Thursday, July 31, 2008

This is love demonstrated

This is beautiful. I remember reading about this father who made his son's dreams come true. This is love in its most basic form .The music is good too. Enjoy!

Cal

Who is calling you?

Today is newsletter day. That means that I am at the church early to put the finishing touches on my "baby" before the crew gets here to prepare it for mailing. I really enjoy the art of publishing a monthly newsletter but it does take time. This morning I was here especially early because it was a busy week and I had a lot left to do. So I was out the door at home and at the drive through at Dunkin Donuts at quarter to five. An hour later I was hard at work at the church when the phone rings at 5:45 a.m.

The question pops up in my mind: "Should I answer it or not? No one knows I am here, right?" On the third ring I pick up and it was a member of the church who lives near by. She saw my car and tried the door but it was locked. She knew it was early but she took a chance and called to see if I could say a prayer with her. I told her I would and immediately went out side to pray with her.

I almost missed that call. Too often we get so busy and caught up in what we are doing that we don't feel the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit prompting us to act. The truth is that god calls all of us to be his hands, his feet, his caring touch in a world that is growing more isolated every day. If we aren't paying attention, we will miss the opportunity not only to be a blessing to someone else, but to receive a blessing.

Yes, when we do something for someone else, God blesses us right back. The scriptures say that the measure you give is the measure you will receive. And God has lots of blessings to share.
So what is God prompting you to do right now? Listen to that still small voice and follow through. You will be glad you did.

Cal

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Number please!

I hate getting a runaround. I hate when it happens on the phone even worse than when it happens in person. This afternoon I had to call the Provider for my dental benefits and I was ushered into the menu from hell.

"Please declare whether you are a provider of benefits or a member of **********?"

So I say "member." So far so good. I simply wanted to call to find out how to get a form that says my daughter is a full time student. The next prompt threw me.

"Please declare the purpose of your call. Say Benefits, pre-authorization for a procedure, claims, provider information... " As the voice is giving me options I am trying to guess which is the right option. I tried claims first and that was a dead end. Then I tried benefits and that was another rabbit hole. I went through the whole prompt system a third time and I was lost. I kept looking for the response where I could talk to a live person. It wasn't there. After fifteen minutes or running in circles I finally gave up and hit zero. Then the voice began talking to me in Spanish.

I know these voice mail services are supposed to save time and money but the only way I can figure that happens is that people give up and don't call again. As I put my ego aside and tried again, I thought about the fact that some of us feel like God does the same thing when it comes to our prayers. We pray and quite honestly it sometimes seems as if there isn't a live person on the other end of our prayer line. We go to church or sit quietly and nothing happens. It can be frustrating. But here is the truth.

God does hear our prayers. All you need to do is look back on your life and you will see. The prayers are not always answered exactly as you imagined, but the answers are there to see. God will never give you the runaround.

By the way I did get through to the insurance rep finally but I can't tell you how. I gave the woman all the information she needed and was ready to hang up when she informed me that I needed just one more detail. When I asked her if she had a direct line so I could get that info and get back to her, she apologized and told me I'd have to go through the maze again and any agent could handle it. Funny thing is that I said a little prayer And when I called back I got right through.

Thank you God. Now that's service.

Cal

Monday, July 28, 2008

A royal escort

What a send off! The roar of motorcycles filled the air as 75 bikes followed the hearse from Potter's Funeral Home in Willimantic to the cemetery where Dave was laid to rest. Dave was a member of the James Gang and active in a number of club activities over the years. He and his fiance would ride all over New England and into New York and Pennsylvania in good weather. He loved the open road and it was his life. The motorcycle clubs were his extended family.

Dave died last week when an undetected blood clot hit his brain. He was only 47 years old. This was my second biker's funeral. I had an idea what to expect this time and I was not disappointed. Dave went to his final resting place in style. He had a royal escort.

The truth is that although we don't see it, I like to think that all believers will have a royal send off when our time comes. When our life is over, our faith suggests that we will be greeted by our Lord himself and a host of angels who will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." We won't hear the roar of the pipes but we will feel the breeze from the angel's wings.

God bless Dave today. For he enjoyed that which was seen (very impressive!) and that which was unseen (a reason to celebrate!) as he was ushered into paradise.

Cal

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The view from above

Since my oldest daughter lives in New York City, I keep my eyes open for interesting sites and blogs that feature events, activities or historical tidbits about Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. A few weeks ago I was surfing the web and happened upon a blog that posts aerial photos of the city. It was fascinating so I immediately forwarded it to my daughter.

She posted back that she had just been to the spot depicted in the photograph and that it sure looked different from the ground. It got me thinking about the way life and the events we are part of look when we are engaged in them and how they must look to our heavenly Father as he sees them from "above." It is a different vantage point. When you see the big picture things never look as dramatic or as hopeless as they do from below.

That's why our Father tells us to trust him and to lean on him in timers of trial. He will help us put our situation in perspective and find a way to overcome our problems. Praise be to God who sees all things from above.

The site is at http://airspacenewyorkcity.blogspot.com/. Check it out for the fun of it.

Cal

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Who is the judge?

Do you believe in jinx? Last night I was watching the Red Sox game with friends when the score of the Detroit Tiger game scrolled across the bottom. I hooted because my Tigers were beating the White Sox in the seventh inning 5-4. As the Red Sox game progressed I decided to put the hex on Mariano Rivera by saying that all closers suffer melt downs every once in a while. My friend then noted that it was more likely that the tiger closer, Todd Jones, would blow the game than Mariano. I laughed. Then I went home and checked on the game at MLB. com and saw that Todd had blown the save and the Tigers had lost. Meanwhile Mariano Rivera shut the door to preserve a 1- 0 Yankee victory.

Next time I am going to keep my mouth shut. It is funny how the things we say and do often come back to bite us. Jesus once said "Judge not, lest ye be judged." I have found that too often when we come off judgmental of other people and cast an accusing glance their way, we end up falling under some kind of judgment ourselves before we know it. Is it a jinx or are we just setting ourselves us for a fall when we try to knock others down?

You be the judge!

Cal

Your vantage point makes a difference

Someone once told me that life's meaning is determined by the perspective from which you view it. That was true for me this morning as I thought about last night's softball game. We won the game handily, which hasn't happened all that often this season. As the time approached for the game to begin I scribbled down the line-up and included my name at the bottom. Then three more players showed up.

I did not intend to play very much this year. My role as player-manager was to fill in when needed and to get just enough at bats to qualify for the play-off roster. That was my plan as the season began but a lack of turnout forced me to play in several games down the stretch.

I didn't do too badly either. My average was over .500 and at one point I was leading the team with a .700 mark. As manager I struggled with how much I should play because I wanted everyone else to get at bats. For the last six games it didn't matter because I always made the tenth player. We were always running short handed.

Then a funny thing happened. We keep statistics going back to our first year in the league in 1987. I've played or coached almost every year. Two weeks ago I noticed that I was closing in on the 400 hit plateau. No one had played long enough or well enough to reach that mark. I decided to go for it. I was at 390 with six games to go. It seemed very doable.

That brings me to last night's game and my decision. With 398 hits and two games to go I looked at our line-up and decided to drop my name and let the other guys play. We won and even though I thought about pinch hitting, I decided that this game wasn't about me. It was about the team. That's something I have been preaching for years and I wasn't going to change that now.

I woke up this morning and realized that I may not hit that elite mark this season. Our last game is Monday. I was okay with that because I began to look at it from a different perspective. Missing the mark this year only gave me an added reason to come back next season.

It is how you look at it. When I was out at the Crystal Cathedral five years ago I heard Robert Schuller speak. That day he shared his rule of ten philosophy. He says when most people are confronted with as decision, they usually look at two or maybe three options. If nothing works out, they give up. On the other hand, he expands his options to ten. That is part of his possibility thinking. Schuller says that when you expand to ten, you will always have an acceptable option.

I like that. So when I start getting down, I try to look at life from a fresh vantage point and more often than not, I find something to like.

Cal

Friday, July 25, 2008

When the siren sounds, just pray

We were in the middle of our Vesper Service on Saturday night when the sirens came blaring across the city. We were at Howard Brown Park and you could watch the fire trucks and ambulances pull out of their secluded spots and spring to life as they raced over the bridge and across the city.

After the service on of our members said that they had to hurry home. I asked why and they said that those rescue vehicles headed up to Laurel Hill and they wanted to make sure it wasn't their house on fire!

It is a funny story but how often do we think the same thing when we hear a siren. Our first thought is for those people we know and love. This morning I read about the flight to Australia that had an emergency landing. I stopped to listen because my first thoughts were of my daughter who was on route there 48 hours ago. After I did the math and realized she was safely on the ground, I moved on.

I have often thought that the thing we should do in those moments is pause and pray. We should pray for whoever is in need of service. We don't know them but God does. Thankfully he has sent the rescuers to bring assistance in their trials. While we are at it, we should pray for the ones who are on the way and ask God to bring them safely there and to give them the wisdom and knowledge they need to do their jobs.

The truth is that God is already present at the scene. We are just adding our prayer power to the work He is doing.

So next time you stop and think about your family when you hear the siren, complete the thought and pray for god's blessing for whoever the ambulance or fireman meet.

Cal

A gift that keeps giving

Two hundred and five years! Where did the time go? In a couple of weeks Bacon Academy will celebrate it's 205th birthday with an all class reunion. I graduated xxx years ago and I can tell you that time flies. I am looking forward to the reunion where I will see old friends and meet some new friends.

Bacon Academy first opened in 1803 with $40,000 donated by Pierpont Bacon. What is now known as the "old" Bacon Academy building served as Colchester's high school until the mid-1950s, when the classes were transferred to what has now become the Colchester Intermediate School building. In September of 1993, the construction of the current Bacon Academy building, budgeted at nearly $25 million, was finally completed. There are currently almost 1000 students enrolled at Bacon Academy. I doubt that Mr. Bacon could have ever dreamed what his gift set in motion.

As I thought about my Alma mater, I couldn't help but think about the way our actions today affect the future. When we share God's love, it doesn't end with our actions. It keeps on going. I remember someone coining the phrase "Random acts of kindness" a number of years ago to encourage us to do something positive simply because we could.

You and I can probably testify that someone else's generosity, someone else's good deed changed our lives in some way. That is certainly true for all of us who graduated from Bacon Academy. Pierpoint Bacon's gift opened the doors for us to have a quality education in a private and later public school. Today we are extremely thankful for what he did over two centuries ago.

May we all be as generous and giving when it comes to the way we live. I hope our actions today will bless others and become gifts that keep on giving.

Cal

Living in tomorrow

I came home last night and there was a message on our answering machine from our daughter Sarah. She said she it was 8:00 a.m. and she was up and heading off to a tropical rain forest with her group. She was excited and added that the following day they were going to the Great Barrier Reef.

My daughter, Sarah, arrived in Australia two days ago. She will be studying in Sydney at the University of MacQuarie this fall. It is hard for me to believe she is so far away especially when she can call and it feels and sounds like she is right here with us.

The crazy thing is that when she called and said it was 8 am in the morning, she was actually telling us that it was tomorrow where she was calling from. That's a funny thought. She is already living in the future. Lori and I won't get to see tomorrow morning for another 14 hours.

It made me think about God. God sees the future and invites us to walk with him into our tomorrow. You see in some mystical way, God knows what lies ahead of us. He has already been there. Although you and I face the future with some fear and trembling at times, God tells us that with him there are many possibilities.

That's why Jesus can say that we shouldn't worry about tomorrow. He tells us not to worry about what we shall wear or what we shall eat. He knows that all that will be provided if we act today in faith.

You see that is the key. If we live with faith today and act out that faith, the blessings will flow tomorrow. That is God's promise. That is why he calls us to faithfulness. For He knows what God plans for the faithful. He's been there. He has seen it.

I can't wait to hear from our Sarah again. She is living in tomorrow and that tells me that tomorrow is going to be a sweet day.

Cal

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Who is cleaning up after you?

Yesterday I cleaned out the refrigerators at church. I filled two garbage bags with junk that has been left in them over time. There were old bagels from a Sunday school breakfast in March, cookies from a coffee hour in June, about ten bottles of flat soda left over from various youth group meetings, some half used sticks of butter from our Mother-Daughter Banquet and too many other things to mention here.

That's the problem with our church kitchen. It is used by a lot of people but there is no one in charge of keeping it clean. When there is no control, there will be a mess. I think the same thing is true in our lives. We have the freedom to do anything we want. But somewhere along the way we need to take responsibility for our actions or else we will end up with a lot of garbage to sort through.

God understands that better than anyone and that is why he came into the world. He came to be our savior, to clean up the mess and to restore us to our original condition.

If you checked out our refrigerators now, you would be impressed. They are almost like new. So it is with us when we put our faith and trust in Christ.

My figgy friends

I can't believe I did it. I am not very good with crafts. I am not a very gifted cook. I can do the basics but you will never see my work on the cover of a food or fashion magazine. Yet yesterday I made an attempt to create some figgy friends for our Vacation Bible School.

I went to Big Y and purchased all the ingredients. Then I went back to church and began making these friends with great fear and trepidation. At one point I almost gave up and called for help. I seriously considered giving the project over to someone more skilled at this type of thing. But I persisted.

One half hour later I had created two dozen of these little guys. It was easy and they didn't look half bad. Actually I got several compliments later. I don't know if they were being kind or the folks were really impressed. But the point is that I did it.

It was easy really. I took out the book and simply followed the directions. When you have a good set of directions and you follow them closely, you can do anything. That's true in baking, in crafts and in life.

If you want to lead a good life, a life of faith, then you need to open the Book. As Christians all we need to do is read the Gospels and learn about Jesus. Then, as his follows, we simply imitate him. The blessings and the acclamation will follow. Take it from you. You don't need to have any special gift to make it happen. all you need to do is follow the directions.

My figgy friends were a hit. You will be too if you just follow Christ's lead.

Cal

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Learn to speak the language

A few years ago our church helped bring evangelist Luis Palau to the region. Luis came in for a multi night festival and I got to know him. We didn't talk long but you could tell his heart was sold out for Christ.

I signed up to be on his regular e-mail list and over the years I have been encouraged and enlightened by his short devotions. Today I received his latest and I thought I would pass it on. It talks about sharing our faith with our friends.

Cal

We are All Missionaires
When missionaries train for cross-cultural ministry, they take classes to prepare them for living, and sharing Christ, in a foreign country. Among other things, learning the language of the people is essential to effectively sharing the Good News.

You and I also need to learn the right 'language' to communicate with the postmodern community. It's important to realize that this generation has little to no church background or Bible understanding. There is a basic ignorance of Christian beliefs and doctrines. So we must be careful to not speak in 'Christianese' terms, which can be confusing to them. Instead, try communicating the Good News using language they understand.

For example, when talking about your relationship with Jesus, try using words like 'rescued' and 'changed,' and 'spiritually alive.' Even simply saying you're a follower of Jesus, instead of a Christian, may be easier for someone to grasp. St. Paul challenges us in 1st Corinthians 9 to, "become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." As you find creative ways to communicate your faith, those listening will better understand, and hopefully receive the Good News of Jesus Christ.


If you would like to learn more about Luis Palau and his ministry or sign up to receive these e-mails, go to his web-site at http://www.palau.org/

Monday, July 21, 2008

Do you believe it?

Can you imagine thinking that $4.09 was a good price for gas? This afternoon I was up in Lisbon and decided to fill up the church van. I saw the article in the Norwich Bulletin about them having the lowest price around and thought it was worth the drive, especially since I was going that way anyway.

I had to chuckle though because I realized that for all my resolve, I had pretty much accepted the fact that we might never see gas go below $4.00 a gallon in my life time. I wrote letters to all our representatives in Congress and to President Bush. I tried driving less and skipping certain stations to try and force the price down. Yet, when push came to shove today I realized that I didn't think what I was doing would have any effect. I didn't have faith in myself or others that we could make a difference.

It got me thinking about the way we approach God with prayer. Too many of us simply go through the motions and our prayer becomes nothing more than a formality. We do it because we are supposed to pray rather than praying because we believe we can move a mountain.

Well today I am glad I went up to Lisbon. I hope the stations who keep the prices high, the companies that are boosting their profits will begin to feel the effect. I am going to believe that we can make a difference. And the same is true of my prayers for Bob, and Melanie and my mother and Bobbie and all the rest of the folks on my list. So let's pray like we believe God hears and answers prayer. We will be blessed and so will those on our prayer lists.

Cal

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Will you stand in for the Lord?

I mentioned in an earlier post that yesterday afternoon I helped out with the Annual Pierce Baptist Home golf tournament at the River Ridge Golf course in Lisbon. I arrived at 8:00 a.m. and expected to be there a few hours and then head home to take care of some business. That all changed when I spoke with our President.

For the last five years Len has been the one to greet all the golfers and then glad hand them at the end of the day. He has served as the MC for the delivery of awards and raffle prizes. After all, he is the one who most people identify with when they think of Pierce Home and Creamery Brook from the corporate side.

When I arrived Len asked me if he could help him out. An emergency had come up and he needed to take care of some business. He asked me to step in for him and do take on the role he usually played. I didn't think much of it and readily agreed. I figured it was the least I could do.

I didn't realize what I had agreed to until much later in the day. When the golfers began coming in, so many of them asked for Len. Year after year they were used to seeing him and chatting with him. Then one woman came in who represented one of our sponsors. It was then that I realized just how much Len meant to the tournament and I felt like a poor substitute as a stand in.

I got through the afternoon and many people told me I did a good job. But I began thinking about this idea of a stand in and couldn't help think about what we do as we stand in for Christ. Many people want to get to know Jesus. They have heard about him and they long for his appearing in their lives. But Jesus sends us to go and greet them and minister to them in his name. Once we stand in, he fills the gap.

It is an awesome responsibility. Our job is not to be Christ but to be the best representative we can. If we do our job, we will bless the people we meet. Some of them may even feel they have been with the Lord. That's the best we can hope for. So when the call comes, don't hesitate. Just say "Yes!"

Cal

Friday, July 18, 2008

Blessed by our past recollections

I just got back from my evening walk and I took a stroll down memory lane. We needed soda and a few supplies. So instead of hopping in the car I took advantage of the fact that we live within walking distance from a convenience store and hoofed it over there. As I was on route I thought back to the several times when I used to walk to the store in the past.

I remembered how I loved going to visit my grandparents in Hartford. They lived right around the corner from a little grocery store. I used to save my quarters and walk down to buy two or three packs of Topps baseball cards. I can still remember the shiver of excitement as I walked out of the store and walked home looking at my bounty.

When Lori and I were first married and living in Rhode Island there was a Cumberland Farms nearly right across the street from our apartment. I can remember many a night when I would run down the street to get an ice cream or some other late night treat. During the last year we lived there my trips became much more frequent because Lori and I were expecting our first child. Midnight cravings were par for the course.

It is funny how something we do today can trigger such precious memories. The truth is that our forefathers understood this well and they encouraged us to relive and retell the stories of faith. For in doing so, we deepen our own love of God and make it a part of the fabric of our lives. So take a walk down memory lane and give thanks to God along the way.

Cal

Ready and willing if needed

I stood on the golf course for five hours today. No. I didn't play or even ride in a golf cart for that time. I stood there at the seventeenth hole. My job was to witness and authenticate the fact that someone got a hole in one, if it happened. The chances of someone getting a hole in one are astronomical. It does happen but as often as a blue moon or maybe even less. But that was my job. I was to be there just in case.

I had lots of time to think while I was out there. That's dangerous for my readers. I did have a crazy thought connected to what I was doing. Standing out there just in case someone did the unthinkable made me realize just how important it is for us to be ready to share our story out in the world. You never know when someone will be in crisis and come to you looking for a word of hope or encouragement. Surely it is more likely than someone sinking a hole in one. You never know when someone will see your faith and ask you how you can be so sure that God is real. You never know when you will need to step up and be bold and let your faith shine. You and I simply need to be ready.

I had a good time today, partly because I was thinking about what I would say and do to the person who had the whole in one. That made my day. I pray that as you prepare to share your story with someone in need, you will have that same joy. The bonus you have is that you can bask in the love of God whether or not you need to share it on any given day.

Cal

Living in us

Someone once told me that once we have children we will begin to live our lives through them. As I looked at some pictures my daughter sent me this morning I finally understood what that person meant.

I have never been to Hawaii but now I am getting a taste of what it would be like from hearing Sarah's stories and seeing her photos. I'm not physically there but I am experiencing it through her. It made me think of the saying that we often use about "Christ living in us."

It may be a new way to think about how you and I live our lives, but maybe we ought to think about living life in such a way that we bring joy and honor to Jesus. Every time we reach out to someone, every time we offer forgiveness, every time we share God's love, we are bringing a smile to his face.

Think about it. It could brighten your whole day to think you are no longer living just for yourself, but also to bring joy to the Lord.

Well here are some photos of my Sarah. She is having a great time and so am I.

Cal





Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pursuing your passion

David Warfield loves music and he has found a way to share his love. I've known David for a few years now and worked with him over at Central Baptist and in our wider Baptist family. He is a gifted musician and an enthusiastic director.

When the Preston Community Chorus was looking for a new leader, David took up the challenge. He led the group and they put together some enjoyable concerts. Now he and his cohorts are at it again. They have put together a music series that will rival any in the region. It is called "Music at Central." The title comes from the fact that the concerts will be held at the church. The music though, will transcend a single recital hall or sanctuary. It will speak to the souls of all who attend.

On October 12 Nathan Laube, a prize-winning organ major candidate at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute, will perform. This 20-year-old is a rising star in the world of organ performance. Nathan was named the first Organ Scholar at the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church in August 2006 where he is responsible for service playing and accompanying the 120 voice senior choir. He is delighted to be coming to Norwich for the afternoon.

On November 16 Diana Norton-Jackson, a Rhode Island resident and free-lance recitalist will be joining us for a concert entitled, "From Bach to BoĆ«llmann." She received her bachelor’s degree in Music at Stetson University and a master’s degree from the University of Georgia. Her last position was at Trinity Episcopal Church in Newport, Rhode Island and she is looking forward to being with us.

David has managed to get commitments from Cj Sambach and Elizabeth & Raymond Chenault for the new year. Norwich has never seen such an area of talented organists. As I was thinking about this concert series and what David was doing, I couldn't help but think that this is a clear example of glorifying God by following your passion.

All of us have something that strikes a chord deep within us. When we tap into that and do something that brings glory to God, we have fulfilled our special calling. So check out this concert series. It is going to be great. Then think about your passion and how you can use it to praise God.

Cal

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

God will always respond

The return address on the envelope said it was from the White House, Washington, D.C. I couldn't imagine why President Bush would be writing me? I do e-mail him my weekly epistles but I didn't really think they ever got to his desk.

I know I turned fifty last month and that my parents have received special greetings from the White House on their birthdays. But I'm young. It's not like I turned 60 or something!

I did send him a note about the genocide in Darfur. I chuckled to myself as I thought that maybe the President was writing to ask me to for further suggestions to bring to the Cabinet meeting next month.

All kidding aside, I had no clue as to why I was getting this letter. I opened it and was delighted to see that it was a thank you letter from the President's office in response to my concern about affordable energy solutions. I had sent the President an e-mail (Yes I have become an activist in my advanced age!) about the economic injustice of rising energy prices and stressed that this was becoming an issue that needed to be given a high priority.

Nancy Theis, special assistant to the President, noted that the President is dedicated to doing something to change this and thanked me for my views. She also said the President welcomed any suggestions I might have. The truth is I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday. Even I know this is a form letter but it was nice to get something that acknowledges my concern.

The truth is that we like to have our concerns acknowledged and it doesn't always happen. That is true even in our relationship to God. Many of us pray every day for God to bring blessings, to help us work out situations in our lives, to be with friends who are struggling and more. So often we have to just sit back and wait to see what happens.

I believe that God does answer our prayers. He often speaks to us through the visit of a friend or a card from a neighbor. He speaks to us in surprise meetings and with unexpected gifts. Coincidences happen that almost look like answered prayer. Yet too often we look right past them and continue to wait for an answer in the form that we expect.

God is faithful. He does answer our prayers.

Cal

What a place to be

Times Square. There is no place like it in the world. Yesterday I went into New York City to meet my daughter and I confess that I still get a thrill every time I visit one of the most recognized locations in the world. Last night as I was preparing to head home, I looked around and saw people of all different nationalities posing for pictures with the famous marquees in the background. It struck me that there was magic in this place.

It is like a vortex in the center of the universe that connects people from around the world. We witness the changing of the year from this spot. Many blockbuster films are produced here. And when people from around the world travel to the U.S.A., they all have to come here before they move on.

Now I know this is going to sound silly. But our church sanctuaries do pretty much the same thing. We can be worshipping in Norwich, CT and in some mystical way we are connected to others in Los Angeles, CA. While we are singing the hymns of faith, we are connected to worshippers in Seoul, Korea and Johannesburg, South Africa and Caracas, Venezuela. Our sanctuaries connect us to one another and to God when we come together to pray.

We make a big deal about denominations and even the Protestant/Catholic divide, but in Christ we are one. When we bow down to worship him, we are brought together with Christians around the world in a way that makes the magic of Times Square look pale.

So next time you go to church, look around and then be amazed. You are at the center of god's universe.

Cal

Monday, July 14, 2008

Don't be afraid to get your hands wet

I went to the car wash today. I know its hard to believe, but I actually put money in the slot and power washed my car. I haven't done that in five years.

I usually cheat and go to the Shell station and drive through the car wash. That is the easy way. But with the rising price of gas, and a number of wasted vouchers in my past, I decided I wasn't going to take it anymore. So I decided to wash my car by hand. In the end it was not only cheaper, it was also very satisfying.

I made me think of the satisfaction we take in doing things the old fashioned way. When we work hard and create something with our hands, we feel good. When we take the time to do things right, we walk away feeling we have accomplished something.

The same thing is true when we make good choices in our life and do the right thing. When we are honest and we let our faith guide us, we reap the blessings. In the book of Proverbs it says, "Cast your bread upon the waters and it will come back to you." In another place the Scriptures say we will reap what we sow.

Don't look for the easy way. Take the time to invest yourself in what you do. Not only will you save money and time, you might find unexpected blessings too. I know I did.

Cal

Let your word be your bond

There was a popular saying when I was growing up that dealt with honesty in relationships. It encouraged us to let our "word be our bond." In other words, say what you mean. Don't lie, don't cheat, don't try to manipulate the situation.

I've lived that way. I try to be fair and I expect others to do the same. That applies double to business relationships. I figure that if you are in business then your reputation should mean something. Well a year ago I needed to have a man come in to check out my oil tank. We were selling our house and there was a question about it.

I hired a reputable company, even had the owners son in to make the call. He told me that the tank was good to go and I believed him. He signed off on it and the deal was done. As a result I signed off on it too. I trusted him.

This week I found out that the same man is now singing a different song. He is now saying that the tank had a leak. Even though he signed off on it both in writing and in person and told me it was good to go, he is now trying to wiggle out of his original statement. Why? Because now he found a leak. He said it wasn't there before. Now he says it was always there. Now why would someone do this? Maybe it is because he has an $1800 job to gain.

This whole situation made me think about the age old question of our salvation in Christ. The Bible is quite clear that if we call on Christ our sins will be forgiven and we will be assured our salvation. The promise is simple and sounds almost too good to be true.

Many people question it because they have been told how their sins will condemn them. So how can they believe this? The truth is that when Christ gave his word, it was his bond. It was sealed with his blood and he died to make it a reality.

Unlike my heating contractor, Jesus stands behind his promise and his word is true today, yesterday and tomorrow. So if you call on Jesus, you will never have to worry about him changing his mind. His word is dependable and true. You can count on him.

Cal

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Finding the future you

Tom Selleck is one of my favorite actors. I loved him in Magnum PI. Maybe it is because he sported a Detroit Tigers cap on several episodes. So when I was surfing the channels this afternoon and saw him in a 1984 release of the movie Runaway, I decided to watch it.

I never heard of the movie before but I was pleasantly surprised to see several character actors in it. Then suddenly Kirstie Alley showed up in the movie in a bit part. Three years before her starring role in the sitcom, Cheers, and two years after her debut in the second Star Trek movie, she appears here.

I always like those "stars before they were stars" exposes. The truth is that these people had it in them long before they came to our attention. I couldn't help but think the same is true for all of us. God sees our potential long before we begin to glorify him with our lives.

The apostle Paul says, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." That means that God saw something in us even before anyone else did. He sent his son into the world because he knew we were going to be worth it.

So don't ever sell yourself short. God loves you and he has big things planned for your life. You may just be the next Kirstie Alley.

Cal

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Take time for yourself

I went back to the gym today. Over the last few weeks I have been taking vacation days here and there. So getting up to World Gym hasn't been easy. But now I am back and I plan to take control of my schedule for the rest of the summer. That means building in time for me and my good health.

I know that too often I let the rest of the world dictate my schedule. I drop everything for my wife and kids, the people at church who call, folks in the community who I have connections too. Even this past week, I spent half of my vacation days doing for others.

I'm not complaining. I enjoy what I do. But a good friend of mine told me a long time ago that if you really want to help others, you have to begin by taking care of yourself. For me that means eating right and getting exercise. I have to make sure I do heart healthy things.

So I made a promise to myself today. I will take at least one day a week off from work activities the rest of the summer. I will schedule in some exercise time every day, before I add anything else. I will also spend fifteen minutes to a half hour every day in prayer or reading devotional pieces.

As I was contemplating this, I though about my many friends who get so busy that they push church out of their lives. I confess that I can't do this because I get paid to be there and lead worship. But you can and sometimes do allow the hectic pace of life to squeeze you. My hope and prayer is that you will reclaim that bit of sabbath rest this summer and make sure you get to worship regularly. I also hope you can spend a little time reading a devotional or reading your Bible. A great place to start is the Gospels.

Here are a few devotional web sites you might enjoy as well:

Max Lucado - Check out his free weekly meditations on his web site. http://maxlucado.com/
Daily Bread - Great daily devotions. http://www.rbc.org/odb/odb.shtml
The Upper Room - Good reading. h ttp://www.upperroom.org/Devotional/
Cross walks - It looks good. Billy Graham and Max Lucado references. Check it out http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/


Cal

Friday, July 11, 2008

Living with style and grace

I am not the Frappucchino type, but this week I have enjoyed a mocha frappucchino every day. I am at the Mystic Marriot for the National Championships of ACCESS Broadway. My youngest daughter is dancing with Luis Pabon's Style Extraordinaire. Each day this week we have been here from early in the morning to late in the evening. (You understand I am setting you up for my excuse! :-) So I have decided to treat myself for being a good parent and I've purchased these frothy drinks.

It is so out of character for me for two reasons. One, I usually don't splurge on calorie intensive food and drink. Two, I don't like to pay the price for extravagant food and drink. So what is different this time?

First, I have a gift card for twenty five dollars that I was given almost two years ago. That means that each of these treats is really free to me. It is a gift from a friend that I can now savor and enjoy. Second, I tend to suspend dieting when I go on vacation. I allow myself the freedom to enjoy food a little bit more. I think of it is a gift I give myself for trying to be faithful all year long.

So this afternoon I will enjoy my fourth frappucchino this week and be guilt free. It kind of reminds me of the guilt free life we are all invited to share in Christ. Jesus paid the price for our sin when he went to the cross. Now we have the free gift of life to enjoy. The truth is that instead of life being a burden, it is more like a blessing. We can be free to act and glorify God without fear. We can be bold, we can freely step out in love and enjoy this new life.

The truth is I will have my last frappucchino for a while this afternoon. But in Christ, we can go on living a meaningful, glory filled life forever. His blessing will continue until the day we are called to glory and then it will be eternally ours in heaven.

Cal

Monday, July 7, 2008

A fortress of solitude

I was out for my daily walk when I ran into a beautiful site that brought back some wonderful memories. There on the side of the road was a huge weeping willow tree. I haven't seen one of them in years. When I was growing up my next door neighbor had the biggest weeping willow I've ever seen and we used to hide out under its branches.

This tree was like a fort and we'd often play army out in the yard. The object was to capture this tactical spot and extend our territory from there. When we weren't playing, we would hide out in it and relax away from the rest of the world.

As I came upon this tree that brought back these memories I immediately thought about God. He has been described as a strong fortress, a shield, a rock, a rest along the way. As I think about these descriptions of the security that God provides for us, I will now always think of the blissful feelings I had from those days in my weeping willow. God is so good.

Cal

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A late Fathers Day blessing

A friend of mine gave me a copy of Tim Russert's audio book, Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons, and I listened to the first CD on my way to New Haven to pick up my daughter at the train station. I had to grab a tissue. To be honest with you, I didn't think I would find it that interesting. Who really cares about what some celebrity has to say about his father? I have my own feelings about my dad and I don't think I could write a book about it. At least I didn't think that until I began listening to the audio book.

I was confused with what I was listening to because I thought this was his book about his dad. Russert explained that this was actually the follow up book. It arose out of the overwhelming response he received from people across the country who read his book and wrote him letters and emails. He said he received over 60,000 letters and he read everyone. He was moved by the stories, the memories, the emotion of those who shared snippets of their life with their fathers.

As the dialogue progressed with thoughts by Russert and clips from the letters he received, I was enthralled with what I was hearing. The truth is that you can't hear these stories without thinking of your own dad or imagining what your children think of you. I cried and I laughed as I listened to the book.

The truth is that there was another level of understanding that stood over the whole experience for me. I knew that Tim had died a few weeks ago and that his son Luke, the same age as my oldest daughter, was probably overwhelmed by the loss of his father. Yet, these pages of of his story were a precious gift that he had left his son. Luke will always have this gift to remember his father by. That is what I call the grace of God. In the midst of suffering and loss, God always gives us something to hold onto. But that is another sermonette for another day.

What struck me the most about this writing in the light of the tragic real life drama, is that Tim left us a legacy where those of us who didn't know him personally, could draw closer to him and identify with what is most important in life. Funny, but the same is true of the Gospel. In God's wisdom, the story of our Lord was written down and preserved so that those who never knew him in life, would be able to know him in his death. In the pages of scripture we meet the compassionate savior who came to save the world. You can't help but be moved by him. He reached out to all members of society without prejudice. He looked upon us with eyes of love and told us about his father and the plan he had.

Sometimes I read the Gospels and I need a tissue because I can feel the heart of God coming through the pages. You see it is about a Father's love. As Russert says, "There are good fathers and bad fathers. But I want to tell you about the good ones." That is exactly what Jesus said but he qualified it even further when he said he wanted to share about the best of all fathers and his love.

I don't know what you are going to do this summer, but I suggest you pick up two books. Pick up Russert's book and pick up the New Testament. Let me warn though. You will need a tissue but you will be blessed.

Cal

Friday, July 4, 2008

Celebrate the blessings on the fourth

I don't think any of us who grew up in the United States have any idea how precious our freedom is. We have grown up with it. We have been able to say and do almost anything we wanted, within reason. When I was in Mexico last Spring, I realized that this isn't true everywhere. Corruption is rampant in many places and brutality is a way of life. Armed soldiers are visible in certain areas and it is a little spooky. That is nothing compared to what you would find in the Middle East or in China or places in South America.

The truth is that we enjoy these freedoms because a price has been paid. Men and women fought to preserve our ideals and our way of life. The truth is that it is the same for our faith and our relationship with God. Jesus died so that we might be free from the penalties of sin. So now we can live life confidently and joyfully knowing that God is with us.

I like the fourth of July because it reminds us to be thankful for what we have. IT is a time to pause and give thanks. Sunday mornings do the same thing. As we come to church to worship God, we give thanks to God for his blessings and the freedom we have.

Cal

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A special birthday surprise

Today is my oldest daughter's birthday. That's right. She was born on July 3. A lot of people think being born on or near a holiday is a bummer. Becky, on the other hand, always thought it was cool. When she was little we used to tell her that they shot off the fireworks just for her on her birthday. It was the best gift in the world.

I don't know how old she was when she figured it out, but she let us keep the myth alive for a few years. We'd go to the marina with our blankets and watch the fireworks go off and celebrate her birthday. I still think of that whenever I see a fireworks display, whether it is at a Defender's game or some other event.

The truth is that God does some pretty amazing things to celebrate our birthdays. He sends friends and family our way to spend the day. He takes the day off and puts everything aside to be with us. And sometimes he coordinates our special day with fireworks or something else that just happens to be going on. So if today is your birthday... enjoy the fireworks. God loves you!

Cal

The things we do

My daughter brought a big white rat home with her when she moved back from UCONN. It was not the most attractive pet I've ever seen but he grows on you. After a month we have gotten used to having it in our home and I have even been called on to feed it (Who would have guessed?) when Sarah has been away.

The rat is fine and I am actually beginning to warm up to it. I does have an annoying habit though. It likes to chew away at the water bottle holder. Several times I have gone in and discovered that the water bottle was on its side, laying empty. One time he went tow days without water.

I wondered what he was thinking. Didn't he realize that his actions were jeopardizing his well being? Then a thought hit me. We do the same thing. We consider ourselves smarter than the rats, but we humans tend to behave in destructive ways as well. Too often we make choices that are bad for us. There is no rational explanation for it. Why else would we smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, take illegal drugs, eat too much, have unprotected sex and drive around in cars with road rage.

The apostle Paul saw this and noted that we can't seem to help ourselves. He points out that this is why we need to turn to Christ and to seek help. For God alone can help us overcome this self destructive tendency. He says that In Christ we are more than conquerors.

I pray that if you are caught up in something that is hurting you, that you will call on Christ to help. In doing so you will find strength and the ability to break free.

Cal