A Message for Control Freaks (& all of us!)

February 20, 2018

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…” (Philippians 4:6)

Have you ever heard someone confess, “I’m a control freak?” My response to that confession is: “Welcome to the human family!” The truth is sometimes we’re all control freaks. Both Jesus and Paul taught that we should not be anxious. That means don’t worry. They both taught us not to worry about the things we cannot control – like the height of our body or the lives of other people.

Speaking as one control freak to another, the thing that really freaks us out is what we cannot control. In what Alcoholics Anonymous call the “Big Book,” there is an illustration with which all of us control freaks can resonate. We think that life is a stage on which we are directing a play. The people in our lives are characters in that play. As play director we give them their scripts and their cues, but when they don’t respond to our direction, our frustration drives us into a bottle or some other addiction.

When I was a college student I had a mentor who wrote a poem with these lines:

You can’t control the weather or rainy days, but you can control the emotional climate that surrounds you. You can’t control the height your head will be from the sidewalk, but you can control the height of the contents of your head.”

After quite a few of those lines his punch line was:

Why worry about the things you cannot control? Accept the responsibility for the things that depend on you.”

Follow the advice of Jesus and Paul and don’t worry about what you can’t control. “…but in everything by prayer and supplication…let your requests be made known to God…”

Dick Woodward, 20 February 2011


Temple Maintenance

January 25, 2017

“Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal…”  I Kings 19:18

The great prophet Elijah reached the zenith of his career when he challenged the people of God to stop being spiritual schizophrenics. He asked them to decide if the Lord was God or if the false Baal was God. When that happened on Mount Carmel, they experienced a great revival and committed themselves to serving the true and living God. (I Kings 18)

The very next day we read these words about Elijah: “But he went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die.” (I Kings 19:12)

Elijah was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. The drastic changes we see in him between chapters 18 and 19 are due to many things, but one factor is that Elijah neglected what I call Temple Maintenance. When I was out jogging, I told my children if anyone called to tell them their father was doing temple maintenance. As a pastor that sounded like something official around the church. The Apostle Paul tells us that our bodies are the temple of God. (I Corinthians 3:16-17) Therefore, anything we do to maintain our bodies could be described as temple maintenance. If we neglect our temple maintenance, it can have serious consequences for our health and ministry.

Observe in that dramatic victory Elijah won on Mount Carmel all the physical stress and effort he put out that day. He dug a deep ditch around that altar and filled it with water. Have you ever dug a deep ditch? …At the end of that long day, he ran in front of a chariot for 17 miles. Our hero must have been completely exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

The physical dimension of our lives directly affects our mental, emotional and even spiritual perspectives. The word neurotic has been defined as ‘thoughts and feelings for which there is no basis in fact.’ Elijah obviously allowed his physical stresses to affect him mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We know all his blubbering about being the only true servant of the Lord was neurotic when God made him know there were 7,000 faithful servants like him, who had not bowed their knees to Baal.

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples (p.147-151)

Editor’s Note: My father had bright blue and yellow jogging suits emblazoned with “Temple Maintenance” he wore in the 1970s running up and down the boardwalk in Va. Beach, VA. (My younger brother & I counted his ‘laps’ for him.)  After 30 subsequent years of quadriplegia, we can imagine him now running (or gliding?) around the streets of Heaven with new spiritual legs, engaging in a little celestial Temple Maintenance.


Specks and Planks

June 15, 2012

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7: 3-5 NIV)

Jesus had a great sense of humor; I have long imagined He spoke these words with a smile on His face.  They are, however, very wise and profound words.  The way we perceive other people has everything to do with our relationships with them.

The story is told of two psychiatrists who rode the same subway every day to their office building.  Every morning one got off the elevator at the sixth floor and the other at the tenth floor.  One morning before the sixth floor psychiatrist got off the elevator he spit in the face of the other psychiatrist.  This happened every morning that week. On Friday the elevator operator asked the tenth floor psychiatrist, “Aren’t you going to do something about this?” He responded, “That’s not my problem.  That’s his problem.  He has a problem.  He spits on people.  But that’s not my problem.  He needs to get his head read.”

Very few of us are that secure.  But if we were we would know that it takes a strong person to not retaliate.  If we have a wholesome and positive evaluation of ourselves, and others with whom we have relationships, we would not play games like specks and planks.