Monday, December 31, 2007

A gift for the new year

Looking for something memorable to do tonight on New Year's eve? How about renting a movie and inviting a friend over to watch it? I came across the trailer for this movie and it has great reviews. The person who recommended it used to work for David C. Cook Communications and was involved with getting the print version of the book to press. It is called "The Ultimate Gift." It may be just what you are looking for as you make 2008 a year to remember. Enjoy.


A safe place

Yesterday I visited the Strand book store in Manhattan. I couldn't believe the variety of titles that were available there. They specialize in used books and they have quite a collection of everything from sports, to religion to history and the classics. They are not a discounter like some book stores I have been in. Their prices tend to be a little high but they have the widest assortment that I have ever seen.

I found Ty Cobb's autobiography (I already have it) and lots of books on each of the U. S. Presidents. They had a whole section devoted to the arts and that was cool. I could have spent a fortune if I had it.

What struck me the most was the number of people that were there on a Sunday night. I never realized how many people love books. Everyone had an armful as they walked through the store. I have always been an avid reader but walking in the Strand opened my eyes. I was not alone.

I think the same thing happens for us sometimes when we go into church. There are times when we feel isolated and alone on our faith journey. Even if we are pretty self sufficient, there are moments when the world seems to be pressing in on us. What I like about church is the fact that I can find others who understand. We can talk about our faith journeys and the way God has touched us. We can encourage one another and when we tell how God has been with us, we don't get the blank stare that says, "Are you crazy?"

The church is a safe place to rest and be renewed as you journey through life. If you haven't stopped in lately, do it in the new year. You'll be amazed at how many of us there are who love and worship God.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

The future is now

I'm sick today. It's funny but the world doesn't stop just because you happen to be under the weather. Sometimes you just have to get off the ride and let things go on without you. It's hard for me to let go but in the wonderful world of God I caught a break.

Today is our annual youth recognition Sunday and one of our college students is giving the message and our high school and college youth are leading the service. My role is to give them all parts to play and then step back and let them run the show. I do have a bit more to do than usual because many of our college students have graduated and we do not have a big contingent of high school students. Still, it came at a good time for me.

Melissa Hauser will be our student preacher today. She is the fourteenth to be honored in this way. The tradition dates back to 1994 but actually is a tribute to my pastor. He encouraged a whole group of us to get involved in the church as teenagers. We were Sunday School teachers, choir members, speakers, organists and soloists. He saw the kids as the future of the church and instead of just talking about it, he made it happen.

The truth is that these kids are our future. If there is any hope for the church it will come from their enthusiasm and ideas. The Holy Spirit will use their gifts and talents to reach the world. I like to say that today we will get a glimpse of the future. Well, say a prayer for me that I get over this bug and a prayer for the kids that they will know how much we love and appreciate them.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Saying thank you

As I look back on the year past, I can think of a lot of things I forgot to do. I was too busy or too preoccupied to get it right. As I look forward I want to slow down and live more in the moment. That means I will appreciate the little things that happen every day. It means thanking those people I may not see again. It means trying not to take everything in my life for granted.

In case you can't think of anything to be thankful for (ha ha!) this might help.

As I was thinking about this I opened an e-mail from a friend. She sent this along and it touched me. It isn't a political statement. It is simply a way to remember those who are called to keep the peace even in these perilous times. It is another reason to say thank you.



Thursday, December 27, 2007

The world of blog

Have you spent any time surfing through the blogosphere? Every once in a while I will just jump from one blog to another and catch a glimpse of what is out there in cyberspace. I feel a bit like a peeping tom in that I can stand outside the window of someone's life and admire the beauty of a mother's love for her family or the devotion a person has for his vocation.

I stood in awe as I realized that no one culture has the market on blogging. People from every society, writing in a multitude of languages, share bits and pieces of that which makes life important for them. Even though I can't always understand the written language, I can giggle along with a Japanese girl who shares her favorite music and presents photos of her and her girl friends dancing. I can get serious with a middle aged politician from the mid-west who shares his opinion on global warming and the state of the economy. I can fall in love all over again as I read the journal a young man in France who posts pictures of his bride to be and flash back to my own first days of love or laugh alongside an expectant mother in Italy who shows photos of her baby shower where someone painted a smiling face on her belly.

Yes there is pornography out there too, but I usually just skip right over that or file an Internet complaint. But don't let that stop you. You might miss a site where they speak about writing or one that gives tips on photography. You could happen upon a blog where a Christian mom talks about teaching her children about God or a fan club of Michael W. Smith or Third Day with a bunch of their songs to listen to.

Blogs are fun. Every time I go surfing I am reminded of how much more we have in common with other folks around the world than we think. Maybe this is where world peace can begin. It can begin by listening to the hearts of others.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It is His birthday

We always got up early when I was growing up. So bounding out of bed like Pooh's friend Tigger at the crack of dawn wasn't much of a stretch for us on Christmas morning. We would be up by 5:00 a.m. and scramble out to the living room to check on the bounty that Santa brought for us. Toy guns, G.I. Joes, Matchbox cars and lots of little trinkets were there ready for us to devour and enjoy for hours on end.

Christmas was always my favorite holiday. I looked forward to it for half a year. I'd get my mother's Sears Catalogue and begin marking down all the things I wanted as soon as it came out. Oh, to dream and hope at Christmas.

This morning as I got up and came down stairs I thought about Jesus and the fact that this day represents his birthday. I chuckled as I thought about Jesus rushing into the morn to greet the day. Yet instead of unwrapping all kinds of gifts we have for him, he finds his joy in sharing the gift of his love with us. for him it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.

As I watched my girls unwrap their presents today, I understood exactly why Jesus said this. There is nothing like watching the face of someone you love light up as they receive the most special gift. So why not make Jesus' day. Embrace the love he offers and bring a smile to his face on this, his birthday.

Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 24, 2007

The packing around my hopes

I found this poem several years ago and have included it often on our Christmas eve bulletin. This year I am going to post it here instead. Enjoy.


The Packing Around My Hopes
by Dorisanne Cooper

It's hard to hope. I mean to really hope for something-
Whether it be the answer to a problem,
or the solution to a difficult situation.
I use the word often and rather casually, too;
but even so,
I still feel I must pad my hopes
With all kinds of alternative outcomes:
"I hope this will work out... but something might interfere."
"I hope this is right... but I'm not really sure."

I pack in all the possibilities so airtight
That I don't leave room for surprise.
I think I do this partly for protection,
Protection from being disappointed or embarrassed or wrong.
I say I'm just being realistic.

But realism can only take me so far.
Surely mysticism can play a part as well.
But it's harder to plan for that.
Thinking realistically... how believable is it
that the birth of a child in a stable
could change the world?
Well, I believe it now: but
I can't help wondering, if I had lived then,
whether that would have been on my list of possibilities.
Somehow I doubt it.

This season reminds me...
It reminds me that if i hold too tightly to my list of possibilities,
I may overlook an answer that's staring me in the face.
It reminds me of the many ways
In which hope is fulfilled.

It reminds me to relax...
Not relax my hopes,
But the packing around them.
I need to leave room for God in my hopes.
Not just now, but all through the year.

Who knows?
I might even witness a miracle.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Remember our men and women in the military

I received this lovely poem from Roger Robicheau, a US Army veteran, and I was moved to share it with you.  Especially at this time of year, we think of the men and women in the armed services that are far from home as they try to keep the peace. We are forever grateful to them.  Thanks Roger for sharing this and thank you for your service to our country in times past.


Christmas brings such a time of love 
Each tender heart hold so much of.
Unselfishness thrives, trust is strong
The purpose to give, send love along.

A time of pleasantries, patience too
God wishes to all, all feelings true
Thankfulness follows each fine deed
Gifts from God, never from greed.

Great the rewards that joy does bring
Like the beauty in hearing angels sing.
We pray for our loved, each so dear
Especially those who can't be near.

Many leave home to bravely serve
All freedoms we have, they preserve
Do pray for our troops, as we should
And their families too, if you would.

Give thanks to our Lord, His only son
And cherish His Christ, everyone.

Roger J. Robicheau

From heaven's point of view

Listen to this and think about what was happening. This was broadcast from Apollo 8 on Christmas eve 1968. These astronauts were circling the planet and moved to share their thoughts as they looked down on the planet earth. It must have been an awesome sight, one we take for granted. Enjoy. Cal

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Give your love this Christmas

I got to play Santa Claus last night and now I know why Santa is always so jolly. It feels great to give a gift to another person. To know that you have offered a blessing to a boy or girl, man or woman does something to your inner being.

Too often we get caught up in trying to hang onto what we have. No wonder we are miserable. Real living needs to include a generous spirit. So let's make a deal. Let's make Christmas the first day of a new way of being. Let's see if we can give of ourselves every day in the new year. It might begin with sharing a smile or pat on the back. It might evolve into something even more precious.

You want to give God a gift? Then give your love away. That will make him smile.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas moments

It is dangerous for me to take time off. I skipped out of the office this afternoon and ended up surfing the web. I have collected a bunch of videos that I found and now I am going to share them with you. Enjoy!

The first one features a great song and some video from several Christian movies.

This is a classic. Linus, who I am especially fond of since I played him on stage a few years ago, shares the true meaning of Christmas.

I saw the Celtic Women on PBS a few weeks ago for the first time and was in awe. Here they are singing my favorite Christmas song, "The Little Drummer Boy."

One of the Christmas classics is "O Holy Night." I found this version with Carrie Underwood singing it last year in Washington D.C.

I will share some more later.


Christmas Love

I get lots of e-mails with cute stories and humorous jokes. Most of them I file away for our newsletter or to look at when I need to be inspired. I thought I would share this. I don't know if it is true or not, but it is a good story. Cal

Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations - extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending.. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments and, of course, the true meaning of Christmas. My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's Winter Pageant. I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production.

Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher and she assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.

Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as "Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by its bold title. Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the front row- centerstage - held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song.

As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."

The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down - totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W". The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her "W". Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together.

A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities. For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:

"C H R I S T W A S L O V E" And I believe He still is.

Isn't It Christmas We are Celebrating?

Someone sent me this in an e-mail and I thought I would pass it on. Christmas is coming. Please don't forget why we celebrate on this special day. It is to remember the birth of our Lord, the hope of our salvation.

'Twas the month before Christmas when all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying nor taking a stand.
Why the PC Police had taken away,
The reason for
Christmas - no one could say.

The children were told by their schools not to sing,
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a " Holiday. "

Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!

Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets are hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word
Christmas - was no where to be found.

At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word
Christmas; it won't touch your ears.
Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-is-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.

Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate
Jesus, in all public matter.

And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace
The true Gift of
Christmas was exchanged and discarded
The reason for the season, stopped before it started.

So as you celebrate "Winter Break" under your "Dream Tree"
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.
Choose your words carefully, choose what you say
MERRY CHRISTMAS, not Happy Holiday !

A place to find love

I got on the scale this morning and was reminded that it is almost time to go back to Weight Watchers. I have this routine where every January I go back and get on the band wagon again. I am pretty successful when I am on the program and always manage to lose the weight with all the support and educational information they give.

The problem this year will be getting to the meetings. A little over a month ago the Weight Watchers Center moved. They didn't just move across the street or across town, they moved out of Norwich. You would think a city of 40,000 people could find enough of us who are overweight to support a meeting. I guess not. So this January I am going to have to do it on my own.

I'm glad God never leaves town. His promise is that he will be with us always. When we have to work through disappointments, trials and the ups and downs of life, God promised to be with us. Hey, that's what Christmas is all about. God so loved the world that he entered it in the incarnation. He moved to our town, our planet and promised he would never leave us. That's love and that is a blessing to hold onto in the new year.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Making time for the important stuff

This is a busy time of year. Everyone is running and trying to make Christmas perfect for their friends and loved ones. I hope that you are not so busy that you don't have the time to stop and reflect on what is really important. I came across the photo and it caused me to realize that I am not so important that I need to be going non stop from here to Christmas, especially if this fellow doesn't. He has his priorities straight. Maybe you and I need to do a gut check, huh?


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Offer it in faith.

I was out Christmas shopping tonight and I came home through Franklin, Connecticut. I was immediately ushered back in time as I went by the former home of Doris and Harold Diehl. I will never forget a morning back in the fall of 1988 when I drove out to their house for our monthly prayer meeting. We usually met at the church but once a month we out for lunch. Doris volunteered to cook for us that day.

As we were talking about life and the challenges we were facing, I mentioned that Lori and I hoped to buy our own home some day. We chatted about this and many other things and then Doris came back to it and said, "I think you should buy a house in Norwich and plan to stay a while." Sallie Pierce, Esther and Paul Lorraine, and a few others all agreed. Over the next several months they became the biggest advocates for the idea and greased the way for us to do just that. It has been 19 years since we bought that first house and we owe it all to Doris.

I think the church is happy with the way things turn out. I know we are. It's funny how a small thing can reap big results. Jesus seemed to understand this when he talked about faith. He said "faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain." You never know when your words, your suggestion, your encouragement, your stepping out in faith will be a blessing.

So don't be afraid to offer yourself and your ideas to others. When you do it in good faith, God may use it to bless others in ways you never imagine.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The heart of Christmas

Christmas is a week away and I still have some shopping to do. I went out for a little while yesterday and the Mall was a madhouse. People were running around frantically, searching for gifts that would please their friends and loved ones. What has Christmas become?

I heard someone ask the other day, "Why do we bother? No one gets what they really want. All this stress just leads to disappointment."

Maybe it is time to step back and rethink our Christmas traditions. Maybe it isn't about overextending ourselves on the credit card and trying to buy our children's love. Maybe the best gift we can give the people we care about is our undivided attention. Maybe if we showed them we loved them by giving ourselves it would end the anxiety and make Christmas magical again.

I found this clip while surfing the next. It speaks volumes to what I am saying. Enjoy.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Here is my top ten

Ten things I am thankful for today:

1. I have three beautiful daughters who are all healthy and doing well.

2. I have my health.

3. I am in a warm house and have plenty of food in the cupboards.

4. I have some good friends.

5. God loves me!

6. The Christmas tree is right side up again.

7. There is stability in my life, and although I know the world could shift and turn upside down any moment, I know that God will not let me fall very far.

8. The Detroit Tigers are going to be the team to beat next summer :-)

9. A new Star Trek movie is coming out in 2008.

10. No matter how silly I get, my parents will still let me come home for a visit.

I went to a seminar at the Crystal Cathedral a few years ago and was impressed by Dr. Schuler's "Rule of ten." He specifically mentioned it in terms of possibility thinking and looking for solutions to problems but I believe it has wider implications. If you search for ten things you can be thankful for you will begin to realize that even in the worst of times you have reason to give thanks. So count your blessings today and name them. You will find you are blessed in more ways than you thought.

There is life after the fall

The Christmas Tree looked great! I felt a bit like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation when he finally got the house to light up the neighborhood. My daughter and her friend and I covered every branch with memories. When it was done, I climbed up the ladder and put the angel at the top. It was perfect.

When Lori and I hosted her work party, the tree was the center of attention. It filled the space and was the perfect backdrop for an evening of fun.

That was Saturday night. This morning I came down the stairs and was blown away when I noticed that the tree had toppled over. It lay prostrate on the floor amid the shards of broken glass and ruined ornaments. The strand of lights lay in a tangled web at its base. Humpty Dumpty couldn't have taken a bigger fall.

We were in a hurry and we had to leave it but I vowed to come back and start over again. After Rachel got home from school we prepared to resurrect the tree. It took a few minutes but we did. Although we couldn't replace the broken bulbs, we did a pretty good job of making it look good again.

It got me thinking about the disappointments we have in life. Too often life comes crashing down around us. We think that it is the end of the world. The truth is that although it may be difficult, and it might not be the same as before, we can overcome anything with faith and a little help from our friends.

So don't lose hope. Just pick yourself up and start over again. You'll be surprised at what you can do.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

A bad day turned good

Sleet and freezing rain came in over night and it looked like it was going to be a bad day. We had to make decisions about all of the activities at the church today. I knew there was going to be disappointment all around. I arrived at the church by 6:45 a.m. and the ride in convinced me that we would have to cancel Sunday School classes. After consulting with our Superintendent, classes were canceled.

The next decision would be more difficult. I hate to cancel church. You never know when someone really needs to come in and pray. The forecast called for it to stop before 10:00 a.m. and turn to rain so I decided to go ahead with services.

I think it was a good decision. Although we only had about 25 people, it was one of the nicest services of the year. There was something intimate and heartwarming about it as we sang carols and read the story of the angel visitation to the shepherds. Rachel Lord sang a beautiful solo that sounded angelic. It set the tone for the morning. It was a great service and my worries about people feeling cheated by a shorter service without lots of bells and whistles were all for nought. Simple sometimes is better.

After church we talked about the Christmas Party and Pageant and made the decision to cancel our evening program. There was a chance for falling temperatures to make for icy conditions and it was decided to be safe instead of sorry.

Everyone left and I packed up and to get ready for the next part of the day. There was a question whether or not the Community Meals were held on snowy days. The answer we received was a definitive "yes, because the hungry still need to eat." I set out for St. Mark's Lutheran Church to meet up with Lee and Hilary who were scheduled to cook. Their friend Denise came along and the four of us feed a couple of dozen hungry people who came out of the cold. While they dished out the food, I waited tables. It was so much fun. I have never felt so useful in my life as I served up trays of pork chops and fancy desserts. And it seemed the people were especially grateful on this blustery day. One man even brought a Christmas card and shared his heartfelt thanks with the kitchen crew. There was a loving spirit in the air and I have to confess that I left there feeling like a rich man.

I was blessed today. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the fact that I had to slow down. Whatever it was, today felt like Christmas more than any other day during this advent season. So I thank God for a day which looked so bad in the morning that turned into a special day of walking with the Lord.

You never know what you are going to get when you turn a day over to God. But He guarantees it will be a good day if you make sure to include him in it. I don't know what the weatherman is forecasting for tomorrow but I'm going to invite God along anyway. How about you?


Saturday, December 15, 2007

The chimney sweep

I played the chimney sweep this morning and believe me, I didn't come off half as charming as Dick Van Dyke did in the musical, Mary Poppins. I made a mess. There were cinders everywhere. The good news is that now our fireplace is up and running and I won't have to do that again for at least... well until we have another fire.

A friend of mine said that the cinder box should be cleaned out regularly. The former owners of our home let it go. I don't know if it was dangerous or not, but because it hadn't been cleaned for a while, it was much messier than it needed to be.

The same thing is true with many things in life. If we let problems or issues fester and ignore them hoping they will go away, we are asking for trouble. It is better to take care of things when they arise. It will never be as messy and the cost of cleaning it up will never be cheaper.

So look around. Do you need to take care of some business. Say a prayer. Ask God to help you and get to it. Who knows? You may even find a blessing in it.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

To shovel or not to shovel

This time of year presents a different kid of challenge for me. It snowed today and there is a mess outside. Since my angioplasty in 2003 I have been given strict orders by my wife not to shovel snow. To be fair about it, my cardiologist was the first one to give the order. He said that shoveling snow is the worst thing a cardiac patient can do.

Now most people would probably love to get a pass on this. Not me. I used to enjoy shoveling. I looked forward to it as a calorie burning exercise during the winter months. I also look at it, and you might laugh at this sexist remark, as one of the things that the husband is supposed to do. Now I feel a bit like a slacker because I can't do it.

In our old home we had a long driveway that needed to be cleared after a snow storm. After my cardiac episode, a friend began plowing it for us. All I needed to do was sneak out and clear the steps. In the new house we have a sidewalk that is going to demand our attention. I picked up a snow blower at a yard sale this summer but tonight I faced a real dilemma. Drag it out, put it together and try to move the heavy snow with the snowblower or quickly shovel it myself.

Guess what I did? Most of us know better but we still do things we shouldn't. It is almost as if we want to tempt fate. We push the envelope. We see what we can get away with. The apostle Paul expresses his frustration by confessing, "I do what I do not want to do." In our weakness we fall to temptation even though we know better.

Snows coming again on Saturday. Tomorrow I am going to get the snow blower out and do it right. That is the good news. Even if we stumble and fall, God often gives us a second chance.
Praise God because some of us need it more than others.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cherish the gifts you have his Christmas

Okay, I have too much free time on my hands. Our church league basketball games got canceled tonight. I came home and put lights on the Christmas tree. That was fun but it didn't last too long. So I started visiting other blog sites to get ideas. I found this place where you could make your own slide show. Here is my family!

As the holidays draw near I hope you will take time to be with your family. As I look at my girls I can't help but wonder where the time went. They have grown up before my eyes. Enjoy each day you have and cherish the people who come your way. They are as gift from God.


Twelve days of Christmas, sort of

A friend of mine sent this musical video to me to remind me that Christmas was coming... like I needed to be reminded. It is humorous and if you have been having a bad day it will help turn things around.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tell your story

I will be honest with you. I've dreamed about writing a novel and having it published. As you can tell from these blogs and my weekly epistles, I enjoy playing with a blank page and making words come to life. The problem is that I just don't know if anyone will pay for something I write. Getting it for free in the newspaper or on line is one thing. Paying for it is another.

As I was thinking about this for the one hundredth time, I picked up a book I bought on Ebay earlier this summer. It is written by Mark Fidrych, the 1976 Major League Rookie of the Year. He is a former Detroit Tiger player and it is entitled "No Big Deal." As I opened the book and began reading it I quickly discovered that this has to be the most poorly written book I have ever come across. Fidrych can't put two sentences together that make sense. It is simply a terrible book. I am sure the only reason anyone ever bought it was because the author was famous.

That is bad news for me. At least Mark Fidrych, with his name recognition, got people to nibble and buy his book. An unknown like me may never get his foot in the door. Who is going to read my story?

The truth is that a lot of us think that what we have to say isn't noteworthy. That isn't true. Some of the best stories ever told were from people like you and me who had experienced a slice of life that touched a chord in the audience. As we share our experiences we validate the triumphs and struggles of those who hear them. We remind each other that we are not alone.

So go ahead and tell your story. Write it down if you must, but don't be afraid to share. Be like the unnamed woman at the well or the man born blind. Their names never became famous but we still share their stories two thousand years later.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Making the story real

On Saturday we took a group up to the Overlook Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts. That's one of the farms where they raise cattle, sheep and goats for Heifer International. As a boy growing up in Sunday School I remember bringing in my pennies to buy a cow for a village in some remote part of the world. Never did I imagine that one day I would have the opportunity to go to the place where it all started.

What's more is the fact that we went there on Saturday to watch a live nativity play on the grounds that featured actors from a local church and livestock from the farm. Mary came riding in on the donkey. The shepherds came in to see Mary and Joseph along with their sheep and goats. It was cool. They even had a camel there (although no one rode him. He was just there for the photo op!)

I thought to myself that it was very appropriate to have this story played out here. For the vision of Heifer International was born out of a desire to share the love of God in a tangible way with people who otherwise might never have heard the good news that Jesus Christ was born.

We don't normally support Heifer International in the church I serve. That is we haven't supported them recently. We will now. Having first hand knowledge of how the love is shared makes a difference. I guess that is why it is so important for us to live what we preach. When we live a faith filled life, we show the world what the love of God is all about. Our example will lead people to God. So live it and watch God's kingdom grow.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

A fabulous affair

I was thrilled to be invited to the Spirit Awards last night at the Norwich Inn and Spa. The night marked the tenth anniversary of the Spirit of Broadway Theater and saw several people recognized for excellence in community theater. It was a black tie affair and I got to wear my tuxedo and Lori was dressed to impress. We were guests of Matt and Elizabeth Isenburg and sat with the Mayor and his wife. I have to confess that the whole thing made me feel a little bit like a celebrity. They didn't have a red carpet but who cares. It was fun to dress up and pretend to be important once in a while.

During the evening we were treated to first class entertainment direct from New York City. Men and women gushed as they accepted awards and shared their gratitude for what the artistic Director Brett Bernardini and the playwrites had done for them. We got a preview of next season's shows and enjoyed a fabulous meal and great fellowship around the tables. It truly was a memorable evening, one that I gladly repeat again.

The truth is that we all have the opportunity to do something quite similar every week. We receive a golden invitation to join God in a grand celebration of his grace and glory. He invite us to dress up and join him at a party that rolls around each week at the church .There is singing and story telling. There are testimonies and fellowship and a table set for you and me.

Sometimes I think we fail to realize just how important we are to God. Going to church can seem so commonplace. It is not. Maybe we need to do something to remind ourselves that going to worship means entering the presence of the king of kings. So roll out the imaginary red carpet, lift up your head and walk tall. You are going to guests of the Lord of hosts.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

A little bit longer

My new motto is "just a little bit longer." I realized that this morning as I was working out on the elliptical trainer. Today was one of those days where I just did not want to go to the gym. The only reason I went was because I had eaten too much last night and was feeling guilty. The truth is that guilt is never a good motivator for the long haul, but at least it got me there today.

So almost immediately after I started I decided I was only going to go for ten minutes. I rationalized that I was going to have a busy day and I would probably burn off a bunch of calories on the fly. When I got close to the ten minute mark I decided I would go a little longer. Maybe I could make 15 minutes. And so it went until I finally had convinced myself to go the whole 25 minutes.

Then I decided I would do five minutes on the treadmill. With that same philosophy, I ended up going twenty minutes and I had completed my normal routine. I don't think I could have done it if I had forced myself about going the whole distance at the3 beginning. By breaking it down, by "tricking myself" I was able to do a little bit more and keep going.

I think the same principle is true for living the life of faith. We need to take it one day at a time. We need to look at the short haul in order to last for the long haul. We need to look to God for strength for today, especially when life is being difficult. When we do this, it is amazing what can happen.

So if you are having a tough time right now, hold on a little bit longer. It will get better. You will get through it with God's help. god bless.


Friday, December 7, 2007

It is who you talk to

After a conversation with our church treasurer, I decided to call AT&T to see if we could reduce the cost of our DSL Internet service. That decision opened the door to "bizarro world." When I worked my way through the maze of automated voices and finally found a live person, I encountered the "Nurse Ratched" of the phone company. Her first questions were "Who are you? and are you the authorized person on the account?"

I assured her that I had been making the decisions on the phone for the last twenty years and that's when the stone walling began. She told me she didn't have my name or social security number on her list and she couldn't talk to me. I explained to her that I was the one in the office who always made these decisions. As a matter of fact, I ordered the DSL. I explained to her that we had a treasurer who paid the bills and maybe his name was on the account. When I gave her Bob's name and social security number, she blew me away by saying, "Sorry, his name is not on the account either."

I asked her what I needed to do and she told me there wasn't anything I could do. Only the authorized name on the account could ask questions and make changes. I immediately thought of Jesus' saying that some will get to the gates of heaven and say "Lord, Lord" and he would say "Who are you? I never knew you."

To make a long story a bit shorter, I eventually hung up and called again and got another lady who was very cordial. She told what to do to rectify the situation. Now I am back in business again. After I hung up Bob said to me, "You just got to talk to the right person."

That's how it is with our faith. You can try to get into heaven by good works. You can read all the philosophers and explore every theology. You can know the Bible inside and out. Unless you know Jesus, you are not going to get through the gate. You got to talk to him and he's got to have your name. So why wait? Dial him up now and get started.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Managed with prayer

I couldn't believe what I saw when I went past the trash cans this morning. Laying right beside them were the painted pumpkins that had been sitting on our front porch for the last two months. I almost had a mind to pick them up and put them back on the porch. I couldn't understand why Lori had tossed them. I had checked on them just two days ago and they hadn't gotten soggy yet.

The truth is I had thought about tossing them but I didn't want to admit that winter was here. Even with the Christmas tree standing in our living room, I wanted to hang on to Autumn as long as I could. I wanted to believe that as long as I had those cute pumpkins on the porch, winter couldn't come.

Wishing something happens doesn't make it so. Life moves on whether we want it to or not. The best way to handle change is to manage it. We do that by looking ahead and being prepared. Do you have some things looming in your future? Is your job unsettled? Are you having problems in your relationship? Are your debts mounting and threatening to get out of control? Then do something about it now. Don't wait.

You can begin by praying about it. Give your problems to God and see if you can find a solution in in what he says to you. Open up the scriptures and seek his counsel. Talk to a trusted Christian friend and ask their advice. Than take what you get and see if you can do something to manage your situation.

Winter is coming no matter if I have pumpkins on the porch or not. Today I got out my gloves and tomorrow I am planning on getting the snow blower up and running. When it comes, I'll be prepared. Will you? I hope so.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Make a splash

My Detroit Tigers made a splash with a cannon ball at the Baseball winter meetings yesterday. They picked up two all stars for a number of very good prospects. The addition of these two players, Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera, make the Tigers the odds on favorites to go to the World Series next year. I know everyone on my Tiger bulletin Board is aglow. Jim Leyland, the Tiger manager was all smiles. I am sure the players are just as excited. It is like an infusion of new life into the team.

It is funny but when I think of the work we do in the church, the same kind of enthusiasm emerges when a person decides to step up and volunteer for one of the ministries. This past week I had someone speak to me about working with our teens and doing youth ministry. They have just the right gifts to make some great things happen.

So don't be afraid to step up and offer to help. The splash you make might even surprise you.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Celebrating our tie to God's community

The Lebanon Community Chorus ushered in the Christmas Season with a concert at the Congregational Church last night. It was like a blast from the past. Many old friends came back together for a 35th Anniversary event and they sang excerpts from some of the sacred concerts they performed over the years. The concert ended with the different members of the chorus singing solos, duets and trios on the verses of "The First Noel" and a rousing rendition of "The Hallelujah Chorus." It was great.

It was great to see the group together again with their director, Berti Hawkins. The thing I remember about my time singing with the group is how much civic pride they had. It was fun to be part of the group but it was extra special because they were always present at special events in the town. Last night was no exception. They came together to help light the Christmas tree in town.

After the concert the group went outside to join hundreds of town residents to sing and light the tree. Up and down the Green there were all kinds of special events to enjoy. Even a bit of snow and freezing rain couldn't stop the fun.

As I left the scene last night, I couldn't help but think how nice it was to be connected to a group that not only impacted the community but also had historic roots. Then it dawned on me that most of us can say the same thing about the church.

We take our churches for granted but they are at the heart of community life. They touch people and change lives. Maybe it is time to celebrate that? There is no better time to do it than Christmas when we celebrate the entrance of God into the world. So what do you say? Let's get together at church this year and kick off the Christmas season in style.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Do you have preferred parking?

For the first time in as many years as I can remember I did not have trouble finding a parking spot to watch the Norwich Winter Festival Parade. I just pulled into my driveway and proceeded to walk across Chelsea Parade. You see now we live right where all the action is. We don't have to fight the crowds and worry about getting a parking ticket or face an angry homeowner. It is almost like having a front row seat.

Afterwards I thought about how the same is true for us when we accept Christ. Life still has its ups and downs but the road becomes a lot easier to navigate. It is like having preferred parking. You can get up close to the Lord and He gives you strength and courage to face your trials.

The good thing is you don't have to sell your house to do it. You just need to get on your knees and ask him to make a place for you. The Bible says "ask and it will be given." So do it and start enjoying the benefits that come with your new diggs.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

There is nothing like doing it the right way

I went out and got our Christmas Tree at the Murray Farm out on Route 165 in Preston this morning. For the last ten years we have made it a family affair. Like Chevy Chase in the movie Christmas Vacation, the girls and I would set off in search of the perfect tree. The first few years we would each take turns cutting it down. As they got older they were not as anxious to get down on the ground and it became my job.

Then Becky went off to college and even though I suggested getting a "freshly cut tree," the remaining tow girls were adamant that I chop one down. It was tradition. Last year Sarah flew from the coup and Rachel and her friends accompanied me on our trek. They watched and took pictures as I cut down the largest tree on the farm. I still don't know how we got it home, never mind in the house.

Today seemed like the perfect occasion to get the tree. Sarah was home and Rachel was free. I warned them that today was the day before they went to bed. Alas, this morning both girls agreed that I could handle the job alone. They gave me instructions and sent me on my way. I was determined to get a pre-cut tree this year in light of the circumstances. When I arrived I was out of luck. All the big trees were gone Although I tried to get out of it, wouldn't you know it, one of the boys suggested I go out and cut down my own, just for the fun of it.

So that's what I did. He went with me and I gave him $5.00 to chop one down for me. It was fun and I think my girls had the right idea all along. Watching someone else cut down a fresh tree is a wonderful experience!

Seriously though, sometimes we feel like we are alone when it comes to doing the right thing with our faith. We may have been surrounded by others at some point. They encouraged us and helped us see how important what we were doing was. Things do change. Life goes in different direction. Nevber forget that there is still value in doing the right thing, even if no one else is there to see it. God bless you.