Friday, November 30, 2007

So Foggy You Can't See Ten Feet In Front Of You, But It's Still A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood!

Amazing! I haven't seen fog like today in many years. No brilliant stars and moon lighting the way today. And, I did have a couple of near misses getting to my workplace this morning. Seems that many folks are not able even to stay in their lanes when it is socked in like it is today. But I am very thankful to have arrived here safely and have prayed for my boys, their families, and so many others who are yet to get out on the roads.

One of the craziest fog stories happened to me a number of years ago. I was shuttling up to Chicago every other week for an eighteen month project and one day I woke up to fog just like it is today. I took one of the toll roads to gain access to the airport that morning and couldn't believe what was going on. Once I got into the traffic I found that while no one could see, everyone was driving between 65 and 70 miles per hour. Once you were in a lane surrounded you had no choice but to blindly drive realizing that at any moment a calamity could occur. I was never so happy to see my exit come up!

This was bad but not as bad as my Pennsylvania Turnpike experience. It was in the late 1970's and I had flown into Philadelphia, rented a car to drive out to a conference being hosted in King of Prussia which is near Valley Forge. The only car they had was a Chevy Camaro. I finally made my way out of town and onto the turnpike. This was the age whenever the big deal was CB radios, especially used by truckers. I was quietly minding my own business whenever an 18 wheeler abruptly pulled around me at a high rate of speed and then immediately pulled back in front of me. Suddenly, I noticed another 18 wheeler was on top of my bumper. I was essentially locked in and the two truckers had seen me with my suit and tie on and I guess they had decided to have some fun. They were most likely jawing forth and back and having a ball at my expense. We approached speeds of 100 miles per hour and I was locked between these two trucks with no visibility at all. I surely felt like I was trapped in a Twilight Zone rerun. After what seemed like an eternity to me which most likely was not more than ten minutes they must have tired of playing cat and mouse and they moved over and went on their way after sounding their horns as a final goodbye. I was pretty shaken up and very happy to see the King of Prussia exit sign.

When you think about it life is made up of a string of near misses and we can find ourselves being defined by the circumstances we are in. It reminds me of the story of Elijah in the Bible. God used him to work a great miracle in calling down fire from heaven to destroy a bunch of pagan prophets. Yet, within hours Elijah was on the run and desperate because Queen Jezebel had pledged to see him dead. He finally found a cave to hide in and was in a total depressed funk. Talk about going from a mountain top experience (literally) to a deep dark valley within hours, this is where Elijah found himself. I've been there, done that, and perhaps you have also. The wonderful thing about this biblical account is that while Elijah fell apart God was still with him. Elijah allowed his circumstances and his own feelings to define his identity and God had to reveal to him that He had never left him throughout his ordeal. Read about it for yourself in 1st Kings, chapter 18 and 19.

Yesterday morning it was so lovely it took my breath away. Today it was downright scary because you just couldn't see up ahead and I was concerned about other folks and where I drive the deer and the coyote do in fact, still roam. However, the fog doesn't make today a lesser day because God is still on His throne and I still belong to Him and He is going to be with me and that's why this is still a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Amen. .....more later.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's A Beautiful Day In The Neigborhood!

We have all heard the admonition that we should stop and smell the roses. It's one we should all pay heed to given the uncertainties of life. As I unlocked the main gate at our facility this morning at 5 a.m., the sky was bursting with brilliance from the light of the moon and stars. What a wonderful way to start the day by looking up and seeing the handiwork of our Great God! It reminds me of that song written by David found in Psalm 19 where he says the heavens declare the glory of God. He goes on in this great song to speak about various elements within God's created universe that essentially proclaim God's existence. I love the part where David said this: "There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard." In other words God is speaking through His creation all over the world and no one can misunderstand the message. Question is, have we stopped to listen and respond?

I know I got off to a bad start yesterday with the computer issues I encountered early, however, putting it in context, it really is not that big of deal. Yesterday my wife had a little mishap with the garage door and it scraped her car a little. She was very upset about it. I told her when it's all said and done it's nothing more than a chunk of metal and it can be buffed out and made to look good again. I also told her that in the grand scheme of things I doubted seriously she would hear about this issue when she stands at the judgment seat of Christ. I told her that is unless she lost her testimony in her thoughts and words. She laughed and said she didn't, (so I will take her word for it), and it's good to realize that stuff here in this life is just that, it's stuff.

My youngest son and his wife are working through one of those spiritually based financial programs that seeks to help you operate your life without being controlled by the abundance of things you want or have. Most of us typically have stuff all around us that really has little use or purpose in our lives. I heard a local pastor talking about how shameful it is for many of us to have multiple rented storage facilities filled up with our unused stuff. He went on to say this surely is not what God intended when He blessed us with financial means and resources.

These are tough lessons and many of us are still trying to learn them. I applaud my children's efforts to learn this now as they seek to revalue all the things in their life. There's some that are so very temporary, yet we often spend so much of our time on them, while neglecting the most precious of all, things that will last forever, like the souls of our children, our testimony, and our work and labor on behalf of our Savior. When we begin to see our purpose through the lens of truth, it is then, with His help, we can change our vision, our perspective, and our understanding. When we do, then we look around and stop to smell the roses, and to thank and give praise to God because it is a beautiful day in the neighborhood! Amen. .....more later.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Mother Said There Would Be Days Like This!

Some days can be quite a challenge in the information technology age. For some reason this morning Microsoft Word has chosen to be very flaky as I have been putting together my blog entries. Okay, I will confess that if I could get my hands on Bill Gates at this moment his biggest worry would not be how many more billions he could accumulate. Let me also give a dishonorable mention to HP for their automatic updating that typically takes over your PC and more often than not it is when this utility is running supposedly in background mode that you will encounter problems. Oh yeah, I should be thankful that Word did try to recover but back to a point that became an insult to have to rethink all the stuff that was lost.

Maybe that particular blog was not intended to see the light of day. Or, maybe my days of doing battle with Microsoft are coming back to haunt me. I used to tell people that most of what they promised me when I was running a large computer environment was made up of two elements, brochure-ware and vapor-ware, mostly slick sheets and grandiose predictions. That doesn’t mean I didn’t use their products but I made it my passion to do my best to make them perform which I will tell anyone is not for the faint hearted. If you decide to do this you had better come early and prepare to stay late!

I had a great blog going on the big issues in life and how God allows you to somehow stumble your way into learning the lessons He wants you to learn. Maybe I’ll come back to it or maybe not. Not having it available today was not due to any lacking of effort or commitment on my part, therefore, I’ll end this for now, go get another cup of coffee, and see if the computer gremlins really want to take me on today! May God bless us all as we see Him as the reason for our being. Amen. …..More later.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No Peace Without the Prince of Peace!

A little personal commentary on current events to get your day started:

The Bible does give a special recognition to those who are peace makers. However, as we look at the huge conference that will be taking place today in Annapolis, Maryland, we can’t help but be reminded of the Scriptures that speak directly to the issues involved in this conflict. It does not take a Bible scholar to browse the historical context of Israel’s restoration as a nation in 1948 and how this conflict has existed from Old Testament times. Yes, you have to go all the way back to Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac to see where all this began.

However, some even within the evangelical world have an idea that God no longer is interested in what happens to the Jewish people and Jerusalem since He is now focused on believers and the Church established by our Savior. I’ve read the same passages they use and it is beyond me how anyone could come up with this as being the truth about God’s plan and purpose going forward.

I applaud those who try to bring peace to these war torn people but I also realize that according to thus says the word of the Lord, there can be no genuine peace without the Prince of Peace. Therefore, while I hope there will be some cessation of hostilities and other accords that come from this conference, I do not see any lasting peace until the return of our Savior to the Mount of Olives as predicted in the Bible. He will usher in a time of peace that will be established based on His perfect rule and reign. Until then we may see many efforts expended and many conferences held, but lasting peace is found only in a Person.

If you look at the map and compare the size of the land mass of what makes up Israel today it is startling how this small nation can somehow be so critical in world affairs. I challenge anyone anywhere to observe the daily reporting of news from major sources and to keep up with developments reported from this far away place. It dominates international news. They tell us that hatred for the Jewish people is on the rise again, especially in Europe. One would think that after the horrors of the Holocaust this would be impossible but I believe this too to be reflective of the biblical teachings regarding God’s chosen people.

I am not one of those who blindly supports Israel in all their deeds. I support the nation as founded by God Himself and believe that one day every acre of territory given to Israel by God who owns all of the earth will be realized, period, end of story. Okay, call me narrow minded, one of those old fashioned bible thumpers, or perhaps one who has his head in the sand. That’s okay because as the southern gospel song puts it, “I read the back of the book and we win!”

All I am saying is that we must always look to God as the provider of the peace that we all desire to experience. His peace comes only through His Son who came, lived a sinless life, died as our substitute, and was resurrected in power and glory that we who believe in Him might have the peace that surpasses all understanding, not based on worldly devised peace agreements, but based on His presence in our hearts and His power in us to live each day in a way that reflects honor and glory back to the Prince of Peace! Amen. …..More later.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Food" for Thought and Action!

The Church I attended back when the first men’s Promise Keepers conference came to the metro area got together a group and we had probably some twenty five of our guys who went. The traffic getting there was terrible and it was kind of funny to see all these men on their best behavior allowing folks to cut in and at times creating more of a jam because no one wanted to pull in front of the other guy. I guess we all had our very active road rage tempers very much subdued that day. At any rate, it was quite an experience to be in this huge indoor stadium with 50,000 men all singing praises to God and being taught God’s word. I’m not too much into things like this Promise Keepers program but I did get hold of something there that has forever changed my life. John Maxwell, a noted author, preacher, and seminar teacher taught the men who attended how to pray the Scriptures back to God.

This may be obvious to some who typically recite the model prayer which begins with, “Our Father Who art in heaven” and continues. This was not what praying the Scriptures was all about as presented by Bro. Maxwell. It is taking the inspired word of God and making it your own and then praying those inspired words from your heart back to God. My favorite portion that I have learned to pray is the 145 through the 150 divisions of the Psalms. These are all songs of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving to God. With very little practice one can take these words and make them their own.
Another thing I like to do is to isolate the prayers of the Apostle Paul and use them to pray for others because his prayers always focused on the greatest needs of everyone, that is that we might grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior and become strong in our faith and work for Him. Yes, it will feel awkward until you get the hang of it but once you begin to allow the words to saturate your life and then flow from your heart they have a great impact on the person praying.

I find when I need an attitude adjustment there’s nothing like finding those great songs of praise in Psalms 145-150 and praying them back to God. What happens whenever you lose yourself in the truths concerning His Person and His goodness? Your attitude begins to be impacted by your altitude as you gain perspective and clarity on the Great God we know and serve. Like I say I didn’t care for all the sermons at that conference or a lot of the music but I did pick up this technique and it has been a wonderful blessing in my life.

The saying goes that our sharing of truth about the Gospel is nothing more than one beggar telling another beggar where they can go to be fed. Therefore, I encourage those who read my blog to give this approach to praying a try. Always remember that God is not impressed with our polish and how well the words are pronounced, He reads the heart and He knows what’s behind the words we speak. Try it! You’ll not only like it, but it will change your life! …..More later.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Everything We Hoped For!

Our family gathering yesterday was nothing short of being a memorable blessing. God is good all the time, all the time, God is good! We certainly experienced His provision yesterday as we all gathered to celebrate family, food, and fellowship. I know as we write about things we might be inclined to embellish and make it better than it really is, but yesterday was one where we needed no editing because everyone was in good spirits and we had a most wonderful day! Here's a blast from the past when we were visiting family over in Louisiana many years ago. I'm holding our youngest son Rodney who has a boy, our Brady or Bray-Bray, who's about a year younger than he was at the time this photo was made.

Yesterday the kids were good and while they were rowdy at times, no one banged heads or got out of sorts. We enjoyed talking, snacking, talking, and then talking some more. The Packers were playing the Lions in the background but the love and appreciation was the main topic as we celebrated all that God has given to us as people blessed to live in this great nation. When it came time for our prayer I had to fight back the tears as I thought upon the blessings God had granted to us even at that very time in being able to meet together in harmony as a family, and to have the feast that was set before us.

Yesterday was one of those days that will always stand out as a great source of our being thankful and it was also a time for us to remember the many 'yesterdays' from our past. Throughout the day my wife and I made contact with most of our extended families to wish them a happy Thanksgiving Day. A big thank you goes out to our eldest son, Chris, and his wife Sherrie, for opening their home and being such gracious hosts. Previously, we had more or less established a tradition of meeting in our youngest son's home for this great time together but since it was our Stef's birthday, we switched locations. New location, same great time of being together. We are blessed.

For those who think all this kind of stuff is corny and mostly nostalgic foolishness, well, you would have had to have been there to see how absurd these kind of thoughts are. What a treasure and what a Great God we know and serve. Again, God is good all the time, all the time, God is good! Yes, we are so very thankful. Amen. ....More later.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Bird Day and Happy Birthday!

It's 6 a.m. and it's already a good day! We've already had our morning prayer together and my wife is now downstairs sipping her hot chocolate and watching the local news. I kind of slept in this morning and didn't roll out of bed until shortly after 5 a.m., but we are excited about the big day we have planned. Yes it is Thanksgiving Day and in our house the cooking will soon be well underway. It’s a wonderful day because overnight the temperature dropped into the high thirties and we, or at least I couldn’t be happier. I do love the cooler weather! I think the wind chill supposedly makes it feel like thirty degrees. What a way to usher in this wonderful time of family, food and fellowship! It’s the kind of day when a wonderful dark, rich, and strong cup of Community coffee seems to make everything in the world just a little bit better. I remember an African American computer operator named Enoch from back in the olden days who used to say he liked his coffee the same way he liked his women, hot, black, and sweet. Well, I don’t do the sweet but I will go for coffee (only) that’s hot and black! It’s a joke. You can laugh. No one will know.

Today is not only special because of it being our traditional family Thanksgiving gathering but it’s even more special because it’s our granddaughter Stefani’s 14th birthday. Wow! Seems like only yesterday she and I was doing research together on what it means to be a strong willed child. That’s an inside joke since I was her daily care giver when she was a very young child (1994), keeping her during the day every other week when I was in town from doing consulting work.

She’s turning into a young lady now and all the teenage stuff is in full swing. Her mom and dad are giving her an Xbox 360 gaming system. We are giving her a pink remote controller to go with it. My understanding is that she loves the Halo game series which is all about war and combat, so what’s up with that? But she has really made progress over the years and is well on her way to developing herself into a talented and resourceful girl.

She recently tried out for the basketball team at her school. She had never really played much and actually stuck around until the end before finally losing out to those who had more experience and training. I was so very proud of her for trying. Most would have looked at the competition and thrown in the towel but she didn’t, she hung in there and had she been able to be a little more skilled in her layups and shooting she might just have made it, on her first try, having never played before. Good going girl. You showed us all that you have courage and determination.

Her dad, our eldest son and his wife have given us three granddaughters and now they have become young ladies right under our noses. Our Tiffany will be 20 next April. Brittany recently celebrated her 16th back in the summer. And, now our Stefani is 14. I wrote in her card about the many wonderful memories we had from her and her sisters coming to spend the night with us. They used to love coming and we always had a ball together. Stef has always had a special spirit of enjoying our times together.

We are thankful to God for her and wish her the most wonderful birthday ever. Happy 14th sweetheart from your MiMi and Poppy. …..More later.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

You Can Tell By The Smell, Um-Um-Good!!!

By God’s grace we are all planning to meet together tomorrow for our annual family Thanksgiving. If all are well and able to show up there will be twenty of us meeting over at our eldest son’s home and each family will be bringing different items to help make it a special day. There is a reason we can enjoy remembering these great occasions from the past even as we prepare for the day. I believe it to be our family traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation.

This year we will be having smoked turkey and ham, Granny Mac’s and my Mom’s signature cornbread dressing, hen and dumplings, along with a variety of side dishes such as English peas, made from scratch macaroni and cheese, red beans and rice (we have one girl who loves this dish) bean casserole, cranberry sauce and a number of finger foods. The dessert menu will have pecan and pumpkin pies, a sweet potato pie with marshmallow topping, a cake or two, and a variety of cookies. It will be a feast of food, family, and fellowship.

Very early tomorrow morning my wife will be up finishing the cornbread dressing and dumplings and other dishes. The smells will fill our home and in my mind’s eye I will see my Granny Mac standing over her stove, or my mom stirring one of her special dishes, or my wife’s mom preparing her dumplings. The smells are the same and the memories are sweet. Why? Because part of the thankfulness is in recalling our heritage from years gone by.

I often hear Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network say if they had smell-o-vision you wouldn’t be able to stand it because the aroma of the food is so great. Well, let me just say I’m looking forward to those smells that have been a part of my life since childhood and they will be better than smell-o-vision because they will transport me like a time machine through many special gatherings at thanksgiving time.

Your meal may be different. You may be having stuffing because that’s what your family always had. You may cook your turnkey in the oven because that’s your tradition. And the list could go on and on. It could include foods I’ve never even thought about eating but they belong to you and your family and they belong on your table because the entire celebration includes tradition and to me that’s what makes it such a special time.

Just writing this blog has stirred my appetite and I thank God for our being able to plan a day of family gathering where kids will be running here and there, the noise will be deafening at times, laughing will be heard from various quarters, and the time spent feasting and fellowshipping will be priceless. Before we have a meal we will all press together into the dining and kitchen area to share a prayer of thanksgiving to God for providing all that we have, and for giving us the privilege of enjoying our time together.

Some don’t care for traditions but they are treasures to me and I hope and pray they will be carried on after my wife and I pass on to our reward. After all is said and done, those who preceded us are the ones who handed down the traditions we enjoy today. Have a wonderful and blessed THANKSGIVING! May God bless. Amen.…..More later.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Who Is It That Deserves our Thankfulness?

One of the things that I have always supported is that history be presented as factually as possible. This means we have to be ready to see the warts and blemishes as well as the beauty when we teach the history of our great nation. We are a nation founded upon certain principles but we are a nation founded by fallen human beings. Therefore, we should not take lightly the faults and flaws found in our legacy as well as the great ideals that make up how we became who we are today.

We are not a perfect people. Our founders were not perfect people. Many people have suffered at the hands of those who were doing what they believed to be right and just without regard for its impact on the American Indian or those caught up in slavery. While we may justifiably be ashamed of some of the things that has happened in our past, at the same time we must look at the magnitude of progress and accomplishment that has come from the founding of this country. We cannot overlook wrong where ever it has occurred but at the same time we must not overlook an accurate portrayal of the good that has been ours as a heritage, handed down from generation to generation.

Therefore, when we come to the subject of celebrating the giving of thanks as a nation as originated as part of our history we need to be just as clear as we are on all other historical facts. From the very beginning, those involved in setting aside time to be thankful had an object in mind. While they were aware of how blessings had come to them through different means, their consistent purpose was that we as a people would stop, consider our estate, and then render proper thanks to God Almighty.

The Pilgrims were thankful to Sqaunto, the native American who had rendered great assistance to them. But it would be wrong to believe that a feasting time was set aside only for the purpose of thanking the Indians. While many claim that William Bradford’s proclamation of Thanksgiving from 1623 cannot be authenticated, no one can doubt from the preserved journals of those writing at that time Who the object was of their giving of thanks. We need not figure out a way to distort what is obvious. The Pilgrims were religious people. They believed in the providence of the Christian God. When they were preserved from dangers and able to enjoy a harvest their hearts were turned towards He whom they saw as their ultimate Provider.

This is history. These are the facts. The ACLU, the People for the American Way, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State can squawk all they want to but they cannot change the facts. Right, wrong, or indifferent, sometimes for good, sometimes for things not so good, but we are a nation with a religious foundation that has incorporated the Judaeo-Christian system of beliefs into our identity as a people. But that was the Pilgrims and they came before we were a nation, right? Absolutely true. So, fast forward to George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation. We have no trouble authenticating this document:
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789. with the signature of our first president: George Washington

If that’s not enough, read history as it has unfolded since that time. Read Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation written in 1863. And, just to close this out here’s the last paragraph of what President Clinton wrote in his 2000 proclamation:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 23, 2000, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all the people of the United States to assemble in their homes, places of worship, and community centers to share the spirit of fellowship and prayer and to reinforce the ties of family and community; to express heartfelt thanks to God for our many blessings; and to reach out in gratitude and friendship to our brothers and sisters across this land who, together, comprise our great American family.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-fifth. signed: WILLIAM J. CLINTON

May we never lose sight of the truth. We have much to be thankful for as a people and as a nation but who is it that deserves our thanks? According to the historical record of this nation it is none other than our Great God. Amen. …..More later.