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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Adding value to those around us

Attitude is so very important, especially in our relationships with people. It's hard to be around someone we don't agree with or even worse - that we don't like.

Yet, unless we are living in a relational cocoon, you and I will be around people who we have a hard time being around.

It's inevitable.

One of the tools to overcoming that stigma with those who are "hard to like" people is to begin to add value to their lives. Having the right attitude toward them. Seeing them as a person to love and accept and not a project to change.

Lets Giblin once said, "You can't make the other fellow feel important in your presence if you secretly feel that he is a nobody."

That is very, very true.

Don't you find it difficult to do something kind for people when you dislike them?

A lot of it comes back to perception. How we view them. How we see them.

Are they simply people to be tolerated, nuisances along your path to getting what you want? Are you motivating those around you or manipulating them to get your own way?

Sydney J. Harris said, "People want to be appreciated, no impressed. They want to be regarded as human beings, not as sounding boards for other people's egos. They want to be treated as an end in themselves, not as a means towards the gratification of another's vanity."

Here's a thought: We must value people over being right.

The following story from author Leonard Sweet highlights the importance of valuing our relationships with other people:

"Tom Wiles served a stint as university chaplain at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. A few years ago, he picked me up at the Phoenix airport in his new Ford pickup and whisked me away to keynote a leadership conference at the university.

Since I was still mourning the trade-in of my Dodge truck, we immediately bonded, sharing truck stories and laughing at the bumper-sticker truism: "Nothing is more beautiful than a man and his truck."

As I climbed into his 2002 Ranger for the ride back to the airport a day later, I noticed two big scrapes by the passenger door. "What happened here?" I asked.
"My neighbor's basketball post fell and left those dents and white scars," Tom replied with a downcast voice.

"You're kidding! How awful," I commiserated. "This truck is so new I can smell it."
"What's even worse is my neighbor doesn't feel responsible for the damage."
Rising to my newfound friend's defense, I said, "Did you contact your insurance company? How are you going to get him to pay for it?"

"This has been a real spiritual journey for me," Tom replied. "After a lot of soul-searching and discussions with my wife about hiring an attorney, it came down to this: I can either be in the right, or I can be in a relationship with my neighbor.

Since my neighbor will probably be with me longer than this truck, I decided that I'd rather be in a relationship than be right. Besides, trucks are meant to be banged up, so I got mine initiated into the real world a bit earlier than I expected."

How do I let those around me know that I appreciate them and value them as a human being?

I let them know that they are more valuable than the project I am working on.

I realize that I can't change anybody. Only God can change people.

Our role is simply to accept people as they are and work within the parameters of their personality.

I've often said that one of the ways that people get along in Carlsbad, New Mexico (a small town), where we worked for 3 years, is that they have a saying:

"Well, that's just the way, Joe is. That's just the way Sally is."

A general acceptance of people around us.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Celebrating differences

One of the things that I have noticed as a speaker and communicator is that when I speak, I mean I have prepared the teaching, I have a clear purpose in mind, I prepare the teaching, pray, and then deliver it. What's wild is that after I have given the teaching, different people will approach me to talk to me about what I have said - and each person seems to have filtered it in a different way.

That's a challenge for any pastor. On any given Sunday morning he is speaking to new Christians, mature Christians, immature Christians, young people, old people, married couples, singles, people who deeply desire to be there and those who, well, let's just say that it's not high on their priority list.

Each one of us filters what we hear in different ways.

It's a fact of life that obvious but worth remembering, and I constantly need to be reminded of it as I work with people in ministry.


Sometimes we think that if "everyone were like me," the world would be a better place. If everyone would just think like me, and have the same thoughts as me, or believe the same things I do, this planet would be a much better place to live on.

However, here's what I know and I continue to learn. You and I cannot get along with people if we secretly harbor the belief that everyone ought to be more like us.

We must accept that people are different, and that they are to be celebrated in their differences from us - not tolerated.

I would suggest that when Jesus or Paul spoke about unity in the Word, they were not speaking of uniformity where everyone looks alike or talks alike or thinks alike but of but unity.

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up and I can guarantee you that the team that will win the game is the team that plays together as a unit - willing to sacrifice for the benefit of the team.

Not everyone can be the quarterback or the running back. In diversity there is power! Diversity unified by one common goal - to build God's kingdom.

Just a thought

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend....

Friday evening Debbie went to visit our daughter and son-in-law, and of course little Georgia Grace, our beautiful granddaughter.

Thus, I was a bachelor for one night. I went to Trader Joe's that afternoon (my new favorite store) and got a half a chicken (roasted) and made a salad. Who said I couldn't cook?

She can back Saturday (I like it when she is around) and we went out to a restaurant and split a hamburger and a baked potato. We are in the season where we can split a dinner in a restaurant and walk away satisfied.

Plus, that helps me in my quest to lose weight. I have lost 11 pounds since the beginning of the year, just cutting back and watching my portions. A good friend of mine from Battle Creek (who will remain anonymous - Rick Odden) came over to visit us with his family and said basically, "you're fat." We have the kind of relationship to which he can do that. So......I would like to lose some more....

Sunday's worship was just phenomenal. We ended the first service by asking people to worship God as they were comfortable with, some kneeling, some standing, some sitting. 10:30 A.M. came around and I didn't know how to end the service, so I felt impressed by the Holy Spirit to just continue worshipping God. We released the first service and welcomed in the second service, all the while worshipping. Second service worship was powerful. With my spiritual emotions I could feel God's presence.

I love it when we as God's people connect with Him. Pastor James writes in James 4:7, "Come near to God and He will come near to you." Our responsibility is to choose to draw near to God - and He will draw near to us.

I appreciate the willingness of our church family to "seek after God." It's the "pursuit of God," as A.W. Tozer wrote about.

Wonderful stuff.

Saw Jim and Samantha's new addition, little Charlie. He is a beautiful baby boy. We are already trying to hook Charlie and Georgia up. And they are only a few weeks old. Do you think it is too soon?

Debbie and I went to a wake on Sunday afternoon for Mary Ann Firanek's dad. They are such wonderful people, Leo and Mary Ann. Her dad was 82.

Sunday evening, Erik spoke - did a great job of sharing the story of the prodigal son, the Father and the elder brother from Luke 15.

I look forward to watching 24 tonight. What will Jack blow up next?

Can't wait to see my granddaughter in a few weeks....Debbie posted pictures of her on her facebook.

Would like to see Arizona win the Super Bowl this Sunday by a large margin for two reasons: Curt Warner is a great Christian - it would be great to see a Christian succeed.

Being a Cowboy fan, I don't like the Steelers (remember the Super Bowls in the 70's?)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Making history

History. I love it. From elementary school on I have loved to read books about American history. World History. One of my favorite classes in High School (International School of Brussels) was on the subject of Soviet history, taught by a British teacher. She made it become alive.

In recent years, I have read about presidents. Biographies of president: Lincoln. Truman. Eisenhower. Nixon. Much can be gleaned concerning the subject of leadership from reading these historical documents.

More to the point in our setting: It's fun to read the history of Stone Church. Lois Ephraim's book, "The Stone Church, 1906-1981" is a wonderful summary of our history here at Stone.

Someone once wrote (I assume in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way), "Those who don't study the past will repeat its errors. Those who do study it will find other ways to err."

Ultimately, we study history, not to relive the past, but to learn from the past and move on into the present and future.

This we did last night. It's not much of an exaggeration to say that last night was a "historical night" in the history of our church.

We are moving forward. We are moving out (literally). We are advancing in the kingdom of God.


Our church family voted last night to affirm and confirm the building plans that the building committee presented to us.

The vote: 86%. I was thrilled. That's a great percentage of any group of people, but especially in church life. Praise God!

One more step in fulfilling the vision of our church that God has given us. While our kids and grandkids might not remember the events of yesterday, we will. And we will smile and give knowing nods to one another. For we have seen the hand of God move. We are going to be leaving the next generation a foundation that they can build on.

Next step....stewardship events....then we break ground! It's exciting!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

staying away from temptation

There is one thing I know about temptation. You can't play around with it. Sometimes we in our own minds rationalize temptation by thinking we can go as close to the edge of the cliff as possible and not fall off.

When we do that, we become childish in our walk with God. There is a difference between being childlike (which Jesus calls us to) and childish, which brings on words such as selfish and egocentric.

Proverbs 6:27 states, "Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?"

Children will play with virtually anything they get their hands on. It's no surprise, then, that when Dutch children in the town of Barneveld uncovered an unexploded World War II artillery shell, they played with it. In fact, they had games with it for several months.

That shell was still live and contained high explosives. Thankfully, the deadly plaything did not explode in the Barneveld playground as the children tossed it about. Eventually the authorities learned about the shell, confiscated it, and exploded it in a safe place.

Those who are not yet mature often fail to recognize the danger of what they are doing. For children, the world is a playground, and bombs make great toys.

Let's be careful with what we play around with. Not in a legalistic way but in a legitimate way of staying away from the temptations of the enemy.

I encourage you to be wise. No one is above the temptations of the enemy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Problem solving

We have a new president today. In my lifetime, there have been 10 presidents. Hard to believe. Men of different character and beliefs, and yet our democracy still stands.

Here what I believe: we need President Obama to succeed for the our country's sake. With all of the problems that we face (terrorism, the economy, health care, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) whether a person is republican or democrat, we need these problems resolved.

I read a by-line the other day that said (in the context of Obama becoming president) "be careful of what you wish for."

My prayer is that President Obama will have the wisdom and courage to lead us during these difficult times. In fact, I encourage you to pray for our President and his team on a consistent basis.

Sometimes our problems overwhelm us like they did a man named Joe.

Before Joe could get out of his house and head for work, he had four long distance calls. Everyone seemed to have a problem. And they all wanted Joe to get on a plane that day and come help out.

he finally told his wife to forget about his breakfast. He rushed out of the house as fast as he could. Then, when he stepped into the garage he discovered his car would not start. So he called a taxi. while he was waiting for the taxi, he got another call about another problem. Finally, the taxi came and Joe rushed out, piled in the back seat, and yelled, "All right, let's get going."

"Where to you want me to take you?" the taxi driver asked.

"I don't care where we go," Joe shouted. "I've got problems everywhere."

Let me give you some thoughts concerning problems:

Problems give meaning to our lives.

In other words, obstacles are conditions of success. A wise philosopher once commented that an eagle's only obstacle to overcome for flying with greater speed and ease is the air. Yet, if the air were withdrawn, and the proud bird were to fly in a vacuum, it would fall instantly to the ground, unable to fly at all. The very element that offers resistance to flying is at the same time the condition for flight.

My problem is not my problem.

There is a difference between a person who has a big problem and a person who makes a problem big.

Most of the time our problems are not our real problems.

Our problem is that we react wrongly to "problems" and therefore make our "problems" real problems.


A problem is something I can do something about. If I can't do something about it, it's not my problem. It's a fact of life.

How can we solve our problems?

Let me quote:

"Approach the issue with clarity. This is the first and most important component to problem solving. While action and energy can often assist you in overcoming challenges, this effort is a waste if misguided or misplaced. The first step is always to approach any issue in a clear and logical manner, even if under time constraints or pressure.

Understand the issue. Once you're appropriately focused, you need to run through the problem. What are the components of the issue? What aspects are vital to a solution and which are extraneous? Once you've broken down a problem into its vital aspects, sort through any cause and effect relationships or patterns and cycles at work. Basically, you want have a good grasp of what is going on.

Plan a strategy. After you have a good grasp of the problem, begin to plan out a solution. In most cases this is a simple relationship of cause and effect. In dealing with a problem, you desire to achieve a particular result. Consider what steps must be taken to achieve said result, given the parameters posed by the problem.

Execute your strategy. Once you've outlined logical steps toward your desired result, execute! If you are dealing with an issue such that conditions change upon execution, don't be afraid to reevaluate your strategy. Is something going vastly awry? Approach any new developments in the same logical manner in which you approached the original problem. This is important. You must make a critical decision as to whether or not your plan warrants alteration. Remember, changes in parameters of the issue do not necessarily mean the steps you've outlined will fail! In addition, it is sometimes necessary to execute your original plan fully to gain more insight into the problem. Unless this is a one shot deal, trial-and-error is often an excellent approach.

Evaluate the results. Upon seeing your plan through, consider the result. Optimally, you successfully tackled the dilemma. However, if the results you expect were not achieved, consider your approach. Was there an error in planning or execution? Did new parameters present themselves? Reevaluate in light of these discoveries and approach the problem again. Sometimes you can repeat your original plan if the error was in execution. However, if the parameters have changed then a new strategy is often necessary.

Continue to evaluate and execute. Several attempts may be necessary to solve the issue. Each time, however, keep in mind logic, clarity, and focus. These are the elements that ultimately lead to resolution. Even if you are checked by failure, clear thinking usually leads to a successful resolution."

Monday, January 19, 2009

thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend...

We had a very good information meeting on Saturday. Not a lot of questions, but the questions that were given were informative and well received.

I watched the last part of Michigan State beating Illinois on Saturday. For a while there I didn't think MSU was going to pull it out but their defense as well as their game plan on consistently pushing the ball up on offense finally played out.

It's State's fans that interest me too. They have several sections that they call the "Izzo Zone" (named after Coach Izzo) where the kids all wear white t-shirt's and jump up and down the WHOLE GAME. Like pogo sticks....if you know what a pogo stick is....

Sunday morning second service was interesting. As I was speaking, I could feel myself being drained, it was like all the life in me was being sucked out. Our church family - Nothing. Dry. I almost gave a strong admonition after I taught but felt a check in my spirit.

I was pleased that I obeyed the Spirit.

As we were taking communion, with Erik leading us in worship, all of a sudden there was a wave, a surge of the Holy Spirit moving upon us. None of it was massaged or coerced, it came very naturally from God's Spirit to our Spirit. People began to stand and worship God, raising their hands in praise to Him. Many came down to fall on their faces before God or kneel in worshiping him.

In my conversations with God, I am praying that we break out of "complacent worship" and begin to enter in as a congregation. I say this with much affection. It's on my heart, it's in my Spirit - God draw us closer to you!

I watched the end of the Cardinal - Philly game...glad the Cardinal's won. Being a Cowboy fan, any time Eagles lose I rejoice. I'm also pleased that Kurt Warner is in the Super Bowl again. Being the strong Christian that he is, it's good to see a fellow brother in Christ succeed.

Last night life group was tremendous. Our closeness as a group is beginning to happen, older people in the group were counseling younger people, it's all that a life group should be.

Debbie and I once again left in saying to each other, "we would have never gotten to know any of the people in our group like we are - just seeing them on Sunday mornings."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Life is not.....

Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher of the 18th century, once wrote, "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced."

I love that. It is such a challenge to me. I can be so focused on tasks at hand that I forget to enjoy life, to even enjoy the presence of God.

I would suggest that we are to experience life, celebrate life, dance through life in the midst of all of our projects, plans, trials and problems and worries. That doesn't mean that we deny they exist, or ignore every difficulty, just the contrary. It means that we embrace it, hit it head on in knowing that with both the good and the bad life can be celebrated. Especially as believers in Christ.

Listen to the words of Carla Waterman. She writes:

"My friend and I sat on my patio, drinking tea and catching up with life. She had just moved to a new situation, away from familiar work, beautiful spaces and valued friends, and she was experiencing the exhausting emptiness of a job that was too full, a context where she felt undervalued, and a place where friends were not naturally found. The tears filled her eyes as she spoke of her weariness, her disillusionment, and her anger.

My friend is a fighter: she wants to right wrongs for herself and others, she wants to demand a human pace and human respect. She wants to know and be known. And she has been fighting hard for what she wants.

After the first cup of tea, I offered her this observation from Dorothy Sayers: "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a medium for creation." And I suggested, "Perhaps it is time to drop your sword and pick up your paint brush."

And we were off, exploring the internal battles that we so often fight with others even when they never experience the swordplay in our souls.

We spoke of the weariness created by internal turmoil and that lack of quiet within ourselves that adds to the general frenetic emptiness. And then we turned to the pallet of colors she had been given in this season—not the rich reds, golds, and blues that this friend would naturally reach for, but a more subdued set of tones:

grays, browns, and maybe a few tans. Could there be beauty in this season? Could life be a medium for creation—even here?

It is not the first conversation I have had in the last week on the difference between a full life and a frenetic one. And I find myself increasingly recognizing that, when there are so very few things over which we have control, we still have the choice of whether to wield a sword or pick up a brush.

I have no idea what beauty the Lord will create through my friend in this season—how large or small the canvas she will be given, or what colors may appear on her pallet. But I do know this: in most seasons of life, beauty accomplishes a great deal more than anger, and a brush rests more easily in our hands than a sword. And so I hugged her good-bye with this prayer in my heart: "May the beauty of the Lord our God rest upon us. Establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands" (Psalm 90:17)."

If we all could channel the negativity and anger, resentment and bitterness into something profitable, something positive and creative, much would be accomplished in the kingdom of God.

Let's use that as a prayer today: "May the beauty of the Lord our God rest upon us. Establish the work of our hands."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

some good news

We had great meetings last night with our stewardship campaign leadership. I am thoroughly thrilled at the commitment level of our church family. There are close to 150 people involved!

Our theme for the campaign (that we are introducing Sunday) is: "Moving forward by faith."

We desire to propel the idea that we are moving forward with our vision to relocate, a vision that has been on the hearts and minds of our church family since 2004.

And's by faith.

Several things are happening that encourage us.

We had the largest giving month for December that we have had in years.

As I said, close to 150 people are involved in the stewardship campaign.

It's great to receive news like that in the midst of an economy that say, "the sky is falling, the sky is falling," and a culture that is apathetic and lethargic.

Let's not forget that in 1973, we as a church were the catalyst in seeing a great ministry (channel 38) begin with a $135,000 offering on one Sunday. What I want us to remember is that - that miracle took place in the midst of a deep recession in our country, oil embargoes, and inflation. Yet, God did a miracle.

We are asking God, "One more time," do your thing!

Also, I have been asked the question several times recently about going into a smaller facility.

In actuality we are going from around 40,000 square feet to over 100,000 square feet, it's just that we are doing it in three phases, phase one being our current plan that we are looking at - 28,000 square feet.

It's exciting. Again...will you join me in this venture? Our goal is to enlarge our nets, so that we can reach the entire south land for God!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jesus - the bright and morning star

One of the interesting "I am" statements of Jesus is that He said in Revelation 22:16: "I am....the Bright and Morning Star."

The Greek word for star is "aster", and is combined with the adjectives bright and morning. Bright indicates Christ' dominance, and morning his newness or freshness.

The last star of the night and the first star of the day is called the morning star. Jesus is the Bright and Morning Star who promises that the dark night of anxiety is almost over. He is Bright and Morning Star to the extent that He announces the coming of the sun and a new day with new opportunities.

This gives us hope. Sometimes we end the day discouraged and down. Jesus at that time gives us hope.

Sometimes we begin the day depressed and full of worry. Jesus at that time gives us hope.

That's why it's great to begin the day in God's presence and to end our daily journey seeking Him.

You can pray something like this, "Lord, my heart is cold; I need the warmth of Your light. You are a bright Star to my otherwise dark world; you are the Morning Star of hope. Help me forget my failures and troubles. Let me live in your peace. Amen"

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jesus is the light

C.S. Lewis once wrote, "I believe in Christianity as I believe the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else."

I like light. I was never a fan of the dark paneling of the 1970's and 80's, or darkly painted rooms.

I like to pray in the light. While I understand the idea of praying with the lights down low, I prefer to pray in the light. To me, I'm not more spiritual if the lights are down low.

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." John 8:12

Jesus is the light.

That has so many deeper applications than what I think we take it for.

You know how it is - before you knew Christ - your heart was filled with darkness. You thought differently, you reacted differently in different situations. You could never completely (if at all) understand why those "goofy" Christians acted as they did. It's because you were living in darkness.

Now we are living in the light.

Jesus as the light gives me the means to make decisions that I face.

The story is told of grandfather who took his little grandson for a walk in the woods. As they were walking along they stopped and the grandfather asked his grandson a question, “Do you know where we are?” The boy looked up and said, “No!” Grandpa then asked, “Do you know where we’re going?” The boy replied, “No!” The man chuckled and said, “Well, I guess you’re lost then.” The boy smiled at his grandpa and said, “No, I’m not lost. I’m with you.”

Psalm 43:3 states, “Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me.”

That light helps me to understand His Word and see clearly as I pray.

Of course all of that is predicated on making time for the light, for God's presence, for communion with Him.

We can all pray, can't we, "Lord take away my spiritual blindness. Help me see what I must do today. Don't let me stumble or get lost. Shine light on my path."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Some thoughts from last night

I couldn't wait to come to Stone Church last night. I sensed that God was going to do something - and it came to pass.

We spend about 50 minutes, singing worship choruses and basking in the presence of God. Worshipping. Connecting. Tuning in to his Spirit. No talk. No scripture reading. Just hands on relationship with God.

Great stuff.

Jim Cymbala writes in "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire," "You know how popular a church is by how many people are there on Sunday mornings, you know how popular the pastor or evangelist is by how many are there on Sunday nights, and you know how popular Jesus is by how many are at the prayer meeting."

I must confess that on my way home last night that I was fighting the thoughts of being disappointed about those who were not there (especially leaders). I know better than that.

There's a basic principle in ministry: Focus in on those who do participate and not on those who don't.

Work and minister with those who are there and pray for those who aren't.

But my flesh rose up. Leaders who ask others to participate in their ministry, leaders who are faithful in working for God - were not there to spend time in his presence.

In the middle of the night, however, God woke me up and I begin to pray. I begin to pray for those who weren't there and lifted them up by name.

And once again, God reminded me, focus in on those who do and not on those who don't.

I say this with much affection - My heart is that we all draw closer to God. More than ministry, more than anything else in life - that we love God, live for God, give God our lives.

With much love...George

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A question concerning traffic

Since my friend, Erik Scottberg has apparently abandoned his "Traffic Tuesday," let me pick up it for a day and ask you a question:

I was driving back from Michigan a couple of weeks ago on Highway 94, and near the Indiana border there was an accident.

The highway has three lanes on each side.

Because of the accident, the left lane was supposed to merge into the middle lane, leaving only two lanes.

I was buzzing along in the left lane with the intention of of merging into the middle lane at the latest moment possible.

An SUV then appeared in front of me and slowed down and wouldn't let me pass. Apparently, he didn't want me to continue in the far left lane and then merge at the last second. If everybody else was going to have to wait in the two lanes left, so was I - and he was going to make sure that it happened that way for me.

A self-ordained sheriff of the situation.

Needless to say, I was a little bit perturbed at his actions.

However, being the open minded person that I am, let me ask you this question: "Was he right or wrong in not allowing me to continue on in the far left lane?"

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Seasons in life

Sometimes when bad things happen to us, all we can do is ride it out. Most of the time it a big help to me to realize that whatever I am going through is a season; either a short time or a longer time where I am being challenged.

But the point is - the season will end. responsibility is to ride it out.

What do you rely on in a disaster, when things are falling apart in your world?

What do you trust in when your survival is at stake?

What do you do when all seems lost?

When Hurricane Gustav was bearing down on New Orleans in the Fall of 2008 and city officials had ordered residents to evacuate, one woman named Hattie decided to stay put.

She told reporters that she had what she needed to ride out the storm, explaining, "I've got liquor, cash, food, ammo, and weed."

Let me suggest something better for you than liquor, cash, food, ammo and weed....let me suggest to you Jesus. Letting his peace and calm flow through your life right now.

May God's peace express itself through your life even as you read this.

Stop right now and give your need to God. He understands. He cares. He loves you. And you will never be the same.

Monday, January 05, 2009

thoughts from the weekend

I'm back!

Thoughts from the holiday break and the past weekend:

I loved holding my granddaughter (Georgia Grace) on my chest as I laid on the couch.

The movie "Marley and Me" made me tear up (as well as everyone there watching).

Dr. Elmer Towns is one of my spiritual heroes.

His teaching on fasting was great - I sense we are all catching the validity of prayer and fasting.

One thought from him that really struck me: we should always pray in faith in the area of our giftedness.

Loved watching our time of prayer around the altar as our leadership prayed for those with needs.

We had a great "life group" last night - watched the DVD by Philip Yancey and had a great time of prayer and sharing. I sense as a group that we are drawing closer together.

Saw the play, "The Screwtape Letters," at the Mercury theater in Chicago. It's a wonderful rendition of C.S. Lewis' book. A must see. I was thrilled as my perception was that there were many non-Christians there. The only drawback was that the setting of the play is hell. The night we saw it, the heat had gone out in the auditorium. Kind of ironic.

Handed out gifts at Christmas.

Ate too much.

Fell in love with my wife all over again as we celebrated 28 years of marriage on January 2nd.