"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25

"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25
Midnight Blue (1963): Jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell featuring Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Major Holley on double bass, Bill English on drums and Ray Barretto on conga. Midnight Blue is one of Burrell’s best-known works for Blue Note Records. In 2005, NPR included the album in its "Basic Jazz Library", describing it as "one of the great jazzy blues records".

He said, She said...

"You are not designed for everyone to like you - Wise Man Phil

FRAGILE: Sting, Yo Yo Ma, Dominic Miller & Chris Botti

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Temptation: the act of tempting; enticement or allurement.

Two things come to my mind when I see three capital A's in succession; triple A emergency roadside assistance service, and secondly, Ohio high school sports from the 70' and 80's, when high school sports were divided into three state wide divisions. There was A (single A), AA (double A) and AAA (triple A).

That's it. Those are two things that come to my mind.

That's until I sat in church this past Sunday in Cincinnati, Ohio at Crossroads. My wife and I attended Sunday's service along with my oldest son, Logan. Crossroads is the church that Logan attends... hopefully, often and without fail.

No, this isn't Logan (with hat) singing lead in the church choir.


The sermon's foundation was built upon the "three" temptations of Jesus Christ that are found in Matthew 4:1-11.

After I read the scriptures in Matthew I soon realized that Christ was tempted in three areas that are universal to all of us today. Jesus was tempted by Satan in the areas of appetite, approval and ambition.

Allow me to share my take away and thoughts.

Appetite: a desire or liking for something; fondness; taste: an appetite for power; an appetite for pleasure.

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
-Matthew 4:1-4

We all have appetites. The appetite can be for food, health, wealth and, or wisdom. It can be an unrealistic desire for sex, success or selfish pursuits, more times than not our appetites are visible for the world to see without a word in the affirmative ever spoken. Appetites can affirm us, and unregulated pursuits of any appetite can cause pain to ourselves and to those close to us. 

Appetites can define us and they can destroy us. 

Hunger that runs amok always involve something that God gave to us for our good, but man in his infinite wisdom, and selfish desire, distorts what was meant for our good with a unquenchable, and unrealistic, desire, and pursuit, that will eventually damage us at the very least, and at the most it will destroy us if we are not careful. In the end, appetites can become an uncontrollable craving that leads to greed and gluttony. 

The genesis for our longings can be many different things. Generally speaking, the impetus can be a lost relationship with a parent, a social disconnection throughout our teenage years and, or an insecurity of some kind. A past hurt or an early denying of a wanted thing can motivate a future desire. Our appetite can target the flesh with sexual experiences and conquests being paramount, it can be a desire to entertain our self at any cost or pursue material wealth to such a degree that our lives become ruined in the process. I think it is important to state that appetites in of themselves are not bad; it is the unbalanced pursuit to satisfy an appetite that isn't governed by reason and restraint that can, and will, lead to a destruction of some sort. 

Distortion is the key word when discussing an unhealthy appetite. 

Example, I love to play golf, some would say that I'm obsessed with golf, and those that are of that opinion are most likely right. 

-Yes honey, I said you're correct in your assessment of my love, scratch that; obsession, for the game of golf. Please, just let it go. There is no reason for you to parade around our living room like a circus clown displaying your joy concerning my admission for my obvious love for the game of golf. Please, just relax. -

Anyway, the point that is important to review is that having an appetite for a legitimate activity in itself isn't bad. The problem occurs that when we take a legitimate pleasure and distort its importance, all the while hurting ourselves and those around us. The point is I can't hold my wife's hand or spend time with my children at the same time I'm playing golf. I can't do both at the same time with any suitable quality. It's important to recognize and eventually acknowledge that any pleasure, appetite we entertain will at some point test our character. When we deal with a God given pleasure and appetite in a manner that it is pursued without restraint, and balance, they will eventually cause us pain and lead us down a path where destruction is the final destination. 

In the end, we have to pursue our pleasures; our appetites with the end in mind. What will it cost to get what I so desperately want? More important, what will be the cost for those around me while I chase what I perceive to be important? What will be the cost to others close to me if I satisfy my appetite? Only you know the answer. Remember, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." No appetite is more important, or better satisfied, than the appetite centered upon an intimate, and personal, relationship with Christ. When that appetite is satisfied everyone that surrounds you benefits.

Approval: the act of approving; approbation. Formal permission or sanction.

"Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,
And said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
-Matthew 4:5-7  
Approval, we all seem to want it; we all seem to need it. Why? I think it's because God created us to seek approval; approval from Him, but many of us seek it in all the wrong places. We will often seek approval at the cost of doing what is right. All peer pressure can simply be described as a futile, vain and empty attempt to gain the approval of another human being. Satan admonished Jesus to throw himself down and prove that he was the Son of God. Satan wanted God to prove himself and in essence become approved by him with Jesus being obedient to his, Satan's, command. Good for Jesus, and for mankind, that He knew who He was and that He didn't need succumb to human, or satanic, pressure so as to be approved by Satan. 

A high need for approval is deeply rooted in insecurity. When we don't feel comfortable in our own skin and don't have a sober assessment of who we are we will become an easy target for peer pressure, mate manipulation and phony, and fake, friendships. The important fact to note is that Jesus knew who He was and that the only approval that mattered was that of His Father, God. And it is the same for us, when we realize who we are in Christ and that we were created by Him, and for Him, then we will become free of any longing to be approved by man. We realize through our acceptance of Jesus Christ that our approval has already been established through the blood of Jesus Christ that He shed on the cross. God loved and approved of us way before we were ever created. The only thing we need to do is acknowledge His love; His approval. When we give our life to God we immediately have a new identity, an identity that is based on Jesus Christ himself and not on anything we've done or will do. The fact that our identity is based upon a relationship that validates who we are at this very minute is important; who I am and who you are is of high importance to God. He might not approve our behavior, and He will never approve of sin in our life (the good news He will forgive us of our sin if we only ask and repent), but what He does approve of is us as His creation. He approves of us just as we are. 

In 1822 there was a 33 year old woman that was as beautiful as any women could ever hope to be. She was admired by many and was equaled by few. She was the daughter of a clergymen and cabinet maker, and the grand-daughter of Reverend Henry Venn.

Reverend Henry Venn 
(4 August 1834 – 4 April 1923)

Reverend Venn was well known for the fact that he supported the efforts of William Wilberforce to abolish slavery and that he was a man of God. His grand-daughter would eventually become a believer and follower of God too. The story has it that in 1822 patrons and invited guests had the privilege to hear a young girl recite verse and prose. Her voice was as beautiful as she was physically, and the clarity of her voice was crystal clear. And it was during this time a Rev. Dr. Caesar Malan of Switzerland met this most talented and physically beautiful women. At the conclusion of her performance many gathered around her to praise her performance. During this time the pastor waited, and at a private moment of opportunity, he introduced himself (Rev. Dr. Caesar Malan of Switzerland) and said, "Young lady, your talent and beauty are a thing of wonder. But, without Jesus, you are no better than the lowest prostitute out in our streets!" The young lady was shocked and hurt by these words and stated; "Sir! What you said is an insult beyond belief." At the end of the day, religion wasn't a topic she wanted to discuss. The 33 year old woman was Charlotte Elliott.

Who is Charlotte Elliott you ask? 

Please read on.

Charlotte Elliott

That night Charlotte was troubled, restless, and could not sleep. Ms Elliott had been very ill and was often bothered by severe pain, a pain that would eventually leave her incapacitated and would eventually render her to move in with her sister and her brother-in-law. It is reported that during this time of emotional hurt and spiritual darkness that she knelt beside her bed and prayed. It seems that the Holy Spirit used her abrupt and almost rude conduct towards God's servant to show her what depths of pride and alienation from God were in her heart. A few weeks later, she saw Dr. Malan and apologized, saying, "I am sorry for my rudeness. Actually I would like to come to Christ, but I do not know how to find him."  Dr. Malan looked at her and said, "Come just as you are!... You have only to come to Him just as you are," and with that statement she accepted Jesus as her savior that very day. Little did Malan know that his simple, but truthful, words would reverberate throughout the Christian world and in churches for centuries to come! See, twelve years later in 1834, Charlotte was in poor health and wanted desperately to help her brother, H.V. Elliott, raise money for a college that would support daughters of poor clergymen. And it was with this desire to aid her brother that her thoughts lead her one morning to be reminded of the poignant words Dr. Malan shared with her earlier; "Come just as you are." As she poured over the words her mind became filled with the words for a poem entitled "Just as I am".

The poem would be published two years later in 1836. Not realizing that Charlotte had written the poem, her doctor came by one day and handed her a copy of a poem leaflet. A tear streamed down her face as she read the six verses and was told that, "...copies of this poem are being sold and the money is being given to St. Mary's Hall at Brighton, England." It was the very school that her brother was trying to build. The school is still in service today and is considered one of the best schools in Great Britain. St. Mary's Hall is one of the oldest schools for girls in Great Britain, it was founded in 1836. 

Fast forward twelve years later, in 1849, Just as I am would become a song composed by William B. Bradbury. He was also the musician that composed "Jesus Loves Me"

William B. Bradbury
(October 6, 1816 – January 7, 1868)  

The words written by Ms Elliott and composed by Mr. Bradbury would become the great alter-invitational hymn that would be forever associated with Billy Graham's ministry.

The fifth verse in the song says this:

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Those words are our words of redemption; forgiveness. They're words that are about approval, and for all who choose to believe in Him, to claim as if they were written specifically for you; for me. Part and parcel of the good news is that God takes us just as we are. He approves of us no matter our past failure(s) or our current condition. He takes us just as we are... without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

God approves of us even if others, as well as ourselves, don't. 

We are marked with His blood; we are stamped with His approval.


Ambition: an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment: Too much ambition caused him to be disliked by his colleagues.

"Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’
Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him."
-Matthew 4:8-11
Christian singer and songwriter Rich Mullins, who tragically died in a car accident on September 19,1997 -he was 41 years old-, spoke some of the most insight words I've ever heard concerning the idea of ambition. Mullins spoke these words before he died: if my life is motivated by my ambition to leave a legacy, what I'll probably leave as a legacy is ambition. But if my life is motivated by the power of the Spirit in me - if I live in the awareness of the indwelling Christ - if I allow His presence to guide my actions, to guide my motives, those sorts of things, that's the only time I really think that we really leave a great legacy.

Ambition, like appetite and approval, as I mentioned earlier, are not bad in of themselves. It's what we focus our attention upon when it comes to our appetite, approval and ambition that will make all the difference.

Ambition can be an asset or it can be a liability, and the fine line that separates those two destinations is as fine as the hair on a horse's tail.

What we use as a standard for how we live our life will fuel, and feed, our appetite, set the course that we will travel in our search for approval, and ultimately determine and define our ambitions. 

If our ambitions entertain selfish behavior, succeeding and winning at any, and all, cost and carries with it any actions that incorporate the demeaning, and destruction, of another, then our ambition is no more than a childlike want that is centered around petulance, emotional immaturity and narcissism. The best ambitions are the ones that make everyone around you better. For those who play basketball, think of a point guard that passes the ball to open teammate for the best opportunity to score versus the point guard that looks to shoot first; pass second. The point being, no one wins if your ambition only concerns you.

At the end of the day, what we are ambitious about is more important than being ambitious.

1st Thessalonians 4:11-12 say's it this way:

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."

Ambition, like appetite and where we seek approval, will define us, and if we're not careful it can, and will, destroy us.

Galatians 4:4-6
adoption jewelry

As I finish this piece I can't help to be reflective and acknowledge the fact that I've struggled with all of these areas at some point in my life. Some areas I struggled with more than others, and at times the struggle lasted much longer than I would've wished. But at the end of the day, the fact still remains that I struggled mightily with all.

There were times that my appetite for what I wanted was out of control. My desires were devoid of any conscious concern, or care, for how my actions would affect another while pursing and feeding my desires. If narcissism were a five letter word I'm sure you could've spelled it S-H-A-W-N more than a few times in my life. In the end, my appetite devoured me, my desire for approval through material things and from people left me empty, and my ambition that was insecurely settled around me, and my needs, would prove to be a failed formula.

I ultimately had to adopt a new way of thinking; a new way to live my life.

It was through my desire to adopt "good change" in my life that I realized that God truly loves me and has set aside His best for me if I would just be willing to follow Him; obey Him. Obedience isn't about perfection, void of failure, obedience is about choice; the choice to give the Lordship of your life over to the One that deserves to be the Captain of our lives; leaving behind our desire to live life on our own terms instead of fully depending on Jesus Christ in every aspect and area of our life. 

And because of that new adoptive desire and mindset I realized that God was interested in adoption too; my adoption.

Galatians 4:4-6 states:

"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."

It's because of God's desire to adopt me that I understand more clearly that my appetites, need for approval and ambition(s) are better served centered around Him than me. God, and only God, can satisfy my appetite, stamp me approved and define what my ambition is to be while I live out the days of my life.

Finally, I find it somewhat ironic that as I write this piece I'm in the midst of reading one of the best books I've ever read. The book is entitled; "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson. The reason I find the timing of these two events interesting is because Steve Jobs was himself adopted as a child. His father was a Muslim and a Syrian immigrant; his mother, Joanne Simpson, was a Catholic from Wisconsin. It was arranged for the young Jobs to be adapted by a Lawyer and his wife, but plans didn't go accordingly as the couple eventually backed out. Thus it was a "high school drop out with a passion for mechanics and his salt-of-the-earth wife who was working as a bookkeeper" that would adopt Jobs.

Below is an excerpt from the book on the topic of his adoption: 

Steve Jobs knew from an early age that he was adopted. “My parents were very open with me about that,” he recalled. He had a vivid memory of sitting on the lawn of his house, when he was six or seven years old, telling the girl who lived across the street. “So does that mean your real parents didn’t want you?” the girl asked. “Lightning bolts went off in my head,” according to Jobs. “I remember running into the house, crying. And my parents said, ‘No, you have to understand.’ They were very serious and looked me straight in the eye. They said, ‘We specifically picked you out.’ Both of my parents said that and repeated it slowly for me. And they put an emphasis on every word in that sentence.”

Abandoned. Chosen. Special. Those concepts became part of who Jobs was and how he regarded himself. His closest friends think that the knowledge that he was given up at birth left some scars. “I think his desire for complete control of whatever he makes derives directly from his personality and the fact that he was abandoned at birth,” said one longtime colleague, Del Yocam. “He wants to control his environment, and he sees the product as an extension of himself.” Greg Calhoun, who became close to Jobs right after college, saw another effect. “Steve talked to me a lot about being abandoned and the pain that caused,” he said. “It made him independent. He followed the beat of a different drummer, and that came from being in a different world than he was born into.”

Later in life, when he was the same age his biological father had been when he abandoned him, Jobs would father and abandon a child of his own. (He eventually took responsibility for her.) Chrisann Brennan, the mother of that child, said that being put up for adoption left Jobs “full of broken glass,” and it helps to explain some of his behavior. “He who is abandoned is an abandoner,” she said. Andy Hertzfeld, who worked with Jobs at Apple in the early 1980s, is among the few who remained close to both Brennan and Jobs. “The key question about Steve is why he can’t control himself at times from being so reflexively cruel and harmful to some people,” he said. “That goes back to being abandoned at birth. The real underlying problem was the theme of abandonment in Steve’s life.”

Jobs dismissed this. “There’s some notion that because I was abandoned, I worked very hard so I could do well and make my parents wish they had me back, or some such nonsense, but that’s ridiculous,” he insisted. “Knowing I was adopted may have made me feel more independent, but I have never felt abandoned. I’ve always felt special. My parents made me feel special.” He would later bristle whenever anyone referred to Paul and Clara Jobs as his “adoptive” parents or implied that they were not his “real” parents. “They were my parents 1,000%,” he said. When speaking about his biological parents, on the other hand, he was curt: “They were my sperm and egg bank. That’s not harsh, it’s just the way it was, a sperm bank thing, nothing more.”

I have no way of knowing if Jobs appetite for innovation, his high need for his products to be approved by the world at large, or if his uncommon, and at time insane, ambition to build the greatest products, that in it of themselves become "game changers" for how we live our lives, were breed out of the pain of not being wanted at birth.

I have no desire to speculate.

But, what I will say is that when one experiences abandonment, the deepest form of rejection, it is hurtful; it is painful.

I also believe Jobs legacy will be one of a visionary in the arena of great technological advances and products, and a legacy that was centered upon tireless ambition.

I think it is interesting to note what Jobs said at the very end of his life concerning an incident with his parents at Reed College:

 "When it came time for Jobs to matriculate in the fall of 1972, his parents drove him to Portland, but in a small act of rebellion he refused to let them come on campus. In fact he refrained from even saying good-bye or thanks. he recounted the moment later with uncharacteristic regret: 

'It's one of those things in life I really feel ashamed about. I was not very sensitive, and I hurt their feelings. I shouldn't have. They had done so much to make sure I could go there, but I just didn't want them around. I didn't want anyone to know I had parents. I wanted  to be like an orphan who had bummed around the country on trains and just arrived out of nowhere, with no roots, no connections, no background'."

So there it is. I believe with that one statement Jobs expresses his predominate life theme of; Abandoned. Chosen. Special.

The pain from his abandonment is undeniable. His belief that he was entitled to whatever he deemed valuable gave pause to his belief that he was chosen; special.

And in the end that is exactly the three words that apply to me; apply to you. We all have been abandoned by the false prediction of a dangerous appetite, even worse some have been abandoned by one or both parents. We all have chased many waterfalls in the form of unnecessary approval, needlessly tiring our self in the process, and each one of us has been left empty by the pursuit of poor ambitions.

But yet, in the end, we all were chosen by God before we choose Him and because of that very fact we all are tremendously special to Jesus Christ.

 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[ predestined us for adoption to son-ship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
-Ephesians 1:3-6 

Through adoption we are free to simply enjoy the appetites, the approvals and the ambitions that God has set before us.

We can do this because we are chosen by Him.

We are special because He is Special.

sbb 7.3.12


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