Take the Horn Out of Your Mouth

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. I have many arrows in my quiver. There are many roads but all lead to Rome. There are many strings on my bow. There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way.

We all have problems. Some are big and complex, some are small and inconvenient. Some of our problems have vexed us for years while others popped up unexpectedly yesterday. We have brought many of our problems on ourselves and yet many of our problems were thrust upon us. From health to wealth, careers to relationships, morning to night we all are constantly bombarded with problems both large and little. And all the idioms in the first paragraph point to a great truth – the ways to problem resolution are as unique as the problems themselves.

When my wife and I got married we both smoked. It was a decade-long habit and, as hard as it is to believe, it was not yet totally uncool in society. It was okay to walk into someone’s home and light up. Restaurants were fog banks of tobacco smoke. Your doctor probably smoked, although hopefully not in the exam room. We tried to quit but it was hard, and we were young yet so why torture ourselves? But one day in 1986 we both came home one evening and realized we did not want to be bound by this habit any longer. And we sat on the bed, held hands, prayed to God to take it away, threw our smokes in the trash can. And never lit one up again. Not even withdrawal. Done.

True story. But, as you are well aware, not all problems are resolved that easily.

It begs the question, especially to you who look to the divine for help, “Why?”

“When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.” John 9:6

“Then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face.” John 11:43-44

“So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29

In those three passages we see Jesus approaching different problems with a wide variety of responses. He made mud to heal a man’s eyes – you could say He was using a medical technique. He shouted a command and a dead man walked out of a tomb. And He admitted that some problems required a more intense approach of prayer and fasting, i.e. reaching way beyond your own power to something much bigger.

Unique problems – blindness, death, demons – and each solved with a unique methodology.

Miles Davis, the famed jazz trumpeter, had watched as jazz became increasingly more complex and frenetic. Miles was as famous for the notes he didn’t play as for those he did, accomplishing much with the space between the notes. He could say more musically with a couple notes than most could say blowing all day. His saxophonist, John Coltrane, had the opposite approach. ‘Trane was known for ‘sheets of sound’ and endlessly examining every possible avenue of every solo. The story has it he and Miles were talking about his ever-expanding solos and John said, “I don’t know how to stop.” To which Miles replied: “Try taking the f***ing horn out of your mouth.”

Excuse Miles’ French but there stands another solution to our problems.

In my life I have had cancer, open heart surgery, eye surgery, been broke and broken-hearted. But I’m still alive, my heart’s still beating, I can see, and I have plenty to eat with a roof over my head and a wife who loves me. None of the problems (except smoking!) were solved with simplicity or the same approach. Solving my problems has never been simple and rarely been repeatable. Unique problems, each with a unique solution.

I’m sure it’s the same with you and your problems. Sometimes, though, maybe the solution is simple. Maybe you don’t need to mix up some mud, shout with authority or invoke prayer and fasting. Sometimes the way out of your mess is right there in front of you.

Maybe you just need to take the horn out of your mouth.

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