Monthly Archives: September 2010

Monday Motivator – September 27

In November 1944, Eileen Saxon, a critically ill, fifteen month “blue baby” (weighing just 9 pounds) was wheeled into the Johns Hopkins operating room. Dr. Alfred Blalock, chief of surgery, and Dr. Helen Taussig, chief of pediatric cardiology were going to attempt open-heart surgery to correct the baby’s condition and cure blue baby syndrome. It would be the first time Blalock tried the procedure outside of the laboratory, and on a human being. No one, except Blalock and his assistant Vivien Thomas, believed a cure was possible, and they had spent a year investigating and devising a surgery to correct it.

That first heart surgery was a success! But the story began fourteen years earlier…

An extraordinary partnership began in Depression Era Nashville, TN in 1930, when Blalock hired Thomas as a janitor in his Vanderbilt University lab. Thomas’ remarkable manual dexterity and interest in science caught Blalock’s attention, and Thomas rapidly became indispensable as a research partner to him. They moved in 1941 from Vanderbilt to Johns Hopkins, a renowned Baltimore, MD, medical institution where the only black employees were janitors and Thomas had to enter through the rear of the building.

This was a partnership that broke the rules of their time. A white, wealthy, doctor who was the great grandnephew of Jefferson Davis, former president of the Confederacy, and a black, carpenter’s assistant with no formal education. Thomas earns Blalock’s respect by his work ethic, humility, initiative, drive, and ability to create the instruments they need. Blalock praised the results of Thomas’ surgical skill as being “like something the Lord made.” He even insisted that Thomas coach him through the first Blue Baby surgery in Eileen Saxon, over the protests of Hopkins doctors and administrators.

Yet outside the lab, they remain separated by race and class. Thomas attended Blalock’s parties as a bartender, working for extra income. The hospital refused to pay Thomas as a lab technician because he has no formal education. When Blalock is honored for the Blue Baby success at a segregated upscale hotel, Thomas is not invited.

Blalock and Thomas were a formidable combination of creativity, vision, daring, and skill. They came from very different parts of society, and social pressures threatened to undermine their partnership, diffuse their efforts, and destroy their friendship. Their friendship overcame the disparity between their two worlds and the relative anonymity in which Thomas labored even as Blalock achieved greater fame and recognition.

Blalock and Thomas defied the rules of their time to launch a medical revolution that would improve the health of people with faulty hearts around the world. These men invented a remarkable technique for performing heart surgery on “blue babies,” and they leaped over medical science by at least a decade.

They persevered and ultimately invented an entirely new field of medicine, which enabled them to save thousands of lives. Blalock and Thomas took risks because their work was so important. Rent the movie based on their story, “Something The Lord Made.” Then emulate their vision and use your skill to improve the world. What has God gifted you to accomplish in medicine, science, education, or the arts? Serve globally.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 20

Denise, one of my former students, wrote a short summary years ago of why she chose to trust in the Bible. She started by saying that she grew up with a lot of exposure to the authority and reliability of Scripture. By age six, she was pretty familiar with many Bible stories. Her parents and church helped her learn to wrestle with hard questions, even as she learned the song, “The B-I-B-L-E, yes, that’s the book for me.”

She could not imagine what it was like for her mother, who did not grow up with a positive view of the Bible. Her mother received her first Bible during her first year of college from some eager Christians reaching out to new students coming to campus. The impact this gesture had on her character and life is a reminder of the profound truths it holds. Once so new to her, it has been always been so familiar to Denise.

Denise found that taking in the words of Scripture through her own reading, her parents’ modeling, the nurturing of youth leaders and pastors, as well as her experience in Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship helped her to develop a high view of the Bible. She realized the meta-narrative of the Bible (Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation) provided a framework to understand God’s great global rescue operation. She learned about the value of the covenant God has with Israel in the Old Testament, and the new covenant Jesus launched with his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. She has seen how the Word of God shaped and molded her life. Her discipline of reading a chapter of Proverbs a day during her entire life provided wisdom and understanding beyond her years.

Denise told me she believes in the significance of the Bible on its own merits. She believes in its personal claims, its protected text, its proven accuracy, its varied genres, and its profound impact, not only on her life, but on millions of others as well. She has stated on many occasions that she has not found a reason to distrust Scripture.

Denise has doubts like many of us, due to the challenges and difficulties of life. She realizes there are hard questions we must face that do not have simplistic answers like, “well, just trust what the Bible says.” Yet her response to hard questions and times of doubt is to look to the person she has learned to trust the most – God himself. Her knowledge of Him is found on the greatest selling book of all time – the Bible.

She learned not to evaluate God’s character through the circumstances she encounters, but to evaluate and assess her circumstances through God’s character. She argues that God as Creator, made humankind in His image, and desires intimate relationship with his creatures. He is good, kind, faithful, loving, and wise. He is Savior, Lord, and King.

Learning about God as a child had led her on a journey of discovery. She has walked with God and her friendship has deepened. She reads and studies the books God wrote (the Bible and nature) with relentless passion. She trusts in the God who provided salvation from sin, restored relationship with the Creator, and power to live a meaningful life.

Her grandfather said, “the Bible will separate you from sin, or else sin will separate you from the Bible. By the study of God’s Book, you can be saved, sanctified, and satisfied.” Denise will tell you that her grandfather’s words have guided her life. Walk wisely.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 13

I was meeting this summer with a student who asked me to help him learn to read the Bible consistently, pray effectively, and learn basic theology. I decided to take him through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The first chapter was full of doctrine (v 3-14) and we prayed through v 15-23 as a daily pattern after that initial study and discussion.

Go ahead and read Ephesians 1:15-23. Consider the implications for you and I.

1. Paul’s prayer reveals a conviction of prayer and a commitment to others following the teaching of Jesus. It shows that he felt close with people who were important to him and his faith – his example even encouraged the Ephesians to pray continually for all of God’s people (6:18).

2. Paul’s prayer is centered on God. His understanding of God and his actions were the basis of his prayer and are reflected in his prayer. It means he knew the kind of God to whom he was praying.

3. Paul’s request that God give the Spirit of wisdom and understanding means life as a Christian requires a continual openness to the Holy Spirit so we can better know God. One role of the Spirit is to help Christians know what God has given us (1 Cor 2:12).

4. Paul’s prayer offers a basis for hope. Most of us know meaninglessness, and not much hope. We have a sense that we cannot solve our problems – individually or as a culture. Hope is as rare today as it was in the first century. The truth is that all humans live oppressed lives – oppressed by meaninglessness and evil. We are taught to insulate ourselves from despair with movies, TV, and other forms of entertainment. We believe that “all will live happily ever after.” While life and God’s creation are good and to be enjoyed, we must always remember the truth that there are no happy endings – at least not in this life. We must all deal with meaninglessness, evil, sickness, doubt, and death.

God’s work in Christ addresses our meaninglessness, the problem of evil, and death. Christianity helps those who are desperate because death is not the end. Paul’s prayer points to God’s power to bring life from death – a power available both now so we can deal with the death in which we live and for the future when the dead are raised. This hope is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus and in Pentecost. Christians need to live “from the future” God has established – a change from meaninglessness to an awareness that God’s new age has begun and hope is given to us. [Insert a cheer here…]

Based on Ephesians 1:15-23, what kind of community should we be? A caring one – develop a depth of relationship with others who also belong to God. A praying one – develop a practice of prayer because we all belong to God and must participate in a common God-given mission. A thinking one – develop in wisdom and our understanding of God, life, and the importance of faith. Thinking is the basis for action. Use your mind to understand the implications of the gospel…know God and understand His purposes. A powerful one – access the power that comes from God, defined by the resurrection of Jesus and his exaltation as Lord over all. What we need is in Christ – relational power – that comes from being related to the One in whom all power resides. Live communally.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 6

A very elderly lady made an appointment to visit President Abraham Lincoln one afternoon. As she entered the President’s office, he arose, seated her, and asked, “How may I be of service to you, Madame?”

The lady said, “Mr. President, I know you are a busy man. I have not come to ask you for anything. I came to bring you these cookies, for I heard you enjoyed them so much.”

A silence followed in which tears overflowed the eyes of the President. Finally, he raised his hand and spoke to the little woman. “Madame, I thank you for your thoughtful gift. I am greatly moved by it. Since I have been President of this country, thousands have people have come into this office asking for favors and demanding things from me. You are the first person who has ever entered these premises asking no favor, and indeed, bringing a gift for me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

The Hebrew language has seven words that describe the attitude and posture we should have in offering praise to our Savior, Lord, and coming King.

TOWDAH – A sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that honors God; it is initiated by the believers. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving (Towdah), and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him and bless his name.”

YADAH – To raise and extend the hands unashamedly unto God. Psalm 134:2 says, “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless/praise (Yadah) the Lord.

ZAMAR – To touch the strings or parts of a musical instrument; to play upon it and make music, sometimes accompanied by words. Psalm 33:2 says, “Praise the Lord with harp; sing (Zamar) unto Him with psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.”

TEHILLAH – To sing in the Spirit (this is the only Hebrew word used when the Word of God speaks of the Lord “inhabiting our praises”. Psalm 40:3 says, “He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise (Tehillah) unto our God; many shall see and trust in Him.”

HALAL – To be clear, to shine, celebrate and rejoice in the Lord with a distinct sound (primary root of the word ‘hallelujah’. Psalm 22:22 says, “I will declare your name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise (Halal) you.”

BARAK – To bless God as an act of adoration, to kneel expectantly and quietly before Him. Psalm 145:21 says, “My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise (Barak) His holy name forever and ever.”

SHABACH – To address the Lord in a loud shout. Psalm 63:3 says, “Because your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall glorify (Shabach) you.”

Think theologically. How does your worship measure up against these seven words? Worship is giving “worth-ship” (i.e., the highest value) to God in word and action. Be sure to develop a daily lifestyle of thanking Him for who He is and what He has done.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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