December 25, 2012

There Was Room in the Inn

Wallace Purling, a second grader who had trouble keeping up in the classroom, was chosen to be the innkeeper in the church Christmas Pageant. Wally was big for his age, so his refusal of lodging for Joseph and Mary would be convincing. Besides, he only had a few lines to learn.

On the night of the pageant, Joseph appeared, slowly guiding Mary to the door of the inn where Wally waited.

When he heard Joseph knocking, Wally opened the door and asked brusquely, “What do you want?”

“We seek lodging for the night,” Joseph answered.

“There is no room in the inn,” said Wally loudly.

“Sir, we are weary and my wife is heavy with child.”

Now Wally looked down at Mary, and there was an embarrassing pause until the prompter whispered his cue from the wings.

“No, be gone,” said Wally. 

As Joseph and Mary began to walk away, this Pageant suddenly took a turn that made it unlike any other.

“Don’t go, Joseph,” Wally ad libbed. “You and Mary can have my room.”

A few people in church that evening thought the Christmas Pageant was ruined. Others considered it the best Christmas Pageant they had ever seen.

December 17, 2012

Shepherds Were the First to Learn

Shepherds Were the First to Learn

God invited his most creative angels to suggest how the birth of his Son should be announced to the people on earth. He began saying:
“His birthplace will be Bethlehem, the city of David, the Shepherd King, and His name will be Jesus, for He will be a Savior for all people.”
The Angel Michael, Protector of Israel, spoke first:  
“I suggest that humble shepherds be the first to receive the announcement, for Jesus will be a shepherd, guiding and protecting all people who choose to believe in Him.”
Metatron, the Patron Angel of Children, spoke next: 
“Most shepherds are children, and I like Gabriel’s proposal. It suggests that Jesus’ message to the world will be for all people regardless of their age or station in life.”
God’s Messenger, Gabriel had a special request:
“Father, your Heavenly Angels are bursting with joy on the occasion of the birth of your Son, Jesus, and we humbly and respectfully ask that we be given the great honor of making that announcement.” 
And so it was that ...
There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”                                               Luke 2:8-14                                                                              

December 11, 2012

A King Is Born . . . in a Stable!

Two thousand years ago, the people of Israel were anticipating the arrival of a King. It was a promise made through the prophets of the Old Testament like Jeremiah who proclaimed: 
“The days are coming.” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” 
Today, Christians thrill to the story of Jesus birth, but to the people of that time, a stable, a manger and shepherds were not the kind of circumstances anyone would expect for the birth of a king.

The fact is the Son of God wasn’t born like we expect a King to be born. He didn’t live like we expect a King to live, and he certainly didn’t die like we expect a King to die. But in the wisdom of God, he did far more than we ever anticipated and there was only one reason for it.

In 1980, the day before Christmas, Richard Ballenger’s mother in Anderson, South Carolina, asked her young son to shine her shoes. When he finished, Richard received a quarter for his efforts.

That evening, when Mom dressed for Christmas Eve Services there was a lump in her shoe. It was the quarter wrapped in paper on which Richard wrote, “I done it for love.”

At Christmas, we can picture God’s infant son lying in a manger, and somewhere in that makeshift crib, we can imagine a wadded up note that explains  everything:
“I done it for love.”

December 4, 2012

Losing Christmas Traditions

Year after year, the Christmas traditions we observed in the past are disappearing.

Until recently, the tree we decorated in December with lights, colored balls and candy canes was called a Christmas Tree. Today,  it is often referred to as a Holiday Tree.

School Christmas Concerts are now Winter Concerts and the programs no longer include carols. Look for cards with Nativity scenes in your stationery store, and you will find very few.

Clerks in stores and people greeting each other on the street now typically say, “Happy Holidays” instead of the “Merry Christmas” we used to hear.

Some people are angry about the loss of our Christmas traditions. They believe it is the result of an attack on Christianity by those who have no faith. More likely, it is a reflection of the fact that this nation has become a multicultural society represented by many religions and many traditions in addition to Christianity.

I lament the loss of the Christian traditions I experienced all of my life, but I will not allow that passing to lessen for me the joyful message of Christmas that God sent us a Savior who revealed to us that if you welcome Him into your heart, love and life will triumph over hate and death.

The Politically Correct may call it a Winter Holiday, but as long as people celebrate the birth of Christ, there will always be a Christmas.

November 27, 2012

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. Two thousand years ago, we were given a gift of love straight from the heart of God that we can accept gratefully or leave lying under the tree. 

Life can be hard, and we may have so many burdens it's difficult to cope. But God's precious gift can give us the strength and confidence to confront any and all our trials. Receive it joyfully.

November 20, 2012

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

I love it when a friend sends me an email that helps me to begin the day with a good laugh. Here’s one from Jack Grimner, a lovable Irishman and a friend of sixty-three years.
Father O'Malley answers the phone:
'Hello, is this Father O'Malley?'     'It is!' 
'This is the IRS. Is Vince O'Neill in your congregation?'     'He is'  
'Did he donate $10,000 to the church?'      'He will.' 
In her book entitled, A Better Brain at Any Age: The Holistic Way to Improve Your Memory, Reduce Stress, and Sharpen Your Wits” Sondra Kornblatt claims laughter can provide numerous medical benefits. For example, Kornblatt suggests a good joke can lower our blood pressure, reduce stress, increase memory and learning, and improve alertness and creativity.

Many people believe so thoroughly in the benefits of laughter, they participate in a unique technique whereby they laugh for no reason. You don’t even need a sense of humor, just a willingness to laugh. It’s called Laughter Yoga, and participants believe it can be extremely liberating and is followed by complete relaxation.

God created us with the ability to laugh, even at ourselves. Then God created the duckbill platypus, the proboscis monkey and people who see the Virgin Mary in a corn chip just to give us a reason to laugh and help us stay healthy.

Laughter is indeed the “best medicine.” 

November 14, 2012


Recently, I ate lunch with a group of Mennonite workmen, and as the conversation evolved, the gentleman next to me made the comment, “You like to talk don’t you? Are you a salesman?”

His question prompted me to ask myself, “When I chat with others, am I an interesting conversationalist or a boring orator?”

One of the best tests of a humble person is in any conversation, he concentrates more on the other person than himself.  I try to be “you oriented” when I speak to others, but I’m aware that often, I talk too much, too long and sometimes, too impulsively. In the latter case, I occasionally say something I later regret.

Benjamin Franklin described best how difficult it is for some people to listen more than speak:
"In reality there is perhaps not one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself...For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility."
Self-centeredness and pride are major stumbling blocks for anyone who strives for humility. It is a character trait which Jesus addressed when he ate at the home of a prominent Pharisee and noticed how everyone tried to sit at the head of the table with the host: 
“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

November 9, 2012

God Bless America

 In Bruce Wilkinson's popular book, The Prayer of Jabez, he shares a fable about Mr. Jones who dies and goes to heaven where St. Peter is waiting to  lead him on a tour.

As they walk the golden streets lined with beautiful mansions, Jones sees a huge building with no windows and only one door. Despite St. Peter warning that he shouldn't see what's In there, Jones is much too inquisitive. He enters the building and finds it stacked with boxes marked with the names of those in heaven.

Jones rushes to find the box with his name on it, and learns it is filled with all the blessings God was prepared to give him . . . but Jones never asked for them. 

The recent presidential election indicates that our country is clearly divided along ideological lines as it was in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln was elected. The ideologies are different now, nevertheless, Lincoln's warning is still relevant today, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Bruce Wilkinson suggests it is God's nature to bless us. Let us pray that God will also bless this great country which was founded on the assertion that all citizens, regardless of their political persuasion, have certain rights. Those rights were established by God himself and include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”


November 1, 2012

Our Creator God

A famous potter, while walking along a lonely stream, discovered a bank of the purest clay he had ever seen. He immediately ran home for a bucket, returned to the stream and dug a large quantity of the clay which he placed securely in his studio.

After a brief vacation, he returned to his home and discovered the clay was gone, but in it’s place the workroom was filled with the most  colorful, beautifully shaped and intricately designed pottery he had ever seen.

The potter was confused because the workroom was locked securely. The dust on the floor was undisturbed and the kiln was not used.

Logic and common sense will not permit us to believe the pottery  made itself.  It could not have just happened. Someone was responsible.

Yet there are those who believe the delicate beauty of a Columbine, the power and bulk of a Blue Whale and all the wonders of nature are merely happenings ___ accidental structures that in some inexplicable manner without purpose or direction from some creative power just happen to come together.

The beauty and the complexity of the plant, animal and human life we see around us points to a deliberate Designer who not only created us and the world  in which we live, but sustains it as well.

Blessings from Gpa Westerdahl

October 24, 2012

The Amazing Monarch Butterfly

The monarch butterfly is one of nature’s most remarkable creatures. All of us are familiar with bird migration, but few people realize that monarchs also relocate, often traveling as much as 1,800 miles each spring and fall.  

Those who migrate north in the spring make that trip only once. Those who travel south the following fall are several generations removed from their ancestors who came up from the south the previous spring.

It’s difficult to believe, but many of the great great grandchildren will end their migration in the same place where their ancestors wintered the previous year. Some will locate on the same tree, or even the same branch their ancestors left in the spring.

While birds and butterflies have a remarkable uncanny sense that enables them to travel hundreds of miles, we need a GPS or a map when we travel in unfamiliar territory. And each of us needs a guide to help us through the maze of conflicting emotions and discouraging experiences we encounter as we travel through life.

The New Testament of the Bible tells the story of the ultimate mentor for living, Jesus Christ. Those who believe in Him are led to a life of peace that transcends understanding, a joy that is indescribable and hope to sustain us even in the face of death.
“Once again Jesus addressed the people: ‘I am the light of the world. No follower of mine shall wander in the dark; he shall have the light of life’”   John 8:12

October 17, 2012

The Weird Little Photons

Alexander Pope is credited for being the first to suggest that, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Despite my lack of expertise on the subject of photons, I find them so intriguing, I am willing to risk a walk in a perilous Louisiana swamp of alligators to examine them briefly.

Recently, French Physician Serge Haroche and American David Wineland won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics for devising methods to study the highly unusual properties of these smallest measures of light. In the weirdness of a quantum world, for example, photons can be in two places at the same time and can spin diagonally, vertically and horizontally___ all at once.

Reports suggest that even quantum physicists don’t understand, so how can we mortals? Even so, let me attempt to summarize by suggesting photons can be described as strange little pieces of light which break all the rules of classical physics.

In the first chapter of Genesis, we read, “God said, “‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” And in his book, Ripples in the Cosmos, astrophysicist Michael Rowan-Robinson suggests, "The universe was born in a blaze of light." 

We look to the Heavens and we observe infinite light, a reality that defies logic and reason. Haroche and Wineland study tiny bits of light, that also defy rational thought. Both are  creations of the Master of the Universe whose love, power and presence in our lives are also beyond our comprehension.  

Michelangelo, the greatest living artist of his time, summarized my feeble attempts to express faith in the creations of a good and gracious God with this quote:
“I live and love in God’s peculiar light.”

October 10, 2012

The Remarkable Human Brain

Most of us remember long tedious hours in libraries researching subjects for papers that were required in our high school and/or college courses.  Today, thanks to the marvel of technology, we type a few words in our favorite search engine, and we are offered more information than we can possibly use.

At a high school program in the late fifties, a scientist told a group of seniors that one day people would carry a small device which would enable them to call anyone with a telephone anywhere in the world. At the time, most students probably considered the prediction to be science fiction, and if the speaker had known what we are able to do with our phones today, he may have regarded that reality as beyond his imagination.

We live in a remarkable technological age when discoveries that stagger our senses are announced every day. Unfortunately, we often forget what it was that created the incredible products and services which we use daily. That marvel of biological engineering is a machine more complex than any smart device available today. It is the human brain. And who or what is responsible for our remarkable inventive minds? 

Deepak Chopra, one of the master teachers of Eastern philosophy in the Western world, has written a new book titled, God. In it he makes this observation:
"The human brain, so far as we know, is the most complex thing in existence. Was it really a product of random choice over the past 13 billion years? To believe in randomness as the only creative force in nature, one physicist quipped, is like saying that a hurricane blew through a junkyard and built a Boeing 777.”
We marvel at the human brain and what it can accomplish. Perhaps we should take a moment and recognize and give thanks to our Creator who conceived it. 

October 3, 2012

The Curious Mind and Retirement

When British statesman, Sir Robert Walpole, retired after many arduous years in public service, he went to the library in his home and took down a book, read for a few minutes, then returned it to the shelf.

He took down another, but only held it for a short time before replacing it and taking a third. After returning it to a shelf, he burst into tears and said, "I have led a life of business so long that I have lost my taste for reading, and now___what shall I do?”

I recently heard about an attorney who is long past retirement age, but he continues to work, because he “doesn't know what he would do with his time.”

Nancy and I are both over eighty, and most of our friends and associates are retired, but as far as we know, none is bored. Who can possibly be bored when there are so many books on so many subjects calling out to be read?  And who can be bored in this computer age when information on any subject is just a click away?

How unfortunate that someone should only experience a lifetime of work, when our Creator has surrounded us with an extravagance of natural gifts all waiting to be explored. The curious mind finds wonder in all God’s creation from the complexity of a single atom to the vastness of our universe . . . or is there more than one universe? I’ll Google that question.

Here’s an appropriate quote from Robert Louis Stevenson:
The world is so full of a number of things
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

September 27, 2012

Say “No” to Politics as Usual

Here we are again at ringside watching as candidates for the highest elective office in the land slug it out, making numerous promises for what they will do if elected. Unfortunately, nothing is so certain in politics as a short memory, and candidates in both parties are guilty of many broken promises once elected.

Perhaps it’s time____ no, I’m certain it’s time to size up our candidates for public office on something other than promises they don’t mean and will never keep. It is time to scrutinize politicians the same way we judge everyone else in our society.

The fact is, we have a double standard. We trust those with whom we do business to be honest and fair and to sell us a product worthy of our investment. When we are disappointed, we simply stop shopping where that trust has been violated. But we excuse our candidates for public office who lie to us, because, well, “it’s just politics as usual.”

I suggest we allow our politicians’ promises to go in one ear and out the other, and instead, when choosing a candidate, let us consider those ethical standards and moral values we learned from our parents and in our churches, synagogues and temples: 
Regard for the truth; Reverence for human life; Forgiveness; A sense of stewardship; Pride in our religious heritage; Courtesy, kindness and consideration for others.

September 19, 2012


I am a cancer survivor. It was prostate cancer, and after a great deal of research, I decided on a seed implant and five weeks of radiation. 

I was fortunate. I caught the disease early, and the approach I took was the correct one for me. Today, I consider myself cancer free, and my tests agree.

I have just read Mortality by Christopher Hitchens. His story is different. Hitchens, a brilliant writer and speaker on politics and culture, battled esophageal cancer for eighteen months. In his book, originally published as a series in Vanity Fair, Hitchens poignantly describes the transforming experience that slowly changed his relationship with the world around him.

I don't remember questions from friends and relatives about my cancer, but unlike Hitchens, I never considered the possibility that I was dying. He wasn't so confident,  so a response to questions like, "How are you today?" took on a different kind of challenge.

The questions are well meaning, and are meant to show concern, and that's quite appropriate. The answers, however, are a lot more difficult for the responder, especially, one who has had a bad day. 

As Hitchens writes, "Nobody wants to be told about the countless minor horrors and humiliations that become facts of 'life' when your body turns from being your friend to being a foe." He continues that thought at great length, but it's much too descriptive to repeat here.

Though speaking with those who have cancer may sometimes be awkward, and we may be fearful of saying too much or to little, we are all capable of intercessory prayer. Praying to God in behalf of someone who is ill is one of the oldest forms of therapy and is widely accepted and practiced by Christians of all denominations. 

The Mortality book jacket suggests, it is “the exemplary story of one man's refusal to cower in the face of the unknown, as well as a searching look at the human predicament." For those who live in Penn Yan, it is on the New Book shelf in our local library, and I highly recommend it. Almost everyone’s life has been touched by cancer.

September 12, 2012

A Story about Blessings

Each week, when Nancy and I go to the Penn Yan Public Library, I always check the New Book section, and I am always pleased when I discover a “gem.” It happens often.

My latest discovery is a collection of stories by Dr. Sukhraj S. Dhillon in a book titled A Treasure of Great Spiritual Stories, Spirituality in Everyday Living. 

This is one of my favorites called Leather Bound Bible.

A wealthy man’s son was graduating from college, and he was hoping his wealthy father would give him an expensive sports car as a graduation gift.

On graduation day, the father presented his son with a beautifully wrapped box which held a lovely, leather bound Bible. Angry that his father only gave him a Bible as a gift, the young man left and never came back.

Many years later, the father died and willed all his possessions to the son. When the son came home, he found the gift still lying on his father’s desk where he left it. When he opened the Bible, he saw an inscription from Mathew 7:11.
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your   children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
As he read those words, a car key with a tag from the dealer who had the car the son admired, dropped to the floor. On the tag was the date of the son’s graduation, and the words . . . PAID IN FULL.

Dr. Dhillon ended the story with this question:

“How often do we miss God’s blessings because they aren’t packaged as we expect? Do not spoil the blessings you have by desiring what you have not.”

September 5, 2012

Is Church Really Boring?

A 2011 study of reasons people don’t go to church reveals the number one objection is, “It’s boring!"

Certainly, the story of Jesus life, death and resurrection as described in the Scriptures is not boring. It is awe inspiring, dramatic and encouraging.  And for most churchgoers, the music of the church isn’t dull. It’s uplifting and stimulating.

I admit that over the years I have attended worship services where the sermon has put me to sleep.  Reminds me of the man who went to church and slept soundly during the sermon. When he greeted the pastor after church, he said, “Thank you, for your message, Pastor. I woke up refreshed."

Some people think church folks aren’t friendly, and Nancy and I have visited churches where no one spoke to us.  But we also visited a church in St. Croix where we were asked to remain in our pew while everyone in the church came to shake our hands while singing a welcoming song.

If you don't attend church because you think the message will put you to sleep and people aren't friendly, know this:

There are churches where the congregation will greet you enthusiastically.
There are churches where the stories of Jesus will inspire you.  
There are churches where the sermons will challenge and stimulate you. 
There are churches where you will feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
There are churches where your doubts will be turned to faith.           
There are churches where your pride will be turned to humility, and . . .
There are churches where you will find forgiveness through Christ Jesus.

Our Bluff Point United Methodist Church is like that. You can find one too.

August 29, 2012

What Do You Want to Be?

Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr., who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1902 to 1932, was riding the train in his native state of Massachusetts when he was approached by the conductor. When Holmes began to fumble through his pockets as if he were looking for his ticket, the conductor recognized him, and said, "That's okay, Justice Holmes. Don't worry about your ticket. When you find it, just send it in."

To which Holmes replied, "My problem, Sir, is not, where is my ticket, but where am I going?"

In one of Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies, Macbeth suggests that our time on earth is devoid of meaning and our days on this earth serve no purpose.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time; 
How many of us let our days slip by in a “petty pace” without giving thought to where we are going or what we want to be.

When I was 46, I created my bucket list, twenty goals I wanted to accomplish in my life like “learn a technical skill; write and publish a song; visit Greece and/or Sweden; and quit smoking, weigh 175 pounds, and go to church every Sunday . . . all at the same time."

As I reflect on that list now, I wish I had contemplated, instead, what I want “to be,” not what I hoped “to do.” If I had done so in 1977, perhaps my list would have read like this: I want to be “a loving and considerate husband; a good father; an appreciative and contributing member of society; and a faithful servant to my Lord."

Despite the fact I never recorded such goals, I hope my family and friends believe I have accomplished some or all of those latter objectives. I tried.

You may already have goals in life, but have you ever thought about what you want to become?" 

PS One of my goals in 1977 was to parachute from a plane. In 1992, I decided to delete    that goal.

August 22, 2012

The Ultimate Comfort Food

Nancy and I recently attended a small gathering of family members and friends at which our hostess served comfort food, which Wikipedia describes as “food prepared traditionally that may have nostalgic or sentimental appeal.” Wikipedia also suggests that comfort food “may relieve negative psychological affects or increase positive feelings."

The most popular comfort food is probably chicken soup which many people believe has curative powers for those stricken with a cold or flu. The comfort food prepared by our hostess was macaroni and cheese made from a family recipe that is at least eighty years old or more. Seven of the ten people at the table were familiar with this recipe, and I have enjoyed this dish for more than seventy years.

The recipe was handed down from my mother who was still making it when she was in her nineties. It is a dish she prepared with a loving heart which I believe makes it not just comfort food but food for the soul.

You can grill expensive steaks for company, and your friends and family may enjoy them, but they won't necessarily bring back fond memories of family and friends. However, bacon wrapped shrimp on a skewer, brushed with barbecue sauce, lovingly prepared and grilled by our son, Doug, will remind every member of our family of good times vacationing on the Emerald Coast of North Carolina.

In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus declared:
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” 
The Bread of Life refreshes us when we hunger for peace and thirst for the truth. It strengthens us when we are weary and sustains us through life’s trials. Jesus is the ultimate comfort food prepared for us with love and paid for by his death on the cross so that we might have eternal life.

As our young folks might say, “That’s awesome!”

August 15, 2012

Accepting Compliments and Gifts

How do you respond when someone compliments you? Do you accept the praise gratefully or do you suggest that the accolade is unwarranted?  Some people cannot accept a compliment with appreciation.

How do you respond when someone gives you a gift? Do you accept the gift with thanks, or do you suggest the occasion isn’t really important and the gift is unnecessary? Some people cannot accept a gift with gratitude.

Finally, how do you react when someone gives you a helping hand?

Recently, as I was leaving a store, I held a door open while a mother and four small children entered. No one acknowledged my modest courtesy except the smallest child who was about five years old. She said, “Thank you."

Some people find it difficult to accept compliments, gifts or a helping hand. Perhaps it’s a matter of pride and their need to feel independent. They fear that if they accept gifts or help, they will appear to be weak and incapable of helping themselves.

The fact is just about everything we have, except our own initiative, comes from somewhere or someone else. Our education, manners, freedom, opportunities for prosperity and our very life itself have all, or in part, been the result of some other influence in our life. Knowing that, we should all be humbled.

There is a gift that is available to each one of us who believes in the promises of Scripture. It is the gift of forgiveness for our sins.  No one should allow pride or arrogance to keep him or her from accepting this remarkable gift promised by Jesus and ratified by his blood shed freely on the cross.

August 7, 2012

An Opportunity for Penn State University Football

Despite the long range crippling effects of the NCAA actions, the current members of the Penn State University football team have an opportunity to accomplish something which can be legendary.

They can take the events which have cast a cloud over the University, and demonstrate that the 2012 Penn State football team is not about the reprehensible actions of Sandusky, or the failures of Paterno and key administrators. It’s about the commitment, passion, skill and determination of the individual members of the team. Marines call it Espirit de Corps.

If the team needs a motto, they can borrow another one from the Marine Corps . . . Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful __ faithful to each other, Penn State University, their fans and the football program.

Americans love competitors who overcome adversity to become winners, and what a marvelous story it would be if, despite everything that has happened, this team is a winner. It will take exceptional discipline from coaches, every member of the team and enthusiastic support from all Penn State students, alumni and fans, but if they meet the challenge, their success will be legendary.

Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II represented the courageous spirit of the people of that country when faced with impossible odds. During the darkest days in England’s history, Churchill inspired his people with quotes like this:
“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration  and survival.” 
My hope for the 2012 Penn State football team is that they shall be resolved that out of the suffering the University has endured, the participants will find the inspiration to succeed beyond all expectation.

July 29, 2012

JoePa Quotes

With apologies to Parable readers who are on Penn State University football overload, I recently found a web page of Joe Paterno quotes which I read with new insight.

How prophetic! JoePa, the football icon, who is quoted as saying, “The minute you think you got it made, disaster is just around the corner,” will forever be remembered as the man who did not foresee the catastrophe resulting from his failure to run interference for a ten year old boy who was raped in a shower.

How incomprehensible! Paterno, who said, “You have to play with extreme confidence,” allowed his own self assurance to become arrogance __ arrogance that prompted him to conceal a crime that would ultimately condemn a friend, his players and the University he served so passionately.

What irony! the Legend of Happy Valley, an American Football Idol, who preached “Publicity is like poison; it doesn’t hurt unless you swallow it,” gulped down a huge dose of himself to hush up child abuse of the most hideous kind.

May the tragedy at Penn State remind us of our human frailties and prompt us to remember a quote from a different source, Psalm 118: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”

NOTE: Those who follow Contemporary Parables can now leave comments at the email address below. I am particularly interested in hearing from readers in Russia and the Ukraine. 

July 20, 2012

Remaking Yourself

 In October of 2009, an early Parable asked this question:
“If you could take yourself apart like a giant Leggo construction, what character flaws would you leave out when you put yourself back together?”
Arrogance, vanity, jealousy, lust, greed, indifference, anger and bitterness are pollutants of the soul that thoughtful people would obviously eliminate during reconstruction.

But suppose you had an opportunity to add three personal characteristics that were previously missing, what would you include?

One choice for me would be self restraint. At one time, I thought my tombstone should read, “He did nothing in moderation."

My second option would be political tolerance. As I begin my eighth decade of life, I find myself increasingly narrow minded when considering political views and affairs of state.

My third choice for a personal characteristic that has been missing throughout my life is patience. Unfortunately, if I had to wait in line to add patience to my new personality, I might just say “forget it."

Among those characteristics I would certainly put back during reassembly would be my enduring love and appreciation for my family and my firm and unwavering faith in my Lord Jesus Christ.

July 15, 2012

Are YouToxic?

The word “toxic” is sometimes used to describe the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe and our environment in general. But have you ever heard the word “toxic” used to describe a person?

I have not, but as soon as I heard someone called “toxic,” I realized it is a perfect label to depict some people I have known.

To put it bluntly, “toxic” people aren’t very nice to be around. You rarely, if ever, get a smile, a compliment or word of appreciation from “toxic” people.  You are more likely to be insulted, belittled or criticized.

Karl Albrecht a management consultant, executive advisor and author of twenty books, describes “toxic” people as:
“ . . .those who consistently behave in ways that make others feel devalued, inadequate, angry, frustrated or guilty.”
According to Albrecht, the opposite of a toxic person is a nourishing person, someone who:
“ . . . makes others feel valued, capable, loved, respected and appreciated."
So where are you on the toxic-nourishing scale, and is it where you want to be? Here’s a link to a brief quiz by Albrecht which may help you determine, and perhaps improve, the quality of your interaction with others: 

The command to “love one another” appears thirteen times in the New Testament, so it cannot be dismissed.  Loving someone who is nourishing is so effortless. On the other hand, loving the toxic . . . now that is a challenge! 

July 8, 2012

God Bless the U.S.A.

Our Founding Fathers would be pleased with the 4th of July celebrations in New York City, Boston and Washington D.C. In each case, God Bless America was sung with enthusiasm and conviction by those attending the festivities.

And the "separation of church and state," a phrase created by Justice Hugo Black in a Supreme Court decision of 1947, was certainly not evident in the public's spirited rendition of Lee Greenwood's Proud to Be an American which ends “God Bless the U.S.A."

The celebrations in Boston and New York were privately sponsored, but the program in Washington was supported, in part, by the National Park Service and the U. S. Army. Those without faith will undoubtedly sue to prevent their participation in 2013.

John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, commenting on our Nation's birth, said:
"Let us humbly commit our righteous cause to the Great Lord of The Universe."
 After the Revolution, Thomas Jefferson said:
"God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed a conviction these liberties are a gift from God?" 
Since 1947, numerous decisions by the Supreme Court have censored many expressions of faith in public life, but on July 4th, 2012, thousands of patriots from across the country asked God to "bless America from the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam."

God is still relevant in these United States, and God is still guiding this great country founded on what George Washington called the "pillars of morality and religion."

June 28, 2012

Judging Jerry Sandusky

 From Monday through Friday, our son, Doug, sends an email “Quote of the Day” to friends, loved ones and employees. Most quotes are one liners that bring a smile or a challenge, but occasionally a remark is so thought provoking, it demands a second look ____ like this one from Brazilian novelist, Paulo Coelho:
“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think yours is the only path."
After checking his biography, I feel certain Coelho is referring to the fact that his mother and father wanted him to be an engineer, but even as a teenager Coelho wanted to become a writer. His parents thought he was throwing his life away and even committed him to a mental institution in an attempt to get him to change his mind.

I read Doug’s “Quote of the Day” when Jerry Sandusky's trial was front page news, and I assumed Coelho was suggesting I can't make a "judgement" about the man whose name will forever define sexual predation.  But I can make a judgement about how he lived his life.

Jesus tells us, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” Certainly, we are not to judge where a person stands with God, but Jesus also instructs us to "discern both good and evil" in the actions of ourselves as well as others.

As difficult as it may be, we are called to forgive Jerry Sandusky if he admits his crimes and asks to be forgiven, but as Christians, I believe we can judge his acts of depravity as evil and recognize he must be severely punished to the complete and full extent of our laws.

June 22, 2012

Landscapes from the Creator’s Hand

Years ago, my wife and I traveled to Bangor, Maine to visit Wayne Glick, the former President of Keuka College with whom I worked for many years.

During our visit, Wayne and his wife, Barbara, drove us to Acadia National Park, one of the most visited parks in the United States .  .  .  and for good reason.

All the beauty that is Maine comes together in this popular park where the mountains meet the rolling surf of the Atlantic.

As we stood together overlooking this pristine landscape, Wayne said, “This is where God goes to take a vacation.” And I answered, “And the Finger Lakes is where he spends the rest of the year."

Anyone who lives in Upstate New York surely would agree that when it comes to natural beauty, the Creator has certainly blessed us abundantly.

Yet some skeptics, some I know well, suggest that the wonders of this earth are merely happenings . . . bundles of molecules that in some mysterious way, just happen to come together.

For me the natural beauty of my home in the Finger Lakes is an ever constant reminder and proof that This Is My Father’s World.

June 14, 2012

God's Amazing Grace

All Christians are familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but Philip Yancey in his book What's So Amazing about Grace, puts a new twist on this beloved story. The Runaway appears here edited to fit the Contemporary Parable format.

After a very severe argument, a teenage daughter, who tries her parents' patience often, decides to run away to Detroit, a city known for its gangs, drugs and violence. There she meets a man who offers her a place to stay and gives her pills which make her happy and content. Before long, she is living in a penthouse as a prostitute.

When disease ravages her body, she is thrown out on the street where she continues to turn tricks to support her drug habit.

Sick, cold and frightened, she calls her parents and leaves a message informing them she is coming home, arriving by bus at midnight the next day. She tells her parents she will look for them in the terminal. If they are not there, she will get back on the bus and leave again.

The next day when she walks into the terminal, she is not prepared for what she sees. There stand 40 family members __ brothers, sisters, uncles, great aunts, cousins, a grandmother and a great grandmother. They are all wearing silly party hats and blowing on noisemakers. And on the wall, a huge WELCOME HOME sign.

She looks through tears as her Dad approaches, and she begins her speech. “Dad I’m sorry. I know I was wrong.” But Dad interrupts her, “Hush child. No time for apologies. You’ll be late for your party. A banquet is waiting for you at home."

In the stories of the Runaway and the Prodigal Son, we learn of God’s amazing grace. No catch. No strings. All we must do is cry, “Help” and God welcomes us home, forgiven and free.  And that's what is so amazing about God’s grace!
"For by grace you have been saved through faith—and this not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works … " (Ephesians 2:8-9)

June 7, 2012

A Warrior Ethos

Three experiences that occurred within a week prompted this Parable.

First, I found a new book in the Penn Yan Library titled, The Warrior Ethos. It was written by Steven Pressfield who admits in the introduction that it is an attempt to answer the question, “What Is the Warrior Ethos?"

A few days later, Nancy and I toured the Gettysburg battlefield where we stood on Cemetery Ridge and envisioned 12,000 Confederate Warriors emerging from the woods on Seminary Ridge in the afternoon of July 3, 1863. We imagined ourselves as Union Warriors standing bravely watching the men of Lee’s Army march shoulder to shoulder over open ground, closing ranks as their Warrior Brothers fell wounded and dying.

The following Monday, Nancy and I, our daughter Tammy and our sons, Doug and Steve visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia where we were reminded of generations of Warriors who boldly went to “the sound of the guns” at Belleau Woods, Tarawa, Fallujah and many other conflicts throughout our nation’s history.

After our visits to Gettysburg and the Marine Corps Museum, I need no further definition of what constitutes a Warrior Ethos. The term is defined for me by the men who fought at Gettysburg and by the United States Marines.

All Marines are tied together with core values and traditions that have been passed on for generations. The Warrior Ethos provides guidance to all Marines, and the Corps Motto, “Semper Fidelis” pledges loyalty to God, Country and the Corps.

To be a member of the United States Marine Corps, whose values are honor, courage and commitment, means you are part of a brotherhood for as long as you live. I am proud to claim the title of United States Marine.