Wednesday, July 11, 2007


A quarter of a century ago I became refreshingly impressed with an author arising upon the scene. Charles Swindoll's simple writing style matched my hungry heart. I picked up the phone and called an operator for information to Swindoll's office. His secretary answered and I asked to speak to him. A part of her role was to politely protect him from annoying callers such as myself. I knew what she was doing, but I hadn't called for myself.

When she said he was out I responded, Oh, that's all right. When he gets in would you just tell him a preacher with the Church of Christ in Tulsa is so grateful for his writings. Tell him that if he ever gets discouraged and wonders if he is doing any good, I'm one of many whose heart is being opened because of his efforts. It is important to me that he knows this. Her next words became the catalyst for an ongoing relationship held dear by Chuck and by me. She said, Mr. Rush, Reverend Swindoll is out of the office at the moment. He really needs to hear what you just told me. Would it be possible for you to call back tomorrow at 4:00? He really needs to hear what you just said.

It was 4:00 on the dot! I only wanted to encourage as I felt certain that those who live in glass houses also need words of support. Chuck was amazingly warm. He was slow to listen as if he was soaking in a word-bath. His kind and gentle voice seemed to smile through the phone. He was both gracious and appreciative. We exchanged letters over the next few months and one day had lunch....and then another lunch. He wrote me two weeks ago and I share a part of his note should it be something you find yourself needing to hear today.

So how do you deal with the tension of "shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves?" Let me give you a picture: you are standing with others, and all of you have sharp instruments in your hands. The first question is: "Are these scalpels or switchblades?" Both inflict injury to others, just in different ways and for different purposes. Be honest with yourself and others and commit to dealing with legalism and legalists as caring and compassionate surgeons rather than hostile street fighters. The temptation to do street fighting is very strong, and is the preferred method of the legalist. As a surgeon, you will be called upon to patch up those hurt by the street fighters.

As a team of surgeons, ask yourselves a second question: "What are we here to remove--a cancerous tumor or a wart?" Pick your battles: forget the warts since they do not kill.

If Swindoll's note cheers you on in your hard labor, good. If the sheer awareness that everyone we know---including the rich and famous---need our support, then you've gotten my message.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for those words, Terry. Swindoll's writings have been such a blessing to me, as well. I guess it's part of the affliction in being human that causes us to think no one needs encouragement but 'me.' I recall hearing Marvin preach a sermon decades ago, "Who motivates the motivator?" I still remember my surprise when he said no one is exempt from needing to be encouraged - there are just those who seem to always be up and always be positive; we get lulled into thinking they are not affected by criticism or by disappointment. Thanks for the gentle reminder. I love you.

Liz Moore said...

What great words of encouragement from Swindoll and from you. What a great reminder that our job is to heal, not to hurt. You are one of the great encouragers of the world. I thank God for you! Love you friend!

Stoogelover said...

I, too, feasted upon Swindoll's writings at that time in my life and still buy his books. But I want you to know that I feast upon your writings as well as you, too, have been a source of refreshment in an oft spiritual desert.

Jeanne said...

Great thoughts as always Terry! Thanks for sharing two vital messages. We all need encouragement, and sometimes the people you might think need it the least probably need it the most!

The excerpt from your note from Swindoll really struck me. It made me think of the Pharisees and how vicious they were against Jesus, just like street bullies! His comment about the surgeon made me think about Gene Dickens and how he is so passionate about being a surgeon, but he doesn’t let his desire to cut out what’s causing the person to be ill, interfere with his ability to see his patients. Friends who have been his patients have commented about how gentle, caring, and kind he was explaining what was happening and helping them deal with whatever they were going through. That’s the kind of spiritual surgeon I want to be. Never overlooking the “patient” and only seeing their “ailment.”

Anonymous said...


Point very well taken! How tough life is for all of us.

Unknown said...

Terry ~

What a great post! It took me a few years into preaching before I realized some of this. Then, this year at Tulsa, as I sat in your office, I realized it all the more. (I know you hate referred to this, but...) You "big guys" at Tulsa seemed like you had "great" churches and could just fill us up with ease. I am not saying the churches weren't good, but, hey, everyone has their "Un-Barnabas" types. I refer to my experience in umpiring - 50% happy with a call and 50% not so happy.

As a preacher, I do understand how one can never be over encouraged. I drink it up, but I aim to connect others closer to my Savior by encouraging them. Whether it is when I am in the community or just experienced a great time at Tulsa - it is true - Everyone needs support...Everyone!

Thanks again for sharing the letter and the encouraging reminder!

Tim said...

I love Swindoll's writing... always fresh and inspiring and thought-provoking!