Archive for November, 2010

“For God’s sake, don’t telegraph your pass!” 

That was our charge during basketball practice. It was the coach’s constant reminder that we not give away the direction of our pass; not let the other team know what we were doing. Otherwise, the defender would “steal” or intercept the pass and the telegrapher would find his hiney getting a little warmer on the bench.
I’ve been complaining of late how “directors” telegraph their stories too much. They show too much instead of letting the viewers read between the lines of the movie script and let their emotions steal away.
It’s 5:30 a.m. right now and it’s still pitch black outside. But over the eastern horizon is a flashlight of a star. It’s shining so bright that it’s begging for my attention… sort of like “telegraphing” that daylight will make his entrance soon.
So many times, I have found myself in a dark day or season of my life. That’s when God always seems to telegraph His love. Sort of like a PDA – that embarrassing kiss in front of people, the “public display of affection.”
Isn’t that a little like Christmas? It’s the spiritual dark ages for Israel and the world and suddenly, the Star of Bethlehem and the Baby become light to the hopeless. I took an old-fashioned Sunday drive yesterday and saw many people putting up Christmas decorations. One particular couple was hanging a huge star from their porch. Why shouldn’t we telegraph The Telegrapher?
[19] We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

[16] I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

For God’s sake, the coaches will have to let Him “pass” on this One.

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As of this moment, the starting gun has fired at the big-boxers and you can now get any holiday gift you want… including holiday big boxers.

Rumors of people being trampled at four in the morning outside StuffMart make you look at the guy and his kid in front of you and ask, “What child is this?”
Despite this, I believe Christ is still in Christmas.
As evidence, may I present the City of Brotherly Love where the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s stealth visit to Macy’s featured 650 singers in plain clothes who mixed with shoppers to suddenly sing the”Hallelujah” chorus. The company entitled it a “Random Act of Culture.”
Thanks to YouTube, it was captured by pros and amateurs and the differing camera angles reveal some interesting contrasts. Most shocked shoppers stopped in their tracks and put their credit cards away momentarily to breathe in this commercialism respite. Many were smiling and were either lip-syncing or actually singing along, not always sure of all of the nuances of the libretto of the hit song of 1742. Give them an “A” for their efforts. At least one sales associate kept time by continuing her make-up demo.
Talk about a Christmas invasion. 
Bumper stickers, billboards and conversation often remind us to “Keep Christ in Christmas.” As if He left? The old saying is, “If God seems far away, guess who moved?” Christ is as easy to spot during the holidays as was the organ in the middle of Macy’s.
I’ve coined these moments, “Random Acts of Christ.” My favorites still seem to be in the health field where staffers and patients can’t take the holidays off the way the rest of us do. 
My good friend just had a stroke and was waylaid in a hospital for Thanksgiving. From his bed, he couldn’t stop praying for his roommate and led a teary technician to receive into her heart the very child of Christmas.
I know of a musician who also had a stroke that crippled his hands and led him into depression and bankruptcy. But a good friend became his “random act of Christ” by sending him a libretto based on scripture. It was Isaiah 40’s “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people” that inspired this composer to take those words and create a musical masterpiece that still makes people stand when they hear it. Even at Macy’s.
Handel had truly discovered what child this is.
To see You Tube, copy and paste this:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp_RHnQ-jgU
(Feel free to send in some random acts of Christ!)

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Thanksgiving on a Train

Sit next to me on a train ride. No ordinary train. It had the white linen, the finest service and a spread that you could only dream about.

It was also Thanksgiving.
There were string beans, mashed potatoes, yams, fresh corn, silky gravy, scrumptious stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, Tender Tom Turkey, all kinds of breads and rolls and this was AFTER the Italian influence of antipasto, lasagna and every conceivable olive and cheese you could imagine.
I can’t resist pies even when I feel like a beached whale. Pumpkin, Shoo-Fly, Triple Berry, Apple, Pecan, it doesn’t matter. I cut really thin pieces to make believe I’m not pigging out. That’s before I get to all of the fruit and nuts.
All of this sparks off some madness in my brainwaves and pancreas. And all I can do is sit. 
The train is passing the loveliest farms, fields and rolling hills. And all I can do is sit.
I’ve never seen such leftovers. Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers.
In the middle of my delirium, my head jerks ahead as the train suddenly stops. I notice that this train station is in a different country. As far as I can see, hundreds or perhaps thousands of dark-skinned kids with huge-eyes-but-bigger-bellies are looking at us through the windows. They are holding empty, crusty metal bowls while other children stick out small plastic cups.
I’d regurgitate if I could but that wouldn’t be very pretty or helpful.
The conductor announces the beach resort is the next stop.
The leftovers are still all throughout this marvelous train. I look at you and you look at me. What do we see? What do we do?

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It was a beautiful, and I mean beautiful November SATURDAY. Did I mention it was Saturday????

I was in a basement of a church in a small circle of people spilling their guts during a conference. Did I mention it was beautiful OUTSIDE and ABOVE the basement?
However, by day’s end, I knew a little more about this circle’s problems. I also found out that I began to care more for the people than their problems. Everyone has problems. But not everyone is cared for by those around them.
So God, in His infinite wisdom, created this picture-perfect Autumn weekend to clue me in to the fact that I had been more concerned about missing out on… what was it I was going to do if I hadn’t been at church… oh, yes, I was going to clean out my BASEMENT. I was going to be in a basement!
Interestingly enough, after I let my heart strings get pulled a bit and this poor woman poured her heart out and I wanted to get to know her more, she actually brought the conversation around to the WEATHER!
“So,” she sobbed, “the next time I see you on a Sunday in the foyer, we won’t just talk about the WEATHER.”
Ain’t that a kicker? 

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There are definitely seasons in life and there are definitely times when we don’t want seasons to move on.

I remember an urban schoolteacher who’d get depressed every August and it wasn’t about the weather but rather another year of “sweathogs.”
This morning, a tremendous north wind snuck into my backyard and violently pilfered a lot of what remaining leaves were on the trees. To add insult to injury, he brought an early November snowfall that rushed the new season a bit more; sort of like being nudged in your rear end when you’re standing in line or the car behind you touches your bumper. No dirty look in the mirror, however, is going to stop Old Man Winter.
Young kids go off to school and older kids pack bags for universities or the military and your little sweetheart tells you she’s getting married and there are too many candles on the cake and too few hairs on the head and we all feel pretty nudged-up. 
I think there is a “Great Nudger Of The Skies” whose job is not so much to mess with our comfort zone or even to our interrupt our lovely just-past-peek-foliage season. He installed a biological clock in us the way the doc puts in a pacemaker and these changes are His kind way of moving us along. 
So, while I’m happy with pretty-colored trees, it’s time I let go and enjoy the different view of these relentless white-flaked reminders that time is marching on and perhaps it’s better to bring out the wreathes and carols than to insist that the white lawn chairs don’t have to come in. 
Better than that, instead of just dealing with this change, why not enjoy how the beauty of the contrast of the snow against the rust-colored trees. Yea, move from acceptance to embracing!
Is that snow in my hair or is it really whitening?

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My Sunday sabbath and Autumn in my upstate back yard beckoned me like a kid that asks, “Can you come out and play?” The rusts and golds and crisp air… you know the scenario: it’s a gorgeous day or time of year and the outdoors seem to hold out this gigantic “Welcome” sign. You want to tackle that mountain trail, go for a walk in the woods, get the bike out, take the kayak out, walk the dog, let the kids play in the backyard or a playground, go for a jog…whatever. 
Enter the smallest pain in the ____ that you’ll ever meet. For those of you not familiar with Lyme  disease, it is carried by ticks so small that I once thought one was a freckle until the little boy’s mom declared, “Well, that freckle is moving!”

Call it “beauty and the beasts,” but Lyme  is one of the greatest paradoxes of my life. Lyme is ugly because, in its worst forms, it debilitates or at the very least, brings people physically and mentally low if not treated fairly quickly.

Why is it that the most beautiful is always opposed by the most ugly? It doesn’t only happen with these exasperating little creatures. It happens indoors, as well. You want to love your spouse, but something small gets in the way – constantly!! You’re inclined to better-understand your kids and your “understanding” just got misunderstood for the fortieth time. You want to do a good job at work but it’s not good enough.
And why can’t we just love God the way we want to? You make a new vow after a moving wedding ceremony, a touching movie or an inspiring forwarded email and WITHIN MINUTES, something happens to, well for better choice of words, “TICK you off!”
The obvious answer is that we have an opposer. Most people don’t like to think about Satan. Adam and Eve didn’t either. They had that beauty every day and no ticks. But they were bitten by a creature who is still around today, using the same old line, “Did God REALLY say?”
I succumbed to my sabbath walk in my back yard. I saw deer run back and forth on the path right below me as if they were showing off. I witnessed a bald eagle take off over the river. And I discovered a meandering waterfall. Utopia!
And when I got home, I also discovered a tick climbing up my pants. The clothes immediately go in the dryer at high temperature and I go in the shower. I look out for them constantly. 
So, the next time I want to love my wife a little better, be a more understanding dad or get closer to my heavenly Father, I always check for the little beast. Unfortunately, he’s hard to see but with diligence can be found.

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It’s the morning after Election Day and most of us have some sort of political hangover after all the coverage and accompanying contradictory ads.

But it is over now and I am witnessing an interesting sunrise with swirling clouds presenting a glorious veil for a shy sun backlighting that same veil.
It’s hard not to think of the nation as entering a new day as well.
But new days are given as a gift and must be spent well. I pray that political revenge will not be the currency of Congress.
I know there’s a collective anger emanating from the electorate that I have never witnessed before.
And I would never excuse the recent culture of corruption that we have witnessed with “leaders” paying off “leaders.” A person entrusted with leadership is supposed to lead, not be bought. I would not excuse leaders who ignore the wishes of their districts because their personal ideology puffs their chests out so far that it bumps into their constituency’s reality. Neither would I excuse officials who let themselves be forced into submission by a powerful few at the top of their own party. I would not excuse an elected elite that leaves no pocket “change” for its children and grandchildren.
However, many people need solutions to their sobering financial and employment realities and simply setting a goal to undo is not enough and will simply put the new ruling party in the same place as the last one: mis-focus. 
Revenge is always misguided. Better to focus on what one is called to do. That may INCLUDE undoing what was done. But to solely focus on undoing can sometimes trap people in the past and today is a new day. I pray that while they undo, they also push ahead with an agenda that listens to the people and the real hurt those people feel as a result of powerful people creating a government that says, “We know better than you.” 
I saw Congressman Boehner get choked up as he recollected his humble beginnings. I, too, mopped floors, pulled steel wool from beneath my fingernails after scouring pots in steaming hot kitchens, waited on tables until my eyes were open with toothpicks and ended up care-taking a small business that bordered on a 24/7 schedule.
My hope is that, revenge, as tempting as it is sometimes, will not direct Mr. Boehner as much as his “old days” reminding him that he has been chosen to lead us into a “new day.”

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A prophet is a person who speaks God’s Word for today. That Word will always be in sync with the bible. It may or may not address the future. A false prophet is one who contradicts God’s Word with a message and/or makes a wrong prediction.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.Mt 23:37

Have you ever noticed that those who speak God’s Word to any nation, whether Israel or America, never have an easy time of it and often put their lives in jeopardy?

I don’t know the last time we’ve had a public stoning around here, but more than a few outspoken godly leaders have gotten rocked by the media or public opinion or whatever. It would be probably worth the effort if the country would have listened. But history proves otherwise. Most civilizations gravitate toward leadership that doesn’t listen to its God-sent prophets and end up, well, not so civilized. Just look at or listen to our pop culture, billboards, schools, etc.

So, one conclusion is that we must address this mess by reforming the political nature of our nation. But when we look to men and women as the PRIMARY way out of a nation sliding fast into moral oblivion, we look to the wrong government completely. 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Eventually, our political leaders will fail us and perhaps we’ll finally turn to God. Let’s face it, we’ll probably have killed our prophets… if not in body, well certainly in the court of public opinion.

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When you were very young, your mother and father were like giants. For that matter, all of those big people called adults were huge. Even an eighth grader seemed to tower over us.

But years after graduation, the principal and the coach and some old professors almost seemed like equals. Did they get smaller or did we get larger?
When I was younger, I was heavily into the political world. Mayors, councilmen, freeholders, congressman, senators and governors all seemed larger than life. But as I’ve gotten older, world series pitchers look like children and I sometimes feel like proofing the policemen at the Dunkin Donuts bar. “You’re a little young for that latte, aren’t you?”
It’s not that I’m somehow a sage or prideful. It’s simply life’s perspective as we age. Reading from the ancient scrolls of Isaiah (chapter 40), I am reminded about a perspective to which mine pales.
Any day, more particularly an Election Day, is a good time to remember that we are like grass; that we wither and fade like once glorious wildflowers, “but God’s Word stands firm and forever.”
It’s apparent by their views that many leaders don’t believe in God’s Word, don’t live by God’s Word and don’t rule by God’s Word. “He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless… all nations before Him are as nothing…” Isaiah 40:23, 17 Now, that’s perspective.
I’ve had the chance to meet some of our region’s political leaders. And then I’ve watched their TV ads. Their make-up cannot make up for their lack of integrity. We have incumbents saying that they are “independent.” They’re actually afraid of their own image.
As I’ve gotten older, I realize that I’m part of God’s solution with my right to vote. I think I’m about to participate in bringing these “princes” to nothing. They’re not as big as I once thought they were.

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It’s November 1st and its getting cold and the word got around birdland. They couldn’t beat the weather, so they got together and decided to take matters into their own wings.

As I looked out from the cupola overlooking the Hudson River, I witnessed their vast conspiracy: literally tens of thousands of snowbirds following the famous waterway southward. I had never seen such a sight. And I could only ask, “Where did they all come from and who called them to this meeting?” That’s too great of a population for just one area. They must have gathered from many regions to form that much of a mass. How did they know where to hook up? Who called them?
As I pondered that, I immediately thought about the prophet Jeremiah who, by listening to the voice of God, called Israel to turn back to God and follow, a migration if you will, to Babylon. 
And as I thought of Israel, it brought me full circle to tomorrow. Election Day, 2010 in America. Which candidates are truly seeking God, understand His message of repentance and righteousness and are calling all the birds to gather in a wave of revival?
Unlike the winds of cynicism that most birds are following this political season, I believe there are men and women who have a calling to serve and not be served – the greatest lesson to be learned by anyone, much less “public servants.”
What is it about humans that we cannot follow the wind of the Holy Spirit, our all-wise Father and His “public Servant,” Jesus, in a throng like the snowbirds, falling in line, flying in flocks?
If there’s a snake in our American garden defiantly declaring, “Did God really say?” couldn’t we really just fly above him to listen to the higher voice? After all, serpents can only crawl. Birds can fly.

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