Translating Hugo: “L’Autre” from “A Guernesey”

My French Quest

Guernsey beach-xlarge

This is the third post in a series of my English translations from Victor Hugo’s L’art d’être Grand-Père.Hugo wrote a series of poems to his grandchildren, Georges and Jeanne, after he became their guardian following their parent’s untimely death in 1871. Several of these poems were written about his daily walks with his grandchildren in the Jardin des Plantes and my next three blogs will refer to these precious promenades in the Jardin des Plantes; however, I am writing today’s blog as a tribute to my blog followers in Guernesey.

Guernsey (Guernesey is the French spelling) is one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel (or known as La Manche to those who live in France!) near the French coast. There is evidence of Roman settlement from 100 AD  in the ruins of La Plaiderie and St Peter Port.  The most interesting fact about Guernsey, for me…

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Texas Baptist Executive Board makes wise decision, yet heart-breaking.

Yesterday the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas face once again a very trying and difficult decision. In response to the actions of three prominent churches who decisively choice to affirm “same sex unions” and to be open and affirming to those who have chosen to openly live a homosexual lifestyle, the Executive Board voted 63-6 that these three congregations were “outside of harmonious cooperation.” This action terminates long standing and cooperative relationships with these congregations much to the dismay of many who long to find a better way.

Wilshire Baptist Church of Dallas, First Baptist Church of Austin, and Lakeshore Baptist in Waco, all three churches, knew without doubt that their actions would lead to this showdown of values and principles, yet they moved forward putting the relationship at risk. There are no victims here, except for those who will be disillusioned once again as the sons and daughters of God squabble over love, grace, truth and holiness.

On a personal level, I believe the actions of the Executive Board were right, yet difficult beyond measure. Standing firm for one’s convictions about revealed divine truth cannot be for the faint of heart in our day. What decades ago seemed to be timeless principles and standards are now all called into question, yet truth stands the test of time.

Our partnerships with Wilshire, First Austin, and Lakeshore will be missed, but choices have consequences especially in relationships. I wish them well. I pray God will continue to manifest Himself in their midst and guide their actions. I only regret they choose the path that divides rather than seeking ways of greater cooperation and understanding.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.–Jesus (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

Once again we feel the cutting edge of division in the ranks. I pray I will be found in step with the Lord.

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Thought for Today

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
William G.T. Shedd

In a world that longs for safety, adventure calls many to go deeper and farther in a quest for significance. I pray I will be the kind of person has a heart willing to set sail into the unknown.

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Pass the Hat

 

Years ago I heard a story about two men knelling at the altar late at night in a dark remote sanctuary. The younger of the men was a struggling young father between jobs pleading for help to pay his rent. He desperately needed $500 to keep his family from being evicted from the tiny apartment. Meanwhile the man next to him knelt in his expensive pinstriped Armani suit pleading with God to help him close a deal for $10 million for his investment firm. As the rich man overheard the pleas of his poor neighbor at the altar, he decided to interrupt.

Tapping the young man on the shoulder, he smiled and said, “Here, let me help you.” He pulled out his billfold and removed five crisp $100 bills and handed him the money saying, “I hope this helps.” The young father with tears in his eyes awkwardly hugged the rich banker thanking him over and over again until he finally ran out of the sanctuary heading home to tell his wife of the miracle he had just experienced.

Once the swinging of the back doors of the sanctuary stopped, and the room returned to silence, the rich banker knelt again looking up to the heavens saying, “Lord now that I have your undivided attention…as I was saying…”

Generosity can come in all shapes and sizes, and for all kinds of different reasons. A few days ago I witnessed a very moving act of generosity in a much unexpected place. Just before lunchtime I decided to drop in on one of my favorite ministries in the life of our church called “Camino de Luz.” This neighborhood group meets twice a month for Bible study, fellowship, training, and lunch. What started out as an outreach to the senior adult women of our neighborhood some eleven years ago now has become a thriving community of men and women, who love God, love each other and see themselves as a force for good in the world.

As I slipped in the back of the room I spotted a couple of the ladies gathered over a baseball cap full of money. Like a large green salad of ones and fives I witnessed the ladies with smiles on their faces counting the money.

I asked Edgardo Martinez, our Minister of Missions, what was up and he informed me that a young man and his mother from South America had shared their plight. They shared their story of how they needed the prayers of the people. However, “Camino de Luz” was not willing to simply pray, this group of neighborhood friends most of whom live week to week on meager incomes, decided to literally “pass the hat” and gather an offering.

As I watched the ladies counting the offering which amounted to $111.00 I was deeply moved. Over the last few years, I have witnessed this group be transformed from a gathering of friends sharing lunch to a movement determined to make a difference in their world. When we give God half a chance with our hearts and lives He loves to transform us more and more into His image.

After the offering I sensed a deep abiding joy in the room, I could tell those who gave had received the joy that comes only through generosity. It should not be a surprise to us that Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7 ESV). Interestingly enough cheerfulness follows generosity. Happy people give. Sad people hold on too tight.

Let me close with the prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi who wrote:  “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek–To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”
By the way, “Camino de Luz” means “path of light.” Giving lights the way!

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President and the Prince

 

Imagine opening up a brand new restaurant in El Paso? Obviously you would want to start with a world-class chef and then you would want to find a prime location because most everyone knows that often success revolves around “location, location, location.” If you doubt this adage just check out where you find McDonald’s located then look around and see all the people and traffic. You don’t think “Big Macs” sell by accident do you?

However, a great chef and a strategic location alone cannot spell success, as any successful restaurateur knows; you also have to have a great team serving the customers. Danny Meyer, a New York City legend in the restaurant business hires for success. Forbes Magazine in June 2015 ran an article entitled: “Hire Like Meyer: Danny Meyer Reveals His 6 Secrets Of Great Customer Service Hiring.”

 Always looking for tips about leadership and service his secrets intrigued me. Here are his six secrets to great customer service hiring:

  1. Optimistic warmth (genuine kindness, thoughtfulness, and a sense that the glass is always at least half full);
  2. Intelligence (not just “smarts” but rather an insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning);
  3. Work ethic (a natural tendency to do something as well as it can possibly be done);
  4. Empathy (an awareness of, care for, and connection to how others feel and how your actions make others feel);
  5. Self-awareness (an understanding of what makes you tick);
  6. Integrity (a natural inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and superb judgment).

 

As I read the list, I realized I could capture what he described so well in one biblical word—the word “hospitality.” You find this word popping up time and time again in the New Testament for instance: the writer of Hebrews recommended: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2 ESV) What an amazing concept, showing simple kindness can open you up to a whole new world of reality right under your nose.

Paul added:  Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” (1 Timothy 3:2-3 ESV) Did you notice right in the middle of his description of the attributes of godly leaders you find his reference to being “hospitable.”

The word “hospitality” in Greek is a compound word literally meaning “to love a stranger like a family.”  When you see someone with the gift of hospitality get them on your team as quickly as possible. In fact as I review the qualities of great customer service, I see in the list the essence of “servant leadership” demonstrated by Jesus himself. We need more humble leaders.

Speaking of “servant leaders” a few days ago, my grandson George Walker Scott, who I affectionately call “Prince George”, had the rare opportunity to meet face to face his namesake President George W. Bush in his office in Dallas. In a remarkable act of hospitality, President Bush welcomed my daughter Lorin, son-in-law Philip, and especially Prince George into his world treating them like family during an extended visit. For nearly half an hour my kids became the center of his attention. He even nicknamed my little grandson “Little W” as he terrorized his office rifling through his personal items right under the nose of the Secret Service.

Once again I was reminded why the LORD selected President Bush to serve in the Oval Office at such a critical time in human history. His humility demonstrated through hospitality reveals the depth of his character. Today more than ever we need leaders like that, and I pray my little Prince George grows up to be like his namesake George W. Bush, if he does…watch out world because he comes “Little W.”

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Pass the Pizza: Presidential Politics

This week the presidential candidates turned their focus to the State of New York and the Big Apple—New York City with its primary looming just over the horizon on April 19th. Ohio Governor John Kasich had quite a week in the Empire State. In the same week he received the endorsement of the New York Times along with Hillary Clinton (which may be good news or bad news depending on how you see it) and he flunked the New York Pizza test at Gino’s Pizzeria in Queens by eating his pizza with a fork!!

Yes, this gaff made national news from Good Morning America to Politico. You can’t make this stuff up—life truly is stranger than fiction. If you step back and look at how we choose our leaders you have to wonder what we are thinking or better if we are thinking at all.  This particular political season has been mind boggling on many levels if not nauseating.

Sadly, politicians and their handlers have turn running for office into a “blood sport” with essentially no rules or healthy boundaries. It appears candidates will say and do practically anything to try to get the upper hand by sinking lower and lower into the gutter. I am not sure we have enough character to handle a Twitter feed with only 140 characters. #thinkbeforeyouhitsend.

John Maxwell, former pastor and leadership guru rightly noted: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I suspect all of us have found this to true from the little league coach, manager of the local fast food joint, church planter, captain of a company of soldiers to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

So if leadership truly makes all the difference, the selection of leaders must be of paramount importance. In the National Football League each year the coaches and general managers host a combine for college athletes seeking to play on the biggest stage in sports. Not only do they measure the speed, strength and agility of the student athletes but they also administer what they call the “Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test” developed by Eldon F. Wonderlic, who designed this fifty question test administered in just twelve minutes to identify one’s problem solving abilities. Score low on this test and you may not ever get a chance to score on the field.

Jim Collins, who spent much of his research career analyzing great companies and great leaders made the following observations:

Great vision without great people is irrelevant…get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus…In determining the right people, the good-to-great companies placed greater weight on character attributes than on specific educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge, or work experience.”

 Yes, character counts! I liked to call it the “Big C” when my little girls were going up and facing an opportunity dressed in the disguise of a problem or challenge. I would remind them God continually seeks to instill character into those He loves and believes in. James nailed it when he wrote: Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4 The Message)

Before we turn our attention too quickly to criticize those in leadership, we would be wise to look into the mirror of our hearts and souls. Are we, men and women of character, or do we expect qualities in our leaders that we do not expect of ourselves? Remember what Paul said: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

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(Un)apologetic

 

A few weeks ago, while standing outside the doors of our sanctuary following our Upward Basketball Celebration, a grandfather of one of the little dribblers pulled me aside to ask a question saying, “Pastor, I need your help. My grandchild asked me the other day, why does God allow tornadoes and storms to destroy homes and take the lives of people? So what do you think and what should I say?”

I must confess I would have been a bit more comfortable talking to this grandfather of a little basketball player about the advantages of zone defense vs. man-to-man defense on the court, but I knew I needed to help him navigate one of the many spiritual mine fields we face together.

So what would you say in a conversation that would last less than fifteen minutes but could actually be the basis of a graduate theological class for an entire semester? Before I share how I replied, let me fast forward to another conversation after a recent church service where I preached on the two most important people who have ever lived—Adam and Jesus. With a big smile on his face one of our members inquired, “Where did Adam’s sons get their wives?” In this case, I smiled thinking to myself, “I don’t have any idea!”

If you have been paying attention you realize we live in a rapidly changing society. When one compares the beliefs of the “Greatest Generation” with their great, great grandchildren at times it is hard to believe they came from the same family and grew up in the same nation. For instance, 75% of the “Greatest Generation” would say religion remains a very important part of their lives and 56% attend church nearly every week, while only 40% their great, great grandchildren the “Millennials” would concur that religion is a very important part of their lives, and only 18% attend worship on a regular basis according to the Pew Research Center in 2010.

If you look at the trends on moral issues in American from same-sex unions, immigration, legalization of marijuana, and abortion one can see the “faith of our fathers” must have taken a detour at some point along the way. Take the fundamental question of “Where did we come from…did we evolve or were we created by God?” 50% of those with gray hair and a birth certificate dating back to the 1940’s at least  would confess they believe God created human beings in their present state, while 65% of those born after 1980 would state the human race evolved into its present form with or without the help of God.

Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, challenged the believers in the first century who lived in a world much like our own to be ready and willing to stand up and speak out for the cause of Christ saying: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV)

Back to my answer to the grandfather, I reminded him to never underestimate how the curse of sin has marred creation.

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