Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolution Part 3 - Spirit

Getting caught up with the mundane details of just making it through any particular day will often cause a “taking-God-for-granted” syndrome to take over our spiritual relationship with God. At least this has been my experience during these 67 years of life.

Over the years I have followed numerous spiritual disciplines, but at best it has always resulted in a “hot-cold” type of journey. It was “hot” when I was leading, sharing and/or teaching a small group, Sunday school class or the entire church down a particular path, such as Disciple Bible Study, 40 Days of Purpose, Purpose Driven Life or Experiencing God ... and, cold when I was left to my own devices.

Since retirement I have become rather “sloppy” in many aspects of my life. Even my outward appearance has changed in that on a normal day you will find me in a pair of cargo shorts. I wear them everywhere except to church on Sunday. The conviction included the thought that my outward appearance reflects my inward condition.

For some unknown reason I never included my spiritual life while making New Year’s resolutions. Yet, when I came under conviction this time, this particular aspect was as strong as the other two, i.e. I needed to address the totality of my journey.

Therefore, Part 3 of my New Year’s resolution deals with the Spirit:
1. Using an old book from my library, “Abundant Life” by E. Stanley Jones I will begin each morning intentionally with God.
2. I will keep a prayer journal following the discipline of John Wesley – to discover what God is doing in and around Jim Martin more than what Jim Martin is doing for God.
3. Continue to keep at the forefront of my prayer life, “Put me to doing what you are blessing.” This IS the one spiritual discipline that I have truly been faithful in following.
4. Use Yoga as a daily meditation method to center my life and thinking on God.
5. Be more intentional in upgrading my outward attire.

Quote for today: “Everyone has an inner voice; you just have to listen to it and trust it in order to be led by it. I did that, and it gave me the ability to live a life that’s true to who I am.” Sissy Spacek

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolution Part 2 - Mind

It had been said to me more than once, while a student in seminary, "Martin, if you ever got serious about seminary you would be seriously dangerous!" I didn't apply myself then and now that I've retired I have had a relapse! Well, as I have admitted, self-discipline is not one of my strengths. This has resulted in my mind becoming rather "mushy" since retirement.

The imposed disciplines of ministry are simply not present in retirement. There are not the requirements of reading and preparation to deliver a weekly sermon, teach Bible studies, lead small groups, organize and guide the various leadership groups, and/or keep ahead of those being counseled. My mind has become "mushy".

Those who know me know that I love to read. Most of my adult life I have had usually 4 books being read at the same time - one in the office, home study, family room and the night stand. Since retirement I've chosen to do nothing but recreational reading ... and then only 1 book at a time. Consuming novels has been a real joy, but not very challenging. The ultimate result is that a rather strong library, built over 30 years, has basically gone untouched. My mind has become "mushy".

A promise that I had made to myself - and to too many others - was to write. Concepts, ideas and stories have sat right where I have left them, in the back of my brain gathering dust and growing cobwebs. Procrastination became the activity of choice when it came to the discipline of writing ... and I understand it is a real discipline. My mind has become "mushy".

Therefore Part 2 of my New Year's Resolution deals with my "mushy" mind:
1. To balance my reading between novels and more serious reading.
2. To daily pick up the pen (actually the computer key board and word processor) and spend some serious time organizing my thoughts into a written form.
3. To continue this reflective thinking process called "blogging" regardless if anyone reads it or not.
4. To play Scrabble more regularly with my spouse (instead of watching TV).
5. To begin to audit some college classes at the local state college.

Quote for today: "The child has much to teach us - about the sense of wonder and infinite possibility, the capacity for forgiveness. When we were young, we didn't need a road map, compass or timepiece. The miraculous was our reality." Cristina Carlino

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year's Resolution Part 1 - Body

To worship God with my body means to me that I will:
1. Exercise in some fashion every day
2. Eat sensibly - stuff like: no second helpings, limiting desserts, watching the types of carbs consumed, etc.
3. Intentionally add the good fats to my daily intake
4. Drink my daily requirement of water while cutting back on such things like coffee.
5. Have an apple a day, as well as other fruits and vegetables.

This is not about losing weight or living longer ... it is about honoring God by being the healthiest that I can be physically. Again, as stated yesterday, I've been down this road before and have always failed because I am not very good at self-discipline. It is easy to find excuses and this time probably won't be any different. So here lies the challenge!

The real difference this time is that I am including the mind and the spirit. I will share about these other two in the next two days. The conviction that over took me this time was that I needed to involve my entire being in honoring God. I would appreciate your prayer support in this effort.

Now for a funny side to resolutions from the late Erma Bombeck. Her are some of her memorable resolutions:
1. I will go to no doctor whose office plants have died.
2. I’m going to follow my husband’s suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our budget.
3. I’m going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers.
4. I will never loan my car to anyone I have given birth to.

Quote for today: "Coincidence is a God-scheduled opportunity." Scott Hamilton

Monday, December 28, 2009

Coming under conviction

Coming under conviction is never easy, but it cannot (or should not) really be ignored. Conviction is a gentle nudging of God to bring about change in one's spiritual journey.

Over the last month I've become more convicted that I need to be intentional in managing my life instead of simply sitting back and going with the flow. Actually it is the discipline of writing this daily blog that brought on this conviction. I've always known that what you don't control, controls you.

I will have to admit that self-discipline has never been one of my long suits. Oh, I've always worked hard, but out of a need to be a "people pleaser" or the need to be "accepted" I've allowed the expectations and/or needs of others to somewhat control my life. Further, as I slipped into retirement, I've become lazy in all aspects of my life. In truth, I was not being a good steward of the life that God has given me. Therefore the conviction that something needed to be done.

Within this conviction was the challenge to worship God with my body, mind and spirit. Focusing on those three aspects of my God given life will be the areas of my New Year's resolutions for 2010. Within the next three days I will try to be more specific about each of those concepts.

I've kind of been down this road before, but what is different this time is that I'm making it public via this blog. An added commitment (and it is already on my daily calendar) is to keep you informed concerning my success or failure about this commitment. The first day of each month I will post the results.

Consider joining me in this spiritual journey for 2010!

Quote for today: "If things are tough, remember that every flower that ever bloomed had to go through a whole lot of dirt to get there." (Barbara Johnson)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Old year ... New year

In various ways the reflecions have begun about the year about to become history and the prospective of the year that is yet to be. From today's comic strips, to magazines, to various TV news magazines, to printed and broadcast sermons ... the reflections have begun ... as they always do at this time of year. Some of them contain an "ah-ha" moment while others just caused me to bow my head in utter disbelief. And, then there was a running loop of 2009 historical events that found me saying, "That happened THIS year?" How soon we forget!

I'm not sure who said it, but it is a great quote: "Don't let the past be a hitching post - but rather let it be a guidepost!" Oh, that I would learn from my past mistakes and not repeat them again. They were painful lessons of life when they first occured so why do I keep repeating them over and over and over again?

As one year closes out and a new year begins it is my prayer that I might truely embrace the idea that "This might be the year ..." finishing the phrase with much prayer and thoughtfulness so that I will become what God has designed me to become.

Will you join me in this journey?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Health Care debate

As I listened to the civil discord coming out of the senate over the health care debate I found myself wishing for the "good old days" when discussions could take place about an issue without it becoming so hateful and down right ugly. I have always strongly believed that when a vote is strickly along party lines, as was the vote on Christmas Eve morning over this issue, it says more about the two political parties than it does about the bill itself. Between you and me I think that it was more about winning the elections in 2010 than it was about health care. Maybe the time has come to vote everybody - and I mean everybody - out of office and bring in an entire new group!

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas Poem

I'm not sure when I discovered this little poem, but it soon became one of my favorites. Through the years of my ministry I found some way to use it and each time it was shared these simple words touched people's hearts. So, on this beautiful Christmas morning - as I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas - I share it once again ... I'm sorry but I do not know the author ... :


On Christmas Eve they filled the house, some fifty guests all told.
(O little Lord of Christmas, were you left out in the cold?)

And ate and sang, played cards and danced till early morning light.
(O little Lord of Christmas, did they think of you that night?)

Next morning came the presents on a glittering Christmas tree.
(O little Lord of Christmas, was there any gift for thee?)

The dinner was a Roman feast, and how those guests did eat!
(O little Lord of Christmas, were you hungry in the street?)

Then came some teas, a movie, and at night the last revue.
(O little Lord of Christmas, what had these to do with YOU?)

By midnight all were tired and cross and tumbled into bed.
(O little Lord of Christmas, did they think that you were dead?)

They all woke up with headaches and no joy in work or play.
(O little Lord of Christmas, did they mark your birth that day?)

The love, the joy were good, no doubt: the rest a pagan spree.
(O little Lord of Christmas, let us keep the day with THEE!)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas and gifts

Every family has their own traditions concerning the unwrapping of the presents under the Christmas tree.

One family unwraps all of the gifts on Christmas Eve so that Santa's gifts will be extra special come Christmas morning. We would unwrap one gift Christmas Eve in anticipation of others to come.

Another family dives into the gifts like a tornado with paper and wrapping paper flying all over the room. It is as if they have a goal to make the biggest mess possible, but oh what enthusiasm and excitement.

In another family, with strong European heritage, they place special gifts in the tree itself. I did that one year and nearly forgot that they were there come Christmas morning. Within that European tradition was that one of those gifts hidden in the tree was a baby Jesus. It was their belief that whoever finds that particular gift was to have an extra blessing during the coming year.

I'm not sure where or when it began, but we unwrap the gifts one at a time. We start with the youngest, who has the responsibility of distributing the gifts to each person in the circle ... Ava Brooke's turn will come in several years once she begins to read. One year Erin was only a toddler and she was completely fascinated with the gift she just unwrapped. Well, it had come full circle and we all waited for her to unwrap her next gift. Tracy finally waited long enough and kind of strongly suggested that Erin get on with the unwrapping. Erin stated, just as strongly, "But, I'm not through playing with this one!"

And then there is a husband and wife who simply buy their own gifts informing their spouse, "Look what you are giving me for Christmas!"

Regardless of your tradition may the presents remind you of the presence of the greatest gift ever given!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A favorite Christmas book

It wasn't a Christmas tradition that lasted for very long, but it is remembered with some fondness. The seven days leading up to Christmas Eve we would sit as a family and take turns reading Barbara Robinson's delightful story, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." We read a chapter a night. There are only 80 pages, but oh what magic they hold for the reader.

If you haven't discovered this story by all means go out and buy yourself a copy of the book. It is garanteed to make you laugh! A few years ago they made a TV movie of the story, but it just didn't capture the richness of the characters, the hilarious perspective of the Herdsman children nor the insightful understanding of the Christmas story.

Give yourself an early Christmas present ... you deserve it. And, while you are at it, purchase a copy for a friend or two! Or, even better, buy a copy for an enemy, you have the possibility of making them a friend. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hope because of the Christmas gift

Do you remember writing your letter to Santa? Or, sitting on the department store's Santa's lap? Or, making out your "wish list" of items you hoped to find under the Christmas tree come Christmas morning? And then came Christmas Eve. The cookies and glass of milk were placed just right so Santa wouldn't miss them. Off to bed you went in great hope that "Santa would soon be there."

Childhood, especially during Christmas, is a life filled with hope. But, then you have to grow up if you want to or not. Darn it all! Reality sets in and hope seems so far away ... just barely beyond our grasp. Yet, Christmas is a season of hope ... even for us adults. It is easy to get bogged down with the daily routine of just trying to make it through another day, allowing boredom to set in, asking the ever present question, "What is the meaning of it all?"

It is in times like these that I recall a verse from a hymn written by Georgia Harkness entitled, "Hope of the World."
"Hope of the world, thou Christ of great compassion,
Speak to our fearful hearts by conflict rent.
Save us, thy people, from consuming passion,
Who by our own false hopes and aims are spent."

May we all rediscover the long lost hope of being a child of God, allowing our spirit to once again to sing the song of hope.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Pageant Story

Tracy and Eric’s preacher told this story yesterday:

“An elementary school teacher was going to have her class to put on a Christmas pageant with this twist, the students would be totally in charge. They were to write the scripture, cast the characters, rehearse and then perform the pageant totally on their own.

“The day arrived for the pageant, the auditorium was filled with parents and friends. The pageant began. All of the usual characters were there - shepherds, wise men, Joseph, but were was Mary. She was nowhere to be seen. Just then, from behind a wall of hay came groans. It was from Mary and she was in labor.

“Just then in walks a person in a white coat and a little black bag. It was the doctor who had come to deliver Mary’s baby. The doctor grabs Joseph and takes him behind the wall of hay. There was more groaning, louder this time, and finally a shout of joy. Joseph then appears holding the new baby, walks to the edge of the stage holding the baby out for all to see and declares: ‘It’s a God!’”

I think those elementary students got the story correct … don’t you?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Game: "Pass on a little Christmas Cheer"

Want to have a little fun in these days leading up to Christmas? Play the game that I call, “Pass on a little Christmas Cheer.” It is best played with more than one person (it can be a fun event for a small share group, Sunday school class or a family outing). With others playing the game the winner gets a free Starbucks or whatever everybody agrees on … but remember everybody is a winner as the joy of the Christmas spirit is shared. I am well aware that there will be some who will call this “dumb,” but since our Christian faith calls us to spread the joy ... why not!!!

Go to someplace that will have a lot of people like your local mall. Set a particular time limit for the game to be played (usually 1 hour is good). Agree, with whoever you are playing the game with, the “lets-meet-back-here-in-one-hour” location. Don’t go in a group because the mall security could become involved.

HINT: You can enlist other people to be a part of your team, but they have to be people you have just met in the mall, to help you win the game. This is called “Disciple Making.” Remember to keep your own score.

PURPOSE of the game is to attempt to add a little Christmas Cheer to as many people as possible in the shortest period of time.

SCORING: 1 point for each person who you make smile; 2 points if they laugh; 3 points if they wish you a generic holiday greeting; 4 points if they wish you a Merry Christmas; 5 points if you can engage them in a conversation of more than a minute or two; and 6 points if they agree to be a follower and join your team.

WARNING: be careful of the Scrooges because if you come across a “bah humbugger” you can loose all of your points and have to start over. But, you cannot “size-up” somebody and determine that he/she is a Scrooge and avoid him or her. You cannot loose points for those people who simply do not respond or look away – they are neither hot nor cold (to quote Revelations).

Now, go forth and play. Let me know the results!

P.S. I usually can make the single older gentlemen, normally sitting on one of the ever present benches, laugh and respond by walking slowly by them and ask, "Waiting for the parade?" You would be surprised at their reaction. They begin to sit up straighter, sometimes begin to talk with each other and become more engaged with their surroundings. Yesterday I passed a man and two women looking at a childs bicycle. All I said was, "I think that it is too small for you." As I walked away they were all laughing and having a good time. Go spread a little Christmas cheer!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Santa vs. Jesus debate

There has been a debate going on among active Jesus followers for some time concerning, "Do we tell our children about Santa or not?" It is kind of a Santa vs. Jesus debate. On more than one occasion church members turned to me, as their theological advisor, for an answer. I might have been wrong, but I always suggested that it wouldn't harm your child and his/her growing faith to go along with the Santa idea.

There is a current popular e-mail going around with the title, "Jesus is better than Santa." The last line puts this entire debate - dare I call it a silly debate - in perspective. It reads, "While Santa puts gifts under your tree Jesus became our gift and died on the tree."

Santa lives in the hearts and minds of our children for just a short period of time and then is simply a pleasant memory of a season past. Jesus is forever! A wise parent decided not to fight the whole "Santa vs. Jesus" issue, but used the belief in Santa to help her child gain a stronger relationship with Jesus. You can use your own imagination as to what she shared and how she shared it ... all I know is that her daughter had a better grasp of Jesus at an earlier time in her life than the other children in Sunday school.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Big Pine Key & Global Warming

Whenever Big Pine Key is mentioned in the news I pay a little more attention to what is being said. Big Pine Key was my first assignment after seminary. It is one of the largest of the Florida Keys and one of the most diverse. Big Pine Key is the home to the Key Deer - the smallest of the deer family. This past week there was a report on NPR from Big Pine Key concerning the effects of global warming.

I know that there are two sides to the Global Warming debate. I hear both sides within my own family. Some call it "silly science" while others are very strong believers. Regardless which side demands your loyalty what is happening on Big Pine Key requires close attention.


It appears that Big Pine Key is experiencing the first signs of rising ocean levels as it relates to the melting of the polar ice cap. There is over 100 acres of Florida Key forest which is now under water ... and the level is rising slowly and steadily. At first nobody noticed, but when it reached a certain level, people who live on the key, began to ask questions. The scientists were called. They are presently keeping a careful watch.

Is it just an example of the ebb-n-flow of nature or the first real sign in America of the often mentioned coastal flooding because of global warming?

What is your opinion?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Is the meaning of Christmas getting lost

The Christmas shopping is finished ... well, almost. A stocking stuffer or two still needs to be found. Friday becomes wrapping day ... beats the day or two before Christmas which had been the long-standing tradition. And, so this year I have a little time to stop and reflect on the meaning of Christmas ... the true meaning of this yearly event.

There is a story shared by Donald Deffner. "A television interviewer was walking the streets of Tokyo at Christmas time. Much as in America, Christmas shopping is a big commercial success in Japan. The interviewer stopped one young woman on the sidewalk, and asked, 'What is the meaning of Christmas?' Laughing, she responded, 'I don't know. Is that the day that Jesus died?' There was some truth in her answer."

A personal confession: I love getting presents! I've shared in the past that I would rather get 20 one-dollar gifts instead of one $20 gift. And so, as painful as it might be, I do confess that the commercialism is not lost on me. I do get caught up in the hyper-activity of the season.

There was a time, not too many years ago, that I would try to get to the mall on Christmas Eve day. Not to purchase anything, since that had all been accomplished in the days leading up to Christmas Eve, but to have some sort of "experience" ... to be in a large crowd with one single goal in mind. I cannot explain it, maybe I am simply nuts, but there has always been a richness of a special spirit on that day - the spirit of joy in getting the right gift; the spirit of being driven by a single purpose; the spirit of love; the spirit found in the smiles and greetings from total strangers. At some point I would stop in the center of the mall, close my eyes and thank God that most of the people surrounding me would eventually find themselves in a church of their choosing for a simple candlelight service - at least that was my prayer.

I believe that the Japanese woman was closer to the truth than Mr. Deffner could possibly realize. Because, if Jesus hadn't died on the cross at Calvary we wouldn't be remembering and celebrating his birth in a manger. Maybe I am naive, but I do believe that most people really do get the true meaning of Christmas even as they head off to the mall or Wally-World or wherever to make another purchase.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I've always known that I am blessed beyond measure, but sometimes I need to be reminded of that reality. Yesterday was such an event.

While sitting in the barber's chair he asked, "Well, is your family going to be together for Christmas?" I assured him that we would be and have been for every year our daughters have been alive. Then I went on to state, "In fact, as is true for most Tuesday evenings, we will all be together tonight for supper." Then I noticed that all conversation had stopped in the room, all heads were now turned in my direction and my barber said, with great surprise, "Really! Aren't you lucky!" But, I would rather just call it being blessed.

Truly I am - a lovely wife of 44 years, two dynamic daughers, a caring son-in-love and a delightful (and entertaining) granddaughter ... it couldn't get much better than that.

I hate to use an old saying, but Christmas is just "the icing on the cake," as they say.

Will your family be together this Christmas?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The hype over keeping Christ in Christmas

They started arriving just before Thanksgiving. They've been arriving every year that I have had a computer to receive e-mails. E-mail after e-mail encouraging people to "keep Christ in Christmas," stop wishing each other "Happy Holidays," work to eliminate the generic "Seasons Greetings," etc. They usually end with a warning that if I "don't pass this on to at least 3, 5 or 10 people immediately I am going to "lose the benefit of an extra blessing from God" or somehow it puts me with "the 90% of unbelievers who will simply delete this message" ... Oh, what seasonal foolishness!

I can remember my Sunday school teaching mother sending out "Holiday Greeting" cards back in the early part of my childhood - like 1952. I can remember a huge "Season Greetings" sign on the front lawn of the city hall in Miami back in 1954. And, I can remember by home room teacher, a dynamic and outspoke Christian, at Miami Edison High School, Uncle Jimmy Hudson, wishing all of us "Happy Holidays" as we left for the Christmas break back in 1959. So, why all the hype about these standard seasonal offerings now?

I think that it would be great if we would simply sit back, relax and enjoy the season and stop looking for something "evil" under every rock or greeting. Remember that either with us or without us God is still in charge and he will get the word out. I think scripture states something like "if (we) are silent even the rocks will shout out." After all the world into which Jesus was born was more pagan than America in 2009.

Instead of worrying about what Christmas greeting people are using we need to stop the killings, prejudices, anger, rage and start following the teaching's of Jesus - like "loving our enemies and those who would spitefully use us." Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Then turn the other cheek, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the sick, and care for the homeless. The best Christmas greeting would be to pass on love, acceptance and appreciation. Words are easy, action is much harder.

What do you think?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Believing in Santa Claus

Do you remember how old you were when you embraced the idea that Santa Claus just might not be real? In Sunday's PARADE magazine Alexander McCall Smith wrote an interesting article entitled, "Why We Should Believe in Santa Claus" ( Let me quote from the article:

"...What it does tell us is that there are times when we need to pretend to believe in things we know not to be true. We know that the world is a place of suffering and hardship, and we know, too, that justice and kindness and love and such things will not always prevail against these hard realities. Myths help us to get by. The day they all die and we tell our children exactly how things are, the world will be a poorer, less enchanted place. So don't be ashamed to clap your hands at 'Peter Pan' or act as if Santa exists. He stands for kindness and generosity, and those things are alive and will continue to be alive -- as long as we believe in them."

This article almost sounds like the same conclusion in the newspaper article of long ago, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

This just encourages me to continue to be a child in adult clothing. I must confess that there is a part of me which would love to continue to believe that Santa does exist. Every Christmas season I find myself day-dreaming of just that possibility and wondering not only how it could be true, but wondering how it would make our world different.

Are you a fellow believer?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Life is what you make it

Care to hear the latest dialogue between God and me? The last couple of days the dialogue has been more of a struggle that simply a conversation. Here is the perspective that God keeps coming up with concerning life ...
- We can either see the negative or the positive side of life.
- We can either blame others or accept full responsibility for our life.
- We can either look at our pains and aches or enjoy the health that we do have.
- We can either cry or laugh.

It is the "glass-half-full-or-half-empty" syndrome. There is two choices before us and the choice is ours to make.

As for me ... I choose to celebrate and laugh ... I choose not to get bored, but appreciate the blessings which surround me ... I choose to appreciate the blessings and not concentrate on what I don't have ... I choose to look to the present, forget the past and leave the future up to God. At least these are my goals and with the help of the Holy Spirit a reality to embrace!

What choices is God asking you to make?

Outside of the God/me conversation was this little different perspective on nutrition and health. It arrived just in time for the holiday season and the parties we might be attending. You can choose to enjoy yourself or pass up on all the tasty stuff spread before you.
- Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
- Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
- Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
- Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
- Germans drink beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
- The French eat foie-Gras, full fat cheese and drink red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us

CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you. Therefore go forth and celebrate - eat, drink and be merry just learn a different language!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

THE SHACK discussion

The share group that Margaret and I participate in has been discussing William Paul Young's popular book, THE SHACK. Every now and again I come across people who haven't heard about this marvelous novel. While at other times I come up with individuals who are on their third or fourth read. I hope that you have made the discovery and are sharing it with others.

Last Monday evening one of the discussion questions, which were developed by our senior pastor, concerned material in chapter 10. The question was this: "Page 149 Jesus talks about submission and says it is not something we can do on our own. 'My life was not meant as an example to be copied. Being a follower is not trying to be like Jesus; it means your independence must be killed. I came to give you real life, my life. I will come and live inside of you so you see with Jesus eyes.' What does this mean to how we live our lives?"

As the discussion developed it allowed me to share some of my thoughts, which I have never been shy in doing. God created us to be unique individuals. It isn't God's desire for us to become "a Jesus clone" because that would deny our gifts and graces which are distinctively ours. Rather God's design is that we become, through Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit, to be the most complete individual that we can become. I had to admit that the catch phrase a few years ago, "WWJD" or "What Would Jesus Do," was biblically incorrect, at least from my perspective. I didn't mean to pass judgement on those who wore the bracelets or followed this particular mindset. Rather I believe that the more important question was, "What would Jesus have me do?" I cannot be Jesus! I cannot do what Jesus would do! But, I can be Jim Martin and I can do what Jim Martin can do if and when I allow God to empower me as I surrender (submit) my will and desires to him in Jesus' name.

What do you think? Also, what has been your reaction to the book, THE SHACK?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Part 2 Memory Lane with Christmas thoughts

As I was finishing decorating our home for Christmas (and those who know me, having visited our home during this season know that there are a lot of decorations) my thoughts returned to those Christmas' past when I was growing up. While there are many let me share with you but a few that have resurfaced on a regular basis.

Absolutely nothing heralded the coming of Christmas like a very special filled pastry called Horns. They are labor intensive, taking two days to complete. How do I know? Well, I've baked them on a couple of occasions since my mother passed away. I would come home from school, the house would be filled with the delicious smell of freshly baked Horns. Actually our home was always filled with delicious smells because my mother was always baking something. Dad loved his desserts and thus, us kids got the benefit of his taste buds. As I came through the front door Ma would offer a hot Horn or two with a cold glass of milk and I knew that Christmas was just around the corner.

The second memory centers on the Christmas Tree. It was a European tradition and since both sets of my grandparents had come from "the old country" Ma kept the tradition. This tradition met that us kids didn't see the Christmas Tree until Christmas morning. Santa would bring the gifts and the fully decorated tree. The thrill of waking up Christmas morning was not only the presents, but seeing the glorious Christmas tree. I really don't know how my mother did it because when I put up our tree (to get the tree straight, string the lights, hang the ornaments and then the tinsel ... one tinsel at a time ... it would take me nearly two full days. The European tradition didn't survive since we would have a Christmas Open House early in December. I just don't know how my mother would do it in one evening after we had all gone to bed. Unbelievable!

When we moved to Miami in 1948 a new tradition was started. My brother Ralph would go into one of the vacate lots in our Miami neighborhood and cut down one of the small pine trees to serve as our Christmas tree. With the construction of new homes those vacate lots disappeared and so did the availability of trees to choose from. One year Ralph cut down and drug home numerous trees. None of them met our mother's approval. It would be the last year we cut down our own tree because he finally got fed up and went out and bought us a REAL Christmas tree! No more pine trees for us.

The last memory was a little practical joke I played on my mother. There was a couple of years that I would wrap every present but my own. This one year, when I got finished wrapping all the presents, I had some wrapping paper left over soooo, being the practical joker in the family, I simply wrapped up all the "left over" wrapping paper and put my mother's name on the tag. On Christmas morning when she finally unwrapped her "special" present all she could say was, "I knew I had more paper! I knew I had more paper!" This kind of explains why all of my presents were wrapped in newspaper. This memory still brings a smile to my face.

Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Memory lane

I'm not sure who wrote the following, but it sure took me down memory lane. There isn't anything written in this article that I didn't experience personnally. I'm sure that these memories, or at least most of them, will cause you to go down Memory Lane as well. Enjoy:

Someone asked the other day, "What was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?"

"We didn't have fast food when I was growing up," I informed him. "All the food was slow."

"C'mon, seriously. Where did you eat?"

"It was a place called 'at home,'" I explained. "Grandma cooked every day and when Grandpa got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room table, and if I didn't like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did like it."

By this time, the kid was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to suffer serious internal damage, so I didn't tell him the part about how I had to have permission to leave the table. But here are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I figured his system could have handled it:

Some parents NEVER owned their own house, wore Levis , set foot on a golf course, traveled out of the country or had a credit card. In their later years they had something called a revolving charge card. The card was good only at Sears Roebuck. Or maybe it was Sears and Roebuck. Either way, there is no Roebuck anymore. Maybe he died.

My parents never drove me to soccer practice. This was mostly because we never had heard of soccer. I had a bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds, and only had one speed, (slow). We didn't have a television in our house until I was 11, but my grandparents had one before that. It was, of course, black and white, but they bought a piece of colored plastic to cover the screen. The top third was blue, like the sky, and the bottom third was green, like grass. The middle third was red. It was perfect for programs that had scenes of fire trucks riding across someone's lawn on a sunny day. Some people had a lens taped to the front of the TV to make the picture look larger.

I was 13 before I tasted my first pizza, it was called "pizza pie." When I bit into it, I burned the roof of my mouth and the cheese slid off, swung down, plastered itself against my chin and burned that, too. It's still the best pizza I ever had.

I never had a telephone in my room. The only phone in the house was in the living room and it was on a party line. Before you could dial, you had to listen and make sure some people you didn't know weren't already using the line.

Pizzas were not delivered to our home but milk was.

All newspapers were delivered by boys and all boys delivered newspapers. I delivered a newspaper, six days a week. It cost 7 cents a paper, of which I got to keep 2 cents. I had to get up at 4 AM every morning. On Saturday, I had to collect the 42 cents from my customers. My favorite customers were the ones who gave me 50 cents and told me to keep the change. My least favorite customers were the ones who seemed to never be home on collection day.

Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the movies. Touching someone else's tongue with yours was called French kissing and they didn't do that in movies. I don't know what they did in French movies. French movies were dirty and we weren't allowed to see them.

If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to share some of these memories with your children or grandchildren. Just don't blame me if they bust a gut laughing.

Growing up isn't what it used to be, is it?

My dad was cleaning out my grandmother's house, who had recently passed away, and he brought me an old Royal Crown Cola bottle. In the bottle top was a stopper with a bunch of holes in it. I knew immediately what it was, but my daughter had no idea. She thought they had tried to make it into a salt shaker or something. I knew it as the bottle that sat on the end of the ironing board to "sprinkle" clothes with because we didn't have steam irons. Man, I am old.

How many do you remember?
Head light dimmer switches on the floor.
Ignition switches on the dashboard.
Heaters mounted on the inside of the vehicle's fire wall.
Real ice boxes and the ice was delivered to the house.
Pant leg clips for bicycles without chain guards.
Soldering irons you had to heat on a gas burner.
Using hand signals for turns for cars without turn signals.

Older Than Dirt Quiz:
Count all the ones that you remember not the ones you were told about. Ratings at the bottom.
1. Blackjack chewing gum
2. Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water
3. Candy cigarettes
4. Soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles
5. Coffee shops or diners with tableside juke boxes
6. Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers
7. Party lines
8. Newsreels before the movie
9. P.F. Flyers
10. Butch wax
11. Telephone numbers with a word prefix (Olive-6933)
12. Peashooters
13. Howdy Dowdy
14. 45 RPM records
15. S&H Green Stamps
16. Hi-fi's
17. Metal ice trays with a lever
18. Mimeograph paper
19. Blue flashbulbs
20. Packards
21. Roller skate keys
22. Cork Popguns
23. Drive-ins
24. Studebakers
25. Washtub wringers

If you remembered 0-5 = You're still young
If you remembered 6-10 = You are getting older
If you remembered 11-15 = Don't tell your age,
If you remembered 16-25 = You're older than dirt!
I might be older than dirt but those memories are the best part of my life.

Never forget....the people who make a difference in our lives are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care for us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why the lighthouse design?

In the search for an appropriate design for my blog I came across this one called Harbor Lights. I've always had a love of lighthouses for one reason or another.

One summer we were vacationing in the New England area. We were visiting a park right on the coastline of Maine, not very far from Kennebunkport. It was just one of those moments that will linger long in one's soul. In that summer's early afternoon we stood at the shoreline, bundled against the damp cold air, as a very heavy fog came rolling in. The ocean was pounding the black rock on which we stood. We could hardly make out the twin masks of a sailboat under full sail heading south. The sea gulls where making themselves heard as they circled overhead. On either side of us stood the twin lighthouses with their beams trying to penetrate the dense fog. As all four of us were silently trying to take in this picture perfect scene a fog horn bellowed out its warning. Finally our silence was broken as Erin spoke the only words shared among us, "This is really neat." And it was.

At church, while trying to mature into an adult Christian, one of my favorite gospel hymns was, "Let The Lower Lights Be Burning." This hymn by P. P. Bliss has the chorus line: "Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave! Some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save."

We are meant to be a lighthouse along the shores of life. One can never know when a ship might pass our way and because we are standing watch, knowing where the disastrous rocks are hidden, we can send out a warning which will save a fellow traveler.

It is my prayer that through these meager words of my blog a warning beam from my lighthouse might give guidance as you pass by.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A beginning

I've always believed that an individual should attempt new things in their life. Sometimes that has served me well and at other times ... well, not so good. But, I never allowed it to stop me. There are times that failure is good for the soul or at least that is what I keep on saying to myself. Therefore, I take up this new venture. Actually, I am following the fine example being set by two friends, Mark, a young minister friend and Karen, a lay friend. It is my prayer that I will do as well as they are doing in sharing their journey as they seek to be faithful to the gospel which claims us all. This blog will include a variety of thoughts - some mine, some others and often a joke or two since I believe that heaven is a place filled with the laughter of God. I will always be thankful for those who take the time to read what I will share. God bless and peace always!