Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Eve's Eve

[A disclaimer: I originally wrote this very early in the morning, not even the birds had come to feast on the NEW bird-feeder I purchased and filled for them yesterday; so if it appears to not make much sense, consider it the ramblings of a scared old man]
We have arrived at that fragile precipice that clings tenaciously to yesterday; to times we'd rather revisit than proceed into an unknown future. Or perhaps we stand on this precipice and look forward towards the new year we anxiously anticipate a tomorrow clothed in hope and love. We sense the successes of this past year are quickly losing their grandeur and effectiveness, maybe they were not as rooted in the basics of life as we had proclaimed, which brings about the question, 'how can we expect tomorrow to be any deeper and lasting?' The answer can only come from a resource over which we, fortunately, have no control. The answer is to put our hope, our trust and our faith in our Creator. It's amazing that I take so many things for granted, and my Creator, tragically so frequently, is one of them.
In the morning when I wake I thank Him for the day; yet rarely do I really take into contemplation the fullness of this 'miracle' of just waking up. There are perhaps millions throughout the world that wished they hadn't woke up; and for many more waking up is merely the promise of another filled with pain and/or suffering. Yet God desires for me to 'take in the miracle.' Every breath I take is another hope, another inspiration to make this day complete in
in allowing His design to take shape in my life. Every breath I take is another living evidence of His creative power, yet will I today allow my emotions, my desires, my feelings, my will to short circuit the joy He has in store for me - the joy he expects me to give to others; every breath I take is another gift of His grace, there's nothing in me to deserve this indescribable gift, a gift He desires for me to share as freely has He has given me. Every day I place my trust in things I take for granted ... oh they will be there, they will work, they will come through for me because I expect them to - only in their not working do I suddenly wake up to the error of taking things for granted ... is it only when God refuses to participate in ways I think he should, that I finally acknowledge I've taken him for granted? As every breath passes my lips or my nostrils there should be an 'intentional' thanks, an anticipation of the fullness the next breath should be a part of.
Have I already drawn a picture of what tomorrow is going to be like, is that picture a result of my desires and wishes - what things have I taken out of perspective - what things shouldn't even be in the picture? Will the unknown promises and hopes fit within the frame I have already crafted and determined they must be limited by? How much easier might it be if I just resolved to enter the new year as a new-born babe in the sense that I have not control, its all in God's hands? Tomorrow is scary, for my baggage is me, and I have lived my whole life with me. My failures are ever before me as a unrequested mirror reflecting those times I'd rather keep hidden and certainly hope no one else becomes aware of. My accomplishments are too short lived, and their tentacles to fragile to form a solid base from which to grapple with tomorrow's conflicts. The resources to make tomorrow's promising but weary journey are all in His hands. The issue is not is He faithful, but am I faithful - am I eager to forgive - am I freely offering grace and mercy - am I a willing vehicle for passing on His hope - am I looking for opportunity in obstacles?
These lines of reflecting have betrayed me; for often in writing one is deceived into thinking resolution will be a natural result. So again I turn to face that gulf between today and the new year and am as sacred as the newborn ... I lived long enough to know my next breath my be my eulogy ...but if it isn't, will I greet my next breath with love and hope, knowing that my Creator is in control and I'm a cheerful, living sacrifice for His work?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Joy!

What a wonderful Christmas my wife and I were blessed with ...... spending it with a part of our family; sipping coffee, eating a delicious egg casserole cooked by our granddaughter - then gathering in the living room and watching our grandchildren open their Christmas gifts. The greatest gift a grandparent can receive - watching the joy and delight of grandchildren expectantly opening their gifts, and the delight on their children's faces as their kids rejoice. And then the blessings continue, 'Gram, can you help me with this necklace?' 'Gramps can you play with these trucks with me?' 'Gramps, can you read this story to me?' 'Gram, will you listen to me read from my new children's bible?' ....there's only one answer to all the invitations - YES!! My mother was not able to have the afternoon Christmas brunch at her house because she had the flu, but we were able to speak with her on the phone, and we'll celebrate when she's well. Then in the paper I read about the individual that tried to blow up an airplane in Detroit ........ wow, that wasn't that far from where we were. But some quick passengers were able to abort his attempt ... sorta reminded me of the story of Herod. Yet, despite mom's illness, and an evil scheme to destroy many celebrations, Christmas prevailed ........... and it always will! Merry Christmas to all and to all a happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Week: Empty [3]

"And there was no room for them in the inn" -Luke 2:7
As I look out the window there are two empty bird feeders staring back at me; I guess that's probably why for the last few days there haven't been any birds around. My neglegience in refilling them has caused the singing to stop ...... I will get to that later this morning. Emptiness is something that a lot of people feel at this time of the year for one reason or another, but it certainly doesn't help when those of us who could in some way minister to that void aren't available. What if Joseph and Mary had found room in the inn; there was a room available you know - the innkeepers room. Now the predestination folk wish me to know that that's not the way God planned it, and they know this how? Who of us could be so arrogant as to proclaim we know what God has on his mind? Venture a little ways out of your doctrinal fortress with me for a moment - humor me. What a story that would have been if Mary had had Jesus in an inn full of jostling, cursing, drunk and discontented people? We could have gotten enough sermons from those short verses to last an untold number of Advent series, you will concede God does do miracles in the midst of utter chaos, right? [remember in the beginning; last night I saw a little of a program about how the earth was born and it had all these shooting meteors bombing the planet creating all kinds of explosions and such, and I thought that must have been before the cooling off period when water began to cover the earth, then God stepped in and began to do His thing, maybe there was a light show for heaven before the hard work of creation, go figure].... at least in the inn Joseph and Mary wouldn't have been alone.. I can't imagine which would be worse, smelly coarse shepherds or enebreated spectators? Okay, now you can return to your castles. I think the point in this speculation for me is that the inn keeper didn't even offer ... nor did he have enough compassion to consider it - at least that how I think he responded when denying them; maybe that wasn't the case, maybe exhaustion had sucked the last ounce of care from his tired mind, or the missus just wouldn't consent to another dirt bag traveler. How did I travel so far from those empty bird feeders, those birds that found comfort and nourishment from the seeds provided may be going hungry because of me, and whose to say perhaps they miss the communal fellowship of birds fighting off each other to get to the feeders, now there's an oxymoron ......... or maybe we're just left with a moron, me?
Did I tell you yesterday, have a great Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Week: The Green Sentinels [2]

This is not the picture on my Christmas card, but it carry's the same basic ingredients .... green pine sentinels and a stable. Note the little pine on the left, wonder what that might be saying?
There are two rows of pine trees just a couple of yards along the west side of our house, and my wife's office has a window right in front of them. I'm being allowed to use my wife's study because the monitor on her computer decided enough is enough and the light ceased to shine [I doubt that 'focusing' on it like I did the barn yesterday morning will bring any light]; so now every night I bring my laptop home and she can work from it. I'm trying to persuade her to junk that big old computer and just get a laptop for her desk, we have wireless in the house. Back to my story, this morning I chose to focus out the window facing the pines, I just don't have the time or space to write everything I was thinking about those green sentinels. Their presence reminded me that they are one of the rare things of nature in this area of the world that keeps its color all year long, even in the snow. The pines closest to the branch root turn brown and die off about every three years, and while they are dying the younger, light green needles at the middle and on the ends of the branchs keep watch over them, and pick up their mantle and continue to add color and all kinds of benefits the tree wishes to bless nature with. As I was looking at them, it suddenly occured to me that in a Christmas-past postcard there was a manger scene with pines sheltering the stable .. so I searched, and searched and searched ... and sure enough my memory was correct, there was the card with green sentinels watching over the stable. Perhaps those green sentinels are reminders that no matter how bare, or colorless life may seem to become, Christ is ever present. If you're anything like me, you love cards and do your best to save them all, go back and review them, you just might be surprised when a card from Christmas-past has a blessing for you today.
And should I not, for some unseen reason, be able to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year - my prayer is that you have one.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A yeast filled fun weekend.

Yesterday our church congregation lovingly shared with us cards, and gifts. The good wife and I gave everyone there a homemade yeast roll. The Saturday before I spent nearly all the afternoon and some of the evening baking 108 yeast rolls, and since I don't care for them, my wife was the taste tester and she said they were delicious. The joy was in making them, these getting old and semi-arthritic arms were rejoicing as I stirred that last batch in the early evening. Earlier Saturday afternoon a caroling group of teens and adults sang a couple Christmas songs at our front door and left us with a plate of cookies - that magic of Christmas and cookies! Back to Sunday - In the evening at church we had an afterglow that simply fantastic .... its seems that the more afterglows we have the better and more plentiful the food becomes at each one - and of course there were loads of cookies, but the fellowship trumped the food as blessings of the holidays were bestowed on each other.

Christmas Week: The Pre-Morning Light [1]

[I got this picture off the internet, and it sorta sets the scene of this morning's meditation; or its the best I could do]
This is the week of Christmas, and Wednesday evening at church we will be having our 'Children's Christmas program' and Christmas Eve [I know its a day early] service. This years program will be about how the animals celebrated the Babe's birth in Bethlehem. So,.... I want to meditate [at least on this blog each day up to Christmas] on how creation celebrates; I've asked the Lord to remind me of either wildlife or nature right in my own backyard that celebrates Him. As I sit at my computer, with no other lights on and look out the window at my own back yard I am inspired by the pre-dawn light coming from the snow. Normally this time in the early hours it is hard to see anything, but before I opened my computer lid I let my eyes get focused on the yard, and it didn't take as long because the snow provided a subtle, soft light. There is an old barn at the back of the yard we use as a maintence/storage shed and it is neat how its roof, covered in snow, at first looks like a picture hanging on a dark wall of trees, but then as you focus on this 'picture' pretty soon the outline of the barn begins to take shape from the light of roof and ground! Strange in this my nineth Christmas here I had never seen that. It made me think of that barn in Bethlehem, most of our Christmas cards have snow in the Holy Lands at this time of year, so I checked out the weather report for today in that area of the world. Well today is going to be a partially cloudy 64% with no snow in the 14day forecast; sometimes its snowy in Bethlehem during this season but not this year. Scripture tells us that there was a star to lead the wise men, but I wonder if on that Christmas 2,000 years ago, the stars in the sky reflected their light off a snowy carpet and the shepherds were easily guided to that lonely barn where Joseph and Mary shared the Christmas gift of forever-time. I'm sure the shepherds didn't go door to door to try to find information on where the holy family was, and if they did the people would have thought they were out of their mind; like God was going to reveal the coming of the Messiah to shepherds first? Well, believe what you like but my early morning illuminated backyard photo tells me there was a special light for them too, and it left no doubt on where the exact location was. Interesting isn't it that God wants to shine His light in my life today so that there are shadows obscurely His plan for my day .... now I just have to stay focused .............. ENJOY. Go on an adventure today looking for your light!

Friday, December 18, 2009

"We three kings of the West are"

A critical anaylsis.
Thong, Chan Kei and Fu, Charlene L. Finding God in Ancient China: How the Ancient Chinese worshiped the God of the Bible. Zondervan Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI. 2009 Chapter 6: Magi from the West [pgs.182-216]
A pastoral friend of mine in our congregation invited me to choose from a larget number of books what I would like as a Christmas gift. After reading short summaries of all of them, I choose the above named book. I chose the chapter on 'Magi from the West' because its the Christmas connection and really enjoyed it, so I would like to share some of it with you.
Many of us recall the anticipation and fear of a new millenium, as cities all over the world prepared for celebration and techie geeks warned us that computers would come to a dead stand still bringing our societies to its knees. As the Chinese government struggled to not be left behind, their Millenium Monument in Beijing was hurried to completion. Along the monuments 386 feet, and 16.5 ft high relief the proud accomplishments of the Chinese people were displayed. What was displayed, but little recognized, or known, by the outside world is a Western face, a face that symbolized the 'three wisemen to China.' The author goes on to talk about the role that each of these wise men, Matteo Ricci - an Italian Jesuit, Johann von Bell - a German Jesuit, and Ferdinand Verbiest, a Jesuit assistant of von Bell. A distinguishing feature of all these Jesuits, in the face of China's disdain for Westerners and missionaires especially, is that there is this tribute to them in China's 5,000 yrs of historical acknowledgement. They loved the Chinese people, their desire was to serve them and where and when possible introduce Christ to them ..... but their great surprise and discovery God had already been at work making his presence known. What the great Monument, and probably most of the Chinese fail to understand is that these wise men, who loved them came to impart not just earthly knowledge and wisdom, although in many realms they did just that, but spiritual truths that can only be taught through lives lived in love; and the fact that God was already deeply embedded in China's history only increased these Jesuits love for the Chinese. A main argument against the Jesuits influence has been that they compromised their faith in their missionary endeavors yet nothing could be further from the truth.
I wonder if we, Christians, often compromise our faith, our witness to the world in ways that we think are inconsequencial, but in reality are disrespectful of the God-created desire in all his creatures to know him? The authors remind us that as the Hebrew prophet Daniel, thru his knowledge of the skies, brought God to the pagan eastern power Babylon; the Jesuits brought their love of Christ to China in the east. Among some of the best minds of their times, the Jesuits linked the West with the East in a spirit we have never experienced in modern times; they allowed God to lead and prepare for them the way to share him thru simple devotion and humble living.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Best meatballs and sauce

The other day [on this blog] I gave you the recipe for sweet sausage meatballs; now from a friend I have the recipe for my favorite meatball sauce. I thought I'd share it with you, and give my friend her due credit, so thanks B.D!
1 can[16 oz.] whole cranberry sauce
1 c sauerkraut, thoroughly drained
1 jar chili sauce
1/2 c brown sugar
1 chili sauce jar of water
Combine all ingredients, heat and pour over meatballs. Use a crockpot and allow mixature to simmer for about an hour or so. Then the meatballs take on the flavor of the sauce also.

Oops, there goes that tooth

Eating my regular morning breakfast I lost most of a wisdom tooth[hope that doesn't have mental consequences] that was going to be pulled after the first of the year anyway. After hearing my granddaughter's story about the nice little reimbursement she received from the tooth fairy, I decided to write a letter myself: [and the tooth is now on the letter on my bedstand]
'Dear Tooth Faery:
I know you are busy keeping up with all the kids that lose their
teeth; and in this economy hard pressed for money - but - I've lost
my tooth and thought maybe you might have some loose change?
Now there may be some skeptics out there that think I'm being greedy, not so, I am testing my childlike faith!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Unbelievable Harry Reid

In an interesting article in the Irish Examiner Alicia Colon writes that Senator Reid is either the dumbest person in Congress or the laziest ... last week when he condemned the Republicans for being against the Health Care Plan he compared them to those who were against righting the wrongs of slavery ... and she ask, Is Mister Reid not aware than every civil rights achievement in history has been spearheaded by the Republican Party or does he just think most of us outside Washington are dumb?Now I'm a little doubtful of her overall generalizing, but certainly up through the first half of the twentieth century she has a point. Quite an article, if you'd like to read the article you can find it on..
ENJOY. Don't you just love it when our leaders think we, outside Washington, are as dumb as a box of rocks .... they better be careful, Jesus said 'even the rocks will cry out' and when that happens times are not good.

Today my friend, tomorrow.............

I just found out today that a dear friend of mine I haven't seen in a couple of years died this past Saturday. For a third of my ministry we ministered in the same city, served on the same community volunteer emergency chaplaincy team. We probably enjoyed each other's company at least three times a month, going to conferences, meetings or just having lunch. I grieve for his wife of 41 years, and his three kids. The shocking email was received this morning; for a little over ten years we laughed, critiqued, served and ministered as brothers, and even a few years ago my wife and I visited him and his wife in Racine, Wisconsin. It was so enriching to have been blessed with a relationship that provided understanding because we were both in the same vocation that enabled us to discuss the holy and profane in the same conversation without feeling we were sacrilegious, harrassing each other at pastor's retreats in Illinois and Missouri, dropping in on each other and propping our feet on desks and getting down to business, and truly feeling each other's hurts and rejoicing unselfishly in each other's blessings. Those are relationships that are crafted in the soul, and neither time nor distance nor even ocassional disagreements can begin to erode ..... maybe that's why my friends death is exacting such a toll? Dave was only a year older than I am, I'm sure that fact has some bearing also.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Grand-daughter, a basketball, a tooth and sweet sausage meatball

We had some link Italian sausage that needed to be used, so borrowing heavily from a Bobby Flay recipe I made some sausage meatballs that can be frozen and used in the future. I had to modify some of the ingredients and rather than make sandwich patties I turned them into meatballs ........................ em, em, were they good. You can find Bobby Flay's original recipe on the food network as 'Sage -Musard Breakfast Sausage Recipe.'
*about a pound of Italian sweet sausage
*1/2 cup of bread crumbs
*1 egg
*1/2 sweet onion chopped
*1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
*1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves
*1/2 teaspoon garlic
*1 tablespoon Honey mustard [dressing and dip]
[I used the Lighthouse brand, its made here in Michigan, this really makes the
meatballs sweet]
mixed all the ingredients together, and placed them in little balls on foil on a cookie sheet
placed the sheet in the oven at 350, and left them there for about 40 minutes.

I also, along with Gram, got to talk with my grand-daugher [6yrs old.]from the Big City East. She and my son attended a Piston's basketball game, and they had floor seats. She got a player's autograph, ate 2 pickles, cotton candy and a half/pound hotdog washed down by two cokes and one sprite. She also got to dance with the mascot on the center of the court during a fourth quarter time out!! But her most exciting news was that the tooth witch took one of her teeth, however the 'tooth fairy' rewarded her with ten dollars. She also told us that one of her teachers had gotten $20 for a tooth, and a friends of her raked in $25 for a tooth. I never knew what a deprived childhood I had had [at least we had given her dad a quarter for a lost tooth] .... I didn't get any money for my tooth; or could it have been that the 'tooth witch' took my tooth with her and the 'tooth fairy' never even knew I had lost it ..... when I was six I had never heard of a 'tooth witch,' .... makes me feel better about my parents!

This is rich, ya gotta like it!

Hey, whatever happened to our government of checks and balances ..... or the ability of each branch of government to think for itself? 'AP: Obama summons Senate Dems to WH,' what happens if you're a senator and you don't go? do you get blacklisted? what happens to your state back home.....does it get denied a certain amount of entitlements and/or help? since when can one branch demand that another branch obey? guess I missed some basic history lessons in high school. Then, can you believe it .... the Wall STreet Journal and New York Times [what a pair] tell us that the 'governmenbt is increasingly monitoring Facebook, Twitter' and blogs, hey I wonder if any of them are going to try my 'chicken, mac and cheese casserole'? Now who would believe that? Not to change subjects in the middle of a thought, but does anyone know who a 'George Orwell' was .... is he still around? Have good evening, and remember 'big brother is watching out for you.'

Chicken, Mac & Cheese Casserole

For lunch today, I baked a fantastic [if I have to say so myself; especially since I'm the only one that has tasted it] chicken, mac and cheese casserole. I combined ingredients from a couple recipes, then added my own touch.
*1 pkge Kraft Velveeta Shells & cheese [must use Kraft; best on the market]
*1 can cream of chicken soup
*2 cups cooked chicken, finely cubed
*1 tablespoon oil oil
*1/2 sweet onion finely chopped [Vandalia]
*1/4 cup finely chopped yellow or red pepper [don't use green pepper here]
*1/4 cup finely chopped celery
*Italian [or favorite] bread crumbs
*1 teaspoon paprika
*1 teaspoon parsley
*dash of oregano [I use oregano in about everything]
Saute sweet onion, celery and pepper in oil [about 5 minutes or until soft]
Prepare shells and cheese as directed;
Stir in same pot w/mac and cheese cream of chicken soup and cubed chicken, add sauted vege's
Spoon mixture into greased glass casserole dish
Now sprinkle with bread crumbs
Cover lightly with foil, and cook for 25minutes in 350 degree oven
After 25 minutes remove foil, sprinkle top with mexican style cheddar jack
[cheddar & monterey jack cheeses]
Place back in oven still at 350 for 25 minutes
super delicious - serve!
suggestions: if you like sour cream like I do you may want to put about 2tablespoons in the
mix; and the next time I am going to add a can of diced tomatoes.

Weekend catch-ups

This weekend was special indeed. Saturday, the church board met at the 'Cracked Pepper' in Middleville, and did we have fun; a couple of times I was afraid T.G. was going to choke over laughing, but it was a good time of fellowship with the leaders, and of course the 'white elephant' gift exchange was an exercise to behold in itself as 'holy water' became one of the least sought after gifts along with a purple Christmas bulb!
Then at Sabbath's luncheon the teens hosted the prime-timers, this was great. Teens sat and ate with us prime-timers, then following the meal they brought out table games and what a joy it was to watch teens and prime timers enjoying each other's company! A fantastic idea, just the concept, different generations, often seen at odds in the world, totally enjoying each other ... we have to do it again .... that what's 'church family' should be doing always, there were so many lessons there for each generation to learn and rejoice in. Hats off to the youth group for this blessing!
Yesterday I came across a couple articles that drew my attention. First, 'Prince William to share Queen's duties: Treasury document reveals secret plan to make him 'the Shadow King.' Evidently, as the article pointed out the Queen is bypassing her son Charles to begin setting in motion the kingship for her grandson William. I think this is far-sighted wisdom by the Queen, by focusing on her grandson instead she is definitely trying to have a hand in what she believes will be best for Britians future leadership. There is a lesson for us in church, its not enough to say our teens/kids are tomorrow's church, they need to be already taking an active role, though often minimal, but learning to lead in God's family. Also the article, 'How did Tiger keep his secrets?' was interesting. It seems that those 'high-profile' individuals who treasure their privacy [which to a degree I understand] are those most often susceptible to big falls from grace. There seems to be the false sense that if I have enough money & prestige I can buy my privacy, which creates also the temptation that standards that apply to others, don't to me. Greater still is the conclusion I can buy whatever I want,and that most often results in a lack of accountability. The author of the article notes that those who play team sports are more likely to publicly scrutinized, and maybe that is good. Not long ago, David Letterman, another high profile person who greatly treasures his privacy fell from moral grace, again absent was public accountability. Though those of us, whose vocation/career is to serve others, live in glass houses and find it bothersome [from time to time] its not all bad .... for in being accountable we can also become reliable, trustworthy examples. Yet in the church we stubbornly resist 'spiritual accountability.' This is seen in finances, 'I don't want anyone to see what I'm giving?' if you're being faithful to what God is calling you to give, why the secrecy .... 'I don't think its anyone's business where I go?' why not, if Jesus would go with you, what's there to hide?' its no one's business what I watch on tv, why not ... if its not garbage that soils the soul, what's there to hide? I guess the bottom line is, we as Christians aren't real comfortable with accountability either - maybe we have more in common with David and Tiger in thought than we want to admit?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Christmas Glass

A book review: The Christmas Glass
Alborghetti, Marci. New York, New York. Published by Guideposts. 2009
I really like to read novels by the likes of Richard Paul Evans and Nicholas Sparks; novels that speak to the heart. Others might call them 'romance' novels, but that wouldn't be close to what I'm talking about. Sometimes I'm attracted to these books by their unique titles, 'The God of Animals,' 'The Last Promise,' 'The Notebook,' etc. ... so I was attracted to the book 'The Christmas Glass.'
Its always hard to do a book review because first you want to do justice to the book but on the other hand you want others to read it and so you try to give just enough to spark their curiosity at the same time give your feelings about it without prejudicing them. This book is about an Italian grandmother, who has come into possession of a rare German -blown twelve piece glass set. She distributes the pieces to family and friends as she sees fit, being extremely careful who gets what piece. The family is in disarray from inner conflicts and its seems they will never be able to come together as one family again, when old Filomena, the grandmother, announces that she won't move from assisted living to nursing home unless the family reunites one more time. Each chapter in this novel is almost like a book itself, telling the story of its name sake and how each relate to the Christmas glass set. You don't want to miss one chapter, some are about characters who don't seem to have that much importance to the story and if you skip over them you will never fully understand the closing chapter.
Its said that every author places themselves into their creation somewhere and if that is true Marci does a wonderful job in exposing perhaps not only her family but to some degree each of our family's. It is a story woven with faith, trust, disappointment and neglect ... and often those bonds that seem irreconcilable become the strongest bonds of reconciliation. In some ways its about placing family over self, which we in the West could certainly use some lessons on; other times its about the willingness to forgive. The ending of the book will leave you guessing, as all good novels do! ........... in some ways it allows you to write the ending, and that ending will depend upon your own family relationships! I actually did NOT want this novel to end, and as I came to the last chapter I intentionally read it more slowly hoping that the book might multiply..maybe there were a book the author had, or was going to write to continue the story?..
As we think about the Christmas season, and what an appropriate time to be striving to mend family relations, and the fact that over half of our population is over 50yrs old, this indeed is a timely book ..... and a great Christmas gift. Thanks Marci.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Times Like These

Have you ever read something that grabs the moment, the moment when you wondered what you were accomplishing in life - the moment that addressed that question that had been haunting you - the moment that defined your purpose in life better than it had ever been defined before - any moment?! As I was re-reading a book I came across such an article. The article was addressing what often appears to be the repetitious, predictable pattern of preaching every week. Sometimes it feels like the preacher isn't making much of a difference with his/her weekly declarations of good news, but G.K.Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, says that just because we feel we're stuck in an endless cycle doesn't mean God isn't still actively creating, actively creating through our repetition. Chesterton goes on to illustrate how a child loves the predictable and unchanging; I've experienced that when I will read many times to a grandchild the same story .......... 'read it again,' they'll request, and so I read it again, and again, and again. And each time they eagerly listen as though they've never heard it, but should I miss or change a word right away they say, 'that's not right!' Chesterton proposes that that illustrates how God is actively creating, every morning he says to the sun, 'do it again,' and at night to the moon, 'do it again.' God takes perfect delight in 'doing it again,' 'he never gets tired of the repetition says Chesterton. 'God has the eternal appetite of infancy' adds Chesterton. Every time we praise God he cries, 'do it again,' every time that the preacher tells the story, God cries, 'tell it again.' Every time the congregation gathers around the communion table and shares God cries, 'do it again.' Such repetition does not entertain, it sustains; such repetition does not inform, it forms those who hear and share. I had never realized how caught up in the world's search for continually wanting something new I had become, my eyes closed to the freshness of the mundane, the value of 'do it again.' I needed that chapter from 'The End of Words' by Richard Lischer.

More Hair, Less Manure

Timm is off working on his sermon, and he also has a dentist appointment at 10AM this morning, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to highlight some news/thoughts. Timm suggested I might include the websites of the news bits so that you could check them out for yourself. By the way I appreciate the comments from my new venture yesterday; the first headline that caught my attention early this morning was 'L.A. agrees to limit medical-marijuana dispensaries.' Evidently that most liberal of city councils read some writing on a wall somewhere that said, 'don't forget the kids,' because they are having a study done to make sure these dispensaries aren't to close to homes, schools and public gathering sites. A rightful cheer is earned for this council! ..... the next article starts out 'Wartime President picks up his Pulitzer Peace prize.' ... I'm wondering if our President isn't smarter than any of us can ever imagine, like up there with King Solomon; after reading yesterday that 'spending is the way to get out of debt' maybe sending more troops to Afghanistan is the way to peace? Maybe he has an inside track to knowledge we've never experienced, I do hope so. I know that Timm is reading this book he told us about, 'The Omnivore's Dilemma.' He was telling me last night that the first food section is about corn, and how it makes up close to 3/4 of our diet, and some historical fact that when Sqaunto taught the pilgrims how to plant maize[corn] she signed the death warrant of the North American Indians because the early Europeans thought they could live on wheat, and found out corn was the better alternative, so though the natives didn't survive their commissary did. I'm going to save this article for Timm for when he gets to the Meat section; 'New Mexico Dairy Pollution Sparks 'Manure Wars.' According to the article ... more and more of these huge diary operations are producing as much sewage as small cities but have no treatment plants nearby, and they are polluting the air and water, hope Timm appreciates this? My final article is about what I think I'll surprise Timm with for Christmas. The poor chap is not only bald but he can't seem to make his head shine, so may be a HairMax LaserComb would be a great present. The FDA has accepted it, and its suppose to progressively improve hair, stimulate new hair growth and treat hairloss, while enhancing look, shine and manageability. That last one may be the least advantageous because Timm has gone quite comfortable in just running the electric razor over his head for a few minutes in the morning. Well, we're getting hit with the big snow, certainly not as heavy as in other spots of the nation but its doing its best here to wipe out any color it can find. Have a great day. ENJOY, Dominine.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Good Morning, My name is Dominie

Not long ago, a friend of my procreator Timm allowed his alter-ego to write a column. The idea had an intriguing effect on Timm and he asked if I would like to try being an author; of course there would be some guidelines I must follow, and too much self-disclosure would result not only in censure but no more articles, so I consented, rarely has my influence ever been allowed public exposure, particularly given Timm's disposition and vocation. I have a tendency to elaborate, exaggerate and just plain embarrass, so I will do my best to refrain as much as possible. My name is Dominine, and I have European roots which probably accounts in large measure for Timm's interest in family heritage. WEll, enough about myself, it's fairly likely you'll learn more than you ever cared to know about me through my writing. Today I'm just going to preview some headlines from the news that have caught my attention.
first, did you hear about the 'Copenhagen climate summit in disarray after 'Danish text' leak? Developing countries react furiously to leaked draft agreement that would hand more power to rich nations, sideline the UN's negotiating role and abandon Kyoto protocol. Bless the Dane's hearts, they're at it again. Two words caught my attention, 'sideline and abandon.' If you ever thought that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have no international influence, think again ... sideline and abandon are two of their favorite legislative tactics. I sense someone peeking over my shoulder, let's move on to the next article.
second, Ben Shapiro writes an article about 'racism of the black community', if even a small portion of what he writes is true, I'm really getting confused, 'just who is a racist?' I? dare I object to anything anymore without being judged as prejudicial? oh how our pc climate loves confusion; but then I have to give them a hand because confusion definitely means we don't have to think too hard about being honest.
third, finally an article that should tickle our hearts, especially at this Christmas season of gift purchasing, our esteemed President wants us to know that the only way to get out of debt is to SPEND. Go figure, why was that news necessary, isn't that what we're both personally and governmentally already trying to do [wasn't that the engine behind the stimulus?]... credit crunch my foot, it should be called 'credit celebration!'
fourth, 'Senate kills abortion amendment' so that the government can continue to pay for the elimination of unwanted and inconvenient births. If ever there has been a generation of hypocrisy that passes for truth this explains today.
fifth, Google's CEO Eric Schmidt suggests you alter your 'scandalous behavior before you complain about his company broadcasting your behavior.' Note that this esteemed CEO [under a cloud of moral behavior himself] doesn't reason that you alter your behavior for moral reasons just that your sins might be your public downfall..
something Biblical is echoing in the background?
my last comment today is about an article I found in the newsprint guardian of all virtue and morals, The Scotsman. 'Gays facing death penalty as Africa hit by homophobia.' Let me begin by saying that Timm is opposed to the 'death penalty' on just about any grounds, and please don't try to use scriptural proof against his opinion, he becomes very close-minded and aggravated. Having said that the author of this article makes two assumptions: first, the countries of Africa have never dealt with homosexuality before and second it is evangelical Christians that are too blame for this current outbreak of concern. It is amazing to me that in this age of information, when certain sexual conduct fosters HIVaids we are so reluctant to address it; since when do personal appetites trump personal health?
Well I'm getting that look, that pencil tapping on the desk, all signs that my time is up. Timm has however promised that in any replies to your comments I will be given the chance to express my opinion - maybe? Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mom, Peanut Brittle & 3 Oils.

Had a safe trip to Ohio and back today to see mom again. We went to an apple orchard and bought some apples, stopped at a Christmas store [where I purchased a small gift for SWCOBL; please don't tell her] and then ate at a buffet. Grandma & Mom each sent home a round of peanut brittle each, which my wife really likes, for her. Then this evening, I took my wife to a Dale Carneige graduation for one of the people who works in her department. While my wife was at the graduation I made a brief visit to 'World Market,' [a really neat store] and while continuing my lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng search for a multiple [30+] spice rack my attention was drawn to some small sample bottles of oil. So I purchased three of them, 1]a garlic oil, which I think I'll try on some pizza dough before putting on other ingredients; 2] a basil oil and 3] a toasted sesame oil. Where the basil and sesame oil will be used is still a mystery. If anyone has ever used any of these three oils, it would really be nice to hear any suggestions you might have. Then while making a very brief visit to 'Barnes & Noble' the book 'The Omnivore's Dilemna' FELL into my arms, and taking this as an extra-terrestial sign I felt obliged to purchase it. Let me share with you a review of the book by The Seattle Times, 'A brilliant, eye-openng account of how we produce, market and agonize over what we eat. If you ever thought 'whats for dinner' was a simple question, you'll change your mind after reading Michael Pollan's searing indictment of today's food industry.' Sounds like great read, I'll fill you in as its being read.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Friends, Family & Faith [Monday's Musings]

The good wife and I followed up Friday evening's wonderful fellowship with friends with a Saturday morning trip to 'Bronners' in Frankenmuth to celebrate the birthdays of our Daughter-In-Law and grandson. Bronners is billed as Michigan's Largest Christmas Store[they claim its the World's largest; and have 6,000 different styles of ornaments and 400 nativity scenes], open 351 days a year; but like most people everyone shows up after the first day in December. We parked the car in the back 80, because the back 40 was all taken up .......... and it was like that all day long! The store however is unapologetically about celebrating CHRISTmas .. I've never seen so many different 'nativity' scene's! With the number of people there it would have been a perfect training ground for 'crowd control.' Nevertheless we had a great time showing the grandkids all the nativity scenes, the different reindeer and santa's and trinkets. My wife pointed out to me how when our kids were given a choice of many magnets to choose from they both chose the name magnets with a nativity scene! We celebrated their birthdays over 'chicken lunches' at Zenders restaurant [I must add that probably for the first time in family history my choices for both gifts to our daughter -in- law and grandson were presented] , one of the best chicken restaurants around, with the except of Chick-fil-a; and they certainly are second to none in having excellent 'cole slaw.' The meal is served family style and I made sure than neither bowl of cole slaw was left. Finally it was time to return home, and as we got on the road two things got my attention, first we needed gas and second the tire inflation light came on. Now often in changes of weather that light will come on because air adjustments need to be made in the tires, however stopping for gas upon examining the tires and found the one was almost totally flat, and when putting air in discovered the little screw that had lodged itself in our tire. It was getting near 3pm on Saturday afternoon, and I knew that we would be stopping at every exit for air, but less than 1/4 of a mile from the station was a tire shop, and bless the Lord, when we got there we discovered they were still open for another 45 minutes. They patched the inside of the tire and we were back on the road in shortly over a half-hour, it is amazing how God is always looking out for us. What a weekend, with family and friends and a faithful God. I must admit before closing the book on that weekend that I misread map quest and took my wife and I over 40minutes out of our way to Bronners ... We had hopped to get there early and my wife have a few minutes to do some shopping on her own, but as it was our kids beat us there by about 20 minutes; since its 2hrs from home I doubt I'll get her back there, with grace maybe she'll forgive me! Tonight[Monday] we're scheduled to make an hour and a half journey to Jackson for a District Christmas dinner, so it will be back on the road again.
The 'big snow' isn't expected until Wednesday night so hopefully we won't have to fight bad weather, this is the season.............

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fifth Third Holiday Pops

What a wonderful time we had tonight at the DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids, with two special friends who had bought us tickets. The house was 'packed!' This 80+ piece Symphony [over 20 full-time musicians]is known as one of the 'best' regional symphonies in the country. It was a remarkable way to begin the Christmas Season. It began with a 'Christmas Festival Overture that woke up anyone who had fallen asleep upon finding their seat. The First Noel, Mary Did You Know and O Come, O Come Emmanuel were sung by Leon Williams, an alumnus of the Harlem Boys Choir and graduate of the Juilliard School of Music. He is an operatic baritone and recently just returned from performing in St.Petersburg, Russia; then after 3 more numbers by the Symphony it was intermission time.
Following intermission the Symphony was joined by both the G.R. Symphony Chorus and the Junior Youth Chorus ............... and it was a treat as they sang many familiar Christmas carols. Again Leon Williams treated us to a couple of Christmas specials with the Symphony and voices. Then Santa made an appearance and went on to lead the 'whole' house in a 'holly jolly sing-along' of choruses. Then the finale - the incomparable, greatest musical piece ever composed by man, 'The Hallelujah Chorus' brought the house to a standing ovation! Every time I hear Handel's Messiah I am brought to tears and tingling nerve endings - the human language fails to have words to describe the experience. To say I enjoyed this evening would do an injustice to both my friends, who sponsored and accompanied us, do an injustice to the company/companionship of my wife, and an injustice to those who presented it .... to use an old phrase, 'it was simply marvelous darling!'

Definitely not 'Chick-fil-a'

A Sterling, VA radio station reports that Customs and Border patrol officers [at Dulles Airport]found a fully cooked chicken filled with two bags of cocaine worth an estimated street value of $4,3oo; now that doesn't sound like good seasoning to me. That's a pretty expensive chicken - but if I got hungry enough I'd probably pay that for a chick-fil-a sandwich!! ha. By the way, I have no idea who the redneck on the chicken is, and it looks like the chicken might be confused also?!

Giada's Roman-style Chicken

Last night for supper I fixed Giada's Roman-style chicken, my wife really enjoyed it. Make sure when you add the herbs they are FRESH, I used dried and it lacked the 'punch' of the fresh. Also if you like mushrooms, like I do you may want to add some mushrooms to the pepper mix.
Here is the recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentis....
4 skinless chicken breast halves, with ribs
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
3 ounces chopped prosciutto [I didn't use them this time]
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 [15 ounce] can of diced tomatoes [I used the one with garlic/onion combined]
1 tablespoon FRESH thyme leaves
1 tablespoon FRESH oregano leaves
1/2 cup chicken stock [be careful not to use more]
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup chopped FRESH flat-leaf parsely leaves
*season chicken with 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper. In heavy, large skillet heat olive oil, when
oil is hot, cook the chicken till browned on both sides. Remove and set aside
*In same pan over medium heat, add peppers and prosciutto cook until the peppers have
browned and proscuitto is crist, about 5 min. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add
tomatoes and herbs. using wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the
pan. return chicken to the pan, add stock and bring mixture to a boil. reduce heat and
simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.
*if serving immediately add capers and parsley, stir and serve. If making ahead of time
transfer chicken/sauce to container, cool and refrigerate. Next day, reheat chicken to a
simmer over medium heat. stir in the capers and parsley. [remember, you add the
capers just before you serve, don't let them stay in the mix in the frig.]

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I'm Dreamng of a White Christmas

If that's the case, the snow had better hurry up before 'global warming' catches up with it! ha. Last night as I was coming close to finishing up my advent message on Joseph's first dream, it suddenly occurred to me that our last two presidents [Bush, Obama] have failed to call Americans to a dream; the previous three had [Reagan, Bush and Clinton]. Now maybe this is in some part due to terrorism, and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the tensions with Iran, etc. ... but its always been out of the ashes of circumstances that America has risen to the occasion through dreaming of what she could be; I don't hear much anymore about what the grand ole lady could be, so much as what she was or apologizing for what she isn't suppose to be. Give us dream, challenge us to follow the dream; a dream beyond immediate expectations, a dream all of us can unite on. I don't believe our country is as divided as those who govern us; some of you may call that naive, and to a point I may be, but I still believe in the basic goodness of Americans.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bumbling burglers

I just read an article in the N.Y.Daily News that '2 bumbling bandits in Maryland attempted to rob a funeral home thinking it was a bank!' In today's economy, maybe the bandits do know something all of us should know ... with so many banks on the edge of forclosure [or death] themselves maybe funeral homes do have more money. Maybe they're not so dumb? I 'd forward you the site of the article, but there's no money for me in it, and according to the article not that much for the bandits either.

Heaping coals and food .... Prov.25:21

'If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head and the Lord will reward you.' I love a story that I found on the internet about how a company of Marines helped an Afghan father gets his burned boy to a hospital run by Americans. It reminded me of the quoted passage of scripture above. I wonder why incidents like this aren't more publicized; last night as I listened to the President's message on why we were continuing to be in Afghanistan how thrilling it would have been to have mentioned the humanitarian reasons, better schools, equal opportunities, medical clinics and hospitals, infra-structure creativity, etc... perhaps the billions of dollars that are being spent there might produce more positive progress if they were spent improving the local citizenry and just by chance the President might get more support if the human face of the struggle were shown? I don't know, but I am thankful for soldiers who are still sensitive to the human condition and how they might address it... .... if you find the site has expired you may just want to go to .... this is the homepage.
Great article - ENJOY

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Interesting facts....stats.

On the following blogsite,, is a graph siting how much all the presidents since 1901 have hired from the private sector. This is a very revealing graph. When you look at the graph and see those presidents highest in either noteable homeland or foreign accomplishments you find their private sector hiring higher. When you find those presidents who seemed to have the most difficulties you find lower private sector hiring. Now I'm not talking about popularity rating, although in looking at it again that might be a mitigating factor, I don't know. But what an interesting issue, not only one with political consequences, but economic implications also; it seems the most effective presidents, in at least one area, have a higher hiring from the private sector.
Under 30% fr. private sector - Kennedy, Obama
Under 40% fr. private sector - Teddy Roos., Taft,
Carter, Clinton
Under 50% fr. private sector - Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, LBJ, Ford
Over 50% fr. private sector - Wilson, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon,
Reagan, GHWB, GWB
In some ways I think this justifies what I've contended all along in my ministry. Those churches that are more highly successful have a pastor that is a leader in spiritual matters, but business, administrative and economic matters are much more efficiently handled in the hands of those who work in the secular fields.

A Book, a movie and a happy Thanksgiving.

This past thanksgiving was indeed a time of being with family and giving thanks for God blessings both noticed and unnoticed. We had a pleasant trip to see my mom, and relatives, in Ohio then on to SWCOBL's family in Illinois. So my meanderings today will include a movie review, a book preliminary review [if there is such a thing] and some thanksgiving remembrances. If you should be too bored there's some really neat stuff on the drudge report.
First let me share with you a review of the movie, 'Blind Side.' My wife and I were able to see it yesterday[Monday] afternoon. It is a great movie, and I use the adjective great because it includes all those human virtues that show the better side of us ... caring, compassion, reaching out, sacrificing and going the extra mile. The story begins by introducing 'big mike,' a kid from the ghetto's who is reluctantly admitted into a christian high school because of the possibility of what he might be able to contribute to their sports program ... all of this under the guise of 'christian' compassion. Later in the movie true compassion is offered big mike in the form of being able to reside with a family, and as that family adopts him as one of their own, he begins to open up his world to them. A teacher at his high school is willing to go the second mile, and realizes that big mike is not stupid, he simply learns in a unique way and sets out to help him succeed. Two things were re-enforced in this movie .... never judge, and be willing to look beyond what appears to be. Interestingly enough [and I'll try not to spoil the movie for you] adverse circumstances are the catalyst for big mike's opening up his heart to not only receiving but sharing, and his final decision on what he will do with his future results from the joy of being accepted, not for what he can do but for who he truly is. This is also a movie with family values, for instance the Thanksgiving dinner segment - that is one of the best family teaching moments in the whole movie! This is taken from a true story ..... 'big mike' is now a two veteran NFL offensive tackle with the Baltimore Ravens. With all the disappointments we're seeing in the professional sports world this is a bright spot ...........................its a have-to-see movie for every parent who has kids involved in school extra curricular activities. It reminds me in many ways of the movie 'Radio'...
Now on the 'preliminary' book review of 'The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt & the Fire That Saved AMerica' by Timothy Egan. This is the story of how Teddy Roosevelt, and few chosen, dedicated conservationists fight big business tycoons and industries, and are able to turn a national catastrophe into a publicity event that preserved for us our national parks system. The issue that grabbed my attention was the fact that Teddy, and his closest comrade, were both born in wealthy families; however their shared love for nature compelled them to fight the big interests that were not concerned about conservation or preserving our countries natural wonders for 'everyone' to be able to enjoy. I've almost finished with part 1:In On Creation, and look forward to reading the rest of the book. Early in my ministry I was informed by a Chemistry Prof, who happened to be our local church's missionary president that he strongly felt Christians had been extremely poor managers of our planet, that Christians had not fulfilled God's command to take good care of it. The older I get the more I realize that Professor was definitely correct in his assessment of our lousy stewardship of this earth. Maybe we need to save that seemingly inconsequential species from becoming extinct - maybe we shouldn't cut down so many trees - maybe we should consider wind power - maybe our exhaust fumes should be more closely regulated ..... who can answer all these questions; maybe as 'good stewards' we should at least begin to 'honestly' ask the questions ... God is watching! ENJOY
Egan, Timothy. 'The Big Burn,' Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Boston, MS. ISBN:9780618968411
Now for our thanksgiving adventures. First we stopped for Thanksgiving lunch at my mom's house and there we enjoyed all the traditional foods, turkey, ham, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and deviled eggs. Then we finished with brownies and pie. The pumpkin pie had real pumpkin and was delicious, while the peach pie was made from cheap dough and filled cheap pie filling, it wasn't such a neat experience. The fellowship with grandma and some nieces and a nephew were delightful and so merrily we did the dishes, gave a round of kisses and were on our way to Illinois. We had stopped earlier in Battle Creek at a Crackle Barrel and purchased a couple of books on tape, so we listened to them until we arrived at our designated hotel in Illinois around 8PM. We spent some time visiting with our oldest daughter and her family in their room and around 10:30 called it a night. I have to put in a plug here for HOmewood Suites [a subsidiary of the Hilton] for the room was one of the finest, it even had two large screen tv's so that my wife and I could both watch what we wanted. The next day being Black Friday was spent a lot of the time dodging traffic and I watched football while my wife, with her sister, ran last minute errands. We spent the afternoon and early evening with our daughter and family; they are from the deep south and it was good to get to be with them. Later that night we sat around in the hotel lobby playing trivia; and though I was on my son-in-laws team I did my best to help out the women-folk, much to the dismay of my s-i-l; but to the delight of everyone else ... it somehow made the game more fun!! Then came Saturday, this was the big day for my wive's mother/dad's 40 wedding anniversary and I took it upon myself to greet the guests inside the lobby doors and direct them to where they needed to go ..... and I also greeted people coming in to make reservations - it was a blast. The hotel registrar told me how she'd like them to be greeted and so I did! - they said they would employ me, but they couldn't pay me, so I rather reluctantly, but graciously declined their offer. It was a fun party, all the kids[4] and most of the grandkids [couldn't count them all] were in attendance and many of their friends from church. After the party all the kids[and spouses] took mom and dad to supper; then my wife's baby sister and husband came to our suite and we went down to the pool and had a good time. This was really unusual for me, spending Saturday night staying up late and not having to preach the next morning - think I need to try this more often![God doesn't read blogs, does he?] We enjoyed church the next morning and took mom and dad out to lunch before getting on the road back towards Michigan. Finally we reached Ft.Wayne, and there dined at one of my wife's favorite all-time restaurants [at least in Ft.Wayne] and stayed in a hotel. Monday morning we went shopping at the mall and I read books for a little over two hours in Barnes/Noble, and actually walked out of that store without buying a book!!!!! yep, I still can't believe that happened and nearly sent my precious wife into cardiac arrest .... I hate to surprise her like that so I don't think I'll ever do that again. [come out of B/N empty handed] After that we watched the movie I just told you about and went to CHICK-FIL-A for something to eat before coming home, neither of us had had anything except popcorn and were a little hungry ............ there were a number of restaurants in the area that we had never eaten at, and my wife kinda wanted to try one of them out, but she also knew how I love chick-fil-a. Finally in Battle Creek we returned the book tapes and continued on home, arriving safely, thanking God for his blessings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Some 'little' lessons

Yesterday, I got a call from a fellow clergy brother who asked me if I had taken any photo's lately, and I replied 'no because not long ago my 35mm canon had been stolen.' Well do you have another camera, and I said no why? Well in their church van they had found a 35mm canon with a perscription in one of the pockets that belonged to me ..... hallelujah! it was mine. Now the lesson I needed to learn was to stop jumping to conclusions, to stop inventing stories that fit my situation ....yes, my camera was gone, no, no one had stolen it! I HAD MISPLACED IT, I HAD FORGOTTEN IT. Only a few weeks prior a couple of us pastors had gone to an all day conference and I had left it in the van. Lesson One.
I called home to let mom know SWCOBL/and I would be stopping through on Thanksgiving to share Noon Dinner with her and the family before we proceeded on to Illinois later in the afternoon. Mom was really excited; however when I asked her if she had been reading the books she had taken out at the Library last week, she said they didn't interest her so she took them back. I guess my frustration showed through a little as I replied, 'Mom, the books were not for your interest they were for you to gain information on the grieving process we had set out to explore together.' I told her that I would get up early Thanksgiving morning and make some homemade biscuits which I enjoy doing. I learned that I need to better clarify why I suggest things some times; that its not about what we will enjoy, but how we can enhance our living a victorious life - that very thing must have caused Jesus more heartache and frustration than I will ever experience. Lesson Two.
LESSON THREE: I'm still working on this one, learn to write more coherently!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh, Joseph, where are you?

After being in ministry for nearly thirty years, its always a 'personal challenge' to come up with a series of advent/lenten sermons you've never done before. Many hours are spent alone with God searching for his new direction in your preaching schedule. First, your series must be Christ-centered, then Biblically grounded, then culturally and personally applicable; quite a tall order to fill which is why I can't even begin to do it on my own. This year during a community pastoral get together the discussion centered on 'dreams' and how important they were among ancient believers. And as different dreams and dreamers of scripture were being discussed God revealed to me that this years Advent sermons should focus on dreams, to a people in an economy where dreams and hopes are better defined by lottery tickets or rich uncles passing on inheritances. NOw I'm not a big dreamer, and rarely if ever, remember a dream I've had; one of my spiritual brothers [Sage] remarked about how he used to 'journal his dreams' while in college and seminary .... 'journaling your dreams' a most out-of-this-world experience. I couldn't get away from that idea, and as I began to sense God's direction I got more excited. Finally, the answer came, 'we would talk this advent about the dreams that Joseph experienced' as given to us in the Matthew 1 & 2. We would take those four dreams and make them into three messages.
As I began to accumulate a notebook of notes, and research I wondered, 'why had I never thought of this idea before?' Here is a leading support character in not only the story of Christmas but the early formation of Jesus childhood, and except for obligatory reference he is given little thought of. I know scripture doesn't say that much about him, but not only is silence golden sometimes it is heavy with instruction and guidance. As I prepare for Sunday, Dec.6th [this weekend I will be spending with my wife celebrating her parents anniversary in Illinois], I researched our denominations hymnal and among all of the Christmas songs not ONE names Joseph,[check out your church hymnal?] much less implies that he's even in the picture. Were I someone who had never heard the Christmas stories and got all my information from that hymnal I might not even believe Mary was married. Mary, angels, shepherds and wise men all get at least one carol named for them ...........not Joseph. I have come across an illustration that highlights the oft unnoticed presence of Jospeh in a Christmas story by a four year old that is literally awesome, maybe I'll share it during this series. Well before I give too much away too early, let me just say, I guess its time we start learning the lessons Joseph so humbly and faithfully set for us that long ago Christmas time.

FAmily reunions?!

Many of us have long lamented the tradition of family reunions demise. Some of my most cherished memories come from those family holiday reunions when I played, and even hunted with, my cousins. One didn't even contemplate missing a holiday reunion party. In the beginning it was the playtime, whichever farm the reunion was held on would have a special uniqueness that just couldn't be missed. At one uncle's farm it was the long path leading back to the woods that facilitated our playing 'road' games' .. sometimes I got to be the state policeman, but greater still was getting to play the road-robber; at another uncle's farm swinging, [some of the braver ones jumped] from the hay mow down to the center platform nourished dreams of tarzan. One uncle had a woods that was just plain out of Eden; hours of cowboys and indians were spent reenacting John Wayne movies. Then as we got older, we were allowed to accompany the men on pheasant and rabbit hunts, then after passing homebreed hunting tests we fancied ourselves 'full-blown' hunters. The hunting tests usually meant that we had begun to hunt with our fathers before being allowed to hunt with the family group; and we still had to stay close to our fathers. Eventually we came to place where as family patriarch/matriarchs left for heaven an increasing amount of time was spent spinning tales of yesteryear. Oh, how I miss those times.
Just this morning I read an AP article, 'Goodbye jobs, hello mom and dad, say young adults. A silver lining in a depressed economy? Later in the article the author says this, "this trend of kids returning home could create longer-term ripple effects in social relationships, from multigenerational family tensions to delay marriages.' Wow, what a negative conclusion! What about the possibility of familys being reunited, grandkids really learning who their grandparents are, strained relationships reversed, care for aging parents rekindled .......... family reunions - hey there's an idea, and just maybe in some cases the family dinner table becoming again a gathering of ideas and relived memories. And a long range possibility might be neighorhood renewals - neighbors celebrating together - a sense of cultural heritage redeveloping ... a new melting pot?! The ghost of the past making a reappearence to enhance a new present. Perhaps absence not only makes the heart grow fonder - but more receptive?? I'm dreaming. I would dearly love to hear about your reflections on family reunions.
You can find the article at

Monday, November 23, 2009

The End of Words

The End of Words; Richard Lischer. Wm.B.Eerdman's Publishing Co., GRand Rapids, Michigan. A brief book review.
I rarely read a book twice, I could probably count on both hands and still have a finger or two untouched with the number of times I've re-read a book. But the book 'The End of Words' is a fantastic read. Matter of fact the first time I read it I was into it that I failed to take notes and mark significant thoughts that applied to me. So I am re-reading it, this time with marker and pen at hand. This book proposes that we return to the basic principals of simply delivering God's word to the people; that all these modern, technical helps [video clips, power points, etc.] have influenced us to delute the message. That in trying to be relevant we have strayed from allowing God's Word to be fully explained to his people. We have erred, and Dr. Lischer in his book seeks to draw us back to the 'Source,' and to be more attentive to the 'Voice' of God's Word.
Maybe, well probably, its just me, but I believe it should be required reading for everyone who preaches, teaches, and shares about God's Word. Perhaps an unintended blessing of postmodernism is that we are required to return, to again began to fully lean on the Word, and quite trying to relevant in whatever form its tempts us.
Richard Lischer is the Cleland Professor of Praching at Duke Divinity School.

Just a thought!

Yesterday in worship we were giving thanks for the many blessings we've all experienced; and my wife mentioned how thankful she was for God's grace and goodness, how her mother had been widowed twice [her first husband was my wife's father, who she barely remembers; and my son gets his looks and stature from] and we will all celebrating her 40th wedding anniversary to her husband this weekend in Illinois [He is indeed a fantastic person, in many ways so like my father]. As my wife spoke about her thanks, I thanked the Lord for our 37th anniversary we celebrated this fall. God is certainly more than good. While visiting in Illinois this weekend we plan on also visiting with our kids from the southland for a little while also. So I'm praying for a safe journey there and back for all of us; Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time of the year!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veteran's Day

WELL, I truly enjoyed yesterday; and I survived a trip to the dentist office for x-rays and a cleaning, then only to be told I need to return today. My blood pressure shot up about 40 pts from normal in the dentist office. Today I'm a little more calm although that may be a trap! A couple of restaurants in our town gave vet's a free meal, so my wife and I ate lunch at Applebee's and it was delicious and I thanked them for their remembrance. Then later we decided to stop at another restaurant for a light supper, and when I asked if they gave free veteran meals the lady said no, she'd never heard of such a thing - I felt terribly embarrassed and was afraid she thought I was arrogant, but mostly I was a little hostile towards the person who had so assuredly told my wife the restaurant was a participant in that program. As I was finally able to gain some composure after we ordered, we observed there were only about a half-dozen people,
where at Applebee's there were people waiting outside, I told my wife the owners of the restaurant we were in had missed a real economic blessing because most vets brought wives or friends with them to enjoy the occasion. Then a question popped onto the screen of my mind, how many blessings had I missed because I failed to praise/thank God for his goodness to me - I'm not so sure I want an answer to that.
While reading the news headlines yesterday I came across an article 'Milwaukee muggers see Army ID, return wallet.' It seems that a Milwaukee Army reservist' was confronted with four thugs on the streets, pushed into an alley and made to lie on the ground while, with a gun pressed against him, they began to steal his belongings. The robber-leader in searching his wallet saw his reservist card and immediately ordered the others to give back the items they were stealing, matter of fact the leader told him they appreciated his service and actually apologized..go figure. Here's the website if you'd like to read the whole story - The police reported another robber incident within 40 minutes in about the same area and noted that a corrections officer had been mugged, when the robbers came across his corrections ID they were not impressed and kept his stuff. Now this is really perplexing, to think that there is still honor among thieves, an honor for those who serve our country. I rejoiced in not only the blessings of those who gave free meals [and it certainly was a good economic move for them, but they deserved it] but also in the fact that those who serve our country are NOT forgotten. thanks.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Teeth & Termination

Just some uneventful news so far this week. Sunday afternoon I was in my office, chewing a bit' - of - honey and chomped down on something hard ... now what could that be? So I took the candy out of my mouth, and to my surprise there was a 'tooth' in the candy - that will get your mind spinning. How did a tooth get in my candy .. you might know it would be my candy .. how much could I sue Nestle's for .. would the settlement let my wife and I take trips to different places around the world .. how many taxes would we have to take out? As I was somewhat troubled by the health hazards of chewing on someone else's tooth I tried to balance that with how wealthy I was about to become ...... then, yes, you've guessed it .... my dreams evaporated - my tongue had located the vacant spot where 'that' tooth used to reside! There would be no riches forthcoming,
the only thing looming in my future was a trip to the dentists' chair - that chair where my blood pressure spikes another 20 points, that chair where nightmares become reality, that chair where all kinds of pointy things enter my mouth, that chair where the only positive thing I've heard heard is, 'that's will be all!' Now don't get me wrong, I have the greatest dentist in the world, but I'm still convinced he probably chose to be a dentist because of some guilt complex about his past. Tomorrow 10:30AM.
This morning I went the big-city north and signed up to be enrolled in the Veteran's Affairs Health system. Oh yah, I'm 60 now - life is on the downward side. While over there I also went past the Veterans Home, so when I get to be too much of a pain, now that I'm into the system, my wife and kids can just commit me there. Just think on nice warm days I can sit on the porch, drink ice tea, and recall all the life-saving tasks I did while serving my country[that shouldn't be difficult I was a clerk, the only thing I saved were paper clips]; then in the winter, I can sit on the porch all bundled up drinking hot cocoa and watching my breath spiral into the wind and trying desperately to recall 'how did I get here?'. A couple years ago I had gone to the same clinic and was given some papers to fill out and bring back with my DD214[for those of you not familiar with this form, its your discharge form]. For some reason I didn't have a copy and when told I should have registered it at the county courthouse when I got home from the Army I didn't recall ever doing that. But then the VA counselor here in town convinced me to call there and find out, just in case. Wow! what a just in case, I had filed the form and they could mail it to me; better still my hometown county courthouse did such a service free from veterans. However, since my mother has her hair done every week in the same town she picked it up for me, then when my wife was visiting her this past weekend mom sent it home with her. Now I feel really good, I'm about to become another number in a government system, can it get any better than this. I mean even when it gets to the point I start forgetting my name all I have to do is show them this little card with 'the number' and the eagle on it, presto I'm in luck again. So I don't get to take extended trips to places I've never been, I'm still assured of a place I never want to go to! Wonder if they have a dentist' chair there?

Monday, November 9, 2009

The River of Doubt

A Book Review: 'The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey.' Millard, Candice. New York, New York. Broadway Books Publish. 2005
This is an absolutely thrilling book, and probably one that is not that well known among Americans. Stinging from a defeated attempt for a third term as US President Theodore Roosevelt goes to the Amazon Basin, there to explore and map out a tributary of that great river that is unknown to civilized man. Although a few have gotten a little ways, no civilized man has ever gone its entire length and mapped its course.
For those who enjoy travel logs this is great, Ms. Millard provides information about the plant and animal life along their trip that makes it come alive ... at times you can almost feel the insects bites and jump at every little noise mentioned. If you're real focused you'll find yourself anticipating what's around the next bend or seeing hidden Indians along the banks as surely Teddy and the explorers must have. To think that a former US President would take such a journey is incredible, and then almost die on the trip, wow what a story. I'll let you read the book for the details and suspense.
In this review I would rather focus on the psychological aspects of the story. One thing that caught my attention was the fact that Teddy in his pursuit of conquests fmay have failed in some of his aspirations as father. Although it seems that all his kids grew up rather well adjusted yet he leaves them with expectations that can rarely be met, and a relationship that is based more achieving than being. I know that often times in the book those who are close to him speak about 'loving him' though I question in what context do they mean love him? Is it in the sense of hero worship, which can have its positive aspects, is it in the sense of personal intimacy, love doesn't seem to be a major expressive factor even in his relationships with his wife ... rather, to me 'this loving him' appears in the context of 'awe.' It also often appears to me that his 'awesomeness' tends to create a dependency upon him, that relationships with him are built not on how two may relate more intimately but how closely the other can cling to Teddy. One particular illustration comes to mind, and I will try to explain it without getting into particulars in the story. As the expedition begins Teddy's reckless son Kermit agrees to go on the journey simply to pacify his mother's concerns about his father; however deeper into the story we find Teddy trying to become the protector of his son - why? glad you asked - because the recklessness of Kermit mirrors the character of Teddy himself. I'm not so sure the former president ever recognizes this, but it is one aspect of how his character so monopolizes his family members that they will often go to any bounds to make sure he loves them. With his seemingly boundless abilities and energy I wished that he could have been more like President Carter, and even President Adams, in the sense that he put those post-presidential energies to work helping out his fellow man or found a way to positively influenced his country's well being. [Though there were probably few men who loved their country more at that time than he did] Having said all of this I am sure that I would have felt nothing but admiration for the man, and been humbled to have merely stood in his presence. I must say that in contrast to all I've said he was a man not unaware of the price others were willing to pay for the success of the journey. Numerous times Teddy forgoes his own welfare for that of the workers along with them, and at one time offers to stay behind the expedition so that he won't slow them up. This book is indeed an extremely rare look inside a president, and it all happens after he has left public office. I hope that you ENJOY this book half as much as I did. I can't say as I am fully satisfied with this review for I fear that some of you will take it as negative and I in no way mean for it to be; therefore I may change and add it from time to time as thoughts come to me.