Sunday, October 31, 2010

5 1/2 The 95 Theses

October 31st is the anniversary of the date in which Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg in 1517.

He had a list of grievances with the Roman Catholics; 95 points long. All I can say is that I know the feeling. He wanted to debate Scripture after having a personal experience with Jesus. The Pope, Purgatory and the selling of indulgences were on the list. The problems that we have in the global Protestant church are different.

Mr. Luther and I have similar struggles. We see things that are very wrong with religion, and we want to fix them - or at least debate them. Because of an encounter with the living God, he began that work of changing the religious church culture.

After he had apologized for his harsh tone, Luther began:

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

I have a friend who wrote his own list of 95 truths that he thought Christians should get back to. I am not going to list 95, but I am going to list a few places where I think that we have gone astray. It has been may years since I read Martin Luther's pub debate topics, but I will check them out when I am done writing mine.

-1 Sin: We need to call sin "sin." There is no way around it. We do not live in a moral society. If we do not inform others what sin is, how will they know they need Jesus to be saved? There is no way to change what God considers sin.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

-2 Love: We need to learn to love like Jesus does, not like Hollywood. We must go the extra mile, call when we are too tired, show up when folks move, visit them when they are in need, and learn that secret of secret giving!

Ephesians 5:2 ... and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

-3 Spirit Led Meetings: I think we need to dismantle our church services (productions) for a few weeks, and just let God inspire some of our folks to share their heart; a word, a prophecy, a teaching, a burden or a prayer.

1 Corinthians 14:26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

-4 Burden Led Programs: To often churches haves a set list of ministries and slots that need to be filled. That's great when there are folks to fill the slots. This causes two problems, however. The first is the lack of support for ministry slots by folks that really have a passion for the ministry. Worse, there are the folks in and about church that want to do a specific ministry, and when there are no slots, then they feel left out, unfulfilled and insignificant to Jesus.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

-5 Salvation:  Salvation is available to all. Not all are saved and not all will be saved.

Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

- 5 1/2 Prayer . . .

How about you, can you tell us where the church missing it?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

5 1/2 Christian Costumes - It's a Halloween Miracle!

Well for a lot of Christians Halloween is taboo. There are some that will allow it if the costumes are not related to witchcraft or the demonic - skeletons, mummies, Freddie Krueger or A-Rod. I suppose for others it's free-for-all, and anything goes.

There are lots of reasons for not having Halloween:

- It doesn't center are around a biblical event like Christmas or Easter, though all three are formed around pagan celebrations.

- The word pumpkin isn't even in the Bible - tolerance isn't either, but that's another blog.

- The few times dead things got up and walked around, it wasn't dark out. (Matthew 27:52, John 11:44) etc.

- Some Satanists actually do human sacrifices on Halloween.

- It's a Wiccan festival.

- The trick-or-treat ritual was practiced by the Druids and their followers in medieval times.

- Candy is bad for your teeth.

But in case that doesn't scare you off, here are 5 1/2 costume ideas for your Halloween celebration or Harvest Party (Code for Christianized Halloween).

-1 The Scowling Pastor: Lifelike facial features, authentic hair, glasses and a free pose and phrase book. NOT Flame Retardant! Non-denominational only. $45.00

-2 The Pot Luck Green Bean: A great costume for a cold holiday meal. Cheese and Potato Stix topping optional. Casserole dish wagon extra.FREE if you order now, your name and phone number written in Sharpie marker. $85.00

-3 The White Horse of Revelation: Put on your prophetic suspenders, and grab your mind of Christ cowboy hat and giddy up into the End Times. Non-permanent tattoos included. Pre- and Post-Tribulation versions available. $69.00

-4 Jonah: The whale version (big fish - KJV). Jump into the sea and begin your Trick or Treat adventure in the depths of disobedient darkness. Complete with 24 Jonah Repent or Die (Turn or Burn) Bible Tracts, artificial aerosol Whale Vomit scent and Velcro seaweed for your Trick or Treat debut. $100.00

-5 The Fall: Be the first one on your block to be thrown out of the garden. This year you can be the couple that turns heads with the trendy patented near-naked look, forbidden fruit flask and talking Serpent. $145.00 (over-sized fig leaves at market prices)

-5 1/2 Buddy Pop - Jesus: Complete with neon halo, tunic, scarlet sash, leather sandals and you are ready to preach the Good News! $666.000

How about you - how do you feel about Halloween?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Music, Miles, Soaking Worship and Friendship

I have been a musician all of my adult life - well, the fact that I am either adult, or a musician are both questionable statements.Check with my wife for details.

August 24th, 1978, my best friend Dennis and I went to Guitars Unlimited in downtown New Haven to buy our first guitars. (That's us together this past summer.) We didn't know a thing about music except that we LOVED it. He was a folkie, and I was rocker; nothings changed. There we stood talking to Rick Castaldi (I ended sitting in with him in my first gig a year later.) I bought an electric, and Dennis bought an acoustic. History in the making for both of us...

Yesterday was a neat day for me. Not only did I celebrate 30 years of sobriety (which Dennis was a part of), but I also bought a new guitar - a Gibson Les Paul Black Beauty. My favorite guitarist was Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin who was well known for his late 1950's Gibson Les Pauls. I once owned a number of these coveted axes.

It was very exciting day on both accounts.

As a Christian, I have been playing worship since 1983. I grew up in the era of backwards masking and the evils of rock music. For me rock music was an idol that had to go. In college I studied both classical and jazz guitar. I forsook all of it for Christian, Gospel and praise and worship music. I listened to Phil Keaggy, Dion, Keith Green and the Resurrection Band. I even played a bunch of wimpy campfire tunes at home group.

It wasn't particularly me.

A few years later, I decided that I wasn't going to get mugged by a rock tune as I mindlessly listened to the radio station. I was much more discerning, however. I was even DJ at a local classic rock station on Cape Cod.

Music was my life, and now Jesus is.

In the past few months, as I have pressed in about various ministry aspirations, I have also added a new genre my music. A few years ago, Harp and Bowl; a blend of praise, proclamation or the Word, worship and prayer was very popular. It seems to have evolved into something known as soaking worship - music to sit in God's presence. Most of it is gentle instrumentals - a few have lyrics. Our church has a prayer room with music playing 24/7 (House of David). As I sat there a few times, I felt a wonderful anointing on the music, felt an intimacy with God, and well, it made me want to pray.

I have to admit, as much as I like blasting my Les Paul through a Marshall 1/2 stack, I really like this music. Here are a few cuts that I enjoy. Sit back and relax - and let your spirit pray.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What Kind of Voter Are You? - Stupid Voters Stay Home

The Mid-Term elections are only a week away, There are lots of issues at stake here: The economy, taxes, immigration, the national debt, and health care. I hope that you'll get out there and be a smart voter.

Most voters fall into the following categories:

-1 Party Voters: They vote party lines and pretty much agree with their entire agenda. On the left it's abortion, health care, Green energy, and homosexual rights. On the right it is lower taxes, national security, free-market Social Security, educational competition and pro-life.

Not too long ago I received a survey from the RNC. I couldn't believe it when it simply asked if I agreed with this policy or that stance. YES or NO, those were the only choices. I was mad they didn't ask me what I thought about anything, or how important each issue is.

I bothers me that folks pull the party lever without ever knowing anything about most of the candidates in it.

-2 Marketed Voters: This group relies on political advertising, and regards a 30 second ad as factual. Even worse are the ones that vote for a lesser office, and don't know the candidates. They pick because a nae sounds familiar, or they've just heard it often enough. This is very likely to happen in local elections where the city council members don't get much media play. Honestly, I don't know if I am glad these folks vote.

-3 Pundit Voters: These folks rely on entertainers such as Bill O'Rielly and Keith Olberman. They are split between Fox News and "everybody else." The ones that watch PBS only see the clip of O'Rielly shouting down Barney Frank or Chris Dodd. On ABC you'll get the footage of Whoopi Goldberg and Joyce Behar walking out on the same during the View.

Many will never see the actual debates O'Rielly had with President Elect Obama or the lunatics from PETA. It's all about opinions, and the ones that may give a voice to things that we are feeling.

-4 Issues Voters: These are the voters that pick a few issues and choose a candidate that best represents their views. It can be positive. For instance I overheard a gal talking at work. In MA we have a ballot question on whether or not to repeal the sales tax on booze. She said that following: "I like alcohol, and I am voting for candidate x because he supports this initiative."

It happens a lot with social issues: abortion, Don't Ask Don't Tell, stem-cell research from fetal stem cells, DOMA, and the death penalty to name a few. There are other issues that have been in the forefront of issue driven voting: Global Warming, Green Energy, Cap & Trade, the War in Afghanistan, welfare, education and health care.

-5 The Informed Voter: These are the folks that get their news from multiple sources, watch the debates between candidates, and check out things like Congressional Voting records! Here's a link to see what you got for your votes that last few times around (Search by ZIP Code).

Voting records and position summaries are an easy way to see how your elected officials have measured up.

Here is where the rubber meets the road in my book. What bills that were not televised on CNN or Fox, did your representatives, governors and state legislative officials vote for? What are their stances on social and economic policies? HERE they are!

And be sure to Google: + "2010 ballot questions" - these can often be predictors of future legislative action your reps will be voting on. You'll need to see where your candidate stands on these. This year it is all about taxes and ending bureaucracy in Massachusetts. For once, these are binding ballot questions which will go into effect as law on January 1, 2001.

So tell me, what kind of voter are you? If you are not an informed voter, do me a favor and stay home - or at least vote for my favored candidates.

Next Tuesday I will tell you how I voted and why.

Monday, October 25, 2010

10 More Hot Button Issues - Part II

I think the only kind of worship service I haven't participated in is one with snake handling. Believe me, I'm content to leave that one alone. All that experience is worth something - I once wrote a blog for Tracy over at Abundant Life... like most guest-bloggers, it had to be one of my best evers! IMHO - it was. ;) It's taken a long time (since March), but here is the sequel.

In my most sarcastic style (which my wife won't let me use at home), I thought I would follow up with, in no particular order, 10 more popular hot-button issues in the church today.

-1 Building Funds: According to Dave Ramsey, most Christians don't tithe - I've been there. Some folks think that a church buildings (along with Christmas and Easter) are just a pagan tradition from the third century, and they also believe only house churches are the "true church."

So how much pressure can churches put on believers to make love offerings, give tithes, gifts, alms and donate to special projects like a building fund? I don't know, but it sure is a hot-button issue.

2 Kings 12:10 Whenever they saw that there was a large amount of money in the chest, the royal secretary and the high priest came, counted the money that had been brought into the temple of the LORD and put it into bags. 11 When the amount had been determined, they gave the money to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. With it they paid those who worked on the temple of the LORD -the carpenters and builders, 12 the masons and stonecutters. They purchased timber and dressed stone for the repair of the temple of the LORD, and met all the other expenses of restoring the temple.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

1 Devil

-2 Length of the Service: I don't care where yo go, it seems folks always have something to say about the length of the service. My Catholic friends like the quick ones: in-and-out-in-20-minutes quick. I went to a church for a few months that the services pushed 3 hours.

My favorite quote: "The service went 30 minutes longer that the Holy Spirit did!"

Luke 2:36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.

1 Devil OK 2 Devils for the 3-hour service!

-3 Song List: Next to volume, it seems everyone has an opinion about the song list. The worst are the musicians themselves!

Really, who's list is it anyway?

1 Corinthians 14:26 [ Orderly Worship ] What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

2 Devils!

-4 Holidays: Everyone has an opinion about holidays - especially Halloween, Easter, Christmas and occasionally Valentines Day. All four were set up to compete with traditional pagan holiday traditions - some were even idol worship. Only Easter and Christmas coincide with a historical biblical event.

Some purists think that we should only celebrate the Jewish feats. Other say only communion because Jesus commanded us to do that.

Me I like Pentecost, it is both Jewish and historical - how pure can you get?

2 Chronicles 30:23 The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully.

4 Devils - mostly because of Halloween!

-5 Volunteers: What is with Christians? As soon as they volunteer for something, it drops to the bottom of their list of priorities - OK, maybe not yours.

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

5 Devils - because you didn't show up for children's church, and your spouse blew off worship team practice again.

-6 The Web Site: I have been a web designer for almost 20 years. All I have to say is that the church web site is the result of - umm - volunteers.

Job 8:15 He leans on his web, but it gives way; he clings to it, but it does not hold.

2 Devils!

-7 Satan: Lucifer can get a bad rap some days. I mean, the poor guy is busy making every one's life miserable; causing them to sin and do stuff that only priests can hear about in a confessional. I could be wrong, maybe Satan can't touch us because we are God's chosen. There is always a debate.

1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.

6 Devils!

-8 Relationship: If you have been in the church any length of time, you've been offended. We try to love others so we let down our guard. They are all there in line for coffee: Gary Gossip, Needy Nan, Eric Exec and Milk-Toast Mary the intercessor. It is tough being living stones. It's even tougher loving the unlovable.

John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

 7 Devils!

-9 Wealth: Some church folks have a pet peeve, and it's people having money. They have some warped sense of Scripture that does not allow anyone to be successful and make a lot of cash, especially pastors! The problem most often seems to be with those that don't have it. Personally, I have two very wealthy friends and they give to every sort of need. The poor, the sick, the widows, and they fund other projects for the church including pregnancy centers and Christian schools. The problem isn't the money, it is the giving.

Romans 12:8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously.

 1 Devil!

-10 Socialism and Capitalism: This one sort of cracks me up. Here are proof texts.

Socialism: Act 2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

Capitalism: Matthew 25:22"The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.'

 23"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

I find it interesting that somehow we think that Jesus did not want anyone to have anything. It is just not true. The Bible says that we should work hard - 6 days a week even, and support our families. We are to give generously from what we have.

Conversely, if we go to the communal sort of living in Acts 2, then we should SELL EVERYTHING, and share with those in the Christian community, not give away the money of others for the work that we are unwilling to do ourselves.

4 Devils!

Friday, October 22, 2010

5 1/2 Things I Prayed for and Didn't Get..

Here are some things I prayed for and didn't get - now I know who is smarter. God! Most folks pray, but I decided to sit down and look back at some of the tough spots I was in where I prayed for God to fix it.

-1  Car Repairs: In 2000 I had the only accident I have ever had while I was behind the wheel. I also had the only uninsured (collision) car I have ever owned. I asked the Lord for money to get it fixed. The next day I came to work with my headlights dangling, and on my keyboard was a title to a 1998 Honda signed over to me!

-2 My Mother's Healing: In 2001 I prayed for my mother to be healed of cancer. I went out to visit her not long after she wad diagnosed, and the Lord said that he wasn't going to heal her. Instead I learned to deal with loss, I learned how important phone calls are, and my view of the eternal changed. HERE is more of the story.

-3 Ministry: In 1998 I asked God to grow my ministry which was flourishing at the time. Within 18 months I had pretty much lost everything. I was here that I learned what it means to follow Christ.

-4 A Good Job: Back in the recession of the early 1980's I prayed for a good job, I had just finished college and I needed work. I got crummy job, and quit to work at a better place. I got laid off and it took weeks to find work. Finally I took a part-time job with a guy at church. Three years alter I had my own company.

-5 The Strength to Quit Smoking Now! In 1986 I asked the Lord to remove take away my addiction to cigarettes right NOW! I was so sick, and just couldn't stop smoking. In 1994 he completely delivered me from them when I finally gave up. HERE is that story.

-5 1/2 Win the Lottery... I guess you have to play, but my God can let me win without buying a ticket.

How about you, is there something you prayed for and God denied the request?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

5 1/2 Religious Stupidity vs. Demonic Influence

I guess Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle made another uproar. He said that Yoga was demonic. The opinion bloggers got on board - well isn't that what bloggers do, have opinions?

Why does this matter? Well, for one thing, church is already a tough place. We have denominations (doctrinal opinions), we have Christians that hate Christians, Christians that mistake patriotism for Bible and we have those that like to stay in the middle, and then there is the black and white crowd. How could anyone sort through all these opinions, and actually be right?

Here is my take on the whole mess.

-1 Lack of Study: Barna Research said that a large number of Christians said that they relied on their own opinions and feelings as a moral guide over the commands of the Bible. And that is one of the big problems - people think they know what's best for themselves. Honestly, if that were the case, we wouldn't have the Darwin Awards, or the movie series Jack Ass. I'm just sayin'

MORE on the Bible - test your knowledge.

-2 Holy Spirit: Unless one is Born Again, they don't have the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is not a seal on your heart, he can't really teach you the things that you need to know to follow Jesus and be like God - it is not happening. If we can't hear God, how could ever figure out what He wants us to do? (WHO gets to go to Heaven?)

I find it interesting that a lot of Christians; many in fact, claim to be Born Again, and may in fact be Born Again, but they reject the doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as it is known in theological circles. HERE is a pretty good teaching. If you are looking for more of God; to go deeper with God or are hungry, this is a great place to start.

-3 Understanding the Demonic: If we do not have a biblical view of the demonic, how the hell would we know if it's the Devil or not? That said, the Devil is no one to seek out. What Christians need to do is understand that when he shows up, they should be trained in dealing with him.

First there is some stuff that Christians should stay away from! HERE is a list.

Second, there is a real demonic realm - but I suppose if you think that you can't really know where God is and what he is doing, it is unlikely that you'll buy into an active demonic realm. In case you want to know more, here is a series a I wrote a while back.

Part I Curses, Oppression and Possession
Part II My Turn to Play
Part III On My Own
Part IV The Joy of Ministry

-4 Destiny: I can't tell you how many Christians I have talked to that do NOT know what God wants them to do!  How can you have destiny if you don't know where you are going? How can you have vision if you don't know how to get there?

Finding your destiny is part of the journey, but God will make it clear if you listen. If you are sitting there saying, "well, if God wants me to do something, then He needs to tell me." It's time to pray for the knowledge of your destiny.

HERE is the beginning of this latest trek with the Lord. Watch the video, you'll find it inspiring no matter where you are in life.

-5 Paying the Cost: What is doing God's will worth to you? Are you willing to put it all on the altar? Your job, your kids, your pastimes, your political opinions, and your sureness about what Jesus would really do? Knowing God intimately will cost your everything.

If we look at Peter, can we see ourselves?

He denied the Lord 3 times. (Matt 26:75) He asked to walk on the water trying out his new found faith. (Matt 14:28) He was a bit ticked when the Lord asked him to drop his net on the other side of the boat. (Luke 5:1-10) Satan clouded his mind. (Matt 16:23) He cut off the ear of a one of the priest's servants. (John 18:10) He loved Jesus. God entrusted him one of the most substantial revelations in the entire Bible. He preached a big sermon. (Acts 2)

And finally he wrote these words:
1 Peter 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  

HERE is a blog about the cost of following the Master.

Oh yeah, and Peter was crucified.

 5 1/2 Prayer...

What do you think? Do you believe there is a devil? How much power does he have?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Political Tuesdays - Down to the Wire

Well, it's down to the wire and the negative ad campaigns are making me sick. I guess politicians think that most Americans are too stupid to know what's going on. I hear that statistically, that in fact may be true. So, what does a guy like me, who checks this stuff out on more than MSNBC, NPR, Fox, the Times, the Globe (actually it is becoming a pay site - how irrelevant!), the Post and the WSJ, do?

All you have to do is Google "negative ads" and you'll see how effective they in fact might be.

Most of it is severe distortions - - in the case of Rand Paul, kinda true with a twist. You won't believe this!

It appears from Internet sources (which are always true), that Rand went to Baylor and was apart of a “secret” society, that everyone knows about, called the NoZe Brotherhood (possibly very profane). The NoZe basically do various pranks around campus and put out a satirical newspaper called The Rope – which is very much like The Onion. The Rope is a play on the fact that the school newspaper is called The Lariat. What the ad refers to is this satirical newspaper, which is always a point of humor around campus – and no one would take anything in that paper seriously.

But I do think it is cool that the opposition put up all these fake web sites.... not including Aqua Buddha.

It kind of makes me wish that professional politicians weren't allowed to go to college.

I prefer debates - well, if you like hostile ones. Here is a review of the Bielat vs. Barney Frank debate.

How about you, what do you think of negative advertising?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Cat’s in the Cradle - Last Notes

“Do it again!” The sounds of a delighted child echo across the yard as a dad pushes his daughter in a swing. The warm summer air glides by her cheeks as she goes to-and-fro. Safely, just a few feet above the ground, she giggles with glee. After all, her dad is right there by her side. Mom stands by with the camera recording that toothless smile for generations.


Life in the 21st century charges on at an ever dizzying pace. We find ourselves saying, “We’ll get together,” to acquaintances when we know we don’t have the time to vacuum our house. Our pat answer to “how are you?” is more often “busy” or “tired,” neither of which, incidentally are feelings. There is so much to do and so little time to do it.

How is it that our children are born one day and going to college the next?

Life, do we define it by what, or how, we are doing, or by where we are going— or where we have been? Do we need a plan or a goal, or are we simply carried away by the river of passing of time? How does having a specific plan for the future; something that we are pretty certain of, change our life? Maybe we are looking forward to a cruise or vacation. Or worse, we are scheduled for surgery next Tuesday.

Does life control us, or do we control it?

Everyone has a different view of what life is. You have heard sayings about life, lots of them. “If you have your health, you have everything.” “Follow the golden rule.” “Love you neighbor as yourself.” Or, “The most important thing in life is (fill in the blank).” Add to that, “the grass is always greener,” and “you get out of life what you put into it.” Isn’t it Dr. Phil that says, “There is no reality, only perception?” What is the secret to life anyway? There doesn’t seem to be one specific answer or we would all have it. Certainly, if we had the answer there would be no need for therapists, forgiveness and worry.

Some things in life are as elusive as the Man in the Moon!

For many of us, life seems to be an endless stream of events, the ebb and flow of circumstances. When all our circumstances are similar we call it “in a rut”, when they are not, we often refer to it as chaos. Finding purpose in it all is hard to do. Maybe we just need a life coach!

Sometimes life happens to us. Let me give an example from my own life. I wouldn't have known it before I left, but I remember how it felt to spend a day fishing with my dad. It was a sunny day at a pond not to far from our home. We sat on the dam listening to the water falling to the pool some distance below. The smell of pine trees was in the air. There we were eating sandwiches with one eye on the line, talking about which lures were best, and what we would do when we hooked the big one! I don’t think that we caught anything at all day. Actually I guess the fishing wasn’t all that important if I don’t remember whether or not we caught fish. I do remember we were together, dad and I— yes, I remember that. Over 40 years has passed since that day and dad is gone now; he has been since 1998. But I remember that day. How I wished it would have never ended.

At age eight or nine, fishing with dad is how I would have defined the perfect life.

For all of us life has lots of memories, some good and some not so good. Fishing with dad, losing my red boot in the snow when I was three, my first stitches in the ER thanks to my older brother, my first day of college, beating East Haven; our rival hockey team, my wedding day - my daughter telling me how her second grade homework was just “error and trial”. Then there were the challenges of a debilitating car accident, the joy of traveling to Brazil, the longsuffering of kids that didn’t sleep for what seemed like forever and a day, my always welcome morning kiss from my wife……. Life, those are things that life is made up of.

Recently a news flash caught my eye. It was a hand written note from one of the miners that died the week I began writing this article (2006). I remember "I love you" was scrawled at the bottom of his note; his last words to his family. It is the testament of last thoughts before passing into the unknown; a place beyond the veil of life. No more bills, no more bickering kids, no more commutes to work, no more time left to say "I am sorry", no doctors visits or grocery shopping - the train is at the station and it's time to get off. What was interesting was that this man’s son said the note at first was “gut wrenching” but after a few days of grief he proclaimed that it was a family heirloom. Life.

One can only imagine what the thoughts of an emotionally distraught crowd of family and friends, those awaiting the news of loved ones trapped in a mine shaft, must have been. For some readers it is unthinkable, for others who have waited in an emergency room, awaited the return of a soldier, lost a child in a store - any news of a loved one touches the deepest parts of the heart of man.

It has been said that the extremes in our lives put the day-to-day life in perspective. It might be true. Those extremes, the highs we look forward to like the winning of the lottery and the lows which we avoid like the plague, they define life. I think it was Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled who said that our ego boundaries snap in and out of place. He went on to say we can’t sustain highly charged emotional levels for more then three years. Eventually they will snap back into place and we’ll regain our senses.

For many of us, we live in the middle ground. We are not too happy and maybe not to depressed either. Unless we were born with a silver spoon in our mouth, most of us are just trying to “make ends meet” and get by. The family and friends of the miners saw their loved ones off to work that morning, rolling along in the rut of everyday life, and then tragedy stuck. Who would have guessed? We just don’t like to think about dieing, and most of us don’t unless there is some good reason. However; a day is coming as our train nears the station and the ride of life will be over. It does for everyone; that’s part of life. The good news is that most of us don’t know when the train is pulling in to the station.

These types of tragic incidents can cause us to think about our life and our loved ones. Who would you want to write a note to if you had a few hours left? What would your last words be at the bottom of that note?

The New Year is a time for new beginnings and resolutions. It can often bring us to a place where we see a need for change and decide to do it. It is a time to start something that is good for us or to quit something that is bad for us. One of the amazing things about life is that we can stop and change direction, turn over a new leaf, or decide to do something different right now. Resolutions are often about us, but they can be something that we will start doing for someone else. It just might be time to write that note, send that card, buy those flowers or make that call. Who knows how far from the station we are?

And the cats in the cradle and a silver spoon,
Little Boy Blue and the Man in the Moon,
"When you coming home, son?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then.
You know we'll have a good time then."
Harry Chapin

Written January 8, 2006

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Miners Saved! ¡Gracias Señor!

October 13th marked the safe rescue of 33 Chilean Miners - I know you heard about it and probably saw them getting out of the NASA designed rescue capsule. It was exciting!

¡Gracias Señor! - Thank you Lord!

It is interesting, the miners thanked God. One said. "I never used to pray, but after to collapse crushed a truck we were trying to escape in, I started to." Another said that "God and humor kept them alive."

Certainly there was great joy as, one-by-one, 33 of them ascended 2,000 feet to the earth's surface after 68 or 69 days. Even Jesus wasn't in the tomb that long!

In the midst of great joy, I thought about the Sago Mine disaster of 2006, in which Randal McCloy was the only survivor. It has been an ongoing tragedy, as some of the family members have committed suicide.

I wrote and article for the New England Flame about the incident. At the time all I could think of was the notes written to the families of the those that lost their lives. I thought about what I would write to my beloved wife and kids had something like this happened to me. I thought about those in my life that had passed on - ones I wished I had notes from.

There is something intense about tragic death. Jesus had a tragic death, so did Stephen as did all the apostles but John. It makes you think, think about life, about faith, about Jesus.

Here is the account from the Sago Mine: After becoming exhausted, they stopped trying to signal. "The air behind the curtain grew worse, so I tried to lie as low as possible and take shallow breaths... I could tell that it was gassy." According to McCloy, Toler and Anderson tried to find a way out. "The heavy smoke and fumes caused them to quickly return. There was just so much gas." At that point the miners, despite their fears, "began to accept our fate. Toler led us all in the Sinner's Prayer. We prayed a little longer, then someone suggested that we each write letters to our loved ones."

Today I was thinking about how unfair it seems that one group of miners just a few hundred feet below the surface did not make it, and those in Chile did. Both groups of men found God a comfort in their time of need.

Now that the Chileans have been rescued, there are more than a few churches taking credit for the prayers that leveraged the heart of a loving God. HERE is that story. I find it a little disturbing - but hey. Did you pray? I  did.

As humans it seems so easy to attribute some things to God if they go our way, and to be bewildered when they don't. I have a lot of question about all this and you probably do to.

Jesus said "the poor we will always have with you." Paul encouraged us to take care of the widows and those in prison. So what does that have to do with the paradoxes of life? A lot.

You and I were created in the image of God. As we touch outers in unselfish ways, the love of God is spread and His Kingdom advances. His Kingdom advances from here into eternity - for God it is all the same. That is one reason he doesn't get freaked out about death, in fact he beat death! Jesus died a tragic death, one probably one of the most painful deaths in he history of mankind.

He left us a love letter in the from of the Bible, and so far, in spite of all the uncertainty many of us have, he has been faithful to love us, and accept us into the kingdom if we wanted to be there.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Many of these men will be a witness for Christ - well, maybe not the one that met his mistress at the rescue site - but they will speak of the things that God did. As for the men of Sago, it appears that Mr. Toler will have a great reward, and the rest we will see when we get there. Despite the suffering, none of that is bad.

How about you, how do you feel about God when you think about these two incidents?
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