instead they exposed themselves to a "danger of mixed motives and disregarded principles," which would result in their souls being lost. When I first read this scripture at eight years old, I was scared out of my wits, because I could easily treat my relationship with God that way. Reading that passage began a stirring in my heart that has not wavered even to this day. It has led to a creed, a theme that has developed during my adolescence, starting with my time as an awkward pre-teen all the way to now. This creed says that once I gave my life as a total commitment to God, I cannot have an attitude of indifference towards my relationship with God, but instead that I seek to grow, to be challenged, and to desire for my Father with an unquenchable passion.

In the wake of reading the message to Leodacia at eight years old, I entered my pre-teen years, when I began to realize that the innocence of the world I had known before had changed. The world was now more hostile, and I needed (and still do) someone to guide me. My father was one of these people, among others, who fulfilled this need in my life. He told me of his own relationship with God, and he encouraged me to seek after God with all my heart. He said that I should never be satisfied with where I am in Christ. Because (in his opinion) if you're not moving forward in your relationship with God, and you're just standing still where you are, you're really moving backward. Saying that you've had "enough" of God in your life to satisfy yourself is a recipe for laziness... or much worse. Dad told me about the "Jesus Movement" in the 70s, where people all across America had such a great thirst for the Lord in their lives. Those people wanted to learn all they could about God, and they were constantly hungering for more. Those stories Dad told me, along with the way he lives his life for God, had a profound effect on the way I viewed my Savior, and told me that there is always something more to life than we can see.

In addition, during those jr. high years, my dad introduced me to the music and messages of two Christian musicians who came out of the Jesus Movement: Keith Green and Rich Mullins. Both of these men edified the church in a remarkable way through their spiritually challenging lyrics and exhibiting a "sold-out" mentality to loving and serving the Lord. The first, Keith Green, was a child piano prodigy from California who could have lived the life of a star in TV and music, but his life fell apart, and he got caught up in the adolescence rebellion of the 60s. However, God entered the picture and changed his life forever. Keith used his talents on the piano and in speaking to get across a message of "No Compromise" to God's people. He believed that a follower of Christ could not please the world and God at the same time. There needed to be no compromise. The other man, Rich Mullins, grew up as an mid-western, Indiana farm boy, who attended a local Quaker church. His message was similar to Keith Green's, as he tried to challenge the church's perceptions of what a life for God and of God Himself were really meant to be. He believed that God's love was something much more sacrificial and ultimately foreign to the world. God's church needed to love that way too, in his opinion. It needed to love that way to bring about a positive change for God's glory. Rich admonished, "Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken." Listening to the music and messages of these two men has charged my walk with the Lord all throughout my adolescence, and has served to make me constantly seek to be conformed according to the Holy Spirit and not to the world.

As I entered the beginning of my teenage years, the church my family and I were attending, the Upper Room Christian Fellowship, increasingly became a larger part of my life as we participated in Sunday services and youth activities. Down through the years, the Upper Room has made huge impression on me, but especially when I was 13-15 years old. I remember getting know some of the people there and quickly seeing how much they loved God and wanted to please him. Each Sunday worship seemed like an outpouring of heavenly communion and affection, where people were not raising their hands and singing just to look good, but because they were doing it unto God out of love for Him. After the service was over, the "service" continued in fellowship during lunch period (We have lunch at church every Sunday), where I saw part of the Kingdom of God lived out in my own church: People conversing with each other in a friendly sort of way, asking "How are you doing?" and ministering to each other. I would even see some people praying for one another over in the sanctuary after church. Looking at the life examples of my brethren in church made me want to be like them. I wanted to love Jesus too! ...with all of my heart. In addition, attending the Upper Room youth group and the young men's bible study put me in situations where I would learn more about living a life for God along with my peers. We would examine the scriptures with great interest, and converse over what God is trying to say through not only His word, but also through our lives. Every time I attended these meetings, I came away with feeling like I learned something new and edifying. I was constantly stretched to be called out of this world for God, but not so that I could be pious, but that I would make a difference in the world for God's glory. As we would have prayer time, I learned a lot about letting the Holy Spirit run through my life and to be attune to its message and calling, even though we sometimes didn't want to obey it because of sins like bitterness or lust. I had to learn to confess my sin, to reject its allure, and just say, "God, I want you! I want your Holy Spirit to work in my life! The devil has no power here!" Those times were not the easiest for me during the course of my adolescence, but I really started to make God MY God at this juncture in my life. He was no longer some guy in a universe far, far away; He wasn't just my parent's God anymore. God became real to me as a result of being at the Upper Room, and I will always remember my time there with fondness.

Going from the ages of 13-15 to the latter stages of being a teenager, God had already set some foundations for me. My life now officially belonged to Him, and I realized that He was now going to start using me for His work, for His purposes. Although, I also knew that as I was offering my life in service to Him, I needed to continue to work on myself and allowing myself to become more like Jesus. I remember one night staying up in my bed and praying, "God, I want to fully understand the significance of Jesus' death on the cross. I want to know what it's like."

Boy, was I in for it...

God has a way of answering prayers like that. I can't explain it. But when you ask a true teacher to teach you, that teacher will stick with you until you do understand the concept. In asking to understand the significance of Jesus' death on the cross, from then on, I began to learn the hardest lesson I (or anyone) will ever have to learn. (Warning: I may be woefully ambiguous as I tell this story) Some time ago, I was a part of something with some friends and some people I had not known previously. We were working together to achieve a goal. As we were striving to achieve this goal, we separated into cliques and groups. I wanted to be a part of the group; I wanted a sense of belonging to the team. So, I was just friendly, and I hoped that they would be friendly back. That didn't work, so I tried to be like them; I tried to be "cool." I stooped to making fake compliments in the hopes they might give me friendship in return. Instead, they threw it back in my face, and didn't accept me. I was crushed beyond belief. Making friends had been easy for me before, but not anymore. I learned that I needed to give without expecting anything in return. I needed to love them without expecting them to love back so we could reach this goal together. It was a hard concept to understand then, and I didn't understand it fully until a little bit later when certain people came into my life. I thought I loved these people at first, but I realized later that I only loved the expectations of what they could be. I didn't love them for who they are. Because they were not what I wanted them to be, I became bitter at them. However, God finally convicted me in my spirit, and let me know that it was this way for Jesus. This is how Jesus loved; He sacrificed Himself despite the hurt we gave Him. He loved unconditionally. He loved without expecting anything in return. As I go through life, I will always be learning this most important lesson. I may not ever fully comprehend it, but I know more than ever what the passion of the Christ is for us. "There is no greater love than this, than he that lay down his life for his friends."

Now that I'm about to leave for college, I take note of what God has taught me and how that has shaped my attitude towards him. Each step of the way, God has shaped me and refined me, and He's taught me that I must seek to be shaped and refined always. The name that God calls Himself is, "I am." "I am" has two meanings in Hebrew. One of them means "wind." Wind is always moving; It does not stop. As God is always moving, so I must always be moving if I am to be made perfect like His son, Jesus. I can't hold back my life from God and say, "I'm only going to follow everything You say until You make me do______ (fill in the blank)." I can't think that I'm only going to accept only part of what Jesus said. As I continue with the rest of my life, I must get away from saying that I want a shallow, petty piety, where I just make sure I read my Bible, pray when I need Him occasionally, go to church, and I'll just breeze on through to eternity. I need to run this life race with all I have within me. I want to be conformed to the will of God, and not to my own form of Christianity as the Leodacians. I want to avoid that belief, and keep the attitude of being "hot" and not "lukewarm" for God. Then, oh what a joy it will be to see Heaven's gates, when all is finished, where my Father will say to me, "Well done, my good and faithful servant, enter into My rest."

I remain,

Your friend,

Aaron Morrison


I applaud you if you read this far. :)

Ode To The F-Word

Words from a wise man's mouth are gracious,
but a fool is consumed by his own lips. At the beginning his words are folly;
at the end they are wicked madness —
and the fool multiplies words. -Eccl 10:12-14

They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent's;
the poison of vipers is on their lips.
-Ps 140:3

Hello Friends,

What happens when you combine creativity, ranting, and purpose?

Poetry... at least for me, anyway. (laughs)

Last night, I was feeling so tired of hearing curse words at this book factory where I work. So many people there use curse words and other bad words as causally as though they were just breathing in and out. I met one young guy in my department of the factory who used a curse word in literally every other sentence.

What bothers me most about how people say curse words is how they seem to think that it's "cool" to curse, like it makes you sound "tough" or like “one of the boys.” I'm here to say this: Cursing does NOT make you cool. It makes you seem like a beastly, undisciplined person. God's word explicitly says that it is not good to slander, which is to speak malicious words (and that includes more than just curse words, by the way). Spreading these words causes anger, destruction, and discord among brethren. They are not to be used by anyone. Instead, we need to spread nice words, which bring healing.

"Reckless words pierce like a sword ,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing."
-Proverbs 12:18

In light of my experience last night in meeting this young man who cursed a lot, I wrote a poem about one of his "favorite words."

---Ode To The F-Word---

F-word, oh f-word,
How you've made your presence known,
From the lips of those who laugh,
To those who moan and groan.

I hear thee every day at work,
My co-workers treat you like some kind of perk,
As though they're trying to say,
"I'm so cool to be speaking this way."

This fascination with you, I cannot understand.
How the world finds you useful, kinda like a lamp stand
But surely this cannot be so,
Despite the thoughts of some average joes.

For a lamp stand shines light where there is dark,
And all can clearly see the trees from the park,
But you, oh F-word, spread no light,
But anger, discord, and much strife.

I remain,

Your friend,

Aaron Morrison

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Annoying, Little Mustard Seeds

"You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it."
When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.
-Acts 7:51-54

Hello Friends,

There's a lot of annoying things in this world: pants that are a little tighter fit than yesterday, the tissue box being empty when you need to blow your nose, your parents asking you why you spent $120 in one month while talking and texting on your phone, etc. Of course, there's always the more generic things that we find annoying as well: the dreaded pop quiz in class, the kid down the road who will not stop using a quote from "Napoleon Dynamite" in every other sentence, and... mosquitoes. If there's one annoying thing that really gets "under my skin" (no pun intended), it's the buzzing sound of a mosquito about to leave a itchy bite on my person, which sours an otherwise beautiful summer night. How interesting it is then, when Jesus used something annoying to describe the Kingdom of Heaven. When most people hear about the parable of the mustard seed, they think about God making something big out of a little seed, but perhaps Jesus meant something more than just that doctrine. He tells his listeners that the Kingdom of Heaven is like Mustard, which grows as a wild bush, and can actually be akin to a plant called, "Kudzu," defined as a wild vine that grows vigorously over an area. (Kudzu can blanket entire mountainsides, smother trees, and crack cement buildings). The Jews would have been rather surprised and perhaps even a little offended at Jesus' metaphoric use of the mustard seed, as it was very strictly kept out of gardens. According to Jewish customs (Kil'ayim 3:2; Kal'ayim 2:8), this plant was discouraged to be in any well-ordered garden due to its invasive nature to quickly overtake the entire soil area. To the Jews, this idea of God's kingdom subtly overtaking the world would probably seem to be a definite symbolic contrast to what they were expecting with the giant "cedars of Lebanon" imagery they had heard from the prophets. In this regard, Jesus replaced the triumphant symbolism of good overcoming evil with a more humble approach, as he also did with entering Jerusalem on a donkey rather than a "great steed." Instead of something grand and majestic like a giant cedar, he used a unusual, lowly weed: a weed that disrupted the order and the "comfort" of the status quo, a weed that had to be crushed, ground and broken in order to be used effectively, and a weed that Jesus described as a habitation for "the birds of the air." As uninspiring and undesirable as the mustard seed is, Jesus wanted His kingdom to be like it.

In a previous note called "The Devil's Recipe for Frog Soup," I talked about how becoming calloused to the presence of sin can cause a person to fall into the trap of sin. In a larger sense, I believe that the church can become involved in the same situation. The church can become calloused to the world's sin, which regretfully can result in the church's light being hidden behind a bush of ignorance and laziness. There are times where I wonder if the world is thinking, "Where have all the Christians gone? All we see is these people talking about how this guy named Jesus is coming soon, but they act like He'll never return." Just like the mustard plant is a pervasive weed in the garden, we, as Christians, need to be annoying to the world's normalcy of sin. We need to be bold; we need to be wild in the world's eyes so they can see the difference. Let's not be afraid to lovingly step on a few toes and make people feel uncomfortable if it means that they will be saved. It's not an easy choice to make. Jesus told us that the world would hate us for it, but the prospect of having one of God's kids spending an eternity in heaven or hell should matter to us enough to be a little "annoying" to the world.

In a later scripture after He mentions the mustard seed, Jesus talks about how a grain of wheat must die in order to be multiplied:

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. -John 12:24-26

In the same way, mustard seeds must be crushed, ground, and broken in order for them to become useful in healing ointments or in food preparation. Sometimes Christians think that they need to have it "all together" in order to be a "good Christian," but what I've come to understand from my own life experiences is that this isn't true. I beleive that for us to be a good vessel God can use is realizing that we DON'T have it "all together" and just simply letting ourselves be changed and refined by the Holy Spirit day-by-day, moment-by-moment for the purpose of God's glory. As the author of "The Ragamuffin Gospel," Brennan Manning said, "In love service, only wounded soldiers can serve." We have to be broken, letting God be our everything, our sole source of sufficiency in all aspects of life, while also rejecting our own desires for selfish self-preservation. It's amazing how Jesus said being this way would actually spread Christianity and God's unconditional love. Author Shane Claiborne says, "This is the crazy mystery that we celebrate, a Christ whose body is torn apart and whose blood is spilled like the grains and grapes of the Eucharist that give us life." Yet, this attitude of self-sacrifice for love cannot be stopped. Emperors, tyrants, dictators, and the devil himself have tried to stop it, but "annoyingly" it has multiplied and will continue to multiply even more perpetually if the church dies to itself.

At the latter part of Jesus' parable of the mustard seed, the Savior says of the seed:

"...but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." -Matt 13:32

In a further interpretation of the phase "birds of the air" means the "fowls" or the buzzards, which were considered to be "unclean" by the Jews. As they were listening to Jesus say this, the Jews were very likely taken aback by His statement, which meant that the mustard seed plant would provide shelter and rest for the "undesirables" of society, people like, the tax collectors, the lepers, and the prostitutes. Jesus asked his people to love those we despise and hate, to give comfort and be with those whom we would rather be distanced from. As the Jews were offended back then at such a thought, we frequently are of the same mind today. It is so desperately hard to love those who hurt us and who are perhaps markedly different from us. I once heard a story about the early days of Calvary Chapel when the Jesus Movement in the 70s was really exciting a lot of believers. The Pastor, Chuck Smith, had an elder come up to him with an issue about the new former hippies who had become new Christians. These former hippies were coming into the church with no shoes on because they choose not to have them, but the dirt from their feet were ruining the carpets leading up to the pulpit. The elder suggested to Chuck Smith that they turn those people away in order to save the carpets. However, Chuck said to throw away the carpets. The comfort of having carpets was worth nothing in comparison to having the former hippies hear about Jesus, he explained. In the same way, we need to have that attitude of rejecting prejudice or bitterness in order to provide the love of Jesus to others.

The "annoyance" of the mustard seed kingdom Jesus talked about has been like nails on a chalkboard to the world for generations. One man, a lawyer named Minucius, was so perturbed by Christianity that he set out to destroy it. In disgust he said of these followers of Jesus, "They despise temples as if they were tombs. They despise titles of honor and the purple robe of high government office though hardly able to cover their nakedness... They love one another before becoming acquainted. They practice a cult of lust, calling one another brother and sister indiscriminately." After some time of observing this belief, however, Minucius found himself marveling at this rag-tag group of people who followed the teachings of a bloody, bruised man on a cross and became a Christian himself. He said of his new belief, "Why do they have no altars, no temples, no images?... What temple shall I build Him [God] when the whole world, the work of His hands, cannot contain Him? Should we not rather make a sanctuary for Him in our souls? What a beautiful sight it is for God when a Christian mocks the clatter of tools of death and the horror of the executioner; when he defends and upholds his liberty in the face of kings and princes, obeying God alone to whom he belongs. Among us, boys and frail women laugh to scorn torture and the gallows cross and all the other horrors of execution." Before, Manucius had just seen a belief that didn't make sense to him. But after seeing the example of men and women who were willing to die at any given moment for a belief that had changed their former sinful, unfulfilled lives into something remarkably beautiful, he recognized that he wanted to be that way too. He wanted the emptiness of his life to be filled with the only thing that could do so, the love of God. It's funny how what started out as being annoying to him eventually saved him. The church needs to continue being that image Jesus told to the Jews all those years ago. It needs to strive to be those annoying, little mustard seeds.

I remain,

Your friend,

Aaron Morrison


"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." -The Golden Rule

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,"Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." -1 Peter 3:8-12

Hello Friends,

Back during the great age of exploration, which included Columbus’ discovery of the New World in 1492 and the first settlement in America at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, a great explorer of that age, Sir Walter Raleigh served England as he helped set up settlements in the New World. But before he was an explorer or even “Sir” Walter Raleigh, he was Walter Raleigh, just another well-to-do young man among many in London. However, that reality all changed one day when he decided to really be a “gentleman”:

(story retold by James Baldwin)

When Raleigh was a young man, he was one day walking along a street in London. At that time the streets were not paved, and there were no sidewalks. Raleigh was dressed in very fine style, and he wore a beautiful scarlet cloak thrown over his shoulders.
As he passed along, he found it hard work to keep from stepping in the mud, and soiling his handsome new shoes. Soon he came to a puddle of muddy water, which reached from one side of the street to the other. He could not step across. Perhaps he could jump over it.
As he was thinking what he should do, he happened to look up. Who was it coming down the street, on the other side of the puddle? It was Elizabeth, the Queen of England, with her train of gentlewoman and waiting maids. She saw the dirty puddle in the street. She saw the handsome young man with the scarlet cloak, standing by the side of it. How was she to get across?
Young Raleigh, when he saw who was coming, forgot about himself. He thought only of helping the queen. There was only one thing he could do, and no other man would have thought of that.
He took off his scarlet cloak and spread it across the puddle. The queen could step on it now, as on a beautiful carpet. She walked across. She was safely over the ugly puddle, and her feet had not touched the mud. She paused a moment, and thanked the young man.
As she walked onward with her train, she asked one of the gentlewomen, “Who is that brave gentleman who helped us so handsomely?”
“His name is Walter Raleigh,” said the gentlewoman.
“He shall have his reward,” said the queen.
Not long after that, she sent for Raleigh to come to her palace. The young man went, but he had no scarlet cloak to wear. Then, while all the great men and fine ladies of England stood around, the queen made him a knight. And from that time he was known as Sir Walter Raleigh, the queen’s favorite.

In today's world, we may consider the concept of being mannerly gentlemen and ladies to be rather "old fashioned" and "outdated." We have the rebelliousness of the 60s and that despicable age of feminism to at least partially blame for that. But the truth is, no matter what "age of mankind" we are in... courtesy and consideration never... EVER go out of style. We should want to treat everybody in our lives with a sense of manners, because it shows compassion and love when done with a sincere heart. One great gentleman, George Washington, the father of his country, was an excellent student of manners and social courtesy. He was definitely no "social bumpkin." As a young man, he wrote 110 "Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation," as a way of writing down his observations of the social world. We should do well to pay attention to some of these rules, for they still have a surprising relevance to our world.

---George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation---

1st-- Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

5th--If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkerchief or Hand before your face and turn aside.

6th--Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.

7th--Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dressed.

17th--Be no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be Play'd Withal.

19th--Let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.

44th--When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.

45th--Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in public or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Show no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness.

49th--Use no Reproachful Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.

50th--Be not hasty to believe flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.

58th--Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for 'is a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern.

108th--When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously & with reverence. Honor & obey your natural parents although they be poor.

109th-- Let your recreations be manful not sinful.

110th--Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

I remain,

Your friend,

Aaron Morrison

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Power Of The Smile

"A man without a smiling face must not open a shop."
-Old Chinese proverb

Hello Friends,

At a certain dinner party held in New York, a woman had been invited as a guest. This woman had just inherited a large sum of money, so she wanted to cast a big, pleasing impression on the other guests. She went on a shopping spree in the town and spent her money on shiny jewels, soft fur coats, colorful clothes, and seductive perfume. Thinking that she would catch the favor and affection of everyone at the dinner party, she strutted into the lavishly decorated dining room like a peacock showing off her feathers and held her face into the tightest, most statuesque line she could muster. But much to her chagrin, the other dinner guests showed no signs of accepting her rather royal image. To them, the woman sold an image of sourness, selfishness, and self-centeredness. This woman forgot one of the most fundamental rules about people, which the great consultant Dale Carnegie once so excellently coined: "The expression on a person's face is much more important than the clothes on ones back." A sincere, happy, and especially healthy smile will ALWAYS be more attractive to people than a frown, and the person who wears a smile will very likely have a more enjoyable life than the one that does not.

A smile has clearly visible effects on people’s lives:
---The Value Of A Smile At Christmas---

It costs nothing, but creates much.

It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give.

It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

None are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.

It creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in a business, and is the countersign of friends.

It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and Nature's best antidote for trouble.

Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen,
for it is something that is no earthly good to anybody
till it is given away.

And if in the last-minute rush of Christmas buying some of our salespeople should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you to leave one of yours?

For nobody needs a smile so much as those who have none left to give!

God wants His children to be joyful and to spread joy as a result. It is all a part of spreading the gospel message, by showing on your face the truth of Jesus Christ in your life. Be so happy that people will stop and ask you, “Why is it you are able to be happy, even when times are bad?”

I remain,

Your friend,

Aaron Morrison

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Do You Have Woo? (part 2)

"that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." -1 Corinthians 12:25-26

"For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state." -Phil 2:20

Hello Friends,

In my last note titled "What We Can Learn From A Dog," I described the significance of being interested in others and how to be interested in others. I also promised in that note that I would give you a part two to the concept. In writing this particular note, I wanted to address what the characteristics of an interested person are in regards to when they interact with others, but I couldn't find the right word to describe these characteristics as a whole. After a little nugget of inspiration entered my mind from a John C. Maxwell book, I found a rather amusing name for the qualities needed to be truly interested in somebody, the ability to W.O.O. ( Win Others Over)

Woo is basically charisma, but with the premise of serving others. Charisma without the premise of serving others can be very damaging towards others if it is used for manipulative purposes. Just think of one of the most sinister figures of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler. Hitler had remarkable charisma; he could convince thousands of people at a time that he had the best interests of his countrymen at heart when he said Jews and all other non-Arian peoples (non-German) should be exterminated. He was obviously not truly interested in others' best interests; he only acted interested so he could convince people to his way of thinking. Let the Holocaust be a bone-chilling reminder of what the wrong charisma can do.

In contrast, Theodore Roosevelt had a legendary amount of the good Woo, the kind that wants to serve others and help them. His ability to make others feel like a million bucks is one of the reasons why he is such a beloved president even today. Roosevelt was interested in everybody; it didn't matter if you were the king of England or a simple servant. He would let you know that he honestly and sincerely cared about your life. The following are two different examples of Roosevelt's amazing Woo skills. One of the examples are from his valet, James E. Amos, and the other is a story retold by Dale Carnegie:

---from "Theodore Roosevelt, Hero to His Valet---
by James E. Amos

"My wife one time asked the President about a bobwhite. She had never seen one and he described it to her fully. Sometime later, the telephone at our cottage rang. {Amos and his wife lived in a little cottage on the Roosevelt estate at Oyster Bay} My wife answered it and it was Mr. Roosevelt himself. He had called her, he said, to tell her that there was a bobwhite outside her window and that if she would look out she might see it. Little things like that were so characteristic of him. Whenever he went by our cottage, even though we were out of sight, we would hear him call out: 'Oo-oo-oo, Anne?' or 'Oo-oo-oo, James!' It was just a friendly greeting as he went by."

Wouldn't love to hang around a man like that? ...even love working for him? (think about how a dog greets us, like I said in the first note)

---Story of Roosevelt at the White House---
by Dale Carnegie

"Roosevelt called at the White House one day when President Taft and Mrs. Taft were away. His honest liking for humble people was shown by the fact that he greeted all the old White House servants by name, even the scullery maids. 'When he saw Alice, the kitchen maid,' writes Archie Butt, 'he asked her if she still made corn bread. Alice told him that she sometimes made it for the servants, but no one ate it upstairs. 'They show bad taste,' Roosevelt boomed, 'and I'll tell the President so when I see him.' 'Alice brought a piece to him on a plate, and he went over to the office eating it as he went and greeting gardeners and laborers as he passed... 'He addressed each person just as he had addressed them in the past,' Ike Hoover, who had been head usher at the White House for forty years, said with tears in his eyes: 'It is the only happy day we had in nearly two years, and not one of us would exchange it for a hundred-dollar bill."

Theodore Roosevelt cared for others, and he visibly showed it with his actions towards the people in his life. He led America into the 20th century with his endeavors in making it's economy and military a world power, but perhaps his greatest human achievement was his heart for other people: He was interested in others, he loved others, he had great... Woo.

With all this said, do you have Woo?:

1. Are you sincerely and honestly interested in others?

True Woo must be sincerely and honestly interested in others. You may be able to pull off looking like you're interested in somebody for a little while, but it won't last long. People naturally have a sixth sense to be able to detect phony Woo. My advise to you: If you can't mean it, then check your heart before God so that you can. You are not doing the other person or yourself any favors if you do otherwise.

2. Do you smile at others?

A smile says "You make me happy. I like being around you." I cannot stress to you how important this is to do. There's a saying that goes, "Smile... and the world smiles with you. Frown... and ...well, you know what happens." A small vat of honey will catch a whole lot more flies than a barrel of vinegar. So smile people! :)

3. Do you give people your time?

My dad told me a story once about a incident that happened at his work. He was on the factory floor, when a man happened to call over to my dad saying, "Hi Steve, how are you doing?" My dad, seeing an opportunity for a friendly chat, walked over to the man. But just before he could reach him, the man went up and left. Oh yeah, he was REALLY interested in how he was doing. In my own life, I find same situation happening in a similar way. I'll be walking down the hall, approaching a group of people having a conversation. When I arrive at where the group is at, I greet one of the people on the outside of the conversation looking in, and they turn to me and give me a quick "Sup." However, instead of waiting for my answer, they quickly turn their heads over to the other conversation going on, and completely ignore me. I don't think they were truly interested in how I was doing either. One of the biggest gifts we can give people is our time. When we give people the time of day to speak, it means so much to them.

4. Do you listen with your heart?

On the note of giving people our time, we can't just simply listen to others with our ears, we have to listen with our hearts. What this means is that we tune out ourselves and listen to what somebody is truly saying; we listen to not just the words, but the tone of voice and what the words mean. Also, listening with our heart means that we listen with our eyes by having them looking straight at the person's face. I can definitely tell when somebody's truly listening or not by whether their eyes are on my eyes... or on something else.

5. Do you encourage others to talk about themselves?

The quickest way to become an excellent conversationalist is by taking to heart the following quote by Dale Carnegie:

"So if you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments."

Everybody secretly loves to talk about themselves, their lives, their accomplishments, their problems, and they want people to ask them about it. However, they don't want to just tell you, they first want to know that you're interested in knowing what's going on with them before they tell you.

I remain,

Your friend,

Aaron Morrison

What We Can Learn From a Dog

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." -Dale Carnegie

Hello Friends,

Note: This is part one on this subject. The second part will be coming later.

Do you know who is the greatest maker of friends? The "tail-wagging" answer actually makes sense when you think about it. My cousins have a big Australian Shepherd named Eli, who I absolutely love. Whenever Deanna and I visit over to our cousins' house, you can almost count on Eli to come running and romping over their yard to greet us. He looks up at me with those big, happily excited eyes, and smiles a toothy, sincere grin. He's not trying to sell me something or make me do something for him; he's just glad to see me; he's interested in me for who I am, not what I can do for him. Aren't dogs amazing? They don't receive degrees in psychology, but yet they are programmed by God to understand on of the most fundamental rules about people: People like to have someone interested in them. I wish we all could understand this rule. Perhaps we would be better friends; perhaps we would be happier. I think the following sentence is true: He who cannot be interested in others walks a much more lonelier road than he who can be interested in others.

Humankind has a difficult time understanding this people principle because humans are naturally self-centered. When there's a group picture that has you in it, whose picture do you look for first? When you're in Wal-Mart around Christmas time, who do you think of first when you're shopping? I once heard of a detailed study that the New York Telephone Company did to find out which word was used the most. The results? The most frequently used word, which was used 3,900 times in 500 studied telephone conversations, was "I," "I," and... "I." Our self-centered nature is a trait of the world we live in, but it also develops out of a desire to be special, to be liked, and to be loved for who we have been created to be. This desire to be loved is of course nothing to be ashamed about, because that's what God has put in us. However, the selfish and "looking out for number one" attitude influences our actions towards others in our life in a way that hurts our relationship with them. For me personally, few character flaws sour my opinion of others quicker than someone who is only interested in himself.

At the same time, because of this naturally occurring self-centered attitude within ourselves, it can be difficult for us to be sincerely interested in others. However, it is achievable to find ourselves interested in others, despite the aching of our selfish hearts. Here are a few such guidelines to help us do just that:

1. Unclog your self-centered ears

Edgar Watson Howe once joked, “No man would listen to you talk if he didn’t know it was his turn next.” We certainly love to talk about what we care about, and that attitude can keep us from truly being interested in others. We clog our ears with “us,” and we don’t let anything of others through. The contrast of two of Great Britain’s greatest prime ministers, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli, are good examples of people who clogged their ears with themselves and people who did not. It was said that a young woman went to dinner with each of them on successive nights. When she was asked of her impression of them, she said, “When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England!” Mr. Disraeli knew how to be interested in others. He once said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” His ears were definitely not clogged with himself. He was interested in what his dinner guest had to say of herself, and this selflessness is a key example to remember in how to be interested in others.

2. You can learn something from everybody

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every man I meet is in some way, my superior, and I can learn of him.” Everybody can teach us something valuable that we probably couldn’t teach ourselves. By just being interested in the life of someone else, we can gain some awesome knowledge and wisdom from God.

3. Be interested in somebody’s story

Everybody loves a good story about life experiences. It’s evidenced by all the media we have on the lives of other people through movies, books, magazines, and television. Those stories start with just “everyday” people like you and me. Each person on this Earth has their own unique story of their life, which we can find just as fascinating as a good book or movie if will allow our minds to open a little bit.

4. God has imparted a gift, a passion in others’ lives

Mona Breckner once said, “All human beings can make a contribution if they are given enough help to do it. Dig until you can find something someone can do, see if there isn’t a talent somewhere for something. And usually, if you dig deep enough and long enough you’ll find one.”

In each person’s life, God has imparted a special gift or a passion, which no one else has. This gift is of God, and God is amazing and interesting. Therefore, seeking this gift should be reason enough to be interested in who they are. Perhaps their gifting isn’t something you would normally be interested in, but when you see in a person that a gifting has been to given to them, then it becomes interesting. I’m not what you would call a big “animal lover.” I like my cat enough, but I’m not a “nature boy” per se. But when I would watch Steve Irwin and the enthusiasm he had for nature, he got me excited about his “gifting.” Everybody has a gifting that’s exciting and wonderful. We just have to have the desire, the interest in others to seek it out. This searching for the gift in others is one of the most exciting aspects of life for me. Whenever I’m interacting with others, I’m searching for God’s gift in them. Perhaps it may not show up for a while, but I love the hunt. I like to ask questions of others. I want to know (and I want them to know too) how special God has made them to be. If I can do that, then… in a small way… I get a chance to know what my heavenly Father is like, and that brings a happy thought to my face.

This is the end of part one. Part two will be coming soon. Here’s a closing remark about this subject that I like:

The famous writer George Eliot once said, “Try to care about something in this vast world besides the gratification of small selfish desires. Try to care for what is best in thought and action --- something that is good apart from the accidents of your own lot.”

I remain,

Your (now very tired) friend,

Aaron Morrison