Of Common Sense – Volume IV

The Words and Wisdom of Keith Lionel Brown

In the early morning of our lives, our school is our home, the students in the classroom are our siblings, and our teachers are our parents and grandparents. In the afternoon of our lives, our school is a building outside the home, the students in the classroom become our friends and confidants, and our teachers are those who have themselves studied and prepared to impart knowledge to us that we will use as we continue on our journey through life. In the evening of our lives, we continue learning in the school of life with the world being our classroom, and life itself being our teacher.

Each new day of life is an opportunity for us to learn some new and interesting things. The wise man gleans as much as he can from his life experiences and with his new found knowledge and wisdom is able to chart and navigate his course in life. With all of his learning, he also learns that some obstacles in life can be overcome by using a little common sense.

What you are about to read are some of the gleanings from my personal life experiences and the lessons that those experiences have taught me to help me chart and navigate my course. I believe that many of these thoughts are merely common sense.

Please don’t tell me what you cannot do if you have never tried. Please don’t only tell me what you will not do, but somewhere along the way, tell me what you will do. How can you possibly know if you could have won the race if you never bother to start the race, or if you do start the race, you give up half way to the finish line? It is not so much the naysayers of the world that can cause us to feel defeated, rather we defeat ourselves by convincing ourselves that we cannot, and so we do not. We reach our goals and fulfill our dreams in life not by sitting on the bench and crying about what we think we cannot do or what we are determined we will not do, but by trying and learning what we can do, and once we know what we can do, those are the things that we should become determined to do.

This life is not about self. It is about serving others. If we say that we are disciples of Christ – that is we are His literal students, and if we call ourselves Christians – that is “little Christ” in that we strive to live by His laws and precepts, then we need to remember that Christ did not come to be served, but to serve others. His entire ministry – from raising the dead, to healing the lame, to opening the eyes of the blind and the ears of the death, to His intercessory prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, to willingly giving His life as a ransom for many, literally becoming sin’s final sacrifice, and hanging upon a cruel Roman cross on Golgotha’s lonely hill – paying a tremendous debt that He did not owe, and one that none of us could ever pay on our own – was all about serving others. I humbly submit that the Lord is not impressed by braggarts and self-centered egomaniacs. He is more impressed, and yes, pleased, by those who have a servant’s heart and are willing to help their fellow man along their journey. I humbly submit that the greatest blessings in life come not from the things that we receive, but from the love that we give.

I humbly submit that change has never come about in the world through silence, but through the actions and the raising of voices of many who wanted to see change come about. We cannot just sit in silence and wish that things were different and expect them to be different. If we want to see things changed for the better then we need to get actively engaged in the cause to help bring those changes to pass.

There is many a task that never gets accomplished because everybody is waiting for somebody to do what anybody could do, but nobody does. If somebody were to take the initiative to at least get things started and invited anybody to help, then perhaps eventually everybody would want to help as well, and nobody would have to take the blame for not getting the task done.

To entertain a fool in his folly is like getting into the pig pen and wallowing in the mud with the pig. One of you likes it while the other becomes disgustingly filthy. The wick of the fool’s candle will continue to burn so long as there are those who give in to his antics and continue to play his nonsensical games of which there are no real rules other than the rules that he devises as the games progress to ensure that the score always remains in his favor. The longer one continues to play the fool’s games, the more they become ensnared in the mangling chords of his web of madness and confusion with not a chance of ever breaking free. There may seem to be no way to beat the fool at his games, but there is one sure way. The best way to beat a fool at his own games is to not become foolish enough to play his games in the first place. A fool left to his own folly to play his games alone will find that the wick of his candle will soon be snuffed out like a candle in the wind.

There are some people who seem to feed off of having constant drama in their life. They seem to be drawn to anything that will cause havoc and confusion, just as bees are drawn to honey and flies to sugar. They do not have a concept of what peace and serenity in life are, and in fact become annoyed at the thought of such things. They live their lives in constant turmoil, and do their best to create turmoil in the lives of others as well. They believe in their finite minds that as long as they can seemingly keep the world in a state of confusion and uproar, they can maintain control and authority over others. We cannot combat drama with more drama. We must stand tall and firm to prove that we are the stronger, and that we will not be subjected to anything that would otherwise cause disruption and disharmony in our life.

I humbly submit that to know what the truth is and to deny it for the sake of pleasing the masses, or for fear of being rejected or being considered an outcast, is like denying food to one who is hungry, or a drink of water to one who is thirsty, even though you are able to give a morsel of bread to kill their hunger, or a cool drink of water to quench their thirst.

I resolve to continue to “lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. [For] my help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer [my] foot to be moved: he that keepeth [me] will not slumber” (Psalm 121:1-3). I further resolve to “be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season” (Psalm 1:3). I know that as I delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate upon His law by day and by night, the leaves of my tree shall not wither, and whatsoever I do shall prosper. (See Psalm 1: 2,3) And I also resolve to forget those things which are behind and reach forth unto those things which are before, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (See Philippians 3:13, 14)

Where Have You Pitched Your Tent?

The past may be a nice place for one to visit, and there is nothing wrong in and of itself in taking time to reflect upon the past; however, we can find ourselves running into danger when we decide to set up our tents and dwell in lands that we have long since vacated, and probably should allow to remain vacated as far as our lives are concerned. As a result, we can become solemn, depressed, and complacent and may never have the desire to press forward to travel the road that is right before us.

As a further consequence of wanting to dwell in the lands of the past, over the sands of time, we may lose all sight and vision of those things that are yet to come. However, spending too much time dwelling in the land of the future, just like spending too much time dwelling in the lands of the past, can also present some problems along the way. Our focus and attention needs to be on what we have directly in front of us which is the here and now.

Show me a man who is able to quote page, chapter, and paragraph from a book, and I will tell you that he is a learned man in that he knows how to read and is capable of memorizing what he has read. However, my question to you is, “Does he truly understand what he has read?” Show me a man who is able to take those things which he has read in a book and put his new found knowledge to practical use, and I will tell you that he too is a learned man in that he is not only able to read, but he is capable of putting to practical use what he has learned in his reading. Having book knowledge can be a wonderful asset, but what good is the knowledge that one obtains from reading a book if he is not able to apply it to his own life, or more importantly to be of some good in the lives of others? Learning without practicality can prove to be futile.

We are taught that we are to be in the world, but not of the world. That does not mean that we need to hibernate or bury our heads in the sand to avoid being influenced by the world. Rather, we are to live in the world and be the best positive influence that we can be on those around us. There is a vast difference between being influenced by the world, and influencing the world.

By the grace of God I am who I am. I do not claim to be, nor do I have a desire to be, anything other than what my Heavenly Father has purposed and planned for me to be. I am not all that I would be, for God is not finished with me yet. I am a continual work in progress as He molds and shape me into all that I am to become. He is the Master Potter and I am the clay.

Show Them That You Care

As we go forth each day may we not only tell people how much we love them, but show them how much we really care through our acts of love and kindness. Let us remember that it is not always the things that we say that matter the most, but the things, even the little things, that we do that often matter the most. Our actions can often express our true love for another more than an ocean of words ever could or would.

It is the single red rose that is given to someone to express true love, not the dozen roses. Likewise, one single act of kindness to show our love for someone can mean more than anything that we could ever say to them. As Oscar Hammerstein II once said, “A bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it. A song’s not a song ’til you sing it. Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love ’til you give it away!

The Word of God does not need our defense to prove that it is true. It stands true on its own merit regardless if one person believes it, or hundreds of thousands of people believe it. We need never debate its validity with anyone. If they will not accept its truthfulness, we should bear our testimony of its Divine truthfulness and move on. Although the Word of God does not need our defense to prove its truthfulness, it is indeed our ready defense to prove that what we say and believe is true.

There are some people who seem to be quite content to sit around and do absolutely nothing. They seem to have no interest or desire to get involved in anything. However, when awards and accolades are being given for something, they are the first to want to take the credit for everything.

I have said it before and I will continue to say it. Just because a man and/or woman have a theological degree from a Seminary, Bible College, or some religious institution, it does not signify that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It only signifies that they have a piece of paper that indicates that they have successfully completed a course of study. It does not even fully qualify or equip them to be a minister of the Gospel to effectively teach and preach His truths. They may well know the name of Jesus Christ and have a concept of who He is, but that knowledge alone does not necessarily equate to them actually KNOWING Jesus Christ or having a personal relationship with Him. Even Satan knows the name of Jesus Christ, and when he hears the name he trembles. To be effective in the work of the ministry requires a personal, intimate relationship with the Master Teacher – the Lord Jesus Christ. It is through that relationship that one becomes fully prepared and equipped to effectively do the work that has been prepared for him to do.

My Answer to Those Who Wonder Why I Do the Things That I Do

I am only one voice. I fully realize that there is only so much that I will ever be able to do to make an impact or difference in this world. However, I also fully realize that those things that I can do to make a difference are indeed the things that I ought to do and must do. To sit quietly by and do or say absolutely nothing, in my humble opinion, would be doing a great injustice to my fellow man whom I could have helped in his journey if I had but taken the time to do so.

For me to think that I am on a lone crusade to save or change the world is both a foolish and a futile effort. I, alone, cannot change the world, but I can help make a difference, no matter how small a difference, in the lives of individuals.

My life is not mine to live solely centered on self. If I cannot aid my brother or sister on their journey, or do something to help make their burden just a little lighter to carry, then I humbly ask, “What is the point?”

There is truly a time when silence can be considered golden and less is sometimes more, but I humbly submit that change has never come about in the world through silence, but through the actions and the raising of voices of many who wanted to see change come about. I also humbly submit that the reason our world is in the shape that it is in today is because good men and women have sat in silence for far too long and have done absolutely nothing to help bring about change or make any type of difference in the world.

If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain. It is not all about me. It is about serving and helping others.

The greatest Christmas gift that you can give me is more precious than all the silver, gold, diamonds, rubies, and precious gems in the world. You cannot purchase the gift in any store, and even if you could, what price tag would you put upon it? Therefore, you cannot put the gift in a box and wrap it with brightly colored paper with a fancy bow on top and a name tag with my name on it, and place it under the beautifully decorated Christmas tree. For you see, the greatest gift that you can give me lasts longer than any gift that I could find under the tree and unwrap on Christmas morning. It is a gift that keeps on giving all year long. The greatest gift that you could ever give me is to love me.

A man wishes to visit his family for the holidays. The family lives some distance away from the man so he plans his trip, purchases his airplane ticket, and arrives at the airport the day of the flight, in time to catch the flight. However, if the man does nothing more than that, he will never reach his final destination to spend the holidays with his family. He has to physically get up when his flight number is called and board the airplane that will take him to where he needs to go. And so it is with life, as long as we remain comfortable and complacent with the mediocrity of life and wish to remain in our comfort zones and not move from where we are, we will never get any further in life. We have indeed reached our final destination. In order to get “there” from “here” requires some action and mobility on our parts. The same applies to the blessings that we receive in life. We cannot just sit by and expect to have blessings fall from the sky. Many blessings that we receive in this life are predicated on our willingness to do something and then we are blessed in return for our actions. In order to take full advantage of the life that we have been given, we need to spend more time doing something and less time just sitting around doing nothing.

The old adage is indeed true; people will not care how much you know until they know how much you care. We can all be found guilty at times of being so wrapped around the grandiose moments in our lives that we often miss the beauty of, and the lessons that can be learned from, the moments that we count as insignificant. People may never remember what we did or said in this life, but what they will remember is how we treated them and how we made them feel. It is often the random acts of kindness, no matter how meager they may seem, that are the most beneficial to everyone. The man with the highest IQ is not necessarily the wisest man; rather he that has a heart full of love and compassion for others and demonstrates that he sincerely cares by reaching out to them in their moments of need. He who spends his life standing in the spotlight seeking vain glory and recognition may well be remembered by a few, but it is often he who stood in the quiet shadows realizing that because he has been given much he too must give that will be remembered the most, not necessarily by name, but because of his unselfish acts of kindness and because he cared.

We are all familiar with the classic Christmas story by Charles Dickens called “A Christmas Carol.” One of the characters in that story is a young crippled lad by the name of Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim represents the good in mankind and the hope for a brighter tomorrow. He is the tiny glimmer of light that shines in what seems to be a dark and dismal world. His cheerful disposition and glowing countenance are living proof that there is no night so dark in our lives that the True Light of Hope cannot shine through. And so, it is no small wonder that he can proclaim with such great merriment in his heart, “God bless us everyone!”

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea wise men from the east came to Jerusalem asking the question, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” As we prepare to celebrate another Christmas Season let us pause to ask ourselves that same question, “Where is He?” Amidst all of the parties, tinsel, Christmas trees, lights, glitter, and presents, where is He in all of the merriment? Wise men came from afar to worship the new born King. Who or what do we worship during this season? His humble birth was no ordinary birth, for He was no ordinary Child. This One born of Mary, a choice daughter of our Heavenly Father, in a humble Bethlehem stable, was indeed God’s Precious Gift to the world – the greatest gift that any man could ever receive. As we gather with family and loved ones during this season, let us take time to remember that Jesus Christ, the Light, the Life, and the Savior of the World, is the real reason for the season. O’ Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord!

We are all familiar with the classic Christmas story by Charles Dickens called “A Christmas Carol.” One of the characters in that story is a young crippled lad by the name of Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim represents the good in mankind and the hope for a brighter tomorrow. He is the tiny glimmer of light that shines in what seems to be a dark and dismal world. His cheerful disposition and glowing countenance are living proof that there is no night so dark in our lives that the True Light of Hope cannot shine through. And so, it is no small wonder that he can proclaim with such great merriment in his heart, “God bless us everyone!”

Life Lesson:

It proves hard to get upset with a young child who continuously walks to the dangerous corner alone after you have repeatedly told him not to do so if you have never taken the time to teach him and show him what a corner is.

Life Application:

Tell a man to build a bridge, and the end result may not be to your satisfaction because he will attempt to accomplish the task based on his concept of what he thinks a bridge should look like when it is complete. Teach a man the concepts of building a bridge, and the finished product may more closely resemble the type of bridge that you had in mind as he will attempt to apply those concepts which he has been taught in order to get the job done. Show a man exactly how you want the bridge to be built and you will be more pleased with the finished product, and the man will be better able to hone his skills and have a better understanding of what is being asked of him.

I am a firm believer that we do not learn or grow by wanting to remain hidden in the shadows while everyone else always takes the lead. We need to crawl out of our shells and get out of our comfort zones and let the world know, without being obnoxious or overbearing, that we do exist and that we do have a voice. We may falter and make mistakes along the way, but we learn from those mistakes and keep pressing forward. Many a talent is never revealed to the world, and many a blessing is missed out by the person possessing the talent perhaps because of a fear of failure and rejection. Let us think of failures as the bellows that stoke the fire within us, and rejections as the coals that are needed to help keep that fire within us burning. We need to be a light to the world, but we cannot do that if we continue to hide our light under a bushel where no one can see it.

Christmas is neither about the brightly decorated tree nor the beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree. Christmas is neither about the size nor the cost of the gift. Christmas is all in the heart. The true joy, blessing, and spirit of Christmas is not in the getting, but in the giving. We may never realize how many lives we touch if we but make room in our hearts for others that might otherwise be forgotten. The greatest gift that we can ever give to anyone is to love them. It is a gift that keeps on giving long after Christmas is over. – Keith Lionel Brown

We have no “right” to complain about the distance that our cart is able to travel in a day’s journey if we are the ones who consistently insist on doing nothing but sitting in the cart and enjoying the ride. If we wish to cover a greater distance on the journey, we need to get out of the cart and either get in front of the cart and help pull, or get behind it and help push it along. And so it is in the workplace and also in the work of the ministry. As for the workplace, the optimum success of any team is dependent upon each member of that team doing their fair share to help achieve that success. If a team member is not willing to do their part to help achieve success, then they have no “right” to want to bask in the glory of success either. As for the work of the ministry, when Christ gave the Great Commission to “Go ye into all the world. . .”, He was not speaking to one lone disciple and giving him the command to go and do all of the work alone. He was speaking to all of the disciples present, and in essence, He was speaking to all future disciples – you and me. I find no instance in the entire cannon of scripture where Christ ever called anyone to do the work alone. The Gospel continues to roll forth as WE work together to help bring its message of Light and Hope to the world. The world does not need more sideline cheerleaders. There are enough of those. The world needs more people who are willing to go to work and do those things that need to be done. If we are not willing to do our part, our fair share in helping to resolve issues and make a difference in this world, then we do not reserve the “right” to complain and criticize the efforts of those that are at least putting forth a valiant effort to do so.

At this blessed season of the year people are greeted with Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Holidays and the like and it appears that no one seems to be offended. However, as soon as someone says Merry Christmas or puts a sign out that says Merry Christmas, there are some people who seem to become enraged and claim that it offends them. I will make no apologies to anyone for as for me and my house we say Merry Christmas. Yes, CHRISTmas. We do not celebrate the birth of a holiday. We celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, God’s Precious Gift to the world, the very reason not only for this season, but for our very existence. I respect everyone for their beliefs and traditions and only ask that they reciprocate by respecting mine. If we would spend more time concentrating on the things that should unite us as brothers and sisters, and less time tearing each other apart because of our cultural differences and beliefs, truly there would be peace on earth and goodwill toward all men.

The things that I remember the most from the Christmases of yesteryear are not the toys that I received as a child, or the gifts that I have received in years since, for many of those things were thrown away long ago and forgotten with time. What I remember the most is our little family gathering together and kneeling together for family prayer on Christmas morning before any gifts were open. What I remember the most is on that special day we took time to remember the Savior first, and to give Him thanks for all of the gifts in life that we receive, and for life itself. What I remember the most is that Christmas was about family and the love that we shared for one another. All the gifts in the world could never substitute for such precious memories.

First, with the war now ended in Iraq and soldiers now on their way home to their families and loved ones, I wish to be one of the people who say “Welcome home and thank you!” And as a 30-year retired United States Navy Veteran, I humbly salute you. With that being said, as we are blessed to be able to have family around us this Christmas, let us not forget those valiant men and women who will still be in far distant lands away from their families. As we enjoy our presents and partake of the wonderful meals that will be prepared, let us take time to remember and give thanks for those men and women who continue to put their lives on the line each and every day in order that we may enjoy the freedoms that allow us to celebrate another Christmas Day. May God bless, watch over and protect each of them, and although they won’t be home for Christmas, may the peace, love, and joy that is Christmas fill and warm their hearts. Semper fidelis Deo et patria! Angeli eius semper ibi tueri. (Always faithful to God and country! His angels are always there to protect them).

Keeping It Real

Some have said of me that I am a person that believes in “keeping it real.” That is true for that is who and what I am. With that being the case, allow me to make just one more comment and share this tiny morsel of bread as food for thought as we welcome Christmas morning in just 8 short days.

One of the most valuable lessons that my dear mother ever taught me is that no matter how bad we may think our situation and circumstances are, and no matter how much we think that we have to do without some things, always remember that there is someone, somewhere, whose situation and circumstances are a lot worse than you can ever begin to imagine.

I say that to say this, as we are opening our presents this Christmas, let us be thankful for the things that we are blessed to receive, and not be quick to murmur and complain about the things that we may have wished for and did not receive. If we live to see the day clothed in our right minds and with our full health and strength we are truly blessed as that is more than some will have. As a case in point, I think of a dear sweet sister who has been hospitalized for 19 months now and will not even realize when Christmas Day arrives, not to mention that she has a 12 year old son that will not have mommy home at Christmas yet again. Let us take time to remember those who are less fortunate than ourselves and although we may not be able to do anything for them financially, we can give them our love and let them know that we do care about others and not just ourselves.

Perhaps it is just me, but I am forever amazed at the number of people who claim that they never have time to do anything. I have become a firm believer that people will do exactly what they want to do, when they want to do it, and always seem to have plenty of time to do that thing which they want to do. I am forever amazed at the number of people who always claim that their lives are just oh so busy, but have you ever noticed that in all of their busy-ness they always seem to have time to stop and tell you why they think they are so busy?

Where is He?

Wise men of old came from afar asking the timeless question, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2). Following the star that they had seen in the east, they were led to where the Christ Child lay. Upon their arrival they presented the new born baby with precious gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh.

Have you ever stopped to wonder why the scriptures never tell us exactly how many wise men came to worship the new born King? Have you ever wondered why there is no mention of their names or identities? I submit that it is because they were not the focal point of the lesson that is being taught. The lesson that is being taught is that Christ is the One upon whom our focus should be centered. Like the wise men of old, we should come near to worship Him. For truly He is worthy of all praise and adoration!

As we prepare to welcome another Christmas morning in just 7 short days, perhaps we need to pause for a moment and take a look around and ask the same question that was asked of old, “Where is He?” Among all the commercialism, the brightly colored lights, beautiful decorations, and the beautifully wrapped presents under the tree, “Where is He?”

What is our main focal point as we celebrate Christmas day? Is it the merriment of the world at this season of the year that fills our hearts with joy and delight for a few brief moments of time, or are our hearts and minds focused on the One whose name is indeed Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace – He that is the greatest gift ever given to mankind by our loving Heavenly Father Himself, wrapped in His Divine love and sealed with an Eternal Promise – He who is both the Light and the Life of the world?

The wise men came to worship the Christ Child. Who is it or what is it that we worship? The wise men presented the new born King with precious gifts from their treasures. What would we give to Him who is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords? Would we give Him those things that matter least to us and seemingly have no real value, or would we open our hearts and give Him our best? O’ come let us adore HIM, CHRIST the LORD!

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