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October 2007

Dry and Wet Seasons

I have been a little dry lately. I don't know if it is a lack of focus, a drought of motivation/inspiration, the pressures of life, or just a season, but there has been a wall between what I have wanted and needed to say and my frontal lobe functions culminating in finger tips on the keyboard typing anything brilliant or mundane.

I am not sure how I feel about seasons.

We have an extra week of daylight savings time on this end and had an extra week in the Spring. That plays to my love of stability, but that will change Saturday night. Don't forget to FALL BACK (especially folks from my church). Better put:

Remember, when you hit the sack, to set your clock an hour back.

Seasons change and they are quite predictable. The weather changes and so does the "look and feel" of the earth. It is amazing how much.

I change, sometimes predictably and seasonally, and occasionally with dramatic surges and jerks.

The key to living above one's circumstances has at least one groove of accepting them and acknowledging their power and influence. The rest of the grooves have to do with functioning in spite of them in accordance with our dreams and commitments.

Actually, I like seasons - especially the ones I really like.

Fickle, aren't we?  I know full well how important it is for the earth to breath in its own rhythms and independently of my preferences. If only my knee jerk reactions would catch up with my intellectual assent to that reality.

I know that the seasons of my own life, creativity, and productivity are just as vital to what God is forming through me.

It is October 31, 2007 - a day that has never been before and never will be again.

Let us celebrate.

Your Concept of God

Brennan Manning, who God uses to speak to my heart as few others makes this bold statement, "You're only going to be as big as your concept of God."

He poses a searching question about a heavenly encounter with Jesus where our Lord asks us if we truly realized how much He loved us and desired fellowship with us. Manning doesn't just ask these questions; he probes our hearts. He then predicts that some of our answers might actually reveal our unbelief, thought we might have professed and proclaimed the love of God.

Do we truly believe that Jesus loves us?


Are you optimistic?

The Online Etymology Dictionary is my friend, confirming my quasi-informed suspicions about words and their origins such as "optimism."

When I say I am optimistic, I want to know that what I think I mean is what I am really saying. Here is their take on the word:

"1782, from Fr. optimisme (1737), from Mod.L. optimum, used by Leibnitz (in Théodicée, 1710) to mean "the greatest good," from L. optimus "the best" (see optimum). The doctrine holds that the actual world is the "best of all possible worlds," in which the creator accomplishes the most good at the cost of the least evil."  See the full article here

The greatest good, the least evil, the best of all possible worlds. These are lenses through which I choose to view life and goals which i have in every challenge, circumstance, and problem.

I am an optimist. A pessimist, by definition (pessimus = worst in Latin) looks for the worst. That being said, I think that there is another self-description that becomes an enemy of the optimum or best in our lives. It is being a minimalist.

I am not making a value judgment about art or design here. There is a value to minimalism, especially with regards to consumption and excess. I am talking about the potential of every situation. I am referring to the outlook of a person on life and growth especially with regard to the call to overcome our obstacles and to become all that we can be in life.

Two people can exist in the same milieu of circumstances, suffer the same limitations, face the same challenges, and be buffeted with equal opposition and one will succeed while the other fails. There may be any number of factors involved in these outcomes, but one thing we know given the scenario is that they are internal and volitional. In other words, they involve the choices that each person makes.

Of course there is no way to duplicate identical circumstances, but we can approximate them. Each of us is imbued with our own distinct mixes of gifts, strengths, weaknesses, genetic predispositions, family backgrounds, and belief systems, but even with those, we all have choices.

I think that one of the great deciding factors in our lives is in our choices to believe the best, the worst, or the least about where we are and where we are going. Brain science, behavioral research, and the worlds of business and performance motivation fall into line with anecdotal illustrations of the power of belief and attitude to determine what will be made of the "givens" in our lives.

These fall into alliance with the scriptures as recorded in such passages as Proverbs 23:7, " For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he ..."

Optimism is not fantasizing about a desired future. It is believing in its possibility and rallying our thoughts, prayers, and actions toward the realization of that future. It is acting on what we believe in and pray for. Proverbs 28:19 (NLB) distinguishes between wishful thinking and positive thinking resulting in positive actions:

"A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty."

In order to work the field, the farmer must believe that the process can and, most likely will, bring results. In order to have any validity to his beliefs, he must do the work. The two go hand in hand and both exist with the realm of the knowledge of God's sovereignty and love.

For those who like acronyms on which to hang their rhetorical hats, here is one for the optimist:

O - Over the top thinking as opposed to under the circumstances thinking.
P - Positive about the possibilities of proactive beliefs and action.
T - Truth - The optimist is not hiding his head in the sand, but standing in the sand and seeing beyond.
I -  Inspired and inspiring to others.
M - Makes the best of things rather than surrendering to the worst or the minimum.
I - Initiative-taking rather than waiting for things to work out.
S - Sacred values are important to the optimist who stakes everything on them.
T - Time expended and energy invested are what it costs and what is multiplied in a true optimist.

It is your choice. I get a little shaky sometimes,  I must confess, but in the  end, I always choose optimism because anything less is simply unacceptable.

Too Blessed?

I was coming out of the parking lot after the Fresno Business Forum today when an SUV swung around to my left in a one-way-the-other-way lane to negotiate a left turn in front of me. The driver then accelerated in a manner that suggested hurry and slammed to a stop in  the next round of traffic giving me an opportunity to catch up and read the nicely mounted plate on the back of his or her car:

"Too Blessed to be Stressed."

CHUCKLE - said I to myself with a grunt of superiority and wisdom beyond my capacity. After all, I had just been treated to 45 minutes of Mr. Leadership/Success/Got-It-It-Together John Maxwell himself. (Don't get me wrong - I really do attribute all those qualities to him). This was an opportunity to wax philosophical and perhaps, to break my blog-silence with a fresh idea.

While I was waxing thus and so, I had an awakening. It was halfway through the process of slamming on my breaks and testing their anti-lock capabilities.

The SUV had stopped in a timely manner to let a pedestrian cross the street in an appropriate walkway and once again, I was afforded a literary insight:

I could now write about humility.

More tomorrow.

Tomorrow = Big Day and Other Stuff

Tomorrow, Tuesday, October 23, is a big day for the Sims family and your prayers will be appreciated. We will be having our home inspected and will be interviewed for the purpose of having our grandchildren placed in our care. There are some other decisions involved as well. Forgive this foray into a blatantly personal request, but I appreciate your support.

Here is some other news.

I set up a couple of new blogs recently. Notably, Feeding Those Who Feed Us - San Joaquin (FeedTheValley.COM) is a recruiting, fund-raising, and prayer support page for the Feeding Those Who Feed Us project in Fresno, Madera, and Kings counties.

Baptist Temple, the Fellowship of Joy, is in the red financially. Curiously, this coincides with my new preaching series, "The Red Zone." It may take the rest of my life, but I am going to be preaching with a focus on the actual words of Jesus, the Old Testament passages He alludes to and the interpretation of His words in the epistles and apostle's preaching. The main focus will be the actual words which appear in many bibles as red print.

Why? We identify ourselves as followers of Jesus and, in some unique way, all scriptural and spiritual truth is subject to is interpretation, illustration, and application. So, I am going to live there for the next few years of my preaching.

The current mini-series piece of that is on the Temptations of Jesus.  They follow His baptism where he taught us to do the right thing for the right reason and the manifestation of the Spirit in the form of a dove making way for the words of the Father when He said, "This is my Son. I love Him. I am pleased with Him."

What greater motivation could we need.

After the dove came the desert, and in the desert, He found the devil.

So, it is about the dove, the devil, and the desert.

Picks from Tom is some material that I cleared off my MySpace profile to make room for other things. All of my Blogger blogs are listed in my Profile there.

I am relearning the value of one step at a time. It is about faith and faithfulness. It is about hope, optimism, and perseverance.  I do not understand why policies designed to help children are so proficient at victimizing them or why people who are dedicated and reasonable public servants can be so crippled and deadlocked by a system that is intended to empower them to do the right thing, but I know something that makes all of that of marginal importance.

At every turn, God is still in  charge of things and He can unravel our bureaucratic entanglements with but a word and that is what we are trusting Him to do and that is where our prayers gather for our little ones.

A Dose of Jim Rohn

Jim Rohn says that some things are out of our reach until we develop ourselves. He says we have to stand on the books we read.

Here is another quote from Jim: "Success is something you attract by the person you become."

One more from Jim today: "Profits are better than wages. You earn a living from wages; you make a fortune with profits."

Proverbs 21:5 says, " The plans of the diligent lead to profit  as surely as haste leads to poverty."

Stay the Course

Staying the course is an effort. Without the effort, there is no movement because the course does not drag us through. We must take steps and those steps are sometimes on uneven ground and along winding paths with ascents and descents.

We must stay it and that demands focus, refocus, and refinement.

  • S -  Steady, constant determination with an integrity of focus and commitment.
  • T - Tenacity not to be deterred, discouraged, or distracted from our life mission.
  • A - Activity appropriate to the goals we have adopted.
  • Y - "Yes, Yes" living in a culture that is addicted to "no"s and negative feedback.

Funny thing, when we STAY, this way, we MOVE forward along the course.

  • C - Constant consciousness of a compelling calling.
  • O - Obstinate, objective, outlook on our desired outcomes.
  • U - Undying  understanding of a undeniable universe of possibilities we envision.
  • R - Reach - It is a reach and a stretch to realize that which is unrealized except in our clear vision of what can be.
  • S - Simplicity - The course is not complicated or vague. We can state the outcome we desire.
  • E - Eagerness - We desire it deeply and will stop at nothing less.

Winning in a Time of Foreclosures

Foreclosure filings nearly double

LOS ANGELES (AP) Foreclosure filings across the U.S. nearly doubled last month compared with September 2006, as financially strapped homeowners already behind on mortgage payments defaulted on their loans or came closer to losing their homes to foreclosure, a real estate information company said Thursday.

read more | digg story

Proverbs 22:26
"Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge  or puts up security for debts."

There are legitimate reasons for borrowing and lending, but the biblical bias is always cautionary.

Matthew 18:25
Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

We do not live is such draconian times, unless one considers the threat of homelessness and bankruptcy as a form of slavery imposed upon our children. Certainly there is nothing new about the dangers of out of control, unsecured debt.

Paul's insight goes deeper than that of economics:

Romans 13:8
[ Love, for the Day is Near  ]  Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

The remaining reality is that there is some real suffering rising to the surface in the tide of our current human experience and the remedies are illusive.

You and I know that there is no significant bail-out coming from the outside and that we must each take control of our financial well being. There are only these possible solutions and like most things in life, it take a balance of all of them working in concert to effect change:

1. Spend less and borrow little. - There is never a bad time to be more careful about spending, especially on non-essentials in relation to credit. America's credit card debt is out of control. Spend what you can pay for on what you need. Ben Franklin was write in Poor Richard's Almanac when he observed that a penny saved is a penny earned. There is a biblical word for over-consumption and it is "gluttony." Through it, much debt is incurred because we believe we really must "have it now," and the credit card companies tell us we can and should:

Proverbs 23:2
... and put a knife to your throat  if you are given to gluttony.
Proverbs 23:21
... for drunkards and gluttons become poor,  and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

2. Save and invest wisely. Whatever you can save, save. When you have an opportunity to invest, do so with a eye toward the potential return. What investments will produce income? Study, learn, and do. The wise and virtuous woman in Proverbs was an investor:

Proverbs 31:16
She considers a field and buys it;  out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

3. Make more. One area where it is wise to spend is on your own development - especially, from a financial point of view, your financial, business, and professional education. There are many ways to make more money. One is to work harder and that can be good. Another is to work longer and that might be necessary. A third is the one you need to move toward and that is to work smarter by leveraging your time, energy, and knowledge. That is the core genius of network marketing and other concepts in marketing. The Proverbs elevates the value of work:

Proverbs 14:23
All hard work brings a profit,  but mere talk leads only to poverty.

For a list of business opportunities I recomend, check my links here at The Dream Factory.

Of course, you may have already found your vehicle and, if you have, it would be my honor to encourage you along.

These are financially critical times, but you can succeed with informed output of energy and commitment. Dream great dreams and move forward. Keep a positive outlook. Keep your hand and hearty open to others, and be confident enough in the future to be generous in your giving. Consider it an act of faith and move forward:

Proverbs 11:25
A generous man will prosper;  he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

As John Wesley said:

Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then give all you can.

You are on the winning team.

Are You Having Trouble Believing?

Are your feet slipping on the mountain?

Do you feel you are losing your balance?

Is there a glass ceiling above your head or in your imagination that is preventing your ascent into the heights that you desire to climb?

What about becoming more than you can be?

How about standing in the heights?

How about believing again?

You can. You will.

Are you weak?

It is OK. When you are weak He is strong and His strength is made manifest in our weakness.

Listen and let this song minister to your capacity to believe, to reach, to become.

A gift to you from The Dream Factory, The Celtic Women, and mdaisuki of Thanks for ministering to my heart. - Tom Sims

You Can Do It ... Again

It may have been a while since I or anyone else has told you, but you really can do it.

You have all the potential in the world.

You have a God who loves you and a dream that He has planted in your heart.

You have a God who not only loves you, but is bigger than your challenges and more than ready to help you meet them.

You have determination in your soul.

You have creativity oozing from your pores.

You have the good sense and courage to be networking at this very minute.

You have the desire to succeed, exemplified by the fact that you chose to read this blog.

You most likely have a  vehicle and a plan. If not, there are many out there that are well formulated, supported by a strong system, and promoted and managed by people of integrity.

You know what you need to do next or at least, who to ask for direction and counsel. You just need the courage to do it.

You actually have that. You may not know it, but I am telling you now, because I believe in you... and God believes in you, which is far more important.

You can do it ... and you will ... if you make the choice right now.

- Tom Sims, The Dream Factory

Richmond - Dallas - San Diego - Los Angeles - Fresno

Before I sleep tonight, I'll be in all of those cities.

It is noon in Richmond and will be tomorrow in Richmond when I arrive in Fresno tonight.

Go figure that out.

Travel takes its toll on clear and concise speech.

I return home with high expectations and enthusiasm for my sermon tomorrow. There are some key questions I will pose. One of them is, "Who would ever listen to anything a 12 year old has to say?"

The answer is - some pretty impressive rabbis about 2000 years ago during the Passover in Jerusalem. For three days, there was a running discussion of theology and law between them and some kid from Nazareth.

"Who was that kid? Where did He get all those ideas and questions."

Where indeed.

And, having lost all track of time in the process of being fully engaged in the subject, he was sought by his flks who asked why he had caused them such distress. He replied that they should have know where he was and then figured it was time to go home and be a dutiful son for the next decade or so.

Amazing things happen when you travel.

Eleanor Sheppard of Richmond and the Inch By Inch Solution

Inchworm Years ago, I learned that if I had somewhere to go, I only needed to take one step at a time to get there. It was from a lady who had accomplished many "firsts" in her life and knew what sh was talking about.

I had the opportunity this week to meet someone who reminded me of someone else who had first taught me that lesson That reminder triggered a truth recollection that, having once entered my heart and mind, has never left. In fact, it has been like a seed germinating into a general philosophy of life that has encouraged me in so many ways and which I have used to encourage others as well:

"Inch by inch, its a cinch."

More specifically, it is ""Inch by inch it's a cinch, yard by yard it's really hard."

I don't know who first said it; it has been quoted many times. However, I first heard it from Eleanor Sheppard, the first woman council member, vice-mayor, and mayor of my home town of Richmond Virginia. Born in 1907, her career in elected office began in 1954 and included service in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1968-1977. Her credentials, memberships, and honors are too numerous to recount. Her civic life included memberships on many boards, advisory commissions, and community organizations including her Baptist Church home.

The occasion for remembering was a Sunday and Wednesday night conversation at Southampton Baptist Church where I was a guest this week. It was there that I met a teacher by the name of Sally Dunnington and learned that she was Mrs. Sheppard's daughter.

Mrs. Sheppard spoke at my 7th grade graduation in 1967. Our 7th grade convened in a separate section of the Westover Hills Elementary School that was all our own. The next fall would signal a giant leap from  there to George Wythe High School where we would all be 8th graders, lower than lower class, so far at the bottom of the heap that we'd have to crawl to reach zero.

And she encouraged us to take one step at a time. It would not be necessary to make great leaps or  to skip steps. All we had to face was what was next and then keep taking steps.

We all listened. This was the first woman mayor of Richmond, an elegant and stately lady with a presence that exuded dignity. Yet she was speaking to us with the kind gentleness of a mother. She had done it and she knew we could do it.

It was my privilege to tell Sally that I remembered her mother and her mother's words. Imagine such an enduring memory. Mine is selective. I seem to only remember the really important things. It was encouraging to hear how those words had helped the daughter in a time of trouble and to share how they had informed my thinking and been used by me many times over to encourage others.

People who make great contributions and achieve great accomplishments are often forgotten by name, but the impact of their lives continues to add value to people and communities. Generations may forget, but in forgetting, they do not negate the contributions. Someone had to take some first steps for others to follow.

It was fun to hear how some of this played out in Sally's home life in the house of such a great mother and states-person, how the children were encouraged to be independent, to grow, and to become what they were made to be - inch by inch.

We all matriculate in the school of can-do long before we learn the contraction, "can't." Whatever we learn to do and to  be begins with baby steps and never graduates far beyond single steps. We have two feet and we get a bit off balance when we try to move them both forward at the same time. We develop rhythms  and large motor memories that become as second nature in our mobility, propelling us forward without effort. It is only as we  overwhelm ourselves with the distance between where we are and where we are going that we become frustrated, discouraged, and perplexed.

Then we sit down or run around in circles - because we just don't believe that we can actually make progress toward any great goal.

We forget that a little progress is far more than no progress. We are either moving forward or falling back.

How do you eat an elephant (not that I want to)?

One bite at a time.

Eleanor Sheppard was trying to instill that in us. She lived it and was passing it on.

I went on the 8th grade and then to 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, college, and graduate school. I have found the words I heard that day to be perpetually true, spiritually sound, and increasingly encouraging. Just this week, I have had to apply them to a problem that has seemed so insurmountable to me and to my family that without this bit of advice, to be faithful in taking next steps, we might have surrendered to despair.

Since those days, I have heard the phrase from time to time. I include some references below. But none of these have impacted me as Mayor Sheppard's words did. I had often wondered what had become of her and what her legacy might have been. It remains profound. For one thing, she has at least one child, daily encouraging children who have been told they are losers that they can be winners ... inch by inch.

And I am living across the country trying to convey the same message to people who have given up on hope and abandoned the notion of dreaming.

It's a cinch ... one step at a time.

Take the  next step, trust God, and then check in with me for another pep talk if you need it. Soon you will be giving the pep talks and will be a role model for others.

That is how it works.

Here are some excellent references to this old saying accompanied by fine articles applying the principle to a number of settings:

- Tom Sims, The Dream Factory

Old_city_hall Old City Hall in Richmond, VA.

Here are some excellent references to this old saying accompanied by fine articles applying the principle to a number of settings: 

Coach Andrea uses it:
So does the Barefoot Runner:
And others such as … and ...!&id=157665
It is even a song: and in it provides encouragement for building a restaurant business. At it is motivation for completing a dissertation.

Where Is Tom? Who is Oden E. Lockhart?

It is the sort of question that you hope people will ask when you "go missing" for a few days.

"Where is he?"

Well, I'm here, checking in and having nothing to say - at least until now.

I start to write something and stop. Writing is a discipline for me, but it is also a joy. It tends to flow, but I often need to prime the pump.

I've had a few things on my mind and I am technically on vacation, out of state, away from my routine, visiting family, and changing my pace in a different time zone.

I've been doing a little problem solving from a distance, worrying more than I ought, applying my mind and heart to a new sermon series, visiting my mother and her new husband (whose wedding ceremony I performed last Sunday), and reading.

Here is what got me from question one to question two.

I jotted down a note on the back of a post card today to a man who meant much to me in my early ministry. I called him, "Preacher." He first introduced himself to me in 1974 as "The Old Time Preacher Man from Way Back." His real name is Oden E. Lockhart and this Saturday night, in Bluefield, West Virginia, they will be celebrating his 90th birthday and 60 years of radio broadcast.

The more important of the two questions posed in the title is, "Who is Oden E. Lockart?"

A follow up question is, "Where is he?"

The answer to that is that he is doing what he has been doing for many, many years.

Oden was the reluctant, but faithful pastor of East End Baptist church in Bluefield when he took me under his wing as Associate  Pastor and Youth Director. He gave me the opportunity to conduct my first Lord's Supper and my first baptism. He taught me more about visiting, evangelizing,  and  loving people than any one pastor before or after.

I say he was a reluctant pastor only because his heart was in evangelism and his radio ministry. He was unique in that second ministry in that he actually pastored the people who were his regular listeners. Since the  broadcasts were  on regional stations  in  a number of Appalachian states, he could visit their churches and homes. He took the prayer requests he received very seriously, and often followed up with calls and visits.

When was the last time your favorite radio or TV evangelist personally contacted you?

The Preacher was in his late 50s when I met him and he was married to "Mama." I must have known her name at some time, but I never really learned it. They lived in a "holler" in Abbs Valley, Virginia where the Preacher had worked in the coal minds for over 30 years and contracted Black Lung. he wasn't supposed to live much past his early 60s. That is something for a 90 year old man to chuckle about, especially when he is still preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I've been doing more than my share of fretting this week in spite of our Lord's unambiguous directive to "fret not." I never saw Oden E. Lockhart fret.

He was and is an Independent Baptist, Fundamentalist, King James-Only preacher and yet, I learned more progressive ideas and deeper compassion from him that from 10 other more "enlightened" preachers. Some of his more memorable quotes and terminologies were:

"I don't need a doctor to work on my Bible. It never was sick."

"I don't need a Living Bible. Mine never was dead."

Hollywood was "Hellywood" and television was "Hellivision."

In early marriage, my wife and I had the opportunity to stay in the Lockhart home together and I took delight in pointing out to her the side by side, his and her bathrooms to the left when you went in the main entrance, the studio where so many broadcasts originated, and the unique way that the folks stored all their dishes in the dishwasher because it saved several steps and you might as well wash them all at the same time.

Mama Lockhart passed away years ago. One day in recent years I received a call from a lady named Betty Quick and I quickly remembered her as the clerk of East End Baptist Church. I always liked Betty but I remembered that she and the Preacher had always had a running battle. She was always on his case about something and he sought to remain as sane as possible while getting a little gleam and twinkle in his eye when ever he had the chance to antagonize her a bit.

After renewing my memory for a moment, she said, "I have someone here who would like to talk to you."

"Tommy, this is Oden E. Lockhart. How are you? Betty and I got married."

Nothing shocks me any more - almost nothing - this did.

She returned to the phone after a while and wanted to make one thing perfectly clear. He had contacted her after her husband died to provide pastoral support, comfort, and prayers.

"We didn't marry for convenience (she might have said, "companionship)," she declared, "I fell in love with that old man."

So there.

Every Christmas he sends me a thick envelope with a nice card and a whole pile of evangelistic tracts to give away.

I fell in love with that old man too - many years ago. He was a mentor, friend, father figure, and discipler in my life.  Sometimes I stop and ask myself if I am being faithful to the investment that he and other elder pastors and teachers have placed in my life.

Where is Tom? I'll tell you this, I would not be anywhere near where I am without folks like the Preacher. I honor him and think of him fondly, thanking God for him. I wish I could be present at the party. I will be at a big one with him someday and there will be lots of folks there because of his witness.

- Tom Sims, The Dream Factory

You can still hear the preacher on various stations including WGTH 105 FM and 540 AM. Check with WGTH  for listings or listen live on the Internet:

10:00 - 10:30 Weekdays