By Dr. Jeff Miller

The beverage mogul rose from behind his teakwood desk to shake hands with his guest and said, "I must confess I find your request a bit curious."

As the guest sat down, he replied nonchalantly, "I thought the request a bit unusual myself. But one never knows how these things may turn out."

The man behind the desk took charge of the conversation. "How's the coffee? Did you get an éclair? I have them flown in fresh daily from the Comptoirs de France bakery," he said while gazing out the window. He continued, "Isn't this a magnificent view? I have traveled the world and seen some amazing sights; the pyramids, the Swiss Alps, but there is nothing like the Chicago skyline with Lake Michigan in the foreground."

Though he preferred nature, the guest, a notable reporter, gave an obligatory, "Yes, sir."

"Let's get down to business." the mogul stated in an assertive tone that had become his norm. "I have given many an interview and advice on business and wealth, but this is the first one about marriage."

"It is nice to get a scoop," said the reporter with a wink. He continued, "You are a high-profile personality and you are on your fourth marriage. Certainly, you must have some insight about marriage that will intrigue our readers."

The mogul obliged. "My father and mother were married for over 60 years. It seemed so natural, so easy for them. Marriage should be natural; I don't think you have to work at marriage. I work hard all day, many times long into the night. I do not want to go home and have to work at marriage."

"Do you think you would be more successful at marriage if you did work at it?" probed the reporter.

"I consider myself successful at marriage. I have been married more years than I haven't been married," retorted the mogul.

"May I quote you?"

"Of course. If I was to give any advice, it would be to choose right in the first place. If I am at any fault for failure in the marriages, it is that I simply did not choose right.

"I admired my first wife for her compassion and philanthropy but she expected the same of me. My second wife used to tell me we had to work at our marriage. She constantly said that we need to do this or we should do that based on the current self-help book she was reading. My third wife, well, you just can't be married to someone who is more successful than you are. Just like in my business, if one of the employees makes a bad business deal, even though I may have approved it, it is his or her fault; he or she is the one who gets fired."

"But you don't think that you ... " The reporter was interrupted by a polite knock on the door.

His executive assistant opened the office door slightly and reminded the mogul of his next appointment.

The reporter taking the cue stood and thanked the man for the interview. He asked if he could use the restroom. The mogul obliged. The reporter noticed something peculiar about the restroom.

As the reporter was leaving he made one last note for the article — the 1,500-square-foot office has two walls of windows to look out on the world, but not one mirror, not even in the restroom."

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him.

Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said: "… Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults — unless, of course, you want the same treatment.

That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, "Let me wash your face for you," when your own face is distorted by contempt?

It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. (Matthew 5:1-2, 7:1-5 The Message).

Dr. Jeff Miller is senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Killeen.

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