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Learning

Wow, my last post about an embarrassing moment has stirred some great reactions. Yes, none of us wants to experience embarrassing moments, yet these painful hard moments, no matter how great or incidental they are, can have a powerful formative influence on our life. We can let them make us bitter, angry, resentful and become like a cancer in our soul, or we can process them, learn from them, and they can make us more beautiful than we ever thought we could be! Just depends on what we do with them.

I think how I could have run out of the class crying, and vowed never to return to college, and I am not sure where I would be today! At that time I did not know to turn to the Lord and let Him help me. But, God was shaping this piece of clay into what He wanted me to be and gratefully I kept moving on. When I finally found the Lord, so many bad, painful experiences helped me to recognize Him, trust Him, and follow Him wherever He wanted to lead me. We never experience anything that God cannot take and use to mold us into something better than we were before we had that experience. Thanks for each and every response.

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My most embarrassing moment …

My new book, “The Making of a Servant,” is about how God, the Potter, molds us, the clay, into the vessel He wants us to be. Sometimes this molding can be painful, sometimes humorous, and sometimes exhilarating! I share here an excerpt from my book illustrating a lot of pain, some humor, but not much exhilaration in the process of making me a cross-cultural servant.

“Standing at the lectern, shifting from one foot to the other, breaking into a cold sweat, I looked out on an entire class of New Yorkers laughing uncontrollably, looking at me! I faintly heard the professor saying, “Quiet! Quiet, class! This is highly impolite. Okay, Mr. James, begin your speech again.”

I took a deep breath and broke the silence: “I want to tell y’all how to raise tobacco.”

The class again broke into peals of laughter.

One by one, each of the students from every borough of New York City and towns in New Jersey had presented his or her speech. I was the last to speak. I could not understand why everyone was laughing at me! I had enrolled in a communications class to begin night school at Pace College (now Pace University) in the business district of Manhattan. This seemed like a fairly easy course for me. The first assignment was a five-minute talk on how to do something.

The professor calmed the class and turned to me. “Mr. James, please sit down and listen.”

From the podium to my seat seemed like a thousand miles.

“In the first place, you don’t have to say ‘y’all.’ The word ‘you’ includes everyone. Also, you don’t raise tobacco. You grow tobacco.” He repeated to be sure I understood, “You raise children. You grow tobacco!”

At that point, I was feeling frustrated, helpless, embarrassed, and angry. I spoke back, “Where I come from, you raise tobacco.”

With an overly condescending attitude, he said very slowly, “But you are not there anymore. You are not going to be able to speak your colloquial dialect and expect to be taken seriously.”

“You will have to learn to say things where you are living, not where you formerly lived. I will challenge you in this class to listen to your fellow students and learn how to express yourself in an understandable way—in this context.”

Though this was a painful moment, this lesson defined much of my cross-cultural communication through the years.

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A lesson in patience

I would like to share a lesson in patience. I received word that the publication of my new book “The Making of a Servant” is meeting yet another short delay. All I can do is do what I can to shorten that delay.

In my new book I write a lot about delays. In my life, I have met a number of delays of the very things that I thought were urgent and important. In every single case God used that time of delay to bring about some key action that He wanted done and blessed me with the task of serving Him to do it. When the task was done, then I moved on with the urgency called for. Now I know to simply say, “Lord, I have no idea what you are doing, but whatever it is count me in!” Now I can just yield to Him in the peace that only He can give. I just know that he has something that He wants to accomplish during this waiting time!

“…and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, [folks], whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:7-9 (NIV)