Thursday, August 4, 2022

Not a Horse or a Mule



 “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

That question plagues me even at this advanced stage of life. It’s not that I don’t know what to do or want to be, it’s that I am often afraid of failing.

“Deep down inside of most of us there lies a hidden desire which we keep stuffed away and are afraid to even think about, let alone attempt to achieve. We have so suppressed our desire that we often do not even remember that we ever had one. We bury these desires for a number of reasons: we convince ourselves that it is only a childish dream, we believe that it is too incredible to even consider, we are afraid to hope because we are afraid we will fail, and we do not want to be disappointed again, or people will laugh at us. So we stuff the dream, and convince ourselves it was mere foolishness to even hope.

You say to yourself, ‘Get a life and find a real career.’” [Quotation from Destiny, Who am I?Why am I Here?, What do I do Now? https://books2read.com/u/bzoOOD ]

Lately,  I get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and sit down in my office to pray and spend time with the Lord. After praying a few rote prayers, I got down to the business at hand.

“Lord, what do you want me to do?”

Lately, I get the same response - silence.

What’s wrong with me? I seek the Lord and His will in my life, but the more I pray, the less I hear.  

I don’t think I’m the only one that feels this way in seeking the Lord’s guidance. We keep on asking for a sign, a word of prophecy, something that will point us to our next step in life.

Then, I came across Psalm 32:9 in the NIV.

Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”

This scripture hit me right between the eyes. I realized that I have often been a horse or mule - needing a sign in order to move. A wise mentor once told me that God often gives us a choice and either is correct. The important thing is moving.  The rudder of a boat cannot influence the boat's direction unless the boat is moving.

December 1987 was a turning point in our life. My secular responsibilities and our Lay ministry activities both increased to the point we could not continue to do both. One had to go. Rita and I spent months of prayer, not questioning our ministerial call, but questioning the next step that would lead us toward our goal of full-time ministry. 

Soon it boiled down to a choice between two options. Both required resigning from my company: Stay in San Diego and find a less taxing job to pay bills while our ministry grew or move to an area where the cost of living was lower. I had received an interesting offer from a friend in Seattle who asked if I would be interested in joining him in a new venture. It would be a less taxing job, so I expressed interest. We had an established ministry in Southern California but would be starting over in the Northwest.

So, like a horse or mule with no understanding, we sought after the Lord for a word or a sign that would tell us what to do. We were fearful of making the wrong choice. We needed that bit and bridle before we took the next step.

We often are like young people with a desire to accomplish big things, but afraid to move. Instead, we allow others–parents, well-meaning friends, and teachers - to set our goals for us.

It took us until April 1988 to make our decision. It was on a Friday at a restaurant in Napa, California. Rita was with me on a business trip to Oakland. As we talked again about our options, it suddenly occurred to us we should move to Seattle. It lifted a ton of emotional bricks from us.

With that decision, the wheels rolled. At home there was a letter from my friend in Seattle whom I had not heard from since December. It contained a firm offer of employment and an apology for the salary offer. It was about half that of my current job, but exactly what Rita and I had figured out it would take us to live. On Monday morning, I called my boss back east and alerted him that I was resigning. 

Later that day I received a phone call from the head of a para-church organization who knew I was considering moving to the Northwest. When I told him I would move in June, he asked if I would become their regional overseer–no salary, but able to get financial support. In addition, we already had a standing offer to work with an established ministry in the Seattle area.

God wants us understanding. The Hebrew word translated as "understanding" in Psalm 32 means more than have knowledge. It means to have knowledge and know what to do with that knowledge.

Over the years, the Lord has led us in several different directions. But since elementary school, I have had a desire to write and create. In 2001, we founded Aslan Ministries, Inc. to equip and encourage the church and its leaders. The Lord told me then, “Write.”

So today, when I pray asking Him, “What I should do with the rest of my life?” His silence is understandable.

It is as if he is saying, “I already told you what to do. If anything changes, I will tell you.”

No more a horse or mule.

Bill Johnson

 

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Tulsa Shootings

         


When a tragedy occurs worlds away, we can be very objective. When it happens close to home it becomes personal. Such was the shooting in Tulsa this week.

Our daughter, Rhonda, has a rare disease which depletes minerals in her body. In order to maintain a balance she must take massive amounts of meds and supplements. Even then, she must occasionally be infused with iron and magnesium. Yesterday, at 3:30 I dropped her, along with my wife Rita, at St Francis Hospital in Tulsa. Since the procedure was to take several hours, I drove home to Broken Arrow to wait for Rita to call when they were ready to come home.

After feeding the dog, pouring a soda, and grabbing a bag of chips, I turned on the television and saw the special news bulletin from, where else but, St Francis Hospital. Literally dozens of police and rescue vehicles filled Yale Avenue at 65th street. The on-scene reporter described an active shooter situation going down in the Natale Building.

My first concern was for the safety of Rita and Rhonda in the infusion center which was in the hospitals outpatient department in the main hospital. The Natale building is on the hospital’s campus but houses doctors offices and clinics. My back doctor and the orthopedic clinic was there on the second floor. 

As I watched TV, I was sure that Rita and Rhonda were far enough away that they were safe from the shooter, but being of a practical mind, began to wonder if or how I was to pick them up when they were ready to come home. As I picked up my phone to call them I noticed a text from Rita saying she had been trying to call me and she was worried about me. I dialed her number and the call did not go through, so I texted her back to call me back. While I was trying for the fifth time to get through to her, my phone rang and Rita started berating me for not answering her earlier calls. In emergencies phone service becomes erratic as the networks become overloaded.

Rhonda’s infusion procedure was cut back and she was released early, I assume because of the shooting incident, and I was able to get to the hospital through a different route coming in the back way.

At home watching the wall to wall coverage of the event I began to worry about my doctor. One of the reporters had heard a rumor that the shooter was after a certain doctor. 

Today, the Tulsa police chief released the names of the victims which included Dr. Preston Phillips, my back doctor. I spent over two years as his patient and attest to the fact that he was not only a top clinician and surgeon, but he was also one of the finest gentlemen I have known in medicine. He was always thorough and never seemed to be rushed while dealing with me. The hospital CPO stated that Dr Phillips was allowed to  “go off the clock” in tending to his patients.

I do not have any words of wisdom to offer our elected officials. I do not want to share my personal beliefs about why we have so many mass shootings in this country. There are many factors that all contribute. Focusing on only one factor is a recipe for failure. There is no simple answer, but there is an answer, and it means taking a serious analysis of all the contributing factors. 

Earlier in other posts I have noted that once a problem is defined, the solution is easy.

The problem of violence has not been adequately defined. Yet!


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