Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Power of Giving

As with many around the world, I welcomed yet another Christmas day.  I had a wonderful dinner with my wife and in-laws last night in addition to opening a few presents.  Today, I attended a special Christmas service at my church, then later tonight, more food and presents are awaiting with more family.

Many people have complained about the commercialism of Christmas.  As you are aware, many holiday functions in society have no emphasis whatsoever on the Christ child who was born to redeem the world.  Yet, as I heard a preacher say years ago, there is nothing wrong with society that is obsessed on giving, even for just a season.  As a matter of fact, Forbes Magazine reports that Americans will spend approximately one trillion dollars on holiday shopping this year.  Not too shabby.

The Bible even extols the virtues and rewards of giving.  Luke 6:38 states, "Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

In other words, as you give, whether it is in monetary form or in deed, that giving will return to you somehow.  If you assist others who are hurting, then others will also reach out to you in times of distress.  In addition, the return you receive may be exponentially greater than what you give, e.g. "pressed down, shaken together and running over." 

So, if you have the time, money and talents, then give as much as you can.  You'll be amazed at how much of your giving returns back to you in unlimited blessing when you may be in anguish.  

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Being Forgetful and Fruitful

I love the story of Joseph in the Bible as recorded in Genesis chapters 37-50.  If you recall Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers at age seventeen and ended up in Egypt.  He was falsely accused of rape by his master's wife and was imprisoned.  While in the Egyptian jail, he was given the ability to interpret dreams.  After interpreting some dreams of some fellow prisoners (one who was restored to a prominent position in the Egyptian government as the Pharaoh's cup bearer), Joseph surely felt he would be released.  Yet, he continued to wait to be set free.

Finally,  the Pharaoh had some dreams and needed an interpretation.  Joseph was summoned out of jail, interpreted the dreams and was immediately elevated to a position of power only second to Pharaoh.  Joseph was now thirty years of age.  This was a remarkable turn of events. Joseph went from the prison to the palace, from zero to hero.  I mentioned part of Joseph's story in an earlier blog, "Looking For That 'Joseph' Moment" on February 14, 2015.

Later, Joseph gets married while in Egypt and has two sons.  Genesis 41:50-52 states,
"Now before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore to him.  Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”  He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

The name of his first son, Manasseh, means "making to forget".  What a wonderful name for his child and a reminder of God's current goodness in Joseph's life!  Perhaps, when Manasseh was born, Joseph thought how his previous troubles were now only just a memory.  Life was now "normal" with a great job (second in command only to Pharaoh), a wife and now a child. 

We all need a "Manasseh" in life, that is, those things which make us forget our troubles.  It could be a healing from cancer or other sickness, a great job, a wonderful family, or an unexpected blessing.  It's that point where life is now unbelievably good and the pain of the past is greatly diminished.

His second son's name Ephraim means "fruitful".  In like manner, we need that time of great blessing in the midst of our troubles.  In spite of cancer (or imprisonment in Joseph's case), life somehow becomes amazingly fruitful.  You cannot actually describe it but incredibly, in the midst of affliction, there is extraordinary blessing.  Surely Joseph felt anguish and despair when he was sold into slavery and falsely imprisoned.

But that was then.  This is now.  Joseph has been permitted to forget his troubles and enjoy the fruits of a blessed life.  His two sons are a daily reminder of just how far he has come.    

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Beverage of Choice

My cellphone coverage is so frustrating at the hospital where I work.  Apparently, there is a structural issue which prevents me from getting phone calls or text messages in a timely manner.  I've heard that there is lead in the walls of many areas of the hospital, making such communication difficult.  As a result, the other day I took a tour of the hospital, that is, different buildings, walkways, etc., to see if there is any place, any location where I can have reliable cellphone service.  I think about the only place I found fairly adequate coverage is when  I walk down five flights of stairs to the street and go outside the main building where I work.  Not the best situation.  Of course, it will be even more of a nuisance as the weather turns colder and I have to endure chilly temperatures.  So, in the most simple terms, I long to have one spot, one location, where I know my cellphone will work consistently.  It would make my job so much easier.  Is this too much to ask?

Consequently, in life, when life is at its worst, it's amazing how just one thing can provide a tremendous amount of relief.  I know when I was going through chemotherapy (and still working, mind you), I found out that Fruit Juicy Red Hawaiian Punch was a great comfort.  Don't really know why.  It was about the only true juice found in the soda machine but I seemed to enjoy it in my discomfort.  Also, "real" lemonade was helpful.  I'm talking about lemonade that is about ten or eleven percent juice, not the lemonade made from a powder or dilute.

There are other simple pleasures in life which make it easier to bear burdens.  Just having an electric blanket gives me great joy.  A chocolate bar, a warm cup of decaffeinated coffee or a homemade cooked meal also lift my spirits.

As the apostle Paul was nearing death, he made a simple request to his co-laborer, Timothy.  In II Timothy 4:13 he said, "When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments."  This doesn't really sound like much in our thinking but to Paul, having such items, would provide a great relief in his circumstances.

Hence, a little comfort when life is most uncomfortable makes a world of difference. What is your beverage or item of choice when life turns sour?


Monday, October 10, 2016

Turn Your Radio On

I had a very busy week at work last week.   Lots of long hours.  Mentally and physically stressful.  After a long day of work, I found my way to car for the ride home and turned to a frequent comfort in my life: music.  I turned on a CD and amazingly, in spite of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted from the  work day, I felt more refreshed as I got home.  There is an old saying which I fully believe by playwright William Congreve, "Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”   I wholeheartedly agree.

As a matter of fact, music in a variety of forms has always been a great comfort to me.  Being a Christian since 1975, I grew up with the sounds of contemporary Christian music, such artists as the 2nd Chapter of Acts, Keith Green, Ken Medema, Glad, the Pat Terry Group and a host of others.  Thankfully, with the advent of YouTube, I've been able to rediscover these old songs.  I've  also developed a taste for some classical music over the years with deep appreciation for Beethoven and Handel.  Furthermore, my music interests have been complimented by some traditional country music by, dare I say it, Johnny Cash.

So, where do my music tastes lie today?  With the political season in gear, I mostly listen to talk radio.  However, since I have been a part of my church's choir for multiple years, I listen to numerous choir CDs on a fairly regular basis.  I also pull out some of my "old music" from CDs which I purchase on Amazon or eBay.

Yet, music is one of my many comforts in life.  If I'm depressed, I listen to a song.   If I'm tired, then a song perks me up.  If I'm overstimulated by life, a song calms me down. Music is a wonderful cure-all for anything which affects me in life. 

Even when I underwent cancer surgery in 2004, I asked the music therapist at my hospital to come by my room and play a few tunes.  She played her guitar, we sang and the anguish of the hospitalization and lifestyle changes went away, at least for a few glorious moments.

So, having a tough time?  Turn your radio on (or listen to a CD or watch a You Tube music video).  Music certainly has charms to soothe a savage breast.

Consequently, I've enclosed a song of comfort for any situation, whether it be personal failure or overwhelming illness.  Hear the soothing sounds of Chuck Girard's "Lay Your Burden Down."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

God Knows Best

Sadly, we lost our 20 year old Maine Coon cat Silver (pictured below) about a month ago.  Hard saying goodbye to this sweet, sweet kitty.  Nevertheless, I felt it was imperative to find another cat to replace her as soon as possible to lessen our grief.   I looked up Maine Coon breeders on the internet and discovered that  these types of cats can be rather expensive (too much for my paycheck).  As a result, I looked up "Maine Coon" adoption agencies or pet finder sources.  Finding cats on these websites were considerably less costly.  I began searching for Silver's replacement diligently.

However, about four days after Silver's death, my wife made a visit to the local humane society and fell in love with an adorable eight week old tabby kitten named, "Amethyst" (also pictured below).  He perhaps was a Maine coon mix but wasn't the pure Maine coon we had wanted.  Yet, Amethyst was welcomed into our home and continues to grow as an adorable kitty.  We changed his name to "Maverick" ("Amethyst" just didn't seem to fit him plus was difficult to pronounce) and continue to become more in love with this precious pet.  Although he is still growing, climbing on the furniture and other mischief, I have a sense he will be a wonderful kitty in the years to come.  I am daily discovering that Maverick was not necessarily the pet we wanted but the cat God knew we needed.

Isn't that what happens so often in life?  There are things that we want, things we feel are absolutely essential, but God has different plans which ultimately are better for our welfare.  We desire a fatter paycheck, a job with less stress, even a cure for our sickness but God, in His wisdom, thinks otherwise.  In II Corinthians 12, Paul pleaded with God to remove a thorn in his flesh which was causing him great distress.  However, God's response was opposite to Paul's desire and allowed the thorn to remain.  Yet, Paul learned something greater in that "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.." (II Corinthians 12:9).  The hurtful thorn became a witness to God's power.  Dare I say it, but it seems like Paul ultimately was grateful for the thorn.

So, in dealing with any difficulty, some great advice to remember is that God knows best and knows ideally how to respond in any situation.  We want the cancer gone as soon as possible.  We want the job situation to change overnight.  We want our thorns to be removed but God thinks otherwise.  Yet, we must remember that a God of love allows such things to continue or provides a suitable replacement.   

So, we still miss Silver in our home on a daily basis.  But, you know what?  I think Maverick is going to do just fine.     

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Recently my church choir sang a beautiful song entitled, "O Praise the Name (Anastasis)".  Although the word "anastasis" is only listed in the title, I felt led to do a little research on this Greek word.

In my studies, I discovered the depth of meaning of "anastasis.  " It ultimately has multiple meanings which can be applicable for various difficulties in life, including, "recovery from a debilitating condition", "rebirth" or "resurrection". Essentially "anastasis" is a word which inspires hope in the midst of desperate situations.  Needless to say, we all need a little "anastasis" in life.

For example, take the first definition, "recovery from a debilitating condition".  How many people in the world need an "anastasis" from illness, whether it involves an acute or chronic medical condition!   Perhaps you have heard excuses like, "Life would be so much better if  only I didn't have problems with __________ (fill in the blank, e.g. diabetes, arthritis, cancer, back issues, etc.).   Of course, this could also apply to those who are caring for sick family members. 

The second definition of "anastasis" is "rebirth".   How many of us need a rebirth in various aspects of our lives!!  A relationship that has soured, a checkbook balance that has dwindled or a career that has floundered among other things cries out for "anastasis".  This rebirth could be the  revival of a marriage, an unexpected financial blessing (maybe a coin found in a fish's mouth as recorded in Matthew 17:27) or a much better opportunity for employment.  Any blessing, no matter how small, ultimately gives us hope and assurance that everything will be okay.

Finally, the last definition of "anastasis" is "resurrection".  Obviously we should praise our Lord Jesus for His glorious "anastasis".  In addition, there are times when life is utterly and absolutely hopeless, or "dead" if I may use that term and we desperately need an "anastasis".   God, in His wisdom, brings us to this point.  "...Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24).  It reminds me of God's creative power, in that "what is seen was not made out of things which are visible" (Hebrews 11:3).  God brings to life something which was totally dead.  As a result, we are able to bring forth fruit in ways we never imagined. A new ministry or a new career develops "ex nihilo" or out of nothing.

Experiencing an "anastasis" should subsequently lead to praise.  Perhaps the illness will be removed, the hopeless situation becomes promising or an exciting new journey erupts out of that which was at one time nonexistent.   I've enclosed the song, "O Praise the Name (Anastasis)" which we sang at church last week.  Hopefully you feel led to sing along also, especially if you've experienced an "anastasis".   

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Getting Your Rhythm

It's always hard to start running, especially if I have worked a lot during the week.  I'm  tired, my body is sluggish, I'd much rather stay home and watch TV, but I have to keep pressing forward.  Why?  Because I know its the right thing to do.  I want to stay healthy.  I want to keep my weight down.  I don't want to feel guilty when I eat like a pig. 

So, I begin my run, leaving the cold beverages and air conditioner behind.  It's tough at first, then something happens, not necessarily every time I run, but on occasion.  Amazingly, I start to develop a running rhythm.  You could say my body turns on "auto pilot".  I no longer have to think about the next step--my body just keeps moving and the steps become more fluent.

Come to think of it, there are some things in life we should do automatically, almost without giving them any thought.  These are actions and attitudes we should do whether we are in good or bad health, rich or poor, happy or sad, you get the picture,  In other words, this is the "auto pilot" of life. 

Micah 6:2 describes what should come naturally to someone who loves the Lord.  This verse proclaims, " He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? "

Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God.  As a bare minimum in life, these things  should be our "auto-pilot".  Ready to throw the switch?