Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A modern parable about change

Growth comes with change. Some change comes naturally and is easy, but for most of us change of any kind is painful. I came across a modern day parable that illustrates this very point. It says it a lot better than I could. Jean L. Pelegrino is the author of this little story with a powerful message. Enjoy!

Long ago, when the world was very new, there was a certain lobster who was determined that the Creator had made a mistake. So he set up an appointment to discuss the matter.

"With all due respect," said the lobster, "I wish to complain about the way you designed my shell. You see, just as I got used to one outer casing then I have to shed it for another. Very inconvenient and rather a waste of time."

To which the Creator replied, "I see. But do you realize that it is the giving up of one shell that allows you to grow into another?" "But I like myself just the way I am," the lobster said. "Your mind’s made up? " the Creator asked. "Indeed!" the lobster stated firmly. "Very well," smiled the Creator. "From now on, your shell will not change and you may go about your business just as you do right now." "That's very kind of you," said the lobster and left.

At first, the lobster was very content wearing the same old shell. But as time passed, he found that his once light and comfortable shell was becoming quite heavy and tight.
After a while, in fact, the shell became so cumbersome that the lobster couldn't feel anything at all outside himself. As a result, he was constantly bumping into others.
Finally, it got to the point where he could hardly even breathe. So with great effort, he went back to see the Creator.

"With all due respect," the lobster sighed, "contrary to what you promised, my shell has not remained the same it keeps shrinking!" "Not at all," smiled the Creator, "your shell may have gotten a little thicker with age, but it has remained the same size. What happened is that you changed - inside, within your shell."

The Creator continued, "You see, everything changes continuously. No one remains the same. That's the way I've made things." "That's very sensible," said lobster. "If you like," offered the Creator, " I'll tell you something more." "Please do," encourage the lobster.

"When you let go of your shell and choose to grow," said the Creator, "you build new strength within yourself. And in that strength you'll find new capacity to love yourself - to love those around you - to love life itself. This is my plan for each one."

Quote for today: Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it. Issac Newton, First Law of Motion

Monday, November 29, 2010

Quiet is an endangered species - Psalm 46:10

Quiet is an endangered species in our day. We carry our cell phones everywhere we go so that we can be constant contact with our “people.” A gentleman, sitting in front of me at the movies yesterday, checked his cell phone at least three times during the show. What did we do before we had cell phones? Why do we have this inner need to be in constant contact with others? Are we afraid that we might miss out on something? Is our mundane conversations with others so drastic to our existence that we have to take them no matter who we are with or in what setting they might come to us? Remember when a phone conversation was a private matter and wasn’t shared with everybody within earshot of us? Quiet is an endangered species.

First thing we do when we return home is turn on the TV. And, in the car the radio never gets turned off. Today, the car radios are so loud that we can hear what the fellow two cars away is listening to. Truly, quiet is an endangered species. I’ve even heard of people who keep their radios on while they sleep or, like a shut-in in my first parish, kept the TV blaring during his sleep cycle. Noise bombards us at every turn. We have no quiet time any longer. In an earlier day one would walk to town, walk to church, walk to our nearest neighbor (at least a half a mile away). Each walk would give a person an opportunity to get lost in their own thoughts or simply to be quiet and allow God to speak to the heart. Now, we jump into a car, the radio is on and silence has become an endangered species.

In a recent article, “A Walk of Weeks for Absolution,” by Maya Nasson I read about a pilgrimage of 500 miles that can take six to eight weeks to complete. It is in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It is a pilgrimage trail that has existed for over a 1,000 years. The purpose is not to see how fast one can backpack along this pathway, but to simply walk surrounded by the silence of nature … to be quiet … to get reconnected with God … to “be still and know that I am God” as Psalm 46:10 reads (The Message says it this way: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything." This pilgrimage ends at the Cathedral of St. James as the pilgrims attend a mass – a celebration of Christ. They have reconnected to the Divine as they shut out the noise of our modern society.

One of my favorite comic strips is “Rose is Rose” by Pat Brady and Don Wimmer. Sunday’s strip has Rose walking with her cell phone in hand. The cell phone kept showing the bars until finally it read, “No service” at which point Rose thinks, “Sometimes you have to lose the signal to get the message!” A smile lights up Rose’s face. She is at peace. She is by herself or is she? May we be so lucky to find the solitude of a quiet place or a “thinking spot” or a pilgrim’s walk when we can pull away from the noise of our world and rediscover God’s world, allowing our inner spiritual self to find the peace of God’s presence ... to hear once again God’s voice in our inner being … to “be still and know that (he) is God.”

Quote for today: Out in front of us is the drama of men and of nations, seething, struggling, laboring, dying...but within the silences of the souls of men an eternal drama is ever being enacted. On the outcome of this inner drama rests ultimately, the outer pageant of history. Thomas Kelly

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Let's hear it for one of the good guys!

Let’s hear it for the one of the good guys! This little article appeared in yesterday’s St. Pete Times newspaper and I just had to share it with you.


Think you have a good boss? Meet Clive Palmer, an Australian billionaire, bought a money-losing nickel refinery 16 months ago and turned around its performance. Productivity has gone through the roof – with the help of widespread pay raises for his 800-plus-strong work force.

The company had faced closure under its previous owners.

Palmer, one of Australia’s richest men, is celebrating the recovery of Queensland Nickel by announcing $10 million in early Christmas rewards for his workers.

Here’s how the Aussie press breaks down the largesse of “Santa Clive”:

· 55 of the best-performing employees will get Mercedes-Benz sedans.
· 700 workers will get vacations for two at five-star resorts in Figi.
· 50 new workers get free weekends at an Aussie Sheraton hotel.

“The rewards for my entire work force match the performance of the individuals and the business in its entirety. That’s why the prizes are so big – they simply deserve it,” said Palmer, who made his fortune by selling iron-ore interests in Western Australia to the Chinese.

“There’s nothing worse than being a small cog in a big machine where no one really appreciates you.”

It is that last quote that really got my attention. It is great to be appreciated and it is a challenge to pay attention to others. So, today or tomorrow or sometime this week see how many people, young and old, that you can get to smile by simply recognizing their presence by speaking directly to them … make sure that you include as many children as possible because they are often ignored by adults.

It is really great to hear about one of the good guys! Now, may we all become one of the good people in God’s world!

Quote for today: We have no right to ask when a sorrow comes, “Why did this happen to me?” unless we ask the same question for every joy that comes our way. ~Source unknown

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas shopping and the giving of the perfect gift

And let the shopping begin! After all “’tis the season for buying,” isn’t it? By all indications, Black Friday was a huge success and a good indicator that the economy is starting to turn around as people are spending more this year than they spent last year. Just wish the job indicators would start to show an increase in employment. Now, about this shopping thing … I hate to shop, but I do like hunting for the right gift for the right person. Nothing gives me greater joy than to make the special purchase, wrap it up and wait for the joy of their discovery come Christmas morning. It is just the kid in me. And, if the truth were known, I’ve often stated that I would rather be given twenty-five $1 gifts instead of one $25 gift – again, the kid in me. Further, I have also been known to head off to the mall on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, even though I had nothing that I needed to purchase, just to walk among the crowd. There is something special that takes place during this season and I don’t want to miss it.

I would also have to admit that there is a lot of needless buying of stuff that is not needed with money that people don’t have. I was behind one woman at a Wal-Mart a number of years ago. Her cart was piled high with “stuff,” but what amazed me was that she had to go through about 15 different credit cards before she could find one that wasn’t maxed out. Then I looked at what she was purchasing and the thought did cross my mind that most of the toys would probably be broken or discarded within a week. That is crazy, but people do that every year.

The idea of exchanging gifts can also be a little misguided as in “buying something for someone simply because you know that they are going to buy you something and you don’t want to be embarrassed.” Some years ago my dear wife gave a long time friend a Lenox angel pin as away of saying “thank you for your friendship.” Instead of just receiving it as a kind gesture, she sent two of her daughters to a back room to hurriedly wrap a gift for us. Oh, what foolishness this gift giving creates in all of us. As stated earlier I like giving and receiving, but there are those certain times that we would much rather give a gift than to receive one.

“For a child has been born - for us! the gift of a son - for us! He'll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness.” (Isaiah 9:6 – The Message) Within the madness of the shopping, running here and there, searching for the “perfect” gift for someone special and spending more than we really can afford – within this special season may we not lose sight of the perfect gift given by the perfect gift giver … a baby, who was simply wrapped in swaddling clothes … not placed under a decorated Christmas tree, but in a feeding trough for animals … a simple gift … a gesture of grace … an act of love … nothing more, but nothing less. God had been planning on this gift since the beginning of time. “But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law.” (Galatians 4:4 – The Message).

Go ahead and shop-until-you-drop because the people you are buying for are probably well worth the effort, the thought and the expense – I know mine are. Wrap the purchases with much care and then sit back and wait with tremendous expectation for that special moment when they make the gleeful discovery of your extraordinary gift. It will be okay to cry a little – I know that I have – then share a hug and experience the love. And the God in heaven will join in the laughter and joy of the moment, because in someway at that very moment somehow we will have shared the identical feelings that God had when to those two young teenagers, Mary and Joseph, the cry of a baby was heard in Bethlehem and his gift, his exceptional gift had been received on earth by all of us.

Quote for today: A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover as the love of the giver. Thomas A Kempis

Friday, November 26, 2010

Plant a seed - reap a harvest ... Mark 16:15

Plant a seed – reap a harvest … advertisers do it all the time. Ever wonder why they run the same 30-second TV ad back-to-back? They are planting a seed so that they might reap a harvest sometime in the future. Yesterday’s newspaper was thick with all sorts of enticing advertisements. Those ads where filled with pretty pictures, attractively displayed, arranged in a particular order, with unbelievable prices … plant a seed – reap a harvest. “Door buster” specials are being offered. “Early bird” bargains are there for those who are willing to get up early to “beat the crowds” – plant a seed – reap a harvest. Advertisers do it all the time.

Paul ran a direct mail advertising agency out of his home. He only advertised for Cadillac automobile dealerships. Every month Paul would have the dealerships mail out a large four page “newsletter” to people throughout America that fell into a particular income bracket … every month, to the same people, some of them already owned a Cadillac, but others just fit the profile of a Cadillac owner. Paul had the advertising philosophy that they might not be in the market for a new car this month or next month nor even 6 months from now, but when they are, they will remember the name of the dealership that mailed that newsletter to their home every month. Paul was very successful in what he did … plant a seed – reap a harvest.

And for us Christians, how do we plant a seed to reap a harvest? It happened kind of spontaneously. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t thought out. It just kind of blurted out one afternoon. People were always asking, “Having a good day?” or would state, “Have a nice day” upon my departure. Out of the blue one afternoon I responded with, “Every day that I am alive and Jesus is on the throne is a good day!” BINGO … plant a seed – reap a harvest. It was quick, non-confrontational and simple … just a simple “seed” … a idea … a concept that might not have occurred to them before … now, it was planted in their hearing and in their gray matter. Eventually God will bring the harvest as that seed takes root and grows within their spirit.

We are a living advertisement for God. We are a breathing 30-second ad for Christ. We are a moving billboard for the Kingdom of God. We come in contact with more people in the course of an average day than we can ever imagine. Most of the conversation is just simple greetings in passing that actually doesn’t change from person to person – the person on the elevator, the person taking our money in the check out lane in the grocery store, the clerk who assists us at the local convenience store, the individual who hands us the coffee at Starbucks, the waitress who brings us our food – just average, everyday kind of people – some we see often, others we will never see again – but they have been placed in our pathway by God (or at least that is the way I look at it) because God expects us to offer a kind word, a hopeful word, a grace-filled word that just might grow into a mighty harvest at some point in their future. Isn’t that what he meant with those words recorded in Mark 16:15, “Then he said, “Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God's good news to one and all.’” (The Message)

Plant a seed – reap a harvest!

Quote for today: In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering. Howard Hendricks

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Two Thanksgiving Proclamations believed to be by Abraham Lincoln

Two 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamations which are said to be by Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

A. Lincoln, October 3, 1863.

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choisest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.

A. Lincoln, October 3, 1863.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving traditions

Our preacher got me thinking as he shared about his and his wife’s family Thanksgiving traditions. Their traditions include gathering at one of the sibling’s home – Jim and Pam are the host this year and they will have 23 members around their table. There are two traditional foods that he really looks forward to each year. One is the old green bean casserole – I would by-pass it during Thanksgiving because I have shared in too many church covered dish suppers where there are normally about five of those blessed casseroles on the table. I just cannot imagine getting excited about it during Thanksgiving, but to each his own. Then he went on to share that one of his all time favorites is a congealed gelatin salad WITH PRETZELS! It caught me so off guard that I actually exclaimed, “What?” out loud in church … but I wasn’t the only one, plus there were several turned heads and numerous bits of laughter. Again, too each their own ... traditions are traditions. What is important is held within the hearts of those gathering together.

I love Thanksgiving traditions. Families getting together have been the mainstay of this celebration. Margaret’s family use to rotate who would host the dinner in their homes and I believe Margaret actually started that tradition. We would be the host every other year and her brother Ray would always bring the turkey or ham. I can remember one year, when we weren’t the host, traveling to Orange City so that we could participate in the fest. On the way home our youngest daughter, Erin, was kind of quiet and then finally spoke, “When can we have Thanksgiving dinner because that wasn’t Thanksgiving dinner!” Actually, she was correct, at least from our traditions surrounding the day. It was more like a covered dish dinner. None of the traditional foods except for the turkey and stuffing was there, plus we didn’t all sit around the table together. The children and youth were first in line, got their food and took off to eat wherever they could find a place. It was an eat-n-run type event. So, sometime that weekend Margaret fixed our traditional meal, we set the table with our china, crystal and silver flatware and celebrated Thanksgiving dinner. Traditions are traditions.

While in Gainesville it dawned on us that a number of single men and women were probably going to be alone during the day so we invited anyone who would like to come to our home for Thanksgiving dinner to come. We furnished the entire meal and had a very enjoyable time together. Our family took on the role of servants making sure that our guests enjoyed their meal and fellowship time. We thought that we would have only the senior citizens, but within the group was young adult who would have been alone during the day. Again, we pulled out our china, crystal and silver flatware. The many men and women (mostly women) had a special Thanksgiving to remember, as did we. In some ways, I wish that we had kept that tradition alive. It was a very special time although it was a lot of work, especially for Margaret the “chief-cook-and-bottle-washer” and yet, if you know my dear wife, nothing thrills her more than spending time in the kitchen and sharing our home with friends.

Traditions are important. They keep memories alive. Growing up in Miami meant that after the meal we would be heading to the Orange Bowl for the BIG high school football game between Miami Edison (Go, Red Raiders) and Miami High (boo-hiss), but it was a traditional game with an attendance that came close to filling the old stadium.

Traditions are important because they tie us together. Family traditions help us celebrate the life we share one with another. Traditions can send the spirit soaring and cause a song to erupt in one’s soul. Traditions can help us mark the important events in our lives. Traditions are the fiber used to weave the tapestry of our lives. When life comes to a close it will be the pictures tucked away in our photo albums and the memories of traditions once observed that will warm us when the world has become cold.

In Romans 14: 5- 9 it states: “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.” (NIV) I particularly like verse 6 in The Message, maybe because one of our “new” traditional dishes is a broccoli/carrot casserole: “What's important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God's sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you're a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli.” One person’s tradition might be another person’s bane, i.e. green bean casserole. Every day is special and every member of the family is significant. It matters not what is eaten nor the kind of dinnerware used, it is the gathering together with loved ones that becomes the tradition of choice for most of us – especially when are bond together by Lord in love and grace.

Quote for today: Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow." ~ Edward Sandford Martin

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

While supplies last

Well, it has started … or it will shortly … that mad dash towards Christmas. If you are near an outlet mall you have already been notified that all the stores will be opening at Midnight following Thanksgiving. I’m not sure if the females in my family will venture forth at the ungodly hour, but they did last year. They had a great time as the socialized with all the other crazy people who had to catch the bargains. Their biggest discovery or find last year was the Starbucks can actually serve up a bad cup of holiday coffee. After a couple of sips they passed on the coffee to one of their fellow crazy midnight shoppers. If last years experience will hold true this year there will be so many people went at Midnight that the parking lot will be filled long before the mall opens and the traffic will be backed up for over 3 miles on the highway. In other areas the stores opened at 4, 5 and 6am. People will be lined up – some even camped out overnight – as they have in years past in order to be first in line so that they could grab the “bargains” being offered. And, the mad dash will be on ... maybe this is why it is called Black Friday … you come away with more black and blue bruises than you do with any real bargains.

I’m always a little leery at that little disclaimer at the bottom of all the “bargain” ads. It is only three words, but they can strike fear in the hearts of all serious bargain hunters. Just 3 little words, but oh the lasting effects that they can instill in the hearts of the most hardy bargain hunters. WHILE SUPPLIES LAST! I’m wondering just how many did the store REALLY have available – two? – three? If you ever went hunting for the “bargains,” but didn’t what to either get up so early nor fight the maddening crowds you were going to be out of luck. WHILE SUPPLIES LAST actually means that very few will walk away with the “cherished” product … especially you!

The “supply” of God’s grace and love is never ending – regardless of when someone decides that it is time for them to accept the offer. Oh, that there would be a mad dash to accept it! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people would “camp out” at the church’s front door waiting for that magical moment when they are opened so they could rush in to get some of God’s abundant supply? Or, be willing to sit in their cars upwards to 3 miles waiting for a precious parking spot in the parking lot of the church?

Yes, the mad dash will start shortly, if it hasn’t already, but are we all missing the point?

Dear Lord, help us not to miss your supply of grace and love while fighting for the world’s meaningless and limited supply of mundane, perishable commodities. Amen.

Quote for today: Our mammas did not hesitate to bargain. Questioning a price was standard procedure. "How much are these cucumbers?" "Two for five." The mamma pushed one aside. "And how much is this one?" "Three cents." "Okay. I'll take the other one." ~Sam Levenson

Monday, November 22, 2010

In EVERYTHING give thanks

In the sermons yesterday – yes, it is plural since we attend two different churches and heard two different sermons – the concept of living with a thankful heart was approached … same idea, but two entirely different approaches. They did remind me that several years ago I preached a sermon about making a list of those things for which we were thankful wherein I suggested that we should include the thorny and hard things of life … that surprised the congregation and caused us all to pause to wonder if we really wanted to include those “thorny and hard things” on our thankful list.

Actually, my thought process on this subject had begun many years earlier when I was the associate pastor under a charismatic senior preacher. Apart of his teachings was that in all things we should give God praise. Ephesians 5:20 reads, “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” or from The Message, “Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.” And, so we had people, who were big followers of his particular theological approach to life going around thanking God for toothaches, headaches, broken arms, etc. I thought I had been assigned to a nut house especially in light of our son fighting for his life against a cancer that would eventually take his life. I like praising God and offering up our thanks, but for the bad stuff too? … the thorny and hard things also? God knew what he was doing and I as under assignment to be these “crazy” peoples pastor as well as the senior pastor so I hitched up my belt another notch and dove in to take another long thoughtful look at this idea of praising God for all things in life – the good and the bad.

In my search I came across a little story with some insight added on that helped me tremendously. Unfortunately, the author’s name wasn’t included with the story, but I am immeasurably thankful for whoever wrote it. It couldn’t have come at a better time, as is true for all of God’s timing on all issues. His timing is always perfect. So, here is the story this Thanksgiving season. May we all be able to give thanks for what we see as God’s blessings, as well as for those things that we would not necessarily place on the “thankful list” as we sit around our food laden tables this Thursday and share what we are thankful for.


Once there was a man who asked God for a flower and a butterfly. But instead God gave him a cactus and a caterpillar.

The man was sad; he didn’t understand why his request was mistaken. Then he thought: Oh well, God has too many people to care for and decided not to question.

After some time, the man went to check up on his request that he had left forgotten. To his surprise, from the thorny and ugly cactus a beauty flower had grown. And the unsightly caterpillar had been transformed into the most beautiful butterfly.

God always does things right! His way is ALWAYS the best way even if to us it seems wrong. If you asked God for one thing and received another, TRUST. You can always be sure that He always gives you what you need at the appropriate time.

What you want is not always what you need. God never fails to grant our petitions, so keep on going for Him with out doubting or murmuring.

Today’s THORN … is tomorrow’s FLOWER!

God gives the very best to those who leave the choices up to Him!

Each and every experience in life comes to bless us, makes us stronger and prepares us for the future that is coming our direction. In ALL THINGS give praise to God … All things! While it truly might be difficult while we are in the middle of going through the thorny and hard times of life, nevertheless God will see you through it. If you believe that God is truly in charge then, as the little popular phrase states: “If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it” and we are actually better off for the experience.

I don't want to trivialize painful experiences nor suggest that God in some way has caused these thorny times to occur because neither of these ideas are not even close to my theology of God and his caring mercy. Pain is deep and long lasting, I know because I've been there, but as the Psalmist states, "joy comes in the morning" and there is a brighter tomorrow ... a flower will bloom and a butterfly will brighten the morning.

Gracious Lord, help me to appreciate all things which come into my life – the good and the bad. Help me to celebrate the good and learn from the painful. All to the end that I might serve you better. Amen!

Quote for today: Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn't make it. Terrified, the one shouted to the other, "Put up a prayer, John. We're in for it!" John answered, "I can't. I've never made a public prayer in my life." "But you must!" implored his companion. "The bull is catching up to us." "All right," panted John, "I'll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: 'O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.'" Source Unknown

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reinventing oneself - the real challenge in living

Wasn’t it Mark Twain who said, “I’ve met too many people who died at the age of 45, but hung around until they were 70 to be buried”? I like the sign that use to be posted on the highway to Alaska – before pavement – “choose your rut carefully because you will be in it for the next 250 miles.” I don’t know about you, but for me I want to live as long as I am alive … and living doesn’t mean doing the same thing day-after-day, week-after-week … living is not staying in the same rut even for just one year. Trying new things, changing how one thinks, making new discovers about oneself and the world that surrounds us … it is just reinventing oneself.

It is so easy to get into a “routine” that life becomes predictable and often boring. Reinventing oneself is kind of a challenge the older we get. Oh, we have spent a lifetime reinventing ourselves. Every time we changed jobs or for us preachers, moved to a new assignment, we reinvented ourselves. Every time we moved into a different community we reinvented ourselves. Every time we had a child, grandchild, great-grandchild we reinvented ourselves. Every time that child moved from one phase to another or changed schools we reinvented ourselves. We were constantly adding new people to our lives, discarding others, taking on new responsibilities, trying a different approach to old problems … you name it, but we were in a constant state of reinventing ourselves. Yet, as we get older, familiar patterns, predictable relationships, habits of daily existence becomes our comfort zone …and we start dieing a little at a time, moment-by-moment, second-by-second.

Our choice is either to stagnating or to reinvent ourselves. Maybe that is why I jumped out of a plane at 13,000 feet at the ripe age of 65 in a tandem skydive. Was it something that I would normally have done? No. Would I do it again? You betcha’! Recently, I took on the responsibility of a part-time job at our local Carmike Theatre. Did I do it because we needed the extra income? No. Is it a challenge for my feet and back? Definitely. Am I exhausted? Yes. Will I do it for a long period of time? Probably not, but it is fun and slightly challenging. Learning something new and different; exposing myself to different individuals and different viewpoints of life (nearly everybody I work with could be either my children or my grandchildren); taking on a challenge to reinvent myself … we either stagnate or reinvent ourselves. Everybody thinks I’m a little nuts … and they probably are correct … but, hey, why not!

Changing the course we are on in life is always a little scary. As we added a contemporary worship service at my DeLand church an 82-year old gentle lady became one of its biggest supporters. When asked why by her friends that she has gotten involved, she replied, “Why not! I’m just tired of worshipping the same old way that I’ve worshipped for the last 75 years. It is time to change!” She wasn’t going to stagnate! There is a lady at my present church, Ruth T., that reminds me a whole lot of that DeLand lady. Ruth’s response to her old friends who complain about one thing or another that we are doing at church is simply to call them, “Old fuddy-duddies. We either have to change or we die.” I like Ruth’s thinking.

The one thing that both of these ladies teach me is you are never too old or too set in your ways to reinvent yourself! Praise the Lord for individuals who are willing to take the chance to move in a different direction and embrace the possibility that there is something good coming down the pike that has yet to arrive.

Recently I’ve been talking with a young person that I baptized as a baby. He is struggling with trying to determine what God is calling him to do. In a recent blog he spoke of the fear of failure – failing his family, failing God, failing himself – just a fear of failure. I’ve thought long and hard since reading those words. As we get older maybe it is fear that grips us and holds us back from reinventing ourselves and become “old stick-in-the-muds,” as the phrase goes. We begin to walk hesitantly out of a fear of falling, we ease into our “comfort zone,” and slowly we become a part of those who hate change, even when the world around us is in constant change. What I need to say to him, myself and to all those who fear failure is: there is nothing wrong with trying and failing, but there is a lot wrong with never trying. So, in the face of failure, proclaim: Why not! And venture forth with confidence. In the face of predictability, proclaim: Why not! And make the choice for something different. In the face of daily routines, proclaim: Why not! And go forth and try something new. Who knows, you just might make new friends, discover something different about yourself, open up an entire new world of different ways of thinking and living … who knows … if you stagnate you’ll never know … will you?

Quote for today: Bring back my Joy! I want to be Healthy, Happy and Vibrant. I want to Laugh again, Love again and Live again. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired, running as fast as I can and ending up back where I started. Isn't it funny how the wisest advice is usually what we already know? The simple things are always the most effective. That inner voice whispering, "It's time to peel off the layers and reach into the authentic self." It's time to take control, make the change and reinvent yourself. Like a butterfly bound by a cocoon, it's time to set yourself free and fly. ~Unknown author

Friday, November 19, 2010

It is a heart issue not a possession question

From my perspective one of the most powerful line in scripture is the one found in Matthew 6:21, “It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” (The Message) because it tells the full reality of our life here on Earth. It is easy to give “mouth” service to the Lord … saying one thing, but doing another … and yet, it is obvious to all those who witness our lifestyle and the care that we give to our possessions where our true loyalty lies. Maybe that is what the major of Jesus’ teachings deals with the whole issue of stewardship – the process of deciding what we are going to keep and what we are going to decided to give away. We don’t own our possessions they own us.

It’s an old story as can be seen in the dollar amounts used. Actually, I have shared it with every congregation that I served since 1972 and the story had already been around for a while …but you know me, I never pass up the opportunity to pass on a good story.

Those who have heard me preach/teach soon discover that if an old story/joke will work … even if I have already used it previously … I will tell it again. I got this from the great preacher, Dr. Charles Allen, who was known for reusing a story 6 or 7 times in a row stating, “If it works, why not!”

Now for my “old” story:

I work for the Department of Internal Revenue. Yes, I am the chap that everybody loathes. I go over income tax returns. The other day I checked an odd return. Some guy with an income under $5,000 claimed that he gave $624 to some church. Sure he was within the 15% limit … but it looked mighty suspicious to me. So I dropped in on the guy. Asked him about his contributions.

I thought he’d get nervous like most of them do, and say that he “might have made a mistake.” But not this guy! He came back at me with the figure of $624 without batting an eyelash. “Do you have a receipt from the church?” I asked, figuring that would make him squirm.

“Sure,” he said, “I always drop them in the drawer where I keep my envelopes.” So off he went to fetch his receipts … Well, he had me! One look at the receipts and I knew he was on the level. So I apologized for bothering him, explaining that I have to check up on the deductions that seem unusually high. And as we shock hands at the door, he said, “I’d like to invite you to attend our church some time.”

“Thanks,” I replied, “but I belong to a church myself.”

“Excuse me,” he said, “that possibility had not occurred to me.” As I rode home I kept wondering what he meant by that last remark. It was not until Sunday morning, when I dropped my usual dollar into the collection plate, that it came to me …”

Interesting story … wouldn’t you agree! I don’t know where I got it or who authored it. If you could see my “files” you would probably wonder how I can find anything … so when a story surfaces (actually, works its way to the top of the “heap”) I take notice. Maybe God is trying to tell me something and, in turn, to share it with you.

Over the years I have heard a ton of “excuses” why people do not give more to the church. The most hilarious one was, “Sorry, preacher, we cannot give more because we support the church up north.” It became “hilarious” when I was invited to preach for the church up north and shared with their pastor that he ought to be thrilled with the financial committed of his summer people. He laughed because what they were telling him was, “Sorry, preacher, we cannot give more because we support the church down south.” After we stopped laughing, we cried.

Some of the other excuses given have been: “We are just getting started as a husband and wife;” “We are preparing to send our kids to college … or we have children in college … or we are trying to help pay off college loans for our kids;” “I live on a fixed income;” “I give in other ways;” “We support our poor relatives;” etc. The best financial campaign I ever saw was the “No Excuse” campaign – real cute.

It is easy to find reasons not to give or not to increase ones giving. But I like the testimony of one old Ohio farmer said, “Preacher man, I can always find a way to do whatever me and my wife wants to do.” What a testimony! What a faith driven life!

So let me be presumptuous and ask: Do we give a “suspicious” amount to your church? The gift is evidence of a deeper commitment to Christ ... it locates our heart’s location. Will your evidence hold-up in a court of law? What kind of a steward are you of your life and all of your blessings? It is a question of the heart not a question that concerns your treasures. God really doesn’t need your money because God is going to get done what he needs to get done with or without your money … but, God does want your heart more than anything else is this world. The real question is this: What “treasure” is standing in the way of God having our heart?

Quote for today: I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God. If anything will advance the interests of the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time or eternity. David Livingstone

Thursday, November 18, 2010

After all I am ONLY Human ... the very best that God could have created!

A fellow pastor, Ray Boegen, tells the story of a man who went to his doctor with an ailment and received a prescription in the illegible scrawl doctors sometimes use. Well, the man got well before getting it filled, but he decided to keep it … just in case. Turned out to be a good idea. The man used the illegible prescription as a bus pass for years, got into World Series games with it, convinced a cop not to give him a speeding ticket with it, and when his daughter played it on the piano she received a scholarship to Julliard.

There are times that the story of our lives seems a little like the illegible scrawl of the prescription … just a bunch of squiggly lines on the pages of time. Nothing more and nothing less! Squiggly lines that can be misinterpreted misread and simply ignored by others.

The opportunity to have a life of meaning and purpose lurks within everyone’s reach. If that is true, then why are so many of us living with the feeling that our life is meaningless? All of us are existing – breathing, eating, sleeping – but, beyond the simple daily activities of our lives not much more.

Dr. Ernest A. Fitzgerald makes the guess that the reason is “that we do not feel we have what it takes to live successfully.” He goes on to share, “that proper appreciation of oneself is not a sin but a necessary prerequisite to every other human association.”

Part of the problem, at least from my perspective, is that we live in a world which values things more than it does people … power more than peace … success more than righteousness. The result is that the significance of our life is diminished, devalued and discarded.

We don’t feel or believe that our life has any worth. My usual greeting, “Hello, beautiful!” is usually met with a huge disclaimer and a “Boy do you need glasses!” The significance of your beauty is not found in your outward appearance because that image is too fragile and fleeting. Beauty, real beauty is much deeper than the skin and skeleton in which our soul and spirit resides.

It would be good to remember God doesn’t make junk. You have been created in God’s image. And, thus, you ARE beautiful!

Related to this is the horrible phrase, “After all I am ONLY human.” We need to re-think that concept as well. Remember that God created Adam and Eve and said, “That’s good.” Therefore, to be Human is to be the BEST God created you to be … to be less than God created is to be inhuman. In creating you God instilled you with a worth beyond any measure and as one author states: “your God given worth is deeper that sea and wider than the ocean.”

As a child of God we should embrace the declaration: I am a creation of God almighty, I am beautiful, I am human … Praise God! I am worthy! I am significant! I have value and purpose in this life, regardless of my physical, financial, or mental limitations.

Over the course of my ministry I have always been amazed that most people honestly do not believe that they have any talents. Now I do admit that it might come from our general definition of the word talent. When we hear that word we usually make the leap to the standards: singing, playing an instrument, dancing, acting or some athletic ability.

We need and should change that misguided idea also. Dr. Fitzgerald shares a story about Abe Lincoln. “During the Civil War, General Sherman was sent with his army to carry out a strategic mission. For some reason Sherman stood idle for days and did nothing. Lincoln, in his own subtle way, became impatient and sent Sherman a message. He said, ‘General, if you are not going to use your army, do you mind if I borrow it? We have a war going on.’”

Dr. Fitzgerald goes on the make this observation: “Lincoln’s point is clear. A little talent used is better than a lot of talent never used. It is also true that a little effort used in the proper place is more effective than a lot of effort in the wrong place. You balance a tire on your automobile with only a few ounces of lead – not with a ton of weight.”

Conclusion: Life could be richer and far more fulfilling if we spent less time trying to measure up to someone else and more time using what we have. The “someone else” usually was our parents or maybe an important mentor. And the “measuring up” is trying to fit our life into their “life agenda” which they superimposed on us.

Don’t allow your life to be just squiggly lines on the pages of time. God created you with a purpose in mind … a significant purpose at that. The significance begins with EVERYONE you know and meet. As you meet them you are touching their souls!

Quote for today: The folly of human nature is that even though we know where the answers lie--God's Word--we don't turn there for fear of what it will say. Jerry Lambert

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Building bridges in a divided world

We hear a lot about building fences and keeping people out. An “expert” came to a city just north of us to share what they could do, with his help, to “solve” the homeless problem. Votes were made recently in order to “take back” our country. The line in the sand has been drawn … dare we cross it? How can we bring about better understanding and openness to each other? The key word that is being batted about is “compromise” … but that will be all there is on this subject … words with no action. No one wants to budge from his or her “cherished” position. We want and desire all the movement to be from the other side while we stand pat demanding change. Yet, how can we realize change if we are only willing to build fences and walls? A wall only separates … a bridge brings people together. We pride ourselves in being a people united, but in actuality we are a country divided … and the gap grows wider everyday.

From an unknown author comes today’s Modern Day Parable … Oh that we would read it and discover within these words the deeper meaning of actually caring for others … EVERYBODY, not just those who agree with us and/or further our agenda. We have come so far in this country, but we still have leagues further to go before peace will reign supreme throughout our land. We need men and women who are willing to reach out to others … across the aisle that divides us into “red” people and “blue” people so that we can be just people united together for the good of all people. We can continue to emphasize our differences or we can celebrate our similarities within our diversity … it is our choice. One way will destroy our country while allowing us to maintain our ideology while the other way will save our country, as it requires us to find a common thread that will bind us together. As Bob Gillman’s song states: “Bind us together Lord, bind us together with chords that cannot be broken. Bind us together Lord, bind us together Lord, bind us together with love. There is only one God, there is only one king, there is only one body, that is why I sing … bind us together Lord …”

The Bridge
Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.

Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I'm looking for a few days' work,” he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?"

"Yes," said the older brother. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor; in fact, it's my younger brother! Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence - an 8-foot fence - so I won't need to see his place or his face anymore."

The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you."

The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing.

About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge - a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all! And the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming toward them, his hand outstretched.

"You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done."

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the in the middle, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder. "No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said the older brother.

"I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but, I have many more bridges to build."

Quote for today: New York family bought a ranch out West where they intended to raise cattle. Friends visited and asked if the ranch had a name. "Well," said the would-be cattleman, "I wanted to name it the Bar-J. My wife favored Suzy-Q, one son liked the Flying-W, and the other wanted the Lazy-Y. So we're calling it the Bar-J-Suzy-Q-Flying-W-Lazy-Y." "But where are all your cattle?" the friends asked. "None survived the branding." D.A.C. News

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How to cope with the tragedies of life - with the things that "bump in the night"

How does any individual cope with the inevitable tragedies of life and know that “joy comes in the morning.” Nothing lasts forever – grief, fear, anxiety, tears, sorrow, depression, loneliness – nothing or at least they shouldn’t. When they do, then it is imperative that a professional counselor and/or a pastor should be sought out. Why? Because talking through the emotional issues involved is in itself a part of the healing.

What I share today comes from two foundational perspectives: 1) My own personal loss of our first born who died just four days before his 9th birthday; and 2) a professional perspective with over 42 years of ministry, watching people struggle with the things that “go bump in the night.”

Both perspectives are framed by two significant events: first, the reading of Dr. Elizabeth Kupler-Ross’s book, “On Death and Dying” at the beginning of my ministry and Secondly, participating in a “Death and Dying” Seminar at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg just months after our son’s death.

NOTE: though I reference death as the thing that “goes bump in the night” we should be aware that it is all inclusive of all struggles that we face in life – major illness, failing health, divorce, job loss, foreclosure, empty nest, rejection by members of ones family, etc. Each of us will have our own personal definition of the tragedy of life … of the thing that goes “bump in the night.”

The other general overview that I bring to this discussion is the belief that how we handle the things that “bump in the night” is determined by our attitude – emitting from the very core of our being … our core values that we hold in the depth of our spirit. These core values can explain why and how certain people seem to simply “bounce” back up after being knocked down quicker than others.

Two resources that have helped me with my own journey are: Norman Cousins, “Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient” – diagnosed with a serious illness in 1964, was given a 1 in 500 chance of living Dr. Cousins accepted the doctor’s diagnosis, but not their prognosis and lived another 26 years – 1912-1990, as well as Dr. Bernie Siegel’s book, “Love, Medicine and Miracles” which addresses the entire issue of mind/spirit over our physical and outward circumstances.

Now … how to cope with the things that “go bump in the night” – this is what I have found to be effective both personally and professionally, but first here is a short list of some not so effective approaches to those tragic times when we experience those times when things “go bump in the night.”

IT IS GOD’S WILL” is not a good answer to the tragedies of life. Sadly, it is all too often heard after a loved one has pasted away or some other tragedy has occurred. Or, as I recently heard at a spiritual event, “It is just the way God works to get our attention.” Ouch! Within the context of this point has got to be heard Lamentations 3:33: “For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” (NIV) Or, from The Message, “He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way.” When something goes “bump in the night” it is not God’s will. It is just not possible to make a biblical case for this particular mindset unless the God you know is mean and vindictive.

BURYING YOURSELF IN THE GRIEF” is often witnessed. While the associate pastor at St. Luke’s UMC in St. Petersburg, FL (it was during this time that we lost our beloved son) a woman approached me to share her own story about the loss of her son. She spoke in such terms that I thought that the death had taken place in the last year or so. I later discovered that it had taken place more than 35 years ago, but she was still buried deep within the grief and had never allowed herself to live beyond that reality. On another blog I wrote about one of the customers that my brother Ralph had on his Miami Herald paper route. This husband and wife had received the news of the death of their son just days before he was to return from WWII … just days before Christmas. The tree had been trimmed with presents wrapped and placed under the tree in anticipation of his return. Well, in the mid-1950s, the tree still stood in the corner of the living room and the presents were still under the tree. The needles were gone and many of the ornaments had fallen off the tree because their lives had stopped when the sad news arrived. They were simply buried in their grief.

ALMOST TOTAL DENIAL” of the reality of the tragedy. Here I think of a marriage at Temple Terrace UMC. After nearly 20 years of marriage, two teenagers nearly out of their teenage years was annulled – which means that it never occurred. Interesting – 20plus years and two nearly adult children and it never occurred? That is total denial. Possibly you might know of other situations where the name of the individual is forbidden to be mentioned for one reason or another … that is a total denial of reality.

CEASE TO LIVE” – While the senior pastor of St. Paul UMC in Jacksonville I visited one of our shut-ins. She ushered me into her living room where the drapes were drawn, blinds closed, a single 25-watt bulb burned in a lamp in the corner, and the room was almost in total darkness. This was her existence, day in and day out. She had stopped living because of an unspeakable tragedy in her past.

ANGER” – on too many occasions I’ve witnessed individuals who, in the midst of their tragedy, turn their anger outward – to the doctors, hospital, relatives, spouse, boss, colleagues – got to blame others for their painful situation … this is why better than 90% of couples who have lost a child end up getting divorced. It is a coping mechanism and while it isn’t very effective – nothing more than missed place emotions, nevertheless it is used by too many individuals.

And the last not so effective response to tragedy is to “INTERNALIZE” - Allowing the stress to build up inside until it takes its toll on you physically – high blood pressure, major illness, psychological problems, depression, suicide, heart problems, etc.

Finally, here is what I have found that works effectively in coping/dealing with the tragedies of life. I’m sure that others could add to this list, but these are the 7 ways that I have either used, suggested and/or witnessed in others.
1) Rehearsed memory – A mother, who had been divorced by her husband years ago, because he desired a younger woman, leaving her with three teenagers. Yet, every Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays and other celebrative occasions they were all together – all of them – rehearsing over and over and over again the memories of a life once shared.
2) Journaling – by writing down ones feelings, the emotional journey … getting those negative feelings out of your mind/spirit. While it is a little crude it is much like “throwing-up” when you are physically sick. Getting rid of whatever is negatively effecting the emotional, mental or spiritual health.
3) Share the journey with others – this is one reason that I like to pair up people with similar experiences. By sharing the experience of the tragedy with others you can discover that you need not carry the burden by yourself.
4) Accept and Embrace the emotions. A fellow clergy had been very close to his father. He had been raised on a Tennessee farm. His father had passed away over 15 years ago. One day, while out with three of his friends playing a round of golf. He was teed up at the 3rd hole when tears just started to run down his cheeks. Bothered by this sudden onset of emotions, he suggested that the others go ahead and play on while he sat on a bench close by to sort out just what was going on. As he sat there he heard the faint sound of something in the fields close by, so he decided to investigate. What he found was that somebody was on an old John Deere tractor mowing a field. The tractor was emitting the distinctive odor of burnt oil that is unique to old John Deere tractors. That sound and the smell had caused him to remember his dad … and in the remembrance, grieve openly and unselfconsciously about his dad.
5) Visioning is an approach that Dr. David Seamand shares in two of his books, “Healing of Damaged Emotions,” and “Redeeming the Past: Recovering from Memories that Cause Our Pain.” The outline of this particular approach is that after many counseling sessions they finally arrive at the visioning session where he suggests that you envision sitting in a room, a knock comes, you say come in, Jesus walks into the room, comes to you, touches you to heal, picks you up and cradles you in his arms as you allow the emotions/memories to leave.
6) Prayer of Relinquishment was something that I discovered during our son’s illness and death and found that is unique to John Wesley’s thought and theology. The Prayer of Relinquishment is the acknowledgement that the loved one(s) involved belong to God anyway and not to you. And, because they belong to God, you simply relinquish them into God’s care and keeping knowing that in life or in death they are Gods. It is a prayer of release. All too often the people within the tragic situation become a burden that we try to carry emotionally and mentally, but God shares that we are too bring our burdens to him … allowing God to carry them.
7) Expect/pray for a victory from this tragedy. This had become central to our prayers during our son’s illness and death. Knowing full well that the cancer was slowly robbing Tim of his life we prayed, “May you bring victory, dear God, out of this tragedy” and God did with the incredible story of our youngest daughter’s adoptive process. But, that is a story for anther day.

Quote for today: There are no victories at discount prices. General Dwight Eisenhower

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reflecting on the high unemployment and the number of jobs advertised in Sunday's paper

An observation from yesterday while reading the Sunday newspaper – I am having a hard time equating an article concerning the high unemployment rate with the large number of pages of places seeking employees. Somehow they just don’t match up. If there are so many places looking for employees how can it be possible that our unemployment rate is so high? It cannot be all just skill level and experience related issues, can it?

In a recent conversation with the general manager of our local Carmike movie theatre, Ryan said, “It is hard to find young or older employees who can speak in coherent sentences while looking the customers in the eye and intentionally engaging them in conversation.” The other issue he and his staff get tired of dealing with are the individuals who get hired, but then want to “play” around and not do what they have been hired to do.

I believe that the jobs are out there if the individuals who are looking for work are willing to start at minimum wage and only at a part-time seasonal level. You have to start someplace.

I am thinking of David B. who was a member of my Tampa church. While in high school he started working at Busch Gardens as a part-time parking lot attendant. Not much of a job, but it was still a job. He worked hard and after graduating from high school started to take advantage of their educational incentive program where you can work and go to college at their expense. He finally graduated from college and because of his faithfulness to his job they offered him a full time position. It was an entry-level position, but it was still a job. Well, the end of this story is that through long hours, tireless effort and a willingness to do everything that they asked him to do, David finally ended up as head of their human resource department for the entire organization. David was willing to pay the price – long hours, tireless effort and open to whatever he was asked to do even multiple moves to various cities throughout the country. It was hard and on a number of occasions he had contemplated leaving the company because it just seemed like it wasn’t going anywhere. Through it all he had a number of bosses that were extremely demanding and hard to work for, but he decided to stay with it to see where it would lead him.

I am also thinking of my youngest daughter who recently purchased a new townhouse and in order to rebuild her emergency savings account and get a little ahead on the mortgage she decided to take on a part-time job in addition to her full time job. She went on-line and filled out numerous applications and within a matter of just a couple of weeks she landed her part-time seasonal job at Lowe’s. The “seasonal” was soon dropped as she became a permanent part-timer. Many weeks this little part-time job has her working 32 hours a week in addition to her full-time job.

The point I’m trying to make is that I believe that the jobs are out there if a person is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make them work, put in the effort, go the second mile and start at the bottom. In other words – reinvent themselves.

Related to this topic is the horrible catch-22 situation with our welfare government program. Let me share two stories:

Story #1 is about a young man hired at the Tampa church to be our custodian. He had a horrible employment history, but we decided to take a chance on him. It wasn’t too long before we realized that he needed a lot of direction, but was a hard worker, willing to do anything we asked of him and went out of his way to help the members of the church. So, we decided to begin to increase his salary once a quarter. Going into his second year I was thrilled at the opportunity that I was provided to offer him a substantial raise in salary, but was stunned by his reaction upon receiving what I thought was great news. “Pastor Jim,” he said, “I’m sorry, but I cannot accept the increase in salary. I appreciate what the church is trying to do for me and my family, but you see I receive HUD housing assistance and food stamps and while what the church is offering sounds great it will take me beyond the government’s financial assistance threshold for these two programs and will force me to finding other housing and pay for all of our food without help. We would not be able to find affordable housing nor continue to feed our son a good balance meal on the salary that you are offering. We need the government’s help which would end if I accept your new salary for me.” He left my office sad and I was angry at our government for creating assistant programs with so little flexibility that they actually keep people in a state of poverty and dependency.

Story #2 is about an ethnic minority father of three young children. He was unemployed. I engaged him in a conversation at a free health clinic for the homeless and needy. Based on the information that he provided I said, “I know that the local Burger King was hiring individuals. Would you be interested?” “Normally,” he responded, “I would jump at the chance to be employed, but I have a family to provided for. The Burger King job, which I was hired to do, would pay me less then what I am presently making on unemployment, so I had to turn down their job offer. If I wanted to leave my family to fend for themselves then okay I could take that job, but I want to be a good husband and father. They have to come first, so thanks, but no thanks.”

Sometimes our “system” gets in the way … we really do need to find a better way to get to a different end where everyone can have a feeling of self-worth and our government assistance programs become a step up instead of a keep down process. We’ve got to find a better way.

Quote for today: A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune's inequality exhibits under this sun. ~Thomas Carlyle

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sins are like weeds growing in the soil of our soul

Here are 10 things I learned from the weeds I pulled recently from my yard!

1) All weeds are not the same.
2) Some weeds come out easily.
3) Some weeds are stubborn with deep roots.
4) Some weeds twine their roots around the things you want to keep – maybe they think that by association I would leave them alone.
5) Some weeds stand up tall and get easily noticed.
6) Some weeds try to hide among the leaves and mulch.
7) Some weeds can be easily removed when they are just starting out, but become extremely difficult later on as they grow.
8) No matter how hard you try you will always miss some.
9) It doesn’t take to long for weeds to take over a flowerbed if left alone.
10) Weeding is a constant, daily chore.

Sins are like weeds – some are small and easily handled; some seemingly go on forever no matter how hard we work at getting rid of them; some have “roots” which go very deep into the “soil” of our hearts/lives and are very painful to remove; just when we think we have the “garden” of our soul cleaned out there is a new crop of sin to deal with; and dealing with sin in our lives is a daily … hourly … second-by-second task.

Dear Lord, stand guard at the door of my soul so no sin will take root. Please alert me when a “sin-seed” enters so I can get rid of it quickly. Thank you for helping “weed” my spirit. Amen.

Quote for today: Man, reading about an "eat-all-you-want" diet, to friend: "I knew there'd be a catch to it. You have to run seven hundred miles a day!" Hoest

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Where has all the laughter gone?

I’ve been thinking long and hard as to why there is so much anger, mistrust and general unhappiness within our society. One conclusion is that there is not enough laughter. Laughter has almost gotten lost among the general population. We don’t laugh enough. We take ourselves far too seriously. Even the “funny papers” (comics) are not as funny as they use to be … cute, yes … funny? Not so much.

When this is combined with the decline in average attendance at our centers of worship the reason becomes clear. Scripture states, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) When our hearts rely on the Lord then joy fills our spirit and laughter erupts from our being. Laughter returns because we discover that when the Lord is with us nothing can destroy us. We discover that with God all things are possible. We are victorious not defeated. We embrace the morning as the dawning of a new day. We are embraced by the love of the eternal, the hope of tomorrow, the joy of internal peace and the grace that things will get better. Laughter returns. We can even love the unlovable and undeserving. Laughter dispels the darkness, the gloom, the sadness and the hopelessness of a world gone mad.

Enjoy being loved. Stand there and feel the hug of God … and allow your soul to sing and your voice to lift in laughter.
The sharing of marriage...

The old man placed order for one hamburger, French fries and a drink.

He unwrapped the plain hamburger and carefully cut it in half, placing one half in front of his wife.

He then carefully counted out the French fries, dividing them into two piles and neatly placed one pile in front of his wife.

He took a sip of the drink, his wife took a sip and then set the cup down between them. As he began to eat his few bites of hamburger, the people around them were looking over and whispering.

Obviously they were thinking, 'That poor old couple - all they can afford is one meal for the two of them.'

As the man began to eat his fries a young man came to the table and politely offered to buy another meal for the old couple. The old man said, they were just fine - they were used to sharing everything.

People closer to the table noticed the little old lady hadn't eaten a bite. She sat there watching her husband eat and occasionally taking turns sipping the drink.

Again, the young man came over and begged them to let him buy another meal for them. This time the old woman said 'No, thank you, we are used to sharing everything.'

Finally, as the old man finished and was wiping his face neatly with the napkin, the young man again came over to the little old lady who had yet to eat a single bite of food and asked 'What is it you are waiting for?'

She answered … 'THE TEETH.'

Quote for today: Joy is the byproduct of obedience. Traditional

Friday, November 12, 2010

When an emergency happens where do you turn

There isn’t much traffic on Bradenton’s streets at 12:18am and for that I am thankful because I was driving Margaret to the ER at Manatee Memorial Hospital. Even the red lights all changed for us, except one stubborn one, but that was okay. She had been awakened at 11:43pm with a severe chest pain followed shortly by another. Then she noticed that she was also experiencing atrial fibrillation (Afib).After taking a baby aspirin she woke me up and off to the ER we went. They will probably keep her for a couple of days for observation. Her blood pressure was okay, but her heart rate had gotten up to 170 beats per minute and was very irregular. One of the dangers of Afib is a blood clot being sent to the brain. She has been under a lot of stress recently with the slow decline of the health of one of her favorite brothers and probably had over did it a little yesterday, but that is a matter for another discussion.

As I sat with her in the ER I had forgotten how crazy those places could become after midnight. There was one lady whose alcohol level was too high to be released. She had been brought in by ambulance and wanted out of there. She was very vocal about her desires. But, she didn’t have any shoes, pants or means of transportation. “Well, h..l, the ambulance brought me here it can d..n well take me home too!” As Margaret was being wheeled to her room that poor lady was still declaring that she wanted out because it was just too bright (though she didn’t want the light turned off in her room) and too loud (though she didn’t want the door closed, even a little, to her room). It was hard not to laugh.

Margaret’s experience with Afib did cause me to go back to my Hudson days. We had a couple of couches in the narthex of the church and they were in continual use as people either needed to lie down or sit down after walking in from the parking lot. My standard joke was that their heart just couldn’t take the excitement of coming to worship to hear me preach. My ushers were on a first name basis with the EMT people who worked Sunday morning because we had to call them regularly. It was the only church that I knew about that required its ushers to have CPR training … not a bad idea for any church.

There is one story, from those days, that I have told many times. One older gentleman just loved to sing in the choir. He had had the flu for a couple of weeks and really missed coming to church. So, after missing two Sundays, he felt that he was feeling good enough to come and sing in the choir. In was the 2nd Sunday in January and rather cold outside. He bundled up with long johns, T-shirt, dress shirt, sweater vest, and a coat. When he robed up for the choir he didn’t take any of those items off. He just put his robe over all of his attire. I was just getting into the introduction to the sermon that included how much I love parades and was in the process of listing out all the parades that I have placed on my bucket list when the gentleman got too hot and passed out. The ushers rushed in, the EMT was called and worship stopped. As they were wheeling him out, he took my hand and said, “I’m sorry that I rained on your parade!”

In times of emergencies it is good to have doctors, nurses, emergency rooms and hospitals. It is good to have the ability to call 911 and know that you can get help immediately. It is great to know that help is on the way. But what do you do when your emergency isn’t of a medical need. Where do you turn when help is needed for other concerns? Here I remembered something that I had saved a number of years ago.

Emergency Telephone Numbers … These are more effective than 911
When -
You are sad, phone John 14
You have sinned, phone Psalm 51
You are facing danger, phone Psalm 91
People have failed you, phone Psalm 27
It feels as though God is far from you, phone Psalm 139
Your faith needs stimulation, phone Hebrews 11
You are alone and scared, phone Psalm 23
You are worried, phone Matthew 8:19-34
You are hurt and critical, phone 1 Corinthians 13
You wonder about Christianity, phone 2 Corinthians 5:15-18
You feel like an outcast, phone Romans 8:31-39
You are seeking peace, phone Matthew 11:25-30
It feels as if the world is b bigger than God, phone Psalm 90
You need Christ like insurance, phone Romans 8:1-30
You are leaving home for a trip , phone Psalm 121
You are praying for yourself, phone Psalm 87
You require courage for a task, phone Joshua 1
Inflation and investments are hogging your thoughts, phone Mark 10:17-31
You are depressive, phone Psalm 27
Your bank account is empty, phone Psalm 37
You lose faith in mankind, phone 1 Corinthians 13
It looks like people are unfriendly, phone John 15
You are losing hope, phone Psalm 126
You feel the world is small compared to you, phone Psalm 19
You want to carry fruit, phone John 15
Paul's secret for happiness, phone Colossians 3:12-17
With big opportunity/ discovery, phone Isaiah 55
To get along with other people, phone Romans 12

For dealing with fear, call Psalm 47
For security, call Psalm 121:3
For assurance, call Mark 8:35
For reassurance, call Psalm 145:18

All these numbers may be phoned directly. No operator assistance is necessary. All lines to Heaven are available 24-hours a day.

Margaret is going to be fine. She will just have to take some medication and try to manager her stress a little better. I pray that will be the reality for your life as well. I also pray that your spiritual and emotional health will be as healthy as your physical health. Remember that God is only a prayer away!

Quote for today: Feed your faith, and doubt will starve to death. Author unknown


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some thoughts and remembrances for Veterans Day

Whenever I think of Veterans Day the first thought that comes to mind is my oldest brother Ronnie who got called up during the Korean Conflict. Mom was a nervous wreck. She just knew that he would be shipped off to Korea. Well, while in basic training they discovered that Ronnie could paint large murals and pitch fastball softball. So for three years he spent painting those large insignias on the buildings and pitching for the Army Softball team. Hard duty, but somebody has to pull it.

I also remember that Mom was putting together a “care” package of cookies and other necessities. One item she included was a can of shaving cream. The aerosol can had just hit the market. None of us ever used one before. Dad still used the brush and soap method. So, there she was in the dinning room packing the box when she said, as she picked up the can of shaving cream, “I wonder how this works?” At that point she pushed down on the dispensing button and shaving cream started to shoot out the little spout, as she got excited, pressing even harder, exclaiming, “How do you shut this thing off?” She nearly emptied the entire can before one of us grabbed the can from her. What a mess! There was shaving cream all over the dinning room. We all pitched in to help clean it up and poor Mom; she had to go get another can of shaving cream. This time she was careful not to push any buttons.

I also think of the family that was on Ralph’s (my other brother) paper route. Their son had fought in WWII and was anticipated home just days before Christmas, Instead, what they received was the knock at the door and the news that their son had lost his life just a day before he was to return to the states. What was sad was that the Christmas tree was still standing in the corner of their living room, now without any needles still on it. All of the presents were still wrapped waiting for his return that wasn’t ever going to take place. Oh, they took the morning paper and kept up with the latest news. They both continued to go off to work every day … but their life had stopped that fateful Christmas so many years ago. Theirs, like so many was a personal lose so deep that they just couldn’t move past it.

My thoughts also take in the Viet Nam era and how close I came to being called up myself. I was in school in Nashville, TN. One Tuesday I called home to just check in. I asked if there was any mail. Mom, bless her heart, said, “Well, not very much, but there is this letter from the Selective Service. I didn’t open it. It probably isn’t important.” Well, at my bequest she opened it and discovered that I was to report for active duty in Miami that Thursday. So, first thing Wednesday morning, I was in President D. D. Holt’s office laying out my problem with Selective Service. I’m glad that he was a long time friend … anyway; Dr. Holt got on the phone to my Selective Service board and informed them that I was a full time ministerial student in good standing. He dictated a letter and I sighed a sigh of relief.

Tommy Gregory did go off to serve during the Viet Nam War. Tommy was one of the leaders of our youth group. He was always pulling off a practical joke – like getting a number of us to pick up our Young Adult counselors little Morris Minor and care it into the narthex of our church one Sunday evening. He was always good for a great laugh and ready for lots of fun. Tommy also played a mean piano. What a talented, fun loving great guy. Well, when he returned from Viet Nam the laughter was gone, he didn’t really care about music. The person who came back from the war was super serious … he was a changed man.

I also think about Lt. William Calley. Bill was in my homeroom at Miami Edison High School. While we weren’t friends I still knew him and felt that he got a raw deal ... as some of the present veterans of our ongoing war. They simply become the scapegoat for other officers.

My heart goes out to those families that have lost a loved one during the various conflicts and wars we have been involved in, as well as those men and women who have returned less than the person they were when they entered military service. There is an emotional toll that is taken out on them, as well as their families. The physical toll we can see and attempt to do our best in providing the medical and rehab therapy that is required, but the emotional and mental toll often goes unnoticed. The other concern I have is for their families. I served a church in Jacksonville, FL, which is home to a naval base. I counseled a large number of domestic abuse situations during those years. We just never know the ultimate cost our men and women and their families pay.

We too often take their service for granted, but they really should be at the top of our prayer list. We give great mouth service to “thanking them for protecting us,” etc., but the real support that could come from a top notch VA, the real support for medical and counseling assistance … for years to come, the real support of helping them readjust to civilian life, the real support of making jobs available as they return … the real support just isn’t there. Too many times they go off to fight a war and then return to fight the VA and our government for adequate and sustaining care. It just isn’t fair!

Let us remember our Veterans by stepping up to hold the VA accountable for doing what is right and proper for those who have given more than their fair share of sacrifice for our country.

Quote for today: I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, “Mother, what was war?” ~Eve Merriam

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In honor of my brother-in-law Dr. Raymond Sever

In the hospital bed, set up downstairs, lays my brother-in-law Dr. Raymond Sever. Pancreatic cancer is slowing taking his life inch-by-inch, pound-by-pound, breath-by-breath. As he shared with us about a year and a half ago, “People do not die of this cancer, but rather they simply starve to death.” It is sad to bear witness to this tragedy of life for here is a man who means so much to so many people. As one of his daughters shared, during his retirement party, “Everybody loves my dad.” No truer words have ever been spoken.

Ray loves life. He was very active – tennis, jogging, golf – unless he was sitting and reading. He was an avid reader until it just took too much energy and effort to hold up a book or his I-pad (where he loved to read the New York Times). He was one of the few physicians, his specialty is ophthalmology, that actually read those thick medical journals that you can see laying around a doctor’s office. He had a mind that seldom, if ever, shutdown. To say that Ray was brilliant is an understatement. He started college at the age of 16 and is a graduate of Harvard (Master’s degree) and the University of Miami (Doctor of Medicine degree).

Shortly after he married Jan, they attended a conference where the lecturer was Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. The large auditorium was filled to capacity. At the beginning of her lecture she asked, “Who can say that they are doing what they were meant to be doing in life and enjoying it?” Ray’s hand was only one of maybe half-dozen hands raised in the entire auditorium. I asked him once what he planned on doing if and when he retired, “I would love to join up with a university to do a little teaching and research.”

He would get excited about the latest and newest discoveries in medicine. It would energize him. He called a few years back all excited about the latest news concerning Macular Degeneration and a treatment for the wet type of this eye disease. Actually, in our next visit to their home, he just had to take us to the office to show us some slides of this latest breakthrough. He was like a kid in a candy store.

I asked him recently what he felt was his greatest accomplishments in life. His response was his medical practice. Helping people with their eyesight. Now here was a man that had received many honors, one of which was the Iron Arrow while at the University of Miami – this is the highest honor that any student can receive at that university. Here was a man who always graduated at the top of his class. Here was a man who worked with the astronauts in the early years of that program. Here was a man that the city of Temple Terrace pursued to come and set up a practice in their city. But, in his estimation, his greatest accomplishment was helping people keep their eyesight. One of my colleagues, The Rev. Dr. Bill Roughton, shares with everyone near us whenever our paths cross, “Jim’s brother-in-law Ray saved my eyesight. I am eternally thankful for that great man!”

His son, Ben, said it best in a recent letter he wrote to his dad. Ben shared his observation that on the one day Ray took Ben with him to the office, during one of those “take your son to work” events, that when Ray walked in the office lit up. Smiles crossed everybody’s face. Ray literally changed the atmosphere of the office simply by walking into the office … and this is a large medical practice with multiple doctors and all the support staff that goes along with that. Ben also noted that the one thing he admired about his dad was the many, many friends Ray had.

Just this past Sunday evening he shared with Jan that he is happy to be going the way he is going because he can say good-bye to everyone, bringing closer to his life. In one of last conversations he shared with me that he was at peace with the process of death and while he would prefer not to die, nevertheless he was at peace.

Ray didn’t “wear his religion on his sleeve” as they say and sometimes his scientific mind kind of got in the way of faith – everything needed to make scientific sense to him – nevertheless in Matthew 6:22 it states: "Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.” (The Message) Ray’s eyes are truly the window to his soul. He looked upon everybody as his equal. He didn’t pass judgment on anyone. He literally loved and appreciated everybody around him. Frankly, he lived out the reality of that scripture in Matthew where it states: “As you have done it unto the least of these you have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40) He cared deeply, loved tenderly and touched them with lasting love … and his eyes were wide open with wonder and amazement at the magnificence of God’s wonderful world!

When the day does arrive for him to enter into the eternal reward of his life’s journey he will leave behind his spouse Jan, his children Ben, Grace and Claire, his son-in-laws Jeff and Stephen, and his grandchildren Harry, Tess and Hannah, as well as 6 brothers, 2 sisters, 6 sister-in-laws and 1 brother-in-law and a large number of nieces and nephews … and thousands of grateful patients. His memorial service, when held, will be at the Temple Terrace United Methodist Church, but it probably won’t be large enough to hold everyone who would wish to honor him with their presence ... to say thank you for a life well lived.

I will miss Ray and the world will be less bright when his light is extinguished ... or, as an unknown author has said, “Death is not extinguishing the light from the Christian; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

Quote for today: Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry. Mark Twain

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Morning and the rhythm of life

Morning has arrived and the rhythm of life begins again. Given the fact that it is Tuesday means that our alarm clock sounded the wake up call at 6:15 am. It only disturbs our sleep on Tuesday and Wednesday – unless I forget to cancel it for the remaining days, which happens too many times. Margaret begins her preparation to leave by 7 so she can baby-sit our two grandbabies thus enabling our daughter, Tracy, to continue to work part-time in her chosen profession. And the rhythm of life continues …

My “schedule” is slightly different because my rhythms are different. I’m not sure when my “stupid” internal clock got set, but it has been this why for years. I sleep for about 4 hours, then I am up and awake for 1 to 2 hours, then back to bed for 2 more hours of sleep … then my morning starts. Frustrating is a good word for this crazy schedule. Those very early mornings does give me time to reflect, pray and read – the house is very quite, there isn’t any sports on television, the morning paper hasn’t been delivered – and so it is just me and the Lord. And the rhythm of life continues …

John Wesley was fond of rising early in the morning. I’m not sure what time he got up, but I’ve heard 4:30 am often enough that I started to believe it and even quote it. A United Methodist Bishop was once asked if he followed John Wesley’s ritual of rising early. He responded, “My dear lady, God isn’t up until 9 am and I’ve had my first cup of coffee!” And the rhythm of life continues …

Each of us discovers our own rhythms for the morning. A colleague of mine loves to rise early (I know since I have roomed with him at different times over the years), go and run 5 miles, come in and have a cup of coffee (that he starts to brew as he heads out for his morning run), and then works out with some weight training. THEN, as he has stated in times past, his day begins. And the rhythm of life continues …

Some rhythms include rushing the children out the door to catch the school bus; grabbing a piece of toast and a cup of coffee as they rush forth to get to work; sitting and watching one of the morning news programs and reading the morning paper; taking a leisurely morning walk to be embraced by the awaking world once again; or, just rolling over in bed, pulling up the comforter and going back to sleep. One house that I was fond of visiting always smelled like fresh baked bread because the lady of that house had the rhythm of baking a loaf of bread every morning. What a pleasant rhythm of life … and it probably would still be continuing to this day if she was still alive …

Some rhythms start with “kicking” on the computer to discover what e-mails have been sent since last evening and/or checking ones Facebook account to see what other people are up to. Some rhythms, like one gentleman in our subdivision, starts by doing laps in the community pool long before the water is heated by the rising Sun. Everybody’s rhythm of life is different – one isn’t better than another, they are just different.

A pastor that I know says that he likes to “get to church before anyone else so that he can be there as the church wakes up for a new day.” Regardless of the way the rhythm of life begins or the why behind the particular rhythm that each of us have adopted one thing we should remember and that is our life belongs to God – he owns it and by the act of grace he gives us the privilege of taking ownership of its rhythm. May it be true that as we live out our rhythm of life we include him in the process by allowing him to kiss our soul gently in the morning as it awakes once again to embrace the gift of a new day.

Quote for today: Someone once said, "There's nothing quite so early as morning." Victor R. Ferraris

Monday, November 8, 2010

A modern day parable - keep the faith and drop the fear

It was the last line of this modern day parable … “The most beautiful thing is to see a person smiling, and even more beautiful, is knowing that you are the reason behind it” … that got my attention. We were in Tampa visiting Margaret’s brother Ray who is dying of cancer. His wife was shared a portion of a 3-page letter that their son had written to Ray. In the letter Ben shared the story of the day, when Ben was younger, that Ray had taken him to work. Ben noticed how everyone lit up when Ray walked in. Ray simply changed the atmosphere of the office. Everyone was glad to see him and was happy to have him in the office. Ray simply caused everybody to smile. What a great testimony … what a great memory to hold on to … what a great example for a son to follow. Wouldn’t it be tremendous if that could be said of all of us.

And, now today’s modern parable:

A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said: "I am blind, please help." There were only a few coins in the hat.

A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.

Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy.

That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, "Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?"

The man said, "I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way." I wrote: "Today is a beautiful day but I cannot see it."

Both signs told people that the boy was blind. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind. The second sign told people that they were so lucky that they were not blind. Should we be surprised that the second sign was more effective?

Moral of the Story: Be thankful for what you have. Be creative. Be innovative. Think differently and positively. When life gives you a 100 reasons to cry, show life that you have 1000 reasons to smile. Face your past without regret. Handle your present with confidence. Prepare for the future without fear. Keep the faith and drop the fear.

The most beautiful thing is to see a person smiling, and even more beautiful, is knowing that you are the reason behind it!!!

Quote for today: Holiday Inn, when looking for 500 people to fill positions for a new facility, interviewed 5,000 candidates. The hotel managers interviewing these people excluded all candidates who smiled fewer than four times during the interview. This applied to people competing for jobs in all categories. ~Bits & Pieces