October 27, 2013

He Met an Angel in a Bar

Branden is a very hardworking and proud 26 year old man who, earlier this year, was diagnosed with Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma, a very rare, slow growing cancer found in 80 or fewer people in the United States.  

Branden is currently part of a clinical trial with doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in Manhattan which he visits every two or three weeks. He gets up at 4:00 a.m. to make the 700 mile round trip by car, commercial airline and taxi. Sometimes, he is required to stay overnight.

Branden and his wife, Carrie, have a beautiful baby girl, Hadley Grace, who was born in the summer of 2013.

Recently, Branden’s father, Todd, attended a Buffalo Bills football game, and on his way home, he stopped at a tavern where he and a stranger began to talk at the bar. Todd learned his new acquaintance is a retired business owner who flies cancer patients to New York City for treatment at no cost to them.

The following day, Branden called the Good Samaritan and learned the plane’s location is convenient, and in New York City the retired businessman has a car to drive him directly to Sloan-Kettering where he will wait to bring Branden home. 

A recent poll suggests that 77 percent of adults believe in angels. Branden’s story will undoubtedly increase that percentage.
“There are no coincidences in God’s providence”  Cindy Woodsmall

October 21, 2013

Duck Dynasty and Creativity

I often check the non-fiction, new book shelves at the Penn Yan Library, and almost every time I do, I find something I enjoy reading. My current discovery is Happy, Happy, Happy, My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander.

The book is written by Phil Robertson, the creator of the popular “Duck Commander,” a tool hunters use to emulate the sound of a duck. The stunning success from Robertson’s creative mind ultimately led to the Duck Dynasty Reality TV show which rapidly became the number one, non-fiction series in cable TV history. The show, a cultural phenomenon, is about Robertson’s family, faith and fame which he lists in that order.

I am so impressed with people who use their God-given aptitudes, talents and skills, as well as their common sense and experience to be creators. God calls us to use our minds and creative abilities to solve problems wherever we find them ___ at work, at home, or like Robertson, in a duck call.

When someone uses his or her creative talent and experience to glorify the Creator, the result can be inspiring. That is why I have become a fan of Sam  Robson. a multi-track YouTube performer whose nine-part a cappella rendition of How Great Thou Art is unlike anything I have ever seen or heard. I urge you to take a minute to watch this phenomenal performance by a very talented young man.

October 14, 2013

Our "Liminal" Space

A recent sermon by Rev. Mark Longhurst, the Designated Pastor Of First Congregational Church in Williamstown, Massachusetts, made quite an impression on me.  

In his homily, Rev. Mark referred to churches that are in “liminal” space, that is on the “threshold” between traditional ways of doing things and new paths of service. Unexpectedly, I found in his sermon a message for each of us.

It occurred to me, as we greet each new day, we stand on a threshold between old routines and new opportunities to be more selfless, more considerate and more loving. Typically, we cross that threshold every day with the same old routines and habits, rarely challenging our attitudes or assumptions about life. 

Rev. Mark spoke about a new kind of “rummage sale” for churches in which  congregations dispose of traditional activities that no longer represent a church’s mission. Perhaps it’s time for each of us to schedule a personal rummage sale to rid us of those habits that no longer reflect the kind of person we want to be.  

Rev. Mark suggests there is transformative potential in “liminal” space.  I suggest that for each of us our “liminal” space is filled with promise, potential and awesome possibilities. Can people change? St. Paul thought so:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 21:5

October 7, 2013

Don't Let the Devil Steal Your Joy Revisited

A 2013 World Happiness Report released September 2013 by Columbia University’s Earth Institute ranked the United States 17 for overall happiness. Another 2013 poll reported that 207 million Americans, or approximately two-thirds of our population, say they are not very happy.

Our country is involved in a war against terrorism, but each one of us is in a private war against Satan who is determined to deprive us of our joy.

The apostle Peter said that Satan walks around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, and Paul tells us that we wrestle, not against flesh and blood but the rulers of darkness.

Paul Meier, author of Happiness is a Choice, points out that the Devil cannot steal your joy if you recognize that you, not Satan, are in control of your own attitude. As Abraham Lincoln said, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

In other words, your attitude toward life, toward misfortune, toward the irritants of each day is yours alone, and nobody, not the Devil, not your boss, not the Republicans or the Democrats, the liberals or the conservatives can take your attitude from you unless you let them.

One of Satan’s most effective weapons for stealing your joy is when you allow yourself to brood, stew, fret and fuss over a disservice that someone did to you. Meier suggests that forgiving others is the single most important thing we do to be happy.

People whose opinions I respect debate the existence of Satan, but for me, Paul’s command to “put on the armor of God” is an invitation to prepare for battle against an image of evil personified who exists to steal my joy. I, for one, will not let the Evil One win this battle.