December 19, 2010

Bethlehem


Many years ago, a magazine ranked Bethlehem, Pennsylvania last among 300 places to live in the United States.

If Bethlehem, Pennsylvania ranked 300th, the sleepy little town we sing about at Christmas would have ranked even lower, for it had little to recommend it as the perfect birthplace of the Savior.


But God seems to have different standers for perfection than we have, and there is something about the story of Christmas that goes beyond perfection and logic. A virgin bears God’s son in a stable? It’s beyond our comprehension.

Years ago, Harry Reasoner of TVs "Sixty Minutes" said the following:
"If God wanted to be intimately part of man, he moved correctly, for the experience of birth and family-hood is our most intimate experience. It's a story of great innocence of God the baby. God in the person of man."
Perhaps your Christmas won't be perfect this year. Maybe . . . it will be far better than that. Maybe you will see right to the heart of this sacred event . . . to the God who seeks not perfection . . . but love.

December 13, 2010

Mary's Love


A Sunday School teacher asked her children to write a letter to God during the week ahead. The following Sunday, one child read this message “Dear God, we had a good time in church last Sunday. I wish you could have been there.”


With all the many preparations for Christmas, sometimes we must be reminded of God’s presence in the celebration.


Mary needed no reminder that God was at work in her life. When she visited her cousin, Elizabeth, she declared herself to be the most fortunate woman on earth!


If Mary were with us today, she most certainly would remind us that we do not fall into God’s plan in quite the same way that she did. Yet each of us is humbled to remember that the Christmas story is about God’s love.


As we tend to our Christmas chores let us keep in our hearts a place for Mary’s story, the oldest and most intimate story of all. It is the story of a mother’s love for her child, and in a lesser but very significant way, it is a demonstration of God’s love for each one of us.

December 5, 2010

Alone at Your Party


Imagine an elaborate wedding reception in a very exclusive country club. Exotic foods from all over the world are served on fine Wedgwood china, waiters in crisp white uniforms pour champagne and rare tropical flowers are everywhere. Everyone present is in high spirits, dancing, laughing and having a great time.


There’s only problem. No one is paying any attention to the young lady who just happens to be the bride. Can you imagine such a circumstance . . . alone and unnoticed at your own wedding.


That’s how Jesus must feel as increasingly, year after year, little by little He is squeezed into a corner. So much so that the celebration of his birth seems to have little to do with Him.


It is our loss if we treat Christ like a neglected bride at her own wedding party for without Him the meaning of Christmas is lost and we are diminished because of it.


How will you celebrate the birth of our Savior this year?


November 30, 2010

Accepting a Christmas Gift


A father and son had an argument over a piece of valuable property. The land was in the father's will to be passed on to the son, but the boy wanted it immediately.


When the father resisted the demands, the son broke off the relationship. He rarely came home, and when he did, he ignored his father.


Then one Christmas, the boy’s mother convinced him to come home for the Holiday. On Christmas Eve the boy opened all his presents except the one from his father. The next day when the son left, the gift remained behind.


What the lad didn’t know was that his father’s gift was the deed to the desired property.


Many of us make the same mistake. Life can be hard, and sometimes it's difficult to cope, but there is a gift that was given to each of us 2000 years ago that can ease our burdens and help us to cope with adversity.


It’s a gift of love straight from the heart of God that we can accept gratefully or leave lying under the tree. What will you decide?


November 21, 2010

Bond of Gratitude


There is an ancient legend about two angels I’ll call Hannah and Haylee whose turn it was to gather the prayers of the people. Wherever people prayed, Hannah and Haylee stopped and gathered the prayers in baskets. Hannah gathered requests and Haylee gathered prayers of Thanksgiving.

When their task was completed, Hannah’s basket was overflowing, and Haylee’s was practically empty.

In the Gospel story about giving thanks, Jesus healed ten lepers whose bodies were covered with gangrenous and festering sores. Their clothes were torn, their hair disheveled, and they were required to announce their presence wherever they went by calling out, “Unclean.” Jesus healed all ten lepers, but only one was able, thoughtful and appreciative enough to say “Thank you.”

Not everyone is willing or capable to do that. Perhaps it’s because there is a sort of submissiveness or humility about expressing gratitude. A self-centered person will take great pains to avoid a situation in which he or she must, or ought to, express gratitude for gifts received.

As we gather together with family and friends on Thanksgiving Weekend, may our prayers reflect our faith in our Creator and acknowledge our appreciation for the blessings we have received. Even if other ties with God are strained or even broken, the bond of gratitude will always bind us to Him.

Thank you for reading Contemporary Parables.

November 8, 2010

Preparing for Advent


It was October 23, 1983 in Beruit, Lebanon when a suicide bomber plowed a truck into the barracks where over 300 U.S. troops slept. The largest non-nuclear bomb in history pulverized the concrete fortress killing 241 service members, most of them Marines, the most killed in a single engagement since the landing on Iwo Jima in World War II.


In a hospital in West Germany, a severely wounded Marine just moments away from death, was approached by the Commandant of the Marine Corps to offer encouragement.


The wounded Marine looked up from his death bed, and with obvious difficulty, greeted the Commandant with two words, the motto of the Marine Corps, “Semper Fi,” short for “Semper Fidelis” meaning “Always Faithful.”


Even as he prepared to die, the Marine expressed a commitment to something greater than himself __ his faithfulness, dedication and loyalty to the Corps, his fellow Marines and his Country.


In Proverbs we read, “Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablets of your heart."


In the weeks ahead as we prepare for another Advent Season, may we rededicate ourslves to expressions of loyalty and faithfulness to our Savior whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas.


October 22, 2010

Subdue the I


In God’s Little Devotional Book, published by Honor Books, Inc., there’s a story about two pairs of deer horns hanging on a wall in the 12th-century Bebenhausen Monastery in Germany. The horns are interlocked.


The horns suggest that two bucks were fighting over mating or territorial rights, and their antlers became so intertwined they could not be separated, and they died for their efforts.


The story reminded me of our politicians whose positions on so many issues are so entrenched that reconciliation and cooperation of any kind are not an option. Conceit, pride, vanity and arrogance lead the proponents on each side of almost any controversy to believe their way is the only way.


Nancy and I have been taking Tai Chi classes for about six months, and recently, our senior instructor wrote “Subdue the I” on the bulletin board. It occurs to me that our representatives in government at every level would serve the country better if they were taught this Tai Chi precept.


As I thought more about the meaning of that simple phrase, I also realized that when I lost patience or found fault with someone, in other words, when I failed to “subdue the I,” it created conflicts in my own life. In most cases, when I have lost my temper, it was because the “I” in me was amplified rather than subdued.


To “subdue the I” is to learn humility, and in the fourteenth chapter of Luke, Jesus ends his parable on the subject with these words for our politicians and all of us to remember:

“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

October 11, 2010

Closing the Door on Worries


In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asks the question, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”


The fact is that anxiety can reduce our life span considerably. It can cause ulcers, high blood pressure, strokes, asthma, angina, migraine headaches, indigestion, irritability, tremors, fatigue, insomnia, depression, diarrhea and a host of other symptoms.


Dr. William Osler, one of the most famous physicians of the 19th Century, was on an ocean liner during a drill when all the ship’s many compartments were sealed. If damage caused one compartment to leak, the watertight doors to other compartments would allow the ship to remain afloat. Osler suggests we learn to master our worries by sealing them in compartments.

“Touch a button and hear, at every level of your life, the iron doors shutting out the past - the dead yesterdays. Touch another and shut off, with a metal curtain, the future - the unborn tomorrows. Then you are safe - safe for today!”

I like Osler’s proposal for coping with worry and have used it often, but I also love to be reminded of God’s mercy and protection in the words of hymns of faith like Day by Day. Here are the words to the first verse of that great hymn:

Day by day, and with each passing moment,

Strength I find to meet my trials here;

Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,

I've no cause for worry or for fear.

He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,

Gives unto each day what He deems best,

Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,

Mingling toil with peace and rest.


September 15, 2010

Coming Back Stronger


In 1993, he wanted to play quarterback for Westlake High School in Austin Texas, but he was only a freshman on the freshman B team behind three other candidates. As a Sophomore he was the number four candidate for quarterback on the JV squad, with his prospects for making the starting team no brighter than they were the previous year. That’s when he decided to talk to his mother about quitting.


His mother, also an athlete and a competitor, told him if he quit, it could be something he would regret the rest of his life. Accepting her advice, he decided to stay with the team a little longer.


The following week, one of the quarterbacks switched to defense, and another decided to concentrate on baseball. Then in the last scrimmage before the regular JV season began, the first string quarterback was hurt with an injury that would keep him out for the year. Number four was suddenly the starting JV quarterback, and he led his team to a 10 and 0 record.


During the next two years, he led the varsity football team to a 28-0-1 record, and in 1996, he was chosen Texas 5A Most Valuable Offensive Player of the Year.


From high school, he went on to Purdue where he was an Academic All American and was nominated for a Heisman trophy. After graduation, he played in the NFL, first for San Diego, then New Orleans. Last year, Drew Brees led the New Orleans Saints to victory in the Super Bowl where he was voted the Most Valuable Player.


Drew Brees is a man of God whose career in football was often interrupted by serious injuries, but he never lost his faith, and he always trusted in the Lord.


Drew Brees’s book, Coming Back Stronger, is the ultimate comeback story. His inspiring message of hope and encouragement demonstrates how faith, determination and courage can not only overcome obstacles and handicaps, but ultimately, make you stronger.


August 30, 2010

A Brush with Death


On Saturday, August 14, Nancy and I were driving south through Kinston, North Carolina to join family members for a vacation on Emerald Isle. It’s a trip we have made twenty times or more without incident, but on this occasion, things were different.


Distracted for just a moment, I drove through a red light, and as a result, we were hit by another car on the driver’s side. The impact totaled the car, but we walked away without help from others. Nancy was badly bruised by her seat belt, and I lost some hearing in my left ear where the side air bag hit me.


Fortunately, the adults in the other car were not hurt, and there were no children who might have been injured in the accident.


I can’t say for certain that if the circumstances were just a little different, Nancy and I might have been severely injured or even killed, but a possible brush with death like the one we survived makes you think about your mortality. And the question that comes to my mind as a result of our accident is just this: Was I prepared to die at the corner of Queen Street and Vernon Avenue in Kinston, North Carolina on August 14, 2010?


In her book, God Never Blinks, author Regina Brett quotes priest Father Zubricky who suggests that when your life is over, God will have only one question for us. “Did you love?”


I have had a lot of time since the accident to reflect on my answer to that question, and I know now that my truthful response would be, “Yes, I have loved. . . . . .but I have not loved enough.”


God has given me another opportunity to prepare for the day when I will be asked, “Did you love?” Next time, I hope I can respond without adding a . . . “but.”


“A new command I give you. Love one another . As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34


August 9, 2010

Communicating Your Joy


When I meet certain people on the street, I have learned to avoid asking, “How are you?” That's because their answer is often so bleak and dispiriting that by the time their litany of troubles and misfortunes is complete, I will be utterly and totally depressed.

Such experiences remind me of a song from long ago that included the lyrics, "The screen door's broken, and the flies are comin' in, the well's run dry, and . . . ". I don't remember more, but you get the idea.

All of us know others who are just the opposite . . . people who are cheerful and uplifting when we meet them. I recently had an experience with two people whose enthusiasm for life is not only readily apparent but contagious

Early in August, I attended a sales retreat sponsored by Monroe Wheelchair in Rochester, New York. Our son, Doug, owns the company, and writer and college professor, Dr. Gary Schwantz, was the facilitator for the seminar. A year ago, Gary and I cooperated to marry Doug and our new daughter-in-law, Holly, and I wanted to renew our friendship and observe him in his more traditional role as a motivational speaker.

Gary's cheerful disposition was readily apparent in his interaction with the group, and his clear, creative and thought provoking comments and questions on such topics as family, service and the dignity of life left me reflective, pondering my own feelings on those subjects.

The other inspirational person I met the following Sunday was Judy White, the pastor at the Bluff Point Methodist Church. Nancy and I returned to the church where I was the lay pastor and we were members many years ago to recruit people to sing in a men's chorus sometime this fall.

Judy's message was about the zest for life that comes from faith in Christ. Her uplifting sermon was spirit centered and delivered with enthusiasm, energy and confidence. A line from the closing hymn, My Faith Looks Up to Thee, summariazes what I took from Judy’s message: "May thy rich grace impart strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire.” When we have faith in the promises of Jesus, we can face our problems with a joyful heart regardless of our circumstances.

Here's my challenge to those who read Contemporary Parables. We have a choice in life. We can choose to communicate in words and actions a message of dismay and desperation or we can be an example to others of the joy that comes with faith in knowing Jesus Christ.

July 18, 2010

We Can Learn from Our Pets


In her internet article, Animals Teach Us Spirituality, Dr. Mary Lou Randour suggests “ . . . animals can teach us about love: how to love, how to enjoy being loved, how loving itself is an activity which generates more love . . .”


Many years ago, I learned a similar concept summarized in the phrase, “God gave us dogs to teach us how to love each other.” Based on our experience with Strumpa, Frisky, Deacon, Bo and Cody, Nancy and I believe that is a wise observation.


Recognizing how our dogs interact with us will help us to be better partners in any relationship. For example, our dogs love to show their affection for us. Our dogs constantly show their love for us and tenaciously seek demonstrations of our love for them. Couples in a relationship may say, “I love you.” a dozen times a day, but demonstrations of love always speak louder than words.


Our dogs are forgiving creatures. If you accidentally hurt your pet, just tell him you’re sorry, and he’ll wag his tail and all is forgiven. In any relationship, there will be times when one partner will disappoint the other, and seeking forgiveness and forgiving are absolutely essential in a long and happy relationship.


Our dogs want to be with us. If we leave them alone for any length of time, when we return, they are quick to let us know how much they missed us. They are happy to see us, and they show it. On her high school photo that Nancy gave to me in our senior year, Nancy wrote, “I’m always happiest when I am with you.” We still feel that way about each other after sixty-two years in love. We are still happiest when we are together.


Dogs have other characteristics like commitment and faithfulness to be admired and emulated in any human relationship. So forget about reading any of the half million books on relationships available at Amazon.com. Just get a dog, or even two, and observe how they treat each other and you.


God made us in His image. Then he created dogs to teach us how to love each other.

July 2, 2010

Looking Back


It was late November in 1950, and the 5th and 7th regiments of the 1st Marine Division were fighting both the People’s Army of North Korea and temperatures reaching 30 degrees below zero. When they approached North Korea’s border with China at the Chosin Reservoir, three Chinese Communist divisions attacked and overwhelmed the regiments. General Mac Arthur, Commander and Chief of the UN Forces, had no alternative. He ordered the Marines to withdraw. Marine General, O.P. Smith insisted it wasn’t a retreat. “It was an attack in another direction.”


During the withdrawal, an unknown Marine riding in a truck carrying men given up for dead, happened to look back through the rear window, and he saw someone move. It was a young Marine from Penn Yan, NY, and because someone realized he was alive, Jack Albertson survived the war, returned home and eventually married Millie, his childhood sweetheart.


Jack and Millie raised four daughters and a son, Scott , who married our daughter, Tammy, in 1981. Last month, Scott and Tammy’s daughter, Lindsey, married Alex Bailey, and Jack and Millie were there to celebrate. When they look back on their lives together, the wedding is just one af many blessings for which they can give thanks to their Lord and a Marine whose name they will never know.


I think it’s true that when most of us look back on our lives, we tend to dwell on the negative events we would like to change. We think to ourselves, “If only I had known,” or “if only I had done something different.” Today, I invite you to look back and recall all the blessings that have filled your life. When you do, I suspect you will find that the Lord has been gracious and good to you as he was to Jack and Millie. May the Lord continue to bless you and keep you.


June 16, 2010

A Wedding Message


On Saturday, June 19, I will be officiating at the wedding of our granddaughter, Lindsey, and her fiance, Alex Bailey. For this current Parable, I am sharing a copy of my remarks for the occasion:


IT IS MY RESPONSIBILITY TO SHARE WITH YOU WHAT I HOPE ARE WORDS OF WISDOM BASED ON THE LOVE AFFAIR WHICH GMA AND I HAVE ENJOYED FOR SIXTY TWO YEARS. HOW HAVE WE BEEN ABLE TO MAINTAIN A LOVING RELATIONSHIP FOR SO MANY YEARS WHEN THE DIVORCE RATE DURING THAT SAME PERIOD HAS INCREASED BY 30%?


I’VE BEEN TALKING A POLL OF COUPLES WHO HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR A GOOD WHILE, AND WHEN ASKED FOR THE SECRET TO THEIR LONG RELATIONSHIP, THEY WILL OFTEN ANSWER “COMMUNICATION.” IT’S INTERESTING THAT "LACK OF COMMUNICATION" IS ALSO LISTED AS ONE OF THE CONTRIBUTING FACTOR IN DIVORCE. SO WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE TALK ABOUT GOOD COMMUNICATION IN A MARRIAGE. THIS IS WHAT GMA AND I THINK.


IT MEANS A RELATIONSHIP BUILT ON CANDOR AND FRANKNESS, OFFERED IN A SPIRIT OF LOVE AND RESPECT. GOOD COMMUNICATION REQUIRES LISTENING, AND A GOOD LISTENER IS FOCUSED AND WILL GIVE THE SPEAKER HIS/HER FULL ATTENTION. GOOD COMMUNICATORS DON’T LOOK FOR IMPERFECTIONS IN EACH OTHER. BUT IF THEY ARE DISCOVERED, THEY DON’T EXPECT THE OTHER TO CHANGE. AS LOVERS AND FRIENDS, YOU RESPECT YOUR PARTNER AND RECOGNIZE THAT WHILE YOU BELONG WITH EACH OTHER, YOU ARE TWO SEPARATE PEOPLE, AND YOU DON’T BELONG TO EACH OTHER.


A WORD ABOUT FORGIVENESS. REGARDLESS OF THE DEPTH OF YOUR LOVE, THERE WILL BE OCCASIONS WHEN ONE OF YOU DISAPPOINTS THE OTHER OR DOESN’T MEET THAT PERSON’S EXPECTATIONS. AT SUCH TIMES, BE QUICK TO PARDON THE MISTAKES, THE OMISSIONS, OR THE ERRORS AND FORGET AND FORGIVE.


ONE SPOUSE IN A RELATIONSHIP, WHEN I ASKED HOW THE COUPLE STAYED TOGETHER SAID, “I DIDN’T SET MY EXPECTATIONS TOO HIGH.”


LINDSEY, REMEMBER WHEN YOU PLAYED FOR JAMESTOWN HS FOR THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP IN VOLLEYBALL. CAN YOU IMAGINE YOUR COACH TELLING YOU BEFORE THE GAME NOT TO SET YOUR EXPECTATIONS TOO HIGH?? MARRIED COUPLES HAVE HIGH EXPECTATIONS AND THEY COMMUNICATE THOSE EXPECTATIONS TO ONE ANOTHER.


GOOD COMMUNICATION IN A MARRIAGE REQUIRES PLENTIFUL USE OF THE FOLLOWING WORDS AND PHRASES: PLEASE, THANK YOU, YOUR WELCOME, MAY I HELP?, I’M SORRY AND I FORGIVE YOU, EXCUSE ME AND PARDON ME YOU CAN HAVE THE LAST PIECE, YOU LOOK SO NICE TODAY, HONEY AND LET ME DO THAT FOR YOU.


SOME NEGATIVE ACTIONS AND WORDS THAT CAN DOOM YOUR RELATIONSHIP: SILENT TREATMENT, SNIDE REMARKS, PUTTING DOWN YOUR PARTNER IN PUBLIC, NOT ADMITTING YOU ARE WRONG, RUDENESS AND SARCASM. REMEMBER THIS: SARCASM IS THE WEAPON OF THE INSECURE.


IT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER COMMUNICATION IS NOT LIMITED TO SPEAKING. JOHN WOODEN, THE FAMOUS BASKETBALL COACH WHO RECENTLY PASSED AWAY SAID, “THEY DO NOT LOVE THAT DO NOT SHOW THEIR LOVE.” KISSING, TOUCHING, HOLDING HANDS AND HUGGING ARE CONSTANT REMINDERS OF YOUR AFFECTION FOR EACH OTHER. CUDDLING AND SNUGGLING SHOULD ALSO BE IN YOUR MARRIAGE PLAY BOOK. UNEXPECTED GIFTS ARE EXPRESSIONS OF LOVE AND ADMIRATION. COMPLIMENTS AND THOUGHTFUL WORDS OF APPRECIATION ARE A WAY OF COMMUNICATING YOUR LOVE. AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE: A KISS ON THE BACK OF THE NECK EACH DAY.


HERE’S OUR CHALLENGE TO YOU, LINDSEY AND ALEX. MAKE TIME EVERY DAY TO COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER, AND MAKE CERTAIN WHAT YOU COMMUNICATE COMES FROM YOUR HEART. THAT ONE CAME FROM COUSIN JENNY.


FINALLY, IT IS AN UNDENIABLE FACT THAT MARRIED COUPLES WHO REGULARLY WORSHIP THEIR GOD IN A CHURCH OR SYNAGOG HAVE HAPPIER AND LONGER MARRIAGES THAN THOSE WHO DON’T. AND THAT IS THE TRUTH. IF YOU ASK GOD TO BE PRESENT IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP, HE WILL BLESS YOUR MARRIAGE, STRENGTHEN YOUR MARRIAGE, AND HEAL YOUR MARRIAGE IF THERE ARE PROBLEMS.


EARLIER I SUGGESTED THAT ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. A MORE CURRENT PHRASE IS, YOU CAN TALK THE TALK BUT CAN YOU WALK THE WALK? NEXT, I’M GOING TO ASK YOU TO DECLARE YOUR INTENTION TO WED AND TO TAKE YOUR VOWS. THAT’S THE TALK. GMA AND I CHALLENGE YOU TO WALK THE WALK AS WELL SO ONE DAY YOU CAN LOOK BACK ON YOUR LIFE TOGETHER AS WE HAVE AND SAY “THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES.”

June 4, 2010

A Sixty-Two Year Love Affair


It was October 24, 1947 when a high school junior who turned “sweet sixteen” the previous March asked a boy in her class to a party. According to an entry in her diary that evening, she had a “swell” time.


A few days later, they dated again, but during the next six months the boy is only mentioned occasionally in the diary, and they were never together as a couple.


Then on February 17, 1948, the seventeen year old boy and girl danced with each other three times at the local teen canteen. The diary entry that night read:

“The last time we danced together I was just getting ready to go. I even had my coat on. He held me real close and kept his lips on my forehead the whole time.”

Something happened that night to the boy and girl. The spark that was created on their dates six months earlier burst into flame, and on April 17, they dated for the third time. From that night on, they were going steady, dating throughout high school and college until, on May 30, 1953, they stood before a congregation of relatives and friends and pledged their love for all time.


Last month, Nancy and I, who first dated in October of 1947, celebrated fifty-seven years of marriage and sixty-two years of being in love.


Among the factors we credit for our long and loving relationship is our commitment to our church and to our faith. God has blessed and strengthened our marriage, and we give thanks to Him for both our physical health and the spiritual nourishment we received through our years together.

May 27, 2010

Words in Action


A little girl stayed for dinner at the home of her first grade friend. The vegetable for the meal was buttered broccoli, and the mother asked if her daughter’s friend liked it. The visitor replied politely, “Oh yes. I love it.”


But when the bowl of broccoli was passed, the little girl didn’t take any. This prompted the hostess to remark, “I thought you said you liked broccoli.” To which the little girl replied sweetly, “Oh, yes mam, I do, but not enough to eat it.”


The first grader’s response reminds me of a line from the 1987 movie Full Metal Jacket: “You can talk the talk (say you like broccoli), but can you walk the walk (eat it)?


Two thousand years ago, the apostle John wrote:


My children, let us love not merely in theory or in words. Let us love in sincerity and in practice.


We are commanded by God to create loving relationships, and that requires action, not just words. In the week ahead, I pledge to demonstrate my love for others in acts of kindness.


Will you do the same?


May 18, 2010

Pollution Stains the Planet and the Heart


Recently, we have been kept well informed of the status of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The latest reports on the disaster suggest that a dense layer of oil 10 miles long, 3 miles wide, and 300 feet thick may enter the Gulf Stream and could eventually work it’s way up the Atlantic Coast.


That news reminded me of a visit to the Florida coast in 1990 when Nancy and I went to the beach, spread our blanket on the sand, and it landed on a pile of black oily glop. Before we left the beach, we were scraping oil deposits off our feet and our shoes, and rubbing both with lighter fluid when we returned to the home where we were staying.


In the first chapter of Genesis, we read that God created the earth and all that is in it, and when he finished he saw that “it was good.” Well it was good, but through the ages, we and our ancestors have killed it, burned it, covered it with garbage and abused it to the point that one day we may become the endangered species.


As we work together to cleanse and purify the planet as we must, it is important to remember there is another kind of pollution ___ the kind that stains and contaminates our hearts. Arrogance, vanity, anger, bitterness, jealousy, lust, greed and indifference will kill the love in our hearts just as pollution of God’s natural world can kill your heirs and mine.


Jesus said, ”Blessed are the pure at heart, for they shall see God.” May we all be blessed.


May 10, 2010

Judging Others


Bill Crawford was a janitor for the U.S. Air Force Academy back in the late 1970s. His job was to empty the trash, buff the floors, clean the toilets and keep the building tidy for the cadets who lived in his dorm.


Bill was a shy man and he did his job well, so most of the time he just blended into the woodwork. In a military school where officers with silver or gold on their lapels were a common sight, you might say Bill Crawford was “just a janitor.”


All that changed one day when a cadet, reading a book about the Allied campaign in Italy during World War II, learned that as a result of his “conspicuous gallantry” ... “above and beyond the call of duty,” Pvt. William “Bill” Crawford had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.


The fact is the old man, who labored in a young person’s world of future warriors, was not only a courageous patriot but a national hero as well.


Despite Jesus’ commandment to love others as he loved us, we regularly make critical judgments of others based on their appearance, vocation, ethnicity, sexual preference, or other personal characteristics.


Yet Jesus demonstrated the scope of his love in events or parables when he chose to associate with those we might judge to be “only fishermen” or “only janitors.” May we always look at others in a spirit of love as Jesus commanded.


April 30, 2010

God's Transforming Power


One of my favorite stories is about the old timer who was interviewed during the party celebrating his 100th birthday. The reporter asked, “You have seen a lot of changes in your long life, haven’t you?” Without hesitation, the old man responded, “Yes, I certainly have, and I’ve been agin’ everyone of ‘em.”


It’s human nature to resist change. That’s why we hear people say things like, “A leopard can’t change his spots,” or “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”


Why are people so reluctant to change? American author, Marilyn Ferguson reasons “It's not so much that we're afraid of change, or so in love with the old ways; but it's like being in between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to.”


The fact is that people do change and nowhere is that more evident than in those who come to accept the transforming power of belief in Jesus Christ.


For millions of people, “a new life in Christ” has changed weakness to strength, failures to victories and doubt and uncertainty to confidence and assurance.


Is there something about your life you want to change for the better, but you have not yet found the will power? You, too, can be renewed if you believe in God’s transforming power and love.

April 17, 2010

Silent Cal and Me


Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth President of the Unites States, was a man of few words.


Dorothy Parker, who was seated next to “Silent Cal” at a dinner, said to him, "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you." His famous reply: "You lose."


I sometimes wish I were more like “Silent Cal.” Why am I compelled to respond to statements from others with whom I disagree? These days, it’s someone’s views on politics which will often cause me to respond heatedly if I don’t agree with the speaker’s position.


To keep my blood pressure stable and avoid a possible stroke, I recently decided I will no longer discuss politics with others whose political views differ from my own.


If we are face to face, I get too emotional when I speak my mind, and if we are communicating on line, it’s too time consuming to prepare a well thought out response. I have other “stuff” I would rather do.


So, as of today, I have decided to take a page from the Cal Coolidge play book, and in the future when I am speaking or writing to someone whose views differ from mine, I will simply say, “I’m sorry. I don’t discuss politics with friends or family with whom I disagree.”


There are Ten Commandments but none requires me to tell someone when I think he or she is wrong.


April 8, 2010

Hannah's Fall


On Easter Sunday, Nancy and I spent the afternoon with our son, Doug, our daughter-in-law, Holly, and other family members and friends including our two great granddaughters, Hannah (4) and Haylee (1).


In addition to Easter baskets and traditional gifts, Grandpa Doug and Holly gave Hannah a new bicycle with training wheels.


Hannah’s first ride was tentative, but it didn’t take long before she was peddling up and down Doug and Holly’s long driveway with ease. Then she fell. But instead of running to her Mommy or her Daddy for solace, she declared, “Grandpa, when you fall down . . . you get back up really soon.”


Currently, over 3,000 books on “How to Be Successful” are available from Amazon.com, and undoubtedly, most will contain a chapter or more on the importance of persistence and determination if we are to succeed in any endeavor. Most books will include stories about people like Thomas Edison who failed many times during a period of thirteen months to find a filament to use in a carbon incandescent lamp.


Hannah Loughner, age four, already recognizes that failure doesn’t need to mark the end of any venture. Getting back up and trying again may put you just one step closer to success.


Sometimes, a child can say in a few simple words what adults write about in books.


March 27, 2010

Peter the Rock and Me


Other than Jesus, my favorite personality in the Bible is Peter, one of the central figures in all of scripture. That’s because I can relate to Peter’s numerous imperfections and human frailties.


To begin with, Peter was impulsive. The night Jesus was arrested Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of a high priest's slave. There he was, the founder of the Church and the man Jesus called his Rock, wielding a sword. It gives new meaning to the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers.


After Jesus was arrested, Peter denied knowing him. The third time he was accused Peter cursed and swore an oath. The phrase, “Swears like a sailor” is not based on fantasy.


Paul charged Peter with being a hypocrite. He said Peter acted like a Gentile when he was among Gentiles and like a Jew when he was with Jews.


Yes, the New Testament describes Peter as a blundering, impulsive, hypocrite whose vocabulary was not always polite or refined. Substitute my name for his, and you have described me.


The amazing thing is that God chose this mass of quivering Jell-O to be his Rock. It is just as astonishing to realize that God chooses to forgive me and to offer me another opportunity to live the life Christ wants me to live.


March 17, 2010

What is Required of a Leader?


The year was 1955 and a quarterback for the University of Louisville, with only 527 passing yards in his senior year, dreamed of playing in the National Football League. Following graduation, the determined young man was drafted in the ninth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers but released before the season began.


After writing many letters and knocking on many doors, the persistent quarterback was rejected a second time. Finally, after his third tryout, the Baltimore Colts signed Johnny Unitas as a third string quarterback. It was his first step in a professional career that ultimately led to the NFL Hall of Fame.


Leadership involves vision, commitment and the ability to motivate others, and the Golden Arm, Johnny U had all three attributes.


Of course, the perfect role model for leadership skills is Jesus of Nazareth. . Today, more than 2 billion people around the world follow Jesus, the most dynamic leader in history.


Jesus had a vision of a world where all people were motivated by love for one another. He had a passion for his message, and he had the ability to motivate others. Exceptional leaders, like Jesus, are also dedicated to a life of service to others. In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, we read:

“I tell you whoever wants to be great must be your servant. . . Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.”

Whether it’s sports, the church, education, business or any other worthwhile endeavor, leadership requires commitment, vision, the ability to inspire others and service.


March 2, 2010

Commandments for a Lasting Relationship


If you search Amazon.com for advice on relationships or marriage, you will find nearly 127,000 books on the subject. You can read all of them OR you can open your heart to advice from Nancy and me, a couple who have been in love for sixty-two years and married for fifty-seven. Based on experience, which I am told is the best teacher, here are five commandments for a lasting relationship.


Thou shall be totally committed to each other. A relationship or marriage that stands the test of time requires that you be tenacious in your love for each other and your desire to stay together no matter what. A good relationship requires that you have a “capacity for tenacity.”


Thou shall always treat your partner with courtesy and consideration. “Please, thank you, you’re welcome, excuse me, I’m sorry and you’re forgiven” should be common language between you. Sarcastic humor, wisecracks, humiliating digs or crude language that demeans your partner are not part of a loving relationship.


Thou shall communicate with your partner with candor and frankness. A relationship built on honesty and straightforwardness is vital in a marriage that stands the test of time. Also remember communication is not limited to words. Touching, holding hands, hugging and kissing are constant reminders of your love and affection for each other.


Thou shall have a penchant for humor. A good sense of humor is the best antidote for anxiety and depression and the most direct route to serenity and contentment. Laugh often, laugh long, and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.


Finally, thou shall commune together with your God. If you ask God to be present in your relationship, He will bless and strengthen your togetherness and heal your relationship when there are problems. That’s one reason those couples who attend church regularly have the lowest divorce rate.


Follow these commandments and you too may celebrate sixty-two years of a loving relationship with the same partner.