Friday, December 24, 2010

George Bailey...Everyone Needs a Clarence!

Dear Readers,

George Bailey in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” was ready to jump off the bridge into the frigid waters. He had reached the end and could not see any other way out. His idyllic fantasy of becoming a world traveling entrepreneur had long vanished. The honeymoon with his wife Mary Bailey now seemed like an obscure dream.

The demands of life became George’s reality. The family owned bank business was like an albatross around his neck. Mary and the kids turned from being a joy to a burden. Mr. Potter met him at every turn to thwart his success. George’s fond memories of his childhood town faded into the past and now Bedford Falls was his prison.

George felt out of options. The icy waters seemed to be his only way to find relief. He readied to jump, but a cry came out from the waters below. It was Clarence Odbody, the angel sent to save George from himself. George jumped in, saved Clarence, and the bumbling angel trying to earn his wings helped George see that “…no man is a failure who has friends.”

Do you feel like George this Christmas? I have felt like George from time to time. The demands of life start pressing in, the honeymoon feels over, and the options for relief, like the icy waters for George, seem the only way out.

Christmas is a time of expectation, but after Christmas day arrives and the fun ends, the expectation turns to the mundane task of taking down the decorations… and another year of hard work in our own Bedford Falls.

We all need a Clarence to help us to see our life with a fresh perspective, a perspective of hope and friendship, of the good things to come, of the fun of taking down the decorations and looking forward to the new things in the coming year.

I am not sure how angels really operate. I think that the movie used creative license to make the storyline more interesting. I do, however, think there is someone sent to save us from the icy waters and give us the fresh perspective we need of hope, friendship, and the possibilities of a new year. His name is Jesus!

See you next time,

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Smells, Sights, and Sounds of Christmas

Dear Readers,

Do you remember the smells of Christmas…the pine scent of the freshly cut tree, the cinnamon scent of hot cider, the hot electric odor of race cars speeding repeatedly around a track, the aroma of John Mary cookies in the oven? (I’m sorry if you never got to experience the aroma of John Mary cookies!) These smells have the uncanny knack to stay with you for the rest of your life. Even now many companies dealing with air fresheners capitalize on the déjà vu odors we remember from childhood.

What about the sights of Christmas? I was always fascinated by the lights, especially the bubble lights, ornaments, and tinsel of the tree. I sometimes would lay face-up on the floor under the tree looking upward to see my own personal twinkling light display. Also, I feel almost giddy when I remember spying a certain red plastic fire truck with a large bow on top. (I sure wish I could find that truck!) I could go on and on about frosted pictures on windows, never-lit candle figurines, a live puppy jumping out of a box, and our annual family trek to see an amazing house light display near Wooster, Ohio!

And who can ever forget the “Boofo Goes Where Santa Goes”, or Rabbits Have a Christmas” songs? (Well, maybe you never heard these specific songs at your house, but I am sure you remember songs like that!) My wife in recent years satisfied my childhood memories by purchasing the original Boofo/Rabbits record, and a remake of Boofo with additional songs that add to the Boofo storyline. 

My personal all-time favorite Christmas album, however, was, and I think still is “Now is the Caroling Season” by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. I am convinced the “Angels We Have Heard on High” song about shepherds in a field hearing angels tell of Jesus birth played an integral role years later in my acceptance of Jesus as my Savior.

I think God gave us our senses and memories to bring us closer to Him. He understands our nature and wants us to have softness in our hearts to the beauty of things around us, which has the potential of creating softness in our hearts toward Him and His Son Jesus Christ.
See you next time,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Boliantz Hardware Service vs. Megastore Service Malaise

VS Dear Readers,

Boliantz Hardware in Mansfield, OH = approximately 3000 sq. ft of floor space.
Menards Hardware, Lumber chain = approximately 140,000 sq. ft. of floor space.

Boliantz = variety of specialty items driven by local customer and community demand.
Menards = conglomeration of miscellaneous items driven by corporate office mandates.

Boliantz = family owned.
Menards = corporate owned.

Boliantz = consistent good customer service with helpful store associates at every turn.
Menards = sporadic good customer service if a store associate can be found.

You probably get my gist. I am a “mom and pop” owned business enthusiast. My family and I go to the megastores to get bargains and variety, but I miss the “good old days” of personal customer service and a sense of community like Boliantz Hardware currently offers.

I am not against entrepreneurship and big business as a whole. They provide many people with jobs. I just wish they would learn that a personal touch and a sense of community is what people crave and I think would flock to if companies implemented them effectively.

My wife affectionately tells the story of her dad Ray who owned Ray’s Sohio, a combination gasoline station and auto repair garage franchised from Sohio. She said Ray offered a friendly greeting, good customer service, and a smile to every customer. She said he especially loved the car repair side of the business. Sohio, however, began phasing out car repair in all their gas stations. My wife said that Ray hated that.

The final straw, however, came when Sohio mandated Ray to switch exclusively to self-serve gasoline pumping. They wanted to put in a cashier window and have Ray just sit at the window and collect the money for the gasoline. She said that he thought it a travesty to allow a woman to get out in the cold weather to pump her own gasoline. It was almost in Ray’s blood to offer direct help to his customers. Ray soon sold out his share of the business and went to work at Westinghouse.

I can understand why Ray felt he had to quit, even with the urging of his family to continue in what many might consider an easier way to earn a living. Sohio took away the personal touch for the sake of progress. While it might have helped their immediate bottom line, I wonder if it really helped them in the long run, and whether becoming impersonal helps the bottom line today with many companies.

I think that many persons enjoy watching television shows like American Pickers to gain a sense of a time when business was conducted face to face and good personal customer service was a high priority. The show is produced by the History Channel and is about two men who scour the countryside to find a treasured antique like a rusty old tin Sohio sign.

I think shows like American Pickers reminds people of days gone by. Days where many stores like Boliantz Hardware and gasoline stations like Ray’s Sohio thrived because of a good personal customer service and a sense of community.

I also see some parallels of the above dilemma to today’s church, but addressing that will have to wait for another time.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” Colossians 3:23.

See you next time,

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mr. Robert Prigmore, A True American Hero

Dear Readers,

Tonight my wife and I went to a local funeral home to visit some family friends who lost a loved one. The lost loved one was not just any man. He was a true American hero.

We got to know Mr. Robert Prigmore, his wife Anna, his daughter and son-in law, grandchildren and their families through a church small group. Mr. Prigmore did not accompany his wife to the group at the outset, but came later, and I am so thankful he did.

Mr. Prigmore was by all accounts “a character”. He was outspoken about his beliefs and had many stories to tell from a long full life. I especially enjoyed listening to stories about his many years as the head of the records department at the Mansfield Reformatory. 

Mr. Prigmore was a devoted family man. Every Tuesday evening of the year it was dinner at the Prigmores. He took pride in being the chef to feed a household of descendants.

I was especially interested in the fact that the obituary said that Mr. Prigmore was to be buried with full military honors, and that he won the Purple Heart for being wounded serving in the Army during World War II. Anna said that he also won the Bronze Star for bravery in carrying a wounded soldier to safety.

My feet were hurting, so I asked Mr. Prigmore’s grandson Jeremy if I could take a seat beside him. He told me a story that almost brought tears to my eyes. He proudly spoke of his grandfather’s exploits in the Battle of the Bulge, where 19,000 soldiers died. Mr. Prigmore was severely wounded and lay in the battlefield for three days surrounded by dead comrades. At night German soldiers scoured the area for wounded allied soldiers. Their goal was to bayonet living ones to death.

Jeremy said that his grandfather camouflaged himself from the Germans by pulling over himself anything he could reach nearby, even dead bodies. He identified Germans in the area by their speech. He passed out several times and finally woke up one time to hear men using English. The allied forces finally invaded the area to rescue survivors.

Mr. Prigmore survived some major innovative surgeries of the day. Jeremy and his wife commented that if Mr. Prigmore had not lived they would not even exist. I am very thankful for his survival, and I'm proud to have known Mr. Prigmore…and his family.

“Join with me in suffering , like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
II Timothy 2:3 (NIV)

See you next time,

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Audience of One

Dear Readers,

Recently I was disappointed when things did not turn out as I had hoped, and I felt like people let me down. I then heard a song by Sara Groves entitled “This Journey Is My Own”. The phrase in the song that captured my attention was repeated several times in one of the stanzas. It is the following:

And now I live and I breathe for an audience of one.
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one.
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one.
Because I know this journey is my own.

The song addresses man’s attempt to gain “advice” and “approval” from others, and “to make a good impression”. Sara Groves points out, however, that there is “an audience of one” whose advice and approval is to be sought in this journey of life. He is the One for whom our quest should be to make a good impression.

How often I forget this. How often I feel hurt when other persons have not responded as I had hoped. How often I forget to seek the One whose advice and approval is steady and sure.

Other people are very important in our lives! Jesus emphasized this in John 13:34-35 (NIV) when he said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Also, Paul addressed extensively the importance of loving others in I Corinthians 13. Approval from others, on the other hand, should be looked on as a gift, not a given.

Therefore, I pray for myself, my family and friends, and persons reading this blog to seek advice and approval from, and to make a good impression for “an audience of one”.

See you next time,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ignorant, Narrow-Minded, Intolerant, Racist, Right Wing Nut Jobs?

Dear Readers,

When was the last time you watched a movie, newscast, or television show where an evangelical Christian was portrayed as an interesting, fun-loving, learned, open-minded, and caring person? Can you count the times with your fingers on one hand?

My wife pointed this out to me. She said that in both old and new movies Catholicism is given some reverence. There are touching musical scores with nuns in “The Sound of Music”, magical Christmas scenes on “Home Alone” where Kevin finds refuge in a beautiful Catholic cathedral, and confessionals where a main character seeks solace from a priest. And on television, which baby boomers can ever forget the fun antics of The Flying Nun?

Evangelical Christians, on the other hand, are usually reenacted as being mean-spirited, narrow-minded, and intolerant. Robert’s parents-in-law on “Everybody Loves Raymond” are a prime example of that stereotype.

News anchors poke fun at “right wing, racist, nut job” Christians in the Tea Party. Their gun-loving ways are seen as threats to society.

What do you think? Do we have some of the above-listed characteristics? Or are these characteristics grossly exaggerated?

Isaiah 28 debunks the myth that God’s followers are always stuck-in-the-mud, unlearned, uncaring people. He wrote that persons who follow Him are instructed in the “right way” (vs. 26). He then goes on to explain the following: “All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom” (vs. 29).

So if God is wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom, and He instructs us in this counsel and wisdom, that makes us the privy to the most creative, interesting thoughts in the universe. We cannot help but marvel at all He has given us, and especially the wonderful plan He has for us serving His Son Jesus.

See you next time,

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Difficult Realities!

Dear Readers,

This morning during my devotions a difficult reality hit me. Sometimes it is difficult for me to conceptualize God. Perhaps many of you reading this blog have a very firm idea of what God is like, and exactly who He is. Maybe questions never creep in your mind. (Note: I will not use the term “doubts” in the place of “questions”, because James 1:6 says directly that “he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind”.)

God sometimes seems an enigma to me. What form does he have here on earth? What form will He have when I see Him in heaven? I can sort of picture Jesus, because He had the form of a man. But God is a different story. How does one envision God who created the universe and every cell and atom in it, and is not bound by time and space?

Then another difficult reality hit me. It is a reality of a dire nature. It has implications for our loved ones and friends. The reality is this: why do people not read and understand the Bible and the story of Jesus, and what God wants to do for them through Jesus? If everyone would just read the Bible and try to understand it surely they would see the truth, right? What is the holdup? What is the barrier that holds them back?

Please pray for me as I pray for you as we sort out these difficult realities...and especially pray for our loved ones and friends who perhaps do not even think of these realities.

See you next time,  

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wonderfully Made!

Dear Readers,

I am 56 years old and the other morning I had a feeling that I never had before…while drinking coffee! I usually have my devotions in the morning with a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee before going to work. Everything seemed normal, but as I was taking a gulp of hot coffee a keen awareness came over me.

All of a sudden I thought how odd it seemed to pour liquid through my mouth and the gravity pulling it into the cavities below. Then I thought about it spreading out into my body and tissues, and then the unused liquid exiting in various ways. I won’t, however, get into that.

At that moment I fully recognized the amazing creation that is a person! How intricate a design! I was truly made aware of how "wonderfully" we are made by God! (Psalm 139:14)

See you next time,

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Hope of Being Blind

Dear Readers,

Blindness took on a new meaning for me and my family in 2001 when my brother was shot by an intruder in his workplace, was hospitalized for many months, and was 100% blind when he finally came to consciousness.

I remember one time when my family was visiting Columbus we took my brother home to the condo where he lives with my sister. She was visiting out of state so was not there to greet us.

I guided my brother up the sidewalk and inside. I was immediately struck by the darkness of the condo. In my ignorance I naturally offered to turn on the lights. My brother simply laughed and said, “Arlen, I don’t need lights.”

I immediately recalled the oppressive nature of darkness in a cave in Missouri when they turned out the lights. I should not admit it as a macho man, but I was very full of fear for those few moments.

Did my brother feel the same fear when he awoke to total darkness for the first time? Does he still feel fear from time to time?

Recently while reading Isaiah I was struck by his many references to blindness. I thought he would talk about the hopelessness of being blind. In several cases he did talk negatively about the blindness of religious leaders. But mostly he talked about the hope of being blind.

Isaiah wrote the following:
“I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight.” Isaiah 42:16 (NKJV)

“In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.” Isaiah 29:18 (NKJV)

Verses like these give me great hope every time I read them. They give great hope for my brother, whom to my knowledge has not yet accepted Christ as his Savior. Maybe out of his physical blindness he will look to the One who gives true sight.

Isaiah also gives great hope to those of us who had spiritual blindness and our spiritual eyes were healed. I pray for readers of this blog that desire healing from being blind. 

See you next time,

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Are Men Wearing Veils?

Dear Readers,

Growing up in a Mennonite family and having Amish grandparents I am very familiar with head coverings, or in many religious circles called a “veil”. My Amish grandmother wore a head covering/veil almost every day of her life. My mother and her mother wore head coverings/veils at all church events.

Recently in conservative Protestantism many movements are revisiting the use of veils for women as a means of showing submission to their husbands and leaders in the church. The proponents of veil usage revere the Amish and Mennonite culture for never caving into peer pressure to abandon its usage.

Many persons debate whether the veil is relevant in today’s society. Each camp uses scripture to make their points. The debate becomes heated at times.

This post is not meant to debate the merits, or demerits, of women wearing veils. I think there is a much more important debate to take up. The debate is the following: Are men wearing veils?

I think sometimes we become so busy debating external appearance, that we forget the internal appearance of a man, or if you will, “mankind”. Several questions are of vital importance if we believe the Bible to be true. They are literally a matter of bondage or freedom, life or death.

The first question is: Does mankind wear a veil?

The second question: Where is the veil?

Thirdly: Is the veil desired?

Lastly: What happens if the veil is removed?

The answers to the above questions are revealed in II Corinthians 3:14-17:

“But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (NKJV)

Below are the answers to those life and death questions listed above:

Does mankind wear a veil? “But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains…”

Where is the veil? “…a veil covers their hearts.” 

Is the veil desired? “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." and "It has been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away."

What happens if the veil is removed? “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

I pray that the veil is removed from many of my family members, friends, and the readers of this blog that they may find true freedom in Christ.

See you next time,

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Religiously Preoccupied

Dear Readers,

I experienced several persons with mental illness in my many years of mental health work state with fairly certain conviction, “I am God”. They then went on to talk about having divine power over events and other persons.

It did no good to try to dissuade them of their belief. They usually looked at me intently, perhaps trying to read my response, and most times they smiled wryly knowing that I did not believe them.

Also, there were some clients that began reading their Bible incessantly. They would carry their Bible wherever they went to show their devotion.

In the mental health community there is a common conception when a person makes assertions about their own Godhood, or reads the Bible and talks about the Bible frequently that he or she is becoming “religiously preoccupied”. This religious preoccupation is usually a warning sign that the person with Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder is becoming psychotic.

What is it about a person, any person, who begins to have thoughts about God and the Bible? Is it a bad thing? Are they religiously preoccupied? Or is it their way of trying to fill a missing part of their lives?

I sometimes tell the young men in the Saturday morning Bible study at my house that the Bible is packed with good things in every corner of it, and they cannot go wrong by reading it repeatedly. I tell them not to worry about other people’s perception that scripture might be taken out of context if they do not always read it systematically.

Also, I love the persons with whom I work. They are very interesting. I never became upset when someone told me their thoughts about knowing they were God. I also never worried excessively when one of them began reading their Bible frequently. In fact, I actually want to be more like them in being "religiously preoccupied".

“Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)

See you next time,  

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Real Terminator

“I know that you do not understand it now, but I have been sent to protect you! It is vital that you listen to every word I say or else he will destroy you."

“I don’t understand what you are saying. How do I know that I can trust you? Everything you are telling me seems like a far-fetched sci-fi movie.”

“You have to believe me! He has been programmed to seek you out with all resources at his disposal. He knows that if he lets you live his future is in jeopardy.”

“I’m just a regular person. I have no power. Why would anyone be assigned to destroy such an insignificant person as me?”

“But you are not insignificant! That is the point. He would like you to feel insignificant to render you ineffective. But he understands that you have the potential to set into motion a series of events to the point where many people follow you.”

“People follow me? You have the wrong person. I am beginning to question your sanity!”

“I know it is difficult to understand now, but in time you will. He feels very powerful now and almost indestructible, but he is paranoid. He understands there is power in numbers, and that the more people that follow you in the resistance the better chance there is of thwarting his efforts. That is why he is so persistent.”

“You are beginning to frighten me! How will I recognize this powerful person you are talking about?”

“It will be very difficult because he blends himself into society and cannot be readily distinguished from a regular human being. But I will help you. I have experience with these things. Just listen to me. It is my job to make sure that he doesn’t ‘terminate’ you.”

Dear Readers,

You might surmise from reading the above story what movie I watched last night. I had heard much about “Terminator” and many people in the 80’s were saying with their best Arnold imitation, “I’ll be back”.

I’m not an advocate of violent movies, but being a fairly average guy who is drawn toward things like sports and action I was drawn into this action movie. Hopefully you will forgive me for my indulgence.

When I saw the dogged persistence of the Terminator, a cyborg designed by Skynet to fulfill the mission to destroy Sarah Conner because of her future role in the “resistance” movement against Skynet, I drew the comparison to a much more diabolical enemy than the Terminator can ever be.

You probably already know where I am going with this. The protector in the story above is Jesus, or any of us that He sends to another person to warn them of the evil scheme laid for that person.

The main character is you and me. We may feel insignificant, but there is a person that sees each of us as a potential threat if others begin to follow us and our love for Jesus.

The diabolical character, of course, is Satan.

But do not be afraid. Jesus has been sent to protect you... from the real terminator!

“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” John 10:28-29 (NKJV)

“…snatch others from the fire and save them;… Jude 1:23 (NIV)

See you next time,

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cedar Point Joy

Dear Readers,

Over the Labor Day weekend my family went to Cedar Point. We enjoyed the many rides, experiences, and family time. We also walked, and we walked, and walked, and walked, and walked. But no matter the distance, and pain, we walked together. Also, the servers at the Johnny Rocket restaurant broke out in dance to “Celebration”. Dee and Joseph almost had to hold me back from joining.

Taking after my mom in being a people watcher (she used to go the grocery store and sit in the car just to “watch the people”) I watched the myriads of people that lined the walkways. I watched them curiously wondering what their home life, work life, and life in general was like for them. Seems strange doesn’t it?

I was fascinated by body builder types that could break me like a pretzel if they had a mind to do so. They walked around, mostly in groups, almost daring anyone to cross them, this perhaps a figment of my wild imagination. I even developed plans of action what I would do if any of them got angry with me when I accidentally bumped into one of them. (I decided I would profusely apologize!)

Handsome men strutted around proudly with their model-like girlfriends. Harley riders advertised their passion with expensive Harley clothing. Innumerable guys wore t-shirts with various skull figures emblazoned on them. (What’s up with all the skulls?) Even these skull promoters were smiling and seemed to be having a joyful, good time.

“Leave it To Beaver” type families were in abundance. Little children laughed with their parents as they tried to jolt each other into oblivion on the bumper car ride. For a moment at least, all was right with the world.

I found myself hoping and praying that all these people, like my wife, son, and I, when they go back to their homes and lives, find the real JOY of life.

See you next time,

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Waiting for the Bus

Dear Readers,

The other morning I was enjoying the drive on the Old Lincoln Highway toward the home of a client near Mifflin, Ohio. I love that drive past Charles Mill Lake, the Appleseed Amphitheatre, the Copus Monument, and through a “tunnel of trees”, as my wife and son often quote when we drive under a forest canopy.

But this day the beautiful scenery took second place to another image. School was back in session and children lined the roadway awaiting their bus coming around the corner. Most children waited with friends. But some smaller ones, perhaps attending school for the first time, waited with parents.

One young girl, perhaps upset that her summer routine was abruptly interrupted, had the companionship of her father. He was crouched down with his arm around her. Obviously I could not hear the conversation from my car, and can only surmise what he was saying. But the father’s posture showed that he cared about what his daughter was saying, or feeling.

At that moment I felt a longing in my heart for someone to crouch down, put his arm around me, and offer comfort as I await my bus (the future) coming around the corner to take me to unknown places. I want someone to offer encouragement and reassure me that everything will be alright.

II Corinthians 1:3-4 tells of someone that was sent to crouch down beside us, put his arm around us, and give us comfort and encouragement.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (NIV)

See you next time,

Monday, August 30, 2010

Genealogy 101

Dear Readers,

Do you have someone in your family that loves genealogy? I was at my Uncle Levi’s funeral last fall and my cousin Verna's eyes lit up as she began talking about family connections that I, a novice in genealogy, had very much difficulty following. Her sisters at the dinner table just rolled their eyes and laughed lovingly at her as she showed her genealogical acumen.

The Gospels also show a love of genealogy. Matthew, Chapter 1 traces the birth of Jesus forward from Abraham to David, then from David to the Babylonian captivity, then to “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.” Verse 16

Luke, the doctor, on the other hand tracks Jesus’ genealogy backward. The family tree he pictures goes back through David, to Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham. Then it reverses on to Methuselah, the oldest man who ever lived, through Seth, Adam, and finally God.

The Old Testament also has numerous genealogical listings that that a person like me tends to skim. I wonder sometimes at the rationale of the writers to include such mundane tidbits.

Then I think of Verna, who treasures such listings. She would never think of the history of a family as mundane. To her a genealogical listing tells a very important story of how one person, or a group of persons become who they are.

Finally, an all important genealogical fact exists. It is found in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. It is a simple genealogical tracing that is the root of a Christian’s family tree that mirrors Jesus lineage to the ultimate end.

"Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come--all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." (NKJV)

See you next time,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I May Be Old, But I'm Not Dead Yet

Dear Readers,

Several years ago I told my wife that I cannot wait until I reach retirement age in about ten years so that I can begin a regular routine of “having coffee with the boys”.

In the town of Ashland where I work the hangout place for retired men is the Hawkins grocery store bakery/coffee bar. In Hayesville they meet at the Olde 30 Restaurant. Close to my home the elder statesmen congregate at the local McDonalds.

In my busy work life I sometimes envy these gentlemen. They seem to have no deadlines or appointments to keep. They just gather to talk politics, the local economy with business successes and failures, stories of the past, and perhaps even tidbits of gossip.

In recent months I have been rethinking this position about the nature of my retirement activities. I still might want to have friends that I meet on a regular basis to share fellowship over a cup of coffee. But I want even these meetings to have some purpose.

Perhaps I can meet to inspire a colleague. Or mentor a young “up and comer”. Or comfort someone with the recent pain of losing a loved one.

I recently happened on a Bible passage in Psalm 92:12-15 that confirms my changed position:

12 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like cedar in Lebanon.
13 Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing,
15 To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

See you next time,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Aspergers's Syndrome - Leveling the Playing Field

Dear Readers,

How many of you cringed in school when teams were picked to play softball?  Although the game was played on a smooth, level ball field, the act of choosing sides seemed very rough and not level.

God answered my prayers in 1996 when after living a long life of singleness I met and married my wife. Her son was four years old. Her late husband and her son’s father died from cancer the previous year when their son was three years old.

Being a person almost obsessed with sports, I eagerly anticipated spending life with my new son watching and attending sporting events. But it didn't take very long for me to learn that our son did not share my love of sports.

There were some signs of differences our son had to other children. He was observed frequently holding his ears and rushing madly to the living room picture window to see every airplane en route over our home toward the local airport. He jumped up and shook his hands excitedly when encountering movements on a computer game and he had to be reminded repeatedly to greet and say goodbye to people.

We learned our son had Asperger’s Syndrome an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.

Some persons scrutinized our parenting skills and questioned why our son was different and not normal like other children. We got lectures about "socialization" and questions about our son's future.

I'm very glad our son lives in his own non-judgmental world so he doesn't have to be subject to questions and criticisms. I'm glad we are protective of him because I'm not sure what purpose it would serve to subject him to the meanness of some in the name of becoming "tough" and getting a "thick skin".

I still don't understand everything about Asperger's and how to be a good father to our son. But I want his father to greet me in heaven someday and thank me for trying to level the playing field for our son.

“The path of the righteous is level; O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth." Isaiah 26:7 (NIV).

See you next time,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Smoldering Wick

Dear Readers,

Sometimes I feel very dry and purposeless. I feel a lack of effectiveness in my home life, my work life, my church life, and my Christian life.

I see other people and they seem to be “on their way” to somewhere. It seems like they have the answers to the questions in their lives. But I just sit here, stuck in my rut.

Does anyone else feel this same way? Or am I in this boat alone? Also, is this boat we are paddling going to sink?

When I begin to feel this way a Bible passage often comes to mind that gives me both comfort and hope. It is a fairly obscure passage not often preached or talked about. It is a prophecy prophesied in Isaiah 42:1-4 and fulfilled in Matthew 12:18-21. The Matthew passage (NIV) is as follows:

18 Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope.

The verse about the smoldering wick (v. 20) especially has helped me in times of discouragement. It tells me that Jesus understands me and my dry times. And He is extremely willing, able, and ready to fan the smoldering wick back into a flame.

See you next time,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Not Tame, But Good

Dear Readers,

At a family reunion this weekend my oldest nephew was polishing his sword that he uses in Medieval Faires. My youngest nephew graduated from ranger school with the goal of becoming a forest ranger in a national park. My son crafts computer graphics images and spends hours developing them, and has the goal of becoming a computer graphics designer.

Each one is so different, but also so alike in their quest of adventure and meaning. I sometimes would like to get into each of their heads to gain some perspective what drives them toward adventure.

Where does the passion for adventure come from? Why do guys like to watch and read adventure stories? Does it come from within a person, or is learned?

The Bible does not use the word “adventure” much, but is there adventure within its pages? A saying that keeps coming to my mind is one from C.S Lewis’s “Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” book and movie. It goes as follows:

Mr Tumnus: "Don't worry. We'll see him again."

Lucy: "When?"

Mr Tumnus: "In time. One day he'll be here and the next he won't. But you must not press him. After all, he's not a tame lion."

Lucy: "No... but he is good."

They are speaking of Aslan the Lion which writer Lewis allegorically equates to Jesus. Mr. Tumnus says to Lucy that Aslan is “not a tame lion”. Then Lucy says, “No… but he is good.”

Is Jesus tame? I would propose to you that he is not. The Bible is an adventure story full of plots, twists, and intrigue. Jesus is the main character to which every story line in the Bible leads us. Jesus is the “good” hero of the story, as Aslan, that came in and saved the day, made the wrongs right, and that leads to a celebration of victory.

So sharpen your swords. Get ready to take the land. Design the tools to seize the day. The adventure is at hand!

See you next time,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pacing for Our Loved Ones

Felix the Cat Pacing
Dear Readers,

I have always had trouble understanding persons when they state that a loved one “will never change”, or “they will never give their heart to the Lord”. I guess I have always been an eternal optimist. Just ask my wife about my opinion of the Cleveland Indians. They ought to call them the Cleveland Rebuilders because it seems they are always in rebuilding mode. But I love the new young talent and dream of a time they will finally get to the promised land of a World Series and win the championship.

I am the same way with my loved ones when it comes to salvation. Some of them have not given their hearts to the Lord, but I am anxiously anticipating that day when they do. I cannot let it rest. The consequences are too serious. I know that my heart will almost leap out of my chest when it finally happens.
I am a pacer, so when I am excited about something I pace. I pace when I finish a project that I am proud of. I pace back and forth and look at it over and over again to admire my accomplishment. Some persons might call it pride, but somehow I think that God is smiling because he knows my habits better than I know them myself.

I can really identify with Mordecai in the book of Esther. Mordecai was Esther’s cousin, but he raised her because her parents died somewhere during the exile to Babylon. King Xerxes had banished Vashti the queen when she had not come at his beckoning. So Esther was one of the potential queens taken into the palace to replace Vashti.

Mordecai was so concerned about his loved one that in Esther 2:11 that it stated the following: “And every day Mordecai paced in front of the court of the women’s quarters, to learn of Esther’s welfare and what was happening to her.”

Perhaps pacing for our loved ones and praying for them and learning of their welfare will be the key in changing their lives like Mordecai praying for and learning of the welfare of Esther that changed her life and the lives of all the Jews in Babylon.

See you next time,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Meeting of the Minds

Dear Readers,

Musicians gather to jam. Harley riders talk Harleys, ride, and work on their bikes. Truck drivers like my Dad share truck stories, Quilters laugh and talk as they stitch. Fishermen and coon hunters sometimes join clubs to find out secrets to catching or getting the “big one”. College and seminary students banter back and forth with intellectual debates. The list of gatherings of like-minded people goes on and on.

What is the magnet that pulls people together? Do you long, as I do, to gather with persons that share our same interests?

Paul in the last couple years of his life had an open door policy in his rented home in Rome. (Acts 28:30, 31). The persons entering that door were in for a treat. In that home resided a man who had seen Jesus face to face on the road to Damascus. He had traveled the seas, entered many ports, and suffered much persecution.

I think Paul with his intellectual ability would be able to persuade most persons with atheistic tendencies to see the logic of his argument. His story-telling ability I think would allow people to almost visualize his encounter with Jesus.

I believe Paul’s home was a meeting of like minds that many of us long for.

See you next time,

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Do Angels Stand By You Today?

Dear Readers,

Do angels stand by you today? Also, do we as Christians really have “guardian angels” assigned to protect us?

I remember when Frank Peretti wrote his two books “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness” I was enthralled by the spiritual realm he portrayed. He characterized human existence as a battle “of the air” on this earth. (Ephesians 2:2) Was he “shooting in the dark” (forgive the pun)? Were his characters of angels, demons, and Satan allegorical? Or were his books closer to reality than we care to admit, and have we as humans become immune to the spiritual realm?

In Acts 27:23-24 Paul on the verge of shipwreck made the following pronouncement: “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ ”

Paul gives just one example of angel intervention with humans. You are all familiar with the many passages in the Old and New Testaments where angels came on the scene to wrestle with men, perform miraculous acts, inform of pending doom, to help rejoice in heaven when one person becomes saved, and best of all, to tell the wonderful news of Jesus’ birth.

To Paul and his shipwrecked companions God sent an angel who “stood beside” them to protect those humans assigned to his charge.

The evidence is clear. As a Christian you have an angel, or perhaps many angels, to protect you.

See you next time,

Friday, July 30, 2010

Can You Feel the Hand of God On You?

Dear Readers,

Can you feel the hand of God on you? What does the hand of God feel like? Is the hand of God heavy on you? Does it bring peace, fear, or awe? When you feel it do you feel so antsy that you absolutely have to take action to do something? Do others see the hand of God on you and do they immediately want to help you, or perhaps to thwart you?

Nehemiah in Chapter 1 recorded several times that he felt the hand of God on himself. Following are the events leading up to him feeling it:

Nehemiah was an exiled Israelite cupbearer to the king of Persia. When he heard of the plight and distress of his people in Jerusalem his heart was very heavy.
Nehemiah wept and prayed day and night for his people and Jerusalem.

Artaxerxes, the king of Persia saw Nehemiah’s sadness and asked him what was wrong. Nehemiah said that he was sad for his people and for the broken down walls of Jerusalem which gave easy access to enemies. He wanted to return to Jerusalem to help his people. Artaxerxes granted his request and made him governor of his homeland.

Nehemiah recorded the following (verse 8): “And the king granted them (materials to rebuild the wall) to me according to the good hand of my God upon me”

When Nehemiah went by donkey around the city walls and returned he told the Jerusalem officials the following (verse 18): "And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good to me, and also the king’s words that he had spoken to me.” 

Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and others tried to thwart the hand of God working in Nehemiah to rebuild the wall and help the Israelites, but the hand of God was too strong and the wall was built to protect Jerusalem from it’s enemies, and the people celebrated.

Several things we can surmise from the story of Nehemiah:

1. When we are broken and pray to God He hears us.
2. He wants to put His hand on each of us.
3. God’s hand on us is good.
4. God wants to use His hand on us to inspire us to do great things for Him.

See you next time,

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rebuke: Biblical Principle, But Should Be Used Sparingly

Dear Readers,

Thanks for coming back to this blog. Again, I am trying to send a positive Christian message to counterbalance the not-so positive Christian messages we hear so often.

Rebuke is a Biblical principle (see Proverbs 15:31) but I believe it should be used sparingly and very specifically as it can be very discouraging to new believers, and more experienced ones for that matter. I also think a rebuke should not be broadcast to a general audience unless the problem exists with the majority of the general audience. Even then I think the messenger should qualify specifically to whom the message is intended.

Also, if the messenger is rebuking himself as well, and is saying that he has a problem with the same thing, all the better. That way he/she will not appear superior over the hearers and their defenses may come down. .

I am posting this as a qualifier to what I will post in the future. I feel very strongly about the principle mentioned above. I believe God is very good and He wants our best, and I feel that by His Holy Spirit He wants to be more encouraging than rebuking.

See you next time,