Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Final Post Here

It's time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I'd much rather say hello.
Hello to a new adventure.

After over 500 posts, 28,000 views from over 25 different countries within an 8 year- period, it's time to move on to bigger adventures. I am looking forward to new beginnings with all of the talents God has blessed me with.
 One of which will be my book When Christmas Comes to Town, a reflection of all the great Christmas movies that we've grown to love, coming Christmas 2017. I cannot say thank you enough for all those who have read my posts, especially my Christmas Movie reviews which has encouraged me to move forward with this project.
Also, as a nature photographer, I am looking forward to branching out more with my photography. You can checkout my photography at:
I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to share, encourage, and build up others throughout this journey. But, take heart, this is just the beginning!
I will keep this blog active so you may spread to others some of the great testimonies I've been able to share.
Until we meet again, stay strong, be encouraged, and never forget God loves you no matter what you think about yourself.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

So This Happened

"Peace begins with a smile."- Mother Teresa
This past week I spoke at a chapel service held at a posh retirement/rehab facility downtown in the city of Chicago. The chapel was a small room filled with stained glass windows, some were forms of art depicting the image of Jesus.
Along with my study on the subject of peace, I used some visual art of my own that resembled peace,
a couple of my nature photographs.

This stunning artwork, created by the One and Only...God, brought a smile upon the group's faces.
I preceded to challenge them with the proverbial line, "What do these pictures say to you?"
Their answer was exactly what I was searching for, peace.
Subsequently they began to ponder and explore their thoughts even more and then one elderly woman named Joan spoke up,
"Look at that picture of Jesus, there. (as she pointed to the stained glass art) That disturbs me because He isn't smiling. I don't know why that is. I don't see Jesus like that at all. I see Him as smiling."
Yep, Joan just opened up a whole new can of worms with that one! I explained to her that the stoic face of Jesus in that piece of art was probably how the artist envisioned Jesus.
There is a long-standing tale of how artist Leonardo Da Vinci had trouble putting the final touches onto his great masterpiece The Lord's Supper. While painting his most famous work, Da Vinci had a quarrel with a friend. This deeply disturbed him so much he used his foe's face as that of Judas
(you know, the guy who betrayed Jesus!) in his painting.
After three years of arguing with his friend and not able to complete his work to his satisfaction,
Da Vinci finally gave in and made peace with his enemy, changed the face of Judas on his painting, was happy with his finished work, and as they say, "The rest is history!"
As Henry David Thoreau once said, "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."
See Jesus for who He is not with your eyes, but with your heart.

Friday, November 4, 2016

At Last!

Julie Andrews once said, "Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th."
For the Chicago Cubs however, the stats are much higher. For the Cubs it was failing 107 years and succeeding the 108th time, but's who's counting?!

When the Chicago Cubs finally delivered by winning the World Series and ending the longest drought in sports history, it reminded me of the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox and what happened after they finally won.

The Boston Red Sox were wrapped up in a losing tradition that lasted 86 years, second only to the Cubs, and they carried with them a slew of Red Sox Nation (die-hard fans). If you are an avid baseball fan then you know all about the rich history of the Red Sox and Cubs and the so called curse they each carried.

The Red Sox curse was known as Curse of the Bambino stemming from the team trading away the great Babe Ruth and then proceeding to lose for the next 86 years.

The Chicago Cubs curse involved a billy goat. When Billy Goat Tavern owner William Sianis tried bringing a goat into the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field and would eventually get kicked out of the stadium, he put a hex on the Cubs exclaiming, "The Cubs will never get back into the World Series. Ever."

I guess this would be a good place as any to add the disclaimer that I do not believe in curses.

As for those Red Sox, their fan base is just like the Cubs, it's a generational fan base handed down from generation to generation or simply put, you were born into a family that followed these two historic franchises.

 In 2004 when the Red Sox finally ended the Curse of the Bambino and won the World Series something very strange happened in the city of Boston the next few days. The most loyal elderly Red Sox fan base, the 97- 103 year-olds began to die of natural causes soon after the Red Sox victory. Medical staff and family members suggested that it was as if these folks had hung on just long enough to see their beloved Red Sox win it all and then could finally die in peace.

Today I carry with me that same kind of peace. Now, I am nowhere near that elderly stage, but after watching my beloved Cubs finally win it all after 108 years, I can relate to what those elderly Red Sox  fans may have felt. An overwhelming sense of peace. A certain peace that can only be described as a loyal die-hard fan peace.

Someone once said, "Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time", and oh what a journey us loyal Cubs fans have been on. Cannot wait for the next journey and where it may lead.



Thursday, October 27, 2016

Memories: Past, Present, Future

"I've cried and I laughed. Laughing is a helluva lot better." - Glen Campbell

As a lifetime resident of the Chicago area and a Cubs fan these are exciting times. The Chicago Cubs finally making it to the World Series after 71 years is a dream come true. It has also been for me a whirlwind of memories in recent days, memories as a kid growing up and being a Cubs fan. Most of those years were filled with heartache watching them consistently lose or come close only to fall apart in the end, but within those memories there was also joy. Gramps would take me fishing many summer days and then we would sit in the car on a hot afternoon and eat lunch while listening to Cubs games on the radio. And then there were those summer days where as a kid I would caravan with a large church group to Cubs games and sit in the bleachers with my sack lunch and root on the boys in blue. These are the memories I will never forget... or will I?

They say that no one can ever take away your memories but unfortunately there is a disease that can and it's called Alzheimer's. I recently watched the 2014 documentary Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me, the story of country/pop singer Glen Campbell and his struggle with Alzheimer's. This well-worth watching film shows Glenn in his first stages of this fatal disease and not able to even remember his children's names, and the courage and strength he carried to go ahead and do a farewell tour not knowing what affect the disease may have on his memory to sing his songs.

 This was a year-long tour and it was amazing to see how quickly Alzheimer's took away some of his memory. Toward the middle of the tour they had to start using a teleprompter to give him the words to the songs he had been singing and performing for over 40 years. But astonishingly he had no trouble playing the guitar and was able to pick up from the lead of his band which included 3 of his children.

Glen's wife was more fearful not of him being able to perform well but what he might do while on stage. The crowds were not only entertained but forgiving as they would sometimes see Glen forgetting what was to happen next during the shows. Glen Campbell was always known as a jokester so even when he messed up on stage while combating this disease he would just laugh it off and the loving crowd laughed with him.

Glen Campbell's farewell tour was not only a sign of courage and strength but brought a wider attention to Alzheimer's.

While Glen Campbell was losing his memory he was also making memories for his family.

His children were able to perform with him on stage, follow him on tour for the first time, sing and play instruments with him in the recording studio for one last album, and watch their daddy show courage amongst one of the most painful diseases, one of losing your memory.

Today Glen Campbell is in the last stages of Alzheimer's and has lost all forms of communication.

One thing Glen Campbell has taught me is the importance of making memories with family and friends, if not for today but for the future.

It's never too late for you to start making memories.

I'm still here, but yet I'm gone
I don't play guitar or sing my songs
They never defined who I am
The man that loves you 'till the end.
- Glen Campbell


Thursday, October 20, 2016

He Said What?

"The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty." - Zig Ziglar
In a day and age where arrogance and selfishness has replaced honesty and integrity it was a heart warming moment between a ball player and umpire that has stirred our hearts today. Most baseball players use the tactic of intimidation versus umpires when it comes to balls and strikes. Confused? Let me explain:
When a batter approaches toward first base after a pitch he thinks is ball four but the umpire sees it as a strike, the baseball player is clearly trying to either persuade the umpire to see it their way and call it a ball four and a walk or the hitter is trying to make a fool of the umpire in front of millions of viewers.
In last night's important Game Four of a championship series between the Chicago Cubs and LA Dodgers, this sequence of events occurred between Cubs captain Anthony Rizzo and umpire Angel Hernandez. The next time Rizzo came to bat and feeling like he was trying to intimidate the umpire even though that wasn't his intention, he apologized to umpire Hernandez. The umpire's reply was simply,
"Your fault for what brother?” Hernandez replied. “Come on, you’re good, bro. You're awesome with us. No, no worries. You’re competing. I understand. Don’t worry. You know what’s best of it? You come back and tell me that. That’s how good of a guy you are.”
Oh.... for these classic moments to remind us that honesty and integrity still exists in America!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Lost Art of Time

"Lost time is never found again." - Ben Franklin
Sometimes our peace and happiness depends on how much time we put into it. At a most recent sporting event, a thing called hockey, everyone in the crowd was filled with excitement and anticipation as this was to be the first game of the season. Well...not everyone was excited. The two guys sitting behind us had the nerve to talk business throughout most of the contest and were obviously not there to enjoy the moment. I found this to be extremely annoying!
 One of my biggest pet peeves when attending a sporting event is the people who are either too busy chatting about other things during the game or spending time on their phone while the game is in progress.
So much of our culture today is filled with busyness and distraction. We have lost the art of spending time experiencing all that life has to offer within our surroundings. We've simply forgotten how to enjoy time. Granted some folks wish they had time to do something fun or exciting, but if we get too wrapped up in the busyness of life we will never experience any sense of peace. Our faced-paced life will just run us into the ground and our life expectancy will shorten.
When I go to sporting events I like to go for the entertainment, the relaxation, the enjoyment of those around me, and to forget about my troubles. I am simply a kid in a candy store every time I get the chance to go to a game of any sport.
Someone once said that "The time you enjoy wasting is not really wasted time."
 Yep, if you are spending time with the people you love doing things that you enjoy, than it really isn't wasted time now, is it?
Don't wait. The time will never be just right, for procrastination is the thief of time.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Cart Full of Joy

"Gratitude helps you to grow and expand; gratitude brings joy
 and laughter into your life and into the lives of all those around you."
As I pulled into the grocery store parking lot the other day I saw a woman pushing and riding her shopping cart across the lot to her car. An overflowing abundance of joy lit up her face on this beautiful autumn afternoon.
Once I got out of my car I approached her, knowing she was done emptying her groceries into her trunk, and asked if I could save her a trip in returning the cart. Of course she obliged and I commented about watching her joyfully riding her shopping cart across the lot. Her face turned red as she simply replied,
"I just got off work and it's such a beautiful day outside. I cannot resist being happy!"
Happiness and joy are contagious. Your expression of joy is a reflection of who you are. Do what makes you happy. Your happiness can never amount to nothing.
One of the greatest joys for me as I routinely take walks at the zoo is just seeing the smiles on other peoples faces as they oooh and ahhh at the animals. Happiness is a contagious disease we should all long for.
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever: it's loveliness increases;
 it will never pass into nothingness." poet John Keats

Thursday, September 29, 2016

87 or 24

"Well here it is, this is the end, you can go on or you can go back and do it again, but you have to do it the same way." - Arnold Palmer speaking on his retirement from professional golf.

While television began evolving more and more in  1960 so was the sport of golf thanks to Arnold Palmer. With his genuine respect for the game, the people who played and those that watched, Palmer quickly became an ambassador bringing golf to the masses as a gentleman's game.

Palmer was the gleaming image of golf for seven decades and within a four- year period of the 1960's
he won 21 tournaments. Long before Michael Jordan became a marketing endorsement magnet it was Arnold Palmer who had paved the way for athletes. Palmer was the first of it's kind of any sport and he continued to pioneer golf even after retiring. Everything from designing his own golf courses, to his own clothing and golf clubs, and even his own lemonade/ice tea had his signature and imprint on it. Why, even last year he made $40 million in endorsements. Not bad for an 87 year-old, huh?
Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87 last week, but he left a true legacy that measured greatness by living life as a true, genuine gentleman.

Florida baseball player Jose Fernandez, an up and coming pitcher for the Marlins passed away in a boating accident at the tender age of 24 just hours after Palmer. Jose showed much promise as he was a dominating pitcher on the mound but it was his love of the game, the passion he played with, and the joy he brought his teammates that will be remembered. With Marlins attendance struggling in recent years to sell out games, Fernandez brought an exuberance to the game whenever he pitched that attendance actually rose on the days he was scheduled to pitch.

Jose's joy and love for playing a kids game stemmed from his freedom from Cuba. He escaped Cuba as a 15 year-old after three failed attempts. He began working with kids in the Cuban communities within Miami enlightening them with his story that anything is possible.

Both of these great athletes made an impact on life and those around them, but one was short-lived which is why it's important to make the most of your time here on earth while you still can.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

So this Happened

While quarterback Kaepernick and other athletes were taking a knee during the national anthem (fortunately Kaepernick has decided to get involved more instead of just protesting), and protests, looting, and rioting were going on in parts of America this week, this was also happening in one of Chicago's neighborhoods where the homeless live under the viaducts:

A simple gesture of love and hope provided by the Compassion in Action team at my church
 (Mercy Gate Intl.) and a Chicago church as we participate with Chicago's Night Ministry (linked on my home page). On most scheduled evenings we normally feed the homeless a hot meal in a styrofoam container with a bag of snacks, and in the winter we also provide them with hats, coats and gloves.

 But on this particular night we provided them with a candlelight banquet. Some commented in astonishment asking why we were doing this for them, some said they hadn't sat down at an actual table for a meal in a long time, and some thanked us for providing them with hope, a hope that is so needed within America right now.

It's easy for any of us to just sit and criticize what's wrong with society, criticize the oppression and ill affects that are taking place within our society, or even criticize what we read through social media, but at the end of the day we should each be asking ourselves,

"What am I doing to help?"

"Am I a part of the problem or part of the solution?"

"Do I hate what is going on in my country?"

 "Do I want to see change?"

"What can I do to help?"

God knows there are plenty of opportunities out there for you to get involved and make a change.

If you, your church or any group you are associated with would like to help there are several ways you can do that:

1. If you want to help but don't live in the Chicagoland area, you can either checkout my church's website linked on my homepage (Mercy Gate Intl) and donate for the night ministry (the money goes directly toward that mission)

2. If you and your church or group want to get involved with Chicago's Night Ministry they are also linked on my homepage.

And more importantly if you live outside the Chicago area, get involved within your own community.
Don't just sit and wait for change, be a part of it. I think we can all agree that waiting for the government or politicians to change things in society for the good of the people just ain't gonna happen'.

 Like I said, the opportunities are out there. Things aren't going to change unless each individual American's actions change.

All is one thing can change by itself.

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." - Francis of Assisi

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hero is a Verb

"I just rode up the elevator with five Brittney Spears and a sweaty Harry Potter!"

One of my favorite sitcoms of all-time is the TV show Frasier. If you've never saw this 90's comedy you can catch it on Netflix. The show is about an insecure, pompous psychologist named Frasier who hosts a radio program. He lives in a posh high rise apartment in downtown Seattle with his down-to-earth regular-joe dad Marty. His brother meanwhile is his own pretentious self and a psychologist as well, known as Niles.

In the episode Room Full of Heroes Frasier has a costume theme party for Halloween. Known by his office co-workers as having the dullest of parties, Frasier gets a whole lot of cancellations due to a fictional illness going on around at the office.

Unfortunately Frasier's own family is stuck at his party and they try to make the best of it. Each person was required to wear a costume of their hero, one you most admire and want to emulate.
While Frasier dresses as his hero Sigmund Freud, his dad Marty dresses as Joe DiMaggio, housekeeper Daphne appears as Sir Elton John, Frasier's brother Niles is made up to look like his father, and station manager Roz appears as Wonder Woman.

When Frasier asks Roz why Wonder Woman? Roz simply replies,

"Because Wonder Woman is smart, beautiful, has morals and is independent. That's who I want to be!"

I love Roz's answer because even though she's chosen a fictional superhero character, it's what Wonder Woman stands for that has attracted Roz to want to emulate.

Most boys and young men have athletes as their heroes today. With my love for sports as a child and even today, I'm lucky to say none of my heroes were athletes. Today that would be a good thing!

In the last month I've written a few blog posts about honoring our national anthem and the American flag, unfortunately some of todays athletes did not get the memo or read my blog. It's a very confusing time here in America and not one I am proud of as an avid sports fan, but I do not want to continue to address honoring America. You can read my last few posts about that subject.

Football player Colin Kaepernick has chosen to take a knee and disrespect the American national anthem as he protests what I will just call the injustice of society. Since taking his stance many other pro athletes have begun to follow his lead. One coach put all of this in perspective simply by saying,

"When Kaepernick was a successful quarterback and winning games he appeared to be selfish and
never did anything but promote himself. Why didn't he protest then? What changed? Now that he is an unsuccessful second-string quarterback he decides to protest and be in the limelight. I don't trust his sincerity."

Ironman Robert Downey Jr says, "A hero is a verb not a noun." Which is precisely why many are discouraged by some of these athletes who have chosen to dishonor the anthem and the American flag. If they want to fix what is wrong with injustice in society they need to invest their time, money, and elite status into helping the neighborhoods within their communities. Actions speak louder than words.

Someone once said, "Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life." 

Who needs a hero when each of us individually can make a difference.

What you do in life will echo through eternity.

Be your own hero.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dirty Harry vs. Tony Robbins

"Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes." - Psychology Today

Imagine for a moment a scene where Clint Eastwood's character Dirty Harry mistakes self-help guru Tony Robbins as a criminal he is in hot pursuit of:

"Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a
.44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, you've gotta ask yourself one question:
"Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?"

Tony Robbins would probably counter with, "Well, it is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped. What people can do is very different from what they will do."

Robbins would probably talk Harry's ear off with a little more self-help guru banter and try to change him, "We can change our lives. We can do, have, and be exactly what we wish."

Of course, Dirty Harry's approach would be his old standard self, "Okay, I hear ya. But I wish to keep criminals off the street and there's only one way I know how to do that." probably know how that scene would end.

While Dirty Harry is relentless in his tracking down a criminal until justice is served, well in this case his way of justice, Tony Robbins is resilient in getting people to unleash the power within. Same resilience just a different approach.

Clint Eastwood once said, "You should never give up your inner self." Hmm, sounds like Clint may have taken in a Tony Robbins book or two don't you think.

For all of the psychology books, classes, self-help cd's and videos we may indulge in to improve ourselves, there is One Book that covers all of this in a more satisfying and successful way.

While Robbins uses the approach of controlling our minds and emotions in a positive manner to get to a successful conclusion, and Dirty Harry just toying with peoples minds, those of us who are believers in Christ are told to have the mind of Christ. That is because we do have the mind of Christ if we are walking in a right relationship with Him.

For "who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Cor. 2:16

To have the mind of Christ is to think and act like Christ in all situations.

Graham Cooke puts it like this,

"There is only one thought to have in any situation, and that is the one that Jesus is having about it."

"When we are learning to walk with God, we are submitting ourselves to the way that He thinks."

In layman's terms we need to see things how God sees them. If we view ourselves as in Christ and know that Christ is in us, what is stopping us from seeing victory in the midst of defeat? Does God look at our situation and say, "There is no way out of this mess."? Of course not. We need to see things as He does.

In the Book of Numbers Moses sent out twelve scouts to explore the land of Canaan before taking it over. The scouts report consisted of "But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there!"

"We can't go up against them! They are stronger than we are!"

"Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that's what they thought, too!"

If Tony Robbins were there in the midst of them he would probably laugh it off and say,
"C'mon guys. Mind over matter."

Somehow I think if Tony Robbins really met Dirty Harry he would have gotten himself out of the situation,

"C'mon Harry. Let me buy you a cup of coffee and we'll talk this over."

"The path to success is to take massive, determined action." - Tony Robbins


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Troll Once, Troll Twice, Troll....

"Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured." - Mark Twain

Troll dolls were a huge toy fad in the 60's and then made a comeback in the mid- seventies which would last into the 90's. They were created by a Danish woodcutter named Thomas Dam.

 Even though I never had one as a kid, both my sisters had them and they never had to worry about me wanting one or taking theirs because I thought they were ugly. Which reminds me of the actual definition for these weird looking fellas:
Troll dolls are defined as a mythical, cave dwelling being depicted in folklore as a giant or dwarf and typically having a very ugly appearance.
With the advancement of technology and social media today we are now amused or abused by a different kind of troll, the internet troll which is defined as:
A person who sows discord on the internet by starting arguments or upsetting people by posting inflammatory messages with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response.
And that response may be one of anger or hostility, which is why it's best to neglect those trolls who may comment in a negative way to what you post on social media.
My guess as to why they are referred to as trolls is not necessarily the portrayal of ugly on the outside, but on the inside which can be more damaging. And yes, they are cave dwellers seeking refuge from the outside world as they scope the internet to find a victim to harass, which in turn makes them feel better. But it only makes them feel better on the outside while that anger builds up on the inside and eventually explodes.
It's unfortunate of all the anger and hostility bottled up within people today. And there is no shortage of expressing that anger and hatred toward others as we see here in America.
Here in Chicago there have been 400 shootings and 78 killed just in the month of August. That is more than New York and LA combined. Chicago is on pace for over 500 deaths by year's end just from shootings alone. Most of the deaths are due to rapid gang violence with many innocent victims in the crossfire. In the US alone 58 percent of young African-American men are unemployed.
While our Compassion in Action team at my church serve within the city on a weekly basis, we see first-hand not just the violence but the need. And the need is great. One of the reasons why there is so much violence in the city is because some feel they have no future and no hope as jobs are scarce and the way of life is disappointing to them and they feel there is no way out.
For the past month my Pastor (Pastor Freddie Steel @Mercy Gate) has been teaching on church culture:
"Many curse the darkness but don't do anything about it. It is a Church of authenticity (real or genuine) that is missing in America. The Church is not an occupying force."
The opportunity exists for The Church like never before. If we are to be a light within the darkness The Church needs to go out beyond it's four walls and simply be the church. To thirds of God's name is go as my Pastor aptly puts it and it's an opportune time to do that!
On my home page you will find a link to "The Night Ministry". They are a great organization that travels 5 nights a week throughout the city of Chicago feeding and helping the homeless and the needy. They have two buses that house a doctor's office with medical staff on board along with volunteer chaplains. Today they have a need of more churches or small groups who are willing to partner with them on any given night during the week. You would be participating by providing food  within a certain neighborhood on a certain evening.
 If you live in a different area of the United States and feel led to help, checkout my home page link to Mercy Gate and on there you can donate financially to help as our team continues to serve and provide to those in need within the city of Chicago.
Many Christians hate the darkness but fail to bring the light. Now is a good a chance as any to be a beacon within that darkness.
"You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost it's flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
"You are light of the world- like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father." - Mathew 5: 13-16

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Original Coach K

 Don't look back
A new day is breakin'
It's been too long since I felt this way
I don't mind where I get taken
The road is callin'
Today is the day

- Don't Look Back, Boston

When you mention the name Coach K, most people associate it with legendary Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. But..back in the day my track and cross country coach Mr. Kostecki was known by his teams as Coach K before Duke had their Coach K.

I had never thought about or reminisced about my high school days with Coach K until recently when I attended a cross country meet to watch my friend's daughter race.

On the sidelines during this race I saw coaches encouraging and throwing out pointers to their runners. For myself, Coach K's consistent pointer was, "Don't look back! Keep moving! Don't look back!"
This was my habit, the habit of always looking back to see who or how many were close behind. It was a habit that was hard to break and I learned my lesson the hard way. It was in my junior year of high school at an invitational cross country meet where many schools participated. For most of the 3 mile race, on a trail in the middle of the wilderness I led. But in the end that habit of looking back cost me dearly as two runners passed me at the stretch with the finish line in plain sight. I was more worried about who or what was going on behind me instead of concentrating on the finish line before me.
Hmm, where have we heard that bit of life's philosophy before on not looking behind or at the past?
"It's not possible to go forward while looking back." - Ludwig Miles
"We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future."
- George Bernard Shaw
"Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present." - Bill Keane
And we are also reminded in scripture on how to run the race:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. - 1 Cor. 9:24
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. - Phil. 3:3-14
The Apostle Paul was great at encouraging others and The Church through his letters with the simple fortitude of moving forward and forgetting those things behind. Paul knew what he was talking about because he had to live it. He did not get hung up on his mistakes and failures. Instead, he just asked God to forgive him, and then he forgot about those things.
It's okay to look at your past and how God may have gotten you through some rough times, but don't  dwell on your past mistakes and failures instead use them to build you up for today and reach for that which is before you.
"You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space." - Johnny Cash



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Bolt n Monday

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”   - Theodore Roosevelt

Within these 2016 Rio Olympics there has been some great human interest stories, some have even creeped up from past Olympics thanks to social media. One as such, a video of the fastest man ever timed Jamaica's very own Usain Bolt. A video where Bolt was doing a television interview and paused in mid-interview as America's national anthem was beginning. After standing at attention while the Star Spangled Banner was played he completed his interview at the anthems conclusion. This actually happened during the 2012 Olympics but has resurfaced through social media, perhaps it's because it's what America needs to see right now.

For some reason this act of patriotism, even coming from someone who resides in Jamaica, brought back memories of an event that happened 40 years ago this year. I remember watching as a kid a Sunday afternoon baseball game between my Chicago Cubs and the LA Dodgers. A game where a couple of protestors ran onto the Dodgers playing field and were about to light the American flag on fire. Then suddenly out of nowhere Cubs outfielder Rick Monday whisked by to grab the stars and stripes before the kids could light it on fire.

Rick Monday played 19 seasons, 2 all-star games, 2 world series and won one championship, but will forever be known for one of the greatest plays in baseball and American history.
"What happened in my playing career will take care of itself. The flag represents the rights and freedoms we all enjoy in this country."
Ironically some of America has forgotten these values, just recently in fact. In a small town in New York, a city leader demanded it's fire dept. to remove the American flag from it's fire trucks. Which led to this response from the fire department, "At the time when our country needs unity, to do something like's next to flag burning in my mind."
Throughout the many wars in our history men and women sacrificed their lives fighting for our freedom, some soldiers even went to great lengths to display the American flag to declare victory. A victory some take lightly today, unfortunately.
The Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key, who gained his inspiration from the American flag as he watched soldiers display it triumphantly above Fort McHenry in the war of 1812.
Although at most events in America it is only the first stanza of our anthem that is sung or played, the song actually has five stanzas to it, the fifth written by Oliver Wendell Holmes. A stanza America needs to be reminded of today.
When our land is illumined with Liberty's smile,
If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that dares to defile
The flag of her stars and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained who our birthright have gained,
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Say What?

"Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation."  - Mark Twain

Ah, yes, speaking words much better than a text or email.

We have become a society of so little conversation, so little in fact that most of our conversations within the four walls of the same house are via text through our cell phones. But, speaking words in general and more than the habitual hello is what some still crave.

Just recently I avoided the long line of a drive-thru at McDonalds and decided to just run inside for a quick cup of coffee. Lo' and behold, while standing in line by the cashier someone politely tapped on my shoulder. Alas', it was a friend I had not seen in a long time. She was having lunch there with her co-worker so I decided to sit and visit with them for a little while and catch up on old times.

Upon their leaving to go back to work,  a senior citizen sitting next to us was apologizing for talking too loud. I told him I hadn't even noticed and thus I ended up sitting next to this Korean War Veteran and chatted with him for a half hour. So much, for that quick run-in for coffee! But I could tell this senior just wanted another fella to talk to and so I obliged. Sometimes that is what we need to do, slow down and actually do more than recognize a person with a simple nod and hello.

After leaving there I found myself in a bit of a quandary on deciding which of two hair cutting salons to go to for a haircut, since my time was now cut even shorter. After I made my decision and went to my choice of destination I came across a new gal working at the Super Cuts. We quickly struck up a conversation which led me to providing her with some quality traveling tips that she was desperately in search of for her family.

Some days we will embark on situations or circumstances that we might not even be looking for, but they are there, like the old man who just wanted a conversation with someone other than his peers.

 Now if we could just get ourselves out of ourselves and take notice of those around us, who knows what may happen.

The opportunities exist all around us, we just need to be looking and not staring at our cell phone.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

What's The Deal With Art Anyhow?

Art Garfunkel? Art Carney? Art Linkletter? Art Fleming? Art Monk? Art Modell? Art Rooney?
What do all these men have in common? Nothing, except they're all named Art and are famous in a variety of culture. And that's what art is if you've ever been to an art museum.

On a recent visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum, my first time in a very long time in one of those, it reminded me of how different not only art is, but how we view art.

Picasso once said, "The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls." Visiting an art museum will do that. It makes you think! Some people can look at a painting and get a whole different perspective than another person. You will also realize there are a variety of ways to express art. Such as this painting:

Some peoples trash is another person's art.
And then there's art that really wants you to think.
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." - Edgar Degas
And then, we also have art that really isn't art at all, or is it?
This just reminds me of the game pieces for Candyland Game.
Everyone has different tastes in a variety of culture, foods, sports, etc. For myself, this was my favorite painting:
Which goes to show how much different my tastes are from yours. But that's okay, that's what makes each of us individually unique.
Remember, "A work of art is above all an adventure of the mind."



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Only One Life Matters

This is probably one of the more heart-wrenching photos you will ever see.

This is the family of slain Baton Rouge police officer Mathew Gerald, who was ambushed with other law enforcement officers a couple weeks ago. There are no words to describe what this family or any of the other slain officers families are feeling today. And not only them, but for all of the other families who have lost loved ones to the senseless act of violence in the world, especially these last few months here in America and abroad.
Hatred is hatred and evil is evil, you really can't separate them no matter how much you try. Sure, each individual's circumstance/incident may be different, but at the end of the day someone was violently taken away from a family that loved them and they each bled red.
Only one life matters, the one that bleeds red.
 Today in America we have Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter, Democrats vs. Republicans and Republicans battling Democrats, the media vs. reality, the LGBT community vs. The Church, and denomination vs. denomination. What do all of these battlegrounds have in common? They each cause division. They draw a line in the sand between them and the one's they oppose or are offended with. As much as some of these groups intentions may be for good, some still carry with them a spirit of animosity, a spirit of the real culprit...Satan.
"A nation divided against itself cannot stand", Abe Lincoln
Instead of creating or teaming up with a group that causes division we should be trying to find ways to unite one another. Solutions not tactics against each other.
Just recently Michael Jordan stepped up and did more than just speak words of wisdom. The iconic sports figure whose own father had been murdered in a senseless crime donated one million dollars each to two different organizations, one to which I had no idea existed and the other does more than what you and I probably thought:
The first being The International Association of Chief's of Police's newly established institute for community police relations, which promotes and educates the best practices in community policing.
The second was for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the nation's oldest civil rights and their ongoing work in support of reforms to build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement.
Hmm, organizations that bridge the gap between races and communities without the threat of violence, what a novel idea!
Some people might say that it is impossible to unify America now, but history tells us otherwise.
In recent days I've decided to dust off that dusty ole' cover and re-read the book The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw. Within the book are the stories of Americans of all different races who united and fought together to get through the Great Depression and WW2. (If your looking for inspiration through history this is it, you can find this book at your local library.)
George Washington Carver once said,
"Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom."
But he also said,
" How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these."
Some great words of wisdom to live by!
And lest we forget,
"Then if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Garden Party

A student said to his master, "You teach me fighting, but you talk about peace. How do you reconcile the two?"

The master replied, "It is better to be a warrior in a garden than to be a gardener in a war."

A recent road trip with my buddy Brian led us to a war museum on 500 acres of land called Cantigny Park. I found it ironic that all around the outskirts of the museum that took you through 3 wars of American history were gardens. Not just any gardens, we are talking the most exquisite, lavishing, beautiful gardens imaginable.

Can peace co-exist with war?
In case you are unfamiliar with the cease fire on Christmas Day during WW1 you can scroll through my archives (December 2012) for Joyeux Noel, and read my Christmas movie review of this fascinating story.
Can peace exist within my own personal battle?
To be a warrior in a garden simply means you have readily and willingly put on your armor of God daily just as Paul instructs us to do in Ephesians 6. Even though our life may be all pretty and perfect at the moment we still need to put on that armor for we know not what lies ahead,
"Put on all of God's armor so you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil."
To stand firm as a warrior also means you have to have peace. A peace in knowing that God's got your back. The armor of God is there to protect you as God has said,
"I'm going to relieve you from defending yourself against your enemies. The battle is not yours, it belongs to Me."  (2 Chronicles 20)
Someone once said, "Looking at nature makes your brain work better." I believe that to be true.
Next time your needing peace within your storm find a place of refuge, a place of comfort, a place where God can restore your faith. Hmm, perhaps a beautiful garden!

Monday, July 11, 2016

What's Really Going On

It was a mid-summer night last August and there we were, a bunch of white folk serving a hot meal to a bunch of African-American folk in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the inner city of Chicago. On most Monday nights this would be the normal for us working with the Night Ministry, but this night was different.

On this particular night 300 miles away in Ferguson Missouri, there were riots taking place after an African-American young man was shot by police after peaceful demonstrations turned ugly with looting, rioting and shootings. To make matters worse this demonstration was taking place on the one year anniversary of another shooting by a police officer.

As we began dishing out food into containers for each person in line, the line was more quiet than normal. We've been serving in this neighborhood for quite awhile and have built relationships with many of those that we come in contact with, so a quiet stillness was not the norm. For myself this would be a night that put everything into perspective as I would pierce into each persons eyes and view a peaceful comfort within each of them as their hearts were filled with hope.  Some of their eyes told a story of wonder, a wonder of why can't everyone else be like this. On this night their gratitude was more overwhelming than previous nights. It was a night where black or white did not matter, we were all as one.

In recent days America has seen it's share of violence, racism, and hatred. These are all just components to something more, something greater, something called evil. I find it coincidental or maybe even prophetic that Graham Cooke would eloquently put everything America is facing into perspective just a few days before all of these events happened:

"What is the biggest problem in America? It's not drugs, it's not crime, it's not poverty or low education, it's not terrorism, it's not abortion, it's not the gay community, it's a lack of goodness."

"The bible says we overcome evil with good. It is the goodness and kindness of God that leads people to repentance. Jesus went about and did good and healed all that were oppressed by the devil. It is not our job to call out sin nor judge others. It is our job to call down the grace of God on our community, to be salt and light, to be ambassadors to reconciliation."

That lack of goodness Cooke is referring to here in America is simply a lack of the visibility of The Church within it's community.

Just as Abraham Lincoln said, "A nation divided against itself cannot stand," so it goes for The Church, which is you and I. God never intended for The Church to be divided.

 Within America it's time for The Church to put aside it's theological and political differences and be The Church God intended for us to be. The role of the Church is to bring the goodness of God because we overcome evil with good, always. And in case any follower of Christ has forgotten the role of The Church, the Apostle Paul reminds us of it in Ephesians 4:

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Wow, if each of us could even have an ounce of measure as the complete standard of Christ and use what we've been taught to deliver love and hope to those in need, imagine where America would be today. The Apostle Paul goes a little further instructing us to,

15" Instead, speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love."

Love is the motivating factor. Without love all hope is lost.

Serving the less fortunate within your community is not only an expression of love, but gives people hope. A hope in mankind, a hope for a future.

"Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness."
 - Mother Teresa

It's time for America to see that light again.

 It's time for The Church to get outside of it's four walls and be that light. If light dispels darkness then we need a whole lotta light.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Simple Something

"Be Happy for this moment. This moment is your life."

One day last week while driving through the neighborhood in the morning, I drove past a neighborhood park and spotted a kid on a swing, swinging as high as she could go. What's so unusual about this, you may ask?

 Well, for starters it was an early 9am. There was no one else in the park at that time. And the kid was actually a pre-teen young lady who just happened to be on a bike ride and apparently hopped off her bike to go for a swing, hence the bike parked nearby her. The girl was smiling from ear to ear  and giving her body a kick so she could swing as high as the sky. Ahh, those were the good ole' days when as kids we just wanted to kick our bodies into high gear and swing to the stars.

I loved the fact that this young lady was just on a bike ride and decided to hop on a swing to make herself happy, even if were for just a moment.

Sometimes that is all it takes for any of us, just a simple something to bring joy into our life. A few weeks before summer kicked into full gear, I found a nice quiet shade tree near a lake to quietly sit under and drink some coffee. It was a quiet moment of peace that brought me joy.

Don't hesitate to take time out for yourself and find a simple something to bring you joy and peace.
Sometimes that's all we need!


Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Lost Art of Obedience

"A boy can learn a lot from his dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down."

One day while exiting a store I saw a woman entering the store while scolding her crying son. Umm, maybe I should rephrase that scolding part because it was more like threatening her 8-year old boy.

"If you don't quit your crying and misbehaving you will be cut-off from all technology for the entire weekend!", the mother exclaimed.

Yep, that's how it's done today. The ultimate punishment, take away their electronic devices and punish them into reading a book. Has anyone else noticed how much obedience and respect has disappeared from our culture?

  Oh how parents probably long for the days when all you had to do is just give your kids the look or the stare down and how quickly things fell back into place. In days of future past we were taught to obey and show proper respect to adults, policemen, teachers and anyone else in authority. We were simply taught obedience is a sign of respect.

Just recently I caught the film Sudden Death, an action film that stars martial arts expert Jean Claude Van Damme. The film takes place in a Pittsburgh hockey arena during game seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Van Damme plays a fire inspector for the stadium and gets 2 tickets to the game and brings his son and daughter. Once dad places his children in their proper seats, he tells his 12-year old son to watch his sister and then wags his finger in his son's face telling him,

"Do not leave your seat for the entire game! I don't care if the building comes crashing down, stay in your seat!"

Little did Van Damme know at the time that the arena was filled with explosives from terrorists who have taken the Vice President of the United States hostage in one of the skyboxes.

Van Damme's son picks on his little sister during the game and she runs off to the bathroom on her own and eventually ends up as a hostage too.  While Van Damme discovers what is happening with the terrorists, he begins to search the stadium for the bombs and begins to defuse them one by one. At the end of the story one of the bombs attached to the scoreboard suddenly goes off and the crowd and hockey players franticly disperse wildly to the exits.

Naturally, as any action hero film goes: the bad guys are caught, the rest of the bombs are difused, and the Vice President is safe. When Van Damme goes into the seating section of the arena to find his son, lo and behold, his son is still sitting in his seat and exclaims,

"See dad, I didn't leave my seat. I obeyed you. I did not leave my seat.!"

Obedience is an act of faith. Disobedience is the result of unbelief. Van Damme's son had so much faith in his father he obeyed him until the very end, no matter what the situation. The father-son relationship between the two of them was a relationship built on trust. Where there is trust there is obedience.

With our culture changing ever so rapidly and Christians modifying God's Word to fit into today's society so we don't offend anyone, sadly obedience has truly become a lost art. It's as if some Christians have sunk so beneath themselves that their disobedience to God's entire Word has brought them to an end result of unbelief in God's Word. Oh if they only knew how God's Word really works! Such as this story that quickly went viral this week:

Praying for the sick and they shall recover took on new meaning and enlightened the world the other day. On a recent flight from Atlanta, world renowned quarterback-turned-evangelist Tim Tebow prayed for a  passenger who was being medically attended to after the man collapsed from a heart attack.
As medical staff on board the flight worked on the man and struggling to revive him, Tebow prayed over the gentleman and he would then come to and recover. All Tebow did was obey God's Word and put it into action kind of like the Apostle Paul.

 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, just to make the Gentiles obedient(Roman 15:8)

Paul chose not to threaten the Gentiles into obedience, but rather let his life and his actions in obedience to God's Word have the final say. And of course, those miracles they saw through Paul's obedience would lead some to repentance.

Obedience is an act of faith. And when you put it into practice in your daily life you will see miracles.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rainy Day Sunshine

"Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please." - Mark Twain

In the movie A Country Called Home  Cole and his younger sister Ellie live in LA, a far cry from growing up in a small Texas town. They have chosen to live their own lives apart from their drunken father, whom they haven't seen in years. One day Ellie gets a call from her step-mother, whom she never met, and explains to Ellie that her father has passed away. Ellie decides to fly to Texas for the funeral, but her brother Cole doesn't feel obligated.

Upon Ellie returning home to Texas for the first time in years, Ellie realizes she regrets not making amends with her father as she exclaims, "I always thought I still had time before he died."
That alone is a message for all of us!

Ellie meets a lot of imperfect people similar to her, held back from their potential by the self destructive nature of a loved one. But in Ellie's case, she chose to move on and build a life of her own, but never forgetting where she came from. In fact, Ellie became a furniture designer inheriting traits from her father whom she watched as a kid as he built and refurbished guitars.

Many of the townsfolk considered Ellie an ungrateful kid for leaving home and never returning. But, many of them did not know what Ellie and her brother faced growing up in a broken home and she made those facts known to them:

1. Her father was an alcoholic, a tough man to live with.

2. He sold the kids clothes and toys in yard sales because they were poor.

3. Ellie and Cole were in the family vehicle when their dad was driving drunk one night and got into an accident which killed their mother.

4. And, Ellie's lasting memory of her father was him selling the violin he had specially made for her on her birthday because he needed the money.

Something for all of us to remember:

Everyone has a story to tell, don't judge them until you hear their story.

Upon first arriving in town, Ellie went to the hospital where a nurse would hand Ellie an envelope left by her father; a key was in the envelope. She didn't give much thought into that key until it was time to head back home. She goes to the bank, discovers the key is to a safe deposit box, and finds a hand crafted violin placed in it, a violin just like the one her father made her as a child, only this one is carved with her initials on it.

Sure, everyone can have a happy ending to their own story, but don't forget you can have a happy middle of your story, too. If you need to forgive someone don't wait until it's too late, just do it!