Friday, February 29, 2008
I have always thought that the north side was the far end from where the Convention was and the south end was closer. This was really east and west. Once I figured it out (IT only took three trips and 8 years) it all makes sense in a way it never did before.
Our faith works the same way. It is a learn as you go prospect. Our knowledge and understanding of Jesus grows over time. The more time we spend with him, the better we understand his love for us and his plans for his life. That's why sometimes we look back on what we believed or the way we lived and cry or laugh. We just didn't get it back then.
I praise God that he doesn't give up on us. He knows that faith is a gift first and a process second. He gives us the gift and then promises to walk with us as we come to new discoveries. Like a parent with a child learning to walk, God is with us. He picks us up when we fall and guides us as we take our first steps.
The funny thing is that we think of it as hide and seek. But God doesn't hide. We just don't take the time to look for him. So when you step out the door today, look to your left. Look to your right. God is there and ready to walk with you all day long. God bless!
Thursday, February 28, 2008
John Ortberg, a man who we met at church through a DVD Study of his book, "If You Want To Walk on Water, You Have To Get Out of the Boat" smiled and greeted me. You just never know who you will meet in a public rest room. Sounds funny doesn't it.
I am reminded of the time I got on an elevator with some friends from church only to discover that Tony Campolo was on the same elevator. I've loved Tony's writing and preaching since I first heard him years ago. He is one of my heroes in the faith. That day I met him on the elevator I was so pumped up. Imagine meeting someone like that in an elevator. I have to confess that for a long time I was always excited to get on an elevator because I didn't know who else I might bump into.
Then there was that day when I met preacher and evangelist Luis Palau on the sidewalk in Providence, Rhode Island. I was just walking with a group of kids from our church when we bumped into him. I couldn't believe it. And he even remembered my name from when he did a rally in New London County the year before. I was walking on air.
I know at times my hero worship gets out of hand. But you know what is the most amazing encounter I ever had. It came just this morning when I met Jesus. The funny thing is that Jesus comes to meet you and me every day, in unusual places and quite often when we least expect. He comes looking for us. He sets up divine appointments so we can share a moment together in the car or while we are on the treadmill. He manages to bump into us when we are tired or stressed out and running through our day. He just nods at us with a smile and says, "Hi."
Isn't God wonderful? He always shows up when you least expect him. Praise God. He is so good.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Anyway, a thought hit me as he was speaking this morning. Chuck was involved with Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal. He went to prison and when he emerged from that experience he came out as a born again Christian. His whole life was changed and God has used him in a powerful way.
It made me think about those tough places we have to walk through. We hate them and we ask God to deliver us from them. But sometimes it is through the fire that we are sharpened and made ready to serve God all the more.
I guess the question we should always ask when we are going though a difficult time, when we feel persecuted or abandoned is this: How is God going to use this to bring glory to himself and to bring his love to the world? I could preach a sermon on this because I have seen God turn tragedy into triumph in my life and in the lives of others over and over.
If you are going through a tough patch I pray God will sustain you and that you will feel his presence and know how you can use the experience to glorify him.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Yes, I am in California tonight at a National Pastors Conference. Well, I digress. The point I wanted to make is that abut half way through the cross country flight I realized that I had no idea what time it was. I was literally lost in time. Between the changes in the time zones and the fact that I had spent time working on my computer, reading my book and dozing off, it literally could have been any time of the day.
It struck me that for all intents and purposes it really didn't matter either. I was living in the now for the first time in a long time. Usually we live in between what we just did and what we have to do. We let the clock run our lives and often miss the opportunity to simply be still and enjoy the presence of God.
This week I am going to do a bit of that while I am here in San Diego. I am going to go to the seminars. But I am also going to spend some time walking and listening to God without the pressure of the clock. I know we all have obligations and can't always afford to take some time away, but I believe that we can't truly be effective at anything we do if we don't claim some sabbath time to be with the Lord.
So do yourself a favor. Leave your watch at home one day this week and take a little walk with God.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
I thought about this afterwards and realized that sometimes we all need to do that. When troubles come we often struggle and try to fight our way through them. Maybe what we need to do is let go and let God take over. I'm not talking about being irresponsible. I'm simply suggesting that God wants what is best for us and we need to listen to him and let him guide us forward through the difficult times.
When we let God lead we can get through anything, anything all at all.
God bless. Cal.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
I know I have to get up and do it. The great thing about living in the city is that the garbage men come every week. They collect all the trash and take it away and you never have to see it again. It reminds of what Jesus did for sin in our lives. When he died on the cross he took all of our sin (garbage) and carried it away for ever. The only thing standing in the way of that happening is our decision not to give it to him.
The truth is that putting the garbage out is easy and so is inviting Christ into our lives. Once we do it we will be able to enjoy the that sense of being free. So I'll be back in a few minutes. I got to take the trash out.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I know a lot of people think pipe organs are old fashioned and out of sync with today's modern worship options. So many of the churches that are trying to reach out to young people feature guitars, drums and horns. I love contemporary praise music. But there is nothing quite as powerful as the sound of a full rack of pipes singing out the tune of "How Great Thou Art." It is out of this world.
Looking at those pipes reminded me just how important the songs we sing are in retelling the story of our faith. The Word may be central. The table may be essential. The music is like a life giving river that brings it all together.
So go ahead and sing. Let the spirit of God flow in and through you and rise up to touch the face of God in the sanctuary of your choice.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The only probelm with this is that I tend to tune out the rest of the world when I am listening to the tunes on my i-pod. This morning a friend of mine said he was trying to get my attention for five minutes before I noticed him. I know the feeling because I have done the same thing with my daughter. She flies away when she has her i-pod on. That isn't always a bad thing though.
The truth is that we would all do a bit better if we could focus more on Jesus as we do our daily walk. If we could tune out the distractions and listen to his voice, we would be happier and life would be much easier. Unfortunately we get distracted too often. The world grabs our attention and we take our eyes and ears off Jesus.
My dad has a strategy to help him keep his eyes on Jesus. He begins every days by reading his Bible and reading a devotional of some sort. He says this sets him up for a good day with the Lord. He doesn't know about I-pods but I think he found something that all of us can use to tune into Jesus every day.
Monday, February 18, 2008
It all has to do with communication. I was supposed to pick up seven girls after dance class and bring them home with me. When I arrived my daughter told me that three of them had a ride to our house and they were coming later.
When we got home I got a call from one of the moms asking why we had left three of the girls at the studio. After sorting everything out we realized that there had been a communication breakdown. I never asked the right questions to find out that the girls were waiting for a mom that we had already spoken to.
Thankfully everyone arrived safely at our house. And Mary and Joseph found Jesus safe and sound in the temple. This whole episode reminded me how important it is to ask questions and forgo making assumptions. That is especially true in church. We make a lot of assumptions about people's motives, their level of faith experience, and their dedication. We need to remember that we are "family" and that we need to love one another and encourage each other without second guessing them. When we do that there will always be more blessings than disappointments and misunderstandings.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
We will do some hands on work. We will be painting and cleaning and doing all kinds of small repairs in a church down there. We will be supporting the Sunday School teachers and doing crafts and leading games with the kids in a Vacation Bible School. All this is secondary to the message we will be bringing simply with our presence.
Sometimes we think that to effectively witness in the world we need to memorize a formula or come up with some witty sayings or memorize large chunks of the Bible. Usually we become overwhelmed or end up feeling inadequate and give up.
Maybe we need to follow Jesus' example. His witness was incredibly powerful in the simple fact that he listened to people and he showed them he cared. He reached out to them and made them feel special. He greeted them without judgment or bigotry. He loved them as God loved them.
You don't need to travel to a foreign country to do that. You just need to step out your front door. So what are you waiting for? Start loving the world for Jesus.
P.S. You can support our mission trip with your special offering. Send it to church and designate it "Mission Mexico." We are trying to raise $3,000. Behind our mission team members is a map of the U.S. We are going to have some fun with our campaign. Every dollar raised will help bring our missionaries one mile closer to Mexico. So with a $10 contribution, they will get ten miles, $50 for fifty miles and so on.)
Friday, February 15, 2008
As I left I immediately thought of church. You see we come together with friends in Christ every week for worship and fellowship. We check in and make sure that we are all doing okay and walking faithfully in Christ. If we are out of sync or stumbling along, someone will gently lift us up and help us get back on track.
I don't know how Christians do it that are not part of a loving church community. It seems to me like it would be easy to stop doing the things that will foster healthy growth. You can do a lot of things on your own, but life is a lot easier when you have a little help. Praise God for the body of Christ that is found in the local church.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Here is another example. I visited with a woman today who came to grips with the act that her husband is dieing. She had to make some decisions that were very hard. We prayed about it and now he is in God's hands. She will be forever changed by what happened today, and so will I.
These changes are usually not major. They are barely noticeable to others. But the experiences of life do have an impact and we are a different person today than we were yesterday. That is actually good news! It means we can grow and become more like Christ. We can learn from our mistakes and turn from them. We can begin again and try to walk in the path of righteousness. We are not bound to the past. We can break free.
This video is mesmerizing. I don't know how Noah thought to do this but it speaks to how we can be the same but different over time.
Like that one? Here is another.
If nothing else, this video should help us to "number our days so that we might get a heart of wisdom." My three girls have grown up so fast. When I look back at old family videos, I can hardly remember where the time went. I am trying hard to take life one day at a time right now.
I remember singing the hymn, "This is the day that the Lord has made" and thinking how simple, but true. Each day is a gift from God. Let's enjoy them one at a time.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
At least three times a day for many years their ads would run on television begging for people to call their law offices if you were hurt in an accident. They promised to make the other person pay you what you deserved.
The truth is that I didn't really know if these guys existed. The man on the television seemed just like another actor playing a role. He might as well have been Denny Crane on the television show, Boston Legal. But stumbling upon this office made the whole legal appeal seem real for the first time. There really was a firm out there with attorneys that are willing to fight for your rights.
I know I sounded rather skeptical and sarcastic as I began this entry, but then so do a lot of people who have never encountered the living Christ when they talk about religion. To them we are a bunch of kooks who are living in lala land. It is only when we have that "holy ground" encounter with God that He becomes real and faith becomes possible.
I think what we need to do is pray for our non believeing friends to have a surprise encounter with God just like I did with T & T on Monday. Then watch and wait as God works in their lives. They may just become believers yet!
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The world is changing and so is the presentation of the gospel. One such web site is www.mynakedpastor.com. Catchy title, huh? It is interesting and here is a Youtube video that was on the site. The woman sings a song that doesn't sound anything like the hymns we know but it speaks to the love of God.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Well tonight we took that a step further. We hosted Norwich's Spiritual Open Mic tonight. For the last year and a half Christ Episcopal Church has opened their doors to Christian artists who wanted to share their love of God's music with the community. It has been fun and I stopped in a few times to enjoy the offerings.
As I sat listening to the various artists, I was struck by the varied ways that God speaks to our hearts. Some sang traditional choruses. Others sang ballads. One man sang some songs with a patriotic twist. It reminded me that God does know each of us and He has found a way to communicate with us that resonates with our souls. He sings our songs.
There was a song I learned in Sunday school. It goes "In my heart there rings a melody, with heaven's harmony, a melody of love." That is the key to this music. It speaks of God's love and it speaks to each of us individually.
Friday, February 8, 2008
It is funny but on television and in books we like that kind of thing. It keeps us coming back looking for more. I read a lot of mystery novels for the same reason. They keep us guessing and trying to figure out what is going to happen next. The more unexpected turns, the better. But in real life we have little tolerance for it. We want to know what is going to happen next. We don't like surprises.
Unfortunately life doesn't work that way. We never know what the next day will bring. We can plan, prepare and do everything in our power to ensure that things go our way but then life throws us a curve ball. The good news is that God has promised to be in all our tomorrows. He is the one constant that remains.
I am reading a book by Don Piper entitled, "90 Minutes in Heaven" and he describes a terrible accident he was in that disrupted and changed his whole life. The one thing he kept coming back to was the fact that God was with him and had a plan for his life.
I don't know how "Lost" will turn out but I do know how my future will end up, and yours too. It will end up with God in the center and a blessing for those who walk with him.
So stay tuned to next week and let's see what God has planned. Cal
Thursday, February 7, 2008
It is at http://sheeptotheright.blogspot.com/ Enjoy.
I just got back from McDonald's, and Jesus was there. I know because he pushed me off of my stool. Let me back up and tell you the whole story. My friend Carla called and invited me to meet her at McDonald's to have lunch. I was planning a peanut butter and jelly on some dry bread; so, of course, I jumped at any excuse to sup on something more delicious. Yes, I do think McDonald's qualifies as delicious - don't be raising your brows at me.
Back to the story. Carla and I were eating in the play area and our girls were already playing. My daughter, Faith gobbled a few nuggets and ran. As we sat there, a woman came in with what looked like her grandchildren. She got them seated, then left to order food. A few minutes later, she reappears with an overloaded tray full of the deliciousness that only McDonald's can provide. Just as she was bringing her tray in for a landing, catastrophe struck! One of her little cups of ketchup, full to the top, went flying over the edge of her tray to splatter all over the floor, the trashcan several feet away, and her.
Friends, an expletive came flying out of her mouth that I dare not repeat. But it started with the same sound mother's use to hush their kids in church. "Shhh!" Did you catch the fact that we were in the play area? There were sets of tiny ears everywhere, not to mention the two sets that were sitting with her. Here comes the point where I knew that Jesus was there.
Carla and I made eye contact, and I mouthed "Did she just say what I think she said?" Carla confirmed it with a nod. As my mouth hung open and my eyebrows raised, Jesus pushed me off of my stool. "Grab your napkins. You have more than enough" I heard him say. I stumbled (since I had been pushed, you see) over to this grandmother's table. I picked up the guilty ketchup cup and tossed it in the trash. Then I knelt down to wipe up the ketchup from the floor.
It was from this kneeling position that I saw the ketchup on this woman's feet (she had on flip flops) and pants. Funny how we can see so much more when we humble ourselves and get on our knees. "Oh, she'll probably want to wipe that off herself" I thought and as soon as the thought came - it went. And Jesus said, "Wipe her feet. I have washed your feet clean. Now you wipe hers." And so with the crunchy, white McDonald's napkins, I wiped this woman's feet and pants clean. The ketchup on her feet was only too close to resembling the blood on Christ's feet as he hung on the cross - to die for me and this grandma with the "whoopsie" mouth. As I wiped her clean, Carla finished wiping the floor.
"My goodness, thank you." The grandmother expressed her gratitude. Carla and I sat back down and cleaned up our own table as we readied to leave. As we walked out, the lady called after us, "Thank you again." And she smiled. I smiled, too, because I knew Jesus had just used Carla and me to represent Him. What an honor.
Itell you theis to let you know, friends, Jesus is everywhere - even at McDonald's. Be sure you're not too busy eating your Big Mac to hear himtell you tho get off of your stool, 'cause He just might push you.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
This is the story of a remarkable boy, gifted and loved. The world delivered a cruel blow to him when he was born but God gave him a gift and he is using it. He also has an incredible dad who is helping make the young man's dream come true.
Get the hankies and enjoy!
At first I thought it was a mistake. Then I noticed that it said I could enjoy all their benefits at age 50. It's funny but we have been having fun with this in church. About ten of us will turn fifty this year. We are even planning a party. But I guess it didn't seem real until I received my card yesterday. Now I know it is real and going to happen. C'est la vie!
It reminded me that a lot of people talk about Jesus. They may even come to church on occasion. But until you have an encounter with our Lord, he will never be real to you. Last week I was in a Bible study with Dr. David Bartlett and he was talking about the search for the historical Jesus. He commented on the fact that it was very hard to dig through the scriptures to find the real Jesus under the layers of history and tradition. He went on to say that it was important to know the Jesus of the Bible, it was more important to know the living Jesus of today and to live with him. Your encounter with the living Christ is what makes him and our faith real.
So while I go out and use my card to get some discounts in the stores this week, I'm also going to invite Jesus to come along so I can enjoy his benefits. How about you? Want to come along?
God bless. Cal.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Well the game didn't exactly go the way it should have. That's because the game isn't played on paper. It is played with real live people filled with emotion and the ability to "gut it out." Yogi Berra was famous for the quote, "It ain't over till it's over" and that was the case last night and it is the case for many things in life.
You see the x-factor in life is our faith in God. We often face huge obstacles that seem to be impossible to overcome. Yet, many of us do walk through the valleys and come out on the other side. We muster up the courage, we find the strength and claim the ability to do things that we never thought were possible. God's promise is that he will be on our side if we call on him. He will be our rooting section and our coaching staff. He will help us find a way.
So if you are facing an impossible situation and everyone has written you off, think about the New York Giants. Yesterday they became more than conquerors and so can you. They may have Eli but you have God.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Yesterday my friend George went to buy a new car and I tagged along for morale support. Buying a car can be quite an ordeal. It should be easy. For example George had already qualified for an auto and all he needed to do was fax in the paperwork. He went online and located two or three cars he wanted to look at. The prices were listed and all the pertinent facts were there to see. All we had to do was kick the tires.
We made the mistake of stopping at another place along the way and a short jaunt turned into an all day affair. I don't know why car dealers like to play games. Since my brother in law and a couple of good friends worked at a dealership a few years ago, I learned a lot about the business. It reminds me of a shell game and I don't like to play along.
George actually found a car he liked and the price was reasonable. We haggled a bit and then he signed the papers. I had to run some errands so I left. But then they ran him around in circles for a while. They began to play games and really left him hanging most of the afternoon. I came back to check in on him after a couple of hours and they had basically ignored him from the moment he signed a purchase agreement.
Like Jesus storming the temple, I came in and ended the charade. I told the salesman that we were leaving and George wanted his deposit back. Immediately the whole place moved into action. Within ten minutes George was the center of attention again and within forty minutes he was driving out of the lot. I joked about me playing the bad cop to his good guy cop. But the truth is that I acted as his advocate and helped move the process along.
It got me thinking about Jesus. Sometimes it seems as if the world is against us. Nothing seems to work in or favor. It is at those moments that Jesus has promised to step in on our behalf. He speaks up and make things happen. The apostle Paul asked, "If God is on our side, who can be against us?" What I did for George is nothing compared to what Jesus does for us. He opens the doors to heaven and brings God's grace to us. Thank God we have a friend in Jesus.
Friday, February 1, 2008
Then I came to my senses and I grabbed my camera. They were just too unreal looking for me to ever convince anyone that I actually saw them. Like the great white shark of Jaws fame, these birds were beyond description and too menacing for anyone to believe they existed. Sure enough a I snapped off a few photos, they took flight and disappeared. The moment had passed.
I got to thinking afterwards about the number of scary intrusions that land on our door steps. The unexpected call from the doctor or the panicked cry for help from a family member are good examples of these things. They raise a spectre of fear and the unknown. We've never seen anything like them before. It is easy to turn around and run from them. But more often then not, we are always beter off standing up and facing them.
I have a friend who is facing serious surgery in the coming weeks. It is scary. The temptation is to put it off and hopes the problem goes away. Most of us would like to get in our cars and run from it. The truth is that we are always better off facing our fears and dealing with them head on. Most of the time they are never as bad as we think. Here is the good news. We don't have ot face them alone. God has promised to be there with us as we face them. He'll be there like he was when David faced Goliath. He'll be there like he was when Daniel was thrown into the lion's den. He'll be there like he was Mary and Martha were grieving the loss of their brother. That is what God does. He comes to us in our fear and weakness and he gives us power to overcome.
So what are you afraid of? You've got God on your side and it is that problem that should be worried. Peace. Cal