Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Who is watching you?

On Friday night we received a call from our oldest daughter that she had been in a serious boating accident while on vacation in Mexico. A wave hit the boat and it flipped over and the kids lost everything. Thankfully she was able to swim away and tell about it.

While I was on the phone with her I heard this story about a trip she and her roommate took to some remote beach with two boys they had met. I was glad she was okay and I told her that but I almost flipped. I asked her how she could wander off with two boys she hardly knew. I told her it wasn't safe. I warned her that she need to be more careful because bad things could happen to unsuspecting people.

She came home on Sunday and on Tuesday I went to New York City to visit her. I planned to take the train in, get off at 12th Street in Harlem and visit her at the school where she teaches. Well the train got delayed and then I took the wrong subway. I ended up being real late and a little lost. As luck would have it, I found a map of the city and decided to walk to her school. I figured it would be quicker to go as the crow flies than to take the subway aback and start over again.

It turned out to be a forty five minute walk through some pretty dicey neighborhoods. As I got to the school it suddenly dawned on me that my decision to walk through an unknown part of the city was probably every bit as foolish as what my daughter had done. I didn't need to ask where she got that independent adventurous spirit anymore. I realized that she got it from me.

It struck me afterwards that many of us learn by watching others. It is true of our children and it is true of us in the community of faith. Our faith is often bolstered by the people we see who love and serve God faithfully. We often try to emulate them. We try to follow their example. And people often watch us. They get their clues as to how to live the life of faith from watching how we handle situations.

So next time you decided to do something foolish, remember that someone may be watching you. Think about it before you do it and ask if it will glorify God. If so, then go ahead and do it. If not, then think twice before doing it. God bless.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Better than I imagined

I discovered last night that Colbie Caillat knows more than one song. I went to the concert with my daughter Sarah last night and got the thrill of a life by sitting twelve rows from the stage. I almost felt like I was right up there with her and the band and she was singing to me. I know that sounds dramatic but it really was that intimate.

The only concerts that I have been to in the last twenty five years have been the kind where the band director says "the kids have been working real hard..." Actually the last rock concert I remember going to was in New Haven back in 1980 to see the group Queen. I think they are all dead and the Colosseum was torn down and replaced with a parking lot.

Anyway we arrived early and found a free parking spot near the Boston Common. We went to the theater and found our seats and took in the scene. At 7:35 a young man came out with his band and began playing. He was very good. But he didn't introduce himself. He just sang one song after another as if we were supposed to know him. At one point I asked Sarah if maybe he was a different Colbie Caillat and we got snookered. It was a funny thought. It turns out that he was one of Colbie's best friends and fellow song writer.

She came out just after 9:00 p.m. with her band and I was already to dial up my friend and let him listen to "Bubbly" live. After all, they were his tickets. He made the night possible. She started with a very nice song. I leaned over to Sarah and said, "That's a good one too! As she started her third song I thought "Bubbly" must be next. It wasn't. She did song after song and they were all good. I had been joking about a one hit wonder before I came because I only knew one of her songs. The truth is that there was an awful lot more to Colbie than I ever dreamed possible. She is going to be a major star in her own right.

It made me think of the first disciples who were there to see Jesus when he was baptized by John. I can imagine Andrew saying "This Jesus is really good. I think he could be the messiah. Let's follow him and see what he can do." I am sure Andrew had no idea just how big Jesus was. Only time would reveal that.

The same is true today when we introduce a friend to Christ. They only see one little part of all he is and what he has to offer. Maybe they see him as a way to answered prayer. Perhaps they see Jesus as a door into community. It could be that they see Jesus as a way to find forgiveness and a fresh start. Maybe they see in Jesus a friend they never had. Only after being with him a while can they fully appreciate all his gifts and the depth of his love and compassion for us and the world around us.

You might even see that once you are with Jesus your eyes are opened. Remember that when you are sharing your faith with a friend. You already know how great Jesus is. It will take them a little time but it won't be long before they are singing his praises too!

Here are some pictures of Colbie Caillat. She is going to be a big star. I got to see her at the beginning thanks to a friend who opened the door for me. I pray that you and I may do the same for our friends when it comes to meeting Jesus.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

The route is not what matters

In my weekly newspaper column I mentioned that I was trying to win a ticket to see Colbie Callait in concert and couldn't get through. I likened that to the feeling we sometimes get when we pray. Upon reading my weekly epistle, a friend of mine called to say that he had two tickets to see Colbie Callait in Boston for me as the answer to my prayer.

I was in seventh heaven. The only problem was getting the tickets to me. This was Friday morning. The concert is on Sunday. They will not hold the tickets at a "will call." They needed to be Fex -exed to me from Boston.

I went on line to track their progress and I noticed that the tickets had to go from the Theater to Boston to Memphis, TN to Granby, CT to Norwich, CT to my door. I couldn't believe the route they took. It would have been easier just to go and pick them up.

Yet the whole thing reminded me of how prayers are answered. We don't always get things exactly as we ask for them. Sometimes the answer to our prayer comes in unusual ways. Sometime the answer comes from a totally different direction. Sometimes the way we would answer a prayer is not the way God does it.

I am sure that Fed-Ex has a method to its madness that makes sense when you look at the big picture. The company would not be able to survive if it didn't have a master plan. So it is with God. We don't see the big picture. Sometimes it has to be enough to know that God is God and that He is good. Then we need to trust Him.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sow the seeds of love that will grow tomorrow

I looked at the front porch of our house last Sunday and had to do a double take. There was a lovely bunch of daffodils growing there. They were stunning, absolutely beautiful. I asked my wife if she had planted them and she said , "No."

They must have been planted by the last family living here. I forgot that we moved in last May and they had already gone by. This afternoon I stopped in front of them and just looked at them. I said a prayer of thanksgiving. I was blessed by what someone else had done.

It reminded me that the good we do today will often live on long after we are gone. We plant seeds today and God waters them and makes them grow so that in his time others can benefit and enjoy what we began.

So go out and plants some seeds today. Be intentional and do some random acts of kindness. Bless someone who can't bless you back. Then let God make it grow.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

He makes us complete

I read an article that pointed out that most people do not like to admit that they aren't good at anything. When asked about their strengths on a job application they will not hesitate to list four or five things they can do well. But when asked about the areas where they need help, most people will balk at the question. Why is that?

We all really do know that we can't do everything. I am not a good artist. I may try to draw something but I am honest enough to admit it isn't my strong suit. I figure I better tell you up front because you are going to find out pretty quickly if I don't. It is common sense but the truth remains we don't 'fess up without a lot of arm twisting.

I think modern society pushes us to pretend that we are more capable than we are. We are supposed to be self sufficient, super moms and dads, all knowing spouses and extraordinary employees. It has become so prevalent in society that when we do fail or when we realize we can't do it all, we beat ourselves us.

Well here is the Good News: Jesus says when we are weak, he is strong. He says that where we lack, he has plenty to give. When we realize that we can't do something and call on him, he steps in and takes over.

I think it is about time we throw off society's straight-jacket and confess that we need the Lord. Life is tough. God gives us just what we need to succeed. The prophet Isaiah says it best:

"Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."

So go to God and find your strength.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Sing if you hear the music

I was standing in line in Dairy Mart waiting to pay for my Diet Coke. I had my I-pod on and was listening to Alan Jackson. Without even thinking I began to sing along. I got a funny look from the woman in front of me and I suddenly realized what I had done. I was so in step with the music I forgot no one else could hear it.

As I headed out the door to continue my walk I had to laugh. The music was so compelling that I could not help myself. I was caught up in it and had to sing that song. Those that couldn't hear it thought I was strange. The same is true for us as Christians. When we hear the voice of Jesus it forces us to act. We may sing his praises. We may dance in the streets and reach out to the homeless, the disenfranchised, the lost.

The truth is that if people aren't looking at us as strange, then maybe we aren't tuned in to what Jesus has to say. We ought to be different from everyone else. We ought to raise eyebrows when we come around. Last Sunday we sang "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love." You see that is what a Christian brings to the room. We bring God's love and it is so different from the junk that the world brings that it should cause people to sit up and take notice.

So go ahead and sing God's song. Don't worry about who is looking. Just sing.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

A hand out or hold up?

I am a soft touch. I know it. Last night I was guarding the door at a birthday party at the church for my daughter and forty of her closest friends. Yes. It was that kind of a party. We had a DJ and lots of soda, chips, pizza and cake. The kids danced the chicken dance, the hokey pokey and played musical chairs. Being on guard duty at the door was a good place to be.

At about 8:45 p.m. a man walking by saw me and walked up the church. When I told him I was the Pastor he began to tell me a sad story. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place. His car had a flat tire and he needed $5 to buy some fix a flat stuff. He was staying in Rhode Island and he had to get home to his daughter who was with a baby sitter. The sitter was leaving for Florida in the morning and he promised her he'd be back early. Now he was in a jam. The guys he was working with, from New Hampshire, didn't have a car so they couldn't pick him up. He tried to get some money from the ready-cash machine but he had just put in his check yesterday and because it was from an out of own bank, they put a hold on it. You get the idea. It was pretty smooth and there was no one else to help him on a Saturday night when everything was closed. By the way, did I mention he told me that his brother was trying to send him some money by Western Union but the system was down.

Wow! I didn't have any money but I went in and borrowed $5 from my daughter. He was on the phone when I came back and that's when he gave me the bad news. The garage man had just looked at his car and it was actually going to be more like $28.50 to fix it because the valve stem was ruined. I asked him who was going to fix it. He told me and then asked for help again because he really needed to get home.

I told him I would see what I could do and then I went in and decided to check out his story. I would call the repair service to see if he was legit. When I opened the phone book I realized he had given me the name of a junk yard. Just to double check myself I ask another dad at the party if he thought the junk yard made repairs at night. He laughed at me.

I felt bad but I went back outside and told the man I couldn't help him. I wasn't mean. I probably should have told him that I didn't believe him but the last time I did that the person got violent and pushed me around a bit. I simply told him that I was sorry for his predicament and that I just couldn't help him. It was true. I didn't have any money on me and there was no cash at church. He seemed unfazed and he was off. The pigeon had left the roost and his con was over.

I think the hardest thing for us to do as Christians is to discern legitimate needs and meet them. The world is full of con artists and deceivers. They play on our compassion and seek to help themselves to what we have. I have to admit that I have been taken more than once. But that's okay with me. You see we are called to be generous and to share with the poor. If someone cons me out of a few dollars, it doesn't rob me of the blessing of giving. God knows who is honest and true and who is not. He'll deal with them in His own way. But I have done the better thing.

I try to do my best to use my resources to do the most good. That means I have to make the decision who to help, and that means checking out their stories and holding them accountable. If I am not sure, then I err on the side of graciousness. Thankfully last night I was only out $5 and a couple pieces of pizza.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Don't let your excuses keep you away.

I went back to Weight Watchers today. For the last eight months I have been boycotting them because they moved their office from Norwich to Montville. I claimed I was protesting the fact that they were deserting Norwich, which is a big enough city to have its own. I didn't go on principle.

Yet, I started gaining weight. I started eating more. I'd still get on the scale and try to keep track of points but it didn't help. Every time I thought about going back I thought about the fact that I would be giving in and letting them win. So I stayed away.

When I left for Mexico last week I was up 11 or 12 pounds since I began my protest last October. My clothes were becoming too tight and I was feeling bloated. A week in Mexico (and a few photos later) I suddenly realized that the only one I was hurting by my protest was myself. I also realized that I was just making excuses for not going.

It dawned on me that this happens a lot in churches as well. Someone gets upset by something and they stop attending services. They are going to show that minister or prove a point to that usher and the next thing you know they have been away six months. The weekly inspiration and regular fellowship are missing from their lives and they wonder why they are feeling depressed and irritable. They wonder why things are not going their way. They wonder why they don't feel God's presence.

Here's my advice: If you have been away from church for some reason, go back. Don't let an excuse keep you away from God and the fellowship of his people. If the minister or another member offended you, then go talk to them and let them know how you feel. If you can't resolve the issue, then find another place to worship. The important thing is to worship somewhere.

I went back to Weight Watchers today and I feel great. I actually lost 3 lbs in Mexico and a couple more since I got back on the program this week. I needed the program more than I knew. It is the same with church. So don't punish yourself any more. Just go back and worship the Lord.


Friday, April 18, 2008

You can't give up

I bought some very expensive silver jewelry in Tijuana. And I got a good price! Now before you start laughing I need to tell you the whole story. I wasn't a soft touch. I actually managed to get away from a half dozen different con artists, I mean salesmen before I gave in to their relentless pursuit of every last cent I had in my wallet.

Just after we crossed the border we were hustled inside a shop where a smiling man promised us we could find things for 100% off. Now that is a gimic if I ever heard one. Doesn't 100% off mean it is free? Not in Mexico I guess. It was here where I did my first dance with the locals. While one of my friends (June) from the mission team was buying two beautiful necklaces for $30 (retail in the United States $175 or more we were told!), my man told me he would give me two for $20 because I looked like a nice guy. He guessed that I had "ladies" at home and when I flinched, he seized the opportunity to try to guilt me into buying these nice gifts for my girls.

Mark threw out the lasso and rescued me. He literally walked me out of the store while the man was still working me. I had come close but I was spared for the moment. Two more times I came close to slipping under the pressure to the street venders who carried the silver chains on their arms like the watch vendors in New York city. "Hey mister!" they cried. "Have I got a deal for you."

We made it over to the heart of the city and it was here where the street merchants came in waves and they were as full of energy as a fresh line on a hockey team. One after another they pursued us. We managed to take refuge in a shop only to find a family trying to sell us ponchos and cheap trinkets. I couldn't take it and I went back out on the streets alone. I can't believe no one followed me to protect me. My friends knew that there was strength in a group.

So I stood there like a tomato ripe for picking and three of them ganged up on me. One after another they came at me offering me more and more and each time I dodged the bullet another one came in for a try. I thought I was doing well until someone mentioned birthday and I flinched. We were planning a birthday party for my daughter this weekend and I still hadn't bought her a gift. Like sharks who catch the sent of blood, Pedro came in and started selling fast and furious.

Not four, not five but six necklaces and a bangle bracelet and a silver bracelet and onyx bracelet were mine if only I could find a $20 bill in my pocket. I looked for Mark, I looked for June or young Mark. Where was Lisa? Before I knew what I was doing I had the twenty in my hand and I could hear the sound of an imaginary cash register going ca-ching. They had their prize and I was a poster buy for the cause.

After that sale I realized that I was immune to them for the rest of the night. I was free to roam the streets of Tijuana without fear.

The whole adventure reminded me of our calling to share the good news with our friends and family. We give up too easily. I would never advocate being a pain in the neck, but I think we ought to be a little more persistent in telling others what God has done for us. We should be a little more open in telling how our faith gives us strength. We need to wear our love of Christ on our sleeves and share it with those who are discouraged and feeling alone in the world. You see, God doesn't give up on us so we should not give up on those we know and love. It is important enough that we need to keep trying to share God with those around us.

I'm not telling you to stuff it down their throats. I'm just suggesting you and I look for natural opportunities to talk about Jesus and our faith. The truth is the more we do it, the more likely someone will come up to us and ask us about it. That is how God works. He sends them to us with what they need and we have it for them.

So don't give up. Keep living the life and sharing your faith and God will use you to bring joy to someone's heart.


PS If you want to see the last set of photos from our Mission trip, go to You will even see a picture of the man who sold me my $20 jewelry collection if you look hard enough.

Ice cream is good for the soul

A friend of mine sent this cute story to me and I thought I would pass it along. Not because it is about ice cream, (something I love) but because of the point.

Saying Grace In A Restaurant

Last week, I took my children to a restaurant. My six-year-old son asked if he could say grace.

As we bowed our heads he said, "God is good, God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if Mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And Liberty and justice for all! Amen!"

Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, I heard a woman remark, "That's what's wrong with this country. Kids today don't even know how to pray. Asking God for ice cream! Why, I never!"

Hearing this, my son burst into tears and asked me, "Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?"

As I held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job, and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at my son and said, "I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer."

"Really?" my son asked.

"Cross my heart," the man replied.

Then, in a theatrical whisper, he added (indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing), "Too bad she never asks God for ice cream A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes."

Naturally, I bought my kids ice cream at the end of the meal. My son stared at his for a moment, and then did something I will remember the rest of my life.

He picked up his sundae and, without a word, walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, "Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes; and my soul is good already."

The End

Sometimes, we all need some ice cream. I hope God sends you some Ice Cream today!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A final day in Mexicali

Monday was the hardest day of the whole trip. It began early as we raced against the clock to finish applying the first coat of cement to the exterior walls. The group worked diligently in 105 degree heat and successfully completed the job. Everyone had a hand in making sure the work got done and that even included both Pastors (Although some suggested that the photo of me on the staging might have been, well, staged.)

After lunch the girls decided to go into Mexicali to do some shopping. I was drafted to drive since I stayed home when they drove up the mountain earlier in our week. The other guys warned me that they would let me make up for it before the week was over. It was real interesting to see the shops and get a taste for what life on the streets of this city might be like. Everyone found a trinket or two, a hammock, a shirt or some souvenir to bring back home.

I have to confess that most of our shopping this year was done at Walmart and Proconsa (A hardware store). We traveled to the Super Ley grocery store a few times but we didn't really get the chance to check out the local shopping experience.

At 5:30 p.m. we headed back to El Buen Samaritano for the last time. Vacation Bible School began and after the kids left for class we set up the game for the night. There must have been sixty kids here for the final night of fun and games. It started well but soon rolled out of control as the kids ran around, pushed and shoved to get ahead. We had balloon races, hot potato games and sack races. In the end we had all we could do to keep up with them and the dust cloud that rose from our feet.

The kids had a great time though. They just wanted to keep playing. When Pastor Ramon brought out the Pinatas they all went wild. We had two featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse and then a third featuring Bob Spironja (Sponge Bob.) He was the hit of the night.

After the formal program ended, the people of the church had a pot-luck dinner and we sat around enjoying the cool breeze that had settled into the area. No one wanted to say good-bye. We took Pastor Alma and Ramon aside and presented them with a few gifts and as love offering we had collected and set aside for them. There were not too many dry eyes as we got ready to leave.

Ramon and Alma began with a house church and watched the dream materialize in front of them. They poured a lot of sweat equity into the church, often sacrificing what little they had for the good of the congregation. In a touching moment, Ramon asked us to join hands and we prayed together in a circle. I could not understand a word he said... but I understood every word he said. He praised God for all the blessings that we had received this week.

There is no doubt about it, these photos got harder to look at as the week went on. We came to Mexicali as strangers but left as friends. I put together a slide show each morning and this morning's was the hardest to watch. For we knew that today we would head home and life would return to normal for us.

But what a week it was. Thank you Lord.


Monday, April 14, 2008

A new week in Mexico

Hola! It is Monday in Mexico and our group is working hard to finish the siding on the church. Today is our last day of work. Tomorrow morning we pack up and head back to San Diego to relax and get acclimated to life in the good old United States.

This week our primary job at the church has involved applying he exterior to the church building. It involved putting a wire mesh on the wood and then applying a coat of cement. It has been a dangerous job in that the wire has very sharp edges and it bites. Pastor Michelle volunteered to be the medic before we left and little did she know that her job would be almost as important as mine. She has bandaged everyone on the team at least once and most people have needed to visit her several times. (My job, in case you were wondering, involved driving around Mexicali to get pastries for morning break and any other supplies the team needed. ) We didn't have any major casualties but it was comforting to know that Michelle was there.

Each night we did crafts and games for Vacation Bible School. Our folks enjoyed working with the kids. You will see a few photos in the slide show. On Saturday we worked in the morning ad took the afternoon off to go to the park. The park included a zoo with lions, tigers and bears (oh my!). It also had a crocodile and the fastest turtle we have ever seen.

On Sunday we went to church at Sion, where we worked last year. Mercy preached the message and Pastor Gregorio was given a photo album with pictures from last year's trip. It was nice to be there but the whole experience was in Spanish with just a little translation thrown in here and there. That was hard for most of the group. The lunch was great though. We went to an authentic Mexican Restaurant. It was a Chinese place. With a population of 2 million in Mexicali, the chines population ranks as the largest minority with over 100,000 people. They also have the best restaurants.

In the evening we went to Buen Samaritano where we have been working this year. I preached a message to the adult class and Michelle delivered a message to the children. Our whole group also got a chance to sing Por Tu Amor, a song we learned for the occasion.

IT has been a great week but I think everyone is looking forward to getting home. I'll make one more entry tomorrow from San Diego, but here are a few pictures for you to enjoy. They will give you a taste of our experience.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Hello from Mexico!

Hello from Mexico!

Our fourteen member team has been working in Mexico since Wednesday night and it has been a very emotional in inspirational time. We left home at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday and flew out of Bradley at 6;00 a.m. We landed in Washington D. C. and by 8:15 a.m. we were back in the air for the six hour flight to San Diego.

Everything went smoothly until we reached San Diego. We had our first test when we got to the rental car place. They had our reservation but National doesn't allow their cars to be driven into Mexico. :-( Fortunately we were right next to Hertz and we walked across and they were very accommodating. We ended up renting two vans n a car and after a one hour delay, we were back in business.

We reached Calexico, US, the border town, at 4:00 p.m. and met or missionary partners, Rick and Mercy Barnes. hey led us across the border and to the seminary Once again we were greeted with the utter poverty that many of the residents face. The things we take for granted, housing, water, schools are all very limited.

We arrived at the seminary and quickly settled in and were given an orientation by Rick and Mercy. Then we went to the church to meet Pastors Ramon and Alma. The plan for Wednesday night was to walk around the neighborhood and distribute flyers to the families announcing Vacation Bible School for the kids. We got a chance to see the place hwere the church ministers and some of the people who we would be serving.

One of the most touching scenes was at the very moment we arrived. A whole group of children saw us pull up in our vans with California plates and they started following us and running behind us as we pulled up to the church. We were like celebrities to the children. They immediately surrounded us and embraced us with love.

We were tired by the time we got back to the seminary. Last year we were about 45 minutes from the church. This year we are working with the Good Samaritan Church and it is only five nfrom the seminary. That is good news. But we also found out we will be working longer hours here to make up for the longer ride.

We start each day at 7:00 a.m. and end about noon. Then we come back for 5:00 p.m. and work at the Vacation Bible School until 8:00 p.m. You know you have been busy by the time you hit bed. Since there isn't any television or internet capability at the seminary, going to bed at 9:00 p.m. and getting up at 5:00 -5:30 a.m. is not very difficult.

We are working on the exterior of the church this year. It begins with putting chicken wire on the outside and then applying cement to it. It is demanding but fun.

On Sunday we will be worshiping at Sion Church where we worked last year with Pastor Gregorio in the morning and at Buen Samaritino in the evening. We will be going out to lunch with Rick & Mercy and their family and one or both of the pastors and their families in between services.

I could go on and on but for now I am going to send some pictures so you can get a taste of what life has been like for us here in Mexicali.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Finding an open door

Tonight I took a trip down memory lane. I headed back to my hometown for a meeting of the alumni association of my high school. I got to the meeting place and found the door locked. I walked around the building but couldn't find anyone so I left.

I found out afterwards that the group was meeting downstairs and there as another door that I hadn't noticed. Most of the group had been meeting regularly so everyone else knew how to get in and they took it for granted that we all knew how to get in.

Now don't laugh but that same thing happens in some of our churches. We take so much for granted. We think everyone knows the ins and outs of church life. I'll never forget my first summer at the church. We decided to meet down in fellowship hall because it was cooler. Our head deacon got there and I suggested we put a sign on the front door telling people to go around. He looked at e and said, "Why? Everyone knows we'll be down stairs today."

I replied, "what about visitors?" He said, "We never get visitors during the summer." I think I know why.

I think we always need to be mindful of others when it comes to church life. We take what we say and do for granted. We are called to welcome the stranger and that means helping them find the door, a place to fit in and a place to share their faith. Are you doing that in your church? I know I have to continually ask myself that question.

A friend of mine is coming to church now and each week he has been sharing his experiences. It is so funny to hear him talk because he sees things in a totally different light than those of us who have been coming for years. It is refreshing and I am sure it help us as we seek to be an inviting place.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

A legacy in the making

Charlton Heston died today. I think most people remember him as one of the great actors of his generation. He certainly played some great roles including his most famous, Moses. A couple of times today I saw him eulogized and remembered for things he said and did.

It got me thinking about my life. I wonder what people will say about me when God calls me home. What about you? What will they say about you and the role you played in their lives? I know we don't like to think about it but it is what we do today that determines our legacy. God calls each of us to follow him. We have an opportunity to reach out with his love to a hurting world. I pray that you and I might be remember for our faithfulness to God when the bell rings for us.

Enjoy this clip I found on the internet with a classic scene from the Ten Commandments.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

A job you want to show up for

I went downtown and stopped by the bank and then popped in to get a coffee at Dunkin Donuts. As I was waiting in line I looked across the street and noticed a small group of men standing outside the Labor Ready office. I thought to myself how nice it would be to have a life where I could decide if I was going to work today or not.

Don't get me wrong: I like my job. The problem is that most of us have a made a commitment to our job and to our family so whether we are in the mood or not, whether we feel like working or not, whether we like our boss or not, we can't simply decide day by day that we are not going to go in to work. If we do, we could lose our job and everything else. We are in for the long haul or unless another, better opportunity comes along. Even then, when we commit to a new job it is with the presumption that we are going to work 40 hours a week and give it our best.

I grabbed my coffee and as I was heading out the door I saw an image of Jesus' parable of the Lord of the manor and the laborers. Do you remember the story? The Owner went out early in the morning and he hired some workers. He promised to pay them what was fair. The story goes on to say that every few hours he went out and got some more with the same promise. I've heard that story a hundred times and I know the punchline. We usually lift it up as an example of salvation being offered the same for those who come to it early and those who come late. Looking at the day laborers across the street gave me a new insight.

When the Lord of the manor came looking for workers, he expected them to work as long as he needed them. Sometimes I get the feeling that you and I think of our service to the Lord as temporary, short lived or to be done when we feel like it. We don't like to admit it but too often we are like those workers at Labor Ready. We show up for Jesus when we need a boost for our faith or when a friend is in trouble. We report for duty when life is going bad and we want to be paid in blessings. The rest of the time we go our own way and do our own thing.

But Jesus calls us to serve him every day. He asks us to work with him every day as he tries to transform the world. And here is the good news! He doesn't look at us as hourly workers. He invites us to be full fledged partners. He says, "Come and follow me." In following he doesn't ask us to be subservient in the worldly sense. He asks us to walk side-by-side with him into a dark and needful world.

Are you looking for meaning in life? Then stop going to the world's Labor Ready and sign up with the Lord's Ever Ready.

See you at work. Cal

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Why the fourth finger?

Why should the wedding ring be worn on the fourth finger?

There is a beautiful and convincing explanation given by the Chinese. It was sent to me by a friend. I like it so I thought I would pass it on.

Thumb represents your Parents
Second (Index) finger represents your Siblings
Middle finger represents your-Self
Fourth (Ring) finger represents your Life Partner
& the Last (Little) finger represents your children

Firstly, open your palms (face to face), bend the middle fingers and hold them together - back to back

Secondly, open and hold the remaining three fingers and the thumb - tip to tip
(As shown in the figure below):

Now, try to separate your thumbs (representing the parents)..., they will open, because your parents are not destined to live with you lifelong, and have to leave you sooner or later.

Please rejoin your thumbs as before and separate your Index fingers (representing siblings)...., they will also open, because your brothers and sisters will have their own families and will have to lead their own separate lives.

Now rejoin the Index fingers and separate your Little fingers (representing your children)...., they will open too, because the children also will get married and settle down on their own some day.

Finally, rejoin your Little fingers, and try to separate your Ring fingers (representing your spouse). You will be surprised to see that you just CANNOT....., because Husband & Wife have to remain together all their lives - through thick and thin!!


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A friend indeed

I have a friend of mine who feels obliged to tell me when i have put on a little weight. He is kind and offers it as a gentle nudge. The truth is that I know better than anyone else when my weight has gone up. I am a nut about getting on the scale. I hop on every day and watch the fluctuations and stress when I go up a pound and celebrate when I go down a pound.

I can also see it every time I look in the mirror or put on and old pair of pants. I really don't need anyone to tell me about it. But then again, that is what good friends are for. They usually say these things because they care. They know their words can't change anything, but they hope by pointing out what is happening, in a loving way, they might be able to encourage us.

The truth is that it doesn't bother me to have him say this because I know he cares. The truth is that the same is true when reading God's Word. There are reminders in there on how to live life and how to find God's blessing. There are things in the Book that tell us that we'll get ourselves in trouble if we keep doing certain things. God doesn't put it there to nag us. He puts it there because he loves us.

We know when we are doing things that will cause us pain. Sometimes we deny it for a while, but deep down we do know, don't we. so let's come clean and fess us and then try to do something about it. That same friend who tells me when I am gaining weight will also be the first one to notice when I have lost and am looking good. Now that is a friend. He or she sticks with you through thick or thin. :-)

God bless. Have a good day.

Your chubby friend, Cal

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Life doesn't need to be taxing

I finished up my taxes tonight. I am glad that is over. Every year I procrastinate and put it off. It doesn't take long to do but I hate the task. As I was working on them tonight the thought struck me that if I did a better job of keeping everything together the whole process would be a lot easier.

I guess it is the same with everything in life, including our devotional life. If we spent fifteen or twenty minutes a day in prayer and Bible study we would feel so much more confident in our faith and connected to God. Yet too often we wait until Easter or Christmas to get back into a routine. For some of us we start a new devotional path on New Years. There has got to be a better way.

That way is to do it day by day. The best thing is for you and me to walk with Jesus on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and every day of the week. It makes life that much more enjoyable and the blessings much more a part of our every day life.


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Did you know that you can subscribe to this blog and have it emailed to you every time there is a new entry? That's kind of cool.

Once you subscribe, you don't need to remember the address and keep checking in to see if the lazy guy who makes the journal entries has written anything witty or not. You can just open up your email and find the latest.

When you subscribe it is just like getting a magazine or newspaper delivery. It just shows up for you to read or ignore. To do it all you need to do is highlight the R)) symbol in your location bar and it will give you instructions on what to do. So give it a try and if it works, you can e-mail me and tell me how you like it.


Make time to be renewed and restored

On our 25th Wedding Anniversary my wife bought a grandfather clock for our new home. It seemed to fit in this classic Victorian era setting. I have always admired these larger than life time pieces. So for me it was a dream come true.

Since we acquired this lovely piece of furniture, I have been the one charged with keeping it going. That means that every week I have to wind it up and restore the weights and chimes to their original setting. It is no big deal. It only takes a few minutes. The only time it becomes a hassle is when I forget to do it and the clock runs completely down. Then I have to patiently restore the time and maneuver the hands on the clock to the correct positions. It takes to do this because you can't just push the hands forward. It has to be done in intervals over time.

As I was winding the clock this week, it struck me that we are very much like the grandfather clock. Each week we go to church and the worship experience brings us back into perfect alignment with our maker's specifications. We are in tune and recharged for another week. But if we miss a week, we tend to get out of sync and sometimes it takes a while to get back to where we were. It is almost as if our weekly worship experience allows God to lovingly reset all that has happened to us and put us back in proper alignment.

I know I enjoy winding my clock because I can admire it up close. I think God feels the same way when we come to him in worship and prayer. He is our creator and in ways we will never fully understand, when we are in tune with him, we reflect his glory to the world around us.

so if you are feeling wound down, go to church this week and let God renew your life.