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
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
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,
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
"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."
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 ...
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!"
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."
Someone has calculated how a typical lifespan of 70 years is spent. Here is the estimate:
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.
"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."
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
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
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
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."
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
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.
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."
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
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."
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
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
The wife said, "Why? We've got sixteen bags already!"
The husband said, "Yes, I know-- but the tickets are on the piano!"