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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The importance of blogs

I sense, that in the Kingdom of God, we have not been oriented and convinced that blogs are something we need to pay attention to and use as a tool for ministry.

If I could say it negatively, "why is it that we are so hestitant to invest ourselves into new methods and ways of sharing our faith?" Why must we wait until something "has been proven" before we use it?

Hopefully, this editorial from Mortimer B. Zuckerman (editor-in-chief of U.S. News and World) will help all us to realize the validity of blogs.

He writes, "Blogs are transforming the way Americans get information and think about important issues. It's a revolutionary change - and there's no turning back."

I completely agree.

Here's his article:

"Not so long ago, the American community used to gather in the electronic town hall provided by the three broadcast networks, CBS, NBC, and ABC. For four decades, the evening news bulletins focused our national debates--Walter Cronkite's disaffection with the Vietnam War is a well-remembered turning point--but they do so no longer. First, there came CNN, in 1980. That was followed by other 24-hour cable-news channels. Now, we're well into the age of the Internet, where news and opinion surface almost every second. The American audience is fragmented as never before, a huge cultural story with implications for our cohesion as a society.

The most dramatic, and still evolving, change is characterized by the emergence of bloggers (web-loggers). It was little noticed back in 1999 during the Kosovo war, when a website organized by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting attracted comments from ordinary citizens. One began: "Armed men wearing black masks and blue police helmets just came and said, 'You have to leave!' " That was a firsthand account of ethnic cleansing in Pristina, perhaps the most striking example of a new freedom to leapfrog the censors. Since then, blogs have proliferated from 50 in 1999 to close to something like 10 million today in just the United States, with as many as 100,000 new ones being launched every day.

The most well known are the power blogs, influential sites that attract the lion's share of page views and hits. A second group of social-network blogs focuses on certain topics or specific regions. After that, there's a virtual galaxy of obscure blogs that may get a few hits a day but occasionally light up the blogosphere when they're picked up and amplified by the mainstream press.

A "fifth estate." Given the fact that the disseminators of blogs, such as Google, have a unique protection from legal liability for what is posted, the blogs often resort to blood sport in their commentaries on politics and life, with many repeating and reporting without fact checking. (Alas, the idea that Jews plotted the 9/11 attacks began as a blog and took hold in the Muslim world as fact; in fact, it was a lie put out by Hezbollah.)

This new age of journalism is challenging the "trustee model" of journalism, where journalistic professionals served as gatekeepers, filtering the defamatory and the false. Today, a large segment of the public believes the new media are flavoring their reporting so as to tell us not so much how the world works but how the media believe it ought to work. No wonder only 44 percent of the public now say they are very, or fairly, confident of the media's accuracy.

The blogs, while fragmenting our mass audience and carrying many more inaccuracies than mainstream media, have nonetheless democratized journalism by giving citizens daily and immediate access to different opinions and, sometimes, to purveyors of truly expert knowledge.

Take the issue of whether oil drilling should take place in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Websites now provide the relevant documents and statements from governmental, corporate, and environmental bodies, along with information about costs, benefits, and risks from other specialists. Alaskans share their experience with oil drilling on the North Slope and their hopes and concerns for the state's economy and environment. The result is a public better able to make trade-offs among desired objectives and to assess a wider range of policy options.

Bloggers are emerging in a major way in other areas, such as reporting on Iraq. There is the so-called Baghdad Blogger, Salam Pax, whose online diary about life in Iraq in wartime attracts a huge readership. There is the expert commentary from Prof. Juan Cole, who provides scholarly insight into Shiite Arabs and the reaction of Sunni Arabs to the presence of U.S. troops there: He describes it as a "key recruiting tool for the resistance." There is the art historian David Nishimura, whose knowledge of antiquities enabled him to debunk the reported looting of 170,000 priceless antiques and treasures from the Iraqi National Museum: He pointed out that the actual losses, though serious, were dramatically smaller, that museum officials may have participated in the looting, and that the fierce criticism of the U.S. military was not merited.

In national politics, bloggers forced to the attention of the mainstream media an unfortunate comment then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott made at Strom Thurmond's 100th-birthday party, converting his gaffe into a full-blown scandal. Bloggers forced Dan Rather to acknowledge that the documents used in the story about President Bush's National Guard service could not be authenticated. The list goes on.

The opinion blogs have, in effect, become a "fifth estate," a barometer of attitudes not just in the United States but in the world. Now, we must learn how to make the most of a flow of fact and opinion unimaginable just a decade ago."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Using the talents you have

I have convinced that there is enough talent and ability in the world today to make this planet a much better place.

The problem is not, "are there enough people with the skills needed to change our work," but "are we using what we already have?"

In the movie "A Bronx Tale" the character played by Robert DeNiro tells his son, "The saddest thing in the world is wasted talent."

Too many of us are guilty of this—we live beneath our talent. We settle for accomplishing a little instead of a lot.

For example, there are people with a great story to tell—but they will not write.

And there are people with fantastic leadership skills who will not pursue opportunities to lead.

And there are people with bright business minds who will not risk self-employment.

And people blessed with musical ability who won't get in front of an audience.

What holds us back?

As a pastor, I've heard every possible excuse.

Maybe it's fear. Maybe it's laziness. Maybe it's lack of self-confidence. It's different for each person - yet the same.

Here's what I know: God is not the one who says, "Keep your talent to yourself. After all, you're just an average person; what makes you think you can succeed? What makes you think you be a leader?"

God's method has always been to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. H

He used the son of a slave to lead God's people to freedom;

he used a shepherd boy to defeat a powerful giant;

he used a man in exile to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

And he can use you. Don't live beneath the level of your talent.

Ask yourself this week: "What am I good at doing that I am not doing? What talent have I not yet put to use?"

Look for opportunities to do the things you do well. Put your skills to work.

Paul said...

God has given each of the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If you gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (Romans 12:6-8)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Expect today!

God always meets us at our level of expectation.

So true.

The Bible tells us in Job 14:7-9, "For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sport again, and its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground, and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant."

Even though you might feel that all is lost - it's a season in your life - and things will get better.

As one author has written, "you're going to sing again. You're going to dance again. You are going to live. You're going to climb out of the debris and crow. By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, you're going to get busy living'!"

Let me give you a quote.

"Deep within you there is a Spirit of faith, just waiting to be resurrected. Get to him (God)! Whatever it takes, touch Him. Crawl if you have to, but get to Him."

As you touch God, expect good things to happen!

Expect a renewal of God's Spirit in your life this week.

Expect God's glory to come to and upon you.

Expect God's favor.

Expect favor from those in authority over you.

Expect new joy to rise up in your spirit.

Expect God to meet your needs.

Expect angels to visit you (now you've gone off the deep, end George!)!

Expect to be released from bondages.

Expect that project to be done.

Expect that relationship to come back into harmony.

Expect your friends to start a relationship with God.

Expect your enemies to fall.

Expect doors to open that have been shut.

Expect, expect, expect!

This week is a "new day" for you!

"Father, thank you for the good things that are going to happen this week. We expect you to move in a powerful way!"

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What I am thankful for

I am thankful for my wife - of nearly 25 years. I love her with all of my heart.

I am thankful for my children - I love them unconditionally.

I am thankful for my health - which I never take for granted.

I am thankful for my home - which provides a place of warmth and happiness.

I am thankful for my friends - with whom I can "be myself."

I am thankful for my parents - who are always there with a listening ear.

I am thankful for the leadership of our church - godly people who serve with compassionate hearts.

I am thankful for changed lives - which I see on a weekly basis.

And...I am thankful for God. Jesus - without whom I could do nothing.

May you have a wonderful thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Holiday stress

It's always been ironic to me that the "holidays" can be one of the most stressful times of the year.

From now, until January 1st, there are activities after activities after activites.

I found this article today from the Mayo Clinic that might be of help to all of us - and then I added a few thoughts at the end.

"For some people, the holidays bring unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it's no wonder. In an effort to pull off a perfect Hallmark holiday, you might find yourself facing a dizzying array of demands — work, parties, shopping, baking, cleaning, caring for kids on school break or elderly parents, and scores of other chores. So much for peace and joy, right?

Actually, with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress and depression that often accompany the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

The trigger points of holiday stress

Holiday stress and depression are often the result of three main trigger points. Understanding these trigger points can help you plan ahead on how to accommodate them.

Here are the three issues that commonly trigger holiday stress or depression:

Relationships. Relationships can cause turmoil, conflict or stress at any time. But tensions are often heightened during the holidays. Family misunderstandings and conflict can intensify — especially if you're all thrust together for several days. Conflicts are bound to arise with so many needs and interests to accommodate. On the other hand, if you're facing the holidays without a loved one, you may find yourself especially lonely or sad.

Finances. Like your relationships, your financial situation can cause stress at any time of the year. Overspending during the holidays on gifts, travel, food and entertainment can increase stress as you try to make ends meet while ensuring that everyone on your shopping list is happy.

Physical demands. The strain of shopping, attending social gatherings and preparing holiday meals can wipe you out. Feeling exhausted can increase your stress, creating a vicious cycle. Exercise and sleep — good antidotes for stress and fatigue — may take a back seat to chores and errands. High demands, stress, lack of exercise, and overindulgence in food and drink — these are the ingredients for holiday illness.

12 pre-emptive strategies for holiday stress.

When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Take steps to help prevent normal holiday depression from progressing into chronic depression. Try these tips:

Acknowledge your feelings. If a loved one has recently died or you aren't near loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK now and then to take time just to cry or express your feelings. You don't have to force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

Seek support. If you feel isolated or down, seek out family members and friends, or community, religious or social services. They can offer support and companionship. Consider volunteering at a community or religious function. Getting involved and helping others can lift your spirits and broaden your social circle. Also, enlist support for organizing holiday gatherings, as well as meal preparation and cleanup. You don't have to go it alone. Don't be a martyr.

Be realistic. As families change and grow, traditions often change as well. Hold on to those you can, if you want to. But understand that in some cases that may no longer be possible. Perhaps your entire extended family can't gather together at your house. Instead, find new ways to celebrate together from afar, such as sharing pictures, e-mails or videotapes.

Set differences aside. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. With stress and activity levels high, the holidays might not be conducive to making quality time for relationships. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are, they're feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.

Stick to a budget. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. Then be sure to stick to your budget. If you don't, you could feel anxious and tense for months afterward as you struggle to pay the bills. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.

Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make one big food-shopping trip. That'll help prevent a last-minute scramble to buy forgotten ingredients — and you'll have time to make another pie if the first one's a flop. Allow extra time for travel so that delays won't worsen your stress.

Learn to say no. Believe it or not, people will understand if you can't do certain projects or activities. If you say yes only to what you really want to do, you'll avoid feeling resentful and overwhelmed. If it's really not possible to say no to something — your boss asks you to work overtime — try to remove something from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a dietary free-for-all. Some indulgence is OK, but overindulgence may add to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and schedule time for physical activity.

Take a breather. While you may not have time every day for a silent night, make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Steal away to a quiet place, even if it's the bathroom, for a few moments of solitude. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that clears your mind, slows your breathing and restores your calm.

Rethink resolutions. Resolutions can set you up for failure if they're unrealistic. Don't resolve to change your whole life to make up for past excess. Instead, try to return to basic, healthy lifestyle routines. Set smaller, more specific goals with a reasonable time frame. Choose resolutions that help you feel valuable and provide more than only fleeting moments of happiness.

Forget about perfection. Holiday TV specials are filled with happy endings. But in real life, people don't usually resolve problems within an hour or two. Something always comes up. You may get stuck late at the office and miss your daughter's school play, your sister may dredge up an old argument, you may forget to put nuts in the cake, and your mother may criticize how you and your partner are raising the kids. All in the same day. Expect and accept imperfections.

Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for several weeks, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. You may have depression.

Have it both ways

Remember, one key to minimizing holiday stress and depression is knowing that the holidays can trigger stress and depression. Accept that things aren't always going to go as planned. Then take active steps to manage stress and depression during the holidays. You may actually enjoy the holidays this year more than you thought you could."

Now then, let me add one more. Spend time with Jesus. Bask in his presence. Have a conversation with God - on a daily basis. Jesus is the reason for the season!

Monday, November 21, 2005

The devil - can he read my mind?

I'm often asked - can the devil read my mind? I think not. It's hard to be absolutely certain. Here's what I do know. I know that Satan has more power than any of the other fallen angels in God's realm and certainly more power than you and I - without God in our lives.

At the same time, Satan is not divine; he is not God, he does not have divine powers or abilities.

He is a created being with limitations that are found with being part of God's creation. Satan is an angel.

Angels are more powerful than people, but less powerful than God (I'm thankful for that!)

Here's what I do know for sure: God can read my mind. He knows my thoughts, even before I think them. The bible says in Psalms 139:4, "There is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, you know it altogether."

We sometimes jump to the conclusion that since God can read our minds and God is a supernatural being, than Satan's powers must be equal to God's

Not true.

Satan and his minions, however, study us and know our tendencies and our weaknesses. They know what will appeal to us.

So what do you think? Can Satan read our minds or not?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

We all need boundaries

We talked about boundaries in our marriage class last night.

Gary Smalley writes, "healthy boundaries can help you to protect yourself from being mistreated by other people - your marriage partner, your children, and your friends. They also can protect your own family from others."

You know it's time to build your own fence when you are angry, he writes. When you feel threatened or fearful.

You want to rise up and says, "Hey, I'm an individual. My feelings are important! I'm a person! I want to build my fence."

Smalley writes, "when you build that fence, you will find that these negative emotions begin to drop off."

We all need boundaries. We all need to spend our time building our own fences and letting people know where we being and where we end.

Years ago, we had an older man in the church, who for a season, called me at 7:30 A.M. every morning, as I was getting ready to go to work.

Finally, after a time of this, I had to share with him, "Thou shalt not call me at 7:30 A.M. every morning."


What are your boundaries today?

Debbie and I have a phrase that we use with one another - sometimes we get "peopled-out" where we desire to spend the evening together at home - alone. Those feelings bring us to the point of saying, "we need to put our boundaries up." "We're getting maxed out."

That's hard, especially for care-givers. It can lead to feelings of guilt. But it is necessary for a fulfilling life long ministry.

Remember - boundaries aren't used to necessarily keep people out - but to keep your emotional balance within.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Who is God? Questions

Who is God?

Who is God to you?

Sometimes we are guilty of worshipping a God of our own making.

Does God exist?

Maybe you wonder if God even exists.

Did He make our planet?

The universe?

If he did, does he still care about what is going on?

Let's suppose that you do believe in God.

Do you want to get to know him better?

His nature, his personality?

For some people God is a mystery - someone to find on a sheet of paper like "Waldo."

Do you have a "Waldo God"?

For others God is a killjoy. He'e there to prevent us from having a good time.

If we get close to God, we're afraid we will have to give up all our freedom.

Let me say something that we all can agree on: There are things about God we will never figure out. And when you really think about it - it makes sense!

However, there are things about God which we can know. His ablity to create an incredible universe.

Our own earthly bodies. Wonderful creations!

I would suggest to you that God is a very real spirit Being who has always been and will always be. He is personal. He is involved in our world. He desires to have a conversation with us.

All we have to do is stop, look and listen. Why not?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Do I stay or go?

We all reach points in our lives where we ask ourselves - do I stay or do I go?

Perhaps you are at that point today.

Listen to this story:

"As the persecution of Jews increased during World War II, Austrian psychologist Victor Frankl had the opportunity to go to America and avoid the imminent threat of suffering. His parents were thrilled for him, but he struggled with the question: Should I leave my parents behind in Gestapo-controlled Austria? He asked God to give him a hint from heaven.

One day Victor's father, who knew nothing of his son's inner turmoil, brought him a piece of marble taken from a bombed out synagogue. It contained a small bit of writing that Victor recognized as being from the fourth commandment: Honor your father and mother.

This was the hint he had been looking for; Frankl decided to stayed. The decision was not without a price; he and his family were arrested and imprisoned. His parents died in concentration camps, and he himself spent years in Auschwitz. But he survived, and as a result he was able to provide strength and encouragement to millions through his writings—most notably his book "Man's Search for Meaning."

During this time a German theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer had the opportunity to take a teaching post in America. He, too, struggled with the decision. Ultimately he declined the offer, choosing to stay in Germany because he felt an obligation to be with his own countrymen during the time of national crisis. Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested and sent to a concentration camp, where he died shortly before the war ended.

Both men had the opportunity to leave; both made the decision to stay—and both paid a price for their choice."

Powerful stories of courage and perseverance.

Sometimes our best decision is to stay. Greener pastures may be calling us elsewhere, but our true calling is right where we are. Staying doesn't often result in glory and honor.

In fact, it's more likely to result in suffering and hardship. And, yet, it is in choosing to stay that we most often do the most good.

The Apostle Paul wrote...

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

The race marked out for us.

As I said at the beginning, many of us struggle with the question: How do I know whether it's time to stay or time to go? How do I know if this is the race "marked out" for me?

The answer to that question can often be found in the answer to another: Are you running to avoid pain, or running to gain the prize?

If your reason for wanting to go is simply to avoid something unpleasant, that might be a hint that God is calling you to stay. In the race marked out for you, there will be times when you must take a bold step of faith into the unknown. And there will be times when you must take an even bolder step of faith into the known. And defiance of the call to the face of certain struggle.

Are you struggling with a stay-or-go decision? Ask yourself: which takes me closer to the prize?

If you need a hint from heaven, God will provide one; just be ready to take an obedient next step in the race marked out for you.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The greatness of God

Sometimes I really have a hard time grasping the greatness and even the complete reality of God. Am I the only one - don't think so.

We all have a tendancy to try to refine God, put him in a box, believe in a God of our own making. And just about the time we think we have Him all figured out - bam, something happens that causes us to shake our head and say, "what in the world?" (kind of like my golf game.

But that's not the right question. The better question is, "what in heaven?"

Psalms 139 states:
"For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.
5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths,a you are
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious tob me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord,
and abhor those who rise up against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting

God is desiring to reveal himself to us!

I read this article today from CNN which shows the awesomeness of God:

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Chinese scientists said on Wednesday they had gathered evidence that shows a giant object in the center of our galaxy is a super-massive black hole.

Zhi-Qiang Shen and researchers at the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory captured radio waves emitted just beyond the edge of the mysterious object, known as Sagittarius A, with a system of 10 radio telescopes spread across the United States.

In a report in the science journal Nature they said it "provides strong evidence that Sgr A is a super-massive black hole."

The celestial objects that suck in everything around them including light are among the most mysterious objects in the universe. They are formed when matter from a dying star collapses under its own gravity.

Black holes have been described as the ultimate victory over gravity because of their ability to suck in stars and other galactic features.

Scientists have long suspected the presence of a black hole in the center of the Galaxy. Astronomers believe it is four million times more massive than our Sun.

The research reported in Nature suggests the black hole is as wide as the radius of the Earth's orbit.

"These observations provide strong evidence that Sgr A is indeed a black hole, and afford a glimpse of the behavior of the matter that is about to flow into it," said Christopher Reynolds, of the University of Maryland in the United States, in a commentary in the journal.

He described the findings as a further step towards capturing an image of the shadow around the edge of a black hole, which would be a classic test of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity.

The theory predicts that massive bodies -- planets, stars or black holes -- actually twist time and space around as they spin.

God is great! God is awesome!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Don't let your dreams die

Don't let your dreams die.

All of us have dreams. Goals. A vision of the future.

Sometimes there is a real temptation to let our dreams die.

Sometimes things get do disoriented that we are tempted to let go of the direction that we have in our lives.

When that happens, what can we do?

Go back to the basics.


Spend time in God's presence.

Be with supportive friends.

Think positive thoughts.

Understand that there is a season for everything.

Realize that in all things, God is bringing something good out of it.

Problems and trials do not mean that the dream is not correct.

Problems and people can detour us from our dreams.

We must pick our spots. George Patton said, "Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning." I like that.

Don't let your dreams die! Persevere! Be bold! Don't quit!

Don't let your dreams die!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

True greatness is hidden

I've noticed an increasing intensity in newspapers, magazines and on television to promote fame and notoriety in our society. We are continually pounded by the message: what really counts in life is to have your name in "lights", your "fifteen minutes of fame", the admiration of our culture, to be known, praised in whatever field we are in.

On the cover of Time magazine this week is the headline:

Ambition: Why Some People Are Most Likely To Succeed. It continues: A fire in the belly doesn't light itself. Does the spark of ambition lie in genes, family, culture--or even in your own hands? Science has answers.

Well, that may or may not be true, but I do know that the Bible has THE answer. Ambition is not wrong. It's great to want to succeed, do the best we can, and obtain our goals in life.

Jesus himself said, "I didn't come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many."

The way to the top is by going to the bottom.

I would suggest to you that real greatness is often hidden in the humble, simple, and unobtrusive acts of life.

I would suggest that to be truly great means that we have a correct understanding of ourselves. We must have a strong self-confidence combined with deep humility.

Most of the truly great things that are done in our society are done by those who had no need for the limelight.

To me, our small groups leaders are great.

Those who participate in the tasks of our church family without notice are great.

Reaching out to others in need is a sign of greatness.

I am surrounded by great people!

May we all be great today, by living with great patience, perseverance, and love.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

making decisions

Making decisions is such an integral part of our lives. We are the product of our decisions.

Listen to the story of one author:

"One night at Jr. Hi Church Camp we had a big bonfire. The next day, during free time, a friend and I walked past the place where the bonfire had been held. It was now a big pile of fluffy, soft, gray ashes.

"Wouldn't it be fun to jump in the middle of that pile?" my friend asked. Being uncharacteristically cautious, I said, "Won't we get in trouble? Won't we get dirty? Won't we get caught?" He said, "Naaa! We'll jump in the pool afterwards and who'll know the difference?" I agreed and began taking off my shoes. He was faster than me, and raced barefoot into the pile.

What couldn't be seen underneath the top layer of gray ash were the embers still burning from the night before. They couldn't be seen, but they could be felt.

My friend, never having been to a Tony Robbins seminar, wasn't prepared for the effect the red hot coals would have on his tender feet. He started yelling and jumping up and down, trying to get out of the ashes as fast he could, (dispelling, in the process, the myth that Baptists don't dance).

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the nurse's station. Even though I got through the experience unscathed, I stuck around for moral support. The question we were asked again and again was, "What possessed you to jump into a pile of burning embers?" The only answer we could come up with was something along the lines of "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

The truth, of course, was that we didn't think about what we were doing. We made an impulsive, split-second decision without considering the consequences."

Good stuff.

We do a lot of things in life that seem like a good idea at the time. Maybe it appears to be the easiest thing to do, or the most exciting thing to do, or the most expedient thing to do, but we make these spur-of-the-moment decisions without thinking them through, and inevitably, we end up getting burned.

Solomon warned of the consequences of impulsive decisions when he said...
Can a man scoop fire into his lap without being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without being scorched? (Proverbs 6:27-28)

Solomon was speaking specifically about sexual sin, but the principle applies to every foolish choice we make. A person can't make emotional, impulsive decisions based solely upon surface-level appearances without getting burned.

Maybe this is where you find yourself right now. Maybe you've gotten into a relationship that has disaster written all over it. Maybe you've taken a job that is forcing you to compromise your faith. Maybe you're pursuing dreams that can only turn into nightmares. And you're in this position because you took a running leap before thinking things through.

If that is the case, there are only two things you can do.

One, ask God to help you get out of the fire as fast as possible before you get burned any further.

Two, decide quickly never to decide quickly again. Take your time before making a decision.

The best decisions I've made are the ones that I've made slowly, prayerfully, and with much advice. It seems the longer it takes me to make a major decision, the more likely I am to discover God's will in the matter.

I quote again:

"I wish I could say my friend's firewalk taught me a lesson about impulsive decisions. However, if you looked at the bottom of my feet, you would see a few scars.

And though I've learned that God is merciful enough to pull us out of the fire of dumb decisions, I've also learned that life works much better when we allow him to direct our steps away from the burning coals."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Helping the one

I was driving to work this morning and saw a man digging in the garbage at the shell station at the corner of Columbia and Capital.

All kinds of thoughts began to run through my mind. I had feelings of sympathy and guilt. I began to feel horrible about whining in my own mind about some of my own circumstances.

Yesterday I read that we have around 5% of the world's population in America, but we use 50% of the world's resources.

How should we feel about that?

Our missions teams who come back from overseas inevitably say, "we are so blessed here in America, the world doesn't have much."

And that is very, very true.

Here's the conclusion I have come to: I am not to feel guilty for what I DO have, but I am to be responsible for what others do NOT have.

We can't on our own help everybody.

So what do we do?

We help the one.

I can't help everybody, but I can help one.

Every day, I can seek out one person that I might be able to help.

Maybe it's by buying them some milk at the store.

Maybe it's by saying a prayer.

Maybe it's by giving to a charity of my choice.

Maybe it's by inviting someone to church.

Maybe it's by listening.

The key is not to verbalize that the world needs help and do nothing. But to verbalize that the world needs help and do something, anything, at least once a day.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Grandparenting 101

Grandparents can and should play a vital role in the lives of their grandchildren.

I know of some parents who are not serving God, but their parents are having a profound godly influence on their grandchildren.

I just talked to my grandma on the phone. Grandpa's not hearing too well, Grandma's memory is fading. She's still positive, still upbeat, and still full of the Lord.

I love my Grandma. I love my Grandpa.

I found this article that I thought I would share with all of your grandparents. Something to think about.

It's entitled, "The Influence of Grandparents and Stepgrandparents on Grandchildren"


Over the past 20 years, increased attention has been given to the importance of grandparenthood. This newfound emphasis on grandparenthood and stepgrandparenthood is a reflection of the increased life span; adults are living longer and four- and five-generation families are more common. It's also a reflection of the importance of grandparents to grandchildren.


Grandparent Influence

Grandparents and stepgrandparents influence their grandchildren both directly and indirectly. Direct influences come from face-to-face interaction, and indirect influences are realized through a third party. Consider the phrase, "It's important to be there for your grandchildren." Being there is a concept that can mean physically being present (direct) or emotionally being present (indirect).

When you make phone calls, attend concerts together or take them places, you are directly influencing your grandchildren. When your grandchildren have been confronted with a situation and think about you, knowing you will be available to support them and that you're on their side, you are indirectly influencing them by emotionally being there. You are a role model to your grandchildren.

It's interesting to note the variety of terms used to refer to the many roles grandparents or stepgrandparents play. For example:

Stress buffer
Roots/family historian

One national survey of grandparents reported that a variety of activities were engaged in with grandchildren such as:

Joking and kidding
Giving money
Talking about growing up
Giving advice
Discussing problems
Going to church/synagogue
Providing discipline
Taking a day trip
Teaching a skill or game
Watching TV together
Talking about parent/child disagreements

Several writers have emphasized that grandparents are very important to grandchildren. They are described as "significant others who have a great deal to do with one's view of life." The intergenerational contact reflects a high value for family connection. Grandchildren exposed to such contact are less fearful of old age and the elderly. They feel more connected to their families.

A North Dakota study found that stepgrand-children tend to have less contact with their stepgrandparents and consider this relationship less important than grandchildren do with grandparents. However, the children surveyed also indicated a desire for more contact with stepgrandparents. Being a stepgrandparent can be more challenging than being a grandparent because the role is less clear. As more stepfamilies are formed, more attention will be given to stepgrandparenting, and the same influences or benefits found for grandparents will no doubt be found to be as important for stepgrandparents.


Making a Memory
Grandparents and stepgrandparents can make a lasting story of their lives for their grandchildren. These life stories grow in value to grandchildren as they grow older.

To capture one's life story, videotape significant events, people and places for present and future generations. Even if you're not handy with a video camera, your family will appreciate the commentary and memories shared as you visit points from your past and present.

It's easiest to do this project as a team, with one person taping and the other providing commentary and interviews. This also allows you to "star" in your own movie. So, select a partner and begin.

First, rent, lease, borrow or purchase a video camera. Next, buy some inexpensive videotapes and practice to get used to the machine and what it can and cannot do. When you feel comfortable with the camera, purchase some high-grade videotapes to use as your master copies for future duplicating.

Next, plan on paper who, what, when and where you will be taping.

Some ideas to consider may include:


Interview parents, siblings, children, cousins and others. Tell some favorite family tales; describe family holidays, sad occasions or any other memorable events.
Show where your family lived. Take a tour of the house, if possible. Tell how it looked when you were growing up, the color of your room, who you shared the room with.
Go to the cemetery and walk through the family plot. Death is a part of life. Were or are there family rituals related to caring for the family graves?
What's your ethnic heritage? Are there things you'd like to share regarding ethnic customs? What does your name mean in your native language? Where did your ancestors come from? When did they emigrate to this country? How did they arrive? How old were they? Does anyone keep in touch with family from the "old country?" What are some of the special stories your family has passed down to each generation?
Where did you go to school? Tour the building and grounds, if possible.
Who were your best friends during your school years? Interview them and tell of the things you used to do together.
Did you have favorite teachers? Interview them, if possible. If not, tell why you enjoyed them or their classes so much.
What extracurricular activities did you participate in? Do you have any news clippings, uniforms or awards to show for these? How about team photos?
Did you go to college or a technical school? If so, where and when? What did you study? What were the highlights of these years?
Do you have a special story to tell about your journey of faith?
What aspects of your religion/spirituality are most important to you and why?
Neighborhood and Friends
Who lived next door, down the road or on your block? Who did you know well and spend time with? Go visit them, and record reminiscing about the special things you used to do together. Bring out the photos, if possible.
Take a drive through the neighborhood, videotaping the countryside and places that had special meaning as you were growing up. These might include the local grocery store where you bought "penny candy," the softball diamond, places you used to go for walks and where you went to church.
Who were your friends throughout the years, and what qualities do you think make lifetime friends?
How did you meet your spouse? How long did you court/date before you got married? Where and how did the proposal happen?
Where were you married? Tour the church/courthouse/chapel, if possible. Describe the ceremony and your wedding day. Who were your attendants? What colors were used? What Scripture or music did you select?
Talk about your marriage if you feel comfortable. What makes your partner special? What traits do you admire most? Any interesting or fun stories to share?
Tell about the jobs you've had throughout your life, including homemaking. Tour where you worked last or are still employed. What were some of the greatest challenges in your work? What were you paid on your first job?
Describe the volunteer work you've done over the years. These may have been in church, at school or as an elected official. What are the fondest memories of your volunteer work? What are the benefits of volunteering?
The sky's the limit! Talk about hopes, dreams, regrets. Tell your favorite jokes. Visit about your favorite hobbies; show the finished products.
Once you've completed the taping, edit if necessary, and make copies for your children and grandchildren. Your history is captured for present and future generations to enjoy."

Grandparents, leave a legacy of godly grandchildren! And may the Holy Spirit help you this day!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Living by the spirit

Last Sunday night, we had several teenagers and adults, "baptized in the Holy Spirit." How do you know this? They begin to speak in another language that was given to them by God. It's the first, initial, physical sign.

The bible talks about a second experience that we can have with God, after we start a relationship with him.

It's an experience of God's power, but it is also an experience of God's presence, where we are touched by God.

When I start my relationship with God - His spirit comes into my life. Let's use a metaphor - he comes into my living room. To think that God's spirit lives in me us just awesome and incredible!

When I am filled with the Spirit (which is a synonym of being baptized in the Holy Spirit) the Holy Spirit not only is in my living room, but goes into my bedroom, my bathroom, the basement, every area of my house.

I do not need this experience to start a relationship with God.
I do not need this experience to arrive in heaven and have eternal life.

I do need this experience to live the Christian life to it's fullest.

Being filled with the spirit helps me fight my tendency to sin in my life.

It's like being at the fair, and playing the game where there are several popping objects in front of you and your challenge it to see how many of them you can bop down in the time allowed. Things just keep popping up.

We fight the "flesh" on a daily basis. Somedays are more difficult than others, but each day we need to walk in the spirit.

What a wonderful tool God has given us to live for him!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Laughter - good medicine for what ails you

Laughter is good medicine for the soul.

That is so true.

Bob Hope once said, "laughter is an instant vacation."

From time to time we need to throw back our heads and laugh from our inner being. Don't sweat the small stuff and everything is small stuff kind of thing.

The old axiom, "Laughter is the best medicine," holds true when it comes to protecting your heart, according to a study conducted by the University of Maryland in Baltimore. Dr. Michael Miller, who conducted the study, says laughter releases chemicals into the blood stream that relax the blood vessels. In addition, hearty laughter reduces blood pressure and heart rate.

Miller, who is the director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University, interviewed 150 patients who had suffered heart troubles and 150 who had not. Each patient was asked questions to measure their response in typical day-to-day situations. The results showed that individuals with heart problems were 40 percent less likely to respond with laughter.

Laughter is a language is everyone understands.

One author writes, "Crystal, our 5-year-old daughter, recently met an Amish girl her age. Within a few minutes they were off, hand-in-hand, to play. I caught glimpses of them chattering and giggling. Even though Sylvia, the Amish girl, spoke only a Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, she and Crystal got along well.

Later I asked Crystal, "Could you understand anything Sylvia said to you?"

"No," she replied.

"But you played so nicely together. How?"

"Oh, Mommy, we understood each other's giggles."

Listen to this poem celebrating laughter by Crystal, our 5-year-old daughter, recently met an Amish girl her age. Within a few minutes they were off, hand-in-hand, to play. I caught glimpses of them chattering and giggling. Even though Sylvia, the Amish girl, spoke only a Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, she and Crystal got along well.

Later I asked Crystal, "Could you understand anything Sylvia said to you?"

"No," she replied.

"But you played so nicely together. How?"

"Oh, Mommy, we understood each other's giggles."

Listen to this poem that celebrates laughter:

"Let's celebrate Easter with the rite of laughter.
Christ died and rose and lives.
Laugh like a woman who holds her first baby.
Our enemy death will soon be destroyed.
Laugh like a man who finds he doesn't have cancer, or he does, but now there's a cure.
Christ opened wide the door of heaven.
Laugh like children at Disneyland's gates.
This world is owned by God, and he'll return to rule.
Laugh like a man who walks away uninjured from a wreck in which his car was totaled.
Laugh as if all the people in the whole world were invited to a picnic and then invite them."

May you have a good laugh today and celebrate life!