Friday, November 30, 2007

The places we see

Blogging is fun. Surfing the web for other blogs of like minded people is utterly fascinating. I spent a few others checking out other Christian and religious oriented blogs and had a blast. Some included music and videos. Others included family pictures and testimonies. Some included scholarly articles. Some even commented on political and social issues, imagine that!

Over the next few weeks I hope to provide links to some of these blogs and a few of the web sites I have discovered as well. If you know of any that you feel I should include, please email me or put it in a comment at the end of this blog entry. I will check it out and include it if it seems appropriate. Meanwhile keep surfing and let's see what we can find that glorifies God.


Heat for our homes is not a luxury

I don't usually use the blog for ranting but I am reminded of Jesus' saying that "if the people don't cry out, then the stones would." I had 150 gallons of oil delivered to the house on Wednesday and we paid $463.50 and that was at the best price I could find.

The prices for home heating oil are insane and I can't believe that no one is doing anything about it. Where are our elected officials? I keep hearing that the oil companies are making billions of dollars in profit for their stock holders each year. There should be regulation involved to keep the prices reasonable. Didn't we elect them to look out for the welfare of their constituents?

This isn't an economic issue. It is a justice issue. How many people can afford to pay these prices? There are going to be a lot of hard working people who will not be able to afford to heat their homes this winter. Good people are being robbed by the profiteers. These prices will mean that many will go without food and other basic necessities in order to have heat in their homes. I am pretty fortunate. There are a lot of others who are not. Every Senator (Dodd and Lieberman) and Representative (Courtney)should be doing something about it. Instead we hear about the fluff in their lives. The governor and all of our state elected officials should be making a lot of noise about this. But there is silence in the halls of our Capitols.

Every church leader should be standing up to speak to the issue and demand that this be addressed. Well I am ready to speak for the people. Count me in. If anyone has any ideas, contact me and let's see if we get something done.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Using your gifts for God

What do you like to do? What is your passion? Has anyone ever asked you that? Has anyone in the church asked you that? Probably not. It is funny but we talk about everyone having a gift from God but too often we don't try to uncover them in the church and put them to work. When we do use them for the glory of God, they create opportunities for blessing.

For example I love sports. When I came to First Baptist in 1985 I was immediately signed up to play softball for Century 21 in Colchester. The following year I played for Phelps Dodge in Norwich. In the third year one of our younger members noticed I played softball and asked why we didn't have a team in the church league. He pointed out this would be a great way to reach younger members and get them involved in the church.

He didn't have to ask twice. Before long we had a team and the rest is history. I parlayed my love of sports into a church bowling league, a youth basketball program and several other special sports ministries. I was joined by like minded people who came on board and now we are known in some circles as "the sports church."

The truth is that if you have an interest or hobby, it can be used for ministry. Sometimes it can be used for outreach to get people together. sometimes it can be used to glorify God in worship, education or in stewardship of the property.

So what is your gift? Let's find a way to glorify God with it. Need some ideas, let me know.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rekindling child-like wonder

This weekend I will be appearing in a production at the Donald Oat Theater. I only have a bit part but I am excited to be appearing in the show with so many talented young people. The cast is made up of children from the Luis Pabon Dance Arts Center. They sing and dance their way through the show with so much enthusiasm. They make me wish I were young again.

You see they enjoy what they are doing. They love to dance and it shows. Fortunately you will not see me doing any dancing, but you will see me get caught up in their excitement. As they perform for their families, they give it all they have. I wish more of us adults gave everything we did as much as these kids do.

I think this is what Jesus was talking about when he said we needed to be like children if we wanted to see the kingdom of heaven. As we grow up we often lose that sense of excitement and wonder. Everything becomes a chore. We end up just going through the motions. Well, I have an extra kick in my step this week and I have the children to thank for it.

So as you gear up for the holidays, take a hint from the children you know. Look around and enjoy the wonder of God's love. In doing so you will find a blessing.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Living memories

I was down in Waterford and decided to take a stroll down memory lane. My grandparents used to live on Pleasure Beach. I have many fond memories of going to their house when I was a little boy. I would fish off the rocks. I would catch crabs in the shallow water inlet. I would walk up to the little market and buy candy and gum. I enjoyed sitting out on their porch in the large swing.

As I drove down the street I was alive with anticipation. I hadn't been by the house in nearly twenty years. As I turned the corner and came down Valley Street, I was quite disappointed. Everything seemed much smaller than I had remembered. The house was not nearly as stately as the image in my head. It was not as well kept as when my grandparents lived there. I headed away with the realization that you really can't go back.

It is funny but a lot of people have memories of church from when they were young. Some are good and some are bad. These memories either disappoint us when we return or they keep us from coming back. The truth is that church today is going to be different than it was back then. Life has changed and we are different people today.

The good news is that God doesn't change. He still loves you and me and God wants to walk with us through life. Whether God reconnects with us through contemporary music or the long used rituals of our faith, through something remembered or something totally new, it is the same God who was there at your birth. He has watched your every moment with the joy of a loving parent. The important thing is not what you remember but what it means to you today.

I hope you will come home this Christmas. Let God love you and bless you. In doing so you can make new memories for you and your loved ones to carry forward.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Trying something new

I am doing two things that are incredibly scary but amazingly fun. I think they are only scary because I am attempting to do them as I near the half century mark in age. Next June I will turn fifty. At this age most people are pretty set in their ways and aren't about to try new things. But I have found that at forty nine I have a lot more freedom than I have ever had before.

I don't care what people think about me taking the dance lessons. I am the worst one in the class but believe me, it doesn't take any of the fun away from the experience. As a matter of fact, last night I watched the movie Hair Spray and watched John Travolta and Christopher Walken dance. It inspired me to try harder.

The same is true of the Spanish class I am taking. It is hard to remember all the words and phrases. The other night I impressed my self when my daughter was trying to talk with one of her students parents. I kept feeding her Spanish words and suddenly I felt incredibly smart.

I don't think we were created to grow old and stagnant. God created us to live and to try new things. He created us with an incredible capacity to learn and to grow. I think this is what makes life meaningful. Too many of us wither and fade away as we get older. We are paralyzed by fear and we never venture out of our comfort zones.

Yet God is always calling us to step out in faith. He did it with Abraham. He called him to follow him and leave the security of Ur. He did it with Moses. He asked him to challenge Pharaoh and lead the people out to the Promised Land. He did it Peter, James and John. He called them from the security of their fishing boats and asked them to follow him.

So don't get caught up in a rut. Step out and let God challenge you to take bold steps of faith. You will be blessed and before long you will be dancing a new step or two.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

A channel for God's blessings

I can't believe I did it, but I couldn't ignore the impulse to act. I was sitting at the counter of a Waffle House just outside of Louisville, KY on Thanksgiving Day. I had a half hour before I had to catch my plane when they walked in. This nice couple sat down at a booth and ordered a breakfast platter.

Out of nowhere a voice came into my head that said, "pay for their breakfast." Now if you know anything about me, you know that I am stingy with a buck. I like to get a good value for my dollar. Oh I give generously to charitable causes but I don't throw my money away. As I turned my attention back to the newspaper a vision of a $20 bill jumped into my head.

I asked myself where this was coming from. I didn't even know the people. Why would I pay for their breakfast? I ordered the special for myself cause it was cheap. So why would I spend my money on someone else? Who knows what they would order. As I sat there a voice said, "Pay for their breakfast. It won't cost more than $20."

I rationalized that I could drop a ten by their feet and walk away. Even that sounded crazy. I decided I was going to ignore this voice. I paid my bill and was ready to go, but I couldn't go. I couldn't ignore the voice. I kept thinking about all the stories I read about God speaking to people and using them to meet a need or answer prayer. So I went up to the register and told the waitress I wanted to pay for their bill. Wouldn't you know it. Their order and a nice tip came to exactly $20. I paid and walked out the door.

Now I can't tell you what happened, if a prayer was answered, if their lives were changed or if they just had a good laugh. But I believe that sometimes God asks us to do something that seems crazy and we need to trust him and do it. You see I have been blessed plenty of times by the generosity of others. I know that God prompted them to act. So on Thanksgiving Day I was just passing on that blessing and giving a nice couple one more reason to thank God.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Go home for the holidays

It has been nice to have my girls home over the Thanksgiving break. Last night we went out to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. What transpired was eerily similar to what I experienced a few days ago in Kentucky when I visited my parents. Only this time, in true Twilight Zone fashion, I was the parent watching my three children reminisce and joke about their experiences growing up. It was great.

Now comes the difficult part. One of the girls is leaving tonight. Another is sleeping over a friend's house. The third daughter will be heading off tomorrow after church. I hate it. They are growing up and developing lives of their own. I guess I can take consolation in he fact that Lori and I have done a good job as parents. We have fostered their development into capable young women. And they always come home.

As I was working off some of the Sweet and Sour Chicken on the elliptical trainer at the gym this morning, it hit me that our heavenly Father must have similar feelings. He gave us free will, the ability to think and choose and he sends us out into the world. Some of us relish that freedom, we take off and rarely ever come home. We never think about how that affects God.

Maybe it is about time we begin thinking about God and make it a point to visit Him regularly. Worship is not an obligation. It is something you do to express your love for God. Whenever we come home, we touch his heart and make him glad. I can tell you as a father, I love it when my kids come home. So do the same for God. Go home this Christmas and make his heart glad.


Friday, November 23, 2007

God keeps his promises

I turned the corner and couldn't believe my eyes. The parking lot was crawling with cars. It turns out that everyone had the same idea I did. They wanted to grab the specials at Staples the day after Thanksgiving.

I have to confess that I have never gone shopping on Black Friday before so I thought all the hype was exaggerated. I heard how one guy shot another one over a video game system last year. I wrote that off as one lunatic going crazy and not a snapshot of what happens when thousands of people fight over a very limited supply of super sale items.

This year Staples promised laptop computers listed at ridiculously insane prices for all who shopped the day after Thanksgiving. My daughter was among a group of people who lined up at 4:00 a.m. to get one. She was number eleven and just before six, when the police arrived, they were told there were only ten available. no wonder people get angry. It just wasn't fair.

Of course no one said life was fair. Too often the world promises us all kinds of sweet deals and more often than not we are disappointed. Things don't turn out as we plan. There is an old poem by Annie Johnson Flint that goes,

"God has not promised
Skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways
All our lives thro’;
God has not promised
Sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow,
Peace without pain.

God has not promised
We shall not know
Toil and temptation,
Trouble and woe;
He has not told us
We shall not bear
Many a burden,
Many a care.

But God has promised
Strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer,
Light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
Help from above,
Unfailing sympathy,
Undying love."

You can't depend on the Mall shops or chain stores to give you what you want but you can depend on God. He keeps his promises. He will not disappoint you if you simply trust him.

Have a great day.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The family blessing

Thanksgiving is still hours away but I can already tell you that this will be my best Thanksgiving ever. I just spent two days with my parents and two brothers in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. It is the first time that we have all been together in eleven years. It may very well be the last time we can celebrate with Mom. You see, she has stage 4 cancer and was not given long to live by her doctors.

For the last two days we joked, reminisced, got caught up and ate together. We shared pictures and told stories. My youngest brother lives in E-town. He moved there in 1998 and bought a house across town from my parents. This was a tough holiday for him but our presence made it better. Let me explain. He received a blow just over a month ago when his wife told him she was leaving him for another man. He was still reeling a bit. We had a chance to chat about how unfair life can be at times. It was good for him. His two boys got to be around family and they really shined with the attention they received.

My middle brother lives in Des Moines, IA. He is a truck driver. Well, he was a truck driver. About three months ago he had an accident and although he came away with only minor injuries, it really messed up his head. He's out on disability right now but he is having a hard time thinking about going back. It has put a tremendous financial strain on him and his family. Facing bankruptcy and the loss of his home, he doesn't know what tomorrow will bring. For a couple of days we got to talk about the future and even how faith plays into everything.

My mom had two good days and we had a big family dinner today. Meanwhile I got to talk with both of my parents separately. We talked about faith and sickness and how my brothers were doing. We also had some laughs over some stories from the past. Most importantly I got a chance to thank them both for all they have done and tell them how much I loved them.

It struck me that although this could have been a difficult Thanksgiving with all that was going on in our family, it turned out to be a blessed one. No matter what the world was doing to the family, we were strengthen by being together. I thank God for that. I pray that your day will be a blessed one. I pray that as you gather with family and friends you will feel the presence of God with you and no matter what is going on in your life, you will know that you are not alone.

Happy Thanksgiving! Cal

Life without a breakdown lane

It was dark out and the headlights seemed to come out of nowhere. They came at me like a meteor streaking from the sky. I didn't start shaking until after the eighteen wheeler went hurtling past me on the tiny two lane country road. At home it wouldn't have been such a big deal. I would have slowed down and pulled over onto the curb. Down here in Kentucky though, there are no breakdown lanes. All you have is the road and a ditch. There is no margin for error and the people drive like they are trying to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. I have no problem driving fast. It is the lack of any grace that gets me.

It made me think about the way some of us live life. We run hard and fast and always go as if there was a breakdown lane if we get into trouble . Unfortunately for us, too often we run so fast that we lose control and end up in the ditch, or in some sort of trouble. It's not a pretty scene when that happens. Maybe we need to slow down and pace ourselves. We can't control what others do, but we can rein in our own actions.

Thanksgiving allows us to do that for a day. We pause and get together with family and friends. We take a break from work and all the distractions and focus on the important things. I know the rush will start again the day after with some of us running down to the mall for crazy early bird specials. But as we enter this special time of year, take the time to slow down and check out what God is doing. Count your blessings and enjoy them. You only go down this road one and you don't want to spend it sitting in the ditch.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Strangers in flight

As I walked up the runway and out to the main concourse I realized that I never even asked her name. We sat together for over two hours on a flight from Providence to Cleveland. We talked about travel, work, our families and the upcoming plans for Thanksgiving. She was a girl in her late twenties. I learned she lives just outside of Providence and was flying to Cleveland for a presentation at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. With any luck she hoped to catch dinner, go back to her hotel room and get a good night's sleep and then fly home early in the morning.

I told her about my three girls and a bit about their latest adventures. I mentioned that I was going to Kentucky to visit my parents and how it was going to be a complete surprise for them. In between snippets of conversation she returned to her book and I caught a few zzz's.

We were like strangers passing on a flight. We connected but as I deplaned I realized I would never see her again. I didn't even know her name. As I turned to catch her, I looked around and she was gone. It was almost as if I had never met her. It got me thinking about all the people who come in and out of our lives. We bump into them as we make our journey through life. Sometimes they walk with us for a summer or a year or two. Sometimes we dance with them for a song and then they are gone.

The truth is that we are always changed by the people we meet. They make us think. They force us to pause. They remind us of what is important. They frustrate us and send us looking for answers. John Donne once said, "No man is an island..." and he was saying that we are all connected. Think about it. We were created for community. God knew what he was doing when he made us.

The next time I meet someone new I am going to ask their name before the conversation begins. Then I will know the name of the angel God sent to cheer me that day.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Picking and plucking with God

I was in a rush tonight and I stopped into Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner. As I was standing in line I got to watch a beautifully orchestrated dance between the workers as they sought to fill the orders for both the counter and the drive through window.

The work area is thoughtfully designed so that the workers can access the chicken from two sides. The guys and gals working the drive through can reach in and pluck the crispy chicken from the back and quickly fill an order for the vehicular traffic. The folks working the counter can pick and choose the wings and popcorn chicken with ease from the front side. Back and forth the tongs quickly dart in and out from each side. It was an art form.

Then one plucker decided to grab when another picker decided to poke and they both reached for the same piece of meat. All you could hear was metal on metal as the tongs engaged in a battle for supremacy. In the end the plucker won and the picker moved on to another piece right beside it. It was like something out of the wild.

It got me thinking that sometimes our will and God's will seem to coincide. When it happens, it is a beautiful sight to behold. At other times we seem to clash and only one of us comes away a winner. We end up settling for less than the best. So why not work with God and let his Spirit guide us? Then we can crow about what God has done until the sun comes up.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

The weekly column

This week's newspaper column didn't make the Norwich Bulletin but you can read it here. Just cut and paste the following link ( and you can read about my drive through the country and how I came away with a thankful heart.

Today I want talk about my weekly "epistles" for a minute or two. I began writing a regular e-mail to members of my church and a few friends in the community about seven years ago. I included all kinds of thoughts and offered suggestions on how to find God in every day life.

Over the years the letter became a little more focused and a few people began to ask about it. About four years ago I became friendly with the Executive Editor of the Norwich Bulletin and he asked if he might include it on occasion in the newspaper. I sent it along and the rest is history.

It has been fun. The goal continues to be finding God in everyday life. Some day I hope to put them together in a book form, but for now I just keep them on my computer and keep sending them out to cyberspace. So enjoy them. I know I do. God bless. See you in church.


Friday, November 16, 2007

He is singing your song

I was getting ready for a long trip and the other day I asked my daughter if I could make a CD with a few of her favorite songs on it. I told her that most of my CDs were either country western or oldies. She not only said "yes" but she said she would pick out some songs that she thought I would like.

Later that evening she presented me with the CD and I listened to it on the way to a meeting. As the third song came on, I was realized that she had done an excellent job picking music for me. She actually knew my taste. These were the perfect songs.

We don't think that our children pay much attention to us but they do. They hear what we say. They know what we think. Even if they don't always obey our rules and acknowledge our presence, they are keeping an eye on us.

The same is true of God. We may think that God doesn't care or that He seems too distant, but God is never far from us. He knows all about us and He wants to give us His blessings. So don't be surprised when He presents you with a gift that fits you to a Tee.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Time to celebrate and say thanks

Hey this is my 100th blog entry. Roll out the cake and let's have a party! I know in Television land they celebrate when you get to a magical number of episodes. I always thought it was a testimony to the durability and quality of a show. Some sitcoms only produce three or four episodes before they get cancelled. Others last a season or two. Only the very best shows last long enough to celebrate 100 or more programs.

My bubble was burst a few years ago when I heard one television executive explaining that the sitcom was celebrating the 100th episode because it now had enough shows to go into syndication and that the revenue stream could continue on into eternity. Imagine that. It was all about the money!

You will be happy to hear that my celebration tonight has nothing to do with money. I don't get paid to do this. I do it because it is fun. I do it because it helps me keep my eyes open to spot God in everyday things. I do it for you, the reader. So celebrate with me. Go have a cookie or a bagel or an ice cream Sundae on me and say thank you to God for his continuing presence in your life and let's see if we can keep finding God in the mundane things of life for another 100 blog entries.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The hidden gifts

I stopped into Dixie donuts this morning and received a pleasant surprise. Mr. Dixon had a gift for me. It was a CD with music from Dick Campo's Band. He told me to pay special attention to tracks 3 & 6 because he was playing the trumpet solo.

I took the disk with me and popped it into my CD player in the car and I as transported back in time to another era. The music was wonderful. There is nothing like the big band sound.

Then I got to thinking about what I was hearing. For all the times I met Mr. Dixon, I never knew there was another side to him. He really had a gift for making music. It got me thinking about other people I know. What beautiful gifts do they have that I am not even aware of yet?

There is an old saying that goes, "Don't judge a book by it's cover." The truth is the Bible tells us that we all have gifts. Just because we don't see them doesn't mean they aren't there. Life would be much more interesting if we sought to discover the gifts of the people around us. It would be like Christmas every day.

So let's start looking and let's begin by looking at ourselves. What gift do you have that you can share with the world?


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Consider it time well spent

I was waiting for the football game to come on last night and decided to load the dishwasher. I stacked all the plates and cups in their appropriate places and dropped the silverware in the bin and started it up. There was still fifteen minutes to game time so I started wiping down the counters. That didn't take long so I grabbed the trash and ran it out to the bins behind the house.

When I got back into the house I saw an announcement that the game would start in thirty minutes. I had gotten the time wrong. So I moved into the living room and began straightening up. I put the throw pillows back and picked up a few cups and plates that the girls had left from the night before.

I had another twenty minutes to kill so I moved upstairs and put in a load of laundry and folded a few clothes. I carried a basket into our room and put them away and noticed the clock. The game was just beginning so I went downstairs and settled in for the night. As I thought back to the last hour I realized that I could have frittered away the time, but instead I had put it to good use.

I think that is what the Scriptures mean when they call us to redeem the time. We never now when Christ will return but we are called to make the best use of our time in the interim. We are called to be salt in the world around us, and light to those who walk in darkness. We are called to bring the Lord's blessing to the world so that when He comes, the whole world will be ready and anxiously awaiting him.

The best part is that it won't seem like work because we will be so focused on the joy to come. And believe me, it will be much better than the football game was!


Sunday, November 11, 2007

The music meisters

Norwich hosted the Annual Choir Festival tonight and it was one of the best ever. Each choir brought something special to the table and offered it to the Lord. I always say that we get a slice of what happens on Sunday in each congregation at the Choir Fest.

Tonight I was struck by the dedication of the organists and choir directors. Many of us in the congregation take what they do for granted. We sing along with the organ and sit back and listen to the choir. In the small membership church it isn't uncommon for them to be one and the same. They balance another job with their devotion to the music ministry of the church.

When they direct the choir, they try to get every bit of talent out of the members so that they can set the tone of the worship service. I tell my choir director that she is really the one in charge on Sunday morning. She sets the tone with her music. She prepares the congregation to meet God in the Word and sacrament.

If you haven't done so in the last month or so, make sure you tell your director that you appreciate them. They are a blessing from God.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Don't pay the price

Can you imagine thinking that $3.13 is a good price for gas? Well that was my thinking this afternoon as I pulled into the SUNOCO station. I was running late but I could not pass up the low price.

The truth is that I remember refusing to pay over $3.00 earlier this year and driving three miles to find a cheaper price. How our perspective changes over time!

I guess that is why God calls for us to set high standards and keep to them. Once we lower our standards and fall prey to temptation, we open ourselves to more and more temptations. Soon we are doing things we never thought possible.

So hold out for more and keep the faith. God will bless you.


A friend forever

I had my second funeral this week and as usual I am feeling a little reflective and melancholy. I don't know where these moods come from. Actually both of the services this week were celebrations. Both men were good Christians who knew their Lord. The service today couldn't have been more joyful. The man truly was an inspiration to me and several others. He showed us how to live and how to die.

Yet there is always a sadness for me after the funeral. I guess it is in the fact that death always signifies the end of God's glorious plan for life. There is so much hope and promise when a baby is born. The miracle of birth speaks to God's creative power. Yet due to sin, death entered the world and brought sorrow and mourning with it.

Isaiah the prophet once said "all flesh is grass. It withers and fades but the word of the Lord is forever." I guess what he was trying to remind us is that our life here on earth is temporary at best. We should enjoy it. We should celebrate God's love, the blessings of family and friends and the circumstance we find ourselves in. Meanwhile it is good to remember that in the end, it is God that we should seek out and walk through life with. For God is truly eternal and He will be with us in this life and the next.

So let's thank God for our family and my friends and thank Him for coming into our lives and blessing us for now and eternity. He is a friend we will keep forever.


Friday, November 9, 2007

Bumper sticker shock

I had to laugh when I saw the bumper sticker on the car in front of me. Or should I say tuna boat? Plastered across the rear bumper were all kinds of stickers calling for us to protect the environment. One actually said, "I am a tree hugging earth worshipper!" From the advertising on the bumper you would think the person would be driving a Toyota Prius or some fuel efficient vehicle. No way. This green earth proponent was driving an eight cylander mini van that was leaving a trail of black smoke in its wake.

I am not about to throw stones though. I know that too many of us profess beliefs that we don't embody. We say one thing and then do another. It is almost as if we can't help it. I can't tell you how many people I see with fish symbols on their cars that drive like the devil.

The apostle Paul confessed that he did a lot of things he did not want to do. He pointed out that there was a war going on within him. The truth is that we all have those lapses where we do not do what we should. It is in those moments that we need God the most. For he sees what we want to do and be and he has the ability to help us live up to the high ideals.

So next time you want to put a bumper sticker on your car, ask God to help you live up to your high calling.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Who has the attitude?

I went to the annual parent teacher conference last night at Kelly Middle School. I have to tell you I've been pretty fortunate over the years. All three of my girls liked school and they all did well. This year's teacher meeting was no different. The teachers had glowing remarks about my daughter. They pointed out a few areas where she was working hard and my wife and I left feeling pretty good.

The one area of concern I had was with her grade in gym. The mid term showed her receiving an average grade. I decided to stop by to see the gym teacher to see what I could do to encourage her. Well he wasn't where he was supposed to be but another teacher helped me find him. When I asked him about my daughter, he kind of shrugged and said she had an attitude and that she didn't participate.

I thought it was funny that he was modeling exactly what she was supposed to be doing. He didn't bother to get up and greet me. He stayed on the other side of the room and just shrugged a lot. I could have walked away thinking he didn't care about his students, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I went home and told my daughter she had to get more involved.

It got me thinking afterwards about how we approach God sometimes. I think we project a lot onto him. We go to God thinking our prayers won't make any difference. We go to God thinking He is angry with us. We go to God thinking He is aloof and distant. Too often we get what we are looking for.

It is not good to prejudge anyone, especially God. The truth is that God does care and he is invested in us. So if we go to Him with an open mind, we will often discover that He has been with us all along.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What is fair for one is fair for all

I have had to learn how to live without my cell phone for the last three days. On Saturday I dropped my phone in the driveway and ran over it. Most people would run right down to the Wireless Zone and get a new one. Not me. Here's why.

I made a rule for my daughters a few years ago when one of them dropped their phone in the toilet. It was an accident but I wanted to teach them about responsibility. I told them if they couldn't take care of their phones, they would not be allowed to get a new one right away.

Over the years all three of them ended up losing or breaking their phones at least once and they all had to wait a few days before getting new ones. Most of the time they had to settle for a used phone for a time. Well, how could I break my own rule.

For three days I went without. It was only fair. Tonight I got my new phone. It was an old one that a friend of mine offered me. As I activated it, it suddenly occurred to me that this was the same dilemma God faced when he set the standard for righteousness. God gave us the law and then he was bound to it too.

God's way out was to pay the price for sin and that's why he gave up his only begotten son and allowed him to go to the cross. My lost phone brought home the point of the Gospel and gave me added respect for God's faithfulness. God is so good.


Monday, November 5, 2007

How would you look in a Jag?

As I pulled up to her dance studio, I told my daughter I was a little embarrassed to be driving up in a Jaguar. A friend of mine had gone on vacation and left it for me to drive. I love the car but it is a little too fancy for my pedestrian style.

Rachel's response to my confession was quite unexpected. She asked, "And you're not embarrassed by driving up with a handicap license plate on the car?" I had to laugh out loud because I hadn't even thought about that.

I don't know if this highlights a generational divide or something else but it reminded me that we all see life from different vantage points. I have always felt that this is why there are so many branches to the Christian Church. God in his wisdom has made a place for all of us to feel welcome because we are all different.

So celebrate the person God created you to be and worship him in the church that touches your soul, whether it be Baptist, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic or Nazarene. Just go and find a place where you can praise God.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Do it with passion for God

I grew up hearing about Boots Randolph. My dad wanted me to play the saxophone and so hearing him play Yackety Sax became one of my childhood memories. I tried hard to mimic him but early on I knew I was not going to be the next Boots Randolph.

The other night I heard a sound that brought me right back. John DiBiagio of the Fat Cats made his saxophone sing the sweetest music I have heard in years. That instrument literally spoke to the hearts of all who had gathered at the Maennechoir Club in Taftville. John played with such passion that the instrument became an extension of him. I thought to myself if only every thing in life could be so authentic.

Then it dawned on me that God calls all of us to have that kind of passion in everything we do. We are told that we should offer ourselves and all we do to the Lord. That means if you play saxophone, give it your best shot. If you are a teacher then devote yourselves to the young people you serve. If you are a carpenter then use your ability and do your very best in whatever you build. It doesn't matter if it is a temple or someone's home.

Can you imagine how beautiful the world would be if we offered everything we did to God? There would be no more slums, no more partisan politics, no more violent and filthy movies. Hunger and homelessness would end and education would be a priority around the world. It sounds impossible, but we can dream. Most of all, we can follow John's example and take the one thing we are we really good at and offer it back to God. It will be as start and maybe others will follow.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The table of grace

We had a pot luck supper at church last night and it was great. There was everything from fried chicken to spaghetti casseroles. It is amazing that you can bring thirty or forty people together and get such a variety of food.

We used to try to get people to sign up so that we could ensure a balance of main dishes and desserts but recently we have had more fun just letting it happen. Last night it worked out perfectly. We had so much food that it seemed the loaves and fishes miracle was happening all over again.

It got me thinking about church life in general. Each of us in the church have God given gifts and talents that we bring to the table when we are part of the ministry. We are all different. Some people think that is bad. I think God planned it that way so we can have a smorgasboard of talent as we seek to reach out and feed a community that is starved for love and mercy, justice and grace.

So come to the table and bring what you have. Offer it to God and He will bless it and use it to do His will.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Passing out love to strangers

The bell rang and I sprang from the comfort of my living room couch to answer the door. I was met by Thumbalina and Tom Brady. I greeted them and offered them a choice of candy. A few minutes later the whole thing happened again. This time it was a tiny dinosaur and a little witch.

For two hours I greeted children in all types of costumes and without hesitation handed over various treats. At one point I even had to run to CVS to secure some more goodies for my visitors. My first Halloween in our new home was a blast.

Now I know we could debate the merits of a holiday that pushes candy on children and theological appropriateness of a holiday that lifts up devils and hobgoblins, but the thing that strikes me is the generosity that is on display on Halloween. Just up and down my street I would guess that families spent twenty to thirty dollars on treats for the children. They passed those goodies out with a smile and a glad heart.

I wish we could replicate that every day of the year. I wish that generous and loving spirit that was displayed to total strangers who showed up on or doorsteps could be repeated on November 1 and April 10 and every day in between. I think that is what Jesus had in mind when he sent us out into the world.

Well maybe last night was just a start. Let's see what each of us can do today to make his dream a reality. Go out and be a peacemaker and lover today as you share the joy of the Lord.