Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Heart Failure

 


"My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
[Psalm 73:26]

As one ages, losing physical dexterity becomes obvious. I first noticed that I was slipping while participating in a parent-child softball game at our church in San Diego. At forty-some years old, they assigned me to play shortstop - a big mistake. 

The first batter on the opposing team hit a drive to short right, fielded neatly on its first bounce by our right fielder. Smartly and adeptly, I covered second base to hold him to a single. As the next batter came to the plate, I went over what to do should the ball be hit toward me - catch the ball, check to see if I could catch the runner coming to second, and if not I would fire the ball to first to get the hitter out. Sure enough, the batter hit a ground ball right at me. My plan was perfect, my execution faulty. By the time I got my hands down to catch the ball, it was already in left field and the runners were advancing.

That misadventure taught me two things: first, I would never again play softball; and second, planning is important, but execution is required for success.

While our flesh and our heart may fail, it is God that is our strength to execute and accomplish our purpose in life and achieve our destiny. Failure of the heart leads to failure of the flesh. If our heart is not in what we are doing, then physical success is doubtful

I learned to play golf right out of highschool and played regularly while in college as a cooperative educational student at Georgia Tech. I studied the game, read books by the greats, and watched the games on TV. My heart was in it. But it wasn't until I got on the course and actually practiced and played that I enjoyed success in the game. 

Our faith is like that. If our heart is not fully in it, we can read the Bible, study theology, and regularly attend church, to no avail. We must also practice our faith through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 

As we approach Easter, we have been through the forty-plus days of Lent, and we anticipate the celebration of Easter or Pascha. Too often we want to celebrate Easter without the sacrifices of Lent. 

We want resurrection without going through death. 

We want the benefits without putting forth the effort. That is heart failure.

At my current stage of life, physical issues keep me from playing golf, but God allows me to practice my faith and enjoy Him forever.

In our own strength, we cannot practice our faith with consistency and steadfastness, but through God we can do all things. (Philippians 4:13)

Happy Easter,


Bill Johnson


Monday, February 28, 2022

Are you a turtle?

 

Are you a turtle?

That is the question we all asked one another. 

Are you making progress?

It started when I was a young US Army lieutenant stationed in Germany. As the commanding officer of a new, one of a kind, data communications network, there were no guidelines, experience base, nor directives to fall back on. They left us to our own devices. 

In such a situation, there are commonly two ways one often reacts to required decisions - play it safe or stick your neck out and go for the gusto. Torn between a fear of repercussions and my drive to accomplish our mission, I worried over each challenge. 

Then I came upon that cartoon picture of a turtle with the caption: 

Behold the turtle, He makes progress only when his neck is out.

That was my answer. I immediately took a copy of that cartoon to a graphics designer and had him make a small poster that I could hang on the wall. I mounted it on a sheet of Masonite and sealed it with clear plastic. That small poster has hung in all of my offices for the next thirty years. until I lost track of it in a move. I rediscovered it while packing for our move from Mississippi to Oklahoma. It still has my name, military rank, and year typed on the back.

That short quotation has empowered me over the years. 

There are four things that terrify me; heights, bridges, failure, and rejection. A drive to grow and succeed at my chosen vocation(s) counterbalanced these fears. Growth and success do not come to people who sit by and wait. Inaction guarantees failure.

Every time I hesitated about deciding, I would ask myself, “Am I a turtle?” Most often I would answer, “Yes.” Several times I stuck my neck out and walked away from very secure and comfortable places, stepping into the strange and unknown. But there were also times when I did not stick my neck out and later regretted the decision.

I stuck my neck out when I left the security of an established company to help start a new speculative organization. I stuck my neck out when I walked away from industry to enter ministry. Each time I stuck out my neck, it felt as if I was jumping off a cliff into an abyss. But I grew each time. It is always scary, but is rewarding when done for the right reason.

The original author of the "behold the turtle" quote is unknown. Some have wrongly ascribed it to James B. Conant, a chemist who was the President of Harvard University from 1933 to 1953 who employed this motto during a speech at Wellesley College in 1949, but he did not take credit; instead, he attributed the expression to unnamed atomic scientists. 

The earliest known source of this quote is from a 1945 article describing the cartoon on the wall of an office at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, crafted by an unnamed project engineer working on the Manhattan Project.

Wherever this adage originated, it sends a powerful message to us all, "Take the risk."

In the Bible, Abraham, left a comfortable life in the great city of Ur, to go to a desolate land he knew nothing about and he became the father of many nations. The disciples stuck their necks out when they left their jobs, families, and homes to follow Jesus. and they changed an entire world. 

Author Virginia Postrel writes about the major battle for the future of the nation, between “Dynamists” and “Stasists.” 

Dynamists do not fear making mistakes because they grow from their mistakes as a learning process. There is spontaneity and wild abandon in dynamism. We usually can correct mistakes. Creativity flourishes in this environment. 

Stasists feel that they must establish rules and regulations to avoid mistakes. Governmental agencies continue to establish rules and regulations that inhibit creativity and growth. 

Dynamists are the turtles. They stick their necks out.

How can you determine when it is time to stick your neck out and take a colossal risk? Don't stick your neck out when your life is in a turmoil. That's where too many make a mistake they will regret. 

It is when you are in your comfort zone that it is time to be a turtle. When you are comfortable, there is little progress.

Are you a turtle? Are you making progress?

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

The Secret Sauce of Success

 Do you want more out of your life? The secret to a successful life is not working harder and longer, it is not taking the right pills, or following the right life coach. The secret that will lead you to that great life is relatively simple.

My passion is helping people to realize their full potential and enjoy life to the fullest extent possible.

I remember walking along the cliffs of the Torrey Pines Gliderport high above Black’s Beach north of San Diego; I watched the para-sailers riding the updrafts where the Pacific meets the shore. Most were flying solo, but there were also tandems with a novice strapped in with a professional. 

What would it be like to soar through the air, being held aloft by updrafts, and fly up and down the coast, watching surfers in the water and golfers on the adjacent course? 

Suddenly I awoke from my reverie as a red and white tandem parasail overshot its landing zone, startling me and causing a potentially mortal reaction. As I jumped back, I fell over the cliff and headed for the rocks three hundred feet below. Fortunately, I caught hold of a small branch of a bush and stopped falling, but sat suspended in mid-air, unable to crawl back to safety. No one had seen me fall, no one heard my screams for help, and my arms were getting sore from holding me up. 

There was only one thing left to do. I prayed and cried out to God.

”Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy!” For a time nothing happened.

Then, as I continued to pray, I heard a voice that I knew was from God, “What do you want?”

“Help me save me.”

“Alright, but first let go of the branch.”

My response to God’s suggestion was, “Is there anyone else up there?”

As you may have realized by now, this is not a true story, but a parable (no pun intended) The point that I am making is that sometimes we hold on to things that are keeping us from realizing something much better.

The secret to living an abundant and satisfying life is:

Don’t hold on to things too tightly.

When you hold on to things too tightly, you may miss out on some very exciting and rewarding things that come along. If you are afraid to let go of what you have, you cannot pick up something new. When you will let go of your security blanket you can grab hold of your destiny.

At age ten, I wanted to be a soldier, at twenty I wanted to be a writer, at thirty I wanted to be a corporate executive. At forty, I wanted to start a business. Through hard work, persistence, and a little luck and despite my twin fears of rejection and failure, I achieved what I set out to accomplish. But what the world considered success left me unfulfilled and discouraged. 

While my professional life was growing, God was leading me and my wife Rita on a competing spiritual journey. We came to a crossroads and had to make a choice. There I was, hanging on to that small branch that was my career, financial comfort, and an assured future, while calling out to God for help. He told me, “Let go of the branch.”

We let go of the branch and have never looked back.

I have written about much of our journey in my book, "Destiny, Who Am I, Why Am I Here and What do I do now."

The Bible tells us about a guy named Abram, living in luxury in the big city of Ur of the Chaldees. The Lord told him to let go of the branch, leave town, and walk in the desert. Abe did not know where he was going, but let go of his security blanket and became the father of many nations.

When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John, they left careers, family, and  homes to follow Him, and they helped to change the world.

Are there things in your life that are holding you back 

Are there things in your life that are holding you back from realizing your destiny, that you are afraid to release? What could you do if you let go of these things?


Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Cancel Culture and King Crab Legs

 


According to Wikipedia, Cancel culture or call-out culture is a modern form of ostracism in which they thrust someone out of social or professional circles – whether it be on-line, on social media, or in person. 

I grew up in a simpler time. When something was broken, we fixed it, we didn’t throw it away. They taught us to look for the good in people, not the bad - even in those who hurt us. We found peace in an imperfect world by adjusting our expectations to reali. We understood that the world was not created for our pleasure. It is not about us and our satisfaction.

Today, we see statues of great men and women removed from their place of honor because of their association with an unjust cause or because of a flaw in their character. It doesn’t matter if most of their lives were exemplary - one misstep and they must go. We vilify politicians of the other party and search for a piece of their past that can be used to tar them with the stigma of evil. We remove game-show hosts and TV personalities because of an ancient Face Book post. 

People spend too much time looking for the bad in others, when we should be looking for the good.

Several years ago, my company hosted a group of Nationalist Chinese business people at our office in San Diego. Our meeting continued into the evening. As dinner time approached, I asked the leader of the group what kind of food they would require.

“We have eaten only in Chinese restaurants since we have been in the United States,” he responded.

“Would you be open to try something different?” I queried.

“Oh yes,Thank you.”

At my favorite waterfront seafood restaurant, we all sat at a large table. The Chinese government official - a rather large officious lady sat directly across from me. At the recommendation of the group leader, she ordered something she had never had before - Alaskan king crab legs.


The orders came out, and our lady across the table stared down at her plate, and before I could offer some help in how to crack the shell and exhume the delicious meat, she picked up a whole crab leg - shell and all, took a gigantic bite, and began to spit out crab shells while savoring the meat inside. While her approach to eating crab legs was not what we all expected, it worked for her, and we can all learn a valuable lesson.

There are too many people today that spit out the good in others while chewing the bad. 

Our broken political system results from people see only bad in their opponents. They are not willing to accept good ideas from the other side. They are not willing to admit that there is anything good in their political foes.

We need to take a big bite, spit out the bad and enjoy the good. 

When listening to others, look for the truth and throw away the false. 

In Jesus’ parable of the "Wheat and the Tares," a man planted a field of grain and while he slept, his enemy came and sowed tares in the field. When his servants saw the tares, they asked the owner whether they should gather up the tares. The owner replied, “No because when you gather the tares you will also uproot the grain. Let both grow until the harvest, then you can separate them.” [Matthew 13:24-30]

We live in a fallen world, and as a result, life can be difficult. Peace will come only when we discover what God wants us to change and work on and then go do that. 

Success is not canceling those with whom we disagree, nor remaking the world to our liking. 

Happiness comes in finding and celebrating the good not the bad. 


Bill Johnson

Monday, August 30, 2021

Crisis Overload

 


I don’t know about you, but I am in crisis overload. The TV news hits us with news of the mishandling of the Afganistan,situation,  hurricane Ida’s destructive march through Louisiana, Mississippi, and parts north and east, and the latest COVID-19 statistics.

Then last evening we heard our grandson has tested positive to the disease and his father is awaiting the results of his test, and my wife, Rita, woke up last night with severe pains that she had never experienced before.

Is it enough to cause one to wonder, “Where is God?” 

But, having reached this ripe old age, I have not only God’s word to fall back on, but also life experiences that convince me of God’s love and give me peace in these desperate times. 

The Lord has pulled, pushed, and carried me through storms that resulted from my stupid blunders, those of others, and the fallen nature.  I know 

He is in still in charge.

The first time I ever heard God’s voice was many years ago, when I was at the lowest point in my life, and wanted out. My life was in turmoil. I was sliding deeper into a pit of destruction and didn’t know what to do. Laying in bed that night,  I cried out to God for help and to tell me what I should do to break free. He immediately answered my prayer with three words.

“Your big toenail!”

The Lord doesn’t always speak clearly or in an easily understood way, but there was no doubt what He wanted me to do - Nothing,just trust Him o work things out.

Several years earlier, in the midst of a late Friday night bowling match, my sixteen pound bowling ball fell off the rack landing on my big toe. On Saturday, I played a round of golf standing on one leg. By Monday the toe had swollen so much I cut the front out of an old shoe so I could go to work. Seeing the condition of my foot, both my boss and my secretary insisted I go to the hospital immediately.

At the ER, they took X-rays of the damaged digit and set me in a large, darkened exam room. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I noted a series of light boxes along the left wall. Soon the technician came in with my x-ray pictures and stuck them on the light boxes, so they were clearly visible. 

Important questions came to mind. What would be the treatment for a broken big toe? How big a cast would be required? Could I still work? Could I even walk? My thoughts were interrupted as three interns came in, examined the X-ray pictures,  snickered among themselves, marveled at the dangers of bowling, and walked out unsuccessfully trying to hold back laughter. Later, a few more came with the same reaction - serious examination, giggling, and departing without a word to me. Twelve different interns and three nurses examined my X-rays without even acknowledging my presence.

After what seemed like hours of impatient waiting, the doctor came in, checked the X-rays and sat down across from me. Without saying a word, he grabbed my foot in his two hands, put both thumbs on my big toe and squeezed. That pain was several orders of magnitude worse than that of the bowling ball’s impact, which had been somewhat anesthetized by consumption of adult beverages. He put a Bandaid on the toe, gave me his business card, and told me to come see him in three weeks.

Stunned by the total lack of medical care, I asked, “but, what about the toenail?”

“Don’t worry. It will fall off by itself in a short time.”

In God’s three word response to my prayers, The Lord was telling me, “Don’t worry, your problems will fall,off by themselves in a short time.”

Within two months, I accepted a new position, moved half way across the country, left my problems behind, and started a new life.

God acted on my behalf and told me not to worry.

Today, while the world is spinning out of control, I am confident that God is still on His throne and He will lead each of us through whatever crisis we face.

I realize that each one that is reading this message is facing things they never expected, the loss of a loved one, major surgery, test results which might change your world, a deadly disease, or some other obstacle to your peace. All I can say is God will bring you through this time and He is saying to you,

“Do not worry, I will see you through this and it will be only for a season.”


Bill Johnson




Sunday, October 11, 2020

An Act of Love


 If you truly want to show love to someone, learn how to listen to them. 

After over fifty years of marriage, I have learned that when my wife has a problem that she wants to tell me about; she does not want me to fix it for her. She wants me to just listen. Still, I can’t resist the urge to fix her. I want to analyze the problem and propose a solution. 

Wrong! She wants to share how she feels and just wants me to listen. 

Listening is an act of love, it's one of the greatest acts of love that we can give to another person. Statista.com estimates we will spend over $238 billion in 2020 for mental health services in the US alone.

That includes payment to hospitals, psychologists, and psychiatric services, but doesn’t include voluntary services of church and clergy. Ordinary people who are good listeners could reduce or eliminate much of these costs.

We all have a story to tell. This year has been wild, a pandemic, racial unrest, political intrigue, and an overactive hurricane season. Survivors of catastrophic events have a story to tell and need a place where they can share. Survivors of violence, abuse, and danger all have stories to tell and telling is cathartic.

 Recently I watched an Internet podcast by a survivor of a recent hurricane as they described the storm and its aftermath. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think about my own experiences of Camile, Katrina, and several other lesser storms. 

As I listened, I kept thinking, “I'd love to tell him about my dealing with Katrina.” For a moment I considered sending them a comment with my story. Then I realized what I was doing, yes I had a story, but this was their story to tell and I must give them the courtesy of listening.

I’m sure that survivors of earlier epidemics, when hearing survivors of our recent pandemic share their stories, are anxious to tell their story. Survivors of the Titanic must have been chafing at the bit while listening to the Andrea Doria survivors forty years later telling their stories, and survivors of the Swine Fly pandemic of 2009-20010 which infected over one and a half billion people, want to tell their story while listening to the COVID-19 survivors tell their story.

We don't listen to other people because we are thinking about the story we want to tell them and waiting for the opportunity to jump in when they slow down or pause for a second. 

That reminds me of a story I once heard about a man that survived the Johnstown flood on May 31, 1889 which killed over twenty-two hundred people when a dam broke. This survivor always wanted to tell his story of survival, but people kept putting him off. He died seventy-five years later without ever telling his story. When he arrives in heaven, he thinks, “This is heaven I know I can tell my story here.

 So he talks to Saint Peter who seems to be in charge and Saint Peter says, “That's wonderful, we have a time where people get to share their stories of bravery and survival and you can tell your story. I'll just check the schedule and plug you in at the next opening.”

 Later,  Saint Peter comes up to the man and tells him he is on the schedule. “You are on the schedule to tell of your survival in the Johnstown flood. That's the good news.”

The man stared at  Peter with a quizzical look on his face and asked, “Good news? Is there bad news? What's the bad news?

Peter responded, “You will share right after Noah tells his story.”

 It's so hard to listen to others while we wait to insert our comments. That's why communications has become so garbled in our modern world. We do not seriously listen and that is why we cannot get along. Our minds are too busy thinking about what we want to that we can't hear others. When we cannot hear what they are saying, we misunderstand and jump too often false conclusions. It would be a different world and we would all get along better if we could listen better.

Listening is valuing others. When we listen to others, we give clear evidence that we value what they have to say, and therefore value them. 

Proverbs 12:15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to advice (NRSV)

James 1:19 So then my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.

How we listen and respond

Romans 12:15-17 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.”

Humility sensitizes our spiritual hearing, whereas pride dulls our ability to hear. 

Wouldn't it be great if we started a ministry of listening, listening without an agenda, listening without trying to tell our story, can we do this? 

I don't know,



but we need to try. The next time your best friend, spouse, child, or parent wants to tell you something, try to listen;

  •  Listen without thinking about what you're going to say, 
  • Listen without disagreeing 
  • Listen without interrupting 
  • Listen with your mind, listen with your soul,  listen with your heart. 
  • Try to understand what they're saying.
  • Try to understand what they're feeling. 
  • Try to understand them in this way and you will be showing them great love. 

You will probably eliminate a lot of arguments and you might learn to love them deeper hand 


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Truth or consequences II

[ I originally wrote this article in 2003, but felt it is worthy of repeating



Bill Johnson]

When I was a child growing up there was a radio program and later it was placed on television, named “Truth or Consequences”.  They gave contestants difficult, sometimes impossible questions to answer.  If they failed to tell the truth - gave the wring answer - they had to pay the consequences.  The consequences were to perform some embarrassing acts that required suffering.  There had no choice, if they missed, they had to pay the consequences.  After they paid the consequences, they received a prize for their efforts.

 I grew up realizing that all of my actions had consequences - some were good and some bad.  It was a simpler time.

 Our neighbor’s chicken house intrigued me and my friend Norman. We loved to go in and scare the chickens.  It was fun to watch them squawk and fly away as we invaded their privacy.  Once, a chicken flew into a window that was not open, breaking the pane and causing a cut on the chicken's leg which bled profusely. We tried to sneak quietly away, but got caught. Before I got home, my grandfather was waiting for me ready to mete out a stiff penalty.  We had to pay the consequences for our mischief.

 Fate was against me, every time I did something bad, I got caught and had to pay the consequences. Cheating in school was not an option. I was a terrible liar, so I always got caught.

The thought of consequences was a strong deterrent to bad actions. I had heard gruesome stories and watched those dark videos in school about the consequences of sexually transmitted diseases, and that was before AIDS became common. 

The deterrent for bad behavior was that you would always be caught and then there would be consequences to pay. 

Our society has changed. Today there is a laxity in enforcing the rules and even civil law.  

Now imagine a basketball or football game without referees. And you can visualize the problem. The biggest or meanest kid wins.

 Several years ago, a new police chief came to town to try to make a dent in the growing crime rate.  One of his first orders was to enforce all laws, including the speed limit on the Interstate Highway during the morning rush hour.

You could hear the squawks of all those decent citizens, “We hired you to put an end to the growing crime rate, not bother us upright citizens.” 

What the people didn't realize was that upholding the law does not mean to let lesser kinds of lawlessness pass and then stop it when it gets violent.  If there is no consequence to a minor infraction, people will continue to push the envelop until they get stopped and have to face consequences.  Once you go too far into lawlessness, it is difficult to stop.

Our society insists upon eliminating the consequences for whatever actions people want to take. Today, rather than face the consequences, society provides ways of reducing the consequences. Abortion has become an easy way to eliminate the consequences of extra-marital sex. 

Today we are fighting Islamic fundamentalist terrorism on our own shores. Suicide bombers do not mind blowing themselves up as long as they take people with them.  In their mind, the consequences for their actions are a blessing in heaven.

We have to take another look at consequences.  If you don't tell the truth, you have to face the consequences.  If you destroy someone else's property, there must be consequences. Most people realize that there are many factors which cause an individual to take part in riots, looting, violence, and other anti-social activities, but there have to be consequences for these acts. Some would rather blame society for creating the atmosphere in which they take theses actions. It does not matter why people do these things, it is their choice. But there must be consequences for their actions. 

Changing people is not accomplished by allowing them to escape the consequences of their actions, but by ensuring that there are consequences.