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RELIGION COLUMN

No one should allow others to determine their future

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Clay Perkins
Columnist

Saturday, December 30, 2017

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” — Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

I had to laugh when I saw my brother, a retired police officer, wearing a T-shirt that said, “Suck it up, Buttercup.” He told me his daughter bought it for him. If you knew my brother, you would know that this shirt suits him. He is a good man with three adult children who, no doubt, had heard him say that phrase or something like it through the years. In fact, I am confident even his grandchildren have heard similar phrases, albeit in a gentler tone.

I get it. You may be offended by the words on his chest, but I get it. He was child number four, while I was child number six, of eight. There was no silver spoon in our heritage. We were sons of a truck driver, who was the son of a share cropper. We were poor, and the deck was stacked against us. But that did not matter. We learned early, and often, that life was not fair, so we had to get over it. We decided to work hard. We learned to treat everyone with respect. Both those wealthier than we were and those poorer were to be valued. Nobility was not defined by being born poor or wealthy. Nobility would come from what one did in life. All seven of my brothers and sisters have lived simple, principled lives from values taught and modeled by our parents. Our parents were far from perfect, but their commitment to family in the end could not be questioned. They told us — more than once and in no uncertain terms — words similar to those found on my brother’s T-shirt.

Jim Thorpe must have had similar influences in his life, or at least I am guessing he did. He was the son of an Irishman and of a Sac and Fox Indian mother. Life took many turns for Jim Thorpe, but at one point he was labeled the greatest athlete of his time. In 1912 he competed in the Olympics and won the decathlon as the first Native American from Oklahoma representing the United States in track and field. If you are not familiar with Jim Thorpe’s story, Google his name, and you will see his picture. Make sure you notice his shoes. You will see he is wearing different shoes and socks on each foot. Why? It was not a fashion statement or special equipment. The morning of the race his shoes were stolen. He searched and found two shoes in the garbage — one right shoe and one left shoe, but different sizes. So he wore more socks on one foot. Jim Thorpe would not allow his misfortune to stop him. The words found on my brother’s T-shirt were his reality.

The Apostle Paul might have been found wearing a similar T-shirt. In the book of Philippians, he was seeking to encourage believers by telling his story about how he has learned to be content, whether well fed or hungry. He knew what it was like to be poor. And he knew what it was like to be rich. Paul had experienced both in his life — times when he was in need and times when he had plenty. He encouraged believers to live with no excuses by being content no matter their situation.

So no matter where you find yourself today, just know that you can do this. Why allow your conditions to define your future? Did someone steal your shoes? Run your race anyway. Do you find yourself in poverty, or do you find yourself in abundance? Either way, live your life to the best of your ability. Are those around you determining your value by your skin color? Your family tree? Your education? Your status? Hold your head up high. With Christ, you can accomplish great things in all circumstances.

Live your life. Make no excuses. Let no man determine your future. Be thankful that God is for you. And by the way, if your adult child gave you a T-shirt, what would it say?

Stay focused.

D. Clay Perkins, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor at Mid-Atlantic Christian University.

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