Sunday, June 18, 2006

Justice Is Fair - Really?

We all want to get the best return on our money, don't we?
In 1979 I had an opportunity to make a loan to an individual. The loan would be secured by a second trust deed on a small commercial building, he owned, which was in a small northern California town. The loan amount was $30,000. The reason I was willing to loan the money was to get a return greater than in other investments. The building was worth more than the total of the first loan and my second loan so I thought my investment was secure.
The owner of the building was going to take advantage of a new law in California that would allow him to devide the building into three seperate ownerships. The building had three seperate offices. These would become office condo's. It sounded like a good idea to me. The owner retained a real estate broker to sell the building for him. The broker was a friend of mine. It was not long before the broker stopped by my office. He said he a buyer interested in the property. The buyer's interest was sparked by the potential of splitting the ownership into the three units. The broker asked me what I thought of the idea. I told him it sounded like a good idea to me. I should have never said those words!
The buyer bought the building. There was not enough cash in the deal for me to get all of the amount I loaned back so I took a note securred by a first trust deed on a piece of vacant land owned by the man I loaned the original amount to. The real estate market turned down and I did not receive payments on the vacant land. After a couple of years he deeded me the property since the value of the property had dropped and the amount he owed me plus the interest was more than the land was worth. This was the early 1980's and the bottom had fell out of the real estate market.
Now back to the buyers of the commercial building. They did go through the paperwork and split the building into three seperate ownerships. But the market had slipped so bad that they lost money, so they went and saw an attorney. The attorney said the owner had misrepresented the property. He had told them he had leased part of the building, which he had not. The attorney said the broker had not completed a good market study. AND the attorney said they had relied on my statement that it would be a good idea to split the ownership. Since I had a security interest in the building the attorney brought a lawsuit that said the three of us: the owner, the broker and myself together commited fraud.
After many months the attorney made an offer to settle. I said why? I had not done anything wrong! So we moved toward trial. Just before the court date my attorney (I had a seperate attorney as did the real estate broker) was appointed to the superior court bench. So I had to retain another attorney. He said this is a very involved case. It was by that time. So I had to pay him $5,000 to "get up to speed" on the case and get ready for trial. A jury trial! At that time my attorney charged $1,000 per day while in trial.
The trial took 13 days! We did not know how long the trial was going to go so each day I brought a check for $1,000 for my attorney! I will never forget one Friday. When the jury was seated a women jury member caughed. The judge asked her if she was ok. She said she might be coming down with something. So the judge said we would recess until Monday so she could recover. My attorney said he would have to charge me $500 for showing up that day.
The lawsuit was for return of the purchase price, attorney fees, and $500,000 mental suffering! Let me tell you that was a long thirteen days plus weekends.
The verdict came back. The owner of the building - guilty. The real estate broker - pay back the real estate commission and me - 12 votes not guilty.
The owner filed bankruptcy. The judge overturned the jury on the comission. The buyers of the building appealed the case. Another $5,000 to the attorney to respond to the appeal. The appeal was denied.
My attorney said now it is our turn. We will file suit against them for filing a malicious lawsuit. It really sounded like the thing to do. After all I had spent over $35,000 defending myself! In talking to a good friend he said: "Forget it". Go on with your life. It you don't your focus for a couple of years will be revenge. "Even if you win you will loose".
I thought it through and took his advice. I don't know what ever happened to the people who sued me. Through this I leaned: "The value of a lesson is in direct proportion to the tuition". It is better to forgive and move on.

Justice Is Fair - Really?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Pride goeth…

The desert warrior and his 600 loyal men rapidly made their way along the steep mountain slope. They knew in the valley, on the opposite side of its rugged peak, were 3000 of the king’s finest soldiers—hand-picked to catch their little rebel group. But the desert nomads, much like Middle-Eastern insurgents today, knew the mountains well and were intimately familiar with the elaborate cave systems that pockmarked the hills.
They found the sheep pens on the border of the Engeti Desert that marked the small entrance to a cave large enough for 600 men and burrowed their way into the depths of the mountain. A few days later, a scout entered the cave and reported the king’s 3000 were nearing the narrow entrance.
Never would the king look for them here. The cave’s deceptively small opening placed it beyond suspicion. The desert warrior and a small group of his leading men made the lengthy journey from the expansive cave through the narrow passage to the mouth.
Just beyond the pens, glimmering in the sun, they could see sparkling armour, shields and spears. The enemy was close. They were out of rank, resting in the relative shade of the mountain side.
One man, a good head taller than the rest and clothed in splendid armour, emerged from the rabble and mysteriously headed directly toward the party hiding in the cave. They quickly ran back down the corridor and around the first bend of the cave’s throat. The man approached the cave. He entered. Alone.
The rebel leader and his mighty men hazarded a glance. There was no question—it was the king.
“Now is the time!” whispered one of the men, “God promised you would have this chance. Deal with him!”
The desert warrior quietly stalked his prey. Edging closer, the only sound that could be heard was the sound of the king relieving himself against the cave wall. The king thought he had found a solitary place for this private act. How wrong he was. Slowly a knife was drawn from its scabbard. Silently the final steps were taken. The rebel knelt behind the king. Steadily he grasped the king’s robe and with a deft swipe of the knife the robe was cut. With a portion of the king’s robe in hand the rebel returned to his men.
The three men attending their leader stared at him incredulously, “You missed?”
He showed them the bit of fabric. “No, I didn’t miss,” he laughed. “I did a little tailoring of his suit and he didn’t even notice!”
The three trained killers glared at their comic champion. They were livid. How could he waste such a chance? “We will kill him ourselves, if you are too scared!” The men moved forward.
Quickly he grabbed them, “No! We mustn’t,” he rasped, “He is God’s anointed leader.” As he spoke he looked down at the scrap of fabric in his hand and the full import of what he had just said and done hit him in the heart. I have just mocked the Lord by making a joke of His chosen leader. He suddenly saw the sin at the core of his action. He was a God mocker, the king’s jester. His pride had overwhelmed his commitment to God. And he had sinned.
God’s king turned and left the cave. The desert warrior stood and headed after him. By the time the rebel reached the mouth of the cave the king was approaching his army. So he shouted, “My lord the king!”
The king turned with a start and stared at his nemesis. The man emerged from the dark cave, knelt in the sunlight and pressed his forehead to the ground for a long moment before regaining his feet. “Why are you convinced I am hell-bent on killing you? You are anointed from Heaven. I will never harm you. And yet you hunt me like a wild dog. I am a flea. Nothing more!”
He held up the bit of fabric that now tore at his heart. “Look at the hem of your robe. The missing piece is here, in my hand. I removed it with my knife and left you unharmed. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.”
King Saul’s eyes filled with tears. He had once been as passionate for God. He envied this young idealist. Envied him with a passion. “Is that your voice, David, my son?” His voice choked on the last word and his body began to convulse in sorrowful conviction. I am unrighteous and unfit to rule. I’ve lost touch with the God of my youth. He stilled his sobs and raised his voice, “You are more righteous than I. You have showed mercy to an unmerciful old king. God will bless you one day when you become king. Promise me that you won’t cut off my descendants as easily as you severed the hem of my cloak!”
David, the dessert warrior, bowed his head. “I promise,” he shouted. “I promise your children and their children’s children will walk unharmed all the days of their lives.” And he meant it.
■ This wasn’t the first or the last time that David’s pride caused him to lose track of his primary focus. As a teen he confronted a giant. God was with him—and King Saul could tell. The king sent the shepherd boy to arrange the fate of the Israelite people because it was evident that the Lord blessed David’s actions. A few hours later it was clear the king had made the right decision.
When the giant fell, the Israelites chased every Philistine down and David, the giant-killer, entertained his first bout of pride. He had killed Goliath with the giant’s own sword—cutting off his head after knocking him down with a slingshot. He brought the head back to the king as a trophy.
But then David did something odd. He went on tour—with the head. He kept the head and weapons of Goliath in his tent and took them on a slow procession to Jerusalem. People came to see this hero and his plunder. Soon the decapitated head of the giant was far out-sized by the head of the young shepherd boy.
The stories and songs about David moved toward the Holy City faster than he did and when he arrived in a town the young girls would begin the refrain, “Saul killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands!” They continued singing David’s praises as King Saul passed through their towns as well. And thus began the jealousy that declined into hatred and finally into madness. David, not so much in his success, but in how he dealt with his success became the bane of King Saul’s existence.
Had he quietly surrendered the weapons and head of the giant to King Saul on the battlefield camp, rather than making the prideful procession to Jerusalem, the story would be different. But the story as told in the Bible reveals a king who slowly slipped into depression and then plummeted into an insane jealous rage that lasted until his death. In the eyes of King Saul, David was enemy number one—the usurper of the throne. Every girlish refrain and boyish apology served to steel his resolve.
■ Years later, when David was king, his pride got the better of him once again. He desired Bathsheba. He sent for her. And he slept with her. When she fell pregnant and her husband had been gone for weeks—serving in King David’s army—a solution had to be found.
David called for Uriah, the woman’s husband, and tried—but failed—to get the man to sleep with his wife. It seems Uriah was unwilling to disrespect his God or his king by taking personal pleasure when there was a battle raging. David should have been reminded of his own idealistic past. But too many years as the sovereign king had severed him from his righteous youth. And once again his pride led the charge.
David signed and sealed Uriah’s death warrant and, with the same sarcasm he had displayed when cutting the hem off Saul’s garment, he gave the letter to Uriah to deliver to his general. Uriah galloped to his death with integrity and resolve, not knowing his own impending doom.
Uriah died. Bathsheba mourned. David waited. And as quickly as was decent, the king and Uriah’s wife were wed.
David was confronted with his sin in a most unusual way. Nathan the prophet visited him with a tale to tell. David listened to a story of a poor man’s plight, a rich man’s greed and a beloved lamb’s death. He called retribution down on the rich man. His own shaking finger of judgment was bent backward to point directly at him by Nathan’s chilling words, “You are that man.”
David wept. He wept for his sin. He wept for the baby that was dying. He refused to eat, bathe or sleep. For seven days he wept. Then the baby died. He had tried. He knew he had been forgiven—Nathan had said so. But he thought maybe—just maybe—the baby could be spared. But the sickness ended in death. David accepted God’s judgment. And he and Bathsheba were soon blessed with another baby boy. They named him Solomon.
■ After all we have just explored, it seems ludicrous that the Bible can state David was “a man after God’s own heart.” How could this be?
Pride goeth before a fall. The phrase is well known. And it is also known that pride settles deepest in the tallest poppies. When he was only a teen, David was anointed “future king” by God’s prophet. David didn’t have visions of grandeur—he had realities of grandeur! It was just a matter of time.
His humble beginnings as a shepherd boy were eroded as people flocked to follow him. He was a great leader. But, unfortunately, at times he let it go to his head. Thinking himself above reproach, he would do something irresponsible. Afterwards, in dejected shame, he always realised he was no different than any other man. And ultimately he would kneel, kiss the ground before God and beg for forgiveness. When faced with his slip-ups he bowed in humility, confession and repentance. David was, indeed, a man after God’s own heart.
■ Long before Newton discovered it, the Bible clearly demonstrated that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” David’s life is proof. King Saul was driven to madness by David’s prideful parades—no matter how sincere the apology. Not only did Uriah and the baby die in Bathsheba’s tragedy, but David’s bony-finger-pointing judgment—that the man in the story should pay four times over for his evil—was carried out in full. Four of David’s sons were lost during his lifetime and the respect of his children was never regained. They had seen too much.
Truly, the wages of sin is death. And often it is far worse than your own death. It is death through disconnection—of loved ones, of cherished ideals, of commitment to God. Sin separates.
David discovered the solution. Repentance. Admitting wrongs and saying sorry can often make things right with an offended friend or family member. Repentance always makes things right with God, because God always forgives a repentant heart. Unfortunately, repentance doesn’t change the consequences of the snowballs you have thrown. Some, mercifully, do little harm, while others cause avalanches.
The only way to ensure that pride will not go before your fall is to catch yourself at the thought level—in those fantasylike moments when you think, “I should have said . . .”—and take the thought captive. Imprison the prideful and release the merciful.
But when you let one fly and it hits its mark, remember to humble yourself and say you are sorry. “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up.” And you too will be seen as someone after God’s own heart, warts and all.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Don't Forget The Goal

For two years my business partner and I had been working on selling an excellent commercial corner we had developed. This corner property of nearly 3/4 acre fronts two very busy streets. It is an excellent location. We were working with a restaurant owner. The owner had an existing restaurant on the other side of the city and wanted to open a second location on this side of town.
In designing a restaurant there are many elements. This restaurant was also to have a drive through window. The process goes like this: First, you put in an application with the City to see what they would require such as design, ingress, egress, parking, landscaping, entrances, exits, fire code compliance etc., Second, you retain an architect to design the building and provide the actual working drawings. Third, you select a bank who will do the financing for the project.
The bank wants to know how much the restaurant will cost including land. This cannot be determined until the plans have been drawn and approved and put out to bid to all the subcontractors. In this case the plans were changed several times by the restaurant owner to make the final building as efficient and attractive as possible. This takes time. Also, the financing was to go through the Small Business Administration, more time. An appraisal, more time. All this took time, lots of time ... almost two years!
The buyer was really getting frustrated at how long this process was taking. As we neared the final approvals he said: "If this deal doesn't get done this month I'm not doing it". It took longer. When the bank called him and said we have approval he said: "I'm not going to buy the property and build the restaurant". When my partner and I found out we said to ourselves: "After all this he's not going through with the deal".
What happened? The buyer in his frustration let a non relevant point distract him. He forgot what his original goal was: to open a new restaurant!
My partner and I told the bank: "Don't cancel this package. We believe we can put it back together." We called the buyer and explained we understood his frustration. We pointed out to him that if he would go ahead he would relize his original goal. After thinking it through he deceided we were right and he went ahead with the deal.
Many times in our frustration we're looking for a place to vent it. Don't choose to vent your frustration at the cost of sacraficing your goal!
A final footnote. Before the restrauant started construction the City raised the required traffic impact fees. Since the application was already in and the plans submitted the new fees would not be charged. The fees went up over $250,000! What a savings to the restaurant owner. Keep your eye on the goal.

A Second Illustration
Years ago I lived in Hawaii on the island of Kawaii. I was a licensed real estate salesman. In an attempt to get new listings I would visit for sale by owner open houses. I visited one such house and talked to the lady who together with her husband owned the house. I told them they had a very nice house. Before leaving I asked if she would consider listing the home with me and allowing me to market the home for her. She got a little indignent and said: "You'll charge 6% comission and I won't pay that". I said I thought we could add the 6% comission to the price she was asking. She didn't see how we could sell the home for more than she was asking and said no.
I visited her open house nearly every week. After about six weeks I noticed a lot of the furniture was gone and asked where it went. She said her husband had gone back to the mainland and she was staying until the house sold. I again asked if she would consider letting me market the house. Now she had softened some and said: If I don't sell it in three weeks I'll list it with you. Three weeks went by and she still had not sold the house. She then listed the home with me and I priced it adding the 6% sales comission to the price she wanted.
When lsiting the home she said the dining room light was not to be included in the sale as it was an anniversary gift. I said I understood.
I advertised the home and held open houses. I had a call from a man who was looking to own a home in Hawaii as a rental. I told him about this home and he wanted to see it. I showed it to him and he said I'll take it. I said the dining room light is not included. He said that was fine as long as she put some kind of light in to replace it.
In presenting the offer over the phone I told the seller about the dining room light. The lady said: "I won't replace it. I said it wasn't included and he will need to buy his own light." I told her I would buy the light from my commission. She said she would not allow it. It was the principle that counted. (I didn't understand what principle she was talking about, but didn't ask) I told the buyer about the counter offer saying he had to buy his own dining room light. He said: "This is crazy. I want to rewrite my offer." His rewritten new offer was for the same price with him buying the dining room light, but now instead of all cash he was requiruing the seller to carry a $20,000.00 second note for 20 years at a low rate of interest! I presented the new offer to the seller. She accepted it and said: "It's ok because he is buying the dining room light."
She had forgot the goal: To sell the house and get the money.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Be bold, be strong, for the Lord thy God is with you!

There’s nothing like having God on your side. While it isn’t always the case that God will show up and get in the ring for you, He often asks you to do just that for him – to see how serious you are!

Take Daniel. The man liked vegies. The king liked meat – lots of it… and unclean meat to boot. Daniel’s teacher said, “You get sick and I loose my life.” Daniel’s tenacity brought that trainer fame, without a doubt. Daniel and his three friends ended up being the wisest four students examined by the king after 3 years of being allowed their Jewish diet – on the sly none the less. You can bet the king said to their teacher, “What have you been feeding these boys!?!?”

That little audacious act blessed them greatly and taught Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah to trust their God, His laws and His customs as much more valuable than anything that stood against those principles.

When the King, in a moment of undiminished self-aggrandisement demanded that his entire nation bow to a statue modelled on himself… Daniel’s three friends refused. They truly stood out in the crowd. They were the only ones standing as the entire valley of submissive servants stooped low. They were called to the front of the class – “Worship 101” – they were reminded… Bow or Burn. The gold smelting fire that had formed the 30 meter statue, now stoked to melting point, awaited them. They said, “We won’t bow. And we won’t burn.” The King angrily commanded them to be cast into the fiery furnace. The soldiers who threw them in slumped to the ground – killed by the blast from the mouth of the fire. Three Hebrew slaves, bound with ropes, stumbled into the fire. Four men, untied, stood walking and talking within the flames. Even in the fire they did not bow. The King, who knew a God when he saw one, recognised the fourth man – The Son of God! The three men, called by name, walked out of the fire – unharmed. And the King worshiped. Their God.

What about Daniel? Where was he in this momentous moment? Was he discretely tying his shoes in the middle of the throng? Had he applied his learning from “Situational Ethics 101” to a rather uncomfortable situation? Not likely. He must have been away from the Kingdom on some sort of business. How can I say that? Because of the audacity with which he lived out his faith in every other moment of his life. He would not have abandoned his God’s command, “Thou shalt have no other God’s before me” for any reason. In fact, we see a time when Daniel stands alone later in his life. He is challenged to pray to the king. He not only refuses to pray to the king, but he boldly prays to His God through his window three times a day – just as he always had. It got him a mouthful from the king, and diner date with the lions. He slept on electric fur blankets that night. And he greeted the king in the morning.

Daniel and his three friends were brazen followers of God. They didn’t pull punches or sell soft sermons. They met adversity blow for blow. Men of God are like that. They stood up boldly and knelt down humbly for the one true God. Though they were sold out by men they were never bought out. Though they were shamed for their commitment to God they were never ashamed to claim Him as Lord. They were bold believers in a God who never failed them! And why not?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

When It Appears You've Lost . . . The Challenge Has Just Begun . . . Go For The Win!

Some years ago when I was working in the health care field one of my positions was president of a small pharmaceutical company. We had only one product. It was a pain pill. A narcotic which was a codeine derivative. The pill was to be taken for moderate to severe pain such as after a broken bone, a tooth extraction, root canal etc.
Our products was regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Our product was formulated about 25 years prior to this time. In an effort to have more control over drugs the FDA had made new rules that we were to comply with. They did not tell us about these rules but rather published them into the Federal Register. These rules said drugs like ours were to complete a formal test process by a certain date. Since we did not know about the requirement we did not do it. If we had completed this process it would have taken us 2-4 years and our drug may not have been accepted. In other words: Out of Business!
The way the FDA works is when you haven't complied they show up at one of your distributors and take all of your product. If you don't like what they have done you have to sue them in Federal Court. Well they did it, they came into one of our main distributors and took all out product.
I got this news at about 3:00p.m.. Our office was in Newport Beach, California. The FDA is in Washington D.C. on the east coast which is three hours later. What should I do? I asked my secretary to book me a night flight for that night to Washington D.C.. I would be in Washington at 6:00a.m. the next morning. I told my secretary to call the FDA first thing in the morning and tell them I would be there at 9:00a.m. to meet them. If they were busy I said tell them I'll wait. If they are busy all day, tell them I'll wait till the next day. I need to see them.
When I arrived at the FDA I was surprised by the size of the building. It is shaped like the letter "E". The building was about 600 feet long and nine stories high! Upon entering the building I asked if this building was all the FDA? The receptionist said that this building was not only all the FDA but it wasn't all of it! She said the compliance division, which I needed to go to, was in another complex. I drove to the compliance division. Upon entering I told the receptionist who I was and the nature of my business and she said: "They are waiting for you".
I walked into the room by myself. There were about 8 people in the room. We all introduced ourselves. There next question was: "Are you an attorney?" I said: "no". They all shook their heads and said they couldn't remember meeting anyone representing a company that was not an attorney! To make a long story short they said we had not complied with federal law and they had no choice but to enforce the law and put us out of business!
After the meeting I went to the best law firm in Washington D.C. that specialized in FDA matters. They told me they could draw the matter out for a short time, but in the end we would loose.
At this point many would say that's it. You can't fight the government. Why not! We went to a second law firm and told them we did not think what the FDA did was right. We were required to keep track of every tablet we made. If it was given as samples that information all had to be submitted monthly. The FDA knew who we were, where we were and how to contact us, but they didn't. Our position was they should have made us aware of the requirements and helped us comply since our product had been on the market for over 25 years. It was a safe and effective drug. Twenty five years of use had proved it. The second law firm said nice thought, but we would loose ... It was the law.
Give up? Not on your life. We looked for a third attorney who would take the case and represent us on the premise that we were not treated fairly. The attorney said: "It's worth a try, no promises".
After several months and many motions back and forth the big day came. Los Angeles Federal Court. We sat at our table with our one attorney. The FDA sat at their table with many attorney's. The judge heard both sides and then said: "I am ready to make my ruling." You can imagine the thoughts going through my mind, had we wasted our time? Did we have a chance against the FDA? The judge stood up! He looked at the table of FDA attorney's and said: "You will Not put this company out of business! You did not treat them fairly. I am ordering you to help them comply. You are to return their product and while they are complying they can stay in business!
Wow! WE won! What had we done? First, another illustration.

The second week after I was promoted to president of a health care company with numerous long term care facilities we were called by the head of the Los Angeles City and County Health Department. He said the health department was closing our 69 bed mental facility in West Los Angeles! The reason was the facilities failure in numerous areas including nursing care, programming, physical plant care and a few others.
Wow! What to do! I called the head of the health department on the phone. "Could we meet?" He said why? I said I would like to meet him and review the problems. After a long pause he agreed. Driving to downtown Los Angeles I tried to think of how to handle what seemed like a hopeless situation. (Prior to going into any negotiation visualize yourself being successful.) Upon introducing myself the receptionist showed me into a room full of people. There must have been 15 people in the room. The head of the L.A. City and County health department then came in and introduced himself. He briefly went over all the problems and said: "Your company is not capable of solving all these problems". I said I had just been named president of the company a week ago. I then asked if he closed the facility what would he do with all the patients? He said he'd find places for them. I then said: "But if we could solve the problems wouldn't it be better for the patients and the City if the facility could stay open? I said I had full authority to hire whoever I wanted and spent whatever money I felt nesessary. I then asked him could he please give me a chance? He thought a moment and said here's the deal: no attorney's, the health department would be in and out of the facility many times during the 24 hours of every day. One mistake and it was over; the facility would be closed. I agreed. It was hard work! It took several months. We made it! After that the head of the health department gave me his personal phone number and said I could call him anytime I wanted!

Now what principals of negotiation were involved? First of all don't be intimated! When people say it's over, is it really? Believe in yourself. Don't be afraid. Be prepared. Do the unexpected. Look people in the eye. Your body posture needs to sell your abilities. Be tenacious. Be focused. If you can make the process lighthearted and have fun do it. Find some humor if you can. (During the meeting with the L.A. County Health Department I was wearing a Mickey Mouse watch. The health department head said our company was just ilke my watch: Mickey Mouse. I said I wish we were that successful! Brake down barriers. If you seem to be in a really hard spot ask the other party to try putting themselves in your spot and then ask them what they would do? Remember everyone else is a person just like you...your're equal. At the end of your negotiation ask for what you want! Many people forget this most important step. Follow through. Remember what you have learned.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

God's plans, my plans, God's will, my will.

Jesus had a divine plan the timing of which was lined up well before his birth. Thousands of years of prophets and predictions had gone into getting ready for the paradigm shift from BC to AD. Yet, as revealed in John 2, Jesus was willing to alter these perfect plans to honour his mother. Obviously the Ten Commandments, which revealed his character, were embodied in his humanity. He placed the 5th Commandment higher that the expected starting point of his signs and wonders campaign. In so doing, Jesus showed that the Law of God is eternal and that relationships are more important than plans and procedures – especially when a parent can be honoured!
Jesus had a plan of attack that started with rebellion against the Jewish religion. It was his intention to stand boldly as the new “way, truth and life.” The comparison he made between the temple of the day and the temple of his body was a stark one indeed - the temple of his body would be broken and rebuilt. By beginning his ministry in the
Temple he would have established that his kingdom was a spiritual one – not one of flesh and blood. Jesus’ plan and purpose was introduced through the clearing of the temple. He had come to make things right in his Father’s house. He had come to lead people into worshipping the King of Kings and entering the Kingdom of Heaven – not an Earthly kingdom.
His plan was to start and finish his ministry during the Passover – three years apart. Turning the tables of money changers to begin and the sacrificial table to finish - one sacrifice to end all sacrifices. The Lamb of God had come to finish the work of reconciliation between God and men! Jesus did away with the temple by becoming it’s full replacement. In the temple, Jesus began his intentional plight of fulfilling prophecy. He had given the messages to the prophets over the millennia and now it was his task to see that he dotted every I and crossed every T. Every prophecy given was fulfilled for one express purpose – to draw people to the cross – to redemption.
All this was done so that we could come into the presence of the Father. Thousands of years ago our Heavenly Parent was willing to change his plans – perfect plans – to organise a rescue mission. Aren’t you glad he was willing to change over 6000 years of His story to save you?
It’s not so hard to see why Jesus was willing to follow his mother’s wishes that night at the party. Like Father, like Son. God is in the habit of changing his plans to rescue humanity from small or great loss, from either embarrassment or death. He loves us – more than we can imagine.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Week Time Stopped

Before I get into the subject of this section a little background information is necessary. Nine years ago I decided I wanted to give some of my time and use skills I had learned to help others.
After dropping out of college at age 20 I drifted without much of a plan for my life for a couple of years. At that time I was living in a small town in Northern California. One day while walking along the street I noticed a land surveyor's office. Even though I didn't know anything about surveying I thought that would be an interesting job. So I walked into the office and was greeted by the land surveyor. He told me winter was coming and he didn't need anyone at that time, but if I would come back in the spring possibly he could hire me. I came back the next spring and was hired as a brush cutter for the survey crew. In a short time I realized I needed to spend time reading survey textbooks if I was going to learn. So I set aside at least one hour each night to study. During the day I asked a lot of questions. Also, I took evening and weekend college classes.
After three years I was a party chief running the field survey crew. In the winter I learned land planning and sub-division design. I also learned to read and write legal land descriptions. My job also involved surveying, designing and staking logging roads.
After six years of surveying I took a chance and went on my own as a logging and road building contractor. During my eight years in logging and road building there were many lessons to be learned including going broke; but that's another story. I did have many interesting experiences.
Those eight years lead me into 15 years of real estate development. Buying vacant parcels of land I was able to use the skills I had learned to layout, design and build large residential subdivisions and, with my business partner, build homes and commercial buildings.
So at age 50 I wanted to try to help others using some of the skills I had learned. A good friend of mine recommended I contact International Children's Care(ICC). ICC takes care of orphan children in poor third world countries. So I wrote them a letter listing my experiences and skills. I said I was looking for a part job. If they could use me I would go anywhere they wanted me to and I would pay my own airfare and expenses. They called me. They said they could really use a person with my experience.
Next, I traveled to their main office in Vancouver, Washington. At that time they had childrens' homes in about 10 countries and were wanting to expand. Their plan was to have me help select the site in the new countries, complete topographic surveys of the new sites and then layout the children homes, school (if needed), staff housing, church, office, water source, septic systems, roads etc.
My first trip took me to an existing project in Guatemala to see what their plan was and how if worked. This facility was a seven hour drive from Guatemala City. It wasn't the facility I remember so much as the children! Over 100 of them. Each with a very sad story. Children with no hope, but now with much hope. I was very excited about my new "job".
The second trip took me to Thailand, Burma and Bangladesh. More stories for later. The third trip to Africa. Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
Then to India. ICC had been given funds to purchase land in India. The lady who was going to manage the children homes was already there and knew about where the land was she had negotiated to buy. My assignment was to review the land to be sure it was acceptable, have it surveyed, pay for it, go through the title transfer process, design the children home taking into consideration local customs, decide what materials to use, estimate the cost and try and find people to build it. Oh yes I left Australia on a Sunday and was only able to be there one week! Quite a challenge for an American who doesn't speak Hindi!
Now we come to the key negotiation points of this section: Purpose and Prayer The purpose was good and I prayed from the time Dave dropped me off at the airport in Sydney, Australia.
I was to change planes in Singapore. I only had two hours in Signapore until the next plane departed. No time to lose. I went to the gate in Sydney and guess what...Plane delayed one hour. We boarded the plane and we waited another hour. We took off two hours late! I prayed again. Lord this is Your mission, Your work. Its in Your hands. The pilot said he'd do what he could. We landed in Singapore 1 hour and 50 minutes late. When we landed there was an announcement: "When we are at the gate would Mr. Edgren please come to the front of the plane. Your connecting plane is waiting for you." The door opened. I ran. I got in the next plane and they closed the door. I set in my seat and took a deep breath. Then I thought, my luggage won't make it.
Arriving in Madras, India I thought I better go to the luggage area to report that my luggage was left behind. Something told me to go to the carousel and see anyway. As the luggage came off guess what? There came my luggage. First!
I spent the night in Madras. Next was the train ride to Hyderabad. ICC said they thought the trip was about 3-4 hours. Wrong 10 hours! There went Monday! Oh , by the way if you get the chance don't miss a long train ride in India. I promise you won't forget it. Now there was only 4 days to get all the work done.
A three hour drive from Hyderabad and I was there.
Tuesday I was anxious to get started. In case you have never worked in a third world country I'll tell you the spped at which things get done is very different than in western countries. The title could not be transferred until the land was "officially" surveyed. The surveyors were busy Tuesday. They could possibly make it on Wednesday or Thursday. I found out there had been no right of way negotiated for the property. So on Tuesday and Wednesday we negotiated. The Indian people have been negotiating long before us, they are very good at it! After two days we worked the right of way out. Thursday morning two men peddled up on bicycles. The surveyors! I went with them and learned more about surveying. This part of India was sand and the boundary was marked by big stones, just like mentioned in the Bible. Survey complete that afternoon we went to the court to transfer title. Only one day left.
I had noticed a builder building a house near the site. I stopped and talked to him and asked him if he would be interested in helping build an orphan home. He said he would be honored. On Friday He and I went over the plan I had drawn and he gave me an estimate of cost. I asked if he could start the next week. He said he could.
The week was over and it was done! I went to church and even though I couldn't understand a word that was said I knew God was there and had been with me every step all week.
Sunday I took the train back to Madras and flew back to Sydney.
It was nearly three years later when I was attending a meeting at ICC. They said, "Did you ever get to see a picture of the house you designed in India". I said, "No". They handed me the picture. The house was beautiful, only I didn't design it! The builder had probably decided these children should get a little extra. He gave it his all.
Purpose and Prayer. I will never forget that week in India.