Sunday, September 30, 2007

It may look like magic but it's not

We went to the bowling alley this afternoon with the kids. Every time I go to the lanes, I recall a visit we made with the Brownie troop several years ago. We got a behind the scenes look at what happens when the pins fall down and how they are reset. It was nothing like I imagined. I always thought it was magic.

It change my impression of the alley forever. The truth is that the same thing happens when we encounter God and become a believer. Nothing is as it seems anymore. As people of faith we understand that there is a lot more happening in the world than we can see with our eyes. God is always at work and working for the good of those who love him and call on his name. That is what gives us hope. Praise God!

By the way, the high scores today were posted by Rachel, Bethany, Kayla and Heather.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

You need a power supply

Who would have thought that a little thing like a power cord could literally stop a computer maven in his tracks? Yesterday my Dell laptop was up and running fine one minute and the next it was shutting down and going into hibernation mode. At first I didn't know what was happening.

Then I saw the words - hibernating -flash across the screen. Suddenly I knew what it was. My battery had worn down. The solution was to simply plug it in again to recharge the battery. As I went to grab the power cord, I realized that something much more troublesome was on the horizon because my laptop was already plugged in.

My computer is great. It has served me well. Yet it hit me then that unless it is connected to a source of power, and everything was working, it might as well be a piece of driftwood on a beach.

As I sat there trying to will the computer to go on, it struck me that many of us go through spells in life where our spiritual lives dry up. One day we are walking hand in hand with the Lord and the next day we feel lost and alone.

The truth is that we need to be connected to run at full speed and to get the most out of life. We need to be in touch with Jesus every day. He is the source of our spiritual power. I don't know what I am going to do about my laptop, but I do know tat maybe I need to spend a little more time with Jesus. How about you?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cultivating seeds of inspiration

So I am out there watering the newly planted grass on the side of our house and the thought hit me that just four months ago I watched a friend of mine doing this exact same thing at church. He and his wife were part of a team of people who volunteered to do some landscaping for us. Twice a day they came down to the church to water the new grass.

One night in particular I remember standing there chatting with him as he finished his chore. He explained that you really had to do a lot of work in the first few weeks in order to help the grass seed take root. I confess that I couldn't believe this guy was actually watering the lawn. He didn't seem to be the type but he was passionate about it.

As I stood the with the hose in my hand, I finally understood why he was doing it. It dawned on me that a lot of things in life are like that. Until you have been there and done that, you cannot understand. But after we have witnessed others walk through a situation, we can learn from it when our time comes. I think of Cliff every time I go out to water the lawn now. Believe it or not he inspires me.

I pray that you may be inspired by somebody else's actions today and that you in turn, will soon become an inspiration to another. So go out and plant some seeds. Then water them and see what grows.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stay on the course

I know I am going to get myself in trouble but I have to say it. Golfers look pretty silly when they are addressing the ball and getting ready to take a shot off the tee. I spent the afternoon at the Willimantic Country Club on Friday. The Pierce Baptist Home hosted their third annual Golf Tournament. I had the good fortune to be situated on the seventh hole in the shade. My job was to verify whether anyone got a hole in one to win a new Ford Taurus.

Needless to say, I got to witness some of the finest shots of the day as each of the golfers gave it their best go. The golfers bounced and swayed and did all kinds of gyrations as they prepared to smack the ball one hundred and ninety yards to the pin. Did you ever see the episode of Jackie Gleason's Honeymooners where Art Carney was trying to hit a pool ball? this had that beat. I wish I had my movie camera.

The truth is that a golf swing is a beautiful thing to behold. It is poetry in motion. When it is executed properly from drawing the club back to the follow through, the golfer looks like a ballerina in motion. Unfortunately that is tough to do. So most golfers only come close and that has to be good enough.

It got me thinking about living the life of faith. It isn't easy. When it is done right it is a thing of beauty. Most of us stumble around a bit though.We don't always have the proper form, but the most important thing is that we are on the course. Just like the golfers. So keep it up. Just keep trying and you will do fine.

Fore! Cal

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A believable act

I went to see the musical play, "Top of the Heap" at the Spirit of Broadway Theater last night. Brett Bernadini did a nice job of making the story come alive as the director and the actors and actresses were very believable. They met us at the door and invited us right into the action. The stage is so intimate that you really do feel as if you are part of the show. I got so caught up in it I began wishing I had a part in the production.

Live theater does that to me because I am a thespian at heart. I love the stage. Every time I go to a show I get the urge to jump in and do another show. I said to a friend last night, "Am I the only one who watches a play and thinks about which role I could have played?"

I wonder how many people see you and me living the Christian life and get that feeling. Do we live in such a way that people want to jump in and walk with Christ because they see how much we enjoy it?

I know a lot of people think religion is all about what you can and cannot do. For me it is all about walking with Jesus and finding the blessings that God shares with us every step of the way. Living the Christian life is about sharing God's love and bringing hope and joy to the stage where we are engaged. So do it up and share your joy.


Friday, September 21, 2007

He has got the map.

This morning I have to go someplace that I have never been before. I should have called someone to get directions but I procrastinated so long that everyone else who is heading up there has already left. At this point the "macho" part of me is thinking about just driving up to Willimantic and trying to find the place by shear willpower. Of course that is foolish and I know that I'll just end up getting lost and wasting a lot of time.

Why do we do the things we do? This is a variation of the question the apostle Paul asked in the book of Romans. God has shown us the way to happiness and we still choose to try and find it ourselves. The end result is a lot of heart ache and disappointment.

The truth is that God loves us and wants us to reap the benefits of a life long walk with him. It is only when we insist on doing it ourselves that we get into trouble. Now independence is great and God wants us to exercise our free will to choose the path we will go. But in the end, he has the map and we can always have access to it.

So if you are feeling a little lost today. Dial up God on your prayer line and get the direction you need. You'll save some time and be blessed as well. As I sit here typing, I think I am going to google the directions. If that doesn't work, I will call the Country Club. That way I will be able to enjoy the event instead of running in circles all morning.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

If it looks like a duck

This morning I was sitting in the waiting room of orthodontist's office when a young man walked through the door. He came in and looked past the receptionist into the main area of the building. When the receptionist asked if she could help him he looked rather confused. He gestured for her to wait a minute and he pulled out his cell phone.

He turned around and went outside and I could hear him talking to someone. A few minutes later he came back in and asked where the loan department was. The receptionist kindly told him that he wasn't in a bank. He persisted and she tried to explain that this was a medical office and that the bank was across the street.

He apologized and left. Then the receptionist said to me, "we must look like a bank because we get someone in here every day looking for the bank." I remarked that I wasn't surprised because the new office didn't look like a medical building at all.

It got me thinking about how we look to the world. Most of us don't look like the typical Jesus freaks of the seventies. We look pretty normal. So what sets us apart from the rest of the world? I hope that it is our compassion and the way we respect and love one another. We don't want people to be confused when they see us. As Christians we want people to look at us and see Jesus.

There is an old saying: If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck. Let there be no mistake. If we look and act like Jesus we want people to know they are seeing the real thing, a follower of Jesus.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A new landscape

This morning a friend of mine came to the house and helped us do some landscaping. He made a few suggestions. After hearing them I went out and bought some paper, mulch, fertilizer and a few more shrubs. Then he went to work planting them. I couldn't believe the transformation that had taken place when I came home this afternoon. It looks great!

A few weeks ago, Javier told me what needed to be done. He explained everything in detail. I was going to try to do it myself but the task felt a bit overwhelming. I had never done it before and was afraid I couldn't do it myself. So I waited and it didn't get done until Javier showed up today.

It made me think about how many times I had good intentions about doing something but never stepped out to do it. Something always seems to hold us back doesn't it, especially if it's something we've never done before. This is certainly true when it comes to telling our stories and sharing our faith. The preachers make it look so easy. We fumble with the words when an opening comes our way.

Hey, a friend on mine once told me "You will never know if you can do it until you try it." Maybe it's time we get off the fence and start trying a few new things. Who knows what we will dig up and what seeds we will plant. It may change the landscape of our lives. Praise God.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Celebrating life

I've worked with Hospice for nearly twenty years and I can tell you that dealing with death never gets easier. It is hard to say good-bye. Last night I noticed that our dog, Praise, was shivering a bit. I thought it was unusual so I covered him up and patted his head and he seemed fine otherwise.

This morning I came home from the gym and Lori pointed out that Praise could hardly move his back leg. She wondered if he had a stroke during the night. He didn't seem to be in pain. It was really worrisome. We decided we would make the call to the vet to see what was going on.

I have to confess that I didn't want to be the one to make the call. I didn't want to hear the bad news or have to make the decision to put him down. The truth is that it is hard for us to say good bye. Whether it is at the end of life for a loved one or simply a friend moving away, many of us try to avoid the pain of parting.

Maybe we need to reframe our thinking. Instead of looking at the event as a great loss, maybe we need to learn to celebrate what we have and what we have had. I know some people look at a funeral as a celebration of the gift of life. I like that. It affirms the blessing and helps us to remember the person, our pet, our friend. Praise has been a good dog, a good friend. No matter what happens in the next few days, we will all know in the Lord household that we have been blessed to have him.


Monday, September 17, 2007

The hurdle jumper

My office looks like a disaster area. Every September I start running like a hamster on one of those spinning wheels and leave lots of papers, books and assorted junk all over the place. Like a hurdle jumper, I just go from one thing to the next without looking back.

The good news is that I can usually find anything I am looking for. The bad news is it usually takes a little while. This morning I have decided to take the time to sort through things and clean up the mess. The office is looking better already.

I think we need to do the same thing with our lives. Every once in a while we need to take a break between races and take stock of what we have been doing and look ahead to where we are going. The Bible says we should learn to number our days so we can gain a heart of wisdom. That's why God created the sabbath.

We can debate about whether that means keeping Saturday or Sunday as our Holy day, but the point was that we take the time to pause and take stock of God, our family and all the other blessings we have. When we stop and give thanks, it allows us to look ahead with a better sense of where we are going and to get reoriented if we need to.

Well that last pile in the middle of my floor beckons. Enjoy your day. God bless.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

A back stage presence

If you don't think that the Holy Spirit has a role in pulling a worship service together, then you better think again. Several weeks ago I told our choir and praise team that I hoped to lay out all my sermons, scripture texts and ideas so that we could coordinate our worship services to make them more meaningful.

As September rolled around, I didn't have the chance to do that but God wasn't going to wait for me. Just before the service began this morning I realized that the lectionary reading today was the same one that the choir anthem was derived from. When Muriel Roderick began talking to the children about God's love letters in the Bible, it dawned on me that my sermon was pulled from one of Paul's letters.

I really knew that something was up after I preached my message and began greeting people in the receiving line. My sermon was about the grace of God. I was excited about preaching on the topic but as I delivered the message I didn't feel I was getting through to people. I began second guessing myself about preaching on such a basic topic. All that changed when one person after another commented on the message in glowing terms. One man even said he wanted the tape because he wanted a friend to hear it.

Sometimes we think we are in control but today was just one more example of the truth. God is always there as a back stage presence, working through us and others to achieve his purposes. I think we need to remember that and practice getting out of the way a little more often so God can use us to do his work.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Living in the presence of greatness

This morning I took some time to clean up my computer desk top. One of the jobs I took care of was organizing my pictures on the computer and putting them in folders. As I was doing this I came across a recent photo of Miss Connecticut, Dana Daunis, and me.

On my wall at church I have a few celebrity photos. Over the years I have been blessed to meet and have my picture taken with Governor Jodi Rell, evangelist Luis Palau, basketball player Ernie DiGregario, Detroit Tiger pitcher Nate Robertson and Miss America 2005 Dierdre Downs to name a few.

There is something thrilling about being in the presence of someone who is famous. To have a photo taken is to capture a bit of the magic and to keep it with you for years afterwards. As I came across this photo, it struck me that as Christians we have the joy of walking and living in the presence of greatness every day. We don't have to go looking for it. God comes to us and invites us to be with him.

Hey, the truth is that every picture I have with a celebrity is just a picture with two people standing together. There is nothing more there. But with God there is substance and depth because God knows and loves us. He cares about us and has plans for our lives.

So if you want to get in the picture with true greatness, accept God's invitation and invite him into your life.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

I sat there watching people come and go. Everyone looked like they had some place to be. I began to make up a little story line for each one. A business man came in carrying his briefcase and I reckoned that he was heading into New York City to a sales meeting. He was ready to meet his client for dinner and try to sell him on his company's product.

One woman came in with her daughter. They stood under the big board searching for the time of the next departure. When they found what they were looking for they both returned their attention to the door from which they had entered. Thirty seconds later a young woman entered with tears in her eyes. She was pulling a large suitcase and I could tell by the family resemblance that she was part of this group. They flocked to her and the three of them headed for the down escalator. In my mind's eye I could see her leaving the embrace of a high school sweetheart outside and heading for college in the city.

It's funny but even though I had fun making up stories for the people I saw coming and going through the train station today, all the people had one thing in common. Their lives all intersected at one place today and I was there to witness it. Our faith tells us that the same thing happens every day with God. In the midst of our every day business, God is there watching us. He sees our tears, knows our anxiety, sees our preparation and rejoices with our victories. Unlike me, he doesn't have to make up what is going on in our lives. He knows it.

The good news is that God not only knows where we are and where we are going, but he goes with us. He's there when we get to that business meeting. He is there when we leave that tearful embrace and embark on a new chapter in our lives. He is even there when we are sitting and eagerly awaiting the arrival of our firstborn daughter as she comes home for a long weekend. Praise God.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The day a nation prayed

I turned on the television yesterday morning and watched a rebroadcast of the MSNBC reporting on September 11, 2001. As I watched the burning towers and listened as the newscaster commented on what was happening, I had tears in my eyes. I couldn't help it. For I knew what was about to happen. As I saw emergency personnel rush to the towers and people sitting on the sidewalks below the buildings, I wanted to scream at them to get up and run.

I was caught up in that weird time warp. for I was seeing events unfold but I knew how the story would end and no matter how much I wanted to change history, I was impotent to do so.

I think we feel that way about matters of faith as well. We know what the Bible says. It affirms that a belief in Jesus Christ is key to eternal life. Yet we watch as our friends and family reject our notion of a faithful life and continue doing whatever they are doing. It is heart breaking. But here is the good news. You can do something about it. You can intervene on their behalf. You can continue to let your joy be your testimony and you can pray for them as well.

You see even when we are frozen in our tracks, God is not. He is able to do far more than we can. He did it on September 11. Heroic things happened on that day and those stories are still being told. God's grace touched hundred and thousands of people on that terrible day and he is still working miracles today because a nation prayed that morning and afternoon.

So make it a point to pray for your family and friends and watch what God can do in their lives.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

God is coming to bat for you

I am a big Detroit Tiger fan and I watched last night's game on My Tigers were facing Roy Halliday and the Toronto Blue Jays. Halliday was the game's top pitcher last year and is following up his Cy Young Award with another great season. Needless to say we had our work cut out for us.

Halliday was pitching a gem and as the Tigers came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth they were trailing 4 -1. It looked pretty hopeless. But then a strange thing happened. Six batters came to the plate and each of them refused to make the final out of the game. Five hitters battled the pitcher and ended up slicing singles through the infield. Then Gary Sheffield walked to load the bases. With the Tigers down by one, Magglio Ordonez ripped a game winning single up the middle that won the game.

Afterwards Ordonez was asked about the game and the hit and he said "this team just doesn't give up until the last out is made. No matter how bad it looks, we keep playing. Hey. I was the eighth man to bat in the inning and you see what happened!"

It struck me that with God on our side, we can have an attitude like that too. Life may be getting the best of us but the difficulty cannot overcome of us because the victory belongs to God. So if you are struggling with a health concern, a financial burden, a broken relationship, hold on and look to God. He is coming to bat for you.


Monday, September 10, 2007

A dazzling display of God's love

Everyone loves a good fireworks display. That is how a very successful Italian festival came to a conclusion this weekend. The Connecticut Defenders promoted Friday nights at the Park with the team and a fireworks display. The fourth of July, Harbor Day and even a few local fairs made sure to note that fireworks were a part of the festivities. People who might otherwise skip the fair or the celebration always hustle down to find a spot to watch.

I don't know if it is the brilliant colors or the dazzling effects that brings about the ooohs and aaahs. It might be the big bang that explodes as the rockets launch their sparkling streamers. Maybe it is the music that often seems to tap into our emotions. Whatever it is that draws us in, it does it across generational, ethnic and racial barriers.

It made me think of the most basic appeal that Jesus has on us. In his life and actions Jesus has said "I love you." Those three little words cut across every line that separate people and they bring us together. In this cold and dark world, "I love you" dazzles us and causes us to oooh and aaah. The best part of Jesus' love is that it isn't only shared on special occasions and late at night. It can be shared and enjoyed all the time and everywhere.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Look before you leap

Last night I went down to the Italian Festival and had a great time. There were food booths lined up on both sides of the big tent and everyone was smiling. Why not? There was fettuccine Alfredo, past primavera, chicken Caesar salad, linguine with shrimp, wine, beer, Snapple and so much more. For a few tickets you could sample the finest Italian cuisine in the region. Of course, some of us did just that. We sampled a bit of this and a bit of that all afternoon long.

The food was great but I have to admit that by the end of the evening I was looking for some alka seltzer. I had a good case of heart burn. Too much of even a good thing can be too much.

It got me thinking about the fact that sometimes we think that the little indiscretions we engage in don't really count. The truth is that they all add up. We do something we know is wrong, and even though it is a minor thing it adds up. Next thing you know we lie about it. Then we start thinking about what we did and begin to justify it. Before long the line between right and wrong is blurry.

The key is to think about what we are doing before we start. If I had thought about what I was eating, I would have sampled less and enjoyed it a lot more. The same is true when we know we are going to cross a line with our behavior. If we think about it and the consequences, we may save our selves a lot of heart ache. So look before you leap and you just might avoid a night in the stew pot.


Friday, September 7, 2007

You will be blessed by telling the truth

When I called I didn't expect a thank you. A gentleman called the church the other day to see if we could use a fairly new stove and refrigerator. He told me that his elderly parents had bought them a few months ago but that they were downsizing after his mom died. Both were in very good shape.

Every once in a while we have someone looking for furnishings so I told him I would check it out and get back to him. Two days later I called him and that is when he thanked me. He said I was the only one who said they would call him back who actually did.

It got me thinking about my sermon last week. I spoke about the ninth commandment and the subject of lying. It is so easy to say you will do something and then never follow through. We don't usually think of this as lying. So what else do you call it when you commit to doing something and then don't do it? I'm sure that some of those people contacted had no intention of ever getting back to him. How do I know? I've done it.

Jesus said in regards to truth telling, "Let your yea, be yea and your nay, nay." In other words don't commit to something you can't live up to. Just tell the truth. That works in situations like this one with the appliances and with every other situation as well. If you tell the truth you will soon find that people will respect you even when you have to turn them down.


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The man is in the house

Josh Gracin! The crowd at the Woodstock Fair was getting all excited because Josh Gracin was going to be on the main stage at 4:00 p.m. During the two shows that preceeded him they kept making reference to the fact that he was going to be there. During the hypnotist's act at 3:00 p.m.. they even had Josh come out to make a cameo appearance. Josh Gracin! Who is he?

I knew he had to be a big star by the way they kept talking about him. The crowd started to grow exponentially so I was anticipating his arrival just like everyone else. The moment finally arrived and josh came out singing and wooing the crowd. I hung around for about four songs and then I left still wondering who he was.

Josh is a great signing. I enjoyed the music he sang. I just didn't know much about him. When I got home my wife told me he was BIG! He had records and that he was a star that made his debut on American Idol. I felt a little better about it after hearing that. He was a BIG star and I got to see him.

Funny thing is that a lot of people have heard about Jesus in the same way. They know people get excited about him. People change their schedules around to meet him every Sunday. The name is familiar but they just don't know him. Hopefully there are people like you and me who can tell them who Jesus is so that they can truly be blessed by seeing and hearing him.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The secret society

I have probably blown it by telling you, but it is such good news that I had to share it with someone! I have been recommended to join a super secret society that only admits the most talented and most special people. I was proposed by a secret admirer who is a member of this exclusive club. All the members are well known, very famous, fabulously rich and talented men and women who possess amazing gifts that they have turned into fame and fortune. And can you believe it, they see the same things in me and they are willing to tell me how I can become one of them. All I have to do is send in $139.00 to get the ancient book of secrets.

This group has also chosen a mentor for me, a man who has walked with Presidents and world leaders. He couldn't give his name, but as soon as I join I will meet him. Cool huh? Well I might have messed up because I threw the paperwork away this afternoon.

You see I already know the secret for happiness and a glorious future. I learned it as a boy from a Sunday School teacher. She told me that god loved me and he had a plan for my life. She also told me that I could read all about it in an ancient book. There were no secrets though. It was a free gift from God. The secrets were revealed in the Bible and all of us are created in the image of God and have the potential to become joint heirs with Jesus.

So who needs a secret society when I already belong to the family of God. And it doesn't cost me anything because Jesus already paid the price in full. Do you want to join? Then just ask Jesus into your heart and you will be in. That's a promise. Praise god for that.


Monday, September 3, 2007

Just keep on doing it

It is hard to write an blog and keep it up every day. I don't say that only form personal experience. I say it because I have been checking out other blogs on blogspot. A number of people sign up and start writing. They have two or three entries and they skip a month or two and write another one. I'm not judging, mind you, for I did the same thing.

To do something faithfully is hard for many of us. It doesn't matter if it is dieting, exercising, going to weight watcher meetings (you can tell what my biggest problem is) writing, going to church, volunteering in the community or something else. Our determination seems to break down after a short time and we move on to other things.

I am glad that God has a much longer attention span. He doesn't ever give up on us. He keeps reaching out to us even when we stumble and fall or drift away. I know that I want to be more like Jesus, so I'm just going to keep trying. How about you?


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Opening up for your good friend

Today we had the big open house. We invited our friends and family to stop by and take a little tour of our new home and to share in some delicious snacks. We also wanted to enjoy some good company.

The preparation was the tough part though. We had to make sure everything was clean and tidy. We had to do the shopping. We had to make sure everything was in order. I can tell you that Lori and I were on each other's nerves a bit as we had different priority lists. t one point we even considered calling it off.

It got me thinking our own encounter with God. Sometimes we work so hard to make ourselves presentable that it causes us to shy away from even meeting him. We are so worried about what God will think. We are not sure he will accept us. The good news is that God can't wait to be up close and personal with you. He knows you aren't perfect but he loves you anyway. He loves you because you are you. So why worry?

By the way, the open house went great. It was fun and everyone enjoyed seeing the house. I guess we worried for nothing. They were really coming to see us after all.


Saturday, September 1, 2007

You are what you drink

I stopped at Dunkin Donuts this morning and ran into my friends Mike and Maria. As we were chatting she remarked that if you sit there a while you will notice that everyone comes in and gets their coffee differently. Maria is in marketing. She came up with a funny thought. She said that you could almost guess how people took their coffee just by looking at them. One man came in looking angry and rushed and she said, "Now he is a dark and bitter man." Sure enough he ordered his coffee black. A woman came in and ordered hers with lots of milk and sugar. Sure enough she looked like a "light and sweet" type of person.

It got me thinking about what our habits say about us. Billy Graham once said that you can tell a lot about a person by what they carry in their wallet or pocket book. I think that is also true about the way we approach life and the way we engage in the things we do. Do we jump in with both feet? Do we have to have every i dotted and t crossed. Where does our faith fit in all of this.

I like to think that when people see me in action, they see a man who walks with God. I like to think that they see someone who trusts God and tries to live on God's terms. I hope it shows. How about you? Maybe we need to be more aware of what we say and do so we can more accurately reflect our Lord's presence in our lives.

By the way, I always order a french vanilla decaf with milk and one splenda. What does that say about me?