Tuesday, December 27, 2011


This accompanying photo you see is one that made its rounds all over the world via the internet last Christmas season. The story behind this photo is a simple one: this stray dog had been wandering around a certain neighborhood for a few days and one night found the perfect place to rest.

I love what this photo simply conveys toward us as we approach the New Year: choosing to find peace, rest and comfort in the arms of the Father.

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. - Psalm 145:8

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Meet John Doe: Movie Review

Even though I am a huge classic movie buff I was not aware of this film, nor even it being considered a Christmas film, until last December 2010. I caught maybe the last ten minutes of it after midnight on Christmas Eve and the last scene was so powerful, I had to rent it and watch from start to finish. With that said, here you are:

Imagine yourself living in a big city or state where the economy is bad, unemployment is high, many people in need of food, and all the politicians are crooked. You then decide to protest these ills of society by threatening to jump off the roof of City Hall on Christmas Eve unless things improve. Do you think anything would change? Would anybody care?

This is the premise behind Frank Capra's 1941 film Meet John Doe,
starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. A story that deals with the heart of the American people and definitely resonates with each of us today.

Stanwyck plays reporter Ann Mitchell of the New Bulletin newspaper,a struggling paper that has been bought by a wealthy industrialist. Ann gets laid off from her job but is asked to write one final column. She obviously wants to come up with something that draws fireworks in hopes of maybe keeping her job. Ann creates a fictional character named John Doe, an unemployed homeless man who writes a letter to the paper protesting against the collapse of decency in the world and threatens to jump off the roof of City Hall at midnight on Christmas Eve unless things change.

The Governor and some competing newspapers believe this is a hoax and just another publicity stunt. So when the town begins to show an interest in John Doe by offering him a job and a place to live, the newspaper finds itself needing to cover up its tracks. So they hire a homeless man who is without any family to pose as John Doe.

The newspaper and Ann Mitchell decide to use John Doe to unite the American people with Doe's philosophy that it is the little people who are the backbone of America:

"The character of the country is the sum character of the little punks.
The meek will inherit the earth when we all work together."

And one of John Doe's other philosophies that he asks of the people,

"Why can't that Spirit, that Christmas Spirit, last all year long?"

John Doe is asked to do a radio speech and the next thing you know his story has taken the country by storm. News begins to spread throughout the land of his story and small town folks are creating John Doe Clubs to carry out his message. These clubs obviously have one stipulation: no politicians allowed.

Ann Mitchell and her publisher decide to circulate John Doe and his message throughout the towns of America and we see small towns everywhere uniting together with brotherly love toward one another. Neighbors are seen giving other neighbors a helping hand with food, small jobs with pay,and offering others a place to live.

And as any good story goes, there's always one villain in the crowd.And in this case it is the owner of the newspaper,a man named Norton, who wants to use the John Doe movement for his own welfare to gain a seat in the White House.

Of course John Doe has no desire to go along with this political maneuver and realizes Norton is just another politician who wants to kill the decency of mankind and the John Doe's of the world. Norton blackmails John Doe to follow or otherwise he would spread the news that John Doe is a fake and he would then be shunned by society wherever he went.

When John Doe addresses a crowd of thousands at a John Doe Rally, Norton pulls out all the stops. He has delivery boys spread throughout the crowd newspapers with the headline John Doe is a Fake. Amidst all the ruckus John Doe leaves out a back entrance and disappears for a few days. And while he has disappeared from the American people without a word, John Doe Clubs begin to disband throughout the land.

On Christmas Eve night, church bells ringing at the strike of midnight, John Doe shows up atop the roof of City Hall. But also up there waiting for him are a few loyal John Doe club members who still believe in his philosophy and had seen it work in their neighborhoods. John Doe has seen the hatred throughout the country, the dirty politics, and the indecency of mankind, and chooses to go ahead with the once created plan of jumping. And then Ann Mitchell comes running into his arms with the speech of all speeches:

"Please don't give up, John! The John Doe movement isn't dead. Oh,John, if it's worth dying for, it's worth living for. Oh,please John...you wanna be honest don't ya'? Well you don't have to keep the John Doe idea alive. Someone already died for that once. The first John Doe. And He's kept that idea alive for nearly 2,000 years.
And He'll go on keeping it alive for ever and ever and always."

My hope is that this coming New Year we will see many John Doe's flourish throughout our land. All it takes to start is one individual willing to carry on that Christmas Spirit all year long. Will it be you?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Vacation: Movie Review

This 1989 film starring Chevy Chase has become not only one of my favorites, but a cult classic that many people view more than once during the holiday season, and for good reason. While viewing this film and studying the humongous amount of funny quotes it has to offer, it is no wonder it has replaced the classics like
Its A Wonderful Life as the must see holiday movie every season.

Chevy Chase plays Clark Griswold in the third installment of the series of Vacation films. Clark realizes both his and wife Ellen's parents are getting old so he decides to have an old fashioned family Christmas, one that he never had growing up.

"Our holidays were always such a mess, dad."


How'd you get through it dad?"

"I had a little help from Jack Daniels."

As the Griswold family goes out in search of the great Christmas tree to add to their home trouble abounds, everything from: getting run down in the family station wagon by a semi truck, to hiking waist deep in snow in search of that allusive special tree, only to forget the chainsaw to actually cut down that tree.

"Clark, Audrey's frozen from the waist down."

"That's all part of the experience,honey."

One of the great beginnings in this festive comedy is Clark's fascination with getting the house decorated with thousands of lights, only to have problems in getting those thousands of lights to actually work. But once he does,

"Is your house on fire Clark?"

"No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights."

One of the more humorous relationships in all of the Vacation films are the one's between Clark and the annoying Cousin Eddie, played fabulously by Randy Quaid. It seems like Cousin Eddie and family are always taking advantage of the Griswold's.
Each scene shown with Clark and Cousin Eddie presents a comedic duet of shear delight, as they each play off one another well.

While the family is outside admiring the now functioning properly Christmas lights, Cousin Eddie and family show up... uninvited of course.

"You surprised to see us,Clark?"

"Oh, Eddie..if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised then I am now."

Once inside the festive looking home, their comedic bantering continues:

"Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?"

"Naw, I'm just fine Clark."

One of the more funny moments of the film is when 80 year-old Aunt Bethany hears something inside the Christmas tree.

"What's that sound? You hear it? It's a funny squeaky sound."

"You couldn't hear a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant!"

exclaims Uncle Lewis.

Aunt Bethany's hearing seems to be pretty good for her age as the sounds she hears are that of a squirrel who has taken up residency inside.The squirrel suddenly takes flight throughout the house wrecking havoc along the way. Not to mention Cousin Eddie's dog Snots helping with the dismantling of the home by joining in the chase.

This epic destruction along with Uncle Eddie coming uninvited, and the Christmas tree catching fire from Uncle Lewis' cigar, has the Griswold's second guessing their having a traditional family Christmas.

"Clark, I think it's best if everyone went home..before things get worse."

"Worse? How could things get any worse? Take a look around here, Ellen, we're at the threshold of hell!"

Things do get worse when a messenger delivers Clark his Christmas bonus, only it's not what he was expecting. Clark was expecting enough money in his bonus to put in a swimming pool, instead he gets enrolled in a jelly-of-the-month club.

"If this isn't the biggest bag-over-the-head, punch-in-the-face I ever got!"

Clark goes ballistic and rants heavily about his low-down-dirty cheap boss. He even sarcasticly asks for his boss to be brought to his home so he could lash out at him in person; his boss neatly wrapped in a red bow of course.

Cousin Eddie, who always takes Clark literally on everything he says, drives off to kidnap Clark's boss and bring him back to the Griswold's now defunct family Christmas.

"Yes, officer, it seems my husband's been abducted. The man..was wearing a blue leisure suit. Plates were from Kansas. He was a huge,beastly, bulging man."
the boss's wife exclaims on the phone to the police.

Much to Clark's surprise, Cousin Eddie appears with Clark's boss and a Swat Team to follow. Much to the delight of the Griswold family, Clark's boss realizes what he did to save a cheap buck was wrong, and reinstates Clark Griswold's bonus.

The Griswold family Christmas, not the one they had in mind, but one I am sure they will never forget.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas with the Kranks: Movie Review

This holiday film is a hidden gem that somehow gets lost within the bombardment of otherwise quality and traditional Christmas movies. This story has such an impact ending that it is worthy of watching with the entire family.

In Christmas with the Kranks, Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis play Luther and Nora Kranks, a well-to-do couple who find themselves spending their first Christmas without their daughter Blair, who has joined the Peace Corps.

With the two of them feeling down, Luther offers up this suggestion to his wife,

"Why don't we skip Christmas this year, save the money, and spend it on ourselves for a change."

Luther's numbers crunching comes up with them having spent $6100 for Christmas last year, where an island cruise for the two of them this year would cost only $3000. Nora buys into the idea!

Luther begins his boycott of Christmas by sending out a memo to his office co-workers that he is not celebrating Christmas this year: no Christmas cards, no gifts,and he will not attend office party.

While Nora abruptly lets her gal pals know that she and Luther won't be having their annual Christmas Eve party.

When confronted by the Cub Scouts to purchase their usual Christmas tree, Luther declines, simply stating "We're not doing Christmas this year!"

The Cub Scout leader informs the neighborhood of the Kranks dastardly selfish deed,
"Luther Kranks just stiffed the scouts on a Christmas tree!"

When Dan Ankroyd, who plays the neighborhood watchdog, gets wind of this and Luther's refusal to put up the traditional Frosty the Snowman upon his rooftop, the Christmas guilt trip onslaught by the neighbors begins.
Luther and Nora become the talk of the village, even finding their picture on the front page of the town newspaper with the headline:
Skipping Christmas.

When Christmas Carolers are suggested to confront the Kranks home to bring them some Christmas Spirit, Luther and Nora go hide in the basement.

Luther and Nora even receive threatening phone calls from a kid named Spike, who wants them to: "Free Frosty! Free Frosty!

Suddenly things take a turn when they receive a phone call on Christmas Eve from Blair who surprises them with her returning home for Christmas with her fiance Enrique from Peru.

Luther and Nora are now in panic mode as Blair is coming home in a few hours expecting: a Christmas tree, house decorated, Frosty on the rooftop, and a Christmas Eve party with friends and neighbors who the Kranks originally have made enemies with.

As Luther has trouble finding a Christmas tree, he asks his neighbor across the street if he could borrow theirs since they are leaving out of town. With the help of Spike, Luther tries moving the decorated tree across the street in a little red wagon, something I would not suggest you do for two reasons: one, it might attract the neighbors, and two,it will attract the police.

When the neighborhood finds out that the Kranks Christmas is back on, they pitch in to help out, but make known they are only doing this for Blair's sake. One of my favorite lines in the movie comes from Dan Ackroyd,

"Don't blame the daughter for the sins of the father!"

Many mishaps happen during the frantic pace of putting their traditional Christmas back together. But it all comes together and Blair comes home to a festive home and party as if nothing had happened.

Later Nora becomes upset with Luther who's found hiding in a corner of the kitchen wallowing in self pity and trying to figure out how they can still make their flight out tomorrow for that cruise. She reminds him of what great lengths the neighborhood went to make Blair's homecoming a success and that,

"The true meaning of community is putting others before yourself."

Luther decides to give the cruise tickets away to the old man and woman who live across the street who are spending possibly their last Christmas together as the woman is dying of cancer.

Luther Kranks finally realizes one of the things Christmas is all about:
friends, family, community, and the importance of giving.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas)

It's that time of year again for some more of my Christmas movie reviews. I thought I would start off with some obscure but important Christmas films that should be viewed by everyone at least once. First up is one of my favorites Joyeux Noel:

Aside from the various stories about the real meaning of Christmas,the birth of Christ, there is probably no other more powerful Christmas film than Joyeux Noel. If you don't mind a foreign film with sub titles, this is definitely a must see movie.

This film is about the World War 1 truce on Christmas Eve 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish, and German soldiers along the Western Front.

The one fact that you come to grip with throughout this film is that we are all one people. It doesn't matter which side you are on, what religion you are, nor what race you are, we are all one people. And through each of these soldiers we see:

1. They share the same emotions of war and the battle to survive.

2. They each carry with them the desire to be home for Christmas.

3. They all have someone back home that they so desperately love and want to be with.

4. They all share that same dream, one of peace.

On one of the battle fields on the Western front on Christmas Eve we see: the French in their trenches preparing to celebrate Christmas with champagne, the Scottish playing Christmas carols with their bagpipes, and the Germans in their trenches with Christmas trees and the voice of one Nikolaus Sprink, the famous German Tenor. Now mind you, each side is still leary of a surprise attack from one another.

Once the sound of the bagpipes in the cold desolate air begins, emotions begin to swirl amongst all three sides. The German Tenor grabs a Christmas tree and gallantly makes his way to the center of the battlefield singing Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

The leaders of the French, Scottish, and German armies boldly come out and agree on a cease-fire for the evening. All three platoons would then acquaint themselves with one another and share: chocolate, champagne, photos of wives, girlfriends and family, and stories of their past.

At the stroke of midnight a British priest delivers a brief mass in which all the troops respond in unison and are deeply moved.

"Tonight, these men were drawn to that altar like it was a fire in the middle of winter. Even those who aren't devout came to warm themselves. Maybe just to be together. Maybe to forget the war", exclaims Palmer,the British priest.

And so one night of peace drew all men together.

On Christmas Day these soldiers who were once enemies do the unthinkable and shelter each other during an artillery barrage from another unit. The leaders of these respective regiments then decide to have their units break away from the Western Front, so they won't have to fight one another.

The Germans are scolded by the Crown Prince of Prussia and are shipped by train to the Eastern front to fight the Russians. As the train departs, they start singing a Scottish carol they learned from the enemies they had befriended,
I'm Dreaming of Home.

May we all continue to pray for: peace on earth,
and goodwill toward men.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Beg to Differ on Thanksgiving

A conversation with a couple of friends at work on whether football or any other sport should be played on Christmas Day because it is such a spiritual holiday, led to this great debate: Is Christmas the more spiritual holiday rather than Thanksgiving Day?

The most obvious answer would be Christmas Day, the day we celebrate Jesus birth.
But, I beg to differ if we are talking about those of us who are consistently faithful in our walk with Christ. Then the obvious choice should be Thanksgiving Day.

If you are walking straight with God then you are already celebrating His birth every single day you wake up and breathe; otherwise you wouldn't choose the lifestyle you lead.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks to God for all that He has provided us with in the past year."

I, for one, love Thanksgiving better than Christmas. Perhaps it is because I have grown to where the basic necessities in life play a more important role for me than wanting something extravagant.

I know you are probably asking yourself," Thanksgiving better than Christmas,Dave?Your kidding, right? You don't get any gifts for Thanksgiving, but at Christmas time you can really rake in the presents!"

But, that's just it, there aren't any gifts that I really want. I have everything I need. I feel that I am already blessed. And there are so many more people out there who are less fortunate than I am. Isn't that what Thanksgiving really is all about; being grateful for the things we have and also being able to give to those who are in need?

Sure, I could use a new car, a vacation, an increase in salary, but who wouldn't desire any of those things?

I've been blessed to hop on a plane and take a vacation every six months for the last 3 years. So, I am eternally grateful for that and the things I have.

I remember having this true story relayed to me by someone, a story on gratefulness:

A gentleman came up to the preacher one Sunday after church and asked him to pray for him. The man felt like he was struggling in his faith and felt that everything in his life wasn't going right.

The preacher worked with the gentleman on making a list of pro's and con's in his life at that moment.

The preacher starts with a list of cons:

"So, I heard both you and your wife lost your jobs?"

"No, we still have our jobs,Pastor."

"I also heard that your house is up for foreclosure."

"No, Pastor, our house is paid for!" exclaimed the man.

"Someone had also mentioned that your son is stricken with cancer."

"No, our son is perfectly healthy, Pastor."

"Then, what in the world do you have to fret about,son?"

Sometimes it is the simple things in life that get forgotten.

Even if you may be struggling, I pray that this Thanksgiving will be a most blessed one for you and that you may find at least one thing to be grateful for.
I know I can.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Was Here

I wanna do somethin' that matters
Say somethin' different
Somethin' that sets the whole world on it's ear.

I wanna do somethin' better with the time I've been given
and I want to try to touch a few hearts in this life.

To leave nothing less than something that says
I was here
- Lady Antebellum's "I Was Here"

Lately I've been thinking about these three words "leaving a legacy",and it might just be because of the scandal at Penn State and the legacy of Joe Paterno being tarnished. Yep, sports figures and Hollywood icons are prone to leave us disappointed.

When you think of Penn State you automatically associate it with the football coach Joe Paterno and his over 46 years of service to the school and community. His stern politics of academics before athletics is what he built his reputation on. His players graduated at a rate of 74 percent, that is 19 points above the national average.

His athletic achievements also included: most victories by a coach (409),
35 Bowl Games,2 National Championships, and 5 undefeated seasons.

But his legacy and all of the accolades and achievements no longer matter. All because of one mistake. One Huge Mistake. Nine years ago he should have alerted police of an alleged misconduct by one of his assistants. He did tell the athletic director of the school, but should have pursued this much further, rather than cover it up.

This is the second university in recent months to have it's football program and head coach in the media for all the wrong reasons, and legacies were tarnished.

Perhaps leaving a legacy should be left to the so-called "little people" of the world,the common everyday folks like you and I.

As for me, I intend to just continue to keep doing the best that I can with the time I have and:

I will leave nothing less than something that says: I was here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Better than Words

An old man is sitting on his porch one day despondent over losing his wife. A neighbor's young son comes over and sits on his lap. Later that day at dinner the boy's mother asks her son what did he say to the old man. His reply,

"I didn't say anything. I just helped him cry."

Sometimes there are moments when no words are needed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Stolen Innocence Within a Community

The streets are bordered with Elm trees, Ash trees, some Oak, and even some Willow trees. On most days just after 3pm you'll see grade school children walking home with smiles on their faces, filled with laughter, and much chatter. And on the other side of the street you see a white haired lady walking her Beagle, some days it's an older gentleman walking his German Shepherd. On each of the corners of the major intersection of this small town are volunteer Safety Patrol Officers, stopping traffic so the children may cross safely.

In the summer months you can drive by and see children running and splashing their way through the sprinklers and slip-n-slides that engulf their neighborhood park. It is a quiet, peaceful town that I drive through on my way home from work everyday.

But today it is different. I can no longer drive through this tiny community and see, taste, and feel the presence of peace. All of the trees are wrapped with white bows, the faces of the children are no longer filled with joy, but of sorrow and fear; and the overwhelming presence of anger fills the air.

All of the marquee signs at churches and businesses in the town and it's neighboring communities read 3 simple words: God Bless Kelli. Just another reminder of how fragile life can be, even at the tender age of 14.

Kelly came home from school one day a couple of weeks ago and walked into a burglary that was in progress inside her home and was murdered. It was the first murder in this small town's over 50 years of existence. A senseless crime that ripped the heart out of this tight knit community of less than 3,500 folks.

The other day I had noticed the neighboring communities around this town of stolen innocence had wrapped white bows around their trees; a symbol of solidarity for one of their own.

Marianne Williamson, an American author, once wrote:

In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is power to do it.

May the peace of God be with the family of Kelli and in the hearts of her hometown community.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Scared to Death or Scared with Flaws?

Every year I find it amusing when we pull out an old scary movie to watch during trick-or-treat season and find it to not be so scary after all. As we grow older the films we watched in our preteens and teens that once frightened us we now see as humorous. And after a few more viewings we can pick out the many flaws that the directors so carelessly missed.

A girl who's trying to escape the clutches of a monster, retreats to the getaway car only to find it locked and she doesn't have the keys. So she makes a mad dash for the house, gets the keys, resumes her get-away-position with the fast and furious get-away car, only to nonchalantly open the car door without even using those same keys that once were not in her possession.

This past weekend I was setting up my booth at an Art Fair and found myself in a conversation with someone about sharks. This gentleman and his wife had been snorkling off the coast of the Dominican and were swimming with stingrays and a shark, only this shark was toothless. Hard to imagine that,right?

This couple were on a guided swim in a cove that was managed by humans. The water was about 8 to 10 feet deep and the young shark they were to swim with had been rescued somewhere in the Gulf. Marine Biologists had removed its teeth for certain health reasons.

The couple were obviously made aware ahead of time that this shark could not harm them since it had no teeth. But, as the shark swam up close to them, the woman panicked and had to be removed from the water. Even though the shark had no teeth to harm the woman, her panicked reaction was a natural one. The obvious presence of a shark, toothless or not, scared the wits out of her.

F.D.R. once said, "The only thing to fear is fear itself."

But, I have to imagine that if it were any one of us coming up against that toothless shark, our first initial reaction would be the same as the woman swimming in the cove; one of panic.

One of the character flaws in each of us humans is the ability to be fearful of something, no matter how great or small it may be. But those of us who are followers of Christ have been taught not be fearful of anything. Timothy actually teaches us that God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

So, I guess it is a matter of how we approach those things that may frighten us: either look at it in a fleshly manner or tackle it head on with the Name of Jesus, having no fear but resembling one of power.

In Natalie Grant's new worship song Your Great Name she gives us this powerful message:

Every fear has no place
At the sound of Your great Name

The enemy has to leave
At the sound of Your great Name

Some great words to live by, approach that which frightens you with the simple name of Jesus.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nordstroms Gets it Right

Yes, it's that time of year again to stir up that great debate on:
"When is it okay to put up the Christmas decorations in stores?"

This year my first sighting of Christmas was in a Menard's store on the second to last week of September. And it wasn't just an aisle of string lights and lighted snowmen; it was a full fledged onslaught of everything Christmas,at least 10 aisles to choose from.

I heard some radio fodder on this subject last week, mainly the discussion of Nordstroms Department stores taking a stand against putting any Christmas decor up until the day after Thanksgiving. One of their window signs simply explained the reason why:

Why? Well, we just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time.

Nordstroms has actually stuck to this tradition since 2009, although back then some employees complained of having to work on Thanksgiving evening to put together the decorations in Nordstroms Department Stores. I do not know if this tactic has changed or not, I hope it has. It does kind of put the sting on being able to follow through on what they say they believe: to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving.

I kind of like the way Nordstroms feels about celebrating one holiday at a time. Its sad that Thanksgiving always gets overlooked when it comes to American culture today.
Is it possibly because there are no real Thanksgiving decorations to attract consumers to the stores to spend money? I mean, who is going to rush to the store and go shopping and spend a lot of money when the only decor they see hanging up are some Autumn flowers of color, some photos of Pilgrims,and candy corn? But do we really need to be coaxed into having to celebrate a day where we are supposed to be thankful for what we have?

Thanksgiving originated from a European tradition, where a celebration was held before and after the harvest cycles for farmers to give thanks for a good harvest.

Unfortunately for some reason or another there will be many who may not carry with them a heart of thankfulness this upcoming season. But that is okay as long as those who are blessed find a way to bless those that are in need. After all, isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about, not just being thankful, but thankful in our giving as well.

As for not skipping over one season or holiday for another, I think of the other day as I ventured through the woods for some Autumn pics:

While walking along a trail I couldn't help but notice a few butterflies flying along my path. Understanding their time is short lived now, these colorful specimens were enjoying the season, wallowing from flower to flower,tree to tree, and seemingly enjoying the moment.

Shouldn't we be doing the same, enjoying the days one season at a time?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pan-de-mon-ium: Catching Hell

Imagine your life as being really good: you have a good job,great friends, great family, you coach a Little League baseball team where all the kids love you, and you live in a nice, big home in a wealthy community.

Now imagine yourself going to a baseball playoff game, having front row seats, then leave after the game having your whole world collapse in the blink of an eye.

The setting is October,2003 at Wrigley Field. The 8th inning of Game 6, and the Cubs are in the lead, just 6 outs away from surpassing an almost 100 year curse of collapses in making it to the big dance and winning a World Series Championship. A young Cub fan in his early twenties named Steve Bartman reaches out for a foul ball obstructing the field of play for the Cubs outfielder. He's then made the scapegoat, adding to 100 years of frustration for Cubs fans.

Catching Hell is a recent documentary of that fatal day for Cubbie fans of America. Nobody died, nobody committed a crime, nobody was physically hurt, but yet America treated this kid as a criminal. I love this film because it shows the idiot fallacy us humans can be:

1.The media. Oh my, I had no idea it was that bad until I saw this film. Steve Bartman was America's poster child of ill-fated history for quite a few weeks. From local to national news media he was their whipping boy. One newspaper reporter who was sitting nearby at the game angrily questioned Bartman,

"Do you have any idea what you have just done?"

The reporter would issue an apology in this film. All of the local t.v. sportscasters hung Steve Bartman out to dry,claiming he did interfere with the catch and he was to blame. Another television news reporter during a newscast gave out Bartman's home address and where he worked at. And even the Governor of Illinois declared,

"He will never get a pardon from this Governor!"

I was completely appalled at the behavior of the media after seeing this; and came away with the least respect for them as journalists.

2.The fans . This film shows never-before-seen footage of what happened in that section of seating where Steve Bartman sat, and includes interviews with some of those who sat around him during the game. For being a playoff game of epic proportions related to making history, there were extra broadcasting cameras at the game. Some cameras had stayed focused on this isolated fan and the section which became the darkest place next to hell. Steve Bartman disregarded his own safety and didn't want to leave the game until it was over.

In this piece of the documentary you see what Steve Bartman had to endure. Fans came up to him and threw beer on him, fans were yelling obscenities toward him, some threw food at him. When security finally realized they had to get him out of there for the sake of his life, they would escort him through an angry lynch mob. One fan would yell out,

"You ought to take a shotgun, insert it into your mouth, and pull the trigger."

It was at about this stage of the film where I suddenly realized that I really felt sorry for this poor innocent kid. I had no idea how bad people could get in the heat-of-the-moment when it involves witnessing a part of history, but yet, geeze, it was only a baseball game.

As they escorted Bartman out of the seating areas, the lynching continued and security had to lock him in a stadium office for his safety until hours after the game. With crowds outside the stadium still lingering three hours later waiting to get their licks in on this kid, a head of security snuck Steve into the backseat of her car and took him to her apartment close by until the morning.

As morning approached, and Bartman up all night watching his face get plastered all over the t.v., several police were at his home to protect his family from harms way.

3. The truth. A different camera angle proves that Steve Bartman was made a scapegoat. From his viewpoint Bartman could not actually see the outfielder coming toward the wall to make an attempt to catch the ball. And lest we even forget that later in that same inning the shortstop booted an easy grounder that let the Marlins score the tying and winning runs.

There were in fact at least 3 other fans who went after that foul ball, it was just unfortunate that it was the hand of Bartman who had touched it before the ball could lay in the glove of the outfielder. Another fan did come up with the baseball, but Steve Bartman was still the one everybody wanted to kill.

It was ironic that even though the Cubs lost that game, there was still one more game to play at Wrigley and they still had a chance to win and go to the Series. But everyone dwells on that one fatal night in October. A night where one Cubs fan named Steve Bartman would soon forget. And yes, the Cubs lost game 7 as well.

Steve Bartman had to eventually move out of the state, turned down thousands of dollars for interviews, and I imagine probably changed his name.The director of the film couldn't even find him.

Imagine having to leave your family and friends, your job, the kids baseball team you coached and loved doing, all because of a game.

If there's one reason why every American should watch Catching Hell it is but to save ourselves from ourselves.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fan-de-mon-ium: Detroit

I never thought I would travel 2,000 miles away from the Midwest,go to a football game in Southern California, and find some love for Detroit there; but I did. And, Detroit wasn't even the opposing team.

Detroit is known as the Motor City of America, but in recent years it has been known as the underdog of America. In the last 3 years this city has faced:

Economic despair and massive lay-offs at all 3 major auto plants

Unemployment reached its highest at 14 percent just a year ago(now its 11 percent)

A population dwindling so much that neighborhoods of deserted homes have been bulldozed and trees have been planted in their place.

And, a Detroit Lions football team that has been bad for so long they forgot what cheering fans sounded like. Just 3 years ago they had a winless season, that's right, they lost all 16 of their games. Zero. Nada. Not one win.

Today is a different story for Detroit. The Detroit Lions are 5-0,and have won 9 straight since last season. They carry with them a chip-on-their-shoulder and a winning attitude. An attitude that's been missing in Detroit for quite some time.

The Detroit Tigers baseball team is also winning and possibly on the verge of going to the World Series.

While in San Diego, we came across many football fans who were pulling for Detroit because they know what that city has experienced over the last few years, not just in football, but in life. When the scoreboard showed the final score of the Detroit Lions win, a loud roar came from this beach combers paradise of Southern Cal.

It was great to see so many Americans really pulling for this underdog city called Detroit.

Yes, there still is a heart in America. Thank God.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Great Litmus Test on Faith

Place a pair of unlaced shoes upon your feet.

Turn off the lights in the room so it is completely dark to where you can't even see your feet.

Then try tying your shoes.

Now, if you are like me, you should have found that even tying your shoes in the dark was easy. Why? Because we follow the same routine everyday when placing shoes upon our feet,so we should have gained enough confidence to where we are able to tie our shoes even in the dark.

Everyday we exercise our faith in routine situations that we probably don't give much thought to, such as: driving to work on a busy expressway with hundreds of other cars driving at high speeds and swerving in and out of lanes,or crossing a set of railroad tracks and trusting that the gates are working properly, or even hopping aboard an airplane.

So, what is stopping us from exercising that same faith when we find ourselves in a dark and dire situation?

Faith is as easy as tying your shoes in the dark. You just need to put it into practice on those dark days you may be facing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Lesson in Humility

" My car died on a desert road and I found myself having to walk 2 miles in 100 degree heat to the nearest town. I walked into the local diner there to get a glass of water and was completely stared upon by the locals. I was dripping wet with perspiration from the extreme heat and my shirt was completely soaked. The townspeople perceived me as being some kind of homeless person who had just crawled out of a dumpster in some back alley."

"From that moment on and for the next couple of days I was angry. I consider myself a good Christian Man and was angry at God for allowing all of this to happen to me. Not just my car breaking down on a desert road, but the embarrassment and humiliation I went through when stepping foot into that diner."

"And then I realized what God was teaching me. Even though I am a Christian, there were times where I would find myself judging others based on their appearance or way of life. This was a defining moment in my life. A lesson in humility."

I heard a Christian DJ tell of this experience on the radio last week. And it reminded me of how often it is us Christians who are the biggest offenders when it comes to judging others.

We judge others by what we see without ever really knowing that person's background or lifestyle.

We judge or critique other Christians and their beliefs and base it upon what we believe or have been taught,and simply forget that they pray and worship the same God as we do.

And we tend to judge the everyday common person, whether it's a homeless person living on the streets,a junkie on the street corner, a teenager with tattoos and body piercings, or even a co-worker or fellow parishioner and the gossip spread about that person.

I believe that is why God was so adamant in His Word about Christians not judging others:

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with what measure you use, it will be measured back to you."

The mark of every Christian is to be a strong and noble love toward others. Let's face it,we all could use a challenge by God to rectify our judgement of others.
I, for one, would welcome that or any other challenge that comes my way as long as it humbles me to the point of making me not just a better person, but a better example of Christ.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Songs

On my ride to work the other morning I began searching through the pre-sets on my car radio, like I usually would do on a Saturday morning. One stop was the country channel which brought me this little ditty:

I work sun-up to sun down

ain't to proud to be sweeping the floors

Bank has started calling

and the wolves are at my door

Four dollars and change at the pump

cost of livin's high and going up.

Thank God I only caught the end of this "whoa is me" song.

The next pre-set on my radio brought me this:

Your picking up toys on the living room floor for the 15th time

Matching up socks, sweeping up Cheerios that got away

You put a baby on your hip, color your lips and head out the door

Wonder sometimes, does it matter at all?

Maybe your that guy with the suit and tie

Maybe your shirt says your name

You may be hooking up mergers, cooking up burgers

But at the end of the day

Little stuff,big stuff, in between stuff

God sees it all the same.

The chorus to this Steven Curtis Chapman song and the reason why we should live by these words and not the latter "whoa is me" song, is simply this:

Whatever you do it all matters

so do what you do

don't ever forget

to do everything you do to the glory

of the One who made you.

Cause He made you

to do every little thing you do

to bring a smile to His face

and tell the story of His grace.

It is important to remember that what you fill your mind with through your sight and hearing has an adverse effect on how you live and respond to life and it's struggles. We need to remind ourselves that,

"...God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love,
and of a sound mind." (2Tim. 1:7)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

There is Only One Real, Definitive Answer

Within the coin change I received from a sales clerk the other day was a shiny new quarter. And on that quarter I was surprised to still find the words
In God We Trust.

I always found it humorous when certain groups go to great lengths to take the name of God out of everything, but never make it an issue on the dollar bills they so willingly spend.

America has been making a habit of it lately in it's continuance to omit the word God from just about anything it can find:

1. The mayor of New York City banned all religions and any type of prayer from
it's 10th anniversary memorial service for September 11th.
Thankfully the President and former Mayor of New York quoted scriptures.

2. The Washington National Cathedral excluded Christians from their
multi-religious memorial service. But the service did include: Buddhists,Hindus,and Muslims.

3. Pepsi Cola came out with some commemorative cans to remember September 11th.
They omitted the word God from the Pledge of Allegiance inscripted
on their cans.

4. Thanks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation,
another school district,this one in Mississippi,was banned of
any prayers over the PA system at their sporting events.
To no avail, students and parents complained, then hundreds took the
initiative and recited The Lord's Prayerbefore their school's next football game.

The schools case against the Freedom From Religion group is being looked at
by the Liberty Institute,which has a legal division staff of Constitutional attorneys.

One of these attorney's simply states:

"The Freedom From Religion Foundation is misinforming people.
You have a right to speak a religious thought,
even if it's over a PA system that's government owned, even if it's on
a public street, a public park, which are also government property."

If we continue to slowly take God out of everything in America, then what will She stand for?

Besides having all Christians uniting, standing together and making a difference in our society, there is only one other answer:

If my people, who are called by Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,
and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
(2Chronicles 7:14)

We as the Church still have a long ways to go if we truly are going to be a Nation transformed. But standing together in prayer is a good start.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hachiko Revisited

After reading this past week about one of our fallen soldier's,a Navy Seal named Jon Tumilson killed in Afghanistan, and his faithful dog Hawkeye lying beside the casket at his funeral,I couldn't help but think about the true story of Hachiko. Here's a review I wrote on this film last year:

You may want keep a box of kleenex close by when reading this one.

After waiting a few months on Netflix it was finally my turn to watch the film
Hachiko starring Richard Gere. It is an adaptation (and a good one) of the true story of a dog who faithfully waited for his master who wasn't coming home. I will part ways with the Hollywood version and give you the real story:

Hachiko was an Akita mix and was born in Odate, Japan in 1923. The dog was 2 months old when he was given to Professor Uyeno in Tokyo. The two of them would become inseparable as the Professor obviously showed great love and affection towards the dog. Living in a small village in Tokyo, the Professor took the train at the Shibuya station to Imperial University everyday. Hachiko would accompany his master to the station everyday and would then return later to the station and wait for his master's return.

This went on consistently for two straight years and the local townspeople had taken notice of this amazing loyalty. And despite the fact Hachiko was only two years old, the bond between him and his master was strong.

Then one day the Professor did not return. He became ill and passed away at the University. Hachiko remained vigil in hopes of his master's return as he would return to the station everyday at 5 pm and wait. He would faithfully do this for the next nine years.

I would be remiss if I didn't ask you to stop for a moment to think about this: Hachiko went to the station everyday for nine years to wait for his master.

At times Hachiko would not return home for days at a stretch. You would find him at the station just waiting.

On March 8, 1935 Hachiko died at the very spot he waited each day for 9 years. The local townspeople erected a bronze statue in his honor at the Shibuya train station.

Today that statue is one of the largest tourist attractions in Tokyo.

This story is billed as one that represents: loyalty, faithfulness, and unconditional love. You do not have to necessarily be spiritual to relate to any of these character traits. If any of us want to be successful at our job, in our home, in our relationships, we need these characteristics within us.

A few days later and still pondering this story (I just cannot get this story out of my head), I began to also wonder this about Hachiko:

The dog was still young when his master died, so why didn't he have a short vigil and just go on being a dog and do the things that dogs enjoy doing?

Perhaps it was the unconditional love that he had received from his master, and so he chose to remain loyal and faithful and wait for his return.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Nope, the title's not a misprint nor is this another blog post on saying hello, but it is now a ministry, a much needed ministry.
The state of Texas is now in it's tenth month of a severe drought, the longest such drought in 100 years. And this not only affects farmers, it affects all of us in the United States.

Many Texas farmers have been forced to sell their cattle due to insufficient hay and grass to feed them. Until one member of a small Baptist church in Louisiana decided to donate some extra bales of hay that were just sitting in his barn. And the next thing you know, a Hay Ministry had been born. Many farmers who have been blessed with much rain,good crops,and extra hay have been donating bales of hay by the ton.

What a novel idea,people helping people! Which leads me to this:

Operation Blessing is a food pantry that serves many communities in the south and southwest suburbs of Chicagoland. They not only provide food and clothing for needy families but the ministers there provide the all-important counseling and caring.

Today they provide for close to 3,000 families a month. As you can tell by the large number,unfortunately you no longer have to look any further than your own backyard to find someone who is in need.

If you are looking for ways to be a blessing to others and to be blessed in return, you can donate to Operation Blessing by clicking on their link on the left hand column of my blog home page.

Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the
Lord your God has blessed you.
Deuteronomy 16:17

A great reminder for all of us who are being blessed on this very day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When Technology Disconnects Us From Our Surroundings

Text,Text,Text,Bamm! Plunk! Splash!!!

I remember last year the You Tube video that literally made it's way around the world and embarrassed one young lady. She had been walking through a shopping mall feverishly texting someone on her cell phone,and not paying attention to where she was walking. The next thing you know she found herself falling into the huge fountain in the center of the mall. She got up, stepped out of the water, and proceeded through the mall as if nothing happened, thinking no one would notice her being dripping wet.

The security guards manning the surveillance video at the mall had a good laugh and decided to share it with the world via You Tube.

So, when does a technology become a distraction?

When it literally consumes our every movement and disconnects us from our surroundings.
The technology of cell phones and our: texting, twittering, and Face Booking every little detail we go through in a day is our obsession. We may think the sharing of our different little nuggets through the day may be helping someone, and in fact it may, but what about that person walking by you in the store or on the sidewalk who may be lost, hurting, or just plain struggling with everyday life. Today there is a greater need for all Christians to step up to the plate and do something positive as we are called to do.

With a record 48.5 million people on food stamps, and over 40 percent of America's population unemployed or only working part-time jobs, the need for community and relational contact is greatly needed.

We as a generation have let technology replace the all important human element of community,one of:language, relationship, and the act of actually helping someone in need.

For several months now my Pastor has been teaching us to be aware of our surroundings, be aware of those around you who may be struggling or hurting, and step out of your comfort zone and talk to them. In other words: encourage them, speak a blessing over them, or do an act of kindness toward them.

This past weekend I arrived about 3 hours late for my usual Saturday run. My weekend runs are at a nature center filled with trails and park benches around a pond filled with all kinds of nature.

On this particular day things became rather unusual for this location and time of day. After my run, I sat on a bench overlooking a pond filled with: lily pads, croaking toads,fish,turtles, and snakes.

After a few moments of solitude I found myself being surrounded by at least 5 different families with several children of all ages. Each child began pointing out the different animals in the pond. The next thing you know even the adults got in on the action. Suddenly we were all working in unison, pointing out to each other the various creatures amongst the murky waters.

And one of the most amazing things was that no one was busy talking on a cell phone or texting their mother to see where they would meet for lunch. There were men, women, and children actually communicating with each other, and enjoying nature the way God intended for it to be. No distractions. No disconnection from our surroundings.

Imagine that, an hour or so of connecting with others without the use of technology.

Disconnecting ourselves from technology is a good thing once in awhile.

Hmmm, I wonder what the Disciples would have done if they had cell phones?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Humble Beginnings

"If your dream ain't bigger than you, than there's something wrong with your dream."- Deion Sanders

Political speeches? Nope. Deep theological speeches? Nope. Some of the most fascinating and inspirational speeches are those coming from pro football players who are enshrined into the Hall Fame each year. Being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame is one of the more prestigious honors and always seems to outshine the 3 other major sports Hall of Fame. But the one characteristic that all sports players have in common is speaking of their humble beginnings and how they got where they are today. Here's some inspirational tidbits from this past weekend's Pro Football Hall of Fame:

Marshall Falk, St. Louis Rams:

"It took hard work to get from the projects of New Orleans to the penthouse."

Marshall Falk was not just a player, but a fan of the game. As a kid he would sell popcorn inside the SuperDome because he couldn't afford a ticket to watch the Saints.
Having a love for the game of football and carrying the dream of succeeding from out of the projects to a pro football career was his goal. It was truly a fulfillment of a lifetime dream.

"God blessed everyone on this earth, but what we do with it is the blessing. It's in our hands to put that blessing in motion and living true to life as it is to me."

Shannon Sharpe, Denver Broncos:

Shannon and his older brother Sterling both played in the NFL. They grew up on a farm in Georgia where they developed their strong work ethic and the 3 D's: determination,dedication, and discipline.

Shannon went off to college at Savanna State with only 2 grocery bags filled with all of his belongings, and all he heard when he got there was that he was destined to fail.

"When people told me I'd never make it, I listened to the one person who said I could:me."

Shannon went from being a 7th round draft pick to a stellar career as a pro bowl tight end, winning 3 Super Bowls: 2 with Denver and 1 with Baltimore. His older brother Sterling Sharpe was dealt a different hand: played only 7 years due to injuries, but in those 7 years he was one of the top receivers in the league.

Shannon Sharpe's speech was said to be one of the most inspirational of the evening, and brought his brother and the crowd to tears when he exclaimed:

"I am the only player of 267 men in this Hall of Fame that can honestly say this,
'Though I am in the Hall of Fame, I am the second best football player in my

Deion Sanders, Dallas Cowboys:

Deion was probably the most flamboyant player of his era, and, you either loved him or you hated him for his showtime antics. Deion not only played for 5 different football teams, he was also known for his athleticism as he played professional baseball too.. He can even claim to be the only player to play in both a professional baseball game and a football game on the same day.

Though being a vibrant vocal player on and off the field, he always backed his talk with his stellar play on the field. Deion reached out to his humble beginnings and talked about his upbringing and promising his mother he would be a success so she could quit working in the hospital.

Deion even admits for the first time that in his youth he was ashamed of his mother's job of cleaning in the hospital. He made a pledge to himself that he would do whatever it took to be successful so his mother wouldn't have to work another day in her life.

"When people told me I couldn't do it, I pushed myself harder by just seeing my momma pushing that cart in the hospital all those years to support us kids."

What can drive you forward to succeed in everything you do?
Just look back at your humble beginnings.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A 9 Year Old's Birthday Wish: Clean Water

For Rachel Beckwith's 9th birthday this past June, she asked her family and friends to donate to a charity to provide fresh clean water to families in other countries.
With the help of her parents, Rachel posted a website with the goal of collecting only $300 for clean water projects.

Since 2009, there have been 2,321 clean water projects that have provided fresh water to more than 1 million people in 16 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia.

The simplest necessity we take for granted each day,clean water,is what alludes about two thirds of the world's population.

It is such a rarity these days to see a 9 year old kid put forth such an effort to help others and relinquish any gifts for herself. But that's what Rachel Beckwith did.

Rachel Beckwith died in a car accident on Saturday, July 23rd. But her dream lives on. Her charity has raised over $150,000 and increases more each passing day her story is told. Rachel's Pastor says,

"Life is coming out of this death, with Rachel's generosity."

If you wish to donate to provide what Rachel felt so strongly about, here's the website: www.charitywater.org

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hello, Hello, Hello

The other day I walked into a Home Depot store and was quickly greeted with a hello.
And then another and another. Each of these orange vested employees must have been instructed by store management to obviously greet each customer they come in contact with. Probably just another way of reaching out to the customer to build a good repoire.Once I found what I was looking for, I made my way back toward the front of the store where I was greeted with another hello. Only this time it was the same guy who greeted me just a couple minutes earlier. Either he forgot what I looked like and assumed I was just another customer,or he is just programmed that way to acknowledge whoever walks by. In any case, I could have been sarcastic and said something to the effect of,"You just said hello to me two minutes ago,don't you remember? Hello?"
But I kept my mouth and shout and accepted his second greeting.

I remember my very first time visiting the nostalgic Notre Dame Football Stadium. As we entered the gates each usher that came in contact with us were instructed to greet us with,"Hello. Welcome to Notre Dame." This form of greeting at Notre Dame has been around for many,many years. And each time I heard it on my first visit there brought chills down my spine; mostly because of the excitement of finally getting a chance to walk into the prestigious stadium that some call Hallowed Ground.

Another one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes is when Kramer goes into a bank where they will pay you $100 if you are not greeted with a hello. And so when the bank teller acknowledges Kramer with only a Hey, Kramer tries to cash in. He goes straight to the bank president and explains the situation. The president calls the teller in question over and asks him if he greeted Kramer; he explains he said Hey. With Kramer taking this form of hello as not the proper greeting, a situation arises. The president calls over three more tellers to ask their opinion in the matter. Each greets and acknowledges Kramer with a different form of hello:


"How you doin'?"

What's up?"

The bank president calls a little pow-wow between himself and his tellers and then acknowledges Kramer,

"Okay, you received a greeting, it starts with an H, how's $20 bucks sound?"

"I'll take it!" Kramer anxiously replies.

My normal acknowledgement of people whether I am at work,church,or just out and about anywhere is,"Hey." And yes,you may literally take that as a hello.

Just a friendly reminder that any friendly greeting is better than none at all.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Seek and Ye Shall Find: The Revelation Song

"I have a smile on my face and tears running down my face from the strong presence of God in the studio today...God is moving!!!"---Kari Jobe

Now your probably thinking that,"Sure, God's presence is easily felt by Hillsong worship leader Kari Jobe because that's what she does everyday,lead thousands of Christians around the world into worship." But, you don't necessarily need to be a worship leader or singer in a worship band to experience God's presence in worship.
Any one of us can,the question is,"Do we want to seek Him?"

Last week I found myself in a conversation with a co-worker friend that quickly turned into something more thought provoking. What started out as a conversation about investigative journalism turned into a testimony by my friend about a life changing moment;searching for the father he never knew.

Within his college years he decided to search for his real father. He exhausted his search for over a year and a half. This was before the internet so he had to take a real journalistic, detective approach. After a long extensive search he found him living in California. He would then travel to the West Coast and meet his real father over lunch. Though they did not carry on a relationship after that lunch date, my friend came away with peace.

Have you ever searched long and hard for something? And I am not talking about just any inanimate object here, but something that brought meaning to your life?

One of the most powerful and easily recognizable worship songs out there today, and being sung in most churches, is The Revelation Song. I recently caught an interview(thanks You Tube)with Jennie Lee Riddle who penned the song. She described and pointed out that the ten years prior to The Revelation Song coming out in 2009, most of the worship songs were mostly prayer oriented. And many of those songs were filled with a lot of I and me in them; acknowledging us more than our Creator.

Jennie had prayed for a few years that God would give her the lyrics to a song that would bring us back into truly worshiping Him for who He is. A song that would magnify the One who is worthy of our praise by lifting up His Name,and give us the desire to seek Him more in our life and have that urge to see His face.
Hence some of the lyrics:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain

Holy,Holy is He.

Sing a new song

To Him who sits on heaven's mercy seat

Holy,Holy,Holy,is the Lord Almighty

who was and is, and is to come.

Seeking God through worship is what God longs from us. And when we do this our worship becomes a divine exchange between Him and us. An exchange where: we worship and seek after Him knowing full-well He is worthy of that praise for sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we may have eternal life. And in exchange God fills us with His presence, His love,His peace, and tells us He loves us and cares for us, and is willing to go to bat for us within our struggles.

If you are a Believer yet find yourself: struggling and having no peace,feeling stuck in the mud, always thinking about yesterday and past mistakes,you will never have a better tomorrow. When you learn to put aside your selfish desires and find time to build a relationship with the One who created you,the importance of your desires will change and you will find yourself content and at peace.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Mathew 6:33)

Such a simple verse. Such a simple task to do, yet we sometimes find ourselves negligent in wanting to seek after God and His presence or reserve it just for Sunday. But what if God were to reserve His grace,love and mercy to you only on Sunday? Would you be comfortable with just that?

The Revelation Song is a great reminder of why we worship the King. Give it a listen to, you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Doing the Right Thing has it's Rewards

Have you ever had the chance to net $250,000 and decided to just do the right thing instead and hope for some kind of reward? Nope, me neither. But a Yankees fan named Christian Lopez did do the right thing.

The New York Yankees Derek Jeter reached an unprecedented milestone of 3,000 hits in his career in a baseball game last week. And for that storied franchise he was the first Yankee to achieve that milestone. One lucky fan named Lopez caught the home run ball and had an expensive choice to make. He decided to do the honest thing and give Jeter the baseball in return for some memorabilia. Lopez could have fetched $250,000 if he chose to keep the ball and put it up for bid. He chose otherwise,saying,

"It was the right thing to do. I wouldn't change anything."

Christian Lopez reward:

4 seats in a luxury box to all the remaining Yankee home games for 2011,including the post-season (which is always a given for Yankee fans)

a signed baseball,a jersey signed by Jeter, and a 2009 Yankees World Series ring

Nice reward,huh? Until the good old IRS came calling. Lopez stood the chance of paying heavily in taxes for his being rewarded for doing the right thing. Thankfully some folks stepped in to offer help and further reward him for doing the right thing:

2 memorabilia companies gave him $25,000 each toward his $100,000 college loan debt

Miller High Life and Derek Jeter will cover all of his taxes on his rewards

Topps baseball card company is creating a baseball card of Christian Lopez and promoting kids to do the right thing

As kids growing up we are always taught through our parents and teachers to do the right thing,even if there are no rewards of value;for self-value in doing the right thing is more important.

So here's to Christian Lopez for doing the right thing! And reaping some rewards in the process.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Paper Shredder Moment

I never thought shredding documents (financial,old business documents,tax forms) from the past could be so enlightening. This past Saturday I spent an hour(thought it would take much longer)literally shredding away my past. I had gone through junk I was holding onto that I should have gotten rid of long ago. One thing you should know is: I am not a pack rat and do not hold onto "everything",only important documents.

As I made my way through the box I began to realize that I had been through a lot and God was faithful through the hard times. I know where I've been,I know what God has brought me out of, and therefore I can now exclaim just as my Pastor always does,

"I don't have bad days!"

Once it is tattooed on your brain and in your heart of remembering what God has brought you through,you become consistent in your worship and gratitude toward Him.

Letting go of your past and looking forward is exactly what God wants you to do. It's like that old hymn that tells us:

the world behind me

the cross before me

no turning back, no turning back

Within Jesus ministry He told His followers: not to worry, look at nature and see how I take care of them, and He promised that those who seek God and put His kingdom first will have their needs met. Therefore, do not worry.

I believe that when we follow the seek ye first the kingdom of God pattern of life, He not only meets our needs, but over exceeds them to where He fulfills our desires, dreams, and goals.

If you find yourself in need of a soul transplant,find some old documents to shred and bring some of that old past you've been holding onto as well.

Life is for living,let go, and let God take care of it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

To All the Pups I've Loved Before

Lets face it, whether it's: a guinea pig, a dog, a cat, a bird, or a rabbit,they are our pets and we love them. We get so attached to them that they become part of our family.And though they are not considered human and we can't use them as a tax deduction,they do have a brain and a heart,and are able to show emotions.And in fact,Animal Behaviorist Specialists can now pin-point down to a science these animals behavior patterns. Everything from: which way their ears are pointed, their posture, and every which way that tail wags or wiggles says something emotionally.

In the last couple of weeks I've known 2 people who's dog died,one at 15 years of age and the other at 12 years of age. I like what the owner of the eldest dog said,
"My dog had been with me through some of the most difficult times in my life."
Sorry,if I sound a little partial to dogs, but I agree that dogs are some of the most faithful companions.

One of my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone is the one that tells the story of the old man and his coon hunting dog Rip. The old man and Rip were joined to the hip, you could say. Everywhere the old guy went,Rip would follow. They loved going raccoon hunting together, it's what bonded their relationship. And hound dog Rip would do anything for his master.

One early evening Rip was chasing down a raccoon and the pesky critter led him onto a log hanging over a pond. The raccoon obviously made his way over the log but poor old Rip fell into the pond and disappeared. Rip's master jumped in to save his faithful companion and the next thing you know, they find themselves on Eternity Road.

As they travel down the road they come up to a gatekeeper, the old man assumes he is St.Peter. The gatekeeper exclaims,

"Oh, you can come in here. But you can't bring your dog with you. There's a special place for dogs just up the road."

Of course the old man wasn't about to enter without his faithful dog. And in fact, Rip begins to unnaturally growl at the man as if something were wrong. The old man rejects the gatekeeper's offer. As they travel further down the road they come up to another gate, and the gatekeeper allows the two of them to enter. The gatekeeper also explains to the old man that the other gatekeeper was not St. Peter,and that road did not lead to heaven.

"Why, Rip and I knew there was something strange back there.Who would ever suggest separating a man and his dog. It's unheard of!"

St. Peter leads them into the gate toward heaven and exclaims,

"A man, he'll walk into hell with both eyes open, but even the devil can't fool a dog."

On a recent trip to Sea World in San Diego, there is an animal act that outshines all of the other shows that consist of water animals. It's called the
Pets Rule Show. All of the animals used in the show were basic house pets and even included a pig. These animals were trained to do stunts such as:
obstacle courses,jump rope,stand up on their hind legs and walk like a human, and walk the tight rope. What was even more amazing was each of the dogs and cats were adopted from animal shelters,left behind just because their owners said they were not trainable. If only those previous owners could see them now!

Pets can easily be trained. All you need to do is show them some love and treat them as part of the family. Because in the end, that's what they are, part of the family.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Oh Church, How Could You Forget?

I do not ever recall someone pulling a gun out and Superman turning away quickly to fly away;forgetting that he was the Man of Steel who could withstand bullets,can you?

In recent months we have seen the Church continue in some strange unorthodox behavior. One of which is so disturbing because it involves so many church leaders.

1. A church in the South made headlines for removing a special needs child from a worship service because he was a distraction. The church stated they do not want any distractions to ruin their service. Wonder what they would do if the Holy Spirit came in and distracted the service,would they kick Him out too?

One of the problems within the Church is the worship service turning into merely an entertainment venue to simply entertain us with talent. The Church has forgotten what it's purpose is.

Probably the most disturbing aspect of the Church that is rising today is the religious-powers-that-be forming a coalition mixing Christianity with Islam,and calling it Chrislam. Over 130 Christian leaders collectively state that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

Perhaps they should have first consulted with the many Muslims who have converted to Christianity. I have sat and listened live to three stirring testimonies from former Muslims. And two of them had the same occurrence:

Each one found themselves alone in a room and demanded both Allah and God to show up right there and then if they were for real. And of course, you know Who showed up in dramatic fashion!

The mixing of Islam with Christianity is just another bad example of the Church compromising with today's society,instead of encouraging society to adapt to the teachings of Jesus.They have forgotten that the power of God can change lives.

I am still puzzled to this day as to how the Church has gotten to this level of forgetting the power of God, becoming either: seeker-sensitive,or only providing entertainment to build up attendance and wealth,or simply trying to build themselves up to a higher level.

What ever happened to building the Church up through God? I recently did a word search throughout the Bible on the word power. No where in the entire Bible will you find that either: God has lost His power,God does not do the miraculous as He had done the last 2,000 years, or has put a time limit on His power.

One of the first names of God in the Old Testament is Elohim, which means
Powerful God.

There are many out there who are struggling through economic hard times, illness,family issues,and a lack of faith. If you want to build your church today you simply need to provide the people with the one and only true hope,Jesus Christ. God has not lost His power:to forgive,to heal,to satisfy,redeem your life from destruction,to give you grace, peace and understanding. Psalm 103 instructs us to not forget all of His benefits.

And to those who want to promote Chrislam I leave you with this from Rick Mathes, a "true Leader" involved in prison ministry. Rick sat down with a Muslim and discussed God versus Allah,he then asked the man,

"Would you rather have your Allah, who tells you to kill me(non believers of Allah are commanded to be killed)in order for you to go to heaven, or my Jesus who tells me to love you because I am going to heaven and He wants you to be there with me?"

It would be great if the whole Church could just remind herself of the old hymn
The Blood Will Never Lose its Power and then actually go out and live it.

The blood that Jesus shed for me,
way back on Calvary;
the blood that gives me strength
from day to day,
it will never lose its power

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Athletes Behaving Badly

Last week 2 of the 4 major sports crowned a new champion. But what quickly became more newsworthy were some of the athletes behavior before and even during their championship games:

The Miami Heat basketball team were already under a microscope stemming from celebrating a championship a little too prematurely. Before the season even began the 3 superstar free agents Bosh, Wade and Lebron, who concocted a plan of playing together in Miami and conquer the world, were touting the idea of winning 7 or 8 championships.

So the much "sports hatred" for this team was already riding high before their final match for the title against the Dallas Mavericks.This NBA Finals was a tale of two different teams: one team of brash cockiness (Miami) and the other a team of veterans who played with class(Dallas).

In game 4, Maverick's star player Dirk Nowitzki played with a 101 fever. He would play most of the game,score 21 points including the winning basket. A couple of days later before game 5, Wade and Lebron would mock Dirk's sickness in front of the media. And you know what happened next? The classy Mavericks would go on to win the next 2 games and win the NBA crown.

As for the other crowning champion, hockey's Boston Bruins came from behind in the series to win game 7 in Vancouver. And they did it with style and class. The Vancouver Canucks were touted as being the favorite because of the veteran leadership and talent on their team. They had come close to reaching the Finals the last 2 seasons only to see that goal come up short.

In game 7 and on their home ice, the Canucks were down 3-0 in the final period. Their frustration would boil over and they began to take cheap shots and make ridiculous penalties against the classy Bruins. The Boston Bruins coach would call a timeout during the middle of that period and instruct his team,

"Do not retaliate! Just stay within your game and you can win this."

And sure enough, the Boston Bruins would win the Cup, beating the Canucks 4-0.

To play like a champion simply means:

1. Do your best

2. Play within the rules of the game and play with humility

3. Whether you win or lose, go out in style with dignity and class.

4. Honor the other team whether you like them or not

So here's to the mighty Bruins and Mavericks,teaching us how to become victorious the correct way, the dignified way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

That's What I Am

Human Dignity + Compassion = Peace

This was California's top teacher Mr. Simon's winning essay in a contest in 1965. It was a contest in which you had to write in 25 words or less "How to End The World's Problems". Mr. Simon's answer was just 4 simple words which netted him a brand new car.

Ed Harris plays teacher Mr. Simon in the film That's What I am, based on a true story of an 8th grade class in 1965 California.The story is about a teacher instilling confidence and courage in his students and also deals with the subject of prejudice and tolerance.

And of course, within this 2011 film there are all of the humorous antics that a 13 and 14 year old will go through in school. No matter what era you grew up, you can relate to most of the adolescence high jinx. This film covers every area in funny but poignant ways:

Geek Corner: the spot on school grounds where the so-called geeky kids hung out

Cootie Contact: this story has a very funny way of getting rid of those cooties you may have accidentally come in contact with

The Schoolyard Bullies: every school had one and may still have at least one who will want your lunch money or otherwise it's "wedgie time"

Childish Pranks: I admit, for me April Fools Day was all of 7th and 8th grade combined

Mr. Simon, who was voted top teacher of California in 1964, pairs up for a class project the smart kid Andy with the geeky kid Stanley. The tall,lengthy red-headed Stanley with the big ears was the butt of everyone's jokes. When Andy confronts Mr. Simon and asks why he chose him to be paired with the freakish looking Stanley, Mr. Simon explains:

"You are an excellent writer Andy. I thought pairing the two of you together was a perfect fit. You want to be a writer someday, don't you Andy?"

Mr. Simon would go on and instill so much confidence in Andy that the "writer to be" was able to declare, "I am a writer. That's what I am."

Andy faces head-on the test of courage in working with the school's number one geek,resulting in some: sneers,comments,and pranks. But the friendship between the two complete opposite's begins to grow, most notably because of Stanley. Andy begins to grow within their relationship because he sees first- hand how Stanley handles all the bullying with dignity.

The awkward Stanley enters the school's end of the year talent contest and signs up to sing. And of course Andy and some of the geek squad try to talk him out of it so he wouldn't be faced with complete humiliation. When the talent show comes on they find out that Stanley can actually sing pretty good. Stanley declares,

"I am a singer. That's what I am."

Along with the development of the kids within this great film comes the story of Mr. Simon. One of the school bullies who returns from a school suspension spreads a rumor about Mr. Simon, which in the end the truth is revealed and the rumor is proved false.

I love this story because it makes you define yourself within the boundaries of life.

As for what became of some of the characters in this story:

Andy became a writer, married with children.

One of the school bullies is serving a sentence in prison.

Stanley spent some of his life helping underprivileged children. He then won
$40 million dollars in the lottery and now lives in France with his wife and 3 kids.

This PG film is a good story to share with the family. And may it help you define who you are so that you may declare, "That's what I am".

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Final Term Paper: an A

An Ozark Christian College freshman named Natalia Puebla was killed during the tornado that devastated the small town of Joplin, Mo. The school was not damaged in the storm and classes had ended just a day or two before this tragedy. Regarding Natalia, one of her Professor's commented:

"I still had a stack of papers to grade when the tornado hit. Today I looked and on the top of the stack there was Natalia's paper about the resurrection of Jesus. It's a good paper, deserving of an A, but she knows this truth far better now."

Perhaps Natalia's paper on the resurrection of Jesus may have contained this passage of scripture on Knowing God Through Love:

Beloved, let us love one another,for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another
.(1 John 4:7-11)

Somehow I get the feeling that this is who Natalia Puebla was: someone of love,who walked in love, and did everything in God's love.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Coincidence or Preparation?

When I first heard this story it didn't really floor me as much as after hearing it a second time through a recent radio interview, and then it became "real":

The Christian rock/alternative band Sanctus Real came out with their 5th album in March 2010 called Pieces of a Real Heart. All of the songs written by the band, and most notably by the lead singer Matt Hammitt, are all about the heart, songs like: Lead Me, Dear Heart, Keep My Heart Alive, and I'll Show You How to Live. And each song deals with the condition of the heart and how to gain strength through God.

Six months later Matt's wife would give birth to a baby boy named Bowen, who would then be diagnosed with a congenital heart defect and eventually have heart surgery.
Today Bowen is doing well and Sanctus Real has started a foundation called Whole Hearts Foundation to help families affected by congenital heart defects.

All of the songs written on this album were before Matt and his wife knew they were having a baby.

I don't believe in coincidences, especially in a story such as this one. The words to many of the songs that Matt wrote about had a profound affect on his family during their struggle as they gained strength through drawing closer to God.

In the song Lead Me, Matt asks God,

So Father, give me the strength
to be everything I'm called to be

Oh Father, show me the way
to lead them

I guess this is more proof that God really knows what He is doing in each of our lives.
Now if we could just get out of the way and let God lead!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Natural,Survival,or Opposite

"I'm bald,jobless,have no money,and I live with my parents.
Every decision I have made in my life has been wrong. I am the complete opposite of everyone else in the universe."

This is the plight of George Costanza in one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes.And Jerry's advice to George is simple,

"If every instinct you have is wrong, than the opposite would have to be right."

As soon as George decides to do the opposite, everything he does becomes a success. He even lashes out at the owner of the New York Yankees and is then offered a job with the team.

Our natural instincts in response to situations says much about who we are.
Since getting back from vacation I've had a chance to reacquaint myself with(along with over 100 million other viewers)the eagles in Decorah Iowa.

The eagles are now 12 weeks old and fully grown. Their talons and beaks are fully sharpened, and their wingspan is complete at 7 feet.They hop up and down upon the nest with their wings outstretched as if doing jumping jacks. But even though they are ready to take flight,they have yet to fledge from their nest. One day I spent at least a half-hour watching the live web-cam as these guys just sat at the edge of the nest and watched mom and dad soar through the open skies. I found myself asking,"What makes them wait so patiently? And how do they know when they are ready to take flight?" The answer is simple: they just follow their natural instinct. But they also will know when mom and dad decide the time is right; this is mom and dad's natural instinct.

For us humans, following our natural instincts can get us into trouble sometimes. And there will be times when we will need to use our survival instincts, but even then our decisions may be wrong ones.

Some of my favorite movies to watch are from independent film makers. And some of the stories are simple survival stories. One's of people finding themselves in a difficult situation and the viewer is presented with the same question as the characters are faced with: What do I do? Three survival stories that come to mind where survival instincts are used,but with dire consequences:

Being left by accident out in the middle of the ocean during a scuba diving adventure and facing hungry sharks (Open Water)

Being left up high in a ski-lift overnight in frigid temperatures and the ski lodge doesn't re-open for 5 more days (Frozen)

Your out rock climbing and your arm gets caught in a crevice and there is no one around to rescue you (127 Hours)

Some of the best and most important instincts to have are the spiritual instincts. Allowing God and the Holy Spirit to direct us in our daily walk. Here we are most assured of making the right decisions when we allow God to lead and direct.

If you find your natural instincts are not working within your life, do the opposite and let God lead. You just might see some amazing results.

note:the films I mentioned are rated R for obvious graphic content.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Life Happens

The last few days have been filled with mixed emotions and thoughts on life,in particular the various celebrations of life:

Renewed life:

One day last week, and only within one hour of each other, two people were giving praise reports of being freed of cancer. One was a minister friend from the South whose brother had received a clean bill of health,free of cancer. He had been diagnosed with cancer of the brain, lymph glands and thyroid.

Another praise report came from a young lady at my church who had successful surgery and was freed of all cancer that was within her.

Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.

Eternal life:

After hearing all this good news, next came the news of another young lady at church who passed away from a hard fought battle with cancer. As my Pastor put it so eloquently,"She received her healing. She's at home in peace."

I did not know this woman personally, but the one thing that stood out about her whenever you saw her in church: she really knew how to get her praise on! So my lasting impression of her will always be how she loved and worshiped the Lord.She will now spend eternity just worshiping at the feet of the Almighty.

One of the great mysteries in life,and there is no way I will even make an attempt at coming to some kind of conclusion with:is the healing of cancer of one and not the other. One thing I do know is that it is not a matter of one having a greater faith than another. I love what the great American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about life:

It's not the length of life, but depth of life.

Newborn life:

And all the while all of this was happening, a co-worker friend welcomed a new baby boy into the world.

Sometimes we forget how many different facets of life there are and will occur within minutes,seconds,hours,and days of each other. It's good to be reminded of how precious life is.

Now if we could just get that cherish each day we live part right,we'd be alright. Time to git my praise on!