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Living the Code

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It was early Sunday morning. As the young minister was getting ready to leave the parsonage to open the small country church that he served, he decided to bring his eight-year-old son with him. It would give him a better understanding of what his father did.

After opening the church the minister placed the offering plate just inside the entrance of the church.Young Minister The custom was not to pass the plate, but to allow people to place money in the plate as they left the church. And, just to remind the parishioners what the plate was for, he placed a ten dollar bill in it.

The small congregation arrived. The service was a nice one, with an inspiring sermon from the young minister.

After the service was over and the minister was closing the church, he and his son went to the offering plate. All that was in there was the ten dollar bill that the minister had placed in it. Picking up the ten spot, he sadly placed it in his pocket.  

With the simple wisdom only an eight-year-old can have, the son said, “You know dad, if you had put more money into the offering plate you would have gotten more out of it.”

Go the distance.

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We’re all familiar with that dynamic character and President, Theodore Roosevelt. What many people don’t know about him is that before he was President Theodore Roosevelthe was a cattleman, cowboy and deputy sheriff in the Dakota Territory.

One time while in the Dakota Territory when Roosevelt entered a saloon, a bully thinking Roosevelt to be an easy mark called him four-eyes and tried to force Roosevelt into buying him drinks. Roosevelt responded by punching out the bully. Then when three men stole his row boat, Roosevelt had another one built and, as deputy sheriff, spent two weeks chasing them down and bringing them to justice.

Actually, Theodore Roosevelt maintained that had he not had his experience in the West he would have probably not had the drive to become President. At one time Roosevelt wrote the following:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actively in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Go the distance.

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A businessman was walking down a sidewalk in New York on his way to work when he saw a homeless man standing against a building. The businessman stopped and took a close look at the homeless man. He recognized him as a high school classmate.

The businessman walked up to the homeless man and asked, “John, is that you?”

“Yes, I’m John. Who are you?”

“I’m Bob Johnson, your buddy from high school. What happened?”  

“Well, I’ve been on a streak of bad luck.”

After a short conversation Bob reached in his jacket, pulled out his checkbook and wrote John a $1,000 check.

bank interiorJohn eagerly accepted the check knowing that the $1,000 would give him another chance. John walked over to a nearby bank and entered the lobby. Looking around at the opulent lobby and the well-dressed tellers, John became intimidated and walked out of the bank never cashing the check.

Throughout our lives we are given opportunities. But often we don’t take advantage of them because we don’t believe we deserve the success those opportunities may bring. Take full advantage of all opportunities. Go the distance.

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I was complaining to Cowboy Joe about someone who had offended me, when he said, “You know.”

Now, I know that when he says “you know,” I probably don’t…know.

“You know, wolvesI have to fight being resentful to people who have offended me. It’s like having two wolves inside me; one is good and he does no harm. He will only fight when it’s right to do so, and in the right way.

“But…the other wolf…the littlest thing will send him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, for no good reason. He can’t think because his anger and hate are so great. He’s helpless to anger.  

“Sometimes it’s hard to live with these two wolves inside me, because they both want to dominate me.”

I said, “O.K. Cowboy Joe, now I know. But which one wins?

He smiled and said, “The one I feed.”

Respect yourself and others.

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This month’s “Living the Code” is supposedly a true one involving the Queen of England’s yacht. On this particular occasion, Yachtit was traveling strange waters at night. The yacht’s lookout saw a bright light coming directly at them. He notified the captain. The yacht’s captain told the signalman to signal the oncoming ship to alter its course. The signal came back. “You alter your course.”

Angrily, the queen’s captain told the signalman to send, “This is the captain of the queen’s yacht. You alter your course.”

The signal came back, “This is the keeper of the lighthouse. You alter your course.”

Although it’s essential that we “go the distance,” sometimes as we’re doing so we encounter an obstacle that requires us to change our course. We just need to make sure that the obstacle doesn’t cause us to stop dead in the water. 

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With Christmas just behind us, we probably still have a couple of gifts that we haven’t exchanged for the right color or correct size.

It’s nice to give, and even more exciting to receive.  But, we shouldn’t accept every gift that we’re given.  Let me explain.

There’s a story Gift Baskettold of a wise man being approached by a stranger with the objective of provoking the wise man into becoming angry.  After the stranger had spent several minutes piling vindictives against the wise man, the wise man, in a calm tone said, “Let me ask you a question.  When a person is offered a gift, and he chooses not to receive it, to whom does it belong?

“It remains the possession of the person offering the gift,” replied the stranger.  

The wise man then said, “I choose not to accept your anger.  Therefore it belongs to you.”

This story should be a message that no matter what people say to us, it isn’t true until we accept it as truth.

Conversely, when someone gives us a compliment that also isn’t true until we say, “Thank you,” and graciously accept the gift.

Respect yourself.

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Three young turtles decided to go on a camping trip. They hiked for about a half day and found a nice place to pitch their tent. Turtle

Now, their mother had made a tasty cake for them. As soon as they got the camp all ready, they decided to have a piece of the cake. Searching their packs, they realized they had left their knife at home. Being well-mannered turtles, they didn’t want to tear off a piece. So, they decided the youngest turtle should hike back home and get the knife.

The youngest turtle complained that while he was gone his brothers would eat the cake. They assured him they would wait for his return. As the youngest turtle left the camp he said one last time, “Now, don’t eat the cake while I’m gone.”

The two turtles settled in for the wait. A day went by and there was no little brother. Two days went by. Still no brother. At the end of the third day, the two turtles determined their brother had decided to stay at home and not return to camp.

They decided just to rip off a piece of the cake and eat it. Just as they put the first piece in their mouth, the youngest turtle jumped out of the bushes, and said, “I knew you would eat the cake, that’s why I never left.”

Too many times we are like that turtle; we are so sure something bad is going to happen that we actually make it happen. That's called a “self-fulfilling prophesy.” We know we’re going to fail, and so that we aren’t disappointed, we fail.

Go the distance.

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The other day I was talking to Cowboy Joe about my teenage nephew Billy. "Joe, that boy just doesn't seem motivated. His dad and mom send him to all sorts of camps and extracurricular activities trying to find out what he wants out of life. So far, it all seems in vain. And it seems no amount of prodding is going to change things either."

"He's not the center of a taffy pull," said Joe. "It seems like his folks don't know what they want him to be when he grows up. I have a hunch though. Remember when we used to get the fresh raw milk at the farm?”
Milking Cow
“Sure. It sure tasted great.” I responded.

“Why did you like it better than the store milk?"

"That's easy" I said, "In the morning I would get up and pour me a big glass because all the cream would rise to the top. That's the best part!"

"What would have happened if you had stirred the milk first?" said Joe.

"Well, the cream would have gotten mixed with the rest and lost all of it’s specialness." There was a smile on my face. I was starting to get the picture.

"Some people are like that cream," said Joe. "Left alone, they rise to the top without interference from others. Maybe Billy is like that."

You know, he just might be right. It is our life, and we need to be the person to decide how to live it.

Our thanks to Sidekick 001, Gordon Eaton for this story!

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The other Sunday our pastor told us about a fishing tournament in which he had recently participated. This was his first tournament and his partner hadn’t been in many more.

FishingThey had borrowed a friend’s boat that had all the bells and whistles.

With high expectations they backed the boat into the lake. Just as the tournament began they noticed there were several inches of water in the bottom of the boat. Anxious to get to shore, they attempted to start the motor. But nothing happened. The water had shorted out the electrical system. Using the small trolling motor, they limped back to the dock.

With the boat getting lower in the water, they backed the trailer down the launch ramp. As they pulled the boat out of the water, the trailer came unhitched from the truck.

After what seemed to be hours, they got the trailer hitched back on the truck and discovered the reason for the leak in the boat was their neglecting to insert the drain plug.

Even though the tournament was well under way, and they were still unable to start their main motor, they decided to do what they had come to do…fish. Using the trolling motor, they slowly worked their way about the lake.

At the end of the day they brought their catch to be weighed. And to their surprise…as well as everyone else’s…they ended up in third place.

They were truly modern day cowboys in fishing vests and baseball caps, because they went the distance.

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John Wesley Powell was a self-trained naturalist and a one-armed explorer John Wesley Powellwho had lost the other arm during the Civil War. He became enthralled with the continental United States’ last piece of unmapped wilderness along the Colorado River that included the Grand Canyon. In May of 1869 Powell, eleven men and four wooden boats started the decent down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon.

The expedition was under funded, and the unknown river was treacherous. Almost daily the expedition was on the brink of disaster. Then, on August 27, the party heard the roar of a giant rapid. When they investigated it, they found the worst rapids yet. According to Powell, “the billows are huge and I fear our boats could not ride them.”John Wesley Powell

The next morning, convinced the rapids were impassable, three men decided not to continue the voyage. They said goodbye to Powell, and started up the side of the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

The remaining members climbed into the boats, and pushed off into the rapids. Amazingly, all of the boats made it through the great rapid. Even more amazingly, they emerged at the John Wesley Powell boatmouth of a great lake. The first people they encountered was a surprised search party looking for the remains of their supposedly lost expedition.

When Powell reached a settlement, he inquired about the men who had left the expedition. They had been less fortunate. When they got to the top of the canyon, they had encountered a war party of Indians, and were killed.

The three men would have lived if they had gone the distance.

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I stopped by the house of our mythological cowboy, Cowboy Joe, the other day. He was picking up rocks from his front yard and putting them in a bucket.

“Looks like the bucket is full,” he said matter-of-factly.

“It sure is,” I responded.

Cowboy Joe smiled. He walked over to the driveway. Grabbed a couple of hands full of gravel, and placed them on top of the rocks. He then shook the bucket, and the gravel disappeared between the rocks.

“Now, is it full?”

Hedging my bet, I said, “It sure looks like it.”

He then went over to the sand box he had built for his grandson, and put a couple of hands full of sand in the bucket, again shaking the bucket. The sand disappeared.

“Is it full now?”

Wising up, I bucket responded, “Probably not.”

He then took the bucket over to the water hydrant, and filled it with water.

“Now, it’s full,” said Cowboy Joe with a big smile.

“I got it. What you’re trying to show me it that no matter how full my days are, if I try really hard, I can always fit something else into them.” I was pleased with myself.

“Wrong! What I’m trying to show you is if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all. Make sure you take care of the important thing first, grasshopper.”

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It was a nice warm spring afternoon. Cowboy Joe and I were resting on the bank of a local river with fishing poles in hand and lines in the water…I can’t say we were fishing, because we really didn’t care if we caught anything or not. We were just enjoying ourselves as we rested and shot the bull.

In that slow drawl he has, Cowboy Joe said, “I was just reminded of a situation I head about awhile back. It seems some men were fishing for catfish along the bank of a popular river in the mid-west. Suddenly, they heard someone yelling from the middle of the river. One of the men pulled off his shoes; jumped in the river; and brought the person over to the bank.

As the men were helping Bridgethe rescued person, and the rescuer out of the water, they heard another person yelling for help. With the rescuer exhausted on the bank, another man jumped into the river after the second victim.

Just as they got to the shore, the men heard a third person yelling for help. A third man jumped into the water, and rescued this victim.

As the men were congratulating themselves on the great job they had done, a man on a horse rode by, coming from up-river. The man on the horse said, ‘You know, rather than spending your time trying to rescue people, you should be up river stopping the man who’s throwing them off the bridge.’”

With that Cheshire cat smile of his, Cowboy Joe said as he casually picked up his fishing pole, “Being a truly good friend and neighbor might just be more than helping someone out of trouble. Just maybe we ought to help them avoid trouble.”

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Recently Cowboy Joe stopped by to “chew the fat”, as he calls it. As you know, each time we get together, he has some story with a point, to share with me.

This time I was ready with one of my own.

I started out by saying, “You know, Cowboy Joe, I recently took a plane trip back east. On the flight home, I was setting next to a businessman in a suit and tie. Even though I was wearing Wranglers and a plaid shirt, he struck up a conversation.Airplane

“As we were crossing over Colorado he said to me, ‘See that lake we’re flying over? When I was a kid, I fished that lake. I would look up at the plains flying overhead and dream about some day being a passenger in one of those planes. Now I fly over that lake, and dream about sitting on its bank and fishing.’

I then smiled at Cowboy Joe and said, “To often, we’re either remembering the past or looking forward to the future. We need to live fully in the present and enjoy it. The present is where life is happening.”

Cowboy Joe just smiled back and said, “You know boy, you’re learnin’. You’re learnin.”

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Indian performing rain danceThe other day I was over at Cowboy Joe’s place. We were sitting on the front porch drinking some Cowboy’s Best Coffee when in almost no time at all it clouded up and started raining. We needed the rain, and since we were under the eave of the porch, we just continued sitting there enjoying the smell of fresh rain in the air.

“Well, I guess the Indians must have had another rain dance,” said Cowboy Joe.

“How do you know that?” I responded.

“Because the Indians are always successful when they do the rain dance.”  

“Always successful? Why is that?” I queried.

“They’re always successful because they keep dancing until it rains.”

Go the distance.

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