Friday, February 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Rodney!

On this calendar day but actually then it was on a Saturday morning some thirty eight years ago we welcomed our youngest into our young family. He joined his mom and I along with two older brothers. That’s what I am thinking about on this Friday, February 27, 2009. Rodney came on the scene and began quickly to make a scene wherever he happened to be. He was always the ‘live wire’ in our family. He has the personality and tools to pretty much talk to and become liked by almost anyone, anywhere, at anytime. That set of innate people skills had to come from his mom! That gift has served him well in his profession as he daily deals directly with a huge cast of customers, co-workers, vendors, and project leaders.

Even as a tiny tot, he was our designated boy singer in our family singing group and often stood on the piano stool behind his mom as he belted out his solo. Today he has a family of little ‘Rodneys’ who reflect many of his God given talents and abilities. While he is and will always be a ‘one of a kind’, he can be sure that his kids will carry on many of his traits. Today he does his best to lead his family in the ways of God. This more than anything makes his mom and dad feel blessed. He has a wonderful wife and they make an excellent team as they pour themselves into the growth and development of their kids.

Happy Birthday Rodney. We thank God for you and wish you a most wonderful time on this, your special day. May God bless you and yours. Amen. Love, mom and dad. ….More later.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

In retrospect, there are many reasons to explain why I am not 'with it'.

Yesterday I pretty much spilled the beans on just how out of touch I am with the so-called modern world. Today, on this Thursday, February 26, 2009 I want to think some out loud about the reasons for this out of sync condition. First, and what should always be foremost, I am a believer who, when I am thinking right, cares deeply about what God thinks about things. This in and of itself is the most critical factor in how my view gets all fuzzy when compared to the rank and file in our culture. Secondly, it would have to be a generational deal since I am a boomer, albeit, a busted boomer born in 1946. This can be seen in a repeat of history. My grandfather was totally disconnected from his version of modern times having come through two world wars and the depression. Thirdly, what happened to me in my life growing up shapes my worldview and will forever influence how I see things. Lastly, we have to throw into the mix the personal preference, likes and dislikes factor that comes about because each person is unique and what appeals to one will have little or no appeal to someone else.

Having said all of that, I want to share some interesting recollections from the past that no doubt play a role in where I am coming from today. Television was being experimented with on a limited basis when I was born. There was no such thing as a personal computer, a Xerox machine, or portable telephone. There were no video games and most of our fun times occurred outside in the yard or on the front porch. We grew up eating everything homemade because that’s all there was. No fast food restaurants. No frozen dinners. Everything was made from scratch. When television came along we were exposed to programming that always portrayed the bad guy as being bad and the good guy as winning. This may not have been reality but it was how it worked when we watched Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, or the Three Stooges.

When we played we were not aware of any sort of political correctness. We most often played cowboy and Indians or cops and robbers and did so until we were almost too tired for a bath before bedtime. When it came time for clothes there were essentially two types, sneakers for boys and sneakers for girls, slacks or jeans for boys and dresses for girls. There were no boutiques for preteens or specialty stores for children. Most of our clothes came from the Sears catalog. Yeah it was different then. Cars pulled into service stations and received service like having an attendant fill your car, while another cleaned your windshield, and checked your oil and tire pressure. (I know this well since I was one of those attendants as a teenager!) The influence of this different world and I could go on with so much more no doubt helped me become who I am today. I’ve lived long enough to see the early stages of a disconnect developing between my eldest son and his youngsters as they embrace a world different from the one he experienced. Part of this is no doubt normal but remember I started out my blog listing God and His revealed views as that which should be most influential in how we view our world. This influence is seriously being eroded today and it’s the only one that provides a bridge across all age groups. Without this influence we truly have the bridge that leads to nowhere. Thanks for putting up with a fellow who used to think catching lightning bugs and putting them in a jar was a pretty good night of fun. May God bless. Amen. ….More later.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Okay. It's now official: I am not even close to being a part of the mainstream.

Perhaps the title of today's blog should make me feel a little sad but the way I see it, (The View from Here), it doesn’t any at all on this Wednesday, February 25, 2009. How are you anyway? There are many reasons I am not ‘with it’ in terms of the culture we find ourselves in today. I’m not among the 65% majority who approve of President Obama’s leadership. I have zero personal reasons to dislike our new president and I actually think him to be very good on his feet and that he appears to be adapting well to his new responsibility. My disconnect is based solely on his announced direction, philosophy, and values, and nothing else. He has a beautiful family and I pray that he will, over time, moderate his ideas so that he moves towards a more God-pleasing approach to leading our nation.

Another way in which I feel very much disconnected from the culture at large is in how few of the current popular TV shows I watch. How about: Zero? I learned this yesterday when I read a list of the top twenty programs on broadcast television and found that while I know a little about some of the programs on the list, I have not watched any of them. I did see some of an episode from the hit series ‘House’ because I was where it was being watched but I didn’t get much from the little I saw of it. There may be some really good shows on that list but they have not registered on my radar screen yet, at least to the extent that caused me to watch any of them. Lately, I have been mostly watching full episodes on the internet from previous sitcoms or series like the original Dragnet. I have watched some NASCAR stuff and some news programming from time to time but I am definitely completely out of the loop on those top shows.

I well remember how surprised the people in Scotland were when we couldn’t talk to them about the TV nighttime soap opera Dallas which was the rage at that time of our visit. We had never watched it but we found out they not only loved that show but they thought everyone from Texas lived on a huge ranch, wore cowboy boots, and lived life just like the people on that show. If pressed really hard I might be able to come up with who shot J. R. but it would only be because I read about it or heard the answer on a quiz show. Being out of sync with our culture may cost me an opportunity to join the proverbial water cooler conversation but it really isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, it’s no big deal at all. I will most likely find out the winner of this year’s American Idol because it will be plastered all over the place. Until then I will be satisfied watching an old 'Columbo', 'Ironside', or 'Hawaii Five-O' rerun. Or maybe I’ll choose a 'Miss Marple Mystery', or 'Morse Episode', or maybe one of the really good BBC comedy programs like 'Keeping Up Appearances'. These shows and many others are all on my list; I wonder why they didn’t make yours? Now who’s out of sync? Gotcha! Have a blessed day! Amen. ….More later.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Answers to questions that really do matter.

It's Tuesday, February 24, 2009 and I am still reeling somewhat from the big things we talked about yesterday. If you recall I introduced my blog by talking about the greatest of all why questions. It had to do with why God chose to act in creating all that exists. He did what He did intentionally and we know He had you and I in mind whenever He did what He did along with every other person who would ever populate the earth. My sense is that it’s all about Him gaining honor and glory and praise as His creation functions to find Him as the meaning and purpose of life itself. He deserves the honor and glory and praise before, during, and after His created acts, but in some ways we, as the crowning achievement of His creation, are able to respond to Him, embrace Him, and in doing so there’s deserved praise that accrues to His name that would not otherwise transpire. President Obama said the question of protecting the unborn was way above his pay grade which I believe was a huge cop out since God values all life made in His image. However, understanding the why behind God’s creation acts and all that has transpired since is above all our pay grades but He does allow us to know Him, love Him, and serve Him, and that will do until we can see Him face to face. Amen.

The answers to questions about important things do matter. I was trying to explain the problem with germs on fingers getting into the mouth to my grandson Alex. He didn’t like me telling him that it was a bad habit to put his fingers into his mouth, therefore, his response was to ask me not to talk about germs on his fingers. After all, germs, from his viewpoint, exist in the toilet and can be eliminated by flushing. When I persisted, he held his fingers to his lips to shush me. He then told me not to talk about that anymore. His simple idea was that if you don’t mention it, it’s not a problem. While we may laugh at this cute childlike behavior, how often do we find ourselves avoiding answers in much the same way? I will be the first to admit there’s been plenty of times where I have found myself trying to divert attention from answers to questions that I knew would be tough to deal with. Oh by the way, not asking for, seeking, or finding an answer typically will not change the facts involved and often a situation becomes worse as we hide our heads in the sand.

It reminds us of that first question we hear God asking in the garden: “Adam where are you?” God knew exactly where Adam was. Adam knew where Adam was. But Adam needed to come to terms with not only that question as it related to dealing specifically with where He ended up having disobeyed the God who created him, but more importantly to appreciate the impact and results found in the answer. Our pastor talked about how that folks don’t come to Church services anymore to hear hard questions being asked about them personally and their lives. They don’t want to be asked if they are on their way to heaven or hell. They don’t want to be asked if they are living in obedience to God or in disobedience. They want to be made to feel good and encouraged and filled up with happy talk but God knew exactly what Adam needed to hear and He knows that dealing directly with the critical questions He puts forth is what changes us from who we are to who He wants us to be. I suppose I should end with this rejoinder: Is that your final answer? This gives us something to think about as we all try to make it through the day. Amen. ….More later.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Busy, beat down and beleaguered at times, but always blessed!

Good morning and welcome. It's another beautiful morning here on this Monday, February 23, 2009. Yesterday in my Bible study class we continued our new study through the book of Genesis. Our first lesson was entitled: How did we come to be here? Yesterday we dealt with: What did God intend? I had this written on the board: "Genesis. Creation. Why?" Those why questions are always the most difficult, don't you think? It's clear that God knew before Genesis 1:1 that we would as a human family beginning with Adam make a huge mess out of everything He would make and call good. In trying to discover the why of creation we are not left without information on the subject. We have the sixty-six books that make up our Bible to give us input on this subject. I had several thoughts coming from my many years of studying the truths God has graciously provided. Others in my class expressed their ideas. It was a good time as together we ended up where we should end up: In praising God for His Person, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. While He has given us much in the way of revealed truth, in the end, it is a matter of placing our confidence and trust in Him. When we do this our faith informs us of the reality of truth which gives us what we need to accept and embrace God and His Greatness! It was a good day.

We celebrated our second eldest granddaughter's birthday yesterday as she became an eighteen year old. Brittany is a wonderful young woman and we are so thankful for her. Her parents hosted us in their home and we had a great time. Our middle son and his family were there but our youngest son and his brood couldn't come because of illness. Our middle son had quite a day himself. He has struggled with many issues over his forty year sojourn and due to a number of accidents and other problems had become addicted to pain killers and sleep medications. Two weeks ago he made the decision to voluntarily enter a rehabilitation program and to get his life right with God. Yesterday he came forward at his Church and made a profession of Christ in finally coming to grips with his need for personal salvation. My wife just happened to be at their Church because of it being a special concert and rodeo roundup celebration day. She certainly didn't know that our Jimmy was going to be up on the stage making a public announcement regarding his calling upon Jesus to save Him. We are thrilled to see Jimmy do what we all must do if we are to have hope, both in this life and in the life to come. Jimmy was raised up to know the Bible. Jimmy walked the aisle when he was young and was baptized. However, walking aisles and getting wet doesn't make a person saved. Having Jesus come into your heart is the way one is changed from being lost to being saved. As long as anyone is still drawing breath here on the planet they still have time to seek and find God. We have to wonder how many thousands if not more Jimmy's are out there carrying around a youthful experience but still needing a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.

On Saturday I kept four of our grandchildren for about five hours. Poppy hasn't done that in quite a while and when they left I was exhausted. But we had a most wonderful time together. Later in the afternoon my wife and I went and purchased some living room and dinette furniture to replace that damaged by last year's hurricane. Doing stuff like that is always stressful to me. We also visited our dear Brother Milton and prayed with him. He continues his long journey of rehabilitation and recovery. It is a very difficult journey and we appreciate all the prayers and support that continues on his behalf. I also visited with my mom on the telephone several times. She is home now after her four week hospital battle against pneumonia and while glad to be home, she is still weak and dealing with some residual breathing issues. Yes, our proverbial plates stay pretty full but God somehow gives us the strength to carry on. Therefore, we ended last week with no need to be rocked to sleep as our heads hit the pillow on Saturday evening. Then our cups overflowed on Sunday. Life can be a challenging adventure as well as being painful at times in many ways but we thank God for His help, for His mercy, and for His provision that helps us make it, one step at a time, one day at a time. I do pray that you and yours will have a blessed week! Amen. ....More later.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Making a difference can happen anywhere at anytime!

Thanks for tuning in to your daily fix of this fellow’s fractured view of the world. It’s a cool, crisp morning on this Friday, February 20, 2009 and you can almost hear the stars humming, or was it my corduroy slacks that always seem to make that whistling noise? It’s bad enough to hear that as you walk in the dark and wonder if someone is following you. It is even worse to think they are not only following you but they are also whistling. I’ve never tried to say that being me is easy. Today I want to talk about a wonderful subject that I am certain will be uplifting and encouraging. I want to talk about death. That’s right. Death. In particular I want to talk some about the many obituaries I scan through each day.

It’s quite amazing how a person’s life can be summarized in just a handful of words. However, there are many exceptions where you might find a really long death notice. Many of these reflect the passing of a very prominent individual who was involved in notable clubs, society circles, or business endeavors. However, there are some that are fairly long because the person was a local somebody to the folks in their own little world, their sphere of influence. They were a hometown guy or gal who gave their life to the work they did, to their families, to the betterment of their community, and the helping of others along the way. They are not those who would ever expect to be listed in “Who’s Who?” but they lived out their life with distinction because they cared enough to do their best to make a difference.

I heard a particular account about a gentleman in a small town who taught a junior boy’s Sunday school class for fifty years. At his home going service they had standing room only because the Church overflowed with the boys who were now men, some very much older men, who had been influenced by this man’s passion for helping boys find the Savior and helping them to make something of their lives. He would never have been thought of as anyone who did anything great in his life by the media or in our celebrity saturated culture. However, he was beloved by ‘his boys’ and more importantly he made the Hall of Fame where it really counts, the one that God enrolls folks in. I don’t read every obituary but I do read several each day. I often shed a tear over the loss of a child or young person. I am also impressed by those whose write-ups take up so much space as they are recognized for their many achievements in life. Yet, it’s those of the common person who peers out from a photo and you can almost hear them say, “I fought a good fight, I finished my course, and now I am receiving my heavenly reward.” I’ll take that kind of remembrance above any of the rest, how about you? Some food for thought as you enjoy your Saturday and Lord’s Day Sunday. Until next time, may the Good Lord bless and keep one and all! Amen. ….More later.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lately, Mr. Dow and Mr. Jones seem to be so sad.

Hello friends and neighbors, it's Thursday, February 19, 2009 and I am doing my best to get my day started here in these parts. It's actually 4:40 a.m. as I begin writing this blog. The time stamp from the utility provider of this blog is based on west coast time, therefore, it's marked as 2:40 a.m. I wanted to clear that up because some see that time stamp on my blogs and wonder if I ever sleep at all. While I am not one to lay in bed for long periods of time I do my best to get my six hours each night, or at least five. I'm very thankful that usually I can sleep and typically it doesn't take long for sleep to take hold, therefore, I am able to milk the clock for a little more waking hours each day. I started to say more productive hours but that would be a stretch because having time, using time, and having it count for something at the end of each day is a whole different subject.

I see where our economic experts are now revising their estimates and downgrading their predictions about progress in the coming year. They now say that the economy is going to do much worse than anticipated and that unemployment will likely near 9% by the end of 2009. That's a whole bunch of folks without a job. That's a whole bunch of families who will be struggling to make it. That's a whole bunch of pressure that will come to moms and dads as they try to muddle their way through until we can some how begin to see things pick up again. This means that if you and I have a job today, we need to be thankful to God and to show Him that we are thankful by doing our very best in the work He has given to us. We need to do all we can to help those who are not employed in whatever way we can AND we also need to prepare ourselves and our families for the turbulence we may experience before this is over.

We are blessed to live in a region where our state is actually one of only six operating in the black. I heard that our Governor and state legislators are weighing the possibility of not taking any of the federal stimulus package since we have a budget surplus and we would rather not have to endure all the strings that will be attached. Six states out of fifty. The rest are in the red and California has the largest budget shortfall, that being $41 billion. These are very scary times. They cause each of us to pause and wonder about what might happen over the next several months. The experts say at the heart of the matter there's a conundrum. People are not spending any money because they are concerned over what might happen. The not spending of any money is the main cause of what is happening. I know it's more complicated than that but to a large extent this is the consistent explanation of why our economic engine is stalled. In the midst of all this grim and gloomy world where prognosticators do their thing, the government bails like there's no tomorrow, and hand wringing has become our national past time, I remind us all one more time of a line from my Grandpa's favorite gospel song: "Many things about tomorrow I don't seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand." That's some good news we can count on! Amen. .....More later.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I knew the scenery was moving fast. Now I know why. I really am going downhill fast!

This will be one of those good news, bad news reports for this Wednesday, February 18, 2009. One year ago I was going about my own business teaching my Bible class when suddenly I flipped off the stage and wrenched my knee. This led to surgery, which led to a time of recovery, which led to a number of months of noticeable pain. Today, it is pretty much healed up but it is not exactly the same as it was before this incident occurred. But, to tell the truth, that outcome in reality is a good metaphor for how life itself works. The good news is that we are all still hanging around and able to read this blog. The bad news is that regardless of where you are in your journey, you most likely have already begun that downhill run.

What prompted all of this? I read an article yesterday from one of the London papers that went organ by organ to give a factual representation of how aging impacts our physical well being. Our brain begins its long-term decline in our 20’s. We start out with some 100 billion of those neuron things but begin to shed them at an increasing pace as we age. By the age of 40 we could be losing as many as 10,000 of these little jewels per day and in the process we create gaps that may eventually cause us some trouble with memory and co-ordination. Lung capacity also begins to wane at age 20. At age 30 one could most likely take in two pints of air with one breath but by age 70 that will be cut in half.

I won’t cover every body part listed but suffice it to say we are in decline in many ways as we continue our journey here. Our plumbing doesn’t work like it once did. The teeth, the eyes, and even our voices take hits over time. A woman’s voice tends to grow lower and huskier while men’s may become thinner and higher. I suppose if this were to happen to me I could try out for the Irish Tenors or something like that but by the time I’m able to reach the high notes I probably won’t be physically able to travel with the group. Might as well laugh, I did when I wrote that line. The heart is, of course, a biggie and it begins to unravel somewhere in our 40’s. We are talking averages here because we all know that genetics plays a big role as well as environmental factors and our own personal lifestyles.

In the end, I’m not discouraged after reading these things because they reflect the facts on average. I know there are many out there saying silly things like you are only as old as you feel and other nonsensical stuff. I choose not to be pessimistic or overly optimistic. I believe in having a realistic outlook based on the truth as best as it can be found and understood. Because as I see it, God has given us the life we have. Some of us take care of our physical well being better than others. Some of us take care of our spiritual well being while many do not see the need. Let me just point out that not taking care of the spiritual more or less makes the other a moot point anyway since we all will live for eternity, either with God or separated from Him. I’m banking on being with Him; therefore, the downhill ride is not so bad when you know exactly where you will end up! Amen. …..More later.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Psalm 32:12 "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord..."

Good morning to one and all on this Tuesday, February 17, 2009. We are dealing with many issues as a nation and it appears the secularists are gaining ground. The Gallup organization just completed a comprehensive polling to evaluate religion and it’s influence in America today. One good thing that came out of the polling was the clear indication that a ‘Bible Belt’ does really exist. This reflects areas of our country where people state emphatically that God, religion, and the Bible are a very active part of their daily living. I suppose the good news is that taken as a whole, the entire country still votes God as being a great influence by a 65% margin. However, this is somewhat misleading as more and more of the balance is shifting from states that are high versus a growing number of states that continue to decline.

Not surprisingly, the New England states continue a decline that brings them into the low forties in terms of percentage of people who view religion as playing a major role in their lives. The current administration reflects a thoroughly humanistic view of the world. This worldview may give lip service to spiritual themes but the policies being advocated are typically in direct opposition to what the Bible clearly teaches. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts scored the lowest and one need only think about those in the Congress representing these states and how their causes, votes, and direction reflects the liberal, secular, humanistic worldview.

Does it matter? I would say it matters much. Just over two thirds see religion as losing its influence in the life of our nation. In 2002 that number was less than one third. I am thankful to live in a state tied for the 10th position with 74% affirming God as a major influence in our lives. However, I fear for our nation and our children as we see more and more giving up on faith in God in turning to what this world and its system offers. God has made it very clear in His word. As we as a people fail to recognize Him, seek Him, and live based on our faith in Him, we do so at our own peril. The highest number in the poll was Mississippi with 85% of those living there indicating their belief in God as being a major influence in their lives each day. Many see Mississippi as being backwards in many ways but God is pleased and sees them at the very top using His evaluation method because they have chosen to openly honor Him. I will be doing what I can to help close that eleven point gap between my state and their state because it matters, not only for now, but for all of time and ETERNITY. May God help heal our land continues to be my prayer. Amen. …More later.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Paying tribute to Washington, Lincoln, and ........

Happy President’s Day, on this Monday, February 16, 2009. I mentioned to my eldest son last night that with schools, banks, and government offices being closed today for the holiday he should have an easier commute across the metroplex. He said he would take any help he could get. I suppose those who do get the day off have a different view of what the day might bring. They likely have been formulating a three-day weekend plan for some time now. For the rest of us, we walk out to the mailbox only to be reminded that there’s no mail delivery today. I don’t have a problem with honoring our presidents because God’s leadership model calls for someone to be the leader by example and in their deeds. We’ve had some great presidents and we’ve had some that were not so great. We’ve had some that had tumultuous times in office and others that served during peaceful and tranquil times.

Polls of historians and other scholars to rank presidents come up with the usual names. Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt are typically the most often mentioned in the top three. Lincoln actually holds the number one position in more scholarly polls than the others, with Washington second, and Roosevelt third. These men served during the founding of our nation, the civil war in our nation, and during the time of great challenge called WWII. Jefferson is typically in the next grouping along with Theodore Roosevelt. The top ten also reflects men like James Madison, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and John F. Kennedy. You can go and see those ranked in the middle and those typically holding down the less well thought of status but in the end, we find that these men are just that, men, some given more challenge than others, and to those who responded to that challenge in a noteworthy manner, they receive the gratitude of a grateful nation.

I’m not sure that ranking presidents is a worthwhile effort. However, we do know that what we, like them, do have an impact on others, therefore, the actions of the man holding the highest office in our land has had an impact on us all. God also holds us accountable, not so we can make a list of being popular, but so that we can influence those in our families, our workplaces, and our sphere of contact, for sharing truth, and living out an example that is pleasing to Him and of value to others. One of the admonitions found in God’s Word tells us to pray for those who are in authority over us. This means you and I, as believers, have a sacred duty to pray for our current president, Barak Obama. Join me today in saying a prayer of thanksgiving for those who have served in this great office and in praying for our current president that God will guide his time in office. Have a great day and may God bless. Amen. ….More later.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Turning the words of love into the actions of love.

Well folks here we are, we made it to Friday, now what? I wonder if we actually accomplished anything of lasting value in the many hours we've pursued over the past several days? But, here we are again, on this Friday, February 13, 2009. That’s right! Friday, the 13th! You may have some qualms about this superstitious day on the calendar, but to me, it’s the day following the 12th, and the day before the 14th, and nothing more. Of course the 14th is another Hallmark opportunity to sell cards, gifts, and dinners as a way of expressing love towards others, especially the romantical form of love. I heard yesterday that 76% of small businesses who depend on these types of promotions report their gloomiest outlook ever for this year’s celebration. Most folks will likely settle for a very modest expression of their love, perhaps even a personal verbal greeting. Wow! You mean you might actually tell those you love that you really do love them instead of buying a card, flowers, gift, or taking them to dinner? It just might be an appropriate thing to do even if you do the others!

Yesterday I spoke about the love of our Savior that should flow through us to others. I found some quotations from folks over the years that speak to this important issue of going beyond words or good intentions to the place where caring and action takes place. “He who would do good to another must do it in minute particulars. General good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer.” “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he'd only had good intentions.” “The road is long from the intention to the completion.” “All worthwhile men have good thoughts, good ideas and good intentions, but precious few of them ever translate those into action.” “The smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention.” These are comments from poets and other famous folks as they perceived the need to back up our words with tangible actions.

As we move towards the day set aside to recognize the power of love let us not forget the Maker of Love and His word on the subject. Essentially, a bottom line way of looking at how love is supposed to motivate our actions can be found in a verse from the inspired writing of James. He says in his opening words from what we call the first chapter that true religion is found not in how much we know or in how much we practice, but rather it’s shown by how much we care for those who are in need. (Read James Chapter 1) The Apostle Peter put love in perspective when he stated that "above all things, fervently love one another". Above all things, now that’s a priority statement especially whenever you consider that he was talking about everything that surrounds life including the coming end of the ages, but first and foremost is to be our continuous outflow of love and concern. (Read 1st Peter Chapter 4) Happy Valentine’s day to all my readers and may God help each of us to appreciate His purpose for love! Have a great Saturday and Sunday and I’ll do my best to think up something to write about when we meet again next Monday, Lord willing! Amen. ….More later.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Seeing beyond the me, myself, and I tunnel vision.

Good morning class and welcome to some more tantalizing tidbits to help get you up and running on this Thursday, February 12, 2009. Today we recognize the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birthday. We thank God for this man who, as President, helped shepherd our nation through one of the greatest challenges we have faced.

I’m sure many of you have more important things to think about than trying to make sense out of my discombobulated ramblings but that’s why we have the TV remote control or the fast forward on our dvd players. You can switch the blog off or scan down to the bottom and move on to the issues you also have to deal with today. That’s one thing that has impressed me throughout the hurricane saga, our dear Bro. Milton’s traumatic health crisis, and our daily challenges is how that we are not only not immune to having troubles, BUT we are very much not alone. You need only visit the ICU to know just how true this is. You need only visit with someone who has been totally left holding the bag after their insurance company failed to help them. We often are quibbling on the margins while others are dealing with their own catastrophic crisis. It does help one to get away from the ‘why me?’ funnel and broaden our vision to see the breadth and depth of suffering being experienced by others.

I heard a man talking about how that you really don’t know exactly how another person feels about a tragic situation unless you’ve been there and done that. A cancer survivor knows much more how to minister to a new cancer patient than someone who cares but doesn’t have the experience. I know first hand what it means to deal with an insurance process that wears you down, wears you out, and challenges every iota of your strength and intestinal fortitude. However, I do not know what to say to people whose insurance carrier chose to go out of business instead of honoring their claim. They have walked a different road than I have and I should be sensitive to their plight. My mom is currently in a rehab facility trying to regain her strength after her latest bout with pneumonia. She told me yesterday that her attitude was not very good when she arrived but having seen so many pitiful patients, she had chosen to thank God that she was as well off as she is.

Reality has a way of smacking us up side the head IF we are paying attention. We can become so narrowly focused, so self absorbed even in dealing with legitimate needs that we lose a sense of what others are going through. Hurting people. They are all around us. They are in our offices or out on the shop floor. They attend Church with us. They are at our kid’s sporting event. They are everywhere. We all wear blinders to a certain extent because we have our plates full but it does make a difference when we choose to set our stuff aside long enough to not only see the other fellow, but also to reach out and care in whatever way we can. It may only be a word of encouragement or a prayer on their behalf but it tells them and us that we understand how difficult it can be in this life. May God help us all to care enough. Amen. …More later.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Just look on the bright side of life.

I’ve heard that admonition all my life. I suppose that was the mantra before we were all encouraged to have a ‘half-full’ instead of a ‘half-empty’ mindset. I thought I might tip toe around these profundities on this Wednesday morning, February 11, 2009. A fellow I know used to say that if you are flying in an airplane through stormy weather it’s always nice and clear somewhere up in the atmosphere. Yet, we know from the recent heroic landing of a huge jetliner into the Hudson river that getting the plane into that clear space can be difficult when a flock of birds show up. One account I read said everyone in the cabin became a prayer warrior before they hit the water. I guess that would be a great example of ‘just in time’ religion and it was certainly warranted as far as I can tell. Many come away from that type of experience with a ‘why was I spared?’ attitude that most likely will lead them to ponder life with a renewed focus on seeing a fulfillment of their purpose. I’ve had a few of those near misses in my life and it is sobering when you try to make sense out of what it means as you make your way forward.

That mortality thing is at work whether we experience a seemingly miraculous survival or just go about our business each day. I’ve mentioned before about a preserved prayer of Moses found in Israel’s official songbook, The Psalms. In the 90th division, verse 12, Moses is recorded as a recommendation to those who would read his pleading to God: “So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (New American Standard Version) That inspired text came from a man who knew what it meant to live a full life and one filled with many near misses, challenges, and seemingly impossible assignments. Looking on the bright side Moses would say is doing what Solomon gave as his conclusion to the finding meaning in this perplexing life: “…fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (NASB) Wow! You don’t get to where you need to go by coming up with a slogan approach to life, you get there by recognizing God and living out your life based on that recognition.

One of the things I noticed in the instances where I appeared to have ‘dodged a bullet’ as they say is how temporary those feelings of intense concern about life and its purpose seemed to be. I was really going to make some changes because of what had happened. I was going to make sure that from that point forward things would really be different. And, they were. I most likely even made some very loud promises to God and to those near and dear to me BUT soon the busyness of life and the screams of the urgent drowned out those now whispering recollections of that fervor once so dominant and strong. Yeah, that’s the human condition and we all know what it’s like to suffer from the human condition. What Moses wanted us to know after all he went through, and what Solomon concluded after years of study, experimentation, and searching was simply to live life before God with Him and His ways as our pursuit. I close with a prayer that each of us will be able, with His help, to follow the lead of Moses and Solomon in looking on the bright side of life! Amen. ……More later.