Out of My Mind

By Rev. Dr. Dyton L. Owen

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July 11, 2021

I’ve noticed something over the years. It may not seem like much, really…a little thing. But I think it is important. I think it’s something worth keeping in mind.
 

There seems to be some confusion in our society – and even in our churches! –  between a contract and a covenant. In fact, most people don’t use the word “covenant” much, if at all and therefore make the confusion all the easier to fall into. But there is a huge difference! Let me see if I can explain:

 

A contract is an agreement between two people – either a legal or verbal agreement – in which both parties agree to given conditions. Should one party fail to meet those conditions, the contract is null and void.


My grandfather was a contractor of sorts. He built small homes for people all over Gleason and McKenzie, TN. For Daddy Owen, a contract was a simple handshake between his client and himself.  Should the client fail to pay my grandfather during the building of the home, the contract was null and void and Daddy Owen was no longer obligated to complete the project.


On the other hand, a covenant is a relationship. As with a contract, a covenant involves two people who agree to certain conditions. However, with a covenant, should one party fail to meet those conditions, the other party remains faithful and meets the conditions he/she has agreed upon.

 

A marriage is not a contract (as much as some people treat it as such). It is a covenant between two people. The vows in marriage do not say: “Will you have this man/woman to be your husband/wife as long as you like?” In the marriage covenant, these words are never spoken: “I will love you if you love me back.” No. The marriage covenant – and all covenants – say, “I will remain faithful to this covenant regardless of how well or poorly you meet the agreed-upon conditions.”


Contracts are humanly driven and devised. Covenants are divinely driven and devised. God has entered a covenant with us through Jesus. That relationship says to us “No matter how well or poorly you treat this relationship, I will always love you. Even when you fail, I will remain faithful to you.”

 

What would the world, our community, our churches, our families look like if we all started living all our relationships by covenant rather than contract?

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Failing Forward

July 4, 2021

I used to hate failure. I don’t know about you, but somewhere along the line, I picked up the notion that failing at something meant I was somehow less of a person or that I didn’t give my best effort; it often made me feel embarrassed and ashamed.  Such feelings were made only worse if I had, in fact, done my very best but still failed. It sometimes took me days to get over a failure.  Sure, I knew the world hadn’t come to an end and that I would survive. But still….
 

What I have come to learn – and embrace - is this: the older I get, the less I care about success and failure. Not that I don’t like to succeed…that’s not it. It’s simply that I’ve come to look at failure in different terms; I’ve come to look at failure as a part of success, part of the process toward success. In fact, I have come to the realization that failure only sweetens success when it comes!


This idea is called “failing forward.”


When questioned about his failure rate at inventing the incandescent light bulb, Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that did not work.” In Edison’s mind, failure was only part of the process of success.  Edison failed forward.


In his work to develop the car, Henry Ford failed many times to get his ideas from paper to reality. He was often heard to say: “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”  Ford failed forward.


What about you?  When you fail, do you fail backward or fail forward?  Do you let your failure make you a failure?  Or do you embrace failure and let it make you a success down the road?


Silent screen actress Mary Pickford once said “…this thing we call failure is not in the falling down, but in the staying down.” When you get knocked down by failure, do you stay down or push ahead?


Remember: the only truly hopeless person is the one who refuses to learn from mistakes. 

 

Always fail forward.

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June 27, 2021

One of my favorite stories in all of scripture is that of David and Goliath. As a child, I loved the story so much because of its plot about how an evil giant of a man was defeated by the “little guy.” But as an adult, I came to realize there is so much more to the story.

 

David’s brothers are engaged in battle with the Philistines. It is a brutal battle. The Philistines are well equipped and well trained. It seems as little or no progress is being made, at least from the Israelite side.

 

Young David, who has stayed home to help with the family farm, is eager to join the battle. His King, Saul, gives in a little and says he can join the battle on one condition: David must wear the King’s armor and be armed with the King’s sword. But, after trying it on, David realizes that the armor is too big; he cannot move quickly while wearing it, he cannot wield such a heavy sword. So, he decides to fight without it, much to the chagrin of his King.

 

Meanwhile, back on the battlefield, in a last-ditch effort to end the battle, the Philistines send out their biggest and best warrior, Goliath, a massive man with the track record of no losses on the field.

 

At the same time Goliath is being sent to the field, David shows up to bring his brothers some supplies from home. He hears the jeering and challenges of Goliath: “Send out your best fighter! Is there no one brave enough to face me?” It’s more than David can take. He steps to the banks of a creek, picks up five small stones and reaches in his pack for his only weapon, a slingshot…something he uses almost daily as a defense against wolf attack as he watches his father’s flock.

 

As his brothers look on in disbelief, David steps toward the battlefield where Goliath awaits. They plead with their brother not to do it. “The giant will crush you, David! You have no weapon to defend yourself: no sword, no spear. Don’t do it!”

 

As he holds out his hand showing the five small stones, I like to think David replied: “I go forth the face the battle of this day with what little I have and my faith in God.”

We know how the story ends. David is victorious. The threat is defeated. What would it be like to live by David’s words: “I face the battles of this day with what little I have and my faith in God"?

 

I’m certain we would overcome whatever challenges we face each day.

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June 20, 2021

My life has been spent swimming around in the Bible. It’s what I do, though not always as thoroughly or as consistently as I should. Still, the scriptures are where much of my time is spent.  One of the fascinating things about scripture is its ability to reveal new things to the reader regardless of how often it has been read. No matter how many times one may read a story in the Bible, there is – if we approach it with an open-mind (not an empty-mind) – something new is likely to be discovered.


Just the other day, I was reading the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  You remember the story: Jesus returns to Bethany because he has heard of his friend's passing. By the time he arrives, Lazarus has been dead four days. Upon calling Lazarus out of the grave, Jesus says to the crowd “Remove the grave clothes from him and let him go.”


I had never noticed this in all my years of reading it: Jesus told the crowd to loose him and let him go. He didn’t do it himself; he directed the crowd to do it.  Odd.
        

But here’s what I think the story means: we are Jesus’ partners in setting others free. God will not do for us what we choose not to do for ourselves. How often have you and I prayed for God to do something for us knowing full well it is something we could do ourselves…we’re often just too lazy to do it.  Like a good parent, God will not do for us what we have the God-given ability to do for ourselves.


This scene in the story of Lazarus is Jesus is saying to us, “I have set him free from death. Now you set him free to live.” Jesus is calling us to be co-laborers with him in bringing freedom to others – freedom from religion, freedom from legalism, freedom from sin…freedom to serve God.

You and I have been gifted by God to be a gift to others. You and I have been set free to set others free. That is what it means to live a resurrected life.

Rev. Dr. Dyton L. Owen was born and raised in Oklahoma. He began preaching in the church at the age of 20, while he was still in college. Dyton has a B.A. in Religion from Oklahoma City University and his Masters of Divinity from the Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. He completed a Doctor of Ministry in Theology and Worship at Northern Seminary/Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies.