Friday, October 31, 2008

Give from the heart

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who or what has your number?

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lessons from a faulty furnace

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

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

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

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

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

Thankfully we always have choices. Praise God.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Setting up shop in the mainstream

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why do we want to get out?

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, October 24, 2008

God's Rainbow

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


Thursday, October 23, 2008


The man whispered, 'God, speak to me' and a meadowlark sang. But, the man did not hear.

So the man yelled, 'God, speak to me' and the thunder rolled across the sky. But, the man did not listen.

The man looked around and said, 'God let me see you.' And a star shined brightly. But the man did not see.

And, the man shouted, 'God show me a miracle.' And, a life was born. But, the man did not notice.

So, the man cried out in despair, 'Touch me God, and let me know you are here.' Whereupon, God reached down and touched the man. But, the man brushed the butterfly away. and walked on.

A friend passed this on to me and I found this to be a great reminder that God is always around us in the little and simple things that we take for granted. so look around. God is right there at your side.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The human face of God

I called and when she picked up the phone, Lucy said, "I can't believe it. I was just thinking about you." Lucy's aunt had died and she was struggling to find a poem or something to say at the service which would reflect the love and friendship they shared. As she was sitting at the computer she suddenly became overwhelmed with grief and then the phone rang.

Coincidence? I used to think so when I began in ministry. I used to believe a lot of things that happened in life were coincidental. I'll never forget a call I got from my mother when I was just starting out in ministry. She was upset because her father was going through a rough place and struggling with his health. As we talked my mom noted that our pastor hadn't stopped by. When I asked her if she had called him, she replied that she didn't think she needed to. "He always seems to know and drops in when I need him."

I was horrified. think of the pressure that puts on the minister. How can you know? I told her that it didn't work that way. She needed to call him. After twenty five years in ministry I still believe the call is important. But I do believe that sometimes God puts it in our heart to make a call or send someone a note or drop by for a visit. These promptings are the work of the Holy Spirit.

Trust me. These aren't only for the paid clergy. God uses all of us. He speaks to us and sends us out to encourage and lift up each other. We are his eyes, his hands and his feet. We are the body of Christ. When he needs to be with someone in a time of need, he will send you or me to be the visible presence of God. As one little boy put it, "We put a human face on God."

So open yourself up to God and he will send you out to share his love.


Is God enough?

Someone once asked me where I go when I need inspiration. I told them I go all over the place. Usually it begins with a prayer and then God speaks to me through blogs, newspaper articles, other people and even my friends. I also subscribe to a couple of daily and weekly emails. For years I had a friend sending me regular "wisdom from grandparents." The truth is that inspiration is all around us. We just need to open our eyes and be ready to receive it.

Last week I received an email from Zondervan Daily. It is a meditation that comes from the book publisher. I signed up for it last winter when I went to a conference in California. They always give you something to think about. Today's was especially meaningful in light of all the economic worries people seem to have. So I thought I would steal it and pass it along.

It is from John Burke's book, Soul Revolution: "How Imperfect People Become All God Intended." So enjoy.

"Of course you're enough, Lord," I'd answer intellectually. "Haven't I given my life to serve you? Didn't I prove I'd leave it all to follow you?" But when the deep struggle for peace and joy wouldn't let up, I had to admit the heartfelt truth: "No, Lord, right now you're not enough. I'm not at peace being faithful to simply love you and my family and enjoy using my gifts to serve you. I need things to go my way ... according to my plans ... that's the truth." That's why I was struggling. My hurt and frustration with God, my lack of joy and peace betrayed the truth. God was not enough. Faithfulness was not enough. I needed God plus — God plus things going as I planned. I wasn't okay with God being God in my life if he didn't do what I thought he should. I wasn't okay with simply being faithful to live in his will each day.

I spent the summer wrestling to surrender, letting go of playing God and learning to follow ... again. The sad thing is, I thought I'd already learned this lesson, but now I see that life with Christ is not so much a one-time decision to trust (though there is a first decision of faith), but more like a series of daily decisions to trust."

Monday, October 20, 2008

We can do all things through Christ

The Red Sox are going home today. After a great season and a super first round of the play-offs, the Red Sox finally ran out of gas and lost to the Tampa Rays in the American League Championship series. They made it interesting though. They kept coming back. They had all of us believing they could do it one more time. Funny thing is that they almost did.

What is the difference between winning and losing? It isn't as much as we tend to think it is. Usually the winning team catches a break here or there. The best doesn't always win. The team that takes advantage of its opportunities is the one who wins.

The same is true for all of us. The circumstances that we face in life may not always be fair, but the way we deal with them will determine whether we come out winners or losers. The Apostle Paul says that we should not be conformed to the world, but rather we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In other words, if we focus on Christ, if we lean on him, we can be more than conquerors. We can turn a loss into a victory.

The great comeback the other night was a reminder that no deficit is too big for those who believe. It didn't work out in the end, but the Sox had a great season and turned this into a real series. Congratulations Red Sox fans on a great year.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

You are a celebrity

I dropped by the church this afternoon and one of the little girls from Buenas Nuevas, our Spanish speaking congregation said to her friend, "It's him! He's here. It's really him." I saw them giggling and heard her comments but i didn't know what they were referring to. Then one of the girls came up to me with a copy of our newsletter and said, "Is this really you?"

My picture was on the front cover of our October Newsletter as an introduction to our Homecoming event this weekend. I never thought it would make me famous, but at least to these young ladies, I was a celebrity.

How wonderful it was to be recognized as someone special, even in a limited way. Well here is the good news. God thinks of us in that same way. We are the object of his affection and he gets excited every time we come to him. As a matter of fact, he loves us so much that he gave up his only begotten son for us.

So the next time you think you don't matter or that you are unimportant. Remember that to God you are a celebrity.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Putting out the garbage

When I got home tonight I went out and dragged the garbage out to the curb. It was a busy day and I was tired. I almost decided to let it go. But I knew that if I didn't tend to this tonight, that I would end up being sorry about it later.

A thought hit me after I came in. The same thing is true with the "garbage" in our lives. God calls us to dump it on him every day. Actually he calls us to come to him and confess our sins so he can forgive us and restore us. If we don't do this on a regular basis, it builds up in our lives and creates all kinds of mess. We get piles on top of piles and the problems seem to multiply exponentially.

So it is a good idea, no matter how busy or tired or whatever other excuses you have... to make sure you spend a little time with Jesus every night. It will be a blessing to you and you will be able to get a fresh start to your day.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A prayer of comfort in tough times

As I watched the ticker and saw the stock market going down again today I almost cried out, "Enough now!" I have not been directly hurt by the economic mess on Wall Street but I know that everything is touched by the ripple. I know that jobs will be lost and homes will be surrendered. I know that choices will have to be made about college educations and vacations, and even the things we put in our grocery carts.

There are a lot of worried people out there. I found this bit from Max Lucado. He is great. He has a way with words and I hope these words, this prayer of his brings you comport if you are worried tonight.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It is no debate

Last night I watched the movie, "The Great Debaters" and truly enjoyed it. The thing that really touched my soul though, was the fact that good people in this country had to live in fear simply because of the color of their skin.

I confess that I grew up in the sixties and seventies in a pretty isolated community here in Connecticut. We never saw the kind of discrimination that ran rampant throughout most of the country in those days. When the race riots broke out in Hartford, and the big cities across the country, I never saw it. Tony Gibson was my friend. The Davis family were a part of the school. The color of their skin didn't matter to us here. They were just like us.

A few years ago I sat down with a couple of ladies at the Martin Luther King Center and listened to them tell their stories about growing up in the south. It opened my eyes and I wanted to cry. How Could people be so cruel? I couldn't imagine watching my friends get turned away from a restaurant or a hotel. I don't know if I would have let it pass without stepping up to say something.

I wondered why people of faith didn't stand up and say something. Then again, that is a silly question. People of faith are still silent on such issues today. We are hesitant to speak about some issues of injustice. We don't want to speak up about things because we believe our faith is a private matter.

I don't think that is true. The truth is that our faith should inform everything we do, say and believe. We should stand up for what we believe is right and stand with the powerless and oppressed. The only word of caution I would give is that we need to remember to do it in love and with civility.

Martin Luther King was able to do far more with his acts of peaceful resistance and civil disobedience than many who came before and after him. His actions spoke to the hearts of many and changed minds and created dialog and opportunities. God's love shined in him.

I loved the fact that the debaters in the movie were able to present a pretty convincing argument by simple sharing their experience. No guns were fired or heads cracked, yet, they began to change the minds of many intellectuals in this country and paved the way for a better world.

I pray that your faith and mine might do the same in our time. So let it shine.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Turning apples to applesauce

Ooops! This morning I decided to trim my goatee and in a brief moment of a mental cramp I shaved off half of my mustache. I took off the attachment and went right down to the clippers without realizing what I was doing. I had a real predicament. After trying to balance off the sides, I went in to ask my daughter' opinion on what I should do. She laughed and said, "Shave it off. It looks stupid!" I pleaded with her to change her opinion but I knew in my heart that she was right.

Then I tried the next best thing to salvage my goatee. I shaved the mustache part completely off and decided I would go with the Kevin Youkilus look. Rachel laughed even harder when I came back in to her room. She said "Shave it off. It is all you can do."

As I finished the job it struck me that life has a lot of these little unintentional moments. Half of life is dealing with unexpected happenings. Isn't it funny that we worry about a lot of stuff that never happens. We fret and stew and run around worrying. Then something like this happens and we just deal with it.

Did you hear about the lady who turned a bunch of bruised apples into apple sauce? The truth is that there is an awful lot of stuff that comes our way that we see as horrible that may really just be opportunities. I know this pales in comparison to losing your job or having a fender bender, but instead of crying over this mishap, I shaved off the goatee and I am going to add a little color to my hair. I'm thinking I'll look ten years younger. I may even have some fun with this. On Sunday we are having an historical service and I can play up the fact that I look younger than when I arrived at the church 23 years ago.

The truth is that although some of the situations we face do have some difficult consequences that need to be dealt with, sometimes they also come with a fresh start. I know one man who lost his job. He hated the job but it fed the family. When he finally got a new job it turned out to be one that gave him much more satisfaction. I know another family that lost their home to a fire. It was terrible and they lost some precious memories. But today they have a beautiful new home and a lower mortgage payment to boot.

I know that I always look for the silver lining in every situation. You can do that too. For we have the promise of God that He works together for good for all those who love the Lord. That phrase doesn't mean that we will always have good times, but it assures us that God will work through even the misfortunes to provide a better outcome for us if we trust him.

So next time you see me you might not recognize me. I'll be the younger looking guy with a smile on my face.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Inviting our friends to come along

I went to Six Flags with my daughter last night. She brought a friend and I was on my own. I had a great time. The funny thing is that I went from ride to ride and with each one I was transported back in time to another day.

I rode on the Batman roller coaster and was there again with my daughter Sarah. She was just the right age when it was introduced and I remember going on it with her for the first time. I went on the Mind Eraser and I rode with my friend Al. I kept thinking about the time that he and I rode it two or three times in a row while his wife and our kids went to the water park.

I rode the Buzzsaw and kept thinking about my daughter Rachel and her friends. They love that ride and I have been on it many times with her. I crossed the park and decided to go on the old Thunderbolt. That the big rollercoaster when I was a kid. I remember coming here when it was Riverside Park with a friend from high school. I had a crush on grace and we rode all the rides on my birthday. I thought of her as I rode it.

My daughter called me and asked me if I wanted to go in the Haunted Mansion with her and her friend so I met them there. As we were going through I kept thinking of Kay, a former Youth Leader who took us on a couple of trips to great Haunted Houses when she was working with our kids. It was almost like she was there.

With every ride, I had another memory and an old friend rode with me. It got me thinking about the way we include Jesus in our lives. The truth is that if we invite him to come along with us every day, we will always see him when we look back on the events of our lives. What a blessing that is, especially when we go through those difficult times. It will remind us that Jesus is always there when we need him and call on him.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Who is God to you?

I was going through my e-mails this afternoon and I came on one that I missed last month. A young person from St. Joseph's School wrote asking me about my relationship to God. They were sent out to ask a community clergyman to share their view of who God was. The request came the day before I left for Australia so it slipped through the cracks. This afternoon I answered the question even though it was probably too late for the assignment.

The truth is that each of us should think about the question and try to answer it from our own understanding. We should never just take these things for granted. As we answer the question, God becomes clearer in our own understanding. Anyway, here is my answer. I've changed the name to protect this young person but the answer is the one I gave.

Dear Brian,

I am sorry I didn't get back to you earlier. I left for a trip to Australia on September 9th and overlooked your request when I got back. It is probably too late for your religion class but I will answer your question briefly.

Who is God to me? God is my creator and the lover of my soul. I believe that God created each and every one of us to have a life long relationship with. He didn't need to create us. He chose to do so because he was so filled with love that he wanted to make a partner to share it with. He created the earth, the solar system, and all that was and then singled out this planet and filled it with life.

We are the source of God's greatest joy, especially when we choose to reflect his love and pass it on. God is my friend. I walk and talk with him every day. I don't always hear his voice but I see him in the people and places I go. He is also worthy of my praise and worship. He is ultimate good and he is ultimately just. I am not worthy of his affection but he gives it anyway.

We see this most perfectly in the gift of his son, Jesus Christ, who came and offered his life on the cross to fulfill God's righteousness and take the punishment for my selfishness, sin and disobedience. God is holy and he calls for holiness from us. Yet we fail miserably and our sin separates us from God. But in his perfect love, God came to earth in the form of a human being. He was born to Mary and lived a perfect life so he could offer himself at the right time, so that the gap between heaven and earth, God and man, could be bridged. Now we can claim his righteousness and find forgiveness and new life. As the hymn says, "What a friend we have in Jesus." And ultimately that means we have a friend in God.

Today he is a part of my life. I talk to him every day and I love him. I am blessed by him. As a child of God I now am called to tell others just how much God loves them. I want them to know what I know. God is good and God loves us all.

How's that? Cal Lord's theology of God in a nutshell. Good luck with your class. Again I apologize for not getting back to you sooner.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Have you ever gotten lost?

I got lost last night. I was leaving the funeral parlor in Watertown after paying my respects to the family. I headed back the way I came but at the third light I saw a sign that pointed out a different way back to the highway.

I had to make a decision. Should I go back the way I came or follow the sign and discover a possible short cut. I felt like a little kid as I chose option two. I was up for a bit of an adventure. How could I go wrong?

Twenty five minutes and 16 miles later, I had to chuckle to myself. I had not only gotten lost but I ended up heading to Danbury instead of back to Hartford. I thought about the fact that too often we end up doing the same thing in other areas of our lives.

We think we know a short cut or a better way to get things done than the straight and narrow path God has laid out before us. We cut corners a little bit, tell a fib here or there. We push the envelope and try to squeeze our way into the places we want to be whether or not they are good for our soul. And when we get lost, we throw up our hands and ask why God let it happen.

The truth is that even though following the tried and true path may seem boring at times, we always get where we want to go. That's worth something. It also pleases God.

So next time I go awandering, I'm going to try and remember how I got lost this time. Maybe the ride home will look a little brighter.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sewing seeds of faith

He didn't even remember me. Dick Bausman was the man who encouraged me to take a student pastorate during my seminary days. He was my practicum leader in my second year of seminary. He told me that I had good instincts for ministry and suggested I see Dr. Orlando Tibbetts about candidating for a position in a small church in Rhode Island. His reference and encouragement led to me accepting the call to my first church, the Cross Mills Baptist Church in Chalrestown, Rhode Island.

On Saturday I saw him for the first time in 25 years and he had no clue who I was. I had to laugh. I had followed his career from afar, always noting where he was. He was one of those men who had been influential in my life and I was a blip on his radar screen that had long since disappeared.

Don't get me wrong. I am not stewing over it. Actually it made me realize just how God works in getting things done. He uses us to plant seeds in everything we do. God uses every word, every smile, every bit of love and encouragement to reach people and touch their lives. We might have an effect on somebody we meet along the way and not even aware of it.

As if to punctuate this point, God with his great sense of humor, set me up this morning. At 6:00 a.m. I went to McDonalds for a bagel and a coffee. As I was standing in line waiting for my order, one of the ladies who worked there looked at me and said, "I know you!" She looked vaguely familiar but I couldn't place her. She continued, "You married me in New London last year." I said, "Congratulations. I hope you guys are still going strong."

So you never know the good you will do. Just keep following Jesus and you will be a blessing to those you meet.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Introducing Jesus to a friend

You can find some cute things on God tube. I found this little ditty tonight. Enjoy!


Friday, October 3, 2008

Road signs from God

I love breakfast. This morning I went to Old Tymes and had the basic two egg breakfast. I know it isn't good for my heart and my cholesterol, but I don't do it every day. It is one of those things that I do on occasion that simply adds joy to my plate.

Do you have things that you do that accomplish the same thing? For years I played softball. After a broken leg, two dislocated shoulders, a broken finger and numerous scrapes, bruises and minor injuries my wife made me quit. When I asked her why she simply replied, "You should know better than to ask!"

Some people like to shop and they just get a thrill out of picking up a bargain. Others like to go to a good dance club and have a good time. Some folks stop in at one of the Casino and play for a little while.

I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with any of these activities. When done in moderation they can be very helpful in allowing us to unwind and enjoy life. The problem is that too many of us go overboard. Our "fun" button gets stuck and we go to extremes and end up hurting ourselves. We eat too much, or drink too much or stay out too late or break something. The fun then begins to turn around and bite us.

The Bible talks about doing things in moderation. Life is really about balancing everything we do. God warns us that when we step past the boundaries he has put out there, we are going to end up in trouble and distress.

When I was little I didn't like the fact that my parents told me I couldn't do certain things. As I grew up I began to understand some of their warnings and realized that they were there to protect me more than anything else. The same is true with God. The admonitions in the Bible, the Commandments, the warnings arise out of God's deep love for us and his desire that we live long and fruitful lives.

So think about what you are doing especially if the Bible throws up a red flag. It just might save your life.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Are you ready for your debate?

I was watching the debate tonight and I had a terrifying thought. What if we had to run for the position of follower of Jesus Christ? What if we had to prove ourselves to God before he voted for us. Would we rehearse and study up so that we wouldn't sound foolish? What parts of our track record would we bring up and tout before the Lord and what part would we hope he wasn't aware of? How many times would we duck the question and answer in a way that brings out our strong suit? Would we point the finger of blame at someone else or would we stand up and admit when we were wrong?

It's a scary thought. Thankfully we won't have to do that. Why? Because we have an advocate that is a master debater. He'll stand up and defend us before God. He will even go so far as to take our punishment if the tide goes against us and someone has to pay the price. Actually, he already has so the verdict has been set aside and we can start over and live to his glory. Praise God!


Where is your label from?

I am sitting here looking at a bunch of very pretty return address labels that I received from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital. They have my name and address on them with some lovely scenes in the corner. The amazing thing is that I didn't order them or give anything to the hospital to get them. They just arrived in my mailbox as a free gift.

I haven't used any yet, but I am going to when I send out a few letters this afternoon. Nobody will know where I got them. They aren't part of an advertising campaign. They will actually make me look pretty good and even very trendy.

It got me thinking about the way God operates. He does the same thing. He blesses us before we even do anything to honor or serve him. God doesn't withhold his benefits or his love until we accomplish a certain number of things. He gives it freely in advance of anything we can or will do.

He called Abraham to follow him and told him he would be the father of a great nation and a light unto the world. He told David that he would be king and that his house would reign forever even before he was a man. He told Peter, Andrew, James and john that they would be fishers of men before they even dropped their nets to follow him.

What's even more amazing is the fact that as the apostle Paul tells us, that while we were yet sinners, God gave his son for us. We didn't do anything to deserve God's grace. He made the first move with the hope that we would respond in love and embrace his gift going forward.

I thank God for that. Now we can accept his gracious gift and use it to bring glory to God.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A lesson learned

Someone once said that "perception is reality." This is a great statement that speaks volumes about the way we interact with each other. I learned how true it was the other day when I received an email from a friend of mine who took exception to an article I passed on to him and a few others.

My friend read this article and immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was bashing not only his political candidate but a whole other class of people. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Yet, his own internal filters picked up certain words and he jumped to a conclusion without regard to our friendship and our history.

He did exactly what he accused me of doing. He put me in a stereotype and found me guilty. The truth is that I was guilty because I had sent him that article. It didn't matter what it said. What mattered was how he took it. For that is what got him going. He perceived that article as an attack on what he believes in. I should have been more sensitive.

I think that is what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he said that even if all things are lawful, it doesn't mean we should do them. We need to be sensitive to others feelings and perceptions. We don't always need to be right or to prove our point. We need to consider how others will see what we are saying or doing.

I've always believed that dialogue is important. We need to talk to each other, build relationships, and find common ground if we are going to be true to God. So it means understanding that everything we say and do can be taken in more ways than we know. It means living with the truth that perception is reality and that if we want to serve God, we need to remember that whenever we do something.