Touching the Leper

by author James Smith

One Sunday I preached about Jesus’ encounter with the leper in Matthew 8. What an incredible story told in just a handful of verses.  It seems as Jesus was coming down the mountain from delivering the greatest sermon in the history of mankind (the Sermon on the Mount), a leper came and knelt before him.  The audacity of this leper!  Imagine the moment.  The crowd is pressing in behind Jesus and they’re taking up the whole road.  When out of nowhere a leper appears and throws himself at the feet of Jesus.

Now lepers were outcasts…the most unclean of the unclean.  It was illegal for them to even be on the road at the same time as a non-leprous person.  Imagine the gasp that went through the crowd as this unclean leper steps into the middle of the road and brings the whole entourage to a screeching halt.  All eyes are on Jesus and this leper.  In one collective intake of breath, all wait to see what would happen.

Jesus healing the leper

Bible scene historical reenactment play with a leprosy man

Almost every time I read the Bible, I am blown away by Jesus.  Jesus could heal people with a word.  He could heal them from far off.  He could heal them by telling them some outrageous thing to do and if they had enough faith to obey him, they would be healed.  In this instance, Jesus does the most shocking, unthinkable thing.  He touches the leper!

In my mind, it wasn’t a nice little “lay your hand on the cheek” sort of touch.  The leper would have been clothed in rags from head to toe.  He was on his knees.  In what must have sent shockwaves through the crowd, Jesus probably got down on his knees and reached up and removed the lepers coverings…his veil and his head covering.  He would have looked at this outcast of society directly in the eyes and reaching out and placed his non-diseased hands upon the flesh of the diseased man.  Why would Jesus do this, when he could have healed him with a word?

In my opinion, Jesus was into shocking those around him.  He had just got done preaching to the crowds.  He had told them “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”  Instead of being like so many who say the grandiose mottos and catchphrases of Christianity, Jesus knew that the best way to drive his point home was to do.

One of the many things that I admire about Jesus, and why I want to be so much like him, is that he was not just a talker…he was a doer.  If he told people to “love others,” he went out and did it.  If he told people to “do to others what you would have them do to you,” he went out and did it.  He was so unlike the many church goers that fill up our churches on Sundays but live without love and compassion and faith the rest of the week.  This must stop if we are going to change the world!

In January we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr Day in the United States.  Why do so many admire this man?  After all, he was a living, breathing man not unlike us.  The thing that I think made MLK Jr a hero is that he didn’t just talk his faith, he walked it.  He had the courage to do what he knew needed to be done.  There were many who spoke out against segregation and inequality, but few that would put themselves out there to be stoned, spat upon, hit, jailed, mocked, ridiculed, and killed.  The people that we look to as hero’s, were hero’s because they “did” what they knew needed to be done.

What about you and I?  Jesus touched the leper in one of the most touching and loving stories in the whole Bible.  Do we touch the lepers in our society?  Do we practice what we preach?  If we truly did, this would would be a much different place.  If we followers of Jesus really imitated Jesus, there would be a lot more people attracted to him and to his church.  When we leave our church buildings after our weekly “sermon on the mount,” we have to “do” it!  We have to go against our societal and religious norms and reach out to “touch the leper.”

Today’s Faith Action Item

My friends, this week I challenge you to “touch a leper” in your life.  Some outcast, some down on their luck person, some abused child, someone whom society and the church typically turns their back on and looks down upon will come into your path.  “Touch the Leper!”  I dare you…and watch what God does in your life and in the life of that leper!

The House that Richard Built– James Smith serves as a preacher at Cornerstone Christian Church in Cynthiana, Ky.  He is an author of The House that Richard Built (ebook released in 2012 from All Star Press) as well as numerous magazine/study guide publications.  He is also a regular presenter at training seminars and conferences on a number of issues.  James serves as the Mayor of the great town of Cynthiana, Kentucky.

— originally published in Jan. 2012 at, edited and re-published here.

Five Truths: Part 5, Luck Favors the Prepared

Climb A MountainIn 2004, Pixar and Disney Studios released a brilliant movie called “The Incredibles.”  It was an animated film about a family of superheroes and their struggles to live in normal society.  There is a minor character in the film named Edna Mode.  Ms. Mode is a half-Japanese, half-German fashion designer specializing in custom-made outfits for superheroes. It is apparent that she feels infinitely superior to all other designers in the world and shows much disregard towards runway boutiques and modern fashion models.  She is very talented, overachieving, and a success in her special career niche.

Ms. Mode has several clever lines, but the one that applies to the job search is one she makes when questioned about all the flame-resistance, stretch ability, bullet-proof features, and attention to detail she provides in her designs, which her client views as unnecessary add-ons.  “Luck favors the prepared.”

Whether you call it divine intervention, attention to detail, or simply luck, the world provides advantages to those who invest time and attention to their life.  Whether it’s the job search, health of your relationships, or your dedication to what you are passionate about in life, more opportunities are presented to those who work to prepare themselves for the opportunities.  Luck does favor the prepared.

Truths #3 of 5: You Need Help

by James Hale,

80 – 90 % of job openings are filled by people who knew someone within the company to put in a good word for them.  Chances are you have landed a job in the past based on who you knew.

Sample resume formatTechnical skills alone will not get you job offers.  You need friends, coaches, mentors, colleagues, family, and a nice mix of people who recognize your potential and want to help you succeed.  Maybe PathChoices can be one of the people to help you on your career path.  Regardless, there is no doubt that you cannot succeed by yourself.  No success in Hollywood, politics, or the business world did so alone.  You must surround yourself with people who help you learn, grow, and flourish.  Think of all the coaches and managers that surround the big name Hollywood stars and the great business talent.  The most successful people have surrounded themselves with an “inner circle” of 8 – 20 people who can help them.  The road to success is rarely traveled alone.

And while you are surrounding yourself with people who can help you, keep an eye open for people you can help.  The world is packed with both children and adults who do not recognize their gifts or potential. They have never had anyone who believed in them.  A few of them will succeed in life, but many others will fail because no one invested in them.

At any time, there should be at least one person in your life whom you invest in with confidential discussion, productive advice, and genuine encouragement.  This person should be someone you are not required to help and who cannot offer you any assistance as a payback.  There should be nothing for you in the relationship.  It should be a selfless, giving act on your part.  It should come from the heart, even if you do not want to and you need to force it just a little.

Work is a social undertaking.  No one achieves success in their career without the help of others.  Find someone whom you admire and take them out to lunch once a month to pick their brain.  Hire a coach who will be totally honest in encouraging you and helping you see your blind spots.  Get to know people who work for the business you want to work for.  Chances are, the next giant step on your career path will come from one of these three sources.

Why We Have to Die

Graveyard Crossby James Hale,

Death. It’s not much fun to think about. Not a whole lot of fun for many who experience it, either. Most people don’t have the luxury of passing away in their sleep. They die some other way. Regardless, the outcome is the same. It’s also entirely unavoidable. Everyone here on this planet will eventually die. We don’t like that fact, but it’s a fact, nonetheless.

Why is that? Have you ever thought about why is it that we have to die? Seems strange doesn’t it?

I believe it is not quite as big a deal to God as it is to us here on earth. He has a bigger plan. He knows that this life here is just a stepping stone for life in eternity. Life here is our preparation. We learn life lessons. We learn what to do and what not to do. And if we are smart, we learn to trust Him.


Do You Want to Get Well?

by James Smith,

There’s a story about a man who had been sick for 38 years.  He would be taken to this pool that had healing properties.  Whenever the waters would stir, the first one to get down into the water would be healed from their ailments.  Understandably, a large number of sick people would gather by this pool and try to be the first to get in.  Being lame, there was no way that this man could get into the pool before others.

None of us are completely perfect.  We all have some type of ailment, whether physical or not.

Jesus comes by one day and sees the man.  The question he asks the man is profound.  Jesus looks at him, knowing he has been sick a very long time, and asks him, “Do you want to get well?”  (John 5)

Why do you think Jesus would ask this man if he wanted to get well?  Don’t sick people want to get well?  Isn’t the answer obvious?

I think the question “Do you want to get well?” is a question that must be asked and it must be answered by us all.  There are a lot of people in the world who are sick from a lot of different ailments.  Some ailments are physical, but others are emotional, spiritual, psychological, or physiological.  There are even some socio-economic ailments related to poverty or the cultures in which we belong.  Some people seem content to live life in continual sickness.  We’ll think, or even say, that we would like to change, but we seldom ever do.  Why?

So along comes Jesus, or someone else, into our lives and they see the sickness in which we live.  They see the scars and the hurt in our emotional or psychological lives.  They see our poor physical health from our poor habits connected to our diets or smoking or lifestyle choices.  The see the spiritual emptiness that characterizes our spiritual lives.  In some way, we are asked, “Do you want to get well?”

Do you want to change your health?  Do you want to change your relationships with those around you?  Do you want to change your family?  Do you want to change your marriage?  Do you want to change you economic situation?  Do you want to change your emotional or psychological condition?  Do you want to change your relationship with God?

The answer may never be expressed in words.  The answer is expressed in what you do and what you change.

Jesus asked the man at the pool, “Do you want to get well?”  On getting an affirmative answer, he told the man, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk.”  For the first time in 38 years, the man got up and walked.

None of us are completely perfect.  We all have some type of ailment, whether physical or not.  Yet God wants us to be whole and well.  But we have to want it.  We have to want to get well.  We have to want to change.  We have to want to break our destructive habits, heal the hurts and scars, give up our laziness or crutches. We have to get up, pick up our mat and walk.  We will never do that unless we want to get well.

So, do you want to get well?  Are you willing to do whatever it takes?

— James Smith is the author of “The House That Richard Built” coming out in April 2012 at All Star Press.

Warning Signs of Increased Stress Level

reprinted from “Sleep Great for Life,” rated 5 stars on

by Rich Nilsen

One of the common behavioral reactions to stress can be an exaggeration of an existing habit.  Maybe one of your responses is overeating, and you suddenly notice yourself eating way more than you usually do.

These will be important factors to keep a close eye on after you solve your sleep disorder.  Insomnia can come back, but only if you let it.  Be confident that you won’t let that happen, because you will have established a solid foundation. Your precious sleep life will not be built on shifting sands.

The following are some red flags to watch out.  Feel free to add to this list based on your own experience.

  • Muscular tension and physical pain
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Closing yourself off from others
  • Increased levels of bad habits – e.g. smoking, overeating.
  • Tics – face, eyes, etc.
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Increased need to urinate – often a sign of depression.
  • Ulcers
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling overwhelmed with your workload
  • Feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of motivation
  • Other [list your own] ________________


The Mustn’ts

Listen to Mustn’ts, child, listen to the Don’ts.

Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the lmpossibles, the Won’ts.

Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.

Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

-Shel Silverstein

I remember my daughter climbing on my knee as I read her this poem. I talked to her about how life was wide open for her–full of choices and options. She hung on every word. I told her she could be anything she wants when she grows up. She listened intensely. I told her how achieving greatness is a decision, rather than a circumstance. She believed me.




And then I thought how I had just lied to my little girl. Her warmth in my arms, and I thought of the lie fresh off my lips. I thought about how, for all of us, “anything” is bound and chained by reality. The reality is that we have mental and physical limitations, and we have limitations of opportunity.


I thought how, for many of us, life has laid opportunities in our path that are not available to others … opportunities to have good families and sound employment.  Opportunities that have spared us getting news at the doctor that no one wants to hear.  Opportunities to live in a country where we do not have to worry about things like roadside bombs.


And in the same manner others have opportunities we can only dream of.  And no matter how much we may want to, we can never have the opportunities for fame or fortune or whatever opportunities God has selected to bypass us and fall in the laps of our neighbors. It seems we are dealt certain cards in life, and we are prohibited from handpicking through the deck.


Back to the poem … I let the lie rest with Rachael. I never corrected it, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because the dream is so much more appealing than the reality. Maybe it was because I was embarrassed that I had been told the same story and could never pull it off.  Whatever the reason, I’ve thought about this poem and my daughter a lot lately.  I’ve thought about how life is about hope, and hope is about convincing people that “anything can be … ” I’ve thought about kids with cancer, child rape, school lockdowns in Frankfort, school shootings in Ohio, and famous stars of Hollywood who have taken their own lives because behind the glamor and fame, life was just too hard.  I’ve thought of how 60% of the adult population is on prescription antidepressants.  I’ve thought of the burdens carried by hard workers caught in the cross hairs of a corporate downsizing.  I’ve thought of bullying at school … and I’ve thought of a million other problems I do not know how to fix.


It makes me sad.  But then I think of what Paul Harvey used to call, “The rest of the story.”  How I cannot be anything … without limitations … but I can be one thing very well.  I think of how, with all the people with all these problems, I get opportunities to live my faith each and every day.  Each day I get opportunities to be the Good Samaritan.  We all do.


The opportunity to be a Good Samaritan is not something far in the distance … it is at my doorstep.  You know the opportunities.  You see them in the eyes of the Walmart clerk.  You hear them hiding behind the words as a kid talks about school.  You sense them in the overweight coworker who just cannot loose the weight.


How great it is that our options are limited.  How wonderful it is that we can help carry a little bit of the load for friends and neighbors.  If that doesn’t open a world of possibilities, I don’t know what does.

Life Lessons from Legendary Coach John Wooden

John Wooden's bookUCLA basketball coach John Wooden led his  team to 10 national championships, including  a remarkable seven consecutive titles. This was an unprecedented streak in modern major sports that most likely will never be duplicated in any of our lifetimes. However, as many people know, NCAA basketball championships were the least of Wooden’s passions.

Coach and author John Wooden lived to teach others, on and off the basketball court. His insight and wisdom led to the publication of John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, which outlines behaviors necessary to achieve success in life.

Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy and his powerful All Pro Dad organization took a look recently at 10 of his life principles:

1. Be True To Yourself
This is number 1 in Coach Wooden’s 7-point creed that was passed down from his father, and this one is first for a reason. Wooden teaches us that before we can become leaders of others, we must first understand ourselves. We need to distinguish our talents and strengths, as well as our weaknesses, and use each to their maximum benefit. Stay true to what you are best suited for and do not compromise your values.

2. Always Keep Moving
Personally, I love this one because it is so true. A former player of Coach Wooden said that he was always shouting, “Move, move, move!” He was not only referring to basketball, but to life in general. We must take action and we must always be progressing. Building upon success and learning from failure. We must think and we must always be in motion.

Read the remaining 8 steps at All Pro Dad.


It Never Fails

Loveby James Smith,

Looking at the world around us, most of us would have to concede that there is something wrong.  But there’s always been something wrong, hasn’t there?  You can’t explain the Hitler’s and Khan’s and Nero’s of the world without admitting that something is just out of sync with God’s intention for mankind.  Even if we call these obviously “evil” men abnormalities, what do we call the hundreds of thousands who follow them and twist our world into something dark and chaotic?  For every Hitler, there are thousands who pick up guns to follow him.  For every Pilate, there are thousands screaming “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  Yes, something is wrong in our world.

Coming closer to home, it is hard not to recognize that whatever is wrong with our world is also wrong with our families, our friends, and with us.  Marriages and relationships that we thought and intended to last forever end almost every day.  Somewhere along the way, the wheels fall off!  What is wrong in our lives?!

A Bible verse that seems to fly in the face of our culture today is 1 Corinthians 13:8.  It reads “Love never fails.”

As defined by wikipedia, “Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. Love is also a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection; and “the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. Love may also be described as actions towards others or oneself based on compassion, or as actions towards others based on affection.”

True “love” encompasses all of these attributes.  It is emotion, virtue, and action.  When we have all three attributes, Paul says that love “never” fails.

Mirriam-Webster defines “never” as 1. not ever : at no time and 2. not in any degree : not under any condition.  At no time and under no condition will love “fail.”  That’s a pretty big claim!

Why then do marriages fail?  Why do kids rebel against parents who love them?  Why do men and women commit atrocious acts of evil against one another?  Culture and society are not getting better.  If we enter marriages with love, why are so many of them failing?  If we’re trying to love one another, why is there so much discord and hatred in our society?  Why has our culture become a breeding ground for division, whether it is over politics, race, religion, or sexual orientation?  Why did the “love revolution” of the 60’s fail to transform our country and our world?  Did love fail?

I don’t think that love failed.  I think we failed to love.  We failed to love “one another” the way God designed and wants us to.  Husbands, we have failed to love our wives the way God wants us to. Wives have failed to love their husbands the way God wants us to.  Republicans fail to love Democrats and Democrats fail to love Republicans.

All the hatred, discord, division, and animosity would stop if only we could learn to “love one another.”  Jesus called this the 2nd greatest commandment after “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.”  We have to learn to love as an emotion, virtue, and action.  Love is NOT just an emotion.  We have to learn to love even when the emotion is not there.

Why?  Because love never fails.  At no time; under any condition will love fail.

So, you want a better marriage?  Love!  Want a better family?  Love!  Want a more productive career?  Love!  Want a better community?  Love!  Want a better world?  Love!  Want a closer relationship with God?  Love!

Love the way God designed you to love!  Love the way you were meant to love!  Love will never fail!

Happy, Thankful and Awed

I have a personal mission statement for my life.  Hokey… yes.  Academic… just a little.  Trite and frivolous… no way.

You see, my mission statement pushes me to live my life and to view things in a particular way…in a way that I have consciously chosen to look at things.  A realist by nature and downright pessimistic at times, the life view demanded by my mission statement is completely different than how I would naturally look at things.  This mission statement forces me in a direction that is uniquely different from the way I would approach life on autopilot.

My mission statement is a bit of intentional dreaming I did years ago under one of my mentors, Tricia Thurman.  Tricia taught me that personal mission statements should capture the type of person we want to be, which for me was a long distance away from the type of person I was.

I wrote my mission statement as part of a class, and then reviewed it and edited it daily until it seemed right.  It took me three week of off-and-on thinking to craft my mission statement, and the months and years following were perhaps the happiest time of my life.  Everything I did, everything I saw, and everything I felt snuggled warmly against my newfound mission.  For the first time, all of life seemed to fit together, like a jigsaw puzzle with no missing pieces.

But then life got busy, two more kids came along, my mother-in-law got Alzheimer’s, my father-in-law died, my dad died, and for some reason I forgot my mission.  I started to withdraw.  Life for me grew darker…not bad, just darker.

Out of the blue, my mission statement popped into my head the other day.  I don’t know why it did.  I was just driving down the road and I guess my mind wandered.  (Thank you, wandering mind.)  Since then, my view of life has been a little clearer, my work has been a bit more productive, and I have seen a joy I haven’t noticed in quite some time.  Welcome back, mission statement.  I’ve missed you.

I know the path to your mission will be different than mine.  I know it won’t take you three weeks…it may be shorter or perhaps longer.  But I also know you will be happier if you spend the intentional time deciding what type of person you want to be when you grow up.

Post your mission statements on this blog, and let me know the process you went through to get to yours.  We’ll all grow from sharing our experiences.

James Hale—MISSION STATEMENT:  Happy with my life, thankful for my gifts, and awed by inspirations from those around me.