Friday, July 30, 2010

Church on Sunday, Sluggard on Monday?

One of my favorite sports movies is the film Rudy. The true story of a teen,raised in a blue collar family, who would rather to go to school and play football at Notre Dame than work in the steel mill like his father, brother, and the ancestors before him.

Rudy is a 165 pound kid, too small to play collegiate football, and can't get into Notre Dame because of his grades. The priest at Notre Dame suggests Rudy go to a junior college nearby until he can get his grades up to the level needed to be accepted at Notre Dame.

Along this never ending trail of achievement Rudy learns that he has dislexia, but that doesn't stop him from overcoming his disability by working hard. Once he is accepted at Notre Dame, he tries out for the football team. When he doesn't make the team, he keeps trying out until he finally makes it on the practice squad. This only happened because the coaches loved his heart and his work ethic. In some ways Rudy was literally a tackling dummy for the starting squad, but each time he was taken down and no matter how hard the hit, he got right back up.

Even though Rudy chose not to be a blue collar worker like the heritage of his family, he did carry with him that same blue collar mentality of "working hard" to succeed.

We all know that hard work pays off whether you are a Christian or not. But what about Christians? Is it okay to be a sluggard at work?
In Proverbs God gives us the model for "hard work" by referring to the ant:

Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain,
Overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.

So God wants us to be as diligent as an ant. Hmm, how does that work?

In the Book of Ecclesiastes King Solomon gives us the formula for success:

1. Seek to please God in all you do.

Ecclesiastes 2:24- Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.

2. Find enjoyment in your work and daily life.

Ecclesiastes 3:22- So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

3. Never attempt to substitute scholarship for obedience.

Ecclesiastes 12:12-14- And further My son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all.
For God will bring every work into judgement, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.

And of course, with King Solomon being acknowledged as the wisest man ever, how can we not forget adding "wisdom" to the formula for hard,diligent work. For wisdom brings success.

Ecclesiastes 10:10- If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success.

Who would have thought that one of the tiniest of insects, the ant, would represent all that we are to be in our work habits?

One of the more memorable movie quotes comes from Maximus, in the film Gladiator:

"What we do in life echoes in eternity."

What we do in our lifetime and how we chose to live that life will be remembered long after we have passed on. This is how working hard brings honor to God.

In Ecclesiastes 7:1 it says that, "A good name is better than precious ointment,
And the day of death than the day of one's birth."

If you've chosen to live and do the will of God in your life then you've built a name for yourself through living a life of "Honor". People will recognize your life just by the mere mention of your name. And what you do in life will make an impact for generations to come.

I will attempt to separate the wise and the foolish, with some help from King Solomon, on my next post. That should be fun.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Everything Under The Sun

Once our plane reached high above the clouds, one of the male stewards jokingly quipped:

"Will the owner of a Blue Dodge Durango please come forward, you left your lights on!"

Now,mind you, the steward had already warned us of his one liners by exclaiming:

"If you don't like my jokes there are six exits on this plane: two in the front, two in the middle at the windows, and two at the end of the plane!"

It was nice to see someone having fun with their job.

A few days later in San Diego we hopped aboard the USS Midway aircraft carrier.
We climbed our way to the first level which had some displays, gift shops, and restrooms. Only one thing though, which I failed to recognize, okay I admit I didnt know, that the bathrooms on board a ship full of sailors is called something else.

All of the Docents (guides) are former Navy personnel. When I asked a crusty old Vet docent at the information booth where the restroom was, he LOUDLY snarled, to my embarrassment,

"We don't have restrooms! There is no rest for sailors on this ship!"

"Okay, where's the bathrooms?" I asked.

"Sailors dont use bathrooms!" he added.

Someone was then kind enough to inform me to ask the Vet where the "head" was. And sure enough, the docent finally gave me the directions I needed. But, he obviously had to get his last licks in,

"I sure hope you make it in time!"

Ha ha! Sure I was embarrassed. But again, I was glad to see someone having fun at their job. But not at my expense! Upon leaving the bathroom, I mean "the head", there was a sign explaining why the bathroom on board a ship is called the "head: the bathroom is always located at the head of the ship.

Having fun while you are working is vital to your sanity. Ironically, the last couple of weeks leading up to my vacation I had been in some kind of "labor kick" of the working variety:

First I had found out that some Illinois highway construction workers, who are making $58-$63 an hour, are on strike for, you guessed it, more "Money". My thinking on this was: "With millions of people out of work, how can you have the audacity to go on strike when making that much money? There are many people who would kill to have that job and would do it for a half, or a third of what you are making.You should be grateful you have a job and especially with that kind of salary."

Second, before taking my two weeks vacation I had three of my brothers and sisters at church ask me to remember them in prayer for a job. Of course I obliged, knowing where they are coming from personally because I've been through it myself. This also made me grateful for the opportunity of being able to take a vacation from a job that I have.

I think this is why we all need to put into perspective what we do have,and what God says about it, and what He wants from each of us.

Amidst all of this, I have been studying for the past month the Book of Ecclesiastes, which relates to many things about work and enjoying life, and I'll deal with this on my next two posts.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20:

Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the days of life God has given him- for this is his lot.

Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, accept his lot and be happy in his work, this is a gift from God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How Did They Do That?

Here's one more "How Did They Do That" to ponder while Dave is away:

Did you ever wonder how the director and film editor of The French Connection lost sight of the fact that a car lost 9 hubcaps during one of the greatest car chase scenes ever made?

In the Oscar winning film of 1971, starring Gene Hackman, a car is giving chase to an elevated train through the streets of downtown Brooklyn. Along with fast driving speeds of up to 90 mph, there were 5 specific stunts within this 13 minute chase scene. One of which included the car going against traffic in order to get back into parallel position to the elevated train that it's chasing.

Some of the most unique camera angles in movies first appeared within this famous scene:

The director ran one camera from the backseat of the car while he was wrapped in a mattress for protection.

Another camera was attached to the front bumper to get a unique view of the streets while zooming by at 90 mph. This camera cranked out 18 frames per second to give the viewers a feel for the speed at which this chase involved.

So, with all of this technological concentration for this scene, and 2 days worth of filming it along with many different takes, one can understand how the film editor failed to notice the car lost 9 hubcaps when the final editing was complete.

It's safe to say the film still won an Oscar for Best Picture and for Best Director. So I guess the film editor can be forgiven!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How Did They Do That? (coffee)

Here's more to ponder on while Dave is away:

Did you ever wonder how they learned to make coffee?

Legend has it that a shepherd named Kaldi was roaming the hills with his herd of goats around A.D. 850. One day he noticed his usually quiet herd behaving very strange: they were frolicking and prancing up and down the rocky slopes excitedly. The shepherd became curious of their strange behavior and hid behind a rock to view the goats nibbling on some berries from a nearby shrub. Kaldi decided to try the berries himself and he, too, became filled with energy.

A priest that was passing by noticed Kaldi and the herd's peculiar behavior and decided to eat some of the berries, and ended up with the same side effects. He would then bring the potent shrub to the monastery but he nor the monks could identify it. They decided to boil the berries in water and drink it. The effects of this drink would keep them awake with enough energy to spend more time in prayer and devotions.

And of course, this drink with the stimulating side effects, is now referred to as "coffee".

In Arabia, where coffee first gained popularity, this legend is the most popular explanation of it's origin. The coffee plant itself was brought to Yemen from Africa. Until the end of the 17th century almost all coffee was obtained from Yemen.

And there you have it. Thanks to a shepherd,a herd of goats,and some monks you can now sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How Did They Do That? (the hot dog)

While Dave is on vacation, here's something to ponder:

Did you ever wonder how they named the hot dog?

A guy named Feuchtwanger of Bavaria brought the sausage to America in the 1880's and began selling the frank in St. Louis. He offered the customers a pair of white cotton gloves to prevent them from burning their hands with each piping hot frank that he sold them. The gloves became too expensive to give out with each frank so he approached his brother-in-law, the baker, to come up with, you guessed it, a bun for that hot frank to fit in.

At the New York polo grounds vendors would sell these franks, luring customers by shouting, "Red hots! Get your red-hot dachshund sausages!"

In 1900, a sports writer in the press box during a game doodled a cartoon of a vendor selling these franks. He sketched a barking dachshund in a roll, and, not knowing how to spell "dachshund", he called it a "hot dog".

The name stuck, and there you have it, "the hot dog".

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How Did They Do That? (houdini)

While Dave is on vacation, here's something to ponder:

Did you ever wonder how Houdini really got out of that crate underwater?

Houdini called this trick "My Challenge to Death". In case your not familiar with this: Houdini would sit, handcuffed inside of a crate and lowered down into the water's bottom. Then, after a minute,the crate was hoisted up out of the water with Houdini sitting atop of the crate uncuffed. His secret:

First, the handcuffs were fake, easily opened by a secret spring.

Second, he took with him a carefully concealed pair of nail cutters. As soon as the crate was underwater he would cut enough nails to push aside the lid. Once outside of the crate, he simply pushed the lid back in place.

About his death defying act, Houdini had said:

"It is necessary to preserve absolute serenity of spirit. I have to work with great delicacy and lightening speed. If I grow panicky I am lost."

And that's how the Great Houdini did it!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Irish Eyes Are Smiling

I've heard it said that,"It's not how you enter into this world,
but how you leave it."

Though we don't have any say on how we can physically leave this world or even choose when to leave (without doing harm to our self), we can however dictate how we can leave spiritually, or should I say "peacefully".

This past week our men study group at church lost another Elder Statesmen.One of the last true, down to earth Irishmen that I know; and known by me as Uncle Jack.

Uncle Jack left a lasting impression on me during my last visit with him. He had suffered a stroke and was in the ICU at the hospital. When I walked into the room he had a couple of women from church there, encouraging him with their voices as they sang hymns. Though Uncle Jack was kind of in a comatose state, he recognized me, and was fully aware of his surroundings. And even though he couldn't vocally express himself, he was trying really hard to sing along. In his spirit he was definitely singing.

For the few years of having him in our study group, he would often mention the many battles he had fought and conquered with diabetes. And all the while, you could see his love for God and his love for worshiping Christ.

Uncle Jack fought the good fight in faith, and continued to worship God amidst all of his struggles. What better lasting impression to leave on all of us; going out in a blaze of Glory!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Feisty, Sarcastic Moses

"Lord,just kill me now and be done with it!"

Have you ever copped an attitude like this when going through a situation? Don't feel bad,Moses did too.

When you think of Moses in the Bible, I am sure this quote of his doesn't even come to mind at first. This is one of my favorite conversational pieces between Moses and God (Numbers chapter 11), after Moses finds out he's leading one massive headache called "The Israelites".

So Moses has been chosen to lead the Israelites to the Promise Land, and all that's been fed to them so far is a plant called coriander seed. The Israelites grumble and complain, and remind Moses that as slaves they were eating some mighty great food: fish,cucumbers,and melons. Amongst all of their complaining, Moses loses his cool with God:

"Why have you afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me?"

And then, look out, here comes the sarcasm:

"Did I conceive all these people as my own?"

"And where am I to get meat to give all these people? For they weep all over me saying,'Give us meat, so that we may eat!' I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness!"

And of course, God had an answer for Moses' requests. He asked Moses to gather up 70 of the Elders of Israel so that He could pour out upon them the same Spirit that was living in Moses, so that these Elders might help Moses with his heavy burden, known as The Israelites.

Then God dishes it back to Moses, telling Moses to say to the Israelites they will have so much meat, it'll be coming out of their noses:

"Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall eat not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying,'Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?'"

And if you know the story, this was just the beginning of a long journey for Moses and the Israelites. A journey in learning to trust in God for their provision.

If you ever find yourself copping an attitude over a situation, remember:

God's grace is sufficient for all of your needs. He will provide what you have need of and will not let you bear the burden alone. No matter what that burden may be.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Bicycle Thief

In the 1948 film The Bicycle Thief, Ricci and his family are living in Rome during the post-world war II depression. Ricci, in search of work, gets hand picked out of over a hundred men for a job, the only requirement is he needs a bicycle. During this era of depression in Rome, aside from public transportation the bicycle was the most valuable means of transportation, if you could afford one. Ricci, who had already hocked his bicycle once in order to buy food for his family, returns to the pawn shop to retrieve his bicycle. His wife brings with them all of their bedding materials to trade for the bike.

The next day Ricci starts his job, traveling throughout the streets of Rome hanging up posters (before billboards, advertisement was glued on walls of buildings).
During one of his jobs a teenager sneaks behind him and steals his bicycle. Ricci catches a glimpse of what the teen looks like,chases him but can't catch him.

Ricci notifies a policeman and gives a description of the bike and its serial number.
The policeman offers little hope of him finding it amongst the hundreds of bicycles in the city.

Ricci requests the help of some friends and the next morning they begin their search, Ricci's son Bruno assists him. Throughout Ricci's feverish search we see:

1. There are literally hundreds of bicycles in Rome, out numbering cars about 4 to 1,and on every street corner people are selling bicycles and accessories. Some bicycles are stolen and then stripped apart for parts, so it seems like it would be an impossible task to find a stolen bike. Ricci searches through many of the street vendors displays of bikes.

2. While walking with his son down one street after an exhaustive search, Ricci recognizes the thief talking to a homeless man as if they were friends. He confronts them but the teenager gets away from him again. Ricci presses on the old man for the whereabouts of the teen, but gets no answers. Not accepting the old man's unwillingness to help, Ricci follows the old man into a church. After a few squabbles within a church service, the old man gives him the slip.

3. Throughout Ricci's failed attempts at finding his bicycle, you can tell he's losing his cool and is becoming more and more desperate. He has it set in his mind that he must not fail,and does not want to fail in the sight of his son.

Ricci finally catches the thief, but without any evidence of the bicycle in sight, he has trouble proving to a policeman that the teen stole his bicycle.

At the end of a long day's search, Ricci and his son make their journey back home. Ricci is completely dejected at the loss of not only his bike, but now the sure loss of his job, and his failure in front of his son.

Ricci and his son Bruno make their way past hundreds upon hundreds of bicycles parked outside the soccer stadium. He sends his son home on the trolley, and in one last desperate measure decides to steal one of the bicycles. His son misses boarding the trolley and sees his father stealing the bicycle and then watches as his father gets caught. The owner of the bicycle refuses to press charges when he sees the boy, so the policeman lets Ricci go.

Ricci walks away in complete shame, his son Bruno following at his side.

Ricci, a once proud man who only wanted to provide for his family,let his desperation get the best of him. But I like the way this story ended: the son choosing to stick beside his father, even in his father's most desperate, shameful moment.