Try it, You Might Surprise Yourself!

NOTE: My computer has been down for repairs for two weeks. Although I lost some valuable files, praise God, I’m now back up and running again!

The Vision
At a writer’s conference, I participated in last winter, I saw a fellow author wearing a T-shirt emblazoned as follows: “10,000 Words – One Day!” Is this guy bragging? I wondered, Or is this his goal?

Ten-thousand words is the equivalent of fifteen of my weekly InSights & OutBursts blog posts. That’s a lot of words! For years, I have been keeping track of all my major writing, not just blog posts, but letters, stories, prayers and diary notes. My goal is 1,000 a day, 7,000 a week and 30,000 a month. I usually surpass my monthly goal, except during vacation or when I have trouble with my laptop. (Like just recently!)

The Plan
In June, with a travel-filled summer vacation looming ahead, I was aware of numerous auto-biographical stories rolling around in my head. So, having talked it over with Jo, my partner in everything I do, and with Jesus, the Source of these stories, I committed to meet this 10,000 words goal, not just one day but several days in a row. I had no idea if I could do it. I might run out of stories to write, or get physically or mentally exhausted. I just didn’t know. But I did know it would take intense, uninterrupted concentration, so I made a plan.

The following Monday morning I set up and plugged in our motor home behind the barn on a friend’s farm. No Internet, phone shut off, and several prominently displayed “Do Not Disturb” signs to keep me focused. By 9:00 a.m. I was writing. After a couple of hours, I went for a brisk thirty-minute walk, then wrote again. I kept doing that and by evening, I had logged 10,000 words of first draft, original writing, and had walked five miles. Yippee!

tINY DISTURBThe Result
The next day, I did it again! And the next! By Friday, late afternoon, I had written 50,000 words, and walked 25 miles! I felt great, both in body and in mind, satisfied that I had a good first draft start on my next book of God-honouring stories. Also, I was very surprised. I had no idea I could do this. I hope to do this again after summer, I thought, as I drove home with gratitude to Jesus in my heart.

How to Surprise Ourselves
We all know that our enemy, Satan, loves to discourage God’s people from using our talents and native abilities to accomplish things that bring God honour—things we may have done successfully in some small measure, but hesitate to do in a major way. Sometimes he fills our hearts with a false humility, and makes us think, Oh, I could never do a job that big!, blotting out of our minds the Scripture that says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I have leaned on that affirmation numerous times in our decades of ministry. Translating a collection of stories from the life of Jesus is one thing, but to tackle the translation of Romans is quite another.

It’s one thing to lead a Bible study in a small group, home meeting, but quite another to travel to a foreign country, and speak ten times at a deeper-life conference to a large congregation, through interpreters. That is certainly another case of needing to lean strongly on Jesus’ strength. And being surprised at the positive result!

Many of us would happily take a Saturday to help a neighbour or a church member renovate his basement, or fix up his garage. But what about going on a two-week missions trip at our own expense and be part of a construction crew to build a church somewhere on the mission field?

Others of us routinely cook meals for our families and occasional guests. What about leading a team of volunteers to prepare 300 meals for destitute, homeless men and women once a week?

Most of us church-going folk put something into the offering plate each Sunday. But how about committing to give a substantial amount regularly to a special project, becoming partners with a missionary, or helping to get a major missions program started?

To surprise ourselves by accomplishing a great task for God requires commitment, and reliance on God’s Word. May God daily remind us that we really “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”
But first of all, we need an inspiring vision—maybe from a T-shirt!

Summer Blogging Break

InSights and OutBursts Summer Blogging Break 

You looked in vain for an InSights & OutBursts blog post from me the last two weeks.
Here’s why:
 

Jo and I had to deal with some unexpected medical issues, (CPAP machine fitting for Jo’s sleep apnea, and treatment for a badly infected tooth for me). So, the usual summer blogging break started earlier than expected this year. 

Do Not DisturbTen-week-long Summer Plans

  • A week at a writer’s retreat for me, holed up like a hermit, alone in the motorhome, hidden in a copse of trees behind a barn on a friend’s farm. Do Not Disturb!
  • Motto for that week: 10,000 Words: One Day! You can interpret this as “Someday I will write 10,000 words in one day”, or “I plan to write 10,000 words every day that week”. In any case, I want to focus on writing God-honouring stories for my autobiography.
  • A week-long visit to the North Okanagan in our motorhome visiting old friends and attending a music festival.
  • Three to four weeks of travel and family vacation in California! (Hopefully some book publishing time as well.) And a Bible School reunion tacked on the return trip.
  • A couple of trips in the motorhome for Jo and me to explore parts of Alberta we haven’t been to before.
  • A week of cleaning up and renovating TheWordMan website, and the InSights & OutBursts blog site.
  • Oh, and I want to read a dozen good books this summer.

 Have a Great Summer! I’ll see you again in September!
Jack

The Story of Pentecost in Two Contrasting Versions

Why Stories from Different Cultures Are So Similar
I grew up listening to Dutch folktales, read voraciously in English during my early years in Canada, enjoyed Brazilian stories in Portuguese, studied Canela legends, and know all the Middle Eastern Bible stories by heart. I wondered why stories from these five different cultures seem to have similar plots and structure.

An anthropologist, Levi-Strauss, taught me that these timeless stories hang together because they all follow certain rules. Elements in each major tale relate to each other, both in the way they are similar and in the way they contrast. What’s more, one element in each pair is often positive, while the other may be negative, just as health contrasts with disease, and clean contrasts with dirty.

The Moses and Joshua Example
Here, for instance are how the stories of Moses and Joshua are similar: Both were chosen by God. Both led Israel. Both performed miracles. Both accomplished their tasks.

Here are the contrasts: One was old: one was young. One was a shepherd: the other a trained warrior. One led them out of bondage: the other led them into freedom. One was highly educated in Egypt’s royal court: the other was an ignorant slave.

Around the world, all enduring stories are structured similarly because they all reflect the greatest story of them all; the timeless tale of God, His creation, human sin and God’s redemption.

Now The Two Stories of Pentecost
Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks, in Old Testament times was simply a harvest festival. Eventually, this turned into more of a remembrance of the time Moses received the Law on Mt. Sinai. And of course, for the Christian Church, we remember that it was on the first Pentecost after Christ rose from the dead, that God sent the Holy Spirit to the Church.

So, doing a quick study of these two major stories, here, in list form, are some similarities and contrasts:
MosesJewish Observance of Pentecost: Receiving of the Law.

  1. God’s servant Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Law
  2. This happened 50 days after their escape from Egypt (10 days of travel plus 40 days on Mount Sinai)
  3. Moses found the people feasting and playing before the golden calf
  4. Moses ordered the Levites to draw their swords and execute the idolaters
  5. As a result, 3,000 people lost their lives

Christian Observance of Pentecost: Receiving of the Holy Spirit

  1. God’s Holy Spirit came down from heaven with Power.
  2. This happened 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead (40 days of seeing Jesus alive plus 10 days of waiting in Jerusalem)
  3. The Holy Spirit found the disciples fasting and praying before God
  4. God ordered Peter to use the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and preach to the crowds
  5. As a result, 3,000 people received eternal life.

The apostle Paul may well have had this contrast in mind when he wrote to the Corinthian church, “The letter of the Law kills, but the Spirit gives life” 2 Corinthians 3:6.

Try This Yourself
Pick a pair of characters like king Saul and king David. Or the prophet Jonah and the apostle Paul. Check out the amazing similarities and contrasts in their stories.

That Dumb Computer in Our Head

That Dumb Computer!
It happens to me almost every day. I’m working on my computer, tapping away at the keys, and clicking with my mouse, when suddenly, “Whoa! That’s NOT what I wanted!”

Sometimes a line I want in bold print ends up in italics; at other times a whole page of writing disappears.

Why don’t computers do what we want them to do instead of doing what we tell them to do?

It’s because all computers are dumb. They process data, but they can’t think. They can only process the information and instructions we put into them. If we put in good information, we will get good results. The opposite is true as well.

GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) was the first acronym I learned when I first started using a computer way back in the 1970s. It’s still true. And not just for our electronic computers.

It is just as true for that biologic computer inside our heads. It too is dumb, and can’t think for itself. All it can do is respond to what information we put into it.

headfixProgramming the Computer in Our Head
We may not like computers. Some of us may not even own a computer, like a guy I know who still uses a cell phone with a rotary dial, but we can’t get away from the computer between our ears.

The apostle Paul, way back, two-thousand years ago, gave some excellent advice about programming our minds. “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

  • True: nothing false, unreal, lies
  • Noble: nothing indecent, shameful
  • Right: nothing wrong, inaccurate, incorrect
  • Pure: nothing lustful, polluted, unchaste, tainted
  • Lovely: nothing unattractive to God
  • Admirable: nothing despicable, worthless
  • Excellent: nothing poor, cheap, common
  • Praiseworthy: nothing that deserves criticism, unworthy.

Telling Ourselves the Truth
We input data by what we tell ourselves. If we tell ourselves something that is true, like, “God loves me unconditionally,” we are going to end up feeling positive about our relationship with Him and ready to face whatever the day holds.

But if we tell ourselves something that is false, like, “God has turned His back on me,” we will end up feeling hopeless and make decisions that take us from bad to worse.

It’s not only what we tell ourselves that is data for our computer, but what we expose ourselves to when we hang out with friends, when we attend church or watch television, or movies,  read books or magazines, or visit websites. All these furnish impressions that feed into our dumb mental computer, and we end up thinking about them.

The dumb computer inside our heads will process those Thoughts and turn them into Words that we repeat to ourselves. Those Words develops into Actions, and our Actions tend to become Habits. Habits develop into Character, and Character determines our Destiny.

My Morning Habit
We tend to become what we think about all day long. That is why, as a long-time habit, I take time every morning to program my brain. I divided my life into seven areas: Spiritual, Physical, Marriage and Family, Personal Development, Ministry, Social, and Financial. Then I wrote down a couple of affirmations of biblical truth about each one, as well as a goal that I can visualize myself attaining.

Each morning, as part of my meditation and prayer time, I read through these facts about myself and see myself attaining the goals. This sets my mental computer on a course to positive, wholesome thoughts, words, actions, habits, character, and destiny.

What kind of data are you putting into that computer in your head?