Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reflections on Parenting and Proverbs 22:6

Nothing is harder than being a parent. It is highly demanding and yet brings with it a blessing beyond description … sometimes and sometimes not. It was an offhanded comment made on Sunday morning and it got a lot of laughs. The person speaking shared that her husband and she stayed together because “they had agreed that whoever filed for divorce would get the kids. So they stayed together out of self-defense.” Hmmm, that got me thinking about parenting.

Proverbs 22:6 states: Point your kids in the right direction - when they're old they won't be lost. (The Message) This wise proverb is often quoted, but is much easier said then done. Oh, we all try very hard to be good parents, but as one “expert” in the field of parenting shared, “We enter marriage and parenting as damaged goods.” Conclusion is that we all of us make mistakes within the context of parenting our children, but at the very basic level we make the best decisions at the time and within the situation that we know how to make given the circumstances. We really shouldn’t beat ourselves up too badly, but we should be wise enough to apologize to our adult children for not doing a better job … we really should! And then pray that they do not pass on some of our bad traits to their children while trying to raise them.

I ran across a powerful editorial column on this topic written by Ellen Goodman, "Battling Our Culture Is Parents' Task," Chicago Tribune, August 18, 1993, a portion of which follows:

Sooner or later; most Americans become card-carrying members of the counterculture. This is not an underground holdout of Hippies. No beads are required. All you need to join is a child.

At some point between Lamaze and PTA, it becomes clear that one of your main jobs as a parent is to counter the culture. What the media deliver to children by the masses, you are expected to rebut one at a time. But it occurs to me now that the call for "parental responsibility" is increasing in direct proportion to the irresponsibility of the marketplace. Parents are expected to protect their children from an increasingly hostile environment. Are the kids being sold junk food? Just say no. Is TV bad? Turn it off. Are there messages about sex, drugs, violence all around? Counter the culture.

Mothers and fathers are expected to screen virtually every aspect of their children's lives. To check the ratings on the movies, to read the labels on the CDs, to find out if there's MTV in the house next door. All the while keeping in touch with school and in their free time, earning a living.

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, a research associate at the Institute for American Values, found this out in interviews with middle-class parents. "A common complaint I heard from parents was their sense of being overwhelmed by the culture. They felt relatively more helpless than their parents."

"Parents," she notes, "see themselves in a struggle for the hearts and minds of their own children." It isn't that they can't say no. It's that there's so much more to say no to.

Without wallowing in false nostalgia, there has been a fundamental shift. Americans once expected parents to raise their children in accordance with the dominant cultural messages. Today they are expected to raise their children in opposition.

Once the chorus of cultural values was full of ministers, teachers, neighbors, leaders. They demanded more conformity, but offered more support. Now the messengers are Ninja Turtles, Madonna, rap groups, and celebrities pushing sneakers. Parents are considered "responsible" only if they are successful in their resistance.

It's what makes child-raising harder. It's why parents feel more isolated. It's not just that American families have less time with their kids, it's that we have to spend more of this time doing battle with our own culture. It's rather like trying to get your kids to eat their green beans after they've been told all day about the wonders of Milky Way. Come to think of it, it's exactly like that.

If you have children for which you are responsible … good luck. The best thing you can do is to find a prayer partner who will under gird you with prayer (actually that isn’t bad advice for any of us – with or without children). Then find a group of parents who are in the thick of things in raising their own children – it should be a group that you can be brutally honest with … about your fears, hopes and anxieties. Plus, find some mentors who are willing to serve as a listening post … it helps if they have raised successful, happy and well-adjusted children themselves.

It is tough being a parent. I’m glad that I can be just a grandparent now.

Consider this from an unknown source that passed on their wisdom in just what a parent can and cannot do:
I gave you life, but I cannot live it for you.
I can teach you things, but I cannot make you learn.
I can give you directions, but I cannot always be there to lead you.
I can allow you freedom, but I cannot account for it.
I can take you to church, but I cannot make you believe.
I can teach you right from wrong, but I can't always decide for you.
I can buy you beautiful clothes, but I cannot make you lovely inside.
I can offer you advice, but I cannot accept it for you.
I can give you love, but I cannot force it upon you.
I can teach you to be a friend, but I cannot make you one.
I can teach you to share, but I cannot make you unselfish.
I can teach you respect, but I can't force you to show honor.
I can grieve about your report card, but I cannot doubt your teachers.
I can advise you about friends, but I cannot choose them for you.
I can teach you about sex, but I cannot keep you pure.
I can tell you the facts of life, but I can't build your reputation.
I can tell you about drink, but I can't say NO for you.
I can warn you about drugs, but I can't prevent you from using them.
I can tell you about lofty goals, but I can't achieve them for you.
I can teach you kindness, but I can't force you to be gracious.
I can warn you about sins, but I cannot make your morals
I can love you as a daughter or son, but I cannot place you in God's Family.
I can pray for you, but I cannot make you walk with God.
I can teach you about Jesus, but I cannot make HIM your Saviour.
I can teach you to OBEY, but I cannot make Jesus Your Lord.
I can tell you how to live, but I cannot give you Eternal Life.

Quote for today: Percentage of American teens who say they want to be like their parents: 39% Charis Conn, editor

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Trying to live with a positive attitude in a world of hate and anger - living out the truth of 1 John 4:7-8

If I close my eyes I could swear that I’m living in the Dark Ages. At every turn there is such negativity. Right against Left, Conservative against Liberals, and Christians against any other religion other then theirs … just one negative thought after another. I want to stand still and scream out loud – SHUT UP! Shut-up long enough to listen to yourselves, do you really believe what you are saying? Just listen to yourself long enough so that you can hear just how stupid and ridiculous all those words really are. And yet, the negative vibes continue with the basic concept that we’re right and everyone else is wrong. The crazy thinking goes like this: If they would simply do, vote, think like us then the world, country, life would be better and we would be emerging out from under the dark cloud that is blocking out the Sun.

The debate, concerning the New York Mosque two and half blocks away from Ground Zero, is being orchestrated and fueled by one angry woman who just happens to write a political blog. And, like the crazy “burn the Koran” pastor in Gainesville, FL she is receiving her 15-minutes of fame and quite a following of fellow “crazies” filled with hatred and anger.

On Monday morning I was sitting in the surgery waiting room. Just a few feet away, well within hearing distance, sat an older couple. If I was to believe his T-shirt they were members of a prominent conservative church here in town. The gentleman was sharing with his sister or sister-in-law that he “was trying to understand if Jesus came to save just the Jews or the just the Gentiles or everyone including the Muslims.” He had been searching the scriptures and could not find any justification for including the Muslims. I sat there completely dumbfounded at what I was overhearing.

I wondered what he thought 1 John 4:7-8 meant: My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love - so you can't know him if you don't love. Or, John 3:16 meant: This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. Both quotes are from The Message.

These thoughts were milling around in my head when I picked up the comics for Tuesday and read Holy Mole by Rick Hotton: “Some see differences … others see similarities”. The negativity of today is simply an emphasis on the differences while God and scripture summons us to see the similarities. Since both Jews and Arabs can trace their spiritual heritage back to Abraham wouldn’t that bring both the Jews and Arabs under the same Old Testament Covenant … a covenant that Jesus came to fulfill and not to destroy? In my mind that makes us all brothers and sisters of the same God – Christians, Jews and Arabs.

I also wondered how the conservative man would react to the statement made by E. Stanley Jones about Gandhi when he shared in the chapel service at seminary, “Gandhi was the most Christian non-Christian he had ever met.”

We are living in a divided world – them against us. It is not the world that God intended for us to possess. It is not the world for which Jesus suffered and died. It is not the world of peace and grace that is mentioned in scripture. Rather, it is a world of the Dark Ages where negativity, hatred, suspicion, anger, pettiness, and deceit reign supreme.

What is surprising is that I am beginning to hear more and more news commentators discuss this very issue. Why them instead of our preachers and church members – our fellow believers? I’m beginning to believe that it will be the secular news men and women, as well as a select few of the news makers who will help turn the tide towards a more positive and up lifting tomorrow. Actually, I’m not so concerned as to whom turns this ship around I’m just ready for it to happen … and soon. I’m just sick and tired of hearing all the negative speak.

It is hard and extremely challenging to live with a positive attitude when the world around you is filled with hate and anger, but what is the alternative ... simply to bow to the masses and succumb to the growing negativity ... I think not! The alternative is to spread the joy of the Lord whenever and wherever possible ... to lift your head, pull back your shoulders and say, "Enough is enough!" and declare a "No more negative thinking and speech" zone which will mean turning the TV off, watching different movies, reading different magazines and newspapers, thinking and acting differently. We can either become the change agent for the world around us or it will change us. It is our decision as to which way it will be.

Quote for today: As much as 77% of everything we think is negative and counterproductive and works against us. People who grow up in an average household hear "No" or are told what they can't do more than 148,000 times by the time they reach age 18. Result: Unintentional negative programming. Shad Helmstetter

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Paying attention to our body's messages as part of the meaning of Romans 12:1

Each of us live in a home and we take some pride in this home. We spend money on its upkeep by repainting when we want to change the colors of the rooms or when the paint begins to peel. We maintain the roof and if a shingle is broken or missing a replacement is made even to the point of re-roofing the entire house if required. None of us would ignore a crack in the wall, a loose hinge on any of the doors, a broken or leaking faucet, a missing window pane, etc. We feel that we have made a financial investment in our homes so we take care of that investment by looking after each and every item that requires or demands attention.

Yet, when it comes to our bodies we simply ignore, dismiss or even go so far as to deny the telltale signs that something is wrong. “Oh, it will go away,” we say; or, “The pain isn’t that bad.” or, “I can live with that.” or one hundred and one other rationales. The comment that gets me is, “I told the doctor, but he/she didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about” and yet the pain/symptoms continue … nothing changes … and the house we live in just gets worse.

In Romans 12:1 God shares: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Could it mean that part-and-parcel of this biblical mandate is to present to God a healthy and whole physical body? The Hebrew children understood that God desired sacrifices that were without blemish or flaws and while that is no longer a requirement, thanks to Jesus' gift of love and grace, nevertheless shouldn't it be our desire to present to God a "living sacrifice" that is as healthy as possible?

God has created a fantastic machine with our bodies. Our bodies are constantly communicating to us that something needs to be checked out, attended to and corrected. If one doctor ignores or dismisses the “signs” that something is wrong then the responsibility that God grants unto us to take care of and be good stewards of God’s creation demands that we obtain a second or third opinion.

Case in point was my heart in 1997. After a series of tests the doctor said, “Well, there really isn’t anything to be concerned about. You do have this little anomaly, but it isn’t anything really important. I’m not concerned.” Well, I sought a second opinion and that “little anomaly” was actually two major blockages that could have and would have killed me if a double by-pass hadn’t been performed. Our bodies try to communicate as much information as possible as to what is going on inside. It is our responsibility to listen and get medical attention.

But there are some things that kind of go undetected like my wife’s carotid arteries. Usually the body doesn’t communicate with you if they are blocked or not. So, in these cases, it becomes our task to discover if something is going on which needs further attention. Organizations such as Life Line Screening can be extremely helpful, but again, we have to take action by paying attention as to when they are in our area, call and make an appointment, pay the fees and the show up at our appointed time. That is the least we can do for our bodies. Thank God we did because we saved Margaret from a possible stroke if the carotid artery, which was 85 percent blocked, had been left alone.

While visiting in the hospital some years ago the doctor for the gentleman in the bed came in to deliver the news that he had prostate cancer. The doctor began the conversation with, “How long have you had trouble urinating?” “Oh, about 2-years,” was his response. “Why didn’t you come see me when the problem first arose?” the doctor asked. “Because I was afraid that it might be cancer,” the gentleman shared. To which the doctor stated, “Well, it wasn’t then, but it is now.” My member lived just 8 more months.

Take the time and have a yearly medical check up. Don’t ignore the pains and/or changes in or on your body. If you don’t have a primary physician, find one or make use of a “walk-in” clinic (if you live in or around the greater Orlando area I would highly recommend Dr. Bill Barnard at the Emergency Medicine Physician walk-in clinic). But don’t just try to “live” with the pain … we wouldn’t if it is our house so why do we do it with our bodies. If our house falls apart we can always purchase another house, but our bodies is the only one we will ever have so it behooves us to take care of it! Wouldn’t you agree?

Quote for today: The greatest wealth is health. Virgil

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reflections on Colossians 1:17 ... He (Jesus) holds all things together!

I love the statement in Colossians 1:17: He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment (The Message). There is so much in this life that we simply take for granted and yet it is obvious that everything has been made possible because Jesus sits at the right hand of the throne of the Almighty – “he holds all things together.”

Regardless of the natural laws of the universe – he holds all things together.
The individuals involved in our lives are there because … he holds all things together.
We experience warmth and acceptance via the hugs of others because … he holds all things together.
There is affirmation and understanding because … he holds all things together.
Because of the rest we receive at night our bodies and minds are re-nourished because … he holds all things together.

Well, you get my point. Because he holds all things together we are able to exist, to live, to thrive, to laugh, to cry, to move forward in our lives. Actually we take everything for granted and we really shouldn’t except as we embrace the reality that because of Jesus holding everything together those things have been granted unto us … available to us for our enjoyment.

And so, I’m holding onto that reality as my spouse of 45 years undergoes surgery this morning. We know that the surgeon is excellent … he has a great track record and is well respected in the community and yet, we also know that a stroke or worse could be in the offering … In life or in death Jesus is holding all things together.

It is medically advisable for Margaret to have this surgery since her mother and grandmother both had strokes. The surgeon is very cautious and won’t proceed if he didn’t think it was warranted. So in the confidence of our faith and the assurance that Jesus is holding everything together we move forward trusting God for a successful surgery.

Quote for today: God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing. Martin Luther

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Passion - all consuming passion in life

How do you approach your life? What “floats your boat” is one thing, but what propels the boat is a totally different and more powerful idea. The propelling engine to anyone’s life is his or her passion. Real passion is sometimes hard to find, but it is out there if one desires to look.

I think of John R. who was a pastor in Florida. His passion was fishing. Seldom did you see him without his fishing pole. He would come to pastor events at Leesburg so he could fish the lake. And then, there was the grandmother who began to pull out the pictures as you walked towards her and would pepper her conversations with the wonderful things that her grandchildren were doing.

I also think about a young man who use to came out from Atlanta with his folks. They lived across the street from our home. He had been blind since birth. His passion was the Atlanta Braves. Steve knew every player who had ever played for the Braves. He knew all of the stats of the players, plus many of the stats for the teams that played the Braves. He was very passionate about the Braves. I now know of some individuals who are this way about the Tampa Bay Rays. Everything stops when the Rays games are being broadcast.

One of my brothers was passionate about golf. After he retired, because of health reasons, he got to express his passion by playing 18 holes with his buddies in the morning. Then he would come home, have lunch and then go back for another 18 holes with his wife. He did that for many months until his health wouldn’t permit it any longer.

We have a former church staff member who, along with his wife, is very passionate about swing dancing. You read his Facebook entries and they are all about the various swing dance events that they attend.

Passion – the propelling force in life. What is it for you?

The prophet Jeremiah shares in chapter 20, verse 9 his passion – an all consuming passion – when he shares: “But if I say, ‘Forget it! No more God-Messages from me!’ The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones. I’m worn out trying to hold it in. I can’t do it any longer!’” (The Message)

The image that comes to mind is that of Harry Denman who liked to introduce himself as “just a layman for Jesus”. Dr. Denman traveled the world sharing his faith with only a toothbrush, his black suit and white shirt. Dr. Harry’s passion was Jesus Christ. One story out of the Leesburg’s Methodist Men’s Retreats was that Harry badly needed a haircut. So one afternoon he took off into town to finally get the much-needed haircut only to show back up at the retreat later that afternoon with his hair still very long. When asked about the hair he laughed and shared, “Well, when I got in the chair I just asked the barber if he knew Jesus Christ. One thing led to another and before too long every man in the shop was on his knees accepting Jesus Christ as theie personal savior. I guess that I just forgot about getting a haircut.” You see, Harry’s passion was the souls of those men and not his hair.

Oh, to have that kind of all consuming passion for the Lord! To have Jeremiah’s “fire in the belly” to preach the Good News at every opportunity! To have the propelling purpose in life that can consume one’s time and energy!

Quote for today: I have but one passion; it is He, He only. Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A lighter side of life ... Paraprosdokian

Saturday’s blog is usually something to bring a smile. As I label it a “little lighter side of life.” This week I discovered a new word … paraprosdokian. It is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect. So, for your enjoyment, are a number of twisted sentences. You will probably shake your head, as I did, when reading down this list.

Ø I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
Ø Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
Ø I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
Ø Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
Ø The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
Ø Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
Ø If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
Ø We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.
Ø War does not determine who is right -- only who is left.
Ø Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Ø The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
Ø Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening,' and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.
Ø To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
Ø A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. My desk is a workstation.
Ø How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
Ø Some people are like Slinkies ... not really good for anything, but you can't help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.
Ø Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
Ø I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted paychecks.
Ø A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it.
Ø Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "If an emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR."
Ø I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
Ø I saw a woman wearing a sweatshirt with "Guess" on it... So I said "Implants?"
Ø Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
Ø Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a baldhead and a beer gut and still think they are sexy.
Ø Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
Ø Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
Ø A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
Ø You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
Ø The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!
Ø Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.
Ø A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
Ø Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.
Ø Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
Ø I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
Ø Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.
Ø There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.
Ø I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.
Ø I always take life with a grain of salt... plus a slice of lemon... and a shot of tequila.
Ø When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.
Ø You're never too old to learn something stupid.
Ø To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
Ø Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
Ø A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.
Ø If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?
Ø Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Quote for today: I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has always seemed to me the most civilized music in the world. Peter Ustinov

Friday, September 24, 2010

The rhythm between work and leisure

Finding the right rhythm between work, family and leisure is a challenge for the best of us and a need for all of us.

The disclaimer: I grew up in a Protestant Work Ethic house. If a job was worth doing it was worth doing well (i.e. to the best of ones ability). And, all jobs should be done completely and thoroughly … no if, buts or ands! This was my “jumping off” point for starting my ministry back in the dark ages of 1968.

The discovery: No matter how long I worked; no matter how hard I worked; no matter how the work was organized; no matter how much I used “time management” techniques; no matter how much I tried to delegate to other individuals and/or committees … I always went to bed with more left undone then I was able to accomplish. It was not a good feeling. Frustration was the overriding and dominating feeling. Besides, the very individuals who were most important in my life – my family – were paying the greatest price. I was the father who was always running to this meeting or to that group gathering. I was the spouse who always had time for others, but seldom for my wife.

The solution: It is here that I am most appreciative of the loving guidance of some kind, older and caring role models in ministry – Harold Buell, Scotty Bozeman, Al Hedberg, George Foster, Wallace Chappell – to mention just a few. From these gentle and committed colleagues I began to find my rhythm between work, family and leisure. Oh, I slipped off the wagon on more than one occasion, especially as the churches became larger and the issues became bigger and more demanding, but their loving guidance and not always so gentle touch (Al Hedberg actually bruised my leg once when he grasped it so hard in order to keep me in my seat at Annual Conference as I attempted to get up to speak) brought me back to reality.

One of their suggestions is that I take my little appointment book and write, in ink, a years worth of appointments for my wife, family and each of my children … and allow absolutely nothing to cause me to cancel those appointments – no weddings, funerals, rehearsals, committee meetings, hospital visits … absolutely nothing. When an individual and/or committee wanted a particular date I would look at my calendar and simply say, “I’m sorry I already have an appointment that evening.” It worked almost 100% of the time. I found it amazing that wedding parties could actually have a rehearsal at an earlier hour on Friday evening and in many cases, on Thursday evening, when I had family time scheduled for Friday evenings.

Was this selfish? Well, according to Dr. George Foster, “Hell, no! It is just setting your priorities correctly. The church, if you allow it, will literally consume you alive.” He spoke with authority at this point. You see, George had had a nervous breakdown because he loved the church so much. He hated to tell anyone no. As a speaker/preacher he was in constant demand. The church nearly killed one of its great servants. “Don’t let it happen to you,” he would share on more than one occasion.

As I write this I am reminded of pastors who take it to the other extreme. One pastor who followed me asked, “Do they expect me to be their personal chaplain?” I wasn’t sure what he meant until I heard that on his first Sunday he announced that he does not visit period – not in hospitals, nursing homes or door-to-door. He didn’t last long at the church! Another pastor plays golf several times during the week (actually more than one ministers does this), while another colleague likes to fish and he does it rather regularly and very often. The one thing that I have heard many times since retiring is, “Our pastor doesn't seem to work very hard. He/she is always off playing golf, fishing, or taking a cruise.” And, “I doubt that he/she even works 30 hours a week any longer.” Finding your rhythm is one thing, being lazy is an issue of another color.

It matters not what profession to which an individual has committed themselves to – doctor, lawyer, Indian chief – the bottom line is to find the rhythm that works for you and your family commitments and then stick to it come “hell or high water”. After all, you are the only you that you have. God didn’t make a second “you” and the work to which God has called you to do really cannot be fulfilled by anyone else … that is why He picked you to fulfill it. But, do it with a high sense of commitment and integrity.

Quote for today: "The hardest thing about milking cows," observed a farmer, " is that they never stay milked." Bits & Pieces

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The cost of a child ... priceless

I don’t know when it was written nor by whom … all I know, as a father of two fantastic daughters and the grandfather of two beautiful, smart grandchildren, it expresses my feelings as nothing else I have ever read on the subject. Children have always had a special place in my heart. They are truly God’s gift to us … a declaration of God’s belief in our future. They are the hope for the core family, the church, the community and the world. They are priceless! So thank you, Sir or Madame Author, thank you for putting into words an expression of our feelings.

I have repeatedly seen the breakdown of the cost of raising a child, but this is the first time I have seen the rewards listed this way. It's nice.

The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140..00 for a middle income family. Talk about price shock! That doesn't even touch college tuition. But $160,140.00 isn't so bad if you break it down..

It translates into:* $8,896.66 a year,*
$741.38 a month, * $171.08 a week.*
A mere $24.24 a day!*
Just over a dollar an hour.

Still, you might think the best financial advice is; don't have children if you want to be 'rich.' Actually, it is just the opposite.

What do you get for your $160,140.00?

* Naming rights: first, middle, and last!
* Glimpses of God every day.
* Giggles under the covers every night.
* More love than your heart can hold.
* Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs.
* Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds, and warm cookies.
* A hand to hold usually covered with jelly or chocolate.
* A partner for blowing bubbles and flying kites.
* Someone to laugh yourself silly with, no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.

For $160,140.00, you never have to grow up. You get to:
* finger-paint,
* carve pumpkins,
* play hide-and-seek,
* catch lightning bugs,
* never stop believing in Santa Claus.

You have an excuse to:
* keep reading the Adventures of Piglet and Pooh,
* watch Saturday morning cartoons,
* go to Disney movies, and
* wish on stars.

You get to frame rainbows, hearts, and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, hand prints set in clay for Mother's Day, and cards with backward letters for Father's Day.

For a mere $24.24 a day, there is no greater bang for your buck. You get to be a hero just for:
* retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof
* taking the training wheels off a bike
* removing a splinter
* filling a wading pool
* coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs and
* coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets treated to ice cream regardless.

You get a front row seat in history to witness the:
* First step
* First word
* First joke
* First date
* First time behind the wheel

You get to be immortal.

You get another branch added to your family tree, and if you're lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren and great grandchildren. You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications, and human sexuality that no college can match.

In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there under God. You have all the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away the monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits, so one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost. That is quite a deal for the price!!!!!!!

Love & enjoy your children & grandchildren & great-grandchildren!!!!!!!

It's the best investment you'll ever make!!!!!!!!!

Quote for today: Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression. Source unknown

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Moving forward even with regret

Trying to move forward while looking in the rearview mirror is never a good idea. Trying to live in the present while being swallowed up by regret is a terrible burden to carry. Trying to make sense out of this world while being consumed by decisions made in the past will only destroy the future.

Living in the present and moving forward into the future is a real challenge … at least it is for me. I’m one who is constantly evaluating and regretting the decisions made all the way back to my early teenage years. I wish I could live by the philosophy of life of my youngest daughter … “Forget about it. What is done is done. All that stuff is in the past. You cannot do anything about it so why dwell on it? Get on with your life!”

But those memories … painful memories … still haunt me. I go to sleep with them dancing in my mind and I wake up with them still there. Throughout the day they reemerge when I least expect them. On too many occasions I feel like Terry in the movie, On the Water Front, when he says, “… I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody …” I take great solace in that Mother Teresa had some of the same struggles.

How do you handle your inner demons? What solutions have you found? How do you move on? What works for you?

Quote for today: There, but for me, go I. A New Yorker cartoon

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How I became a Christian and my calling to ministry

During Share Group last night I was reminded, once again, why I started to write this daily blog. Primarily, I started because of the prompting from my daughters to put into writing my thoughts and experiences. And then, grandchildren came along. I am trying to be as healthy as I can possibly be so that I can be involved in their lives as long as I can possibly be … still there will come a time in their lives that I will no longer be around. It is my hope that these “burnt offerings” will be a part of their written history as to who I was and what “floated-my-boat” so to speak.

Today’s story is how I became a Christian and ultimately ended up in becoming an United Methodist Clergy.

Growing up in Miami was an interesting experience in and of itself, but then a neighbor interjected herself into my life by asking my mother if she could take me, along with her daughter, to church and Sunday school. So, as an elementary aged young man, I was introduced to the church thanks to the interest and caring of someone outside of my family. This pattern would continue for the rest of my life. Through my participation in the activities of Allapattah Methodist Church my mother and father also started to get involved in the life of the church. What I found at church was acceptance and approval – something that was kind of rare in my household. I loved it! I could be me!

Summer camp at the Leesburg Youth Camp started to become a part of my life shortly there after. During the last evening of camp they handed out commitment cards and you kind of checked off the little boxes like everybody else did … you really didn’t want to be too different. That next Lenten season I was tapped on the shoulder during the beginning of Sunday school and Reba Smith, our Educational Assistant, said, “The pastor wants to see you in his office.” Ouch, that is like having to go to the principal’s office. So off I went and as I entered his office there sat many children who I didn’t know or recognize. The Rev. Waldo Farabee said, “Jimmy, sit down.” Then he began to talk and flip pages on a flipchart. The last thing he said was, “Be back here next week.” I wasn’t really sure why I had to be there nor did I understand what he was saying nor appreciate the flipchart stuff, but if he said that I had to be back there next Sunday who was I to question the pastor. What I was experiencing, without really knowing it, was Confirmation Class.

The next thing I knew, about 6 weeks later, was that he had me joining the church. That Palm Sunday I was sicker than I usually was and my mother insisted that I couldn’t go to church, but “the pastor said I had to be there” I argued. She gave in, I was confirmed and the promptly left the sanctuary and threw-up. Did I understand what I was doing? No. Did I understand the impact it was going to have on my life? Absolutely not! But, this one thing I did understand, church was my home. Here they affirmed me, accepted me, approved me, loved me … like nowhere else and like nobody else in my life. I had found an emotional home. The added plus was Summer Camp – an escape.

During those camping experience I began to be introduced to the idea that a person could actually work for the church in some capacity. Wow! Not only had I found a home to call my own, but now came the idea that I could actually work for the church and experience this full time … so, why not. When it came time for those end-of-the-camp commitment cards there was that little box that I was looking for “Interested in talking with someone about becoming a minister or missionary.” I checked it and the next thing that I remembered was that I was summoned to the pastor’s office again. This time it was The Rev. A. A. Koestline (Uncle Al he wanted us to call him). He talked with me about entering the ministry and gave me opportunities to speak at Sunday evening services. I was hooked. So off to school I went to become a preacher. It was just a natural sequence of events. It was still more about the church being my emotional home than it was about a relationship with Jesus Christ, but that would soon change.

It was during Dr. Ted Runyon’s, “Introduction to Theology 101 and 102” classes that the change began to take place. He spoke of “the call” to ministry and “the calling” of ministry. For me he hit the nail on the head. I don’t remember the actual words he used but they went something like this: “All of you have ended up here at seminary through various influences and because of various needs – some emotional and some spiritual. It might have been because of the influence of your parents or grandparents, a favorite Sunday school teacher or pastor, or because of an experience or two, but some how you discovered that your future was to be in ministry of some kind. That was your call. Was it from God? Well, maybe or maybe not … God uses the circumstances of our lives to help us understand our journey. The challenge over the next two semesters is to see if your ‘call’ can change into a ‘calling’ because if you simply go forth from this place with a ‘call’ you will not last very long, but if it is a ‘calling’ then your experience will be both meaningful and fruitful. A ‘calling’ is a continuous summons to be about the work of the Kingdom. A ‘call’ is just an emotional response to certain stimuli at a particular moment in time.” My call did become a calling and my journey continued.

I loved the church, maybe too much. There was a district superintendent who actually said that to me while serving First Church, Hudson. Dr. Hamilton said, “Jim you love the church too much. You need to accept the fact that the churches you serve will not be fully committed to the Kingdom. Your one major fault is that you are constantly thinking and thus, you are leagues ahead of where your people are. Just stop and allow them to eventually catch up.” I never really changed … there was an urgency about my ministry that I never fully understood. Further, because of the emotional needs from my childhood to constantly try to please my parents I attempted to do everything myself.

This finally all caught up with me forcing me to make the most difficult decision of my life … to retire early from the one thing that I dearly loved to do in this life … to preach and teach about the Kingdom of God and a vital, living relationship with Jesus Christ. The reality is that God was actually saving me because, as others have testified, if I had stayed in the ministry full time I would have been dead by now because of the stress level of ministry. I still pray daily that God will continue to open doors for ministry, as well as provide opportunities to preach and teach. Why? Because the “calling” is still there and probably will be until the day comes for me to “shuffle off this mortal coil”.

Quote for today: You enter the ministry only if you lose the battle to stay out and you stay in the ministry only if you lose the battle to get out. William Sloane Coffin

Monday, September 20, 2010

Influence - part 2

Some years ago my choir director introduced the congregation I was serving at the time and me to a great song. She sang it during our annual stewardship campaign. The response of the congregation was unbelievable because it touched us all where we live. Yesterday, I wrote about the influence that we can have on each other. This song speaks to the heart of that reality. I shared these powerful lyrics with you today because none of us ever really know the lives we change simply by giving of ourselves:

Thank You for Giving To The Lord - Music & Lyrics by Ray Boltz

I dreamed I went to Heaven, you were there with me.
We walked upon the streets of gold beside the Crystal Sea.
We heard the angels singing, then someone called your name.
You turned and saw this young man, and he was smiling as he came.
He said, "Friend you may not know me now," and then he said, "But wait -
You used to teach my Sunday School, when I was only eight.
And every week you would say a prayer before the class would start.
And one day when you said that prayer,
I asked Jesus in my heart."

Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am so glad you gave.

Then another man stood before you, he said "Remember the time,
A missionary came to your church, His pictures made you cry.
You didn't have much money but you gave it anyway.
Jesus took that gift you gave
And that's why I'm in Heaven today"

Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am so glad you gave.

One by one they came, far as your eyes could see.
Each life somehow touched by your generosity.
Little things that you had done, sacrifices that you made,
They were unnoticed on this earth
In Heaven now proclaimed.

Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am so glad you gave.

And I know up in Heaven you're not supposed to cry
But I am almost sure there were tears in your eyes
As Jesus took your hand and you stood before the Lord
He said "My child look around you,
Great is your reward."

Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord,
I am so glad you gave,
I am so glad you gave.

Quote for today: The only gift is a portion of thyself. R.W. Emerson

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Influence - a personal impact on others

Influence … that personal impact that one person has upon another. At the end of the journey one can never really know just how much of an influence – for good or for bad – that one has had on others. Some influence is lasting, as I’ve been reminded of on more than one occasion, as a young North Carolina minister has recalled several sermons that I shared with the congregation that he participated in as a youth. Actually, from my perspective, it is a little scary if you really think about it. A word here or a word there and a life is influenced ... changed … redirected … strengthened … encouraged … lifted up … motivated … all because one person crossed their path at some point in their journey.

There was another situation where an outstanding and dynamic pastor, now serving one of the premier churches of Florida, walked up and mentioned how he had looked upon me as a mentor. I was both surprised and touched … and in truth, he had really been my mentor both in leadership style, ease of interaction with others and the gentle caring grace that flowed from his personality. When I got back into my car I found myself telling God that if I could come back into this life at some point I would love to come back as David.

Influence … you never really know who, when or where the influence is taking place nor how deeply that influence is affecting the individuals being touched by your spirit. This thought keeps running through my mind as I interact with my grandchildren. I hope that I live long enough to see them grow-up because I am just curious about their future and would like to be around to help shape it.

As a Christian, it should be our desire to bring the peace of God’s presence into the lives of everyone we come in contact with as we introduce them to our friend Jesus, but does that happen? Just what is left in our wake as we navigate through our daily routine? In what ways are we shaping the lives of others? We probably will never know until we get to heaven and are greeted by a host of cheering friends that we have touched along the way.

Quote for today: Dr. John Geddie went to Aneityum in 1848 and worked there for God for 24 years. On the tablet erected to his memory these words are inscribed: When he landed, in 1848, there were no Christians. When he left, in 1872, there were no heathen. J.O. Sanders

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Insights from Larry the Cable Guy

Saturday’s blogs are usually a little lighter side of life since I believe that there isn’t enough laughter in this old world … we simply take ourselves and others far too serious. We need to all lighten up, lean back and laugh … often … loud … and with enthusiasm. I like Larry the Cable Guy. He just has a unique way of looking at life. The following 20 thoughts are attributed to him. If he didn’t say them, he probably will in the future.

1. A day without sunshine is like night.
2. On the other hand, you have different fingers.
3. 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
4. 99 percent of Politicians give the rest a bad name.
5. Remember, half the people you know are below average.
6. He who laughs last, thinks slowest.
7. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
8. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.
9. Support bacteria. They're the only culture most people have.
10. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
11. Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.
12. If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.
13. How many of you believe in psycho-kinesis? Raise my hand.
14. OK, so what's the speed of dark?
15. When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
16. Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.
17. Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
18. What happens if you get scared half to death, twice?
19. Why do psychics have to ask you your name?
20. Light travels faster than sound. That's why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

Quote for today: At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities. Jean Houston

Friday, September 17, 2010

But Sunday is coming!

While living in Tennessee and Georgia I heard a phrase repeatedly … “But Sunday is coming,” as in “It might be Wednesday, but Sunday is coming!” or “I might be facing surgery, but Sunday is coming!” or “The money has run out for the month, but Sunday is coming!” It simply was a standard answer to whatever one might be facing. Whatever the trial or heartache was it could be faced with a little less anxiety because Sunday was coming.

Sunday was a time of joy and celebration. Sunday was an event in and of itself. Sunday meant Sunday school and Worship. Sunday meant dinner on the grounds. Sunday meant family and relatives gathering together. Sunday meant a “Singin’” at a country church. Sunday meant relaxation. Sunday meant an evening worship service and a trip to the DQ. Sunday was special and it was anticipated every week like the return of a long lost relative.

For most of us Sunday is “just another day” in the course of the week. Oh, it might mean that we get to go to the beach or lake. It might mean a day off from work and a favorite NFL football game. And, it might mean the gathering of some family together for a picnic. But, for most of us, we just haven’t captured the sheer joy and exuberance of those simple country folk found in their declaration, “But Sunday is coming!”

Maybe it is just a lifestyle issue. After all we socialize constantly during our week. We go to the store nearly every day for one item or another. Our days off come scattered throughout the week. We come in contact with family and friends more often than just on Sunday. We are not isolated “out on the farm” and, for most of us, we are not eking out a livin’ by the sweat of our brow and the labor of our hands. And Sunday has become “just another day” in the week … “just” another day. How sad!

In all of our modern “with it” living we have lost a precious joy that is found in the heart and spirit of the people who say, “Sunday makes my week. It just lifts my spirit and brings joy into my life. Because of Sunday, I can face the rest of the week.”

If you are among those who are searching for meaning and purpose in your life; if there is an emptiness somewhere in the depth of your soul; if you find yourself just trudging through the week with a lack of any enthusiasm; if you find it hard to get out of bed in the morning and hate facing another day; than maybe, just maybe a trip to the country folk who approach everything and face down anything with a certain joy and exuberance of “but Sunday is coming” is what the spiritual doctor would prescribe.

They’ve discovered … or never lost … the ultimate answer for life. No matter what a person is facing Jesus has the answer. It is simple, but not simplistic. It is all encompassing and all inclusive. It matters not what the problem might be, Jesus has the final say in the matter. As the old country shut-in shared one hot and humid afternoon, “When trouble comes a-knockin’ I just ask Jesus, ‘Can you answer that?’” and he has never failed me yet. It might be Monday, but Sunday is coming … it might be cancer, but Sunday is coming … it might be a fire, but Sunday is coming … it might be a divorce, but Sunday is coming … it might be trouble, but Sunday is coming … Every Sunday is resurrection day … Every Sunday brings new life where life has brought destruction and heartache … Every Sunday new life is offered filled with possibilities, hope and grace … Every Sunday … Every Sunday!

Quote for today: Do not let Sunday be taken from you. If your soul has no Sunday, it becomes an orphan. Albert Schweitzer

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What if Niceness starts to spread?

The comic strip, Non Sequitur, by Wiley Miller, has been running a story line where an animal/spirit called Ekert has been released upon the world. The Ekert spreads niceness wherever it goes. Niceness is spreading faster than anyone can imagine. The President of the United States asks the question, "How is niceness a scourage?" His aide responds, in today’s strip, “People are starting to practice what they preach, so crime is plummeting and lawsuits aren’t being filed …” The result of the Ekert spreading niceness throughout the world is that millions of lawyers are unemployed, the military has been reduced to a state of meaninglessness and politicians … well, you get the picture.

This comic strip, which is one of my favorites, has gotten me to think as to just what would happen in this old world of ours if all of a sudden Niceness started to spread like wildfire. Would millions of lawyers have to change professions? Would politicians start working together instead of against each other … actually making America a better country? Would the news media have nothing to report since all they presently share are the bad things that are happening in the world? Would jails have to shut down? Would we have to reduce our police force … all because Niceness was breaking out all over the place?

The unemployment would be huge since so much of today’s work force have their jobs because people treat other people badly. As the last panel in today’s strip has the president and his aide sharing the following dialogue: President: “…now there’s a million unemployed lawyers, right?” Aide: “Yes, sir. And they can’t all become fiction writers.” What would people start doing since their old jobs would no longer have meaning and purpose? Maybe new professions would have to be created that would cause people to reach out and assist others in their journey through this life.

So what would happen if the fictional character Ekert was released and we all started practicing Niceness? Why don’t we give it a try and allow it to break forth in our own lives and our own little part of this old world? What do we have to lose?

Quote for today: Kindness makes a person attractive. If you would win the world, melt it, do not hammer it. Alexander Maclaren

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Life is all about ones perspective

It is always an eye opening experience to see your life through the eyes of another. Thus, was my experience this Tuesday when I picked up my latest American Cancer Society patient at one of the retirement centers here in Bradenton to transport her to the doctor’s office for her daily treatment. You never know their life’s story so that is your “jumping off” point … a means to engage them in conversation.

Her story began on an Indian reservation in Idaho. She is half American Indian thanks to her father. At the age of 17 she had to get married because she was pregnant. Her husband was nine and a half years older than she was. There are five children, four girls and one boy, as a result of their marriage. One daughter lives here and the other four children all live in California.

When she got in the car she noticed that I moved the steering wheel down to better fit my driving style. “What did you just do?” she asked. And then the questions continued to come about the various buttons, little lights, etc. “I’ve never been in such a fancy car before,” she shared with the awe of a little girl. What she saw as a “fancy car” I saw as just a standard car. Seeing your life through the eyes of another is interesting.

The conversation soon moved to what she and husband did before they retired. “Well, you see, he never got to retire. He simply died of that drinking disease. I don’t quite remember the name of it, but it is the one where the alcohol attacks the liver.” When I mentioned Cirrhosis of the Liver she responded, “Yes, that be it!” Her husband died May 5, 1994.

I then asked what he did before he passed away. “Well, he was good with his hands when he wasn’t hitting me. Oh, I loved him a lot, but I had to watch out so he wouldn’t hit me and I kind of had to protect him so others wouldn’t beat him up. You probably could say he was a handy man of sorts, but what we really did was dumpster diving. You would be surprised what you could find in those dumpsters. It was kind of like goin' on a treasure hunt … a yard sale of sorts just not in no bodies yard. Knowing which dumpsters to check out on which day of the week was the key. Certain stores would just throw away good stuff like it was of no value. And, boy, there was also a lot of good food just thrown away like nobody could use it. But, we did. It was fun. We sold cardboard and aluminum cans to make our money. We lived good even if we did have to sleep in our car or in the back alleys.” It is interesting to compare your life while listening to another person speak of a life that you have never experienced.

Eventually I asked about the retirement home she is presently living in. “Oh, sir, it is real nice. I have a one bedroom and I’ve fixed it up real nice like. I don’t eat in the dinning room. I do all of my own cooking, but the people there are all real friendly like, except for the snooty ones who think they are better than you.”

Boy, I sure hope she beats the odds and win her latest battle with cancer, but if she doesn’t she will die happy, thinking that she had somehow won the lottery what with her one bedroom “fixed up real nice like.” Next time, if there is a next time, I am asked to drive her to one of her doctor’s appointments I will need to remember that she loves candy, especially 3-Musketeers or Milky Way – nothing with nuts since “I don’t got no teeth and my dentures don’t fit too good. You know, sore gums and all.”

You never really know whom you are going to pick up when asked by the American Cancer Society to provide transportation, but everyone adds to the spice of life and a different perspective to ones own existence and, it is all about perspective. We see life just how we expect to see life … nothing more … nothing less.

Quote for today: A shoe manufacturer who decided to open the Congo market sent two salesmen to the undeveloped territory. One salesman cabled back: "Prospect here nil. No one wears shoes." The other salesman reported enthusiastically, "Market potential terrific! Everyone is barefooted." Source Unknown

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A reflection on evangelism

On page 238 of Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult is this interesting and thought provoking dialogue:
Suddenly a ragged man wearing a hairnet and flip-flops walks toward us, holding a stack of pamphlets. Sophie, scared, hides behind her mother’s chair. “My brother,” the vagrant asks me, “have you found the Lord Jesus Christ?”
“I didn’t now he was looking for me.”
“Is He your personal savior?”
“You know,” I say, “I’m still kind of hoping to rescue myself.”
The man shakes his head, dreadlocks like snakes. “None of us are strong enough for that,” he replies, and moves on.
“I think that’s illegal,” I mutter to Delia. “Or at least it should be. Nobody should have to swallow religion with their coffee.”
When I look up, she’s staring at me. “How come you don’t believe in God?” Delia asks.
“How come you do?”
She looks down at Sophie, and her whole face softens. “I guess it’s because some things are too incredible for people to take all the credit.”
Or the blame, I think.
Two tables over, the zealot approaches an elderly couple, “Believe in the Father,” he preaches.
Delia turns in his direction. “It’s never that simple,” she says.

Or is it? We have a tendency, don’t we, to make believing in God too complicated … trying too hard … trying to fill in all the answers to life’s questions before we believe … trying to do the “rescue ourselves” thing before allowing Jesus to do it for us … trying to relegate God, Jesus, faith, the Bible type issues to the recesses of our spirit – to be “dealt” with at a later time while we “get on” with life. And then, unexpectantly something or someone comes along and unashamedly asks the one question we have been trying to avoid, “Do you believe … do you know?”

I’ve never liked the “in your face” type of evangelism as found all too often in the “knocking-on-doors-asking-the-if-you-died-tonight-where-would-you-spend-eternity” people. But, sadder still, is for us to have a personal friendship/relationship with someone and never ask the more personal questions about one’s relationship with Jesus Christ and/or God. Belief and Faith are personal issues, but were never meant to be private. They were designed by the maker to be shared, especially with the individuals we love the most.

Quote for today: The Order of the Mustard Seed founded by Count Zinzendorf had three guiding principles, namely: 1. Be kind to all people. 2. Seek their welfare. 3. Win them to Christ. Source Unknown

Monday, September 13, 2010

Comparing a football fan with a Christian

It’s football season again. Love College more than Professional, but I’ll take a good game in either. As I was watching numerous games this weekend I found myself creating a mental list comparing the average football fan and the average Christian. It is an interesting comparison.

The average football fan will:
1. Wear their team colors and logo with a T-shirt and/or baseball hat.
2. Fly those little flags from the car windows.
3. Put bumper stickers on their cars and one of those metal license vanity plates.
4. If attending the game at the stadium will arrive about an hour before the game, sit on a hard metal bench in a space too small for any human being in all sorts of weather – heat, rain, cold, snow, etc.
5. Spend a small fortune for their tickets, some even seasonal packet of tickets, as well as food from the concession stands.
6. Some fans will follow their team on away games by driving long hours or flying overnight and stay at an expensive hotel.
7. If their team is a college team they will pay the Booster Club a large sum of money for the privilege of purchasing their game day tickets.
8. They will stand for most of the game and cheer until they can hardly speak.
9. Fly a team flag from the house flagpole.
10. Speak to total strangers about their team and why their team is the best in the nation.
11. They will postpone, re-schedule or include out-of-town guests if the game is on.
12. And never, ever complain about any of this.

Now, how does this compare to the average Christian?

Quote for today: Enthusiasm is contagious. Be a carrier. Susan Rabin

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A modern day parable

Here is a modern day parable called, Carl's Garden. I do not know the author, but it does embody the Gospel message. I offer it without comment.

Carl was a quiet man. He didn't talk much. He would always greet you with a big smile and a firm handshake. Even after living in our neighborhood for over 50 years, no one could really say they knew him very well.

Before his retirement, he took the bus to work each morning. The lone sight of him walking down the street often worried us. He had a slight limp from a bullet wound received in WWII.

Watching him, we worried that although he had survived WWII, he may not make it through our changing uptown neighborhood with its ever-increasing random violence, gangs, and drug activity.

When he saw the flyer at our local church asking for volunteers for caring for the gardens behind the minister's residence, he responded in his characteristically unassuming manner. Without fanfare, he just signed up.

He was well into his 87th year when the very thing we had always feared finally happened. He was just finishing his watering for the day when three gang members approached him. Ignoring their attempt to intimidate him, he simply asked, 'Would you like a drink from the hose?' The tallest and toughest-looking of the three said, 'Yeah, sure,' with a malevolent little smile.

As Carl offered the hose to him, the other two grabbed Carl's arm, throwing him down. As the hose snaked crazily over the ground, dousing everything in its way, Carl's assailants stole his retirement watch and his wallet, and then fled.

Carl tried to get himself up, but he had been thrown down on his bad leg. He lay there trying to gather himself as the minister came running to help him. Although the minister had witnessed the attack from his window, he couldn't get there fast enough to stop it.

'Carl, are you okay? Are you hurt?' the minister kept asking as he helped Carl to his feet.
Carl just passed a hand over his brow and sighed, shaking his head. 'Just some punk kids. I hope they'll wise-up someday.'

His wet clothes clung to his slight frame as he bent to pick up the hose. He adjusted the nozzle again and started to water. Confused and a little concerned, the minister asked, 'Carl, what are you doing?' 'I've got to finish my watering. It's been very dry lately,' came the calm reply. Satisfying himself that Carl really was all right, the minister could only marvel. Carl was a man from a different time and place.

A few weeks later the three returned. Just as before their threat was unchallenged. Carl again offered them a drink from his hose. This time they didn't rob him. They wrenched the hose from his hand and drenched him head to foot in the icy water.

When they had finished their humiliation of him, they sauntered off down the street, throwing catcalls and curses, falling over one another laughing at the hilarity of what they had just done. Carl just watched them. Then he turned toward the warmth giving sun, picked up his hose, and went on with his watering.

The summer was quickly fading into fall. Carl was doing some tilling when he was startled by the sudden approach of someone behind him. He stumbled and fell into some evergreen branches. As he struggled to regain his footing, he turned to see the tall leader of his summer tormentors reaching down for him. He braced himself for the expected attack. 'Don't worry old man, I'm not gonna hurt you this time.' The young man spoke softly, still offering the tattooed and scarred hand to Carl. As he helped Carl get up, the man pulled a crumpled bag from his pocket and handed it to Carl. 'What's this?' Carl asked. 'It's your stuff,' the man explained. 'It's your stuff back. Even the money in your wallet.' 'I don't understand,' Carl said. 'Why would you help me now?'

The man shifted his feet, seeming embarrassed and ill at ease. 'I learned something from you,' he said. 'I ran with that gang and hurt people like you. We picked you because you were old and we knew we could do it. But every time we came and did something to you, instead of yelling and fighting back, you tried to give us a drink. You didn't hate us for hating you. You kept showing love against our hate.' He stopped for a moment. 'I couldn't sleep after we stole your stuff, so here it is back.'

He paused for another awkward moment, not knowing what more there was to say. 'That bag's my way of saying thanks for straightening me out, I guess.' And with that, he walked off down the street. Carl looked down at the sack in his hands and gingerly opened it. He took out his retirement watch and put it back on his wrist. Opening his wallet, he checked for his wedding photo. He gazed for a moment at the young bride that still smiled back at him from all those years ago.

He died one cold day after Christmas that winter. Many people attended his funeral in spite of the weather. In particular the minister noticed a tall young man that he didn't know sitting quietly in a distant corner of the church.

The minister spoke of Carl's garden as a lesson in life. In a voice made thick with unshed tears, he said, 'Do your best and make your garden as beautiful as you can. We will never forget Carl and his garden.'

The following spring another flyer went up. It read: 'Person needed to care for Carl's garden.' The flyer went unnoticed by the busy parishioners until one day when a knock was heard at the minister's office door. Opening the door, the minister saw a pair of scarred and tattooed hands holding the flyer. 'I believe this is my job, if you'll have me,' the young man said. The minister recognized him as the same young man who had returned the stolen watch and wallet to Carl.

He knew that Carl's kindness had turned this man's life around. As the minister handed him the keys to the garden shed, he said, 'Yes, go take care of Carl's garden and honor him.' The man went to work and, over the next several years, he tended the flowers and vegetables just as Carl had done.

During that time, he went to college, got married, and became a prominent member of the community. But he never forgot his promise to Carl's memory and kept the garden as beautiful as he thought Carl would have kept it.

One day he approached the new minister and told him that he couldn't care for the garden any longer. He explained with a shy and happy smile, 'My wife just had a baby boy last night, and she's bringing him home on Saturday.' 'Well, congratulations!' said the minister, as he was handed the garden shed keys. 'That's wonderful! What's the baby's name?' 'Carl,' he replied.

Quote for today: Kindness makes a person attractive. If you would win the world, melt it, do not hammer it. Alexander Maclaren

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hate vs. Love on 9/11

In the great city of New York there once stood the Twin Towers ... a nation watched in disbelief and horror as they fell to the ground. Thousands died. Hatred brought them down and hatred has gripped the nation ever since. Hatred cannot win … we cannot allow it to win … we will be destroyed if hatred wins the day and God is pushed to the sidelines of life.

Holy Scripture speaks of … forgiving our enemies … turning the other cheek … of going the second mile … not repaying evil with evil … loving those who hate us and say all sorts of evil against us. Holy Scripture asks the penetrating question: How can we love God whom we have not seen if we don’t love our neighbor who we have seen? Holy scripture asks the follow-up question: Who is my neighbor? … And we know, in our hearts, who our neighbors are ... they speak a different language, worship a god by a different name, they wear different cloths and live a different lifestyle … but they are still God’s children and they are our neighbors.

The nation is being held captive by a crazy fringe pastor in Gainesville, Florida who has received much more than his 15-minutes of fame. The nation is being divided over a proposed mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. Sides have been taken, angry words are being exchanged … and God is being left out of any consideration as hatred takes grip of the heart of the nation.

Scores of e-mails arrive on a daily basis spreading hatred and misinformation … bearing false witness? Pat Robertson goes on his TV program and continues to spread a message of hatred in the name of Christ. The hate-jocks (conservative talk show hosts) speak in angry tones of trying to preserve our beloved nation … spreading the message of hate and anger. And, we are instructed in Holy Scripture that we are to leave judgment and wrath in the hands of God … this is not our responsibility nor is it our privilege.

A winless war is being waged. Billions of dollars is being spent … money we do not have. Thousands of lives of young men and women are being lost and tragically changed forever … all in the name of hatred and anger.

When will this madness stop? When will we truly turn back to being that Christian Nation that we so proudly talk about? When will we become instruments of peace instead of war? When will we once again become the hallmark of justice, democracy, and freedom? When? … When? … When?

Today we will remember where we were and what we were doing on 9/11. We will remember the victims and mourn their passing. But will we stop the hatred and the anger or will we continue this madness and watch our nation destroyed from within? Who wins, God, a God of peace and love, or the other guys? It is our decision … every day and every moment of every day. We are either part of the problem or we are part of the solution.

Quote for today: Hate is like acid. It can damage the vessel in which it is stored as well as destroy the object on which it is poured. Ann Landers

Friday, September 10, 2010

Remembering one of God's servants

The Rev. Dr. Harold Buell’s memorial service was held yesterday at First United Methodist Church, Lakeland, FL. Dr. Buell was my first district superintendent as I began my journey as a minister in the Florida Annual Conference. Those speaking at his service were individuals who had been involved in his ministry over the years. They each spoke of a man of integrity, a Kingdom servant, a husband, father and grandfather, a humble and quiet person who simply went about his life with the assurance that he was doing what God had placed him here on earth to do.

As his wife, Jean, had shared, Harold was always curious as to what was over the next hill. As a young man he traveled throughout the United States via the thumb method. It was a safe mode of transportation back then. His curiosity would also take him, and his young family, to India as a teaching missionary where, much to the surprise of everyone – including his closets friends – he interviewed Gandhi. Harold never spoke about his own achievements because he was comfortable in his own skin.

His travels would also take him, and his family, throughout South America and then over to South Africa where he spoke at numerous black township churches. While in South Africa he was asked to speak on their national radio, but since he would have had to submit his manuscript prior to the broadcast for editing, he kindly refused the offer. Harold was a man of deep integrity.

Harold also had a very dry, quiet sense of humor … the kind that simply surprised you when you were least expecting it because it was always shared with a straight face. As an example I offer a conversation that he and I had during my first Pastor’s School experience. I had been assigned to room with Walter and Gene, two brothers who were notorious because of their snoring. One would bring in the train and the other would take it out! That first night I didn’t get much sleep. Harold made the observation concerning my lack of sleep. I sought his advice as to what to do since I didn’t wish to offend Walter or Gene, but I did need to get some rest. Harold deadpanned that the solution was simple, as they get into bed just slip over and kiss both of them squarely on the mouth and then go to sleep. They will stay awake the rest of the night wondering what you are going to do next.

Dr. Buell was a quiet man. This was something that everybody knew about him, but we didn’t really know just how quiet he was until Dr. Ray Finklea, a former district superintendent and one of Harold’s associates, shared that within the cabinet Harold’s nickname was “Gabby,” because he talked so little. Ray went on to share that when Harold did speak you listened because whatever he had to share was going to be profound and well thought out. Dr. Buell was a man of integrity and a true curiosity about his world.

As I stood in the large narthex of that historical church, waiting my turn to speak with his family, I looked out over the crowd of fellow colleagues, as well as friends and members of the family and I began to wonder as to who would speak at my memorial service, what will they share and who, if any, would attend the service. As a general rule we seldom, if ever, contemplate our own end of life and how we will be remembered. We simply go through life doing the best that we know how to do, but I would submit to you that it can cause one to pause to evaluate one’s life and the footprint that is being left. It actually was a good exercise for me. I had an hour and a half ride home to think it all through. It is a rather humbling exercise, one that I would highly recommend.

May we all be remembered and revered as God’s servant Harold Buell was yesterday. May we all deposit memories in the emotional banks of our friends and family to celebrate. May we all leave a legacy of faith, integrity and intelligence for others to follow. May we all have a long and prosperous life, rich in friends and love. Harold Buell lived such a life and for that I am thankful.

Quote for today: Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today. James Dean

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Life's decisions

Life is made up of the sum total of all of our decisions. Those decisions – good, bad or indifferent – come into play at every turn in our life’s journey. At any one point the decisions that we do make are usually made with the best judgment we had at the time given the circumstances and the interpersonal dynamics present. What makes it somewhat complicated is that there are decisions being made by others that either, positively or negatively, directly impact our lives.

Such was the case as I listened to a relative speak to decisions that she and her spouse made. The process went something like this, “Well, when ‘Jack’ goes off to play college basketball we will …” or “When ‘Jack’ gets older and is out of the house we will …” Well, ‘Jack’ is off to college now and out of the house. He isn’t playing basketball any longer because of the negative influence of the high school basketball coach. Plus, her “spouse” has cancer and is slowly dying. As they say, “the best laid plans of mice and men” are all for naught now.

We all make decisions that place our plans and hopes on “hold” until the future arrives, but, just as the above illustration indicates, all too often other things impact those plans and hopes and they simply never get realized. My relative isn’t regretting making the decisions that they made, but is finding it laughable, in a sad way, that all of their plans cannot be realized because of circumstances beyond their control.

We’ve made changes in our plans to “travel across America” so that we can be present in the lives of our grandchildren. We did this willingly and with absolutely no regret. We wouldn’t have changed the last two years for anything and look forward to the next five or six years. But, after listening to the relative share her insights, I’m beginning to think that just maybe we need to be a little more creative with our time so that we can experience some of our hopes and plans within the context of still being involved in the grandchildren’s lives. If we don’t, then time will have passed us by and just possibly, those dreams will become nothing more than just dreams.

As the saying goes, “don’t put off until tomorrow that which you can accomplish today.” That goes for the decisions surrounding our hopes and dreams for our lives. Either we make those decisions or others, as well as circumstances, will be making them for us.

Quote for today: The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up. J.M. Power

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Cross ... Jesus' and ours

The Cross – Jesus’ and our own - stands at the center of the Christian faith. If we are honest with ourselves we will admit that we have all struggled with the meaning that it carries not only for Jesus, but also for our lives … lived out on a daily basis. We would much prefer a faith of celebration and joy instead of one of suffering, shame and suffering. While struggling with this central role of the cross, I came across this online discussion about the role and purpose of the cross. While it doesn’t answer any profound questions concerning the purpose nevertheless it did cause me to pause to contempt its central role. I think that over the next several days I probably will be thinking about the cross more than I would normally would have. This online discussion has set me on a quest … a spiritual quest of sorts … maybe it will you as well.

A Pastor on Northern Vancouver Island wrote to online study group this message:

"I'm having difficulty with the Gospel this week; what is this cross that I am to take up, and what am I to deny in following Jesus?"

Another Pastor, a student minister in the United States wrote:

"I find this a hard gospel text because it talks about suffering rather than joy."

The cross has always caused problems to people. Brutal and barbaric – the cross was a tool of political power for the Romans. They maintained their power because of the fear of death on the cross.

When one was condemned by the state, the condemned literally had to "take up his cross" and carry it to the public place where he was to be crucified. It was part of the humiliation process, the mechanism of social control for which crucifixion was invented.

The cross was an instrument of suffering and shame - and no more so than among the Children of Israel - where the scriptures themselves declare: "cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree".

To die on a cross was a sign that one died cut off from God, and cut off from the people of God - a sign that the person was rejected. And of course in the case of Jesus this was very true.

I would be interested in hearing about your quest of understanding.

Quote for today: The cross cannot be defeated, for it is defeat. Gilbert K. Chesterton.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On friendship

In Vanishing Acts, Jodi Picoult writes, “It is also a terrifying prospect: that the relationships we use as the cornerstones of our personalities are not given by default but are a choice; that it’s all right to feel closer to a friend than we do to a parent; that someone who’s betrayed us in the past might be the same person with whom we build a future.”

We make choices everyday about those who will be or will not be our friends. Sometimes it depends on how we define the concept of friends. Normally, over the course of a lifetime, we will have numerous individuals that in the truest sense of the word are more acquaintances than real friends. Oh, we use the word “friends” to define the relationship, but are they really? It depends on your definition, as well as your expectations in the relationship.

Some are happy to have their “friends” be individuals that they have more of a casual connection – we see them sometime at church, talk to them occasionally during the month or so, send a Christmas card greeting to and might share a gift on occasion, but anything deeper is seldom approached. And then there are others that there won’t be any contact for a long period of time, but when you do get together you simply pick up where you left off … as if you have never been apart.

How would you define friendship? The definition will define what you are looking for in developing a relationship with others. That definition will dictate what you “bring to the table”.

Social networking is the new “buzz” concept of our modern life. I do participate in Facebook, but that is about it. It probably shows my age, but the other networking processes are not of an interest to me. What I find interesting is that people list all of their Facebook connections as “friends,” as well as those on their Twitter list. Maybe that can be true, but I am rather doubtful. At least in my mind it takes more than a “commenting” on someone’s Facebook account to be a friend. This whole BFF thing is a curious thing. Probably more of a catch phrase than anything else that will pass away as we move in newer directions with our “social networking” advancements.

Growing up I had one true friend. I’ve written about Donny Hall previous. He knew me … I mean really knew me. Some things he liked, but there was much that he didn’t like and yet, there he was standing in my corner when I needed him most during those years. Then time passed, we moved on and the friendship ended. I am keenly aware that those kind of individuals are rare, truly rare, and should be enjoyed while they last. Since Donny, I really haven’t had that level of friendship in any other relationship apart from my spouse. Oh, I keep looking, hoping that with everyone who enters my life that they just might end up being a true friend. I keep looking and maybe someday he or she will appear so that we can build a future!

Quote for today: By friendship you mean the greatest love, the greatest usefulness, the most open communication, the noblest sufferings, the severest truth, the heartiest counsel, and the greatest union of minds of which brave men and women are capable. Jeremy Taylor

Monday, September 6, 2010

In honor of Labor Day and my dad

Today is Labor Day – a day honoring the workers in American society. It was first celebrated in the city of New York in 1882, but became a federal holiday in 1894 as a direct result of several deaths during a Pullman Strike. When I think of Labor Day I think of my father, Lowell L. Martin … a true laborer if ever there was one.

Dad worked with his hands, the sweat of his brow and the strength of his back. In Ohio he was a steelworker at Warner and Swasey. He was so effective and knowledgeable of how to treat steel that they made him a supervisor, but it didn’t last very long. He would observe how the men along the line were working the steel, know that they were doing it wrong and would step-in and take over instead of telling them how to do it differently … to show them how to do it correctly. It was a union shop and supervisors were not union and so the union (and the company) would inform dad that he couldn’t do that as long as he was a supervisor. So, dad decided that he would much rather be on the line than a supervisor. It meant less pay, but much less aggravation and besides he would know that the steel they were making would have been made correctly. Maybe that is where I get my basic philosophy of “if it is worth doing it is worth doing correctly.”

When we moved to Miami in the late 40’s there were no steel plants so Dad went to work grinding terrazzo. It was back breaking work with long hours, but he was proud of what he was doing. Some of the famous hotels along the Miami Beach skyline had floors worked on by my father. Eventually he got the opportunity to change jobs and went to work for Home Milk.

He started out with a retail home delivery route – again long hours, he would leave the house around 2 or 3 am and not to return home for about 12 hours. Dad would always put in his bid to take over one of the wholesale routes as they came available and eventually one came to him. Again, it was hard work. I rode “swing” with him on my vacation days and weekends to help out. The milk crates where wood during those days (and often wet) and he would pick them up 2 and 3 at a time filled with 9 half-galloon cartons of milk. This probably explained his back problems later on in life.

Dad was a union man through and through, even though he was a member of a political party that wasn’t pro-union. He and several other milkmen tried to organize the drivers into a union, but their efforts were always broken by the companies who threatened to fire anyone caught trying to organize a union. Dad knew that the job was more important than the union and so would step away from the effort.

Dad never believed that his sons worked for a living. There was a lawyer, a civil engineer, an auditor with the State Revenue Commission and me, an ordained clergyman with the Methodist church. When the discussion came around to work, as it always did with dad, it was never about the salary brought home, the hours put in or the accomplishments. Dad would end the conversation with the standard line: “Show me your hands and the callouses. If there are no callouses then you haven’t done any real work!” Dad’s hands were huge and hard as bricks … trust me on that one since I was on the receiving end of some “corrective” efforts. They were living testimonies to his labor!

So happy Labor Day to all those work … especially those who work with their hands, the strength of their backs and the sweat of the brow. This is your day! Stand tall and proud for all that you accomplish in this life!

Quote for today: My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there. Indira Gandhi

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Wisdom of the Cowboys

Sometimes it is a wise thing to listen to those individuals who have had time to gather their thoughts into little short concepts. That is why I love the wisdom that is found in the Cowboys. It also might have something to do with the fact that I spent a summer working as a wrangler on a ranch in central Florida. Simply put, there is great wisdom and insight in what these old men have to share. I’m sure that as you read these you will find something that you can hang onto in your life. So in honor all those cowboys – real and imaginary – here are some of their wisdom:

If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.

If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'.

When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson.

When you're throwin' your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.

Never miss a good chance to shut up.

If it ain't broken, don't reckon you need to worry bout fixin' it.

Never trust a man who agrees with you. He's probably wrong.

Talk low, talk slow and don't say too much.

If somebody outdraws you, smile and walk away. There's plenty of time to look tough when you're outta sight!

Don't squat with your spurs on.

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

Always drink upstream from the herd.

Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back in.

There's two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither one works.

Never drop your gun to hug a grizzly.

Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.

When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.

Don't worry about biting off more than you can chew. Your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger than you think.

Like a good cowboy, a good hat just gets better as it gets older.

Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's good to know what it was.

It don't take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.

Go after life as if it's something that's got to be roped in a hurry before it gets away.

The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket.

Never get up before breakfast. If you have to get up before breakfast, eat breakfast first.

Making it in life is kind of like busting broncos. You're going to get thrown a lot. The simple secret is to keep getting back on.

Never ask a barber if he thinks you need a haircut.

When you're up to your nose in manure, keep your mouth shut.

And then finally there is this little bit of insightful spiritual wisdom from an Old Cowboy:

One Sunday morning, an old cowboy entered a church just before services were to begin. Although the old man and his clothes were spotlessly clean, he wore jeans, a denim shirt and boots that were worn and ragged. In his hand he carried a worn-out old hat and an equally worn, dog-eared Bible.

The church he entered was in a very upscale and exclusive part of the city. It was the largest and most beautiful church the old cowboy had ever seen. The people of the congregation were all dressed with expensive clothes and fine jewelry. As the cowboy took a seat, the others moved away from him. No one greeted, spoke to, or welcomed him. They were all appalled by his appearance and did not attempt to hide it.

As the old cowboy was leaving the church, the preacher approached him and asked the cowboy to do him a favor. "Before you come back in here again, have a talk with God and ask him what he thinks would be appropriate attire for worship in church." The old cowboy assured the preacher he would.

The next Sunday, he showed back up for the services wearing the same ragged jeans, shirt, boots, and hat. Once again he was completely shunned and ignored. The preacher approached the cowboy and said, "I thought I asked you to speak to God before you came back to our church."

"I did," replied the old cowboy.

"And what was his reply?" asked the preacher.

"Well, sir, God told me that he didn't have a clue what I should wear. He said he'd never been in this church."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

History - our personal stories

Just finished, Listening Is an Act of Love … a celebration of American life from the StoryCorps Project, edited and with an introduction by Dave Isay. I have been listening and enjoying to StoryCorps’ stories for sometime now. They are a regular Friday feature on Morning Edition, National Public Radio (NPR). To discover that there is a written collection of some of these personal stories of fellow Americans was a great discovery … an added bonus.

Dave Isay is the founder of StoryCorps. In the last chapter he tells the story behind the founding of this special project of collecting and preserving an audio history of people. As he states on page 269: “These stories are a record of our shared humanity. Hearing them, it becomes clear that no matter who we are or where we come from, there is much more in common that we share than that divides us. These stories are a reminder that if we spent a little less time listening to the racket of divisive radio and TV talk shows and a little more time listening to each other, we would be a better, more thoughtful, and more compassionate nation.”

My first introduction to Oral History was when I moved to St. Petersburg and our beloved nation was preparing for the Bicentennial. The city had started recording and preserving the stories of those who were alive 100 years ago … stories of participating in WWI and WWII; stories of women’s fight to gain the right to vote; stories of growing up in the south as a slave; stories of the Great Depression; stories of the Great Dust Bowl; stories of human life being lived out across the country … stories of struggle and triumph … your stories and mine.

Last Sunday I was speaking with a young mother who shared, with amazement, the fact that one of her children spoke of a memory that he was too young to really remember … after all he “was only 1 at the time.” It gave me the opportunity to speak about a thing that I call, “Rehearsed memory.” It is probably one of the best gifts that we can give to our children.

Rehearsed memory is when, as parents or grandparents, we tell and retell the stories of our lives so often that the children who hear them begin to tell them in the first person … they become their stories … they can retell them over and over as if they actually do remember being there and having those experiences. It is our Oral History at its best and it is being preserved in their minds for the next generation.

On more than one occasion I have encouraged shut-ins to pick up a tape recorder and simply start to tell their future great-grandchildren about their life, who they are and the rich experiences that they have had. I’m not sure if any have followed my advice … I am sure not many, but isn’t it sad to think that these great men and women, with a vast amount of knowledge and history are just taking it to their graves.

Maybe, just maybe that is one of the hidden reasons that I started to blog, other than my youngest daughter pushing me to do this, so there would be a printed copy of my thoughts to be shared with my grandchildren and any children that shall come forth from them. I too need to record some of my stories so that when I have passed from this mortal coil my precious Ava and Eli … and maybe others … will be able to hear my voice telling my personal journey from Ohio to Miami and then all over Florida. I do know that there are some of my favorite jokes that the girls would like for me to record for them, as well as my Indian story of looking out for the lost son, Falling Rock, of a great chief of a mountain tribe.

I need to do that don’t I … and possibly so should you.

Quote for today: History is the record of an encounter between character and circumstance. Donald Creighton