Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Finding words of hope in our mourning.

I had a funeral this morning. I hate funerals. I know I am not supposed to say that. I am the one who is called on to comfort people and remind them of our faith. My job is to read the scriptures and connect people with God so that God can wrap his arms around them. My role is the mediator between God and his children at the time of their greatest vulnerability. I hate it because I never feel adequate enough. Can words really bring healing?

I think I do a good job at most funerals. I pull together a nice selection of scriptures, prayers and add a nice eulogy. I personalize the services and lift up the hope of our faith. People like that. But when all is said and done, when we leave the church or the grave, we leave with a hole in our hearts for the person who died. That is the part that gets me.

I weep for the families. I can appreciate what Jesus felt when he went to see Mary and Martha after Lazarus had died. The difference is that Jesus could resurrect him and I can't do that for my families. So I try my best. I cry with them and hold their hands. We walk through the scriptures and remind ourselves of God's promises. Then we simply trust God to be good to his word.

The good news is that God is as good as his Word. He does comfort those who mourn. In time we all heal with God's help. Think of the Brockway family tonight. Pray for God's comfort to come to them all.

Cal

Monday, December 29, 2008

True Christians share God's love

I usually don't venture into the realm of making negative comments in my blogs or in my newspaper columns. I try to focus on the positive. There is enough negativity out there and I don't think God likes it. Jesus once said that he came to give life and to give it abundantly. He wants to bless us and all we need to do is come to him.

You can see that throughout the pages of the New Testament as Jesus cozies up to prostitutes, tax collectors, robbers and revolutionaries. He loves them all and invites them to turn around and follow his lead so they can have a satisfying relationship with the Father. He doesn't berate them or condemn them. He simply reaches out to invite them into something that will change their lives.

Today that's my job and the job of all of us in ministry. We are called to share his love and to invite people into a relationship with God that is fulfilling and life saving. As Christians we believe that God so loved the world that he sent his son to save us. We know that all of us are sinners and all have fallen short of the glory of God. That includes those of us wearing clerical collars and vestments and those of us sitting in the pews of the local church. So we are called to reach out with the same grace we have known.

Yet there are some who missed that lesson. They feel called to pass judgment on others and condemn them. They feel that they are so righteous and so blessed that they can stand in God's place and pronounce judgment. The truth is that they will be judged by the same measure that they judge and I pity them.

I bring this up because I was totally appalled by a video that came across the Internet this holiday season. It was put out by Rev. Phelps and members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. I am embarrassed to even say I am a Baptist after seeing this. I can only say that his church (if you can call it that) is as far from the Baptist origins as the Baal worshippers in the Old Testament. This is the same group that declares "GOD HATES FAGS" and celebrated the death of Matthew Shephard. This is the group who made the statement after September 11 that this was God's retribution for America embracing the gay lifestyle. This is the group who protested with hateful signs at the funerals of those who died in Iraq and declared that this was God's vengeance. The truth is that even if you do not believe that the homosexual lifestyle is compatible with scripture, this kind of hatred is as equally out of line with scripture if not more so in light of the way Jesus dealt with people.

This Christmas the Westboro group ratched up their rhetoric a notch with this new video. A group of children are front and center singing a song that declares that Santa Claus is leading everyone to hell. The song is sung to the tune of Santa Claus in Coming to Town. The kids are having fun and ringing bells as they declare that everyone who believes in Santa is on the way to hell. It is pure hatred and filled with venom. It reeks of the serpent himself. This is without a doubt, the work of the devil. He has blinded these people into believing that they are so righteous that they can say and do anything. I feel sorry for them. For they will be judged.

The truth is that God has often used every means to bring people to him. As Christians we have the opportunity to share the greatest love story of all time with our friends and neighbors during the holidays. We can tell them that behind Santa, Rudolph, Frosty and the other icons of the secular version of Christmas, is the love of God we see in the manger in Bethlehem. Like the Apostle Paul, we can take the appealing elements of this culture and speak to the hearts of a new generation. This unknown God became known in Bethlehem and today we can tell his story. And like the old song says, "They will know we are Christians by our Love."

I pray in the new year that all of us can be ambassadors for our God. I pray we can share his love and point people to the Lord of Lords.

God bless. Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The secret to a better relationship

We are in New York City for a couple of days. Talk about culture shock. On Friday night I walked thirty blocks up 3rd Avenue to our hotel on 42nd Street. It was great. Along the way I enjoyed the sights and sounds of the city. A couple of thoughts came to mind.

First I thought about the character, Mark, in the hit Broadway Show "Rent." He was the videographer who captured images of the city. As I walked by myself I listened in to several conversations. I tried to pretend that I was a resident and to figure out what life in the city was really like. Were people leading quiet lives of desperation? Or were they living life to its fullest?

One woman was worried about her friend and the guy she was going out with. He always bossed her around. Another girl was talking to her boyfriend on the cell phone and she said, "Were you drunk when you hit your heard?" A third couple was holding hands and trying to decide where to go for dinner. As I listened in it hit me that so much of these conversations were about relationships. I chuckled as I thought about that television show "Sex and the City." I've only seen bits and pieces of the show. From what I have seen, the story lines are all about these ladies relationships as they make their lives in New York. It dawned on me that the creators of that show were onto something. In my brief walk down Third Avenue, I felt I was in the middle of a typical episode.

Of course so much of our energy is put into our relationships isn't it? We are constantly dealing with our spouses, children, parents and co-workers. Relationships make up the fabric of our lives. Learning how to get along is an ongoing process. I like what Rick Warren says in the Purpose Driven Life. God created us to be part of God's family. We need to learn to get along. He suggests that if we can get along with each other in the church, then we can get along with anybody.

He goes on to suggest that it can only happen if we begin with a relationship with God. I think he is right. Maybe that is why so many relationships are in trouble. We don't put God first and it affects everything else in our lives. When we practice the things God calls us to do the way in which we relate to others begins to change. We become more forgiving, more patient, more loving.

It seems like a good thing to me. So as we look ahead to a brand new year, I recommend making it a point to spend a little more time with Jesus. Everything else will flow a little better from there.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The birth of our Lord

I think there are so many wonderful images of Christmas out there this year. They inspire us and help us remember what Christmas is all about. Rather than me telling you about it, I'd rather pass them on to you. so here is Josh Grobin singing "O Holy Night" while the story is played out on video. It's very moving.

Cal

Saturday, December 20, 2008

O Holy Night

Here is something to get you in the mood this holy Christmas week. I came across these gentleman named Il Divo and they have blessed my Christmas already. Enjoy!

Cal

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Moments in prayer

Prayer is like oil in the lamp of life. As we pray we let God fill us with His Spirit. It energizes our soul. It gives life to our being. It connects us to the source of hope and power. Sometimes people think prayer is all about asking God for things. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Prayer is communion with God.

The truth is that when I pray I allow God to use me to fulfill his will for me and others around me. It isn't so much about us, as it is about God. It is unlocking God's power. Jesus understood this very well. He always gave God the credit for the amazing things he was able to do. Then he told us that we would do them too.

So what are you waiting for? Unleash the power of God in your life today. Stop and spend a few minutes in prayer.

Cal

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A new Voice in Biblical studies

Several years ago I sat in the audience for a presentation of a one person play at the Mystic Union Baptist Church. For two and a half hours the actor shared the story of Jesus. It was an incredible performance that covered his birth up until his crucifixion. The actor had us sitting on the edge of our seats. The characters came to life and you could see the Pharisees as they spat venom at Jesus. You could hear the murmur of the crowd as Jesus walked among them on his way through town. You would never have known that this entire script was simply a presentation of the Gospel of Mark.

The actor read the story verse by verse. It came to life when he added dramatic emphasis in just the right places. He changed the tenor of his voice to bring out the various characters. He added sound and depth by banging and stomping and moving across the stage. The Bible has been called stuffy and hard to read by some outside the church but that night it became a living, dynamic testimony to the love and grace of God.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I picked up a newly published version of the New Testament called "The Voice." As I opened the book of Matthew I immediately noticed that the pages were laid out and set apart as if I had picked up a screenplay script. I hadn't seen anything like this since I picked up a red letter edition of the Bible as a teenager. "The Voice" takes it a step further and allows the whole dialogue to stand out and come alive. Forget the words of Jesus. This Bible brings out the chatter between actors, the conversations between Jesus and his disciples and the call of the crowds as they seek Jesus' attention. I loved it. I've dreamed about using dramatic sketches from scripture to illustrate a sermon message. I just didn't know how to frame them. This Bible does it for you.

I also noticed that there were outlined boxes on nearly every page, As I read what was inside them I realized that these comments amplified what was said in the text and highlighted significant points. The comments added depth and meaning to the what I was reading. Sometimes they lifted up customs and traditions which the original reader would have known. In other places they explored what was being said and helped draw some logical conclusions. I liked this because these comments were not buried in the footnotes. They were right there in the text.

We live in a different day and age. The Bible has lost some of its reverence for the younger generation. Why? Because they don't understand it. I think that may change once "The Voice" begins to get a wider circulation. This is a gift for the twenty somethings in our congregations. Yet the truth is that it is a gift for all of us.

And before you write it off as just another translation, believe me, it is so much more than that. "The Voice" does what the Bible was meant to do. It recreates the narrative that was part of the early church experience. It engages the reader and invites him or her into the discussion. It is a true living Bible for the next generation.

If you want a gift for someone who is just beginning their Christian walk this Christmas, give them "The Voice." If you want a gift for someone who really loves to read the Bible, give them "the Voice." If you want to surprise someone in your Bible study with a gift they will thank you for, give them "the Voice."

I love it and and so will you.

Cal


"The Voice" New Testament is offered by Thomas Nelson Publishing House

A Christmas Poem

One of our members here at First Baptist writes poetry. She passed this one titled, Is It Really Christmas? on to me and I used a few lines from it in my sermon this week. It was well received so I thought I would pass on the whole poem. So here it is.




Is It Really Christmas?
by Trina Edwards

Lights twinkle, bells jingle in preparation for that day.
And children all across the land hear Santa's on his way!
Trees go up and are adorned with trimmings all aglow.
Sparkling tinsel graces doorways, along with Mistletoe.
Malls are crowded wall to wall as people push and shove,
Searching for those special gifts to give to all the ones they love.
Presents wrapped in pretty paper, a bow attached with care,
Quietly waiting to be discovered when the family all gets there.
Cookies baking, candy making, sweet smells in the air.
Families making memories that they'll forever share.
The trees! The lights! The pretty gifts! What is it all about?
Is this really Christmas or have we left something out?
Have worldly frills and pleasures dimmed the glory of that day?
Instead of looking upward have we looked another way?
Where is the angel who declared the blessed Christ Child's birth
And proclaimed that through Him there would be goodwill and peace on earth?
Where is the star that brightly shone up in the sky that night,
And directed three wise men to that great and miraculous sight,
Where inside a lowly stable, in a manger filled with hay,
Surrounded by all of heaven, our blessed Savior lay?
A babe sent down from glory, a gift from God above.
Wrapped up in grace and mercy - the epitome of love.
For by his life and death, this babe would save our souls from sin;
Loose the very hold of death and give us life again.
"He's the reason for the Season" our lapel pins boldly say,
But what is truly in our hearts on this Christmas Day?
It's OK to have your Christmas trees, and your gift exchanges too,
But don't forget the one who came and gave his love for you.
Let's keep our eyes on Jesus, and be sure His love to share;
For it really isn't Christmas if Jesus isn't there.


Merry Christmas!

Cal

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sharing love in little ways

A good friend of mine sent me and e-mail introducing me to St. Therese, "the little flower." I'd never heard of her before but as I began to check her out, it struck me that what the world needs today is more people like her. This past week so many people made a big difference in the life of one family by doing little things to make the Extreme Home Makeover a blessing for the Girard family. I pray that everyone who helped there and everyone who didn't but wanted to, will catch the spirit of St. Therese and let it guide them in their actions.

young Therese

Therese Martin was the last of nine children born to Louis and Zelie Martin on January 2, 1873, in Alencon France. Her mother died when she was 4 years old. As a result, her father and sisters babied young Therese. On Christmas Eve in 1886, at the age of 14, Therese had a conversion that transformed her life. From then on, her powerful energy and sensitive spirit were turned toward love. At 15, she entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux to give her life to God. She took the religious name Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Living a life filled with prayer, she began to serve others by doing simple things to make their lives better. She lived each day with an unshakable confidence in God's love. "What matters in life," she wrote, "is not great deeds, but great love." She lived and taught a spirituality of attending to everyone and everything well and with love. She believed that just as a child becomes enamored with what is before her, we should also have a childlike focus and be totally attentive to those around us through our love. You might say that Therese's spirituality is of doing the ordinary, with extraordinary love.

After a long struggle with tuberculosis, she died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24. Her last words were the story of her life: "My God, I love You!" The world came to know Therese through her autobiography, Story of a Soul.

Cal

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ya gotta believe!

When does faith take over for doubt? My Pittsburgh Steelers are having a memorable season. They clinched the division today by beating the Baltimore Ravens. Yet they have not been a dominant team all year long. Yes their defense is the best in the League. They have shut down almost every team they played. Yet the games have all been close and won late in the contest. The offense has just been good enough to score points when needed. The last three games were won in the waning moments with key plays made on defense. I want to believe that they are good enough to go to the Super Bowl but I am still not convinced. They haven't had an easy game yet.

It made me think about our faith in God. What is it that helps us step over that threshold into belief? When did we start believing in God with all our heart? Was there a moment? I have believed in him my whole life. When do we stop doubting and just believe?

The truth is that there are still moments when I have my doubts. No, I don't doubt God is real. But I sometimes wonder if God really is there when I am going through tough times. We all do. Then we pass through and look back and see it was God's strength that carried us. We say we should have known.

The same is true of my Steelers. I guess my problem is that I was comparing them to last year's edition of the New England Patriots who slaughtered every team they played during the regular season. They made it look easy. That is how I measure a great time.

We do the same thing with God. We set up certain markers and believe He has to do certain things to be called faithful. When he doesn't fit our idea of what faithful looks like, we begin to doubt him.

The truth is that God is God. He has shown that He is faithful time after time in our lives and in the scriptures. Maybe its time we simply let go and believe.

Cal

PS Go Steelers. This is the year we win number 6!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Who is your audience?

I watched the worst movie of my life on Tuesday. It was called Step-Brothers and despite the big names in the show, it fell flat. I almost couldn't watch it. Yet I was fooled into thinking it might get better.

I fell in love with Will Ferrell when my daughter, Rachel, and I went to see Elf in the movie theaters a few years ago. Ferrell was so big and lovable that I thought he was a can't miss star. I never saw him on Saturday Night Live so this was my first exposure to his comedy. Yet I have to admit that none of the movies he has made since have really sparked my interest. The trailers look funny but from Kicking and Screaming, to Talledega Nights to this one, I have watched the DVD's and each time came away disappointed.

What's worse is the fact that I noticed Ferrell either produces, writes or is intimately involved with the production of most of these shows. So it isn't simply that he is making bad choices. They seem to be conscious choices that represent his type of humor.

What's sad is that young boys and girls see some of the humorous clips of him from these movies and want to see more. Yet the movies are not appropriate for them. Step-Brothers was rated R. I was embarrassed when my twenty year old daughter wanted to watch the movie.

It got me thinking about what I say and do and how it reflects on who I am. I can be pretty silly and sometimes I joke around with my friends. I remember an afternoon when I was kidding with one of my best friends about something. He had just started coming to church and I was so happy. We had reconnected and we were having a good time. But my joking around hit him the wrong way. Afterwards he told me that he could not go to church with someone who believed what I said.

Now I have to tell you I was just kidding around, but it made a deep impression on him. It colored what he thought about me. The same is true for all of us. We have an image that we project. When we belong to Christ, it isn't the image of perfection, but it should be the image of a compassionate lover of God and neighbor. When we put others down and show signs of bigotry, hatred and mean spirited behavior, it leaves its mark on the people who see us.

It's not fair to think that we have to be "perfect" all the time... and I'm not talking about pretending to be something you are not. We are called to be more like Christ. To be a Christian means that day by day we grow more like him in our attitudes and actions. As we spend time with Jesus, we begin to reflect him in all we do.

So that's my goal. I know I will mess up once in a while but I hope when people look at my body of work they will see something that inspires them. I hope they will see God's love. May the same be said for you as well.

Cal

Friday, December 12, 2008

The perfect gift

What will they think of next? I got a flyer in the mail today for a Heattrak Walkway mat. It is portable, waterproof and electric and designed to lay on top of any surface. The advertisement suggests that it can be left outside all winter and it will melt snow and ice for you. It sounds too good to be true.

What amazed me most is the ingenuity that it took to come up with this device. Someone saw a problem and then went about finding a solution. As I sat there trying to decide if we should buy one or not, it struck me that I was trying to answer the same question many people are asking themselves this Christmas: Do I really need Jesus in my life or not.

The truth is that God saw that we had a problem with sin in our lives. It created a rift between Him and us. So He developed a creative solution by coming to us in the form of a child, the babe of Bethlehem. He walked among us and showed us how much He cared. Then God spanned the gap by creating a bridge to God through his own sacrifice on the cross.

Now we are faced with deciding if we really need him or not. We can go on like we have always gone on. Or we can embrace him and know new joy and hope in our lives. The choice is ours. Christmas is here again. There is a free gift for you under the tree. Will you take it or leave it there. It is up to you.

God bless. Merry Christmas.

Cal

Monday, December 8, 2008

Go ahead and invite them

Yesterday afternoon I went to a holiday party for the volunteers of the Miss Connecticut Pageant. It was a nice affair. There was music, hors d'ouerves and lots of entertainment.
several of the ladies who have participated in recent pageants performed music selections and dance routines. Three of the ladies even wore the crown of Miss Connecticut in their day, including the current Miss Connecticut, Ashley Glenn.

As I left the party I started thinking about the Organization and all the good people who make it run so smoothly. I remember talking with one gentleman who has been involved for over forty years. He said he loves it because it builds self esteem in the participants and promotes scholarship. The Connecticut Pageant alone gives away tens of thousands of dollars in college scholarships and claims a long list of very successful women in their ranks. He was happy to report that he got involved when that wasn't even happening as much in the schools.

I thought about my involvement and how a simple invitation started it all. Then I chuckled as I thought about the fact that it happened the same way for my faith life. An invitation from a friend is the way that most of the significant events in our lives begin. Someone who we know asks us to join them for something.

It made me think about how important it is for us to be inviting our friends to worship on Sunday. It can be the start of something wonderful for them. So what are you waiting for?

Cal

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Go with the Spirit

I almost didn't go. I had planned on going all week but things didn't really go my way and when I woke up this morning I began debating whether or not I should still go. I'm not talking about church. I'm talking about Weight Watchers.

I started back on program last week and I didn't really do that well. I got up this morning and hopped on the scale. After looking at the number I really didn't feel too excited about paying to see the same results.

So I pretty much decided to skip the weigh in and head down to the church instead. But as I took off I changed my mind. I was going to face the music. If I want to lose weight, I'm going to have to stick to it and this might just be what I needed.

I walked into the Center and plopped down my money and then stepped on the scale. I told the receptionist that I didn't think I did too well. Then she said, "Two pounds. Not bad!" I was bummed and she saw my face and said, "I'd give my right arm to lose two pounds. Cheer up!"

I couldn't believe my ears. I lost two pounds. Suddenly I was very glad I came. I was blessed. I think it is the same way with going to church for some people. After a bad week they think feel that maybe they aren't feeling good enough to go. But those who decide to go almost always report they feel so much better after attending worship. Their spirits were lifted and they were blessed.

So don't let a bad week get you down. Go with the spirit and come to worship and let God bless you.

Cal

Monday, December 1, 2008

We are all becoming someone new

I've been watching reruns of the old television show, Remington Steele. The show ran from 1982 to 1987 and starred Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist. I rented season one from Blockbuster and have been enjoying it this past week.

It's a sentimental thing. Lori and I were married in 1982 and this was one of the shows we regularly watched together. The funny thing is that watching the show has stirred up a lot of memories. It's like I have been transported back in time. It has been a nice experience.

As a by product of all this I have also been thinking a lot about how time changes so much. For example when this show premiered Stephanie Zimbalist was the headliner. She was a star because of her family connections and some of the things she had already done. Pierce Brosnan was a relative unknown. One of the studio heads almost nixed him because they were looking for someone with a resume.

Fast forward twenty five years and most people don't even know who Stephanie Zimbalist is. But they know Bond, James Bond. They know the man who played him in the 90's. It made me think about the fact that life is a process. We are all in the process of growing and evolving into what we will become. Today is not the end of my life. I am continually growing and learning and becoming that person who I will be.

I think that is why Jesus said we should not worry. We should trust him and live each day as it comes. I know I am not that same man who watched this program 26 years ago. Thank goodness. I am wiser and more deeply connected to Christ today. I am more sure of who I am and what I am doing. So are you. So rejoice in what God is doing in your life and the growth you have seen. For you are truly a new creation and a blessed one at that.

Cal

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Praying moms make a difference

Praying Moms



Elizabeth Hamilton wrote an a
rticle that talked about a group of women who meet each week to pray for their kids and for the schools in the region.She said, "If you're a school principal in Connecticut, it's possible a group of moms is praying for you every week. Not because you, specifically, need their prayers (although who amongst us couldn't benefit from an extra prayer now and then) but because that's what these moms do.

The mothers get together regularly to pray for safe classrooms and for healthy classrooms. They even pray for Mastery Test scores. The group is part f an international movement called Moms in Touch and they have been meeting for the last three years. Mary Beth Lawrence, a mother of five, is the state coordinator. Right now there are 107 groups in the state.

Moms in Touch s a Christian organization but it cuts across denominational lines and includes moms from both Catholic churches and Protestant churches. Their goal is not to push religion in schools and as a result they have turned down opportunities to advertise through the PTO. They don't want to to give anyone the wrong impression. They simply want to pray for the teachers and staff that educate their children. For if the teachers are blessed, the students will be blessed too.

Most groups meet for an hour with a specific agenda to keep them focused. The group also does some concrete things to support the staff. One group put microwave popcorn in the teacher's room and it was met with quiet cheers. Some of the teachers really appreciate the fact that the group supports them this way and it shows in increased morale.


You can find the complete article at http://www.courant.com/news/local/hc-newprayingmoms.artnov29,0,5069710.story

I don't think that it would take much to start a group of praying mothers here. If anyone is interested, we would be happy to host it here in Norwich at First Baptist. Or if you have a group already meeting at your church, let me know and maybe we can help pump it up with new enthusiasm.

Cal

Friday, November 28, 2008

Homecoming days

I am so excited. I picked up my daughter, Rebecca, at the train station the other night. She has been living in New York City the last two years and it seems like her trips home have become less and less frequent. She is busy teaching school and making a life for herself. I guess that is what our children are supposed to do.

The good news is that she is only a phone call away. I talk to her about once a week. If she needs something or if something comes to mind that one of us needs to share with the other, we pick up the phone and make contact. Of course she is in touch with her mother much more frequently. They seem to talk every day. That's okay with me. I enjoy getting news second hand just as much as if I hear it directly from her. I just want to know that she is happy and she is safe.

Next week we get another homecoming as our daughter, Sarah, returns from her semester abroad in Sydney, Australia. She has been gone since the middle of July and the whole family will be heading to JFK Airport to greet her arrival. Homecomings are always sweet.
Check Spelling
I guess that is why I look forward to worship every week. It is a mini homecoming with God and his family. I look forward to seeing everyone and singing the hymns of faith. I enjoy hearing the Word of God read and seeing the smiles and handshakes as people greet each other.

The best part is that God looks forward to it as much as we do. So if you haven't been to church in a while, why not make play to go this week. You will enjoy it and so will God.

Cal

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I was looking for something that says "thank you" in a new and different way and I came across this music video from Kirk Franklin and Mary, Mary. I hope you enjoy it as you gear up for your own Thanksgiving.

Cal

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What will you leave behind?

I came across this Rich Mullins video and fell in love with it. I had heard his name but didn't know his music. Or at least I didn't think I knew his music. Then I read that he wrote "Awesome God and several other classic Christian hits.

As I began trying to see what else he had written and to find out more about him, I was shocked to learn that he died in a car accident in 1997. My first thought was where have I been? Have I been living in a cave. Now this is probably old news to most of you. You are probably thinking "This guy is a Christian and he didn't know this?"

Well I am relatively new to the Christian music scene. (I just heard a Jars of Clay song today and flipped over it.) But what struck me about Richie Mullins is the fact that his work continues to share his witness. That means that eleven years after he has died and gone to heaven, the ripples created by his faith and his work in the world are still touching people and turning hearts to God.

All of us are called to share God's love. We are called to use our unique God given gifts to reach out and touch others. Some do it through song. Others through teaching or philanthropy, or mentoring or greeting or simply loving. I pray that your life and witness may continue to bless others long after you are gone. What a testimony that will be to your life. (Although let's hope that this post life witness doesn't begin for many years. :-)

Cal

Friday, November 21, 2008

We have been chosen to serve

It's pretty funny to think about the fact that President -elect Barak Obama is getting high marks on his choices for cabinet members from all the talking heads. Someone even suggested that the stock was responding positively today to one of the selections.

It made me think of Jesus' choices to run his transition team and fill his high level posts. That's right he chose the twelve disciples to start it off but over the years he filled positions by calling on people like you and me. The truth is, if we are honest, I don't think many people would give him high marks. Yet the hope of the world rests on what we do with the calling God has given us.

We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. We are to spread his love, offer his grace and call people into relationship with him. If we don't do it, the job will not be done. The most amazing thing is the fact that despite the world's lack of confidence in us, God believes we can do it. That is great news. He believes in us.

So let us go out and do what needs to be done.

Cal

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A prayer for our soldiers

It is cold outside so I thought I might step into some hot water for a few minutes and talk about the War in Iraq. It seems as though the media has polarized this just like it tries to polarize everything else. We get this sense that either you are for it or against it. I think the truth is that most Americans wants to bring our troops home as quickly as possible. Some think it has to be today. Others think it has to be done over time.

We also may disagree on whether we had to go over there or not. It is pretty easy to look back and say they were no weapons of mass destruction and President Bush acted foolishly. What I try to remind people is that psychologically we were damaged after September 11th. We saw threats everywhere and it wasn't just the President who was nervous about Iraq. Just about everyone in Congress voted to go ahead with sanctions and use force if needed.

The question we need to ask is are we safer now than we were then and are the people in Iraq better off now. The answer can be debated but I believe it is yes to both. We don't always get the good stories from the front. But there are enough of them going around. The cost has been steep, paid in young lives, but the majority of young men and women who have served believe it was worth the cost.

This goes to the deeper question in my mind. As Christians, do we ever have the obligation to step up and denounce what is wrong? Does that also at times require us to use force to put down evil? I know that we don't have a Christian government. We aren't even a Christian nation anymore. Where does our responsibility end.

It is so easy to pick our causes. Amnesty International pleads for human rights and works to bring about justice around the world. When they see evil, they speak up. The genocide in Darful is coming to light. Can we stand by and do nothing? Human slave trading is taking place all over the world and it is sanctioned by some governments. How do we respond?

Right now I believe we ought to stop fighting each other and begin to pray for those who are serving in the military. Many of them believe in what they are doing. They are establishing order and trying to make this world a safer place. In our congregation we have at least five of our young people serving overseas right now. It is hell for them but they are proud of what they are doing. They believe they are doing good. So let's pray for an end to war, but remember those who are serving.

Cal

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It always comes back to you

I received a note today from one of my heroes. He doesn't even know who I am but none-the-less he took the time to send this message. It read;

Dear Friend,

Your kind greetings on the occasion of my 90th birthday were a great encouragement to me, and I want to thank you for taking time to write to me. I feel humbled and overwhelmed by the thousands of messages people have sent me. At the age of 90, I am responding to you by e-mail—something new for me! (Though I must admit that my staff is having to help me send it!)

You will be interested to know that I had wonderful celebrations for my birthday with family and close friends.

The prayers and support of people like you over the years have meant more to me than I can ever express, and I am grateful for your partnership with us in the work of the Gospel. Most of all, I am grateful for God’s constant faithfulness down through the years.

May God richly bless you.

Cordially yours,
Billy Graham Signature
Last month I received an e-mail from Franklin Graham asking for people to send in notes to his dad telling how he had touched our lives. He suggested this could be our way to say Happy Birthday to him. I sat down and sent along a note that expressed how I had been inspired by his love for the Lord and it helped me make a decision to go into ministry.

It was one of those things you do without any real expectation that THE Billy Graham would sit down and read it. I think that is why this letter struck me today. Someone read my note and the tons of others and responded to them. You can sense the heartfelt emotion in the note and realize that this was a special gift for a man who gave his life as God's servant. The Rev. Dr. Billy Graham was moved by the number of letters that came to him from around the world. He was blessed by them and with the help of his staff he acknowledged all of us who wrote.

It made me think of Harry Chapin's song, "All my life's a Circle." Everything that goes around, comes around again. Solomon said it best in the book of Ecclesiastes.

"Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. .. Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well."

It always works that way. When we pass on a kindness, it won't be long before it comes back to us. Today I was blessed by the man who blessed me over thirty five years ago. And I lift up my hands to praise God and say thank you.

Cal

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Carpenter from Galilee can fix your broken heart

I got some news today that touched me deeply and made me realize just how broken so many of us are. We have been hurt or scarred or knocked down by the world. As I drove from here to Waterbury for a meeting, I kept thinking about a number of people I had talked to and prayed for over the last two weeks. In almost every situation, the individuals were dealing with pain that ran very deep from hurts caused by others.

I kept thinking about one of the toys I had as a kid. Shortly after I received it, I dropped it and broke a piece of it right off. I cried and no matter how much I wished it hadn't happened or how hard I tried to put it back together again, it just didn't work.

Sometimes life is like that. The Good News is that God knows and he understands. He specializes in brokenness and he has the magic touch to help put our lives back together again. I came across this music video that speaks to this subject and I thought I would pass it along.

May God pick you up in His arms and put you back together again with his love.

Cal

Monday, November 17, 2008

God cares about us more than we know.

I can't find my book. I was reading "The Shack" and somehow I laid it aside and can't find it now. Have you ever lost something? I have searched high and low and pulled everything apart without any luck. As I was down on my knees I started to laugh. I thought about the story in Luke 15 of the woman who had lost a coin and searched her whole house. Suddenly that story seemed more real than it had before. I could picture her doing what she did.

The point of that story is that God does the same thing when looking for us. He turns the world upside down to bring us home. He won't stop until we are safe in his arms again. It is a wonderful feeling to know God cares that much.

Cal

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A gift for music

When it is done well, organ music can be a delight to the ear. Diana Norton Jackson took center stage in a recital at Norwich's Central Baptist Church today. She hopped on the bench and proceeded to take the audience on a ride through history. She played selections from Back, Bonnet, Bossi and Boellman.

I'm not that knowledgeable about classical music, but Jackson made the key board come to life. This was especially true in piece entitled, "Pifferari" by composer Louis Lefebure-Wely. As her fingers danced across the keyboard you could almost see the people coming down out of the hills to celebrate and dance with glee.

It struck me that this always happens when we let our God given gifts lead us. Diane did it on the organ but the truth is that it happens every day with people like you and me. The Bible tells us that God has given everyone of us at least one gift. When we choose to use it for God's glory, good things happen. We inspire others and we make God smile.

So use what you have and put on a show for God.

Cal

Friday, November 14, 2008

This couple makes a splash on their wedding day

I always try to make my wedding rehearsals fun and relaxing. Usually I tell a story or two about the worst experiences I have known in my twenty five years of ministry. This week a friend sent me this video of a wedding that has to be one of the most horrifying/ funniest moments in wedding history. Everyone will talk about and remember this wedding for the rest of their lives.






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I was wondering afterwards if this was a Baptist preacher and this was his way of reaching out to a new member at the same time as he was marrying her!

Did you have something funny or unusual happen at your wedding? Drop me a note and tell me about it.

Cal

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Loving God and our Neighbor

We just finished reading through Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life, at church. The thing that struck me was the simple fact that we were all created to share the love of God. It begins with loving God and then turning that love outward to our neighbors and friends. I don't know why we get that wrong in the church at times.

I came across this music video tonight and it really speaks to that mission s i thought I would share it with you.

Cal

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Real Cast of Characters

"Whatever that noise is, I wish they'd shut it off," Max Lucado wrote in his latest book, Cast of Characters. He is telling about a trip he took with his family to see Iguacu Fallis in Brazil. Max was living there at the time and he wanted to impress his mom and her friend with all that he had learned about the world's largest waterfall. He was chatting away with all the facts and figures he had committed to memory as they wound their way through the jungle and got closer to the waterfall. The noise grew louder and louder so that he was shouting to be heard above the roar.

He says, "Only after reaching the clearance did I realize that the noise we heard was the waterfall... My words were drowned out by the force and fury of what I was trying to describe..."Lucado says as he looked at the massive waterfall all he could do was stand in awe of what God had done. Words could not describe the works of His hand.

The story serves as segue into Max's visitation of the Biblical story of Job. Lucado says "There are times when to speak is to violate the moment... when silence represents the highest respect." In the next few paragraphs Max brings Job to life and we can almost picture him debating and chatting away with his friends while God waits in the wings and listens. As the momentum builds we can imagine God stepping onto the stage and watch as Job looks up at him in awe as God finally has his say.

Lucado finishes his little story by saying that sometimes when the storms of life come, like they did to Job, like they do to all of us, we need to simply be still and set our sights on Him. For when we look on Him, nothing seems impossible, nothing seems beyond our grasp and hope returns again.

If you are looking for an inspirational read, this is it. I just finished reading Max Lucado's "Cast of Characters" and I highly recommend it. Max has a way of bringing the biblical characters to life. He connects the dots and adds color and character. In this book we meet the famous (Paul, Moses, David and Peter), the not so famous (Nicodemus, Esther,Jairus and Lazarus), and the nameless ones (the rich young ruler, the Samaritan woman, the paralyzed man and the two criminals at Golgatha) and learn a bit about them and their world. Lucado even takes some literary liberty and helps us connect to some of them by putting them in a world that we know.

For example Max introduces us to Hank, a custodian who wanders the halls of of a big office building with his mop bucket. Hank used to be Henry and he worked in an office like this. He had power and prestige. He was the boss. But then he went and killed a man. It was an accident. A thug had attacked an innocent man and when he intervened, Henry lost control and he hit the mugger too hard and killed him. He ran instead of facing the music. He took this job and left the rest all behind. That is until the day God spoke to him from out of the mop bucket! The first words he heard were these: "Take off your shoes, for you are on Holy Tile!" Sound familiar?

The point Max tries to make as he introduces us to the modern day Moses is that God speaks to all of us in unusual and unexpected ways. God reminds us that He is still with us no matter what we've done and He still has a job for us to do if we are willing to accept it.

I couldn't put this book down. It is written in short, easy to read chapters. Every character we meet has a compelling story and it is easy to see ourselves or someone we know in the eyes of the man or woman he brings to us. His point is that God uses common people to make a difference in the world. Their stories, our stories reveal the wonderful grace of God that is all around us.

So go get your copy now. You will thank me later.

Cal

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

God's will is for you to be blessed

A friend of mine sent me this note a little while ago.

To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.' When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better. Concentrate on this sentence... 'The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.' Something good will happen to you today; something that you have been waiting to hear.

There is an abiding truth in this statement. Sometimes we think we know what we want and we pray for it with all our heart. We come away disappointed when we don't receive what we ask for. So often though, we look back and see that God had something better planned for us.

Whether it is the bitter disappointment of losing or job or the breakdown of our marriage or the opportunity that we missed we need to have faith that God is good and that he always has our best interest at heart. Hold on. Have faith. Keep praying that God's will be done and you will be blessed.

Cal

When God says "No"

Every week I get a short meditation from evangelist Luis Palau. Luis came to New London County a few years back for a regional "Festival." He was great and I signed up for his newsletter. It keeps me informed as to how and where God is using him. It also speaks to my heart through these brief devotionals.

Today's devotional was especially pertinent because I recently met a young woman who was going through a difficult time. She was praying to God with all her heart. She told me it seemed to her that God wasn't listening because her prayers weren't being answered.

Luis has something to say about that. He talks about the fact that sometimes God says "No" to our prayer requests. Even if we think what we want is best, God has something better for us.

Luis says,

Do you believe that God hears your prayers? And if He hears them, do you believe that He answers them? This week, we'll look at five specific ways God answers prayer. Not just mine but yours too!

The first is the answer we most dread. It's when God says, "No, my child, I love you too much." It's hard when God says "no" to our heartfelt requests. Have you experienced this? I certainly have. Take, for example, when my friend Diane started losing her hearing. When my mother-in-law came down with polio. When my father died. God said "no" to each of my requests, leaving me wrestling with the reality of His "no" answer.

In the Psalms in the Bible, many times David cries out to God to answer his prayers. But if God answers with "no," does that mean we shouldn't bother to pray? No! Just the opposite. The Bible tells us, "to be patient in affliction" and "faithful in prayer."

Whom do you know who may feel as though God is saying "no" to them? Be an encouragement for them. Continue to remind them of Christ's unending love, even through the hard times. Tell them that even through the storms, God is there and wants to draw near.


If you would like to sign up for his newsletter you can go to http://www.palau.org/resources/e-newsletter


Cal

Music. It is essential to life isn't it? It sets the mood and can change our whole outlook on life. I think that is why it is so important in our worship services. I know a lot of churches have debated on style. Some like the old Gospel hymns played on the piano. Others like the classical pieces played on the organ. Some prefer the contemporary sound of the choruses played by bands with guitars and drums.

I don't think it matters as much as the fact that we use it to tell the story to a given group of people. On Sunday night we were treated to a night of choral music and the Annual Choir Festival in Norwich. Ten choirs from across the city came together with each bringing a favorite anthem to share. During the course of the evening we got a taste of what worship was like in each of the churches represented. From the lively foot stomping music of Lee Memorial United Methodist to the a capella sound of St. Nicholas Orthodox each church came with their unique sound. From the old gospel tune of Central Baptist to the beautiful harmonies of the Cathedral choir you could sense that God was being honored. From the sweet melodies of St. Mark's Lutheran to the up tempo sound of the First Baptist choir you could tell that everyone was having fun.

The evening came to a climax with the group coming together for a piece featuring the combined voices of all the choirs. Mr. Doug Green was this year's guest conductor. He is the Music Director at the Cathedral of St. Patrick and well respected among his colleagues. In less than an hour he had us singing like we had been practicing together for months. It was a fitting end to a marvelous evening.

Cal

Saturday, November 8, 2008

We worship the Lord

In preparation for worship in the morning, I like to get myself in the mood on Saturday night. I look for music and inspirational videos. As I finish up my sermon, I can't help but feel close to God. Here is a good one that you might enjoy.

Cal

Friday, November 7, 2008

A prayer for our troops

The troops are far from home. Tonight as we celebrate the great freedoms we enjoy in our country, let us think of the men and women in uniform and pray for them. We pray they will be safe and God's hand will be upon them. We pray the battle will soon be over and the Iraqi people will be able to defend themselves. We pray our troops may soon be coming home.

We also lift up the men and women in Afghanistan. We pray that God will be with them and help them achieve their goals. Then we pray He will bring them safely home.

We pray for the families of all the men in women in uniform. That God will stand with them and comfort them in their fear and worry.

Enjoy this video and song as you think of them in your prayers today.

Cal

God's plan is going ahead full steam

I found this on God tube and I think it presents a fundamental truth. Over the last twenty years there has been a sense that if we don't pick a certain man to be President, our country will suffer great damage. The religious community has gone to great lengths to promote one candidate over another as if our future depended on it.

Well it is important to vote our conscience. We need to get the facts and make good choices. This year we were presented with two very good, honorable men. The media tried to paint unflattering pictures of both of them. But my faith tells me that God was ready to use either one. He let us choose.

Today our job is to pray for the President. We are to pray for our nation and its leaders. We are to pray for our world. And god will take care of things. He is still in control. Praise God for that.

The top people in Jesus' administration

It is interesting to watch the political maneuvering that is taking place after the election. Everyone wants to be in the new President's cabinet. It reminds me of a discussion that took place on a dark night about two thousand years ago. Jesus had just announced that he was going away. Before he could get the words out of his mouth, the disciples were already drawing straws to see who would be the top gun.

Jesus heard their talk and tried to set the record straight. He told them the greatest in his kingdom would be the one who would be a servant. That political philosophy still works with Jesus. He calls the people who would be in his cabinet to put on aprons and begin serving the needs of those around us. That is the call to the church today. We need to reach out with God's love. We need to feed the hungry, minister to the sick and lame and preach good news to those in our prisons.

Cal

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A prayer for our new President

I was watching CNN this afternoon and saw an interview with some children in a charter school in Harlem. They were so excited about Senator Barka Obama's Presidential victory. One little girl said, "This is a great day. Now I know that I can do anything because Senator Obama is just like us."

For the first time since I heard he had been elected, I was moved by the enormity of what had happened with the victory Barak Obama claimed last night. I had been thinking in terms of Republicans and Democrats. This was so much more than that. For millions of African Americans this election was the fulfillment of a dream set in motion over forty five years ago. The fact that Barak Obama, a black man, could be elected to the highest office in the land signified that the long national struggle was over. The dream had become a reality that all of us can claim.

We understand this as people of faith. For you see Jesus did the same thing for us on an eternal scale. God took on flesh and became one of us. In doing so, he gave us hope that we might be saved. You see we thought God didn't understand our plight. In Christ we saw that He did because now he was one of us.

Praise God for loving us enough to become one of us.

Now let us all pray for God's guiding hand to touch our President elect as he seeks to inspire a nation. May he hear the voice of God in his ear and serve the Lord in the nations' highest office.

Cal

Monday, November 3, 2008

Nichole Nordman songs remind us of God's presence

When I was on my sabbatical in the summer of 2005 I attended the Worship and Arts Conference at Willow Creek Community Church. One of the performers at that conference was Nichole Nordman. She came on stage and shared her songs and a bit of her life and it was a magical moment. I bought a CD of her music which include her hit single "Brave" which I have played over a hundred times. Today I came across this video of her song I am. It's great. Enjoy and know that God is always with you.

Cal



Here is "Brave."

Could you pass the test?

Quincy stopped by to visit today and he was very excited. He wanted me to know he had a date for his citizenship test. We chatted and he shared a few examples of the questions he expected to find on the test.

My secretary and I laughed as we tried to answer them. I have to brag and tell you that I knew every answer. But I am sure there are a lot of people who would not do as well. I think that is why the television show, "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader" is so fun to watch. We learn so many things when we are in school but we tend to forget most of it. Unless we are actively engaged in some area where we are using it every day, we lose it,

Quincy, though, was so proud. He wants to become an American citizen very badly. He was born in China and he and his family have been here for several years. He loves this country and is wiling to prove it. He said he has been studying for the last two years. How many of the rest of us would work that hard if we had to take a test to retain our citizenship in this great country? We take it for granted.

I think the same thing is true for our faith. Many of us can remember when we first became Christians. The Bible was exciting to us. We loved going to church and learning new things from the messages given by the priest or minister. We may have even gotten involved in a Sunday School class or Bible Study. But before long many of us began taking what we knew for granted.

I ran into a friend of mine who is Roman Catholic this morning. He showed me the book he was reading. It laid out the basic beliefs of his church. He told me that he wanted to know what Catholics believed. He said he hadn 't studied it since he went through catechism as a child. He said he wanted to know what he believed and why. This book tied the doctrines to the Scriptures and he said he loved it.

The truth is that many of us don't really know what we believe. We could never take a test on the basics of our Biblical faith. We don't even really know what the Bible says. What we think we know comes from the secular media which tells us what Christians believe and from popular television and movies which portray religious people certain ways. For example, which of these sayings comes from the Bible:

a) God helps those who help themselves...
b) God loves a cheerful giver...
c) Blessed are the weak for they shall be made strong...

Talking to Quincy this morning reminded me that if we really believe that our faith will save us and that the Bible is God's Word, then we should take the time to study it and learn what it has to say. Thankfully, for now, Jesus has already taken the test and we can claim his grade. But it would still be nice to know the answers so we can be blessed by His word.

Cal

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Bank Account of Life

I received this "goodie" from a friend and thought I would pass it on as something to meditate on as we begin a new week.

The Bank Account of Life

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with his hair fashionably coiffed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.

As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window.

"I love it," he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

"Mr. Jones, you haven't seen the room; just wait."

"That doesn't have anything to do with it," he replied.

"Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged ... it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it.

"It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.

Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away. Just for this time in my life.

Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you've put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories! Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing."

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:


1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.


Peace! Cal

Friday, October 31, 2008

Give from the heart

I had a blast tonight. I put on my Sponge Bob Square Pants shirt and gave out over seventy pieces of candy to little munchkins who came knocking on my door. When the candy was nearly gone I went through the cabinets and found about forty nutragrain bars, a half dozen single serve apple sauce cups, a couple dozen microwave popcorn bags and gave them away too.

There was something very exhilarating about the experience. The little ones were especially cute. They could barely walk in their costumes but they were getting into the fun and hauling away some loot. Where else can you go door to door and have people give you stuff with a smile.

I know some people have a real problem with the trick or treat/ goblin/ witch stuff and I respect that. But I see it as good clean fun where neighbors can get to say hello as their kids have the time of their life. The thing I don't understand is how come we can't be so generous to strangers that show up on our doorstep every other day of the year. Why do we open up our doors at Halloween and then shut out everyone the rest of the year.

Maybe we should start putting a basket of goodies at our door all the time and when guests drop by can give them away. "Here comes the mailman. Let's say thank you with a treat." "There is our neighbor out walking his dog. Let's give him something to snack on as he heads down the street."

If you really want to take this the next step, you could bring some canned goods down to the local food pantry or bring some perishables to the local soup kitchen. I know times are tough, but when you open up and share what you have with others something magical happens inside of you. I think it is God blessing us.

So who needs an excuse? Let's make every day Halloween and just skip the dressing up part. I think it would be the start of something very good.

Cal

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who or what has your number?

I found this bowling game on the Internet. It has the power to become addictive. Now I am not one to play video games. I am too busy to spend my time doing that. But over the last two days it has captivated my imagination. I've rolled 18 games. When I get near the computer it seems to call my name. I don't understand it.

Then again, we never fully appreciate the power that things have over us. That's why a young person can pick up a cigarette today even though they know that it can be a death sentence. That's why people drink and drive even when they know that it can be the biggest mistake of their lives. That's why we load up our credit cards with thousands of dollars of debt even though we know that it is going to overwhelm us down the road.

Jesus was pretty insightful when he talked about not being able to serve two masters. He was talking about money but it could be anything. I remember hearing T. D. Jakes preach. He told us that the devil knew where our weakest point was and he attacked us there. I know it is true in my life and I suspect it is true in your as well.

No one is perfect and the only way we can remain strong and true is to put our trust in God. We need to walk with him and in doing so we can remain faithful. I know a video game isn't a big deal in itself, but it can lead to slothfulness and opens a window into procrastination. Better to be in control and walking with God than to be caught up in anything else.

Cal

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lessons from a faulty furnace

I know one segment of our economy that isn't hurting these days. I tried to get someone to come and fix my furnace today and had to try five different vendors before I finally got someone who would even consider taking my call. The response I got from two of the five was that they had a two week waiting list. A third told me that he specialized in gas furnaces and recommended someone else. One guy didn't even bother to call me back.

We finally got someone to come out. He solved our problem for $130 and had us up and running within an hour. I am happy for these companies. The whole experience did make me rethink my assumptions in a number of areas though.

First, although there are certain sectors of our economy that are hurting, there are others that are humming along just fine. It made me think about the fact that sometimes we feel as if our life is falling apart. We don't know if we can make it. Today the thought hit me that sometimes we need to step back and look at the big picture. There may very well be a lot of things going for us even when one or two things are not. We need to count our blessings especially in those times.

Second, if you don't have success with your first effort, you need to keep trying. I think that is what Jesus was saying when he told the story about the woman who banged on the door of the judge. He said we need to be persistent and God will answer our prayers.

Third, you can never plan for every emergency. We thought we had our heating concerns covered this winter. My wife had covered all the bases. We didn't plan for this emergency though. It reminded me that you just have to do the best you can but always be aware that things come up. Then you have to go with the flow and improvise and so the best you can. Last night we snuggled up with our electric heaters and made it through the night. The point is, we had a contingency plan in place and we went with it when we needed it.

Thankfully we always have choices. Praise God.

Cal

Monday, October 27, 2008

Setting up shop in the mainstream

I attended a book signing by Dr. Anthony Alessi at the Otis Library on Saturday. It was wonderful. The only problem was that there were just a handful of people present to enjoy it. As Dr. Alessi talked about his book and the process of getting it published, I sat there thinking I wish more people could hear his story.

Of course the whole event was staged in an upper room away from the main flow of traffic. It was a nice room and a perfect stage for the show. But I kept thinking what did it matter if he was in a nice room if no one knew he was there. If I were in charge I would have had him set up in the lobby where everyone would literally bump into him.

A funny thought hit me later on that day. Sometimes we do the same thing with our faith. We compartmentalize it. We put it in one little corner of our life. Then we wonder why we don't have an effective witness for the Lord.

If you saw us on Sunday you might think we were "Super Christians." We do it all at the church. But we hold back and don't allow for any display of it on Monday through Saturday. We go with the flow. We never speak up when someone says something that offends us. We would rather blend in with the crowd than take center stage.

I think Dr. Alessi would have signed many more books if he had been in the lobby of the Library and you and I would would be a greater blessing for God if we take our faith and let it show in our every day walk.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why do we want to get out?

My white rat is perched on top of his log and trying to get out of his glass cage. He is a hard worker. All day long he goes from one end of his cage to the other trying to escape. I don't know why. I take good care of him. I feed him and fill his water bottle. I bring him out and let him get a little exercise in his ball. But he still tries to get out.

He has everything he needs but he wants what he doesn't have. The truth is that he doesn't know how lucky he is. He was a lab rat that my daughter rescued from school. He could have been somebody's lab experiment or even someone's dissection experience. Yet he still thinks that getting out of that cage is the most important thing in his life.

He doesn't know that getting out is dangerous. We have this big white cat that always seems to be hungry and eyeing the cage from afar. He doesn't realize that the food doesn't really just appear every day. But all he can think about is satisfying his curiosity.

As I was thinking about my rat and his desire to get out, I couldn't help but think of the way that many of us do essentially the same thing. We push the envelope and try things that lead to dead ends and trouble. We ignore God's warnings and do what we want instead of what we should do. We forget the fact that God has supplied our needs and go looking for things that only cause us pain and bring us sorrow.

Maybe we need to learn how to be satisfied with the blessings we already have in our life and follow the path that God sets before us. After all, he loves us a lot more than I love my little pet rat. I haven't even given it a name yet. And god not only knows your name but he called you by that name even before you left your mother's womb.

Cal

Friday, October 24, 2008

God's Rainbow

A friend sent me these beautiful images of nature. Every Fall in New England we get to see the most beautiful transformation as nature gives us a glimpse of what only God can do. Everything goes from green to a fireworks type of display that puts every color of the rainbow in motion around us. Enjoy and give God the glory!

Cal