Thursday, January 31, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
I have to tell you it was nice to be here right from the start. I think the reason for that is that from the moment I walked in the door it was a given that we could talk about Jesus. Sounds funny doesn't it? You would think that a minister would always feel free to talk about Jesus. Well, I am free to talk about Jesus but you would be amazed at the number of people who don't want to hear about it.
Jesus is with me 24 hours a day. The Bible reminds us that he is there when we rise and when we lie down. But when you talk about that in some circles, people get nervous. They think you are questioning their faith. So they don't want to hear you talk about it. The sad thing is that I am not talking about sharing Jesus at the Rotary meeting or at a PTO fund raiser. I am talking about sharing Jesus at a church function.
Why is it okay to speak about Jesus from the pulpit but not from the seat at potluck? In too many of our churches we shy away from giving our testimonies because we are afraid of what others will think of us. Why? Because the world has told us that it isn't proper. Everywhere we look we are getting messages that our faith is a "private" matter.
Why then does it feel so good to tell someone what Jesus did for us. I keep thinking about the woman at the well in John 4. She carried around a burden of shame for a long time. Then she met Jesus and her world turned upside down. He accepted her and she couldn't wait to tell the world about this man she met.
Dr. David Bartlett is the retreat leader for this event and tonight he asked us what it was that blocked us from a deeper relationship with Jesus. Everyone shared various things. Then he reminded us of what Jesus had done for us.
The message: Don't let anyone or anything stop you from sharing the joy that Jesus put in your heart. Go ahead and tell the world about it. It will make your heart feel good.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I confessed that I had tears in my eyes as I watched it. But then I began to thank God for the people in my life who love me and are the object of my love.
Enjoy and give thanks to God.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
When I asked about it she said, "Didn't you hear the water running?" and I responded yes and told her I figured Rachel was in the shower. to make a long story short, Rachel had broken the handle on the shower and called her mother. I had just walked in and knew nothing about it. Of course calling Lori or me to fix a broken handle on a shower is not going to solve the problem. After looking at each other and running around in circles trying to figure out what to do, we finally decided to call my friend Ray.
Ray is one of our friends who can fix just about anything. If he can't fix it, he knows someone who can. Thankfully Ray was able to stop in and within minutes he had the water turned off and a temporary fix to the problem.
It is funny but the same kind of situation often comes up in our lives where we develop a problem and we have no idea how to fix it. We run around looking for help from each other. Sometimes we get lucky but most of the time we come to a dead end. The good news is that we have a fixer in God. He can come in and help us solve our problems and get us up and heading in the right direction again. But you have to call on him. When you invite him into your life, he can brighten even the darkest day. so what are you waiting for? Give God a call.
Friday, January 25, 2008
As I hit the button on my machine I heard the voice of my friend Luis. He had a recent scare and spent a few days in the hospital so I immediately thought the worst. Then he said something about Dana Daunis and the Miss America program. I couldn't quite comprehend what he was saying so I played the message again. Turns out it was great news. Dana had won the talent competition last night and Luis had to share the good news with some friends.
Have you ever felt like that about Jesus? I know when I was young I wanted the whole world to know about him. That is all I would talk about. Something happens over time though. Too many of us lose the excitement of our initial encounter with Christ. When that happens, telling the good news of Jesus becomes an afterthought. I pray that I might always have the same kind of enthusiasm about Jesus that my friend Luis showed the other night with respect to Dana's performance. He was so excited that he thought enough to call me. He knew I would be excited too. so don't hold back. Tell your friends what Jesus has done for you and share that enthusiasm. They may just thank you for it.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
This "kid" was raised in a home and he thinks he is a person. And he acts just like one. God calls us to do the same thing. He says that all who believe have the power to become "sons and daughters of God." So let's stop pretending to be something less than we are. Let's start living like we are part of God's family and let's enjoy walking in his presence.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Monday, January 21, 2008
This is not new technology. Every time you go in and out of most grocery stores the doors open and close automatically. They have been doing this at least as far back as the 1970's because I saw it all the time when I worked at Ben & Leo's market as a teenager. A sensor in the mechanism sparked the door to open as you approached it.
If you want to go back even further, I remember hearing stories from the middle ages of secret passages that opened to the magic words of "Open Sesame!" Wouldn't it be nice if you really could wave your hand and make something special happen? Life just doesn't work that way. I think that is a good thing because it forces us to focus and work on the important things in life. When we finally do get something, we can appreciate it even more.
So what are you hoping for? Start making plans for it to happen and be blessed when through the magic of planning and hard work it falls into your lap.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Before I began reading his blog I was a little hungry. Now I am too grossed out to eat. My appetite left me. I am going to leave the web address on my desktop and go to the site every time I begin to get a little hungry. Check out the site yourself and you will see what I mean. You can find it at everythingiate2008.blogspot.com/
It is funny how some things can really turn you off. I don't think that was the author's intent, but it happened none-the-less. It made me conscious of my actions. How often does what I do actually hurt my hope of leading people to Christ? Am I doing things that push people away? I think we all need to have help evaluating our actions from time to time.
That is one of the reasons it is important to be hooked up with a church community. We can encourage and support one another and insure that we are doing our best to serve God.
The book, Orey and the Gold Cross, offers an inside perspective into life as a clergyman in 1940's into the early 1960's. Orey talks about rebuffing God's advances and looking elsewhere for a vocation. Then he shares how through circumstance and coincidence God ended up capturing his heart and drawing him into the parish pulpit. He talks about trying to make ends meet on a meager salary and working with a few characters in his two New England congregations.
After spending four years here in Norwich, Orey received an opportunity to enlist in the Navy as an officer and he took the commission and set out to serve his country as a military chaplain. He then goes on to share some tales about life on a boat in the Pacific. You can find the book by going to www.trafford.com and putting in his name.
I say this is a story that is forty years in the making because it took a lifetime to live the adventure. Orey, like so many people I have met over the years, has experienced some of life's most grand moments. He has been places and done things that many only dream of. In the end you can see that he lived life and he lived his faith.
Have you ever wondered what your life story will look like when all is said and done? The truth is that I pray that when the final reel of my life is shown, it will depict a man who loved God and served him to the best of his ability. Of course the only way to insure that happens is to begin today. I know we are past the actual day of making resolutions. But with God, every day is a new day. So let's make a pact that we will offer our lives to God and find one way to honor him every day from here on in.
Ooh, ooh. I got mine for today already. I went and helped feed the hungry at the soup kitchen. I didn't just go to take a few pictures today. I actually scooped applesauce and put it on the plates. It wasn't much but I did it for the Lord.
Friday, January 18, 2008
I am watching Miss America's Reality Check on TLC tonight. I'm sitting here thinking "I know Miss Connecticut." Then I chuckle to myself and think, "I know the last five Miss Connecticuts and two years ago I was there in Las Vegas at the Pageant rooting on Diana Baitinger, Miss Connecticut 2005. How did I get so lucky?"
Miss America was larger than life when I was growing up. I remember watching it on television with Bert Parks and being fascinated with the most beautiful women in the world. I thought these women were untouchable. The truth is that I felt the same way the first time I met a group of them competing for the crown of Miss Connecticut back in 2002.
I was drafted by the Executive Director of the program to be a chauffeur for the contestants. Every day during pageant week I helped transport the girls back and forth between the dorms at Connecticut College and the Garde Arts Theater. I discovered that these young women were very approachable. They were real. That's been my experience ever since.
It got me thinking about God. A lot of people think of God as being like one of those mythological beings from our childhood. They view Him as distant and living on the Mountaintop. To them God is unapproachable. The Good News is that God rejected that image a long time ago. To know God is to love Him. He wants to be part of our every day life. He wants to let us know how much he loves us. He is as real and down to earth as those contestants we see in the Miss America Pageant, maybe even more so.
So if you don't know God, then why don't pause and say a prayer and then begin looking around you. He'll find you. He always does. God bless.
P.S. Dana Daunis is Miss Connecticut 2007 and she left for the pageant this week. She will be competing in Las Vegas and have to do a personal interview with a panel of judges, share her talent (she sings beautifully) and be judged by how she carries herself in an evening gown and in a bathing suit. On Saturday, January 26 the final night of competition will be aired on TLC (Channel 33 with Comcast in Norwich) at 8:00m p.m.
Here is the important part: They have added an audience participation component this year. You can vote for your favorite contestant and this will factor into the final decision as to who will be Miss America. So go to tlc.com/missamerica/and vote for Dana (or your favorite contestant - vote for Dana) Thanks.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
It is funny how many things we do without thinking. We live a great deal of our life on automatic pilot. I have often caught myself making a turn onto Asylum Avenue from New London Turnpike as if I were heading to church when I really wanted to go to West Main Street and go grocery shopping at Shop Rite. I turned without thinking because I always turn when I get there. For thirteen years that was the way I went to go to church.
The misfortune of the other day forced me to think about speed limits and how I drive. I don't drive like a maniac but I am always a little distracted by life and thoughts and the radio. So I probably cruise on autopilot too much.
Life is too precious to cruise through without looking around and enjoying the ride. God has given us so much and we need to slow down and enjoy it. Are you rushing through your days? Then slow down and enjoy them before someone else comes along and pulls you over.
"This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!"
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
I will never forget a meeting I had with him back in the mid-nineties. He had affirmed the idea of bringing the Protestant and Catholic churches together for the Annual Way of the Cross Procession. He understood that this was a change and it might have some repercussions across the diocese. I asked him about it and he said that coming together would make a statement to the world about the Lordship of Christ. That was his first concern: Putting Christ first.
When the committee wanted to deviate from the familiar text, he suggested another script that would lift up the story of Christ's passion from Scripture. This delighted the evangelical Christians who were involved. Again, I was mindful of reaction from the faithful. I asked if he really didn't mind changing to this new text. With a twinkle in his eye he said, "if it was good enough for Pope John Paul, who wrote it, then I imagine it will serve us well."
Bishop Hart was involved in the signing of the charter of Norwich Churches Together, our local Council of Churches back in the early days of this decade. He reached out to the Jewish Federation and established a relationship that made the Diocese proud. He was involved with the Christian Conference of Churches in Connecticut from his first days and a leader in all affairs ecumenical.
Bishop Hart was truly a people person in the truest sense of the word. He looked at people as children of God and treated them as such no matter where they came from or what their background was. For all of the accolades we could pour on him, he never claimed them for himself. He was humble man who lived out his calling as a Christian first and a man of the church second.
We will miss him. May we all strive to be more like Christ, the one whose life was acknowledged in all that Bishop Hart did. And may Daniel, Bishop of Norwich, rest in our loving father's arms for ever. Amen.
Monday, January 14, 2008
When Trammell was asked about the Hall of Fame and his failure to get in, he suggested that getting in would be nice but it won't be the end of the world if he doesn't make it. Then he went on to talk about his playing career. He spent twenty seasons in the majors, all with the Tigers. He joins Ty Cobb and Al Kaline as the only Tigers to spend twenty years with the team. Tram was not a flashy player but his statistics put him among the best shortstops to ever play the game. He was the 1984 World Series Most Valuable Player and runner up for the league MVP in 1987.
What Tram is best known for is being part of the longest running double play combination in the history of the League. He and Lou Whitaker played 1918 games side by side in the Tiger infield. As Alan looked back at his career, he said it was never about individual awards or accomplishments. He learned to play the game as a team player. That was the Tiger way under Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson. So for him, it is only right that he is remembered as part of a team instead of an individual.
I guess the same is true for most of us as we seek to serve the Lord. Most of us will never be famous or make headlines for our Christian service but our actions make a difference. When we work side by side with friends at the soup kitchen, or when we are part of a Sunday School staff that is teaching moral values and the love of God to children, we are part of God's Hall of Fame team. The apostle Paul reminded us that we all have a part to play. Like the different parts of the body that come together to form a whole unit, so our faithfulness to God's call is part of something much bigger and greater.
Tram has got the right idea. It doesn't matter whether or not he is ever elected to the Hall of Fame. He was a winner simply because he always was a team player. May the same be said of us as we serve the Lord.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
It is funny how one person can bring so many others together. As I saw the girls and John chatting and catching up on old times, I thought we all owed it to Luis for bringing us together. The Taffetas were characters in a story, but the relationships that developed in that and other shows Luis produced were far reaching.
Luis has the knack of bringing people together. Whether it as parents of students in the studio or through the Miss Connecticut program, or through community theater, he is the one who helps make the connections. I have been blessed by knowing John, Diana, Joanne, Maureen and Patty. Over the years I have met many fine people through my association with Luis.
I got to thinking about this and it hit me that Jesus does it on an even broader scale. He calls people together to build the kingdom. At church we are talking about going on a mission trip to Mexico. Last year I was moved by the experience and my life was changed forever. I went to visit people half way across the world. Our only connection was Jesus. But what a connection! I can't wait for the reunion. It will rival the Taffeta reunion, only it will be real.
That's good advice. That is what we are all called to do as people of faith. We are ambassadors for Christ. We are representing him in the world. So we too are called to be the best.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
As I walked past the house I was brought back nearly twenty years and I saw Becky riding her tricycle down the walk. I saw Sarah climbing up on top of her play house. I remember the day we moved. Our kids and the children of our best friends were all on the porch playing as we loaded the truck.
We had church picnics in the back yard and as I walked by I flashed back to the weekend when my dad and I (mostly my dad) put vinyl siding on the house. It still looks pretty good all these years later.
The power of place is something special. No wonder the Israelites often marked the places where they visited God. It made think that this is why the church sanctuary is such a special place. It is one place where people meet God. It is holy ground.
If you have been away, why not come home and visit a place where God drops by.
Friday, January 11, 2008
I took the monthly newsletter to the Post Office distribution center this afternoon and came upon two brand new speed bumps in the driveway. When I say speed bump, I am really understating the size of these things. Speed mountains is more like it. You literally have to stop and roll over them slowly or else you will damage your vehicle.
The Distribution Center has had speed bumps there since the building was built a few years ago. Initially they were the standard type you see everywhere. Last summer I noticed that sections of the bumps had been ripped away. They obviously didn't hold up to the number of tractor trailer trucks that come and go every day. By last fall the speed bumps had been removed altogether. I presumed too many people had run right over them to the point that they were not doing the job.
That won't happen again. The truth is that these speed bumps are so big that I scraped bottom going over one of them today. They are big enough to slow even the most determined vehicles and you either have to deal with them or wreck your car.
Every once in a while we come across speed bumps like that in life don't we? Like a mountain that lands in our path, we have to figure a way over or around it. If we try barreling through it, we end up crashing and ruined. I tend to believe that just like with the speed bumps at the distribution center, there is a good reason for those we come across in life. Sometimes God wants us to slow down so we can see what He is doing. Even if it is annoying and bothersome, we should always look at these little bumps as opportunities to stop and spend a little time with the Lord. Slowing down is not a bad thing. It gives us time to look around and remember where we are and what we are doing. So have a good day and watch out for the speed bumps.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I found a web site that will actually keep you interested and motivated. You can use it as a devotional guide to go along with your reading. Not only does it give you the verse to read so you can get through the Bible in a year, there are all kinds of things to look at including some videos.
Here is an example of a music video that was on the daily reading page to help you worship when you finished.
Check it out at www.oneyearbibleblog.com
If you are like me and get bored easily, this will give you something new and interesting every day.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
The truth is that no one will know what happened (unless they read this blog) but that doesn't matter. I didn't do it to get noticed. I did it because the scriptures tell us to be diligent in such things. We should pay our debts and stop procrastinating. Too often we let things slide or fail to accomplish our goals and make excuses.
As we begin a new year I want to turn that around. I want to stop making excuses for my failings and begin to take responsibility for them. I want to be more proactive. I want to set an example for others and show them what faithfulness is. In doing so I want to reflect the graciousness of God that is in my life.
So today it was the dues. Tomorrow it is going to be returning phone calls and emails promptly.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
I am convinced that what this world needs more than anything else is a few more people hugging each other. I found this cute graphic on my friend Denise's blog (www.shortybearsplace.blogspot.com). I was immediately reminded of a scene that takes place regularly here at church on Sunday mornings as people come in the door. Either O.B. or Judy or one of the other regulars will greet people at the door with a hug.
The world can be a tough and unforgiving place. We often get beat up and left on the doorstep most places we go. No one knows us and it seems no one cares. But that is not God's way. He knows us intimately and he rejoices whenever we come home to visit him. That is why hugging is often part of a Christian greeting.
There were two articles in the local newspaper about growing churches in our area. The common denominator in both articles was the sentiment that people felt welcome and loved when they came to church. It just goes to show that we all need a hug and God is always ready to accommodate us.
So if you have been away for a while, come on home and let God give you some love.
Monday, January 7, 2008
I went grocery shopping tonight at a new store and didn't realize how much I missed having my groceries packed in paper bags until I actually got home.
My favorite grocery store stopped using paper bags a couple of years ago. I have continually made comments to employees about using plastic bags to no avail. I have called the corporate offices to make a complaint but have never had a call or email in return. Not only do I object to using the plastic which is really unfriendly to the environment, using them also has created all kinds of problems in just getting the groceries home. Several times the bags have ripped open and I ended up with broken bottles in my driveway. Bread and rolls have come home squished. Upside down pies, broken eggs, frozen food that slipped out of the bag under the car seat only to be found days later have been regular events. Because I like the store I have put up with it.
When I got home tonight I asked myself why? I didn't have any problems with my groceries and everything made the ride home without incident. It is obvious the owner of the other store doesn't care. So I decided tonight I have a new grocery store after twenty two years.
It made me think about the church. We are here to share the good news of God's redeeming love. That is priority number one. Sometimes we get caught up in side issues that make us feel good about ourselves. But it doesn't meet the needs of the broken hearted and those searching for God. Maybe that's why so many people have left the church and gone searching for their spirituality in other places.
In the coming year, I'm going to make it a point to do a little more listening in my ministry. I'm going to listen for the voice of God. I'm also going to listen to the voice of the people I meet every day. That way I won't be the one responsible for turning anyone away from the house of God.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
You can't know what a candidate believes by watching a paste up presentation of put together clips. You need to watch them in action for a period of time and listen to what they say. That's the only way to see the real person.
You know the same thing is true of God. You can't let other people tell you about Him. You need to experience His presence. You need to walk with Him for a while. Once you do you begin to realize that there is a lot more to God than what you see in a movie or hear from a talking head. Your preacher can't even tell you all about God.
So why not pick up the Bible, find a quiet place and spend some quality time with God. If you don't know Him yet, I can tell you that you will be blessed when you finish.
Friday, January 4, 2008
For the last ten years I have been dropping in on George once or twice a month to pick up a video or two. Rent one, get one free from Sunday to Wednesday often called my name. Unlike blockbuster or the big box stores, a trip to Home Theater meant chatting with George about life, business and family. He was always there. The few times a year when he actually took a day off, customers would complain about it for weeks on end. He'd laugh about it but people really got on him as if he owed them something.
I think they felt like that because he was a part of their lives. He was a rock in the changing sea of businesses that come and go. He was a neighbor, a confidant, a shoulder to cry on, a pal to share your excitement with. Most of all, George was always there.
On Thursday George told me he was closing up shop and getting a real job. He was selling the movies and leaving the business behind. He said it had been great but times were changing and he needed to do something different. It reminded me that too often we take the people and places around us for granted. We come to rely on them for support, service and our own satisfaction and think they will always be there. I don't know how many people ever thanked George for what he did, but he sure deserves it.
I know when I left last night I wished him luck and thanked him for being there. As I left I wished I had thanked him sooner. Maybe we all need to look around us and think about the people who are are a part of our everyday life. We need to think about the people we take for granted like the waitress at our favorite restaurant, the usher at church, the cashier at the grocery store, the newspaper delivery boy, our barber or hairdresser, the teller at the bank and tell them how much we appreciate what they do. Wouldn't it be wonderful if instead of complaining about all the things that didn't go quite right, we turned that around and used that energy to express our gratitude to those who make our lives a little brighter? I think the world would be a happier place.
Just maybe someone would turn around and thank you for the little things you do as well. It is a new year still. Why not start something new? Let's be salt and spice up the world around us with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving. Who knows? We might just start something new.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
I was quite flattered when Shelley Martinez of WCTY recognized me and told me that she reads my weekly column in the Norwich Bulletin. After all, she is the big celebrity in town. I responded that I listen to her and Jimmy Lane every morning on the radio and enjoy their banter. Before my head could swell up too big I was doing my thing with the promo and it took at least seven or eight takes to get it right. Even then, Shelley had to do a quick fix to get it to fit. I was so lame I couldn't have made a worse impression. Life has a way of humbling us.
I was reminded of a story baseball manager Sparky Anderson told back in 1984 when his Detroit Tigers were off to a record 35- 5 start to the season. He says, "I was having breakfast with my wife in the coffee shop. A man at another table kept staring at me. I thought that either he was offended by my pipe or he wanted an autograph. He walked up and yelled 'Sparky Anderson, I'm from Dayton. When you managed Cincinnati I was a big fan of yours and I just want to thank you for all the happy times you gave us fans.' I thanked him for the compliment. Then he went on to say, 'By the way, what are you doing now?'"
Sparky goes on to say, "Here I am managing the hottest sports team anywhere and someone asks me what I am doing. If that doesn't tell you something about fame, nothing will. It is better to be humble. Then you won't fall all over yourself."
As I walk into this new year I want to keep in mind these verses from Philippians 2.
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
If you know me, you will understand that this is not my forte. It is hard work. I have to focus on the task to get it done. It isn't fun or glamorous. It is dirty work. But as I progress I can tell you that there is also a satisfaction in seeing the job through. Nothing worthwhile in life comes easy.
In the movie I mentioned the other day, The Ultimate Gift, James Garner points out that work is a gift from God to be enjoyed. It sounds silly but we all know it is true. Some of the greatest satisfaction we have enjoyed in life came after a hard day's work or after a challenging test.
So as we enter a new year let's heed the word's of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians where he says, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Col 3:17) May we be blessed in doing so,
Tuesday, January 1, 2008