Saturday, February 26, 2011

Real people in real situations ... and they VOTE!

When I first started my daily blog I made a commitment to include a least one-day of humor since I have a special place in my heart for humor. We just don’t have enough laughter in our lives and I believe heaven is a place filled with the laughter of God. I believe so much in laughter that as I have planned out my funeral service I have asked one of my dear friends to tell stories when we get to that place in the service where it calls for “Witness of Friends” … not stories about me, but some funny stories, jokes, etc. It is important!

So here are 9 of my favorite “true to life” stories. These people are real, the events depicted are real … and it is a little scary because these people are driving cars on the street next to you and, even scarier is that they vote!


Recently, when I went to McDonald's I saw on the menu that you could have an order of 6, 9 or 12 Chicken McNuggets. I asked for a half dozen nuggets. ‘We don’t have half dozen nuggets,' said the teenager at the counter. 'You don't?' I replied. ‘We only have six, nine, or twelve,' was the reply. 'So I can't order a half dozen nuggets, but I can order six?' 'That's right.' So I shook my head and ordered six McNuggets.


I was checking out at the local Wal-Mart with just a few items and the lady behind me put her things on the belt close to mine. I picked up one of those 'dividers' that they keep by the cash register and placed it between our things so they wouldn't get mixed. After the girl had scanned all of my items, she picked up the 'divider', looking it all over for the bar code so she could
scan it. Not finding the bar code she said to me, 'Do you know how much this is? ' I said to her 'I've changed my mind, I don't think I’ll buy that today.' She said 'OK,' and I paid her for the things and left. She had no clue to what had just happened.


A lady at work was seen putting a credit card into her floppy drive and pulling it out very quickly. When I inquired as to what she was doing, she said she was shopping on the Internet and they kept asking for a credit card number, so she was using the ATM 'thingy.'


I recently saw a distraught young lady weeping beside her car. ' Do you need some help?' I asked. She replied, 'I knew I should have replaced the battery to this remote door unlocker. Now I can't get into my car. Do you think they (pointing to a distant convenience store) would have a battery to fit this?' 'Hmmm, I dunno. Do you have an alarm, too?' I asked. 'No, just this remote thingy,' she answered, handing it and the car keys to me. As I took the key and manually
unlocked the door, I replied, 'Why don't you drive over there and check about the batteries. It's a long walk.'


Several years ago, we had an Intern who was none too swift. One day she was typing and turned to a secretary and said, 'I'm almost out of typing paper. What do I do?' 'Just use copier machine paper,' the secretary told her. With that, the intern took her last remaining blank piece of paper, put it on the photocopier and proceeded to make five 'blank' copies.


I was in a car dealership a while ago, when a large motor home was towed into the garage. The front of the vehicle was in dire need of repair and the whole thing generally looked like an extra in 'Twister.' I asked the manager what had happened. He told me that the driver had set the 'cruise control' and then went in the back to make a sandwich.


My neighbor works in the operations department in the central office of a large bank. Employees in the field call him when they have problems with their computers. One night he got a call from a woman in one of the branch banks who had this question: 'I've got smoke coming from the back of my terminal. Do you guys have a fire downtown?'


Police in Radnor, Pa. interrogated a suspect by placing a metal colander on his head and connecting it with wires to a photocopy machine. The message 'He's lying' was placed in the copier, and police pressed the copy button each time they hey thought the suspect wasn't telling the truth. Believing the 'lie detector ' was working, the suspect confessed.


A mother calls 911 very worried asking the dispatcher if she needs to take her kid to the emergency room, the kid was eating ants. The dispatcher tells her to give the kid some Benadryl and it should be fine. The mother says, I just gave him some ant killer... Dispatcher: Rush him in to emergency room!

Life is tough. It's tougher if you’re stupid and remember - these people can vote.

Quote for today: Laugh as much as you breathe and love as long as you live. ~Source Unknown

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Price of Children ... and the benefits of having them in your life!

A friend in NC changed his Facebook picture to him and his child during a baptism. It is a very tender and sweet photo. It got me thinking about my own children and grandchildren. I am a proud parent of two beautiful and smart girls now mature women and a very proud grandparent of two great grandchildren. Further, as a pastor who has always had a heart for children I truly believe that they are God’s gift to us and sign of eternal hope for humanity. If you have a special place in your heart and life for children then you will like this little article on the Price of Children …they are well worth the investment.

This is just too good not to pass on to all. Here is something absolutely positive for a change. I have repeatedly seen the breakdown of the cost of raising a child, but this is the first time I have seen the rewards listed this way. It's nice. The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140.00 for a middle income family. That doesn't even touch college tuition. But $160,140.00 isn't so bad if you break it down. It translates into: $8,896.66 a year; $741.38 a month; $171.08 a week; A mere $24.24 a day! Just over a dollar an hour. Still, you might think the best financial advice is: don't have children if you want to be 'rich.' Actually, it is just the opposite. What do you get for your $160,140.00?
*Naming rights. First, middle, and last!
*Glimpses of God every day.
*Giggles under the covers every night.
*More love than your heart can hold.
*Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs.
*Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds, and warm cookies.
*A hand to hold usually covered with jelly or chocolate.
*A partner for blowing bubbles and flying kites.
*Someone to laugh yourself silly with, no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.

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

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

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

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

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

You get to be immortal. You get another branch added to your family tree, and if you're lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren and great-grandchildren. You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications, and human sexuality that no college can match.. In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there under God. You have all the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away the monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits, so one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost. That is quite a deal for the price!!!!!!!

Love & enjoy your children & grandchildren & great-grandchildren!!!!!!!It's the best investment you'll ever make!!!!!!!!!

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oh, to live our lives over again!

If you could live your life over again … would you? … could you? I believe that no one escapes the heart wrenching thought process, as they get older, of past mistakes. Mistakes that were just simply dumb in the first place; mistakes that would not have been made if we had just listened to those around us; mistakes that we would have not made if we had sought the advice from wiser, more experienced individuals; mistakes that would not have been made if we had taken the time to think through all of the options available to us … been there … done that!

Our intentions have always been good. Filled with well meaning jesters for the future of all involved. And yet, they have been misunderstood … misinterpreted … judged unfairly … dismissed … stamped DOA … and we have received the blame, criticism and we are no better for it.

What you say, what you actually said, what you think you said, what I heard, what I think I heard and what I actually heard are all different. That is the reality of a dialogue. Sorting through all the various layers is challenging. It is a task that is very beneficial if undertaken, but few people are willing to take the time or make the effort to bring it off. It would appear that we just plow through all the verbiage, arrive at our own conclusion and move on. It is only when we look back, evaluating the events, actions and words that we begin to wish that we could go back to live that moment again.

And yet, even within the context of our mistake filled lives God is still gracious and forgiving. I take great solace in that God still was able to use individuals like Abraham, David, Paul and Peter … individuals of great influence and power, but whose lives were just one mistake after another. They operated from a self-centered, desire driven mentality … like most of us … and God still was able to use them.

If they could have looked back on their lives I am sure that they would have exclaimed, “Wow, God took all that garage that I had made of my life and turned it around for the good.” And so He does. As a seminary professor of mine, Dr. Bill Mallard, was found of saying … God looks at our lives, shakes his head in disbelief, but says: “I can work with that” and, miracle of miracles, he does in unusual and unbelievable ways. Miracle of miracles, God takes whatever we offer him – that is the key – and turns it to good for the Kingdom.

We don’t need to live our lives over again … and we don’t need to hang our heads in shame or regret … we just need to offer him whatever we are and allow him to work his miracle through us and in spite of us.

Quote for today: There is one redeeming thing about a mistake. It proves that somebody stopped talking long enough at least to do something. ~Irving Wallace

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A mountain top experience for living in the valley - reflections on Matthew 17:1-9

Peter was there by invitation, along with James and John ... Jesus’ inner circle … giving us the first indication that the story that is about to unfold is important. If that reality wasn’t enough to set off all the bells and whistles of your soul ringing then the simple phrase, “and led them up a high mountain” (Matthew 17:1-9) should have. Any time that a mountain is involved in scripture we need to shake ourselves wide-awake. Something important is about to happen. Pay attention! Read the words slowly. Don’t miss anything. We are about to make a spiritual discover of gigantic proportion.

“There he (Jesus) was transfigured before them.” (2a) Every pour of his body was opened and all the glory within him shown forth with the brilliance of a thousand suns. Jesus’ physical body was no longer a barrier to the heavenly reality that abided within Christ. Jesus could not hold in his true identity any longer … it spilled out like a cup running over … a faucet that couldn’t be shut-off. Sunglasses were not needed because it was the glow of love – complete, total, all-accepting love. A love that reaches out and draws you in much like a warm fire on a cold evening.

“Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah…” (3) The great law giver and the great prophet standing and talking with the greater Savior. The whole of history was being wrapped up in a visual picture for Peter, James and John. Everything that the teachers were saying about the coming Messiah was now a reality. It couldn’t be denied. The ultimate truth was being revealed.

Then good old Peter spoke. Peter, who was becoming famous for saying the first thing that came to his mind; Peter, who had a perpetual problem of “hoof and mouth disease;” “Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here.” (4) You think? If Jesus didn’t think that this would be a good thing why would he have invited you to join him on the mountain? Peter is simply stating the obvious because he didn’t know what else to say. But, he didn’t stop there. Oh, no, Peter just continued to speak.

“I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Well, while we probably would have felt the same way, Peter and us would have missed the purpose of the event if we had. The transfiguration of Jesus wasn’t for the purpose of creating a holy shrine. Some place to which we could return to often “to get our batteries recharged” … an extra special holy place where God and us could hold hands, sing a verse or two of Kum ba yah and get a cozy “feel good” sensation that we are in a personal relationship with the Almighty.

God spoke, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (5) There it is! Listen to him; he has something important to say. You are going to need his instructions as you return to the valley. A mountain top experience is meant to be lived out in the valley where reality stinks and people are mean spirited. Oh, it is good that we can go off and have those experiences, but that is not where we live out our journey.

Jesus approaches the three disciples and says “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” (7) We’ve got to get on with the rest of my life … and yours. We’ve got to return to reality. We’ve got to get off this mountain and back into the valley. We’ve had our holy moment. Our hearts were strangely warmed. But, now we must return to our loved ones and the individuals that seem to be too hard to love. Each of us has been strengthened by this experience. We are going to need this experience to face the days ahead. We will be challenged, our faith questioned, doubt and frustration will be introduced to the equation of our journey and we will need to possess the knowledge of what transpired on this mountain to see us through.

Once an individual has seen the savior in all of his glory it is hard not to see him for who he is. It would be extremely hard not to hear him with the freshness of spiritually attuned ears and a soul touched by the Almighty. Especially as we live out the reality of our lives in the valleys of earth.

Quote for today: A man who has never lost himself in a cause bigger than himself has missed one of life's mountaintop experiences. Only in losing himself does he find himself. Only then does he discover all the latent strengths he never knew he had and which otherwise would have remained dormant. ~Richard M. Nixon

Monday, February 21, 2011

A modern day parable about prayer, ice cream and the soul

Parables are all around us ... simple little stories ... stories with a lesson to teach us all. Some are told as if they actually took place ... if they did or not is beside the point because they are reminders of a greater truth. Such is the case with the following story, a modern day parable …

Last week, I took my grandchildren to a restaurant. My six-year-old grandson asked if he could say grace.

As we bowed our heads he said, "God is good, God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if Nana gets us ice cream for dessert. And liberty and justice for all! Amen!"

Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, I heard a woman remark, “That's what's wrong with this country. Kids today don't even know how to pray. Asking God for ice cream! Why, I never!"

Hearing this, my grandson burst into tears and asked me, "Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?"

As I held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job, and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at my grandson and said, "I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer."

"Really?" my grandson asked. "Cross my heart," the man replied.

Then, in a theatrical whisper, he added (indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing), "Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes."

Naturally, I bought my grandchildren ice cream at the end of the meal. My grandson stared at his for a moment, and then did something I will remember the rest of my life.

He picked up his sundae and, without a word, walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, "Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes; and my soul is good already."

Quote for today: Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul. ~St. Augustine

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Celebrating 50 years of marriage

There are celebrations and then there are celebrations. Over the years I’ve attended and participated in 50th Wedding Anniversaries. As a general rule they are all special, but pretty much the same what with the video presentation of the couples life from their early childhood, the birth of their children, the children’s growing up years and then the sequence continues with their grandchildren. The food is about the same from one celebration to the next – some buffet, some sit-down dinners, some simple others not so simple. I’ve attended only one where the bride still could get into her wedding gown. And in some the children and/or special guests speak about the couple. There are celebrations and then there are celebrations!

Yesterday we attended Herb and Alice’s 50th Wedding Anniversary. Herb is Margaret’s brother. The fellowship hall was filled with the invited guests. Some we knew others we didn’t. There was out-of-town family that we hadn’t seen for a number of months. The hugs and greetings felt good. The tables were decorated with a certain flare – probably the handy work of their daughter-in-law. But then it was time for the celebration to begin.

The video was shown with a tagline that I hadn’t seen before … “to be continued” … kind of a nice touch. During the ceremony of renewal of their wedding vows the pastor was privileged to introduce some of the original members of the wedding party – the flower girl, the best man and a bridesmaid. I wonder how many of our wedding party we could even locate let alone have them attend? Well, we will know in 4 years as we celebrate our 50th … if we make it!

But then the celebration took an unexpected turn. I had never seen it done before and it caused every eye in the hall to go instantly wet! After Herb and Alice had exchanged vows and presented to each other a new set of wedding rings, they turned to their daughter and son, who were standing as matron-of-honor and best man, and presented their original wedding rings. It was a real surprise to the daughter and son who both lost it completely. What a unique and simple touch that touched us all.

I’ve been told and have shared it constantly that only one percent of those who get married celebrate their 50th Anniversary and that day arrives there really should be a celebration. In my first church, an old couple shared their wisdom and insight about their 50 years of marriage: … it is a celebration of the survival of the fittest, who ever died first lost the bet … it is a celebration of eternal forgiveness … it is a recognition that the grace of God is still at work … because if the truth would be known there is a day here and a week there that you would rather take your spouse to the highest mountain, push them off and tell God that they slipped

There are celebrations and then there are CELEBRATIONS … yesterday was another celebration of love, endurance, patience, forgiveness and a commitment to what God has joined together no one and nothing should tear apart!

Quote for today: A man at work decided to show his wife how much he loved her, and before going home, showered, shaved, put on some choice cologne, bought her a bouquet of flowers. He went to the front door and knocked. His wife answered the door and exclaimed, "Oh no! This has been a terrible day! First I had to take Billy to the emergency room and get stitches in his leg, then your mother called and said she's coming for 2 weeks, then the washing machine broke, and now this! You come home drunk! ~Source Unknown

Friday, February 18, 2011

Going into the world

Yesterday was Florida State Fair day. It helped that it was one of their senior citizen days thus giving us a discount on the entrance fee. People go to the fair for a wide variety of reasons. Some go for the Mid-Way rides while others go for the food. Some go for the displays while others go for the animals. Some go for the entertainment while others go for the displays. We went yesterday for a little bit of all of that.

We walked the Mid-Way just to see what new rides they have come up with. There was a time in my life that I probably would have tried many of the wilder rides, but not any longer. As we watch several different rides go through their gyrations I could feel my stomach begin to churn and turn … and that was just watching! As the Sun goes down the rides will be filled with much younger citizens than those who are called senior … and some will think that they are having the time of their life while others will get sick.

We sampled some of the fair food, but stayed away from some of the “new” offerings like the deep-fried cheeseburger; the deep-fried donut; the deep-fried Oreo cookie; the deep-fried corn-on-the-cob; and the chocolate covered bacon. If you can deep-fry it or cover it in chocolate it will sell. Now I will have to admit that at one time I did try the deep-fried ice cream … it wasn’t that bad … but all this other stuff? I don’t think so.

We did walk through some of the displays of art works presented by some of the children and youth. We were impressed. I felt that some pieces that didn’t get a ribbon were better than those that did, but I’m not a judge. The hand-made clothes and quilts, as well as the various presentations of woodworking were impressive. It is amazing how talented people are.

Then there was the large Expo Hall with all the vendors trying to engage you to have interest in their products. There are the “standard” vendors that can be found at every event such as this, but every now and again something new will get our attention – something different and unique. This year it was a crafter who used dried flowers from her own garden to create pieces of art, as well as various other kinds of plaques, etc. or the vendor demonstrating a ceramic edged knife that was surprisingly sharp. With it an apple could be cut without causing the apple to turn brown. We were also fascinated by Titanium cookware. It was well beyond our price range unless we win the lottery, but my-word what wonderful cookware.

The main attraction for us is the people … both the watching kind and the engage in conversation kind. There were many delightful people that we had the privilege to talk with not only about what they were selling (or at least trying to sell), but where they were from, how they got interested in representing their particular product, and a little bit of their personal history – children, grandchildren, etc.

After we had gotten our ice cream cone and strawberry short cake and as we were walking back to our car it began to dawn on me that participating in such events as the State Fair is exactly what Jesus was trying to have us understand about going forth into all the world. Why? Because we will meet people … all sorts of people … people at various stages in their lives … people with hopes and needs … people who are trying to escape from reality or simply trying to grasp hold of the golden ring of possibilities. It was an opportunity for the Good News to be demonstrated in a real way as we stop, listen and make them feel like they are important.

Here’s to going forth into the world!

Quote for today: A scuba diver lives in the water but breathes the air--he takes his environment with him. ~Source Unknown

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Some stories about love

In celebration of love … just some stories I have come across recently and wanted to share them with you.

(1) Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. "I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me."

Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan "Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you've convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that your're getting a divorce. That will really hurt him." With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, "Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!" And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting "as if." For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn't return, Crane called. "Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?"

"Divorce?" she exclaimed. "Never! I discovered I really do love him." Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds. ~J. Allan Petersen.

(2) Two weeks after the stolen steak deal, I took Helen (eight years old) and Brandon (five years old) to the Cloverleaf Mall in Hattiesburg to do a little shopping. As we drove up, we spotted a Peterbilt eighteen-wheeler parked with a big sign on it that said, "Petting Zoo." The kids jumped up in a rush and asked, "Daddy, Daddy. Can we go? Please. Please. Can we go?"
"Sure," I said, flipping them both a quarter before walking into Sears. They bolted away, and I felt free to take my time looking for a scroll saw. A petting zoo consists of a portable fence erected in the mall with about six inches of sawdust and a hundred little furry baby animals of all kinds. Kids pay their money and stay in the enclosure enraptured with the squirmy little critters while their moms and dads shop.

A few minutes later, I turned around and saw Helen walking along behind me. I was shocked to see she preferred the hardware department to the petting zoo. Recognizing my error, I bent down and asked her what was wrong.

She looked up at me with those giant limpid brown eyes and said sadly, "Well, Daddy, it cost fifty cents. So, I gave Brandon my quarter." Then she said the most beautiful thing I ever heard. She repeated the family motto. The family motto is in "Love is Action!"

She had given Brandon her quarter, and no one loves cuddly furry creatures more than Helen. She had watched Sandy take my steak and say, "Love is Action!" She had watched both of us do and say "Love is Action!" for years around the house and Kings Arrow Ranch. She had heard and seen "Love is Action," and now she had incorporated it into her little lifestyle. It had become part of her.

What do you think I did? Well, not what you might think. As soon as I finished my errands, I took Helen to the petting zoo. We stood by the fence and watched Brandon go crazy petting and feeding the animals. Helen stood with her hands and chin resting on the fence and just watched Brandon. I had fifty cents burning a hole in my pocket; I never offered it to Helen, and she never asked for it.

Because she knew the whole family motto. It's not "Love is Action." It's "Love is SACRIFICIAL Action!" Love always pays a price. Love always costs something. Love is expensive. When you love, benefits accrue to another's account. Love is for you, not for me. Love gives; it doesn't grab. Helen gave her quarter to Brandon and wanted to follow through with her lesson. She knew she had to taste the sacrifice. She wanted to experience that total family motto. Love is sacrificial action. ~Dave Simmons

(3) It's very human to begin looking for something and then forget what you're looking for. Tennessee Williams tells a story of someone who forgot -- the story of Jacob Brodzky, a shy Russian Jew whose father owned a bookstore. The older Brodzky wanted his son to go to college. The boy, on the other hand, desired nothing but to marry Lila, his childhood sweetheart -- a French girl as effusive, vital, and ambitious as he was contemplative and retiring. A couple of months after young Brodzky went to college, his father fell ill and died. The son returned home, buried his father, and married his love. Then the couple moved into the apartment above the bookstore, and Brodzky took over its management. The life of books fit him perfectly, but it cramped her. She wanted more adventure -- and she found it, she thought, when she met an agent who praised her beautiful singing voice and enticed her to tour Europe with a vaudeville company. Brodzky was devastated. At their parting, he reached into his pocket and handed her the key to the front door of the bookstore.

"You had better keep this," he told her, "because you will want it some day. Your love is not so much less than mine that you can get away from it. You will come back sometime, and I will be waiting." She kissed him and left. To escape the pain he felt, Brodzky withdrew deep into his bookstore and took to reading as someone else might have taken to drink. He spoke little, did little, and could most times be found at the large desk near the rear of the shop, immersed in his books while he waited for his love to return.

Nearly 15 years after they parted, at Christmastime, she did return. But when Brodzky rose from the reading desk that had been his place of escape for all that time, he did not take the love of his life for more than an ordinary customer. "Do you want a book?" he asked.

That he didn't recognize her startled her. But she gained possession of herself and replied, "I want a book, but I've forgotten the name of it." Then she told him a story of childhood sweethearts. A story of a newly married couple who lived in an apartment above a bookstore. A story of a young, ambitious wife who left to seek a career, who enjoyed great success but could never relinquish the key her husband gave her when they parted. She told him the story she thought would bring him to himself.

But his face showed no recognition. Gradually she realized that he had lost touch with his heart's desire, that he no longer knew the purpose of his waiting and grieving, that now all he remembered was the waiting and grieving itself. "You remember it; you must remember it -- the story of Lila and Jacob?"

After a long, bewildered pause, he said, "There is something familiar about the story, I think I have read it somewhere. It comes to me that it is something by Tolstoi." Dropping the key, she fled the shop. And Brodzky returned to his desk, to his reading, unaware that the love he waited for had come and gone.

Tennessee Williams's 1931 story "Something by Tolstoi" reminds me how easy it is to miss love when it comes. Either something so distracts us or we have so completely lost who we are and what we care about that we cannot recognize our heart's desire. ~Signs of the Times

(4) Seoul -- At his father's funeral, American Carl Lewis placed his 100-meter gold medal from the 1984 Olympics in his father's hands. "Don't worry," he told his surprised mother. "I'll get another one."

A year later, in the 100-meter final at the 1988 games, Lewis was competing against Canadian world-record-holder Ben Johnson. Halfway through the race Johnson was five feet in front. Lewis was convinced he could catch him. But at 80 meters, he was still five feet behind. It's over, Dad, Lewis thought. As Johnson crossed the finish, he stared back at Lewis and thrust his right arm in the air, index finger extended. Lewis was exasperated. He had noticed Johnson's bulging muscles and yellow-tinged eyes, both indications of steroid use.

"I didn't have the medal, but I could still give to my father by acting with class and dignity," Lewis said later. He shook Johnson's hand and left the track. But then came the announcement that Johnson had tested positive for anabolic steroids. He was stripped of his medal. The gold went to Lewis, a replacement for the medal he had given his father. ~David Wallechinsky

She was lying on the ground. In her arms she held a tiny baby girl. As I put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little -- but it was all I had.

Taking a bite she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her baby's mouth, she forced the soft warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive. Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes the baby was asleep. I later learned that during the night the mother's heart stopped, but her little girl lived.

Love is a costly thing. God in His love for us (and for a lost world) "spared not His own Son" to tell the world of His love. Love is costly, but we must tell the world at any cost. Such love is costly. It costs parents and sons and daughters. It costs the missionary life itself. In his love for Christ the missionary often must give up all to make the Savior known. If you will let your love for Christ, cost you something, the great advance will be made together.

Remember, love is a costly thing. Do you love enough? ~Dick Hills

(5) No more convincing evidence of the absence of parental affection exists than that compiled by Rene Spitz. In a South American orphanage, Spitz observed and recorded what happened to 97 children who were deprived of emotional and physical contact with others. Because of a lack of funds, there was not enough staff to adequately care for these children, ages 3 months to 3 years old. Nurses changed diapers and fed and bathed the children. But there was little time to hold, cuddle, and talk to them as a mother would. After three months many of them showed signs of abnormality. Besides a loss of appetite and being unable to sleep well, many of the children lay with a vacant expression in their eyes. After five months, serious deterioration set in.

They lay whimpering, with troubled and twisted faces. Often, when a doctor or nurse would pick up an infant, it would scream in terror. Twenty seven, almost one third, of the children died the first year, but not from lack of food or health care. They died of a lack of touch and emotional nurture. Because of this, seven more died the second year. Only twenty one of the 97 survived, most suffering serious psychological damage. ~Charles Sell

(6) I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?

The young woman speaks. "Will my mouth always be like this?" she asks.

"Yes," I say, "it will. It is because the nerve was cut."

She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. "I like it," he says, "It is kind of cute." All at once I know who he is. I understand and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works. ~Richard Selzer, M.D.

(7) "I have no misgivings about or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged and my courage does not falter. I know how American civilization leans upon the triumph of the government. I know how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing, perfectly willing, to lay down the joys of this life to help maintain this government and to help pay that debt.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless. It seems to bind me with many cables that nothing but Omnipotence can break. And yet my love of country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly with all those chains to the battlefield. The memory of all those blissful moments I have enjoyed with you come crowding over me, and I feel most grateful to God and you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the future years, when God willing, we might have loved and lived together, and watched our boys grow up around us to honorable manhood. If I do not return my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield it will whimper your name." ~Major Sullivan Ballou, of the Union Army, to his wife Sarah. One week later, Major Ballou was killed at the first battle of Bull Run

(8) Is there a hell?

Once upon a time a person was touched by God, and God gave him a priceless gift. This gift was the capacity for love. He was grateful and humble, and he knew what an extraordinary thing had happened to him. He carried it like a jewel and he walked tall and with purpose. From time to time he would show this gift to others, and they would smile and stroke his jewel. But it seemed that they'd also dirty it up a little. Now, this was no way to treat such a precious thing, so the person built a box to protect his jewel. And he decided to show it only to those who would treat it with respect and meet it with reverent love of their own.

Even that didn't work, for some tried to break into the box. So he built a bigger, stronger box--one that no one could get into--and the man felt good. At last he was protecting the jewel as it should be. Upon occasion, when he decided that someone had earned the right to see it, he'd show it proudly. But they sometimes refused, or kind of smudged it, or just glanced at it disinterestedly.

Much time went by, and then only once in awhile would one pass by the man, the aging man; he would pat his box and say, "I have the loveliest of jewels in here." Once or twice he opened the box and offered it saying, "Look and see. I want you to." And the passerby would look and look, and look. And then he would back away from the old man, shaking his head.

The man died, and he went to God, and he said, "You gave me a precious gift many years ago, and I've kept it safe, and it is as lovely as the day you gave it to me." And he opened the box and held it out to God. He glanced in it, and in it was a lizard--an ugly, laughing lizard. And God walked away from him.

Yes, there is a hell. ~Lois Cheney

(9) In The Christian Leader, Don Ratzlaff retells a story Vernon Grounds came across in Ernest Gordon's Miracle on the River Kwai. The Scottish soldiers, forced by their Japanese captors to labor on a jungle railroad, had degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon something happened.

"A shovel was missing. The officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot . . . It was obvious the officer meant what he had said. Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. When it was over, the survivors picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first check point.

"The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others! . . . The incident had a profound effect. . . The men began to treat each other like brothers.

"When the victorious Allies swept in, the survivors, human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors . . (and instead of attacking their captors) insisted: 'No more hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness.'" ~Don Ratzlaff

(10) Years ago Father John Powell told the story of Norma Jean

"Norma Jean Mortenson. Remember that name? Norma Jean's mother, Mrs. Gladys Baker, was periodically committed to a mental institution and Norma Jean spent much of her childhood in foster homes. In one of those foster homes, when she was eight years old, one of the boarders raped her and gave her a nickel. He said, 'Here, Honey. Take this and don't ever tell anyone what I did to you.' When little Norma Jean went to her foster mother to tell her what had happened she was beaten badly. She was told, 'Our boarder pays good rent. Don't you ever say anything bad about him!' Norma Jean at the age of eight had learned what it was to be used and given a nickel and beaten for trying to express the hurt that was in her.

"Norma Jean turned into a very pretty young girl and people began to notice. Boys whistled at her and she began to enjoy that, but she always wished they would notice she was a person too--not just a body--or a pretty face--but a person.

"Then Norma Jean went to Hollywood and took a new name-- Marilyn Monroe and the publicity people told her, 'We are going to create a modern sex symbol out of you.' And this was her reaction, 'A symbol? Aren't symbols things people hit together?' They said, 'Honey, it doesn't matter, because we are going to make you the most smoldering sex symbol that ever hit the celluloid.'

"She was an overnight smash success, but she kept asking, 'Did you also notice I am a person? Would you please notice?' Then she was cast in the dumb blonde roles.

"Everyone hated Marilyn Monroe. Everyone did.

"She would keep her crews waiting two hours on the set. She was regarded as a selfish prima donna. What they didn't know was that she was in her dressing room vomiting because she was so terrified.

"She kept saying, 'Will someone please notice I am a person. Please.' They didn't notice. They wouldn't take her seriously.

"She went through three marriages--always pleading, 'Take me seriously as a person.' Everyone kept saying, 'But you are a sex symbol. You can't be other than that.'

"Marilyn kept saying 'I want to be a person. I want to be a serious actress.'

"And so on that Saturday night, at the age of 35 when all beautiful women are supposed to be on the arm of a handsome escort, Marilyn Monroe took her own life. She killed herself.

"When her maid found her body the next morning, she noticed the telephone was off the hook. It was dangling there beside her.

Later investigation revealed that in the last moments of her life she had called a Hollywood actor and told him she had taken enough sleeping pills to kill herself.

"He answered with the famous line of Rhett Butler, which I now edit for church, 'Frankly, my dear, I don't care!' That was the last word she heard. She dropped the phone--left it dangling.

"Claire Booth Luce in a very sensitive article asked, 'What really killed Marilyn Monroe, love goddess who never found any love?' She said she thought the dangling telephone was the symbol of Marilyn Monroe's whole life. She died because she never got through to anyone who understood."
~Dynamic Preaching

Quote for today: On the whole, God's love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him. ~C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The power of one individual

The power of one. The power of a single solitary soul can change the course of human history. The power of just one individual willing or driven to stand-up against authority can express by their actions the feelings of the masses. And, so it was in mid-December when a poor fruit peddler by the name of Mohamed Bouazizi, after being harrased by the police said no more and in the front of the police station put himself ablaze in Tunisia. His flaming body burned so brightly that it started a revolution that brought an end to two dictatorships, one in Tunisia and one in Egypt … and the revolution in the middle-east is still spreading. The power of one. The power of a single solitary soul that changes the course of human history.

The power of one was witnessed in the fourth century when a little non-descript monk, Telemachus, from modern day Turkey, was prompted by an inner voice to visit Rome. It was the day for the “circus” in the Roman Coliseum. What he saw taking place touched his spirit and drove him to do something. Two gladiators were fighting and one was about to kill the other. Telemachus jumped over the wall and ran to stand between the two, shouting, “In the name of Christ, forbear!” Telemachus was the one killed that day in the Roman Coliseum by gladiator’s sword. The cheering crowd fell silent as they saw the pool of blood of the little dead monk. They left the stadium in silence. Just three days later the Emperor offered a decree that ended the Games. The power of one … the power of a single solitary soul …

The annuals of history of other such men and women who stood-up against authority and changed the course of history. Martin Luther against his beloved Catholic Church; Gandi against the entire British Empire; Nelson Mandella against the white government of South Africa; Sister Theresa against the poverty and the disease of India; Martin Luther King, Jr. against white American’s oppression of the people of color … The power of one … the power of a single solitary soul. Not with weapons, not with violence, not with armys, not with military might, but with a conviction that something has to change and it had to start some where. The power of one … the power of a single solitary soul.

Jesus spoke of the power of one when he instructed his followers to go into all the world baptizing individuals in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We can change the world one person at a time. We can be the power of one … the power of a single solitary soul who is willing to step forward against hatred and bigotry wherever we find it. The power of a single solitary sould who is willing to step forward against hunger, poverty and homelessness in the very towns in which we live. We can be the power of one … we can be that one single solitary soul stands in the gap for those who cannot stand and give voice to the voiceless. Like the poor fruit peddler or the non-descript monk we neither have to be powerful nor famous we just have to be willing.

Quote for today: "The power of one man or one woman doing the right thing for the right reason, and at the right time, is the greatest influence in our society." ~Jack Kemp

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ways to express your love on St. Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine’s Day. It is always a little challenging to come up with something that will express our love for our partner. I came across this list in Family Matters that I thought might help.

Looking for a gift or just a unique way to say "I love you?" What do you give when his dresser is full of cologne and you're both on diets? When she thinks flowers die too soon, and you've already spent next month's paycheck? Here are 21 great inexpensive ways to tell the love of your life just how much you care.

1. Make a homemade card with a picture of the two of you on the cover. Get ideas for a verse by spending a few minutes browsing through a card shop.
2. Write a poem. It doesn't have to rhyme.
3. Send a love letter listing the reasons "Why I love you so much."
4. Pledge your love for a lifetime. Write it on calligraphy or design it on a desktop computer and print it out on parchment paper and have it framed.
5. Plan a surprise lunch, complete with picnic basket, sparkling grape juice and goblets.
6. Bake a giant cookie and write "I love you" with heart shaped redhots or frosting. (Don't worry about the calories, it's not for eating!)
7. Make a coupon book and include coupons for a back rub, a compromise when about to lose an argument, a listening ear when needed, and doing the dishes when the other cooks.
8. Kidnap the car for a thorough washing and detailing.
9. Design your personal crest combining symbols that are meaningful to both of you.
10. Compose a love song.
11. Arrange for someone to sing a favorite love song to you and your love when you're together.
12. Call a radio station and have them announce a love message from you and make sure your love is listening at the right time.
13. Make a big sign such as: "I Love You, Kristi. Love, Joe" and put it in front of your house or her apartment complex for the world to see.
14. Buy favorite fruits that aren't in season, like a basket of strawberries or blueberries.
15. Hide little love notes in the car, a coat pocket, or desk.
16. Place a love message in the "personal" section of the classified ads in your local paper.
17. Florist flowers aren't the only way to say "I love you." Pluck a single flower and write a message about how its beauty reminds you of your love. For greater impact, have it delivered at work.
18. Prepare a surprise candle light gourmet low-calorie dinner for two.
19. Write the story of the growth of your relationship from your perspective, sharing your emotions and your joys. What a treasure!
20. Make a paperweight from a smooth stone, paint it, and write a special love message on it.
21. Promise to change a habit that your love has been wanting you to change.

Quote for today: Loving is not just looking at each other, it's looking in the same direction. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Friday, February 11, 2011

A front row seat to history - from a coronation of a queen to the turmoil of Egypt

The year was 1953. The neighborhood had gathered in the living room of one of our neighbors. They were the only ones in our area who had a television. We had front row seats to history as we witnessed the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. I’m not sure what fascinated us more the coronation or that little black and white marvel called a television. We were being ushered into a marvelous new age. Our appetite would not be satisfied with only an occasional tidbit of historical drama.

Between the time that I had left home, caught three city buses and arrived on the campus of Miami-Dade Junior College a major event had taken place in Dallas in 1963. The campus was nearly empty. I was wandering through the halls wondering why my classroom was locked. Wondering why there were no classes going on in any of the classrooms. A janitor finally informed me that I should go home because the school was closed … the president had been killed. By the time I arrived back home the television was on and we had a front row seat to history.

That front row seat would be occupied as the horrific events of the Vietnam War played out in our living rooms. My parents had lived through the events of WWII, but that didn’t prepare them for what they were now witnessing live each night via news video from the jungles of that far away country. We were stunned at what we were seeing and then the fear settled in because I had to register for the draft. I could be called up at any time. My number was in the hopper. The reality that my life could be drastically changed by what we were seeing on the television was sobering. That front row seat changed our perspective on reality.

The year now was 1986. I was walking into the Sherman-Williams paint store in Jacksonville, Florida. Everyone was standing at the windows pointing up into the sky. Plumes of white smoke filled the eastern horizon, like a giant flower opening up. The space shuttle Challenger had exploded and the nation mourned the death of 7 astronauts. As the news footage played over and over and over again, we had a front row seat.

That front row seat had been occupied over a number of events from Dr. Martin Luther Kings’ I Have A Dream speech to his assassination. During the span of just a couple of years we witnessed the civil rights movement from the comfort of our living rooms. It was a safe place to bear witness. We could witness the historical events without getting involved nor have our lives disturbed too much.

We saw the riots, even in our own hometowns. Bore witness to historical events. Got up close and intimate with the leaders and the participants. Drawn into their stories, their motivation, their thinking, their reasons for getting involved. All from our front row seat to history … thanks to that little marvelous electronic device called the television.

And now, through the miracle of satellites, we, once again, have a front row seat to history as the hourly events in Egypt are unfolding before our very eyes. We witnessed just yesterday the Egyptian citizens’ jubilation as the news spread that their president was planning on stepping down only to see it turn quickly to fury and anger as President Mubarak continued to play the very dangerous game of politics. It has become another “stay-tuned-for-the-latest-news” kind of happening. What is amazing is that the cosmic shift that has taken place from witnessing the historic events via television to the power of social networking and cell phones. Because of this cosmic shift thousands of citizens throughout Cairo can think and move as a single force. Truly this front row seat can take your breath away. The world as we once knew it has drastically changed.

As I was heading to bed last night my mind began to play the game of “what if.” What if the social networking had been a reality during the time of Jesus? What impact would that have had on his life, his teachings, his miracles and ultimately on his death and resurrection? How would the world have reacted? How would it have influenced the decisions that Herod and Pilate made? I was just wondering … and then I was wondering how we, the church in the 21st Century, could use the same social networking as a force to transform not just one country like Egypt, but the entire world for the sake of the Kingdom? How many people could we draw away from their front row seats to actually participating in the events of the Kingdom as those events are being played out throughout the world?

I was just wondering … can you just imagine the influence … the power … the hope … the anticipation that we could unleash?

Quotes for today: A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength. ~Proverbs 24:5 … How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable? ~Seth Godin

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Men and women with broken hearts

It is always helpful to put life in perspective. A St. Pete friend reminded me yesterday of those less fortunate. Oh, we pass these men and women everyday of our life. They are standing on the street corners, at traffic lights, some on crutches, some in wheelchairs, all with a handmade sign asking for help. We probably have all thought that they were only going to use the money to buy a beer or two and we probably would be correct. For many years I saw them simply as faceless individuals who needed a bath, a clean set of clothes and a change of life. That is until Randy and Cynthia Stacey started to attend First United Methodist Church, Gainesville, Fl.

Randy and Cynthia both worked at the VA hospital and they were asking me to perform their wedding. Through the counseling process they shared their unique outreach ministry to the homeless there in Gainesville called The Helping Hands Clinic. Their passion to assist the homeless in just some simple ways – a clean pair of socks, a pair of shoes, a toothbrush, a bar of soap and a little medical attention, especially for their feet – and thanks to committed volunteers, lay and medical, the help could be provided. What I didn’t understand until the Stacey’s provided the guidance and insight was that the majority of the homeless living in the woods or sleeping in the alcoves of the church were veterans.

Hank Williams recorded a song called, Men With Broken Hearts. It speaks to that grime reality of the men, and now women, whose lives have been broken because of their desire to serve our country in the cause of peace through military service. Some of the homeless are on the streets by choice, but they are in the minority. The veterans are suffering deep mental, emotional and physical scars. They are men and women with broken hearts indeed.

You'll meet many just like me upon life's busy street
With shoulders stooped and heads bowed low and eyes that stare in defeat
Or souls that live within the past where sorrow plays all parts
Where a living death is all that's left for men with broken hearts
You have no right to be the judge to criticize and condemn
Just think but for the grace of God it would be you instead of him
One careless step a thoughtless deed and then the misery starts
And to those who weep death comes cheap these men with broken hearts
Oh so humble you should be when they come passing by
For it's written that the greatest men never get too big to cry
Some lose faith in love and life when sorrow shoots her darts
And with hope all gone they walk alone these men with broken hearts
You've never walked in that man's shoes or saw things through his eyes
Or stood and watched with helpless hands while the heart inside you dies
Some were paupers some were kings and some were masters of the arts
But in their shame they're all the same these men with broken hearts
Life sometimes can be so cruel that a heart will pray for death
God why must these living dead know pain with every breath
So help your brother along the road no matter where he starts
For the God that made you made them too these men with broken hearts

And so, the next time you pass a homeless man or woman just remember that there, but for the grace of God go us. Don’t turn away. Stop and ask them about their journey and, if they decide to talk with you (they will be a little suspicious as to your “angle”) you probably will hear a fascinating story … some of it will be made up, but most of it will be true. Plus, they probably would welcome an opportunity to share a little of their history, some non-judgmental human interaction and a cup of hot coffee.

The time I volunteered at the Helping Hands Clinic was very rewarding, as well as serving as the vice-president of St. Francis House also in Gainesville. Reward yourself by volunteering at an outreach ministry for the homeless. Your life will never be the same nor how you view the various homeless men and women you see on the street. All of these ministries need and appreciate your volunteer hours and your financial help.

Quote for today: At any given time today in America, there are about half a million people who are "homeless" -- they don't have a “permanent, safe, decent, affordable place to live.” Around the world there are about 100 million homeless people, and many of them are women and children. ~Robert Alan

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Keep the fork because the best is yet to come

I love dessert! I believe that it is the best part of any meal. I really do not understand individuals who pass up on desserts. Oh, I appreciate their commitments to control calorie intake, but come on … really is it really that important that you are willing to pass on some of the greatest creations that can come out of a kitchen? I’ve even said that we never know when the rapture is coming so we should eat our dessert first because it would be a crime to leave this good earth with our dessert still on the table!

Every now and again I get a little depressed. I’m not really sure why, it just happens. I’m glad that these periods in my life have been few and they don’t stay around for very long. When I do get down I simply remind myself of an old story that has made the Internet rounds many times – The Woman and a Fork. It reminds us all that the best is yet to come … be it in life or in death. God has a tremendous blessing waiting around the next bend. No matter what is happening today life is going to get better … keep the fork! There is always dessert waiting to sweeten the equation ... keep the fork because something better is coming!

Woman and a Fork ~Source Unknown

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things 'in order,' she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

'There's one more thing,' she said excitedly.

'What's that?' came the Pastor's reply.

'This is very important,' the young woman continued. 'I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.'

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.

That surprises you, doesn't it?' the young woman asked.

'Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request,' said the Pastor.

The young woman explained. 'My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!'

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder 'What's with the fork?' Then I want you to tell them: 'Keep your fork ... the best is yet to come.'

The Pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, 'What's with the fork?' And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come. Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed Cherish the time you have, and the memories you share ... Being friends with someone is not an opportunity, but a sweet responsibility.

And just remember...keep your fork!

Quote for today … also making the rounds on the Internet: When you carry the Bible, Satan gets a headache ... When you open it, he collapses ... When he sees you reading it, he faints ... When he sees that you are living what you read, he flees ... ~Source unknown

Monday, February 7, 2011

On winning and losing - reflections on the Super Bowl

Super Bowl 2011 is now history. One team won and one team lost. In one city people danced in the streets and in one city the people turned off the lights and went to bed. In one city there will be a parade and in another city life will simply have to go on. One quarterback will be heading to Disney World and one quarterback will hope for another day.

And then there were those who said, “I don’t care about the Super Bowl since my (fill in the blank) lost.” Also, like one of my neighbors, the Super Bowl, like all football games from college on up is just an excuse to gather with his friends and consume large amounts of beer.

For winners and losers life continues. There will be those who will fly the flag of their winning team, as will some of those who support the losing team. Some will complain about some questionable referee calls while others will debate continuously during the off season the strategy of the plays called, the effectiveness of the preparation, and who were the better athletes.

The one thing that did strike me this year was the genuine appreciation that both teams and coaches had for each other. There were no trash talking and in one situation caught by the cameras the opposing coach congratulated a defensive player from the other team for an excellent play.

BUT … come the fall everyone will go back to square one and start all over again … trying to become winners instead of losers. Oh, the World Champions will glory in this their moment of fame, they will receive the Super Bowl ring and wear it with pride, they will walk a little taller and a little more swagger, but the bottom line is still there … in 2012 another team will be standing in the limelight to receive the cheers of the people.

Late in life, Paul declared in 2 Thessalonians 4:7, 8), "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness ..." His reward and ours in more precious than a Super Bowl win and will out last this diamond encrusted championship ring.

We are summoned to run the race of life as those who are champions; as those who know the outcome of the race before the race is over; with a confidence of a heart filled with joy; and a knowledge that we belong to a Kingdom team that has the largest fan basis in the universe … the full company of heaven!

Quote for today: A winner makes commitments; a loser makes promises. ~Source Unknown

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Wisdom from "Three Cups of Tea" - part 2

Here is a little more of the ancient wisdom as well other insights for living from Greg Mortenson’s book, Three Cups of Tea.

“The seeming opposition between life and death is now cut through. Do not trash or lunge or flee. There is no longer a container or anything to be contained. All is resolved in dazzling measureless freedom.” ~from the Warrior Song of King Gezar

“Not hammer-strokes, but dance of the water, sings the pebbles into perfection.” ~Rabindranath Tagore

“No human, nor any living thing, survives long under the eternal sky. The most beautiful women, the most learned men, even Mohammed, who heard Allah’s own voice, all did wither and die. All is temporary. The sky outlives everything. Even suffering.” ~Bowa Johar, Balti poet, and grandfather of Mousafer Ali

“Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.” ~Mother Teresa

“As the U.S. confronts Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, Greg Mortenson, 45, is quietly waging his own campaign against Islamic fundamentalists, who often recruit members through religious schools called madrassas. Mortenson’s approach hinges on a simple idea: that by building secular schools and helping to promote education – particularly for girls – in the worlds mot volatile war zone, support fofr the Taliban and other extremist sects eventually will dry up.” ~Kevin Fedarko, Parade cover story, April 6, 2003

“Our earth is wounded. Her oceans and lakes are sick; her rivers are like running sores; The air is filled with subtle poisons. And the oily smoke of countless hellish fires blackens the sun. Men and women, scattered from homeland, family, friends, wander desolate and uncertain, scorched by a toxic sun…. In this desert of frightened, blind uncertainty, some take refuge in the pursuit of power. Some become manipulators of illusion and deceit. If wisdom and harmony still dwell in this world, as other than a dream lost in an unopened book, they are hidden in our heartbeat. And it is from our hearts that we cry out. We cry out and our voices are the single voice of this wonderful earth. Our cries are a great wind across the earth.” ~From The Warrior Song of King Gezar

“When your heart speaks, take good notes.” ~Judith Campbell

If you care to know more about the work of the non-profit organization that supports the work of Greg Mortenson who can write them at Central Asia Institute, PO Box 7209, Bozeman, MT 59771 – 406-585-7841 –

The power of one person, strengthened by a dream, under girded by hope, driven by a vision and a willingness to walk into the face of danger can change the world one person at a time.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wisdom from "Three Cups of Tea"

I’ve been reading the book, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. It tells the story of Mr. Mortenson’s mission of promoting peace by building schools in the country villages throughout Pakistan. Here is an American, non-Muslim building schools for boys and girls with the blessings of the people including the Taliban … truly a remarkable feat in and of itself. Greg’s second book, Stones into Schools, continues the story.

What I have been taken by is the insightful wisdom of the various elders quoted throughout the book. Today I share some of those quotes:

“Here we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything – even die.” ~Haji Ali, Korphy Village Chief, Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan

“Once you educate the boys, they tend to leave the villages and go search for work in the cities. But the girls stay home, become leaders in the community, and pass on what they’ve learned. If you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care, and fight high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls.” ~Greg Mortenson

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” ~Persian proverb

“Why ponder thus the future to foresee,
and jade thy brain to vain perplexity?
Cast off thy care, leave Allah’s plans to him-
He formed them all without consulting thee.” ~Omar Khayyam, The Rubaiyat

“Tell us, if there were one thing we could do for your village, what would it be?” “With all respect, Sahib, you have little to teach us in strength and toughness. And we don’t envy your restless spirits. Perhaps we are happier than you? But we would like our children to go to school. Of all the things you have, learning is the one we most desire for our children.” ~Conversation between Sir Edmund Hillary and Urkien Sherpa, from Schoolhouse in the Clouds

“Greatness is always built on this foundation: the ability to appear, speak and act, as the most common man.” ~Shams-ud-din Muhammed Hafiz

“Let sorrowful longing dwell in your heart. Never give up, never lose hope. Allah says, ‘The broken ones are my beloved.’ Crush your heart. Be broken.” ~Shaikh Abu Saeed Abil Keheir, aka Nobody, Son of Nobody

“Prayer is better than sleep.” ~from the hazzan, or call to worship

“This harsh and splendid land… With snow-covered rock mountains, cold-crystal streams,… Deep forests of cypress, juniper and ash… Is as much my body as what you see before you here…. I cannot be separated from this or from you… Our many hearts have only a single beat.” ~from The Warrior Song of King Gezar

“Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel.” ~hand-lettered sign at the entrance to the Fifth Squadron airbase, Shardu

“There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled. There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled. You feel it, don’t you?” ~Rumi

“It may seem absurd to believe that a ‘primitive’ culture in the Himalaya has anything to teach our industrialized society. But our search for a future that works keeps spiraling back to an ancient connection between ourselves and the earth, an interconnectedness that ancient cultures have never abandoned.” ~Helena Norberg-Hodge

Tomorrow I will share more quotes from the book.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In the world but not of the world

There is a phrase that is often quoted as coming from scripture: “Be ye in the world, but not of the world.” While it is a great idea, it cannot be found in scripture. Nevertheless the admonition is worthy of our attention especially as we witness the changes taking place in the Middle Eastern countries.

Growing up in Miami we were dependent on two newspapers for our news. One was delivered in the morning and the other in the afternoon. If you were fortunate enough to have 15 cents on a Saturday afternoon you got to go to the movies. Prior to the main feature they ran Movietone’s International Newsreels with an update of current events. Then came the advent of the television and the 15 minutes of news at 6 O’clock.

Today newspapers are starting to die away, the Movietone stopped in 1979 and the 15 minutes of news once a day has expanded into 24/7-mega coverage of every little event … and large events. It is the coverage of the larger events that grabs my attention … and my Christian desire to be in or engaged by the world.

I believe that we should be following closely the developing situation in Egypt and surrounding countries. These Islamic states can go in either direction – they could become democratic countries or join Iran as radical Islamic countries. We should care not because of the effect it will have on the price of oil or the negative effect it could have on the stock market. We should care because people are being hurt and killed in the process. We should care because Christ called us to love everybody … and to care for them.

As Christians IN the world it is my belief that we should be 1) knowledgeable of what is going on; 2) understand the dynamics of the consequences of the situation; 3) be in prayer for those bringing us the news, as well as the countries, their leaders and their citizens; 4) encourage others to become informed and engaged in prayer for the situation; and 5) show our support in whatever way possible for those innocent individuals who happen to be caught in the middle of the conflict.

Quote for today: Addressing a national seminar of Southern Baptist leaders, George Gallup said, "We find there is very little difference in ethical behavior between churchgoers and those who are not active religiously...The levels of lying, cheating, and stealing are remarkable similar in both groups. Eight out of ten Americans consider themselves Christians, Gallup said, yet only about half of them could identify the person who gave the Sermon on the Mount, and fewer still could recall five of the Ten Commandments. Only two in ten said they would be willing to suffer for their faith. ~Erwin Lutzer

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A life-span with meaning

The Bible speaks of a life-span as “three score and ten” (Psalm 90) or 70-years. While that is a nice idea most of us probably know some individual or family where that biblical promise didn’t become a reality. Just two weeks prior to his ninth birthday a little blonde boy who was full of life winged his way to heaven. Two of my brothers fought a gallant fight against cancer, but lost the battle in their sixties. Three students at King Senior High school one Christmas holiday all had their lives cut tragically short in three separate auto accidents.

Our papers and memory banks are filled with other stories, tales of lives filled with promise and possibilities, ending long before the biblical “three score and ten.” And, then we read about those who set records with their life-spans of 114 years or more. Who was it that said, “It is not the days in your life, but the life in your days that matter?” Or, one of my favorite quotes, “I’ve known people who died when they were 45, but hung around until they were 70 before leaving.”

None of us are immortal. There isn’t a person living today who will live on plant Earth forever. That is a reality and a reality that most of us do not wish to think about for very long. I always had to laugh during my pre-marital counseling sessions when I mentioned the need to write a will. The young couple would say something like, “Yeah, we know we should do that, but we are so young and have our entire life ahead of us.” I wondered out loud if there was a guarantee on their birth certificate which only got me some rather strange looks. Their statement was true for most of them, but unfortunately not all of them. Nor is it true for us.

It was a sobering assignment given during a seminar one year. We were to write our own obituary. Who we were survived by, who preceded us in death, how old were we when we passed away, what were our accomplishments and how would we be remembered. I cannot remember what I wrote, it was too long ago, but I do remember that is was a very formidable task that required long periods of thought and meditation. I highly recommend this assignment if you have an hour or two to put your life in perspective.

The other task given to those of us participating in this seminar was to interact with everyone we come in contact with as if they were the person who would deliver our eulogy. This does change our behavior and the dialogue somewhat that transpires between others and us. Or, as another individual admonishes his listeners to treat every encounter as if it was the last one we will have with that individual and if it is how do we desire them to remember us.

Granted that doing any of these things can be exhausting if taken too seriously, but what is important is to back away and take a long distance look at our life, how we are living it and who is being left in our wake. We only come through this life once might as well make sure that it is worth the journey.

Quote for today: A large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life, by him who interests his heart in everything. ~Laurence Sterne

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Don't take things for granted - a modern parable

We all take things for granted. Remember the old song, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings, see what God has done…” Our lives have been incredibly blessed, but the every-day-type of blessings we simply take for granted and move through our day without giving them much thought. Each and every day is a blessing. Each and every second of the day is a blessing. Each and every person that touches our lives is a blessing. Each and every experience is a blessing. Embrace the blessings and share the joy! Live in the moment and we need to stop looking over our shoulder for something bigger or better or more meaningful or more expensive because if we are expecting something better or more unusual we can miss the blessing that God has placed before us today. Live in the moment and take nothing for granted!

Here is a story that kind of illustrates this reality …

The Bible or a Diamond Ring?

A married lady was expecting a birthday gift from her husband. For any months she had admired a beautiful diamond ring in a showroom, and knowing her husband could afford it, she told him that was all she wanted. As her birthday approached, this lady awaited signs that her husband had purchased the diamond ring.

Finally, on the morning of her birthday, her husband called her into his study. Her husband told her how proud he was to have such a good wife, and told her how much he loved her. He handed her a beautifully wrapped gift box.

Curious, the wife opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the wife's name embossed in gold. Angrily, she raised her voice to her husband and said, 'With all your money you give me a Bible?'

She stormed out of the house, permanently leaving her husband. Many years passed and the lady was very successful in business. She managed to settle for a more beautiful house and a wonderful family, but realized her ex-husband was very old, and thought perhaps she should go to visit him. She had not seen him for many years.

But before she could make arrangements, she received a telegram telling her that her ex-husband had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to her. She needed to come back immediately and take care of things.

When she arrived at her ex-husband's house, sudden sadness and regret filled her heart. She began to search through her ex-husband’s important papers and saw the still new Bible, just as she had left it years before.

With tears, she opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. Her ex-husband had carefully underlined a verse, Matt 7:11, 'And if you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father, who is in heaven, give what is good to those who ask Him?'

As she read those words, a tiny package dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a diamond ring, with her name engraved on it -- the same diamond ring that she saw at the showroom.

On the tag was the date of her birth, and the words. 'LUV U ALWAYS'.

How many times do we miss God's blessings, because they are not packaged as we expected?

Do not spoil what you have, by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

We should ALL grow in the Word to improve and to better OURSELVES so that we can be used by God and be a blessing to others.

If your gift is not packaged the way you want it, it’s because it may be better packaged the way it is.

Always appreciate little things; they usually lead you to bigger and better things.

Quote for today: “The best and most beautiful things in the world sometimes cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” ~Source unknown