The pastor started out this morning’s message with the question; “What’s worse than finding a worm in the apple you’re eating? Finding half a worm.” The insinuation being you are already eating the other half. It’s gross but it’s funny. His message was about being good, having true character, inside and out.
Google defines authenticity as; “the quality of being reliable, dependable, trustworthy, credible; accurate, truthful.” That is a lot for a person to live up to. We live in a world where the president’s lawyer said last week; “What is the truth? There is no truth.” The president himself is seen as a man whom constituents from both parties agree has a difficult time with the truth. The cardinals, bishops and perhaps the pope(?) in the Catholic church, the head coach at Ohio State University, Republican and Democratic congressional candidates, and many others from all walks of life seem to find telling the truth, being of true character, a challenge.
True character starts from the inside and makes it way out. Who we are, what we are, will always be revealed sooner or later. The question; “Am I an authentic person? A person of true character?” is one of the most important and ultimately life-defining we can ask. However, don’t stop until you can answer it with certainty and clarity.
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Bad News –
A new pastor, on his first Sunday, preached the sermon and following the dismissal prayer, greeted people at the door as they were leaving. A man in a bright red sports jacket was next in line and before the preacher could say anything he blurted out; “That was a terrible sermon!” Taken aback the pastor tried to figure out his next words but the man left before he could reply. After a while, he noticed the man in the bright red sports jacket in line again. This time he said; “You could not have possibly studied for that message. It was a mess!” Again the pastor was at a loss for words and the man was gone. As the line to meet the new pastor was ending he couldn’t believe the last person in line was the guy in the red sports jacket! “I don’t know if I’ll come back if that’s the best you can do!” Abruptly he walked out the door and this time the pastor watched him get into his car and drive away. The new reverend, obviously shaken by this man’s constant critique saw a group of folks in the foyer, wandered over, and asked’ “What is the deal with the man in the red sports jacket?” “Oh, don’t worry about him replied a parishioner. He only repeats what he hears other people saying.”
Bad news. Sometimes we expect it other times it takes us by surprise. No matter who we are, what we do, sooner or later we get bad news. It may be from our spouse, boss, doctor, friend, co-worker, or stranger. The challenge isn’t what to do if bad news comes but when it shows up. Our choices following an announcement of bad tidings are often more important, and have a greater impact, than the news itself. The space in between the news and the choices we make are critical. This is why wisdom, knowledge, peace, acceptance, clarity should be discovered now. When bad news comes chances are you will do what you know and many times the battle is won before the soldier takes the field.
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Elephant in the Room –
I was talking with someone earlier this week about a situation he is experiencing. He is forced to make a choice between one thing and another. It’s not a choice he doesn’t want to make. As he belabored the unjustness of the decision, listing the pros and cons, complaining about the consequences of each side of the coin, I asked him a simple question. “What’s the elephant in the room?” He paused and reflected. “What do you mean?” he inquired. “Dig deeper, past the choice and the consequences, what’s the reason you’re having to make this decision?” He was quiet, then took a deep breath and answered. He had clarity. Like a man in a cloudy stream, only when his mind was still, did the water clear.
I once had a co-worker whose personality and mine didn’t click. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It’s the way it is sometimes. He was in charge of employee evaluations. When we met in his office he read over my “grades” and was surprised they were all high. “I didn’t expect this!” he exclaimed. I sat there thinking; “You didn’t expect this because I’ve never had issues with anyone or any part of this job. The problem is you don’t like me and this colors everything.” We chatted and then I left thankful for my scores but still burdened by the negative relationship.
Wisdom teaches us to make sure we deal with the thing that matters not everything else.