“Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree


   We’ve all heard the old saying, “The end justifies the means.” That means it doesn’t matter how you get what you want, as long as you get it. You can lie, cheat, steal, hurt people, destroy lives—whatever—as long as you accomplish what you set out to do. On the flip side, a reference to “the fruit of the poisonous tree” is a legal doctrine which means that if the way you get or achieve something is illegal—lying, cheating, stealing—then the results of those methods are inadmissible in court.

   But why should we care what’s accepted in court or not? We’re not lawyers and few of us will ever have to go into a courtroom. Or so we think.

   The fact is that God is a god of justice and therefore, He operates in an actual courtroom in heaven. Moreover, He responds to us as if we were in a court of law—because we are.

   The point? “The fruit of the poisonous tree.” Since God is a just judge, how we do things is a top priority to Him. In heaven’s courtroom, the end does not justify the means. In other words, God pays close attention to what we do to accomplish our goals—even if they’re good goals—and He absolutely will not bless any endeavor which is accomplished dishonestly or in a way that takes advantage of or harms other people. The results or “fruit” of a “poisonous” method of doing business (whatever biz you’re up to) is not acceptable in God’s courtroom. We can try to justify our actions to anyone who will listen—including the person in the mirror—but if our actions or behaviors are dishonest or detrimental, then God will not only not bless our work, but He’ll oppose it.

   For example, if students cheat on a test, they may score a 100 but I won’t give it to them. They’ll get a zero. That’s the penalty for cheating because the end does not “justify the means”. Of course, that all hinges on whether or not I’m smart enough to catch them, but I don’t recommend judging what we can “get away with” with God in terms of what we can pull over on other human beings. I’m not God and I don’t have the advantage of omniscience the way He does. In other words, just because I don’t see it, doesn’t mean He won’t.

   But how’s this work in terms of the bigger picture? Let’s say a student “gets away with it” the first time. Okay, but one, two or even three things will happen: One, he’ll get caught cheating somewhere down the line, sooner or later, because no liar is that smart. Two, if he doesn’t get caught in school, he’ll move onto other methods of cheating in life: on taxes, on timesheets, on a spouse. Why wouldn’t he? And three, his character will become completely corrupted because in his mind, the end truly does “justify the means.” Why shouldn’t it? It always has.

   Except that it won’t, always.

   This principle of “the fruit of the poisonous tree” applies to all aspects of life. Are we trying to have a good relationship with others? Then we’d best be doing right by them—whether they can see everything we’re doing or not. In business? We’d better treat our customers and employees well because we’re not really the boss or the CEO of our business, God is. And he’s watching His employees: us. Whether we get promoted or not has everything to do with how we operate because God is more concerned with our actions than the results we achieve.

   He can make us succeed at anything He wants us to succeed at; our success is not His primary concern. That would be our character.

   Do we really win when we destroy trust, relationships and character to achieve an end? And will God let that go on forever? No, because here’s a principle: “We reap what we sow.” (We harvest what we plant.) If we sow a poisonous tree (from our sinful behavior), our own fruit will end up poisoning us. But if we sow a good tree, our own fruit will bless us and all who come after us.

   The bottom line is that the end will never justify the means in God’s eyes. And that’s because God’s not just concerned with the end-game, He’s more concerned with how the game is played.

   In His book, that’s all that determines a winner.






The Myth of the Weed-Eating Squash



   Wouldn’t it be great if you could rub a little circle of wax on the hood of your car—and it spread to whole the rest of your car? Wouldn’t it be great if you could plant a few squash plants in the corner of your yard—and they choked out all the weeds on the whole rest of the property? Wouldn’t it be great if you never exercised ever—and your body just atrophied into rock-solid muscle?

   Not going to happen.

   Why? Because this world is wired for ruin, death, and decay. Now, I’m not trying to nuke your day, but it helps to note that we live in a fallen world and so one of the principles of success in any endeavor this side of the wormfest is that we have to stay on top of the wreck and ruin. Whether your goal is to achieve in the physical, spiritual or emotional realms, we have to “mind the farm,” so to speak. With the exception of Divine intervention, things don’t “just happen,” “fall into place,” or “work themselves out”.

   Don’t believe me? Let the electricity bill, mortgage, and car payments go and see if those simply “fall into place”. Forget about that annoying rust on your undercarriage and see if that just “works itself out”. Forget about whether your supervisor thinks you’re doing a good job and see if your paycheck “just happens”.

   Work is way over-hyped, anyway. I mean, who needs to study for a test? We all know “remembering” is a given. And why worry about cleaning houses, doing laundry or even showering? We all know people and things just morph from dirty to clean. And relationships? None of that “touchy-feely-emotional” stuff is really necessary; people “just know” they’re loved—unless you tell them they aren’t. Right?

   The assumption in all of these instances is that the job or the relationship or the possession won’t suffer if it’s neglected; it’ll at least maintain.

But that’s a bad assumption because in a fallen world, nothing maintains; things have to be maintained.

   And the word “maintain” doesn’t even imply “progress;” to maintain simply means to keep something from devolving or degenerating or dying. To make progress, we have to work even harder than we do simply to maintain the status quo. So—it all equates to work.

   But c’monwho doesn’t know that?

   Really? So why don’t we do the work? The bottom line is because we don’t want to do it; work, after all, takes work. So we procrastinate and we postpone and we neglect and we ignore our negligence—until it’s too late to fix that problem or take that opportunity or even to achieve that destiny.

   Target #1: Relationships. One thing we wreck through neglect is relationships, not just with people, but with God. Neglecting to read his Word or worship or pray are all things which will sever our personal lifeline to God; we kid ourselves that we’ll “get to it eventually” and so, sadly, we never really get to know him at all. Moreover, our neglect of time with him puts an end to receiving the direction, guidance and/or provision we need in order to fulfill our assigned purposes in life.

   Satisfying relationships with people don’t just happen, either. We’ve all heard of the book The Five Love Languages? If not, the premise is that everyone has one love language which, when spoken to him/her, makes them feel loved. These love languages include words of affirmation, acts of thoughtfulness, gifts, touch, and time spent together. Point? Neglecting to fill the “love language tank” of your loved one and then expecting the relationship to blossom is on par with filling your car’s gas tank once in New York and expecting to make it to L.A. without filling it ever again. Not happening.

   Target #2: Finances. Money is another thing that requires deliberate attention. If we neglect to budget, for example, bills won’t get paid and the savings account will be empty. Nor is there any magic fairy dust we can sprinkle on the credit cards to make the debt disappear. (Sorry.) Of course, this all sounds so elementary that it’s almost insulting to point out but… if it were so simple, then why are people overspending, going into debt, and struggling? One answer is that the things that were supposed to “work themselves out” in terms of money, didn’t.

   Target #3: Success. Did you know that if success is achieved, it can also be lost? Achieving that weight loss—and then neglecting to eat right once the goal has been achieved? So disheartening… Or one year sober? Five years? Ten years? Amazing accomplishment! But then to neglect the vigilance it took to maintain sobriety for all of those months and years is a tragic tale told the world over… Or the midnight oil burned for decades to build the business and the reputation and the financial success—all now casualties of health neglected in favor of fortune and fame…

   To neglect a thing is all that’s required for that thing to go downhill in a hurry—and the same is true of our destinies. I don’t know who said it but, “If we’re not moving forward, we’re falling behind.” If we’re not being proactive and taking ground, then we’re forced to be reactive, to try to clean up the mess we’ve allowed to accumulate and the ground we’ve lost through avoidance, carelessness, and negligence.

   The bottom line is this: If we’re trying to avoid work, the fact is that it takes a whole lot more work to have to go back and attempt to fix the rotten fruit of our laziness than it does simply to do the work the right way in the first place.

   Life is a garden. And while it would be nice if I didn’t have to weed my garden, until my squash starts doing it for me, that’s what’s on the agenda in this lifetime.






How To Launch A Platform In Five Minutes Or Less—Really.

Spotlight II


   One day shortly before the 2016 election, I was listening to a radio talk show when a young woman called to comment on something the host was saying. I’d tell you who it was but it really doesn’t matter; pick a host with a live, syndicated, nationwide talk show with tens of millions of listeners and you get the idea. But here’s what happened: In the course of the discussion, the young woman mentioned that she had a blog, although she didn’t presume to plug it (it would’ve been deleted on the 7-second delay) and so the host sort of sighed and then asked whether she’d like to mention the name of her blog. Well, who wouldn’t? So she did. (Although it took four mentions before listeners could really catch the domain name because she had “blogspot” or some silly thing in the name. Don’t do that.) At any rate, she finally gets the site name out, makes her comment and hangs up. The host sighs again and says, “Of course, her site will crash because right now millions of people are trying to get on there, but give it a little time and she’ll be up and running again.”

   Platform launched!!

   The iconic “platform”—it goes by many names: your “soapbox,” your “arena,” your “spotlight.” Shakespeare said it best. “’All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…’” (As You Like It).  But is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is it good or bad that, according to Will, we’re all on a “stage” trying to “make it”? What stage? And make what?

  No doubt Will was being sarcastic but maybe he was just a writer who saw the reality of the theatre market of his time: Write something the public will like—and pretend to like it. Maybe he was railing against the “platform” requirements of his day. Granted, he didn’t have much in the way of social media to work with but still, early on, even he was required to grow a following in order for his plays to be enacted on stage. He felt the burn. And it’s a Catch 22, is it not? Unless you have “name recognition” or a “social following” or a “platform,” you can’t get a record deal or get published or find a business investor. In other words, unless you’ve already achieved some sort of recognition, you can’t do the thing that would get you the recognition. And why?


   Annoying? Maybe, but it’s not about the money; who doesn’t want some? I can’t blame the producers or the publishers or the investors. But I guess what started me thinking about this whole “platform” thing was a blog post I recently read (by a guy whose name I can’t remember) about the essential futility of even trying to build a platform. Evidently he’s a writer who’s achieved some sort of success, but he said that in spite of all the years he’s spent blogging and tweeting and making Youtube videos, it really doesn’t much work. And since that’s the case (he said), we should really only do those platform-building things we enjoy because in the end, it’s all just a waste of time anyway.

   Don’t get me wrong—I really don’t have any problem with the concept of building a platform so you can sell that CD or book or business. What I have a problem with is how you’re supposed to do it. Spending days and weeks and months tweeting and commenting and posting video bites is not my idea of tons of fun. Or any fun. Instead, being a former advertising/promotions’ person, I happen to believe there are easier and more effective ways to build name recognition and platform. Just plain advertising, for example, works. That’s why it’s been around since the dawn of time. (What do you think those cave drawings were for?)

Let’s be honest: The care and feeding of a platform is going to cost you either time or money. Which do you value more?

   Will advertising take some cash? Absolutely, but you know what they say: “You have to spend money to make money.” And that’s true. But face it—you’re spending it anyway, aren’t you? Buying your own books or CD’s to pass out, or giving away a free product or service so people know you exist? Of course, that’s how the game is played. But what if, instead of spending $ that way, you spent it on a publicist who would get you on radio or TV?

   I once heard a publisher talk about how a writer invested in a publicist who got a very famous TV commentator (think ten million viewers) to do a five-minute plug of the author’s book; the very next day, it sold 18,000 copies. And how much did it cost the writer? Only three thousand dollars! (If you’re not aware, that’s an incredible deal.) Throw in a couple more grand for the publicist and the writer essentially bought an instant platform and name recognition for under 5K. Think that’s too much? Every day in this country, thousands of people spend ten times that much starting up businesses. Promotion is simply part of the cost of doing business and your book or CD or work-from-home “cottage industry” is a business.

   Next question: “Just how am I supposed to get the money to do this, Missy? I ain’t rich, you know!” I know. Neither am I. But how many weeks or months would you have a work a part-time job to bank a few thousand dollars? Not too many. Not as many years as you’ll spend tweeting and commenting and posting quotes on Instagram. Or, just do what the girl did: Call a famous show and plug your site. Just make certain before you do it that you have a web or blog and a Twitter account and a FB page because those are the tools you’ll need to take that five minutes of instant stardom and turn it into a permanent platform. But however you get the world’s attention, just make darn sure that when folks come looking for you, they find something—content or product-wise—that makes them want to come back for more. Like the girl did.

   She’s my hero.




Burlap Weddings: A Symbol of Something Larger?

Burlap Wedding


   Respect is the foundation for love and without respect, there can be no love. There may be relationship, but there won’t be love. There may be compliance or service but there won’t be love. There may even be nice words or the occasional hug, but there still won’t be love. Why? Because if we don’t respect a person, it’s much more difficult to like them. And if we don’t like someone, it’s nearly impossible to love them. (Except for mothers; mothers can love anyone.)      

   Right now, the very fabric of our society is being shredded for want of respect among its members. Lack of respect breeds all manner of nasty sentiments and behaviors in people: resentment, rebellion, gossip and slander, arrogance, and certainly division. And the key factor in all of it? Many people who refuse to show respect toward a person (or persons) feel entitled to their behavior. And the rationale? The person hasn’t “earned” it.

So—the big debate surrounding respect: Is it owed or is it earned?

   Once upon a time, respect was the default position toward another simply because he or she was a fellow human being. “Please,” “thank you,” and “after you” were all common expressions. But not so much anymore. Is it so surprising then that civility has seemed to go the way of the wringer washer and the icebox? Too often people fail even to pay each other the basic courtesy of polite listening, especially in view of a difference of opinion. Instead, the arguing ensues, along with name-calling, a generous helping of mockery and, in some not-so-extreme-anymore cases, even violence results.

   It’s interesting (to me, at least) to talk to teens today and pick their brains about respect. Almost without exception, they’re adamant that they will respect an adult only if they feel that that adult deserves their respect. Then I move on to share stories of a “once-upon-a-time” when gentlemen would show respect to ladies by opening doors for them or holding a chair for them to be seated. After much face-making and expressions of disgust, I inevitably hear comments from boys like, “That’s stupid!” and “She can hold her own door!” Girls, for their parts, sometimes get downright belligerent at the thought that they should endure a man holding a door for them. “I can do it myself!” seems to be the consensus. And forget standing when an elderly person enters a room—how dare anyone even suggest anything so demeaning! (“Why should I stand up for some old person?”) I know. So outrageous.

   Nevertheless, it was once widely believed that respect was owed to a position because of the authority it represented more so than to the person occupying the position. For example, students would show respect to teachers simply because they were teachers or the public would show respect to policemen simply because they were policemen. Note I said folks would “show” respect, not necessarily feel it. Today that’s all changed.

   Many people now believe that their inward feelings are the criteria for determining whether or not one shows respect, not any outward criteria like job or position.

   Ask any parent, pastor, teacher, principal, judge or policeman—anyone charged with enforcing rules or maintaining order—and they will tell you that positional authority is now passé. People will respect authority only when they “like” the person holding the position of authority.

   Respect for positional authority seems to be much out of vogue these days.

   Okay, disclaimer: That’s not to say that authority should never be challenged because left unchecked, bad things happen. But is an auto-default to disrespect and ridicule and rebellion the only answer? Only if we want division to rule and reign in the marriage or the family or the streets or the nation.

   So is that what people really want? Do people want to be living in a barbarian climate where respect and civility are deceased and the funeral long over? Do people really like to see screaming and rioting and chaos in the public squares? I don’t believe so. And here’s why: In the past ten years, a trend has surfaced in the wedding industry—which, you wouldn’t think, would be at all related to respect (and which, for the life of me, at first I couldn’t explain). But I believe this trend is much indicative of something larger happening in our nation.

   The wedding industry is being overrun with burlap and mason jars as wedding décor.

   Why on earth, I wondered, would brides prefer burlap tablecloths over satin, or mason jars over crystal? Especially on the one day in a lifetime which is elevated above all others? Wouldn’t brides want something unique on their wedding day? Wouldn’t they want something dazzling, something exquisite, something thoroughly uncommon to honor the concept of matrimony?

   I puzzled over the trend until my brain hurt; it just didn’t make any sense. Then one day, as I was talking with a girl about her preference for “rustic,” it hit me: it wasn’t just the burlap she wanted, it was the idea behind the burlap. It was the yearning for “the good old days,” the return to more simplistic morals and values—or maybe a return to morals and values in the first place. Burlap symbolized, to her, all the nostalgic ideals so lacking in our society today—honor, commitment and, yes, respect.

   Maybe the concept of respect is not a shiny, new “modern” idea. Maybe it’s more old-fashioned but—here’s a thought—maybe it’s not the threat to civilization many presume it to be. In fact, maybe it’s even okay (dare I say “right”) to respect our spouses and pastors and policeman once more. Maybe respect really is the foundation of civilization the way we once believed it to be. So if that’s true, let’s all lift a mason jar to the possibility that the notion of respect might, in fact, be back in style.

   Perhaps the concept of respect actually deserves a little respect of its own.