Archive for November, 2012

Bug Control

Sometimes I literally go buggy with life being so out of control. There are so many details and responsibilities that I end up letting all of the little things go. I really want to get to them. Take all of the dead bugs in my cupola. The Dead Bug Patrol. No pun intended, I would have to hire a headhunter or get a human resources department involved for that position.

My cupola is mostly glass and warm and has a vent. I supposed that’s how all of those flies, ladybugs, wasps and stinkbugs get in there.Image

It reminded me of life. Insects are not the end of the world. They just, well, bug me. My fly swatter gets a lot of action (out of the site of my vegetarian wife). As the old saying goes, she “wouldn’t swat a fly.” OK, as a confession, I do open the window for some of the senior citizen bugs and shoo them out. It’s the least I can do. But, alas, winter has come and I’m not opening too many windows these days. Thus, the fly swatter makes its return.

The other day I thought I cut my finger on a guitar string while playing. Ouch! It wasn’t the steel string that got me. No, it was a dang wasp. Guess he didn’t like my song.

But the “bzzzz” and whoosh get to me enough for it to be a distraction…as do all the dead insects lying around – and there get to be plenty of them. I feel like it’s just one more part of my life that I can’t keep up with. Am I supposed to be on bug control as well as be a husband, a father, a friend, uncle, church member, toilet paper changer and, oh yeah, blogger?

I say to myself: That which “bugs us” is not the same as what kills us. There are majors and there are minors.

For example, the internet connection on my laptop has been down. It makes me down. Am I dead? Certainly not. Isn’t that why they use the term “buggy” for computers?

There’s a drop-down in my browser  that says, “Report Bugs To Apple.” Do the bugs in my apple trees qualify?

My cautious conclusion is that life is not truly out of control as long as we can report our bugs to Apple.


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Thanksgiving & Strokes

Today is Thanksgiving Day.

I am truly thankful that I will at least step on the field for the umpteenth time to continue my streak of playing in “The Turkey Bowl,” so named for overweight, unpracticed, out-of-shape guys like me who still think we can throw and catch a football while laughing at ourselves the whole time. What is Advil for?

I am truly thankful for the table my brother will set for all of my family in New Jersey. Some in New Jersey don’t have a house anymore, much less a table. As we sit around, I’ll look into the eyes of my niece who is a freshman (first year for the PC crowd) at Rutgers and listen to her first semester stories, including the ones about her school’s success on the gridiron. Appropriate conversation for Thanksgiving.

But, I had to pause as I thanked God for the nursing home visit today to Nick, my father-in-law, who had a devastating stroke six years ago, leaving him with very little memory and limited brain-motor functions and landed him in a wheelchair. He gets our names right most of the time, but still thinks his office is down the hall.

I could surely be thankful that Nick is still alive because it was a horrible stroke and the doctors told us to say “Goodbye” six years ago. 

But I didn’t have to think long as to what I’m thankful for in this situation. I have witnessed marriage vows in action such as the likes I have never seen before. “St. Theresa,” the “Nick”-name given by the nursing home staff to my mother-in-law, faithfully visits her husband on virtually every day possible. When he makes no sense, she shrugs or simply answers him rhetorically or even manages to get a chuckle out of it in her kindly good-natured manner.

I have watched my brother-in-law, Dominick, cut his hair, stay by him like an armor bearer and bodyguard. All of his sons and daughters take turns during the work week, weekends and holidays like today, Thanksgiving.

There are many committed staffers who have taken a special liking to Nick. Every day, people help him with all the essentials; I’ll spare you the details.

Thanksgiving should be the time to tackle players, not theological heavies like, “Why does a good God allow devastating strokes in our ‘Golden Years?'” I dunno. But when I see how much good can come out of so much bad, I don’t have to wonder if the scales are weighted toward a God who is forming Himself in St. Theresa and her family. For such convincing evidence of a very  good God, I am thankful. Image

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The Apostle Paul said he learned how to be content in all situations and at all times. So, if his stocks went down or they had disappointing dividends, he was content. When his cruise liner sunk, he simply swam to shore and learned Italian. When The Corinth Vikings beat The Jerusalem Giants for the title, he ate another bag of chips. And when John Mark deserted him, well, I’ll have to ask him about that when I get to heaven.

I am not there yet! Take songwriting. I love writing them, but pitching them? Yuck! I spoke to Tom Douglas, who wrote “The House That Built Me” and so many other hits and who is arguably one of the best in my field. He listened patiently to me and then simply said, “If I have one thing to tell you where you’re at, it’s that you should enjoy the process.” Like I said, I’m not THERE yet. (Maybe that’d make a great song…hmmm.)

Sometimes I’m content with the content of my songs. I love them just for who they are; kind of like kids. But, I do get frustrated by the “process” instead of enjoying it. That’s when I pick up “Knowing the Heart of God” by John Eldredge. (For fans, it’s his “November 20” entry.)

Eldredge wrote that he had fallen into a trap of “needing” things that were really “wants,” a subtly he terms “a deadly shift…I was coming to believe that God’s love and God’s life are not enough. Isn’t that what Adam and Eve were seduced into believing – that God was not enough? He had given them so much, but all they could see in their fateful moment of temptation was the one thing they didn’t have. So they reached for it, even if it meant turning from God.”

The recklessness of discontent is not just something to muse over during a Thanksgiving dinner. At any time and anywhere, it can make a turkey out of anyone.

“I have LEARNED to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11

The Apostle Paul                 “Content” in Chains


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A Share In The Divine

(First part of a series on our hearing aid and orphanage mission trip)

Where does heaven meet earth? Sometimes, I think it’s the sunrise and other times I believe it’s the wonder of things I can only imagine. Still, there are the climaxes of beautiful music and intimate love and the sweet scent of a burgeoning Spring.

But on a multiple choice questionnaire, I certainly wouldn’t have listed Kumasi and Tamale in Ghana, Africa. For a white guy from the north, the 100 degree, sticky-shirt weather was getting to me with every step. The bottles of water felt like droplets. I couldn’t conquer the remnants of sand or whatever from the Sahara. The local Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist noted that I wasn’t the only one. A large part of his patient base come to him with the same complaints.

When we ran out daylight and had to see patients in the dark and were thankful for headlamps so that we could see the children’s ears, I thought about electricity in a new “light.”

I couldn’t help snicker at the irony of a hotel where I had all the water I wanted in the swimming pool, but couldn’t get anything to flow out of my faucet.

No, I’m not just another spoiled American complaining about the inconsequential inconveniences of a developing country. I’m simply pointing out that God can use contrast in an extremely effective manner.

When I was preparing for this mission, I rummaged through all the excuses I could to avoid the literal and figurative “heat” of Africa. In the end, all I could see were faces. Those faces did not disappoint. The satisfaction and delight of young people receiving their hearing for the first time takes you way beyond the strands of the foreign and the interruption of the niceties.

It takes you straight to the face of God. Jesus called them “the least of these.” I called them my share in the divine. Image

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NOTE: Heart lights up on backpack. Whole duffle bag of backpacks.

Some of you know that I will participate in a mission trip to Ghana, Africa  and that it has been 2 1/2 years in the making. It will bring together Hearts of the Father orphanage ministries (www.heartsofthefather.org) and Starkey Hearing Foundation (www.starkeyhearingfoundation.org) so that a few thousand kids and adults will receive new hearing aids who would have no other way to the hearing world. (Think never having been able to hear ITUNES or a live band or hear worship music). Hearts of the Father has been in Ghana for 20 years and did some of the ground work for the Starkey Hearing Foundation mission. Believe me, deafness and poverty is not a good mix.

I wanted to ask each of you to remember the team in your prayers. It’s an incredibly intense ministry because of the shear numbers. I have two red-eyes back and forth from Ghana and four flights in five days in Africa. I’m fighting off a cold and God will heal me.
High winds and a storm are expected to hit Long Island where I’ll be flying out of JFK. I’m used to this kind of “opposition.” The last time we went to Ghana, Vini and I felt like the only ones on the road driving through a blizzard from Albany to JFK, but somehow the plane took off. Then, we got there and couldn’t get 10,000 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes off the boat because of customs. On one mission trip, I got back to find that Guinevere and Tina were in a serious car accident. Moreover, I’ve rarely been on a mission trip where I didn’t have intestinal problems. This is not negative confession. Just saying, I covet your prayers for the team and my family back here.
I also wanted to thank you for reaching the goal of 25 backpacks for our orphanage in Old Ningo. You will bring smiles to faces, especially those backpacks that light up. Wow, baby! I hope TSA doesn’t hold up my bags 🙂
You can google both ministries. They are amazing. Not to minimize anyone’s suffering anywhere, but the things we see as a result of Hurricane Sandy are the conditions many people in Africa live in every day of their lives.
I hope all of you get a chance to go on one or several mission trips as they certainly give a different perspective to our lives and insight into the following:

31 “When the Son of Man comes(A) in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.(B) 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate(C) the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.(D) 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom(E)prepared for you since the creation of the world.(F) 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,(G) 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me,(H) I was sick and you looked after me,(I) I was in prison and you came to visit me.’(J)

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’(K)

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me,(L) you who are cursed, into the eternal fire(M) prepared for the devil and his angels.(N) 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’(O)

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. Mt 25:31-46 (NIV)

Jesus didn’t mention hearing aids or backpacks, but He did say, “Whatever you did for the least of these…”


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