Monday, September 5, 2011

With These Hands - Labor Day Reflections

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,”  Colossians 3:23
As I look at my hands I am reminded of my dad.  As I remember what dad’s hands looked like, I have my dad’s hands.  They serve as a visible connection from one generation to another.  
As I look at my hands I am reminded of God’s blessing to me with a godly wife.  With the single silver wedding band, I am reminded of the commitment I made to her and to God to love, honor and cherish always.  
As I look at my hands I see the scars of carelessness that fortunately became transformed into wisdom locked away in the mental caverns.  Note to self: wrenches tend to slip off bolts when knuckles are within striking distance of metal.  Another mental note to file: sickles and knife blades are designed to cut through softer skin.
As I look at my hands I can remember that they have exchanged greetings to a former president, government leaders of all levels, influential business leaders, motivational speakers, renown individuals in sports and very well known Christian leaders.  Multimillionaires and the impoverished a like.

As I look at my hands I recollect holding newborns taking the first breathes and the dying breathing their last.  The “bookends” of life are represented in these hands of mine.
These hands have administered discipline, comfort and encouragement.  These hands have wiped dishes, tables and tears; delivered groceries to the struggling, carried water to the thirsty, and given money to the needy.  
While these hands have been a blessing, they also have been the source of sorrow.  These hands have been raised in anger, clinched in defiance and tools in the tempter’s workshop.
With these hands I have accomplished so much!  I am absolutely positive that whatever your position or station in life, your hands have also accomplished so much as well.  Undoubtedly, you have already begun to reflect on what your hands have done.
Considering the verse of scripture from Colossians 3, our labor, that which we do with our hands, is not to be done for our own “back patting” or for the applause of others.  Our labor is to serve one purpose: to bring glory to God.
As we resume our work schedule this week, let us remember that with these hands of ours we honor God through our labor.  With this in mind, many of us will go back to our jobs realizing we work for a new boss.  
Have a safe and wonderful Labor Day!

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Whenthen" Disease

There has been a resurgence of an old disease. The consequences of this disease can be catastrophic! Symptoms often include lethargy, compliance, resignation, passivity and mild to extreme cases of procrastination.

It may seem odd, but sufferers of the “Whenthen” disease are easily recognizable by their speech patterns. The following examples will help you recognize sufferers and carriers of the “Whenthen” disease. Perhaps you will discover you have fallen victim to this debilitating disease!

“When the kids go back to school, then I will get organized.”

“When the weather gets cooler, then I will get on a exercise program.”

“When I get caught up on my bills, then I will get serious about saving money.”

“When the economy turns around, then I will be able to get a better job.”

“When my spouse changes their behavior toward me, then I will be happily married.”

By now you get the idea! Right? “Whenthen” isn’t a medical condition, but a mental attitude which can subtly take over your life and in turn determines your present and your future.

Think about it for a moment: How many years have the kids started school and your still unorganized? How many changes of seasons have you witnessed and still hope one more will motivate you to exercise? How often have you talked about getting caught up financially only to be at the same place struggling year after year? How frequently have you blamed the economy for your “dead-end” job? How often are you dependent on your spouse’s actions or attitudes as the source of your happiness in marriage?

As your reading this, you are probably thinking, “Wow, I’m glad there were only five examples!” Just because there were only five examples, doesn’t mean the “Whenthen” disease hasn’t crept into other areas of life. Honestly assess where and when you succumb to this disease. Remember, honesty is the best policy!

After the honest assessment, determine to get well by taking action. Even a small step is better than no step at all! Refuse yourself the option of wishing your life away; take action today.

In closing, a personal story that illustrates the price tag of not taking action. Frustrated by the rising costs of health insurance, I was determined to find another alternative. In February, I began the paperwork to switch to another type of coverage that reflected my faith values. For what I thought were good reasons, I set it aside. And it stayed aside until today! Failing to execute the plan, cost me six months of time, energy expenditures of revisiting the plan and roughly $6,000.00 in health care savings.

One last thought: “If not now, when?”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thoughts for Sunday, August 28, 2011

This evening (Saturday) I have had one eye on the local radar weather map, one eye out the window to see if the radar map is accurate and one eye on the growing list of worship cancellations for Sunday. If the rain and wind arrived as forecasted for our area, more than likely our worship service for tomorrow will be cancelled as well.

With this in mind, I want to share a few thoughts from a very appropriate scripture considering our recent sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount and Hurricane Irene. I invite you to reflect on these thoughts this weekend. Use them in a family devotion when you get up Sunday morning.

Jesus concludes His sermon on the Mount with the words, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24f)

Doers and Doers Not - Everyone who hears the message of Jesus has a choice to make: Will they embrace the message and incorporate His teachings into a lifestyle or will they choose their own way? Unfortunately, this “fork in the road” is very common place today. I wish that it were really as simple as a one time “fork in the road”, but it is frequently I must decide my way or His.

When we stand at the “fork in the road”, we are confronted by the easy-hard dilemma. One way appears to be easy and the other way looks hard to commit to. We have become a society that wants easy every time. Very few employ the discipline of hard choices now for huge rewards later on.

Wise and Foolish Builders - The decision to be a Doer or a Doer Not is likened to builders selecting the foundation on which to build their home. The Wise builder selected the secure rock as his foundation, but the Foolish builder selected the sifting sand as his foundational material. As I consider these two different builders, I see the Foolish builder being impatient and too busy, in a rush to get the job done so that he move on to the next project. I can relate to that approach in life and perhaps you can also.

When we are so caught up with the events of life that we just go from one thing to another, one decision to another, like we are on autopilot, then we can quickly become unintentional Doers Not. In the busyness, we can get confused and disoriented between what is really the way of Jesus or which is really our own way.

Preservation and Destruction - The outcomes are as different as can be. The Wise builder whose home enjoyed the permanent foundation of bedrock was preserved even though the rain fell, the floods came and the winds blew and beat on the house. The Foolish builder witnessed the destruction of his home during the storm because the foundation was not solid.

So, what are the lessons?

1) The wise way to life is to live our life after Jesus’ teaching. Such wisdom leads to preservation.

2) The foolish way to life is to live our life by our own understanding. Such foolishness leads to destruction.

How will you choose?

Family Activity:

Sing the Sunday School song: "The Wise Man Built His House on the Rock" (A Google search will yield the words)

Talk About It:

What are some easy choices we make in life? What are some hard choices?

When did you stand at a “fork in the road”? How did you choose what to do? What was the outcome? Parents, this is especially important to share these answers with your children.

Are there some teachings of Jesus that we reframe to suit our choices?

Can you give examples of people who have made foolish choices that have lead to their destruction? Wise choices?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Value of a Penny

It would appear that long ago the penny fell out of favor with the American people. Those copper coins stamped with Lincoln’s image are found behind sofa cushions, in junk drawers, stockpiled in gallon jugs, on sidewalks and in parking lots. Many of today’s young adults and youth see no value in the penny. Perhaps even you might not bend down and pick up a penny as it isn’t worth the effort.

Recently, I heard noted speaker, Brian Tracy, give an interesting example concerning the value of a penny. Mr. Tracy stated that if you started with one penny on day one and it became two pennies the second day; four on the third day; eight on the fourth day; sixteen on day five; thirty-two on day six and so on doubling every day for thirty days you would have at the end a total of $5,368,709.12. That’s right over $5.3 million dollars!

Hearing Mr. Tracy make a point of this little exercise, took me back to the days of my childhood. Occasionally, my parents and I would drive by a mansion on a little hilltop just north of Phoenix, Arizona. Every time, without fail, my father would point out that nickel’s built that mansion. He would go on to explain that it was the sale $.05 packs of chewing gum, that enabled William Wrigley, Jr. to pay for that mansion. By the way, the estimated cost of the Wrigley mansion in Phoenix was $1.2 million around 1930. Now that’s a lot of gum.

Back to Brian Tracy: he made the point that most people end the process around the tenth day when the value is $5.12. Spending at this point on a designer coffee or fast food lunch in a bag is really no big deal in our mind - after all its only $5.12. However in doing so, we short change ourselves and our future. Pun intended!

Some critics would say that such a doubling of a penny every day for a month is impossible in real every day life. Yes, that would be nearly impossible. However, the exercise proves the fact that every penny is valuable!

You remember the often quoted the phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”? It was Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom that caused parents to coin the phrase in instructing their children on the value of money. Franklin’s adage equates saving with earning. A concept whose favor has fallen on difficult times as well.

Here are some helpful ideas to save those pennies:

  • Know what you need before you go shopping. Make a list and stick to it. It is so easy to get caught up in the “spending of the moment.”

  • Plan ahead for sales or discounted items. Most things go on sale in some sort of cyclical pattern.

  • Be an informed shopper. In this internet age you can be a very knowledgeable consumer.

  • Say “No” to using credit cards. Avoid the temptation to buy on credit what you can not afford to pay cash for.

  • Use coupons whenever you can. Little savings add up to big savings in a year’s time. Only buy products/services with coupons that you normally would. If you don’t use it or need it, it really isn’t a savings.

  • Buy in bigger quantities when practical to do so. Compare the price per ounce/serving before buying bigger quantities. Sometimes it costs more for bigger because stores know that consumers think bigger is cheaper.

  • Avoid name brands. Generic brands are cheaper and very rarely is the quality much different.

  • Take (pack) lunches, snacks and drinks from home. A bit of preparation before you leave the house for the day can save you big money away from home. It is nothing to spend $7.00 or more at lunch for fast food. Packed lunches are better in quality and cheaper. Plan ahead and save.

  • Take advantage of yard sales, thrift shops and websites like Second-hand bargains can save money as well.

Truly, pennies earned and/or saved do add up over time. You will be surprised at how much they accumulate with careful planning and spending. It does take discipline to keep at it, but the rewards are tremendous.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Life "In Response"

The long awaited week has come and, unfortunately, gone.  It was our week!  Our week of reconnecting, refocusing and renewing body, mind and spirit.  Walking together holding hands cut down on the number of purchases to be made.  Perhaps that was the plan - I'll never tell!  Just Bev and me in the semi-quaint town of Newport, Rhode Island for seven whole days.  

Walking among the shops, eating in the restaurants, and exchanging greetings with the shopkeepers and wait-staff, one thing became crystal clear.  You will have returned to you what you extend to them.  If we were reserved, then the response would be reserved.  If we were friendly in our banter, then that is what we got back.  If we were complimentary, then, well, you get the idea.

This philosophy of life in response with life seems to have been addressed a time or two already in the history of humankind.  One such occasion which comes to mind is referred to as the "Golden Rule".  You might remember it - "Do to others what you would have them do to you" and was spoken by Jesus Christ.

One has to wonder when this powerful life philosophy stopped being taught by teachers, passed down by parents, preached by pastors and practiced by just ordinary people.  If it were practiced on a daily basis, it could alleviate traffic congestion where drivers jockey for position by letting that driver in front of you (as if one car length makes any difference to arrival time).  The practice of the "Golden Rule" could fire up many marriages if a spouse stopped to think "would I want to be talked to like that?"  Think how any relationship, regardless of how intimate, could be made better, if we asked ourselves first, "Is that the way I would want to be treated?"  

Certainly, the "Golden Rule" could make a huge difference if lived out!  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Value of a Friend

It has been said that "a dog is man's best friend".  Ordinarily, our dog Maggie would be somewhere toward the top of the list.  But tonight is not her night to be anywhere the list.  Easter candy proved to be to great a temptation for her.  She "OD" on Mike and Ike's and Milk Duds.  The "man's best friend" stuff came to a screeching halt with the discovery of the evening version of morning sickness.  You get the idea.  
What is the value of a friend? Is there a monetary amount that can be accessed for a friend? Hardly can one place a value on a friend.  In reality, the true value of a friend is only determined when they are no longer a part of one's life.

If a dollar value could be accumulated for each friend, then I, of all people, would be an extremely wealthy man.  I start my accumulation of wealth with my wife of twenty plus years.  Certainly a treasured gift of God to me!  (This is where most people would question what I did to end up in the doghouse and if I had any idea how long I would be there.)  Seriously, I did marry my best friend!

From there my "wealth of friendships" continue to grow.  Extended family members marked by quirkiness. School friends reacquainted and college chums reconnected through Facebook. Church members in the struggle together.  Business associates busy exercising their talents. Just to name a few!  Every person brings their own uniqueness.  Each individual forms a beautiful, vibrant mosaic of friendship which I enjoy.  Without a single one, my mosaic would be like a jig-saw puzzle with pieces missing.

Perhaps it is enough to just know that I am blessed by the people who have touched my life in great and small ways over the years.  Perhaps that is just a feel good statement to relieve my guilt for not telling people exactly how they have blessed me.  Unfortunately, it is much easier to live life at a pace not so conducive to let friends know how much they are valued.

Let us pick one friend this week to let them know how special they are to us.  I'll go first: "You are very special to me.  Thanks for sharing your beauty with me!" 

The true value of a friend is only determined when they are no longer a part of one's life.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Reports of My Death - Exaggerated!

Mark Twain and I have something in common.  Both he and I can say that the report of my death was an exaggeration.   And now for the story behind the lead in...

"Pastor Kochsmeier, this is Pastor Kochsmeier", reported the recorded message on my cell phone voicemail.  Continuing on, the unfamiliar voice of my second cousin, Bruce, stated that he had received a fax which might be of interest to me.  I returned his call, much to the bewilderment of his church secretary, who more than likely had never heard a strange voice pronounce "Kochsmeier" with such a native flair.

The facts of the fax indicated that Bruce was being contacted by a lawyer from Spain on behalf of late (as in dead, not simply tardy) Mr. David Kochsmeier.  Bruce supposedly was the next of kin.  Better than the report of my demise, was the amount of money I had deposited in a Spanish bank just before my death.  It was a whopping $15,500,000.00!  I had supposed the economic downturn had affected even my off-shore accounts and I was nowhere close to that anymore:)

Lessons to be learned from the facts of the fax:
1) Don't be so stiff, people, especially lawyers, will think your dead.  
2) Take a deep breath every so often, just to keep them, especially lawyers, guessing.
3) Don't believe everything you read, especially if written by a lawyer.

The most important lesson, seriously is: Spread your wealth around by investing in people and ministries that help other people with basic needs for life.  You can't take euros, pesos or greenbacks with you when you really do die.  As my dad used to say, "You never see a hearse pulling a U-haul".

Bonus lesson: 
If you are reading this, find someone who is breathing and hug them tightly for a moment.  You never know when the report of your death won't be exaggerated!!