The cold never bothered me anyway

Disney, frozen, clueless, christian, new englandIt’s early morning. I wrap my hands around my coffee mug in front of the warmth of a wood-stove fire. A layer of fresh snow coats the hill out back where sledding is a favorite pastime. The sun is just on the rise. And…, it is COLD. -2F at the moment; but we could see 20F today if the sun is bright.

This is my kind of day!

We have a lot to do today. Writing, counseling, designing the future with some local Christian leaders. I will probably get to my office uptown at some point after my doctor’s appointment at 9:00. But right now, I am simply content to sit here and ponder the deeper questions of life in the flames of the fire.

You see, the cold never bothered me. I love it cold. When a lot of New Englanders head to more southern climes, my wife and I head north; usually to Freepost, ME, for a time of play at LL Bean and hiking snow covered beaches. We love the cold that much. And yes, you go right ahead and think we’re crazy. We are.

It’s a lot like that with faith too, isn’t it? When our faith seems cold we long for those warmer times. All of us go through cold times and hot times in our faith. Yet I wonder if this is more a commentary on our temperament than on the reality of our faith. We may feel cold in our faith at times; but that does not negate the genuineness of our faith. It is Christ that holds us. Christ before me, Christ behind me… .

If we could see our future would it then still be faith? No. For there would be no reason for faith. It would be more like following a map than carving a path through the wilderness.

My faith, though based in history and Scripture, often feels like blind faith. This is especially true in those seasons of cold realities, when there seems little to hope, little to celebrate. In those times, bland faith might be a better descriptor.

We who deign to be Christ followers need to learn to rise above the pain and trust again. I know I’ve had to this past year. And it was not easy. It was time and energy consuming. But I trusted that our Lord would never give me more difficulty than I could bear, more adversity than could be a crippling weight. Even David, in Psalm 42 was aware of his despair and depression. But he fought back and knew he would again praise God even for these times. Just not yet.

So don’t let the cold bother your faith. Push through it. Maybe you’ll even learn to love the cold. Go ahead. Go out and play in the snow. Wow! The temperature is almost up to 12̊ F!

 

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

2017—a New Year; a New You?

So many of us make New Year’s Resolutions. Most of which, are forgotten by the end of January. New Year’s Restorations. So I would like to suggest an alternate course of action for 2017.

View this coming calendar year as the next chapter in your life. Not something significantly different from 2016, just the Next Chapter in the book of your life.

Let’s not make it about the things you do in your life, the things you want to change: rather, let’s make it about who you Are. Let’s say that 2017 is a year where you can recreate yourself, become a new person, let go of past failures and successes and start fresh as a totally different person. STOP who you’ve been: START who you want to be.

The first obstacle you will face are your old destructive habits. Make a decision to STOP them. The second obstacle you will face is the perception of you that other people hold. You cannot change their perception. You can change who you want to be. Pray they catch up. (Note: they may not.)

The important thing is that you first make a conscious decision to become the new you that you aspire to be. The next thing is to address those areas of your life that inhibit you from becoming that person. END resentment, retaliation, proving yourself to people, etc. You don’t have to win. You do not have to be right. What you HAVE TO DO is make a difference.Even if your calling is held in suspicion by others, you must fulfill God’s calling and design upon your life.

What? You say you don’t know what it is? Maybe it’s because you are playing it too safe. Becoming a new you will take a great effort. Do not think that you will simply float into becoming a new person. You will not. CHANGE takes effort, as does any responses to change.

My advice in this effort is secondary to what God suggests— Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)

Trust God…, and step out in fear and trembling.

 

May this New Year see a new you, and may your friends catch up quickly,

Gary

Thanksgiving to Christmas Shift

image001-2Every year, at least in the United States, there seems to be this mad shift from Thanksgiving, where we all find something for which to be thankful and watch football and eat way too much turkey, to Christmas. It used to start with shopping madness on Black Friday (after Thanksgiving). Now the mayhem begins on Thanksgiving or even before. Like October.

Somewhere in this shift, Americans are supposed to move from being thankful (more likely a “turkey-coma”), to a frantic frenzy of trying to find gifts to give to others; not necessarily out of joy, mind you, but rather out of guilt, compulsion, tradition, and one-up-man-ship; and sometimes even love.

This may be the one time of year when Americans try to think about other people én masse. Frankly, who cares about the reason; it’s just fantastic that we think about someone else other than ourselves. Incredible! Christmas can bring out the good in people.

As we make this shift from Thanksgiving to Christmas do try to remember that we, as Americans, do have a great deal for which to be thankful. Just look at the state of the world around us. Even given our myriad of problems, what other country lives in the prosperity that we do? At our worst, we are better off that 75% of the rest of the world.

Christmas should be a time we are all reminded to pay it forward. It is a season to give to others for their delight, not to be recognized for our lavish gifts. Our giving should reflect God’s gift of His Son to us, for our delight, for our salvation. Christmas is a time when we are called upon in a special way to honor God and to honor people in our hearts and actions.

So this Christmas give, but spend proportionally, and give freely. If you do, you will be reflecting the original meaning of Christmas. The gift of God to us.

Merry Christmas!
  Gary

Pearl Harbor Day

040120-N-0879R-009Really interesting, little bit of history:

Tour boats ferry people out to the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii every thirty minutes. I went into a small gift shop to kill time. In the gift shop, I purchased a small book entitled, “Reflections on Pearl Harbor ” by Admiral Chester Nimitz.

“Sunday, December 7th, 1941–Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him.  When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone.  He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.

Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet.  He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941.  There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat–you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war. On Christmas Day, 1941, Admiral Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters every where you looked.

As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, “Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?”  Admiral Nimitz’s reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice.

Admiral Nimitz said, “The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America.  Which do you think it was?”

Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, “What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?”

Nimitz explained,

Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning.  Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave.  If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk–we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

Mistake number two: when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships.  If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired.  As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised.  One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America.  And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.

Mistake number three: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply.  That’s why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.”

I’ve never forgotten what I read in that little book.  It is still an inspiration as I reflect upon it.  In jest, I might suggest that because Admiral Nimitz was a Texan, born and raised in Fredricksburg, Texas.  He was a born optimist.  But any way you look at it, Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism.

President Roosevelt had chosen the right man for the right job.  We desperately needed a leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection, despair and defeat.

There is a reason that our national motto is, IN GOD WE TRUST.

Vice Versa

image001
Fractal Machine

A good friend of mine once said, “Life is painful. If you haven’t realized that yet you haven’t lived long enough.”

Life changes. So also do our perceptions of who we are and what we are yet to accomplish.

For example, when I was in my 20s I had a clear sense of calling—

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19, (NIV)

With great energy and enthusiasm I plunged into the depths of our world’s myriad throngs, making one mistake after another. I was so intent on proclaiming that I have spent a lifetime relearning how to communicate our faith so those who need our Lord can understand it. The message is the same, but its transference is now attuned to the culture, experiences, and nuances of those who hear it.

Today, Our Lord Christ reminds me that He is the One who fulfills our faith. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders (us) and the sin that so easily entangles (us). And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2, (NIV)

Christ Jesus will be the One who will draw all the peoples of the world to Himself. He will fulfill the Great Commission given to us. Nonetheless, we are the ones who are called to not loose heart, to stay the course, to throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that entangles, and to keep our focus on our Lord. If we tilt our glance to one side or the other we may believe that we are no longer in the race. I assure you, we are.

Of a truth, I must admit to some discouragement and weariness along the way. Sometimes I’ve just wanted to throw in the towel and say, enough! All I hear back from God is, “Really! That’s interesting.”

Get the point? You are not the one who gets to decide when your calling, your race, is over. Do not mess with the God Who made you. It’s way too dangerous.

Honor God, honor people.., make a difference,

Gary

Falling Behind Before Fall

6086519585_59a875090b_bSit down. Breathe. Now breathe again. Two weeks from now is LABOR DAY WEEKEND. What?!? You forgot to get in your summer vacation? Oh, you’re on it now. So you’ll be all rested for the back to school bunch. Getting ready to head off to college with your brand new $1600 laptop, buying new clothes and school supplies for your kindergartner [They total over $125 this year], and wondering if your air conditioners should be put away just yet, or in November…, maybe never.

Conclusion: you’re already falling behind.

Mahatma Gandhi once said that There is more to life than increasing its speed. But every Fall in Western civilization that is all we seem to do; increase our pace of life to the breaking point. I’ve wondered why someone hasn’t yet engraved their tombstone with I didn’t finish everything.

Given the present pace of culture I’m not sure it is possible for us to finish everything. We have to pick and choose. What is critical? Next, what is important? Then, what is broken that absolutely demands our attention? NOW! Move to Critical list.

If you are married there is always the question of priority for you family. Are they? Will you interrupt your work load to spend time with your wife, your husband, your kids who desperately want your love and time?

In other words, if you don’t want to fall behind as we enter this Fall, STOP ADDING SO MUCH TO YOUR SCHEDULE. Wait…, is it jammed full already? Hummm. Let me think. CUT THINGS. Unless, of course, you’ve made yourself indispensable to every commitment in your life. Let other people fill in for you. How else will they be able to make the same mistakes you did, and learn from them?!?

You need to make a difference on this planet in the time God has given you to be here. You will be less effective if you are constantly worn down and cranky. So…, STOP now. Reassess, before you are so over-committed you don’t even have the time to do that.

For what it’s worth,
  Gary

BEYOND WORDS: Take 9— a Love-Leveled Faith

heart hands love take 9After all is said and done, one thing remains. Unless our faith and witness are cloaked and immersed in the love of Christ all our efforts to express our faith in a postChristian manner, and to communicate it to people who are totally clueless about this salvation-thing, will be no more than a sounding brass and clanging cymbal. (I Corinthians 13:1)

Too much of our Christian expression of faith has become rote, perfunctory, and lifeless. We go through the motions. We’re nice Christians and the world is tired of the sham. This mechanistic approach to our faith has also seeped into our evangelism, with simple gospel presentations, to forcing conversions, to erecting an invisible barrier between us and anyone trying to find their way in life.

But we were not called to be nice. We were called to be loving…, and Truthful; not in a judgmental way, but more like fellow sojourners whose lives have intersected for a time for mutual comradery and benefit. The God of the Universe has chosen us to be His voice, His feet, and His hands on this planet to explain to everyone what it is He wants to give us. We bear a wonderful responsibility— the privilege of being Christ’s loving emissaries to a world of broken, successful, hurting, and wonderful people who have no idea of the Grandeur of Christ.

Just think of who they could be if they connected with the God who made them!

There are many facets to the Gospel of our Lord, but love must permeate them all.

So, a question—Do you love people? Or maybe, Do you feel your love for them? Do you sense Christ’s love flowing through you as a vessel of His grace, mercy, and forgiveness? You know what it feels like to love your parents, children, even your relatives (well, most of them). Do you know what it feels like to genuinely love people who have had it with Christianity? Who are sick of nice Christians? Who don’t care anymore? Or who are so angry at God and His church that they wish we would just go to hell?

If your heart is broken by these people then you are beginning to sense the kind of love our Lord has for them. We are NOT called to convert them; that is the Father’s job. We are not called to cajole them into the Kingdom. We are called to love them; to walk with them on their journey— in their sorrows, to enjoy them in their celebrations, to help them in their efforts to make this world a better place; even, to suffer with them and die for them. The Truth of the gospel takes on life in the way we love people. We must give them the Words of the Truth, to be sure; but we must also go Beyond Words.

‘Nough said.

For what it’s worth,

Gary