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    In recent years a head coach divorced his wife of 26 years when he left coaching a college team to become head coach in the National Football League. He said he needed a wife while coaching on the college level for social functions and to show families that he would be looking out for their sons. In pro football, however, she was an unnecessary accouterment and a distraction to winning. He said winning football was his number one priority and his two sons second. How tragic! 

    In contrast to this, Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas cowboys said, "The thrill of knowing Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to me ... I think God has put me in a very special place, and He expects me to use it to His glory in everything I do ... whether coaching football or talking to the press, I'm always a Christian ... Christ is first, family second and football third."

    Source Unknown.

    A group of friends went deer hunting and paired off in twos for the day. That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under an eight-point buck.

    "Where's Harry?" he was asked.

    "Harry had a stroke of some kind. He's a couple of miles back up the trail."

    "You left Harry laying there, and carried the deer back?"

    "Well," said the hunter, "I figured no one was going to steal Harry."

    Bits & Pieces, March 3, 1994, p. 5.

    Clovis Chappell, a minister from a century back, used to tell the story of two paddleboats. They left Memphis about the same time, traveling down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. As they traveled side by side, sailors from one vessel made a few remarks about the snail's pace of the other.

    Words were exchanged. Challenges were made. And the race began. Competition became vicious as the two boats roared through the Deep South.

    One boat began falling behind. Not enough fuel. There had been plenty of coal for the trip, but not enough for a race. As the boat dropped back, an enterprising young sailor took some of the ship's cargo and tossed it into the ovens. When the sailors saw that the supplies burned as well as the coal, they fueled their boat with the material they had been assigned to transport. They ended up winning the race, but burned their cargo.

    God has entrusted cargo to us, too: children, spouses, friends. Our job is to do our part in seeing that this cargo reaches its destination. Yet when the program takes priority over people, people often suffer. How much cargo do we sacrifice in order to achieve the number one slot? How many people never reach the destination because of the aggressiveness of a competitive captain?

    Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm,  Word Publishing, 1991, pp. 97-98.

    Elsa no longer remembers what the argument was about, but it began before breakfast one morning and continued as Steve started off to work.

    "How can you just go off like that?" cried Elsa. "We haven't settled a thing!"

    Then Steve did what few men as ambitious and driven as Steve is could do: he turned around and went to the phone and canceled all his appointments for that day, "saying to me, in effect, that our relationship meant more than business meetings, saying that I'd married a man who would sacrifice work for love."

    Reader's Digest, August, 1982.

    Soon after Angi and David's sixth anniversary, the couple's home burned to the ground. Angi's first act, when they were allowed to hunt through the blackened remains, was to search for their photo albums. When she went to tell David that the pictures had indeed survived, she found him carefully placing in a box some charred, folded pieces of paper -- their courtship love letters.

    "As I watched David kneeling there in the ashes," she says, "I was overcome with the certainty that we were meant for each other. There, in the face of our greatest tragedy, our first thoughts were not of our material loss but of the potential loss of these precious parts of our life together. As I knelt to help him with the letters, I was certain that we hadn't lost anything that mattered after all." 

    Reader's Digest, August, 1982.

    Haddon Robinson points out that one old recipe for rabbit started out with this injunction: "First catch the rabbit." Says Robinson: "The writer knew how to put first things first. That's what we do when we establish priorities -- we put the things that should be in first place in their proper order.

    Source Unknown.

    Over the triple doorways of the cathedral of Milan there are three inscriptions spanning the splendid arches. Over one is carved a beautiful wreath of roses, and underneath it is the legend, "All that which pleases is but for a moment."

    Over the other is sculptured a cross, and there are the words, "All that which troubles us is but for a moment."

    But underneath the great central entrance to the main aisle is the inscription, "That only is important which is eternal."

    If we always realize these three truths, we will not let trifles trouble us, not be interested so much in the passing pleasures of the hour. We should live for the permanent and the eternal.

    Source Unknown.

    In Berlin art gallery is a painting by German painter Adolf Menzel (1815-1905). Only partially finished. Intended to show Fredrick the Great speaking with some of his generals. Menzel painted generals and background, left king until last. Put outline of Fredrick in charcoal, but died prior to finishing.

    Many Christians come to end of life without ever having put Christ into his proper place, center stage. 

    Karl Laney, Marching Orders, p. 45.

    We cannot decide whether or not we will live or die; we can only decide what we will die for. 

    Bob Pierce.

    Someone once asked Tom Landry why he had been so successful as a football coach. He said, "In 1958, I did something everyone who has been successful must do, I determined my priorities for my life God, family, and then football."


    That great missionary to India, William Carey, became deeply concerned about the attitude of his son Felix. The young man, a professing Christian, had promised to become a missionary. But he broke his vow when he was appointed ambassador to Burma.

    Carey requested prayer for him: "Pray for Felix. He has degenerated into an ambassador of the British government when he should be serving the King of kings." 

    Our Daily Bread.

    Jimmy Johnson, when coaching on the college level, had a wife and the appearance of a marriage because it was expected of college football coaches. The wife and family was needed for social occasions. The day he was named head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, he set about to rid himself of this excess baggage. He threw her away like yesterday's newspaper. He didn't need her any more and he didn't lose any time in losing her. He confessed that he never bought his boys birthday or Christmas presents. He just didn't have the time, and they weren't a priority. So he single-mindedly threw himself into his football team, and in January, 1993 he made it to the top, #1, they won the Superbowl. So what's he going to do next year, and the year after that, and ...

    Source Unknown.

    Milt Rood worked for years and years in Spokane as a car salesman. He was also very active with the Union Gospel Mission work with juvenile delinquents. Week by week he'd patiently teach the Word and pray with young boys in trouble. One week Milt went into the Hospital for exploratory surgery. The doctors found he was full of cancer. They sewed him up again and sent him home. He died within a week. After the funeral, Ron Kinley remarked, "It's interesting that at the funeral no one ever asked how many cars he had sold!" 

    Source Unknown.

    Surprised to see an empty seat at the Super Bowl stadium, a diehard fan remarked about it to a woman sitting nearby. "It was my husband's," the woman explained, "But he died." "I'm very sorry," said the man. "Yet I'm really surprised that another relative, or friend, didn't jump at the chance to take the seat reserved for him." "Beats me," she said. "They all insisted on going to the funeral." 

    Coffee Break.

    Someone has calculated how a typical lifespan of 70 years is spent. Here is the estimate:

    Sleep................23 years...........32.9%

    Work.................16 years...........22.8%

    TV....................8 years...........11.4%

    Eating................6 years............8.6%

    Travel................6 years............8.6%

    Leisure.............4.5 years............6.5%

    Illness...............4 years............5.7%

    Dressing..............2 years............2.8%

    Religion............0.5 years............0.7%

    Total................70 years............100%

    Our Daily Bread, November 25, 1992.

    A few years ago, the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, MO made public 1,300 recently discovered letters that the late President wrote to his wife, Bess, over the course of a half-century. Mr. Truman had a lifelong rule of writing to his wife every day they were apart. He followed this rule whenever he was away on official business or whenever Bess left Washington to visit her beloved Independence.

    Scholars are examining the letters for any new light they may throw on political and diplomatic history. For our part, we were most impressed by the simple fact that every day he was away, the President of the United States took time out from his dealing with the world's most powerful leaders to sit down and write a letter to his wife. 

    Bits & Pieces, October 15, 1992, p. 15-16.

    A group of friends went deer hunting and paired off in two's for the day. That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under an eight point buck.

    "Where's Harry?"

    "Harry had a stroke of some kind. He's a couple of miles back up the trail."

    "You left Harry laying there, and carried the deer back?"

    "A tough call," nodded the hunter, "but I figured no one is going to steal Harry." 

    The Jokesmith, Christian Clippings, p. 27.

    A lighthouse along a bleak coast was tended by a keeper who was given enough oil for one month and told to keep the light burning every night. One day a woman asked for oil so that her children could stay warm. Then a farmer came. His son needed oil for a lamp so he could read. Still another needed some for an engine. The keeper saw each as a worthy request and measured out just enough oil to satisfy all. Near the end of the month, the tank in the lighthouse ran dry. That night the beacon was dark and three ships crashed on the rocks. More than 100 lives were lost.

    When a government official investigated, the man explained what he had done and why. "You were given one task alone," insisted the official. "It was to keep the light burning. Everything else was secondary. There is no defense."

    Source Unknown.

    The body of David Livingstone was buried in England where he was born, but his heart was buried in the Africa he loved. At the foot of a tall tree in a small African village the natives dug a hole and placed in it the heart of this man who they loved and respected.

    Source Unknown.

    If your heart were to be buried in the place you loved most during life, where would it be? In your pocketbook? In an appropriate space down at the office? Where is your heart? A number of years ago I spent a summer teaching in Mexico. Both my children went with me. To pass the time as we drove, my 3-year-old son Larry watched for license plates. The trip to Mexico netted him plates from 24 states, and while we were there he saw four more. So when we started back, he was over halfway to having "collected" all 50. 

    Our return trip was during the peak vacation season, and to top it off, we went through Yellowstone National Park -- a license-plate collector's paradise. By the morning of the second day there, he had just one more state to go: Delaware. Larry became obsessed with finding a license plate from Delaware. When we stopped to see Yellowstone's magnificent sights, he didn't glance at them. He preferred to run up and down the parking lots, looking at license plates. Talk about stress! Talk about anxiety! You would have thought that his whole life depended on finding a Delaware license plate! 

    When we stopped to eat in a cafeteria near Yellowstone Falls, my son begged me to let him look for license plates. Please, I don't want to eat," Larry said. "Can't I just stay here in the parking Lot?" "No," we told him, "you have to eat." So he went inside and ate as quickly as he could get the food down and then headed out to the parking lot. No sooner had we finished our meal, however, than Larry came bounding across the parking lot. "Come here! You've got to see it! You won't believe it if you don't see it!" All of us went running out -- and there, just pulling out of a parking space, was a blue Volkswagen bus with Delaware license plates. In fact, we got a picture, and even today, a decade dater, when we look at our Yellowstone pictures, that's the picture that tells more about what we did in Yellowstone than anything else. 

    Signs of the Times, August, 1992, p. 12.

    Tom Peters is the co-author of two of the most widely read books on the subject of work in the twentieth century. His second book, A Passion for Excellence, sets forth the mandates for excellence in the work arena. He's emphatic about the need for prioritizing the customer, backing up your product with thorough service, and working from the strength of integrity. He draws his discussion of excellence to a conclusion by talking about its cost. An honest but alarming statement appears in the last page of the last chapter of the book. We are frequently asked if it is possible to "have it all" -- a full and satisfying personal life and a full and satisfying, hard-working professional one. Our answer is: No. The price of excellence is time, energy, attention and focus, at the very same time that energy, attention and focus could have gone toward enjoying your daughter's soccer game. Excellence is a high cost item.

    As David Ogilvy observed in Confessions of an Advertising Man: "If you prefer to spend all your spare time growing roses or playing with your children, I like you better, but do not complain that you are not being promoted fast enough." 

    Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway, p. 187.

    In her book A Practical Guide to Prayer, Dorothy Haskins tells about a noted concert violinist who was asked the secret of her mastery of the instrument. The woman answered the question with two words: "Planned neglect." Then she explained. "There were many things that used to demand my time. When I went to my room after breakfast, I made my bed, straightened the room, dusted, and did whatever seemed necessary. When I finished my work, I turned to my violin practice. That system prevented me from accomplishing what I should on the violin. So I reversed things. I deliberately planned to neglect everything else until my practice period was complete. And that program of planned neglect is the secret of my success." 

    Daily Bread.

    There is an old legend of a swan and a crane. A beautiful swan alighted by the banks of the water in which a crane was wading about seeking snails. For a few moments the crane viewed the swan in stupid wonder and then inquired: "Where do you come from?"

    "I come from heaven!" replied the swan.

    "And where is heaven?" asked the crane.

    "Heaven!" said the swan, "Heaven! have you never heard of heaven?" And the beautiful bird went on to describe the grandeur of the Eternal City. She told of streets of gold, and the gates and walls made of precious stones; of the river of life, pure as crystal, upon whose banks is the tree whose leaves shall be for the healing of the nations. In eloquent terms the swan sought to describe the hosts who live in the other world, but without arousing the slightest interest on the part of the crane.

    Finally the crane asked: "Are there any snails there?"

    "Snails!" repeated the swan; "no! Of course there are not."

    "Then," said the crane, as it continued its search along the slimy banks of the pool, "you can have your heaven. I want snails!"

    This fable has a deep truth underlying it. How many a young person to whom God has granted the advantages of a Christian home, has turned his back upon it and searched for snails! How many a man will sacrifice his wife, his family, his all, for the snails of sin! How many a girl has deliberately turned from the love of parents and home to learn too late that heaven has been forfeited for snails! 

    Moody's Anecdotes, pp. 125-126.

    During the early days of the Salvation Army, William Booth and his associates were bitterly attacked in the press by religious leaders and government leaders alike. Whenever his son, Bramwell, showed Booth a newspaper attack, the General would reply, "Bramwell, fifty years heace it will matter very little indeed how these people treated us; it will matter a great deal how we dealt with the work of God." 

    W. Wiersbe, The Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 185.

    It was in 1873, in Dublin that D.L. Moody heard British evangelist Henry Varley utter those life changing words: "The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him." It was after an all-night prayer meeting in Dublin, at the home of Henry Bewley. Varley did not even remember making the statement when Moody reminded him of it a year later. "As I crossed the wide Atlantic," Moody said, "the boards of the deck...were engraved with them, and when I reached Chicago, the very paving stones seemed marked with them." The result: Moody decided he was involved in too many ministries to be effective and therefore began to concentrate on evangelism. 

    W. Wiersbe, The Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 200.

    A weakness of all human beings, " Henry Ford said, "is trying to do too many things at once. That scatters effort and destroys direction. It makes for haste, and haste makes waste. So we do things all the wrong ways possible before we come to the right one. Then we think it is the best way because it works, and it was the only way left that we could see. Every now and then I wake up in the morning headed toward that finality, with a dozen things I want to do. I know I can't do them all at once." When asked what he did about that, Ford replied, "I go out and trot around the house. While I'm running off the excess energy that wants to do too much, my mind clears and I see what can be done and should be done first." 

    Bits and Pieces, September 19, 1991, p. 18.

    Taking first things first often reduces the most complex human problem to a manageable proportion.

    Dwight Eisenhower.

    In his book Feminine Faces, Clovis Chappel wrote that when the Roman city of Pompeii was being excavated, the body of a woman was found mummified by the volcanic ashes of Mount Vesuvius. Her position told a tragic story. Her feet pointed toward the city gate, but her outstretched arms and fingers were straining for something that lay behind her. The treasure for which she was grasping was a bag of pearls. Chappel said, "Though death was hard at her heels, and life was beckoning to her beyond the city gates, she could not shake off their spell...But it was not the eruption of Vesuvius that made her love pearls more than life. It only froze her in this attitude of greed."

    Clovis Chappel, Feminine Faces.

    The founder of McDonald's, Ray Krock, was asked by a reporter what he believed in. "I believe in God, my family and McDonald's," he said. Then he added, "When I get to the office, I reverse the order."

    Source Unknown.

    The last thing one knows is what to put first. 


    Is reading the Bible a necessary part of your day or does it have a low priority in your life? George Mueller, after having read the Bible through one hundred times with increasing delight, made this statement: "I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the Word of God. Friends often say, 'I have so much to do, so many people to see, I cannot find time for Scripture study.' Perhaps there are not many who have more to do than I.

    For more than half a century I have never known one day when I had not more business than I could get through. For 4 years I have had annually about 30,000 letters, and most of these have passed through my own hands.

    "Then, as pastor of a church with 1,200 believers, great has been by care. Besides, I have had charge of five immense orphanages; also, at my publishing depot, the printing and circulating of millions of tracts, books, and Bibles; but I have always made it a rule never to begin work until I have had a good season with God and His Word. The blessing I have received has been wonderful."

    Jay Carty, Counter Attack, Multnomah Press, 1988, p. 155ff.

    A number of years ago a fascinating interview took place between Mr. Charles Schwab, then president of Bethlehem Steel, and Ivy Lee, a self-styled management consultant. Lee was an aggressive, self-confident man who by his perseverance had secured the interview with Mr. Schwab, who was no less self-assured, being one of the most powerful men in the world. During the conversation, Mr. Lee asserted that if the management of Bethlehem Steel would follow his advice, the company's operations would be improved and their profits increased. 

    Schwab responded, "If you can show us a way to get more things done, I'll be glad to listen; and if it works, I'll pay you whatever you ask within reason." 

    Lee handed Schwab a blank piece of paper and said, "Write down the most important things you have to do tomorrow." Mr. Schwab did so. "Now, " Lee continued, "Number them in order of importance." Schwab did so. "Tomorrow morning start on number one, and stay with it until you have completed it. Then go on to number two and number three and number four...Don't worry if you haven't completed everything by the end of the day. At least you will have completed the most important projects. Do this every day. After you have been convinced of the value of this system, have your men try it. Try it as long as you like, and then send me your check for whatever you think the advice is worth." The two men shook hands and Lee left the president's office. A few weeks later Charles Schwab sent Ivy Lee a check for $25,000--an astronomical amount in the 1930s! He said it was the most profitable lesson he had learned in his long business career. 

    K. Hughes, Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, Tyndale, 1988, p. 54.

    It was reported that eleven millionaires went down on the Titanic. Major A.H. Peuchen left $300,000 in money, jewelry, and securities in a box in his cabin. "The money seemed a mockery at that time," he later said. "I picked up three oranges instead." 

    Resource, July/August, 1990.

    Fans of the American Wild West will find in a Deadwood, South Dakota museum this inscription left by a beleaguered prospector:

    "I lost my gun. I lost my horse. I am out of food. The Indians are after me. But I've got all the gold I can carry!" 

    Today in the Word, March 1989, p. 34.

    The story is told of a prosperous, young investment banker who was driving a new BMW sedan on a mountain road during a snow storm. As he veered around one sharp turn, he lost control and began sliding off the road toward a steep cliff. At the last moment he unbuckled his seat belt, flung open his door, and leaped from the car, which then plummeted to the bottom of the ravine and burst into a ball of flames. Although he had escaped with his life, the man suffered a ghastly injury. Somehow his arm had been caught near the hinge of the door as he jumped and had been torn off at the shoulder. A passing trucker saw the accident in his rearview mirror, pulled his rig to a halt and ran back to see if he could help. When he arrived at the scene, he found the banker standing at the roadside, looking down at the BMW burning in the ravine below. Incredibly the banker was oblivious to his injury and moaned, “My BMW! My new BMW!” The trucker pointed at the banker’s shoulder and said, “You’ve got bigger problems than that car. We’ve got to find your arm. Maybe the surgeons can sew it back on!”` The banker looked where his arm had been, paused a moment, and groaned, “Oh no! My Rolex! My new Rolex!



    First Things First

    It is rather comical when the primary things are made secondary. Victor Borge told about a couple going on vacation, standing in line waiting to check their bags at the airline counter. 

    The husband said to the wife, "I wish we had brought the piano." 
    The wife said, "Why? We've got sixteen bags already!" 
    The husband said, "Yes, I know-- but the tickets are on the piano!"