Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Recognizing her many talents, I urged my wife to start a blog. She did—last January.

From January until next to the last day of the year, I have done nothing but praise her excellent blogs and encourage her. Yesterday, commenting on her post for the day, I said, “Well that’s nice, but nobody will want to see it but me and you.”


Yes ladies I was wrong. All of you—your cousins, nieces and maybe even your aunts wanted to see it.

“Tell your husband he is wrong.” “He is so wrong.” One lady not content with those words said, “Your husband is soooooo very wrong!”

I get it. I was wrong. I’m sorry.

If I had known it would bring you so much excitement, I would have had her publish my comments for the entire world to read long ago.

I have said enough dumb things this year to fill all the computer screens across America. If Charlotte is feeling really feisty today maybe she can put together a collage of “The Many Dumb Things Clif Said In 2008.” That should really get you going.



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dr. Barry Asmus, senior economist for the National Center for Policy Analysis, is a member of the church where Charlotte and I attend. He is a sought after speaker, one of the top five in the country, and he speaks at our church occasionally. The last time he spoke there he highly recommended the book, The Jesus Way, written by Eugene Peterson.

My daughter is an omnivorous reader and she immediately bought the book and began to read. After a few weeks had passed I inquired about the book and told her I would like to borrow it when she had finished reading it. She said, “You won’t have to borrow it, I’ll give it to you. I just can’t get into it.” So I gladly accepted her gift with a big smile on my face.

I was not disappointed. This is one of the best books I have read in 2008.

I now feel the need to clarify something. My daughter’s reaction to this book got me to thinking. In yesterday’s blog I recommended Guard Us, Guide Us by J.I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom. My daughter called up and said she wants to read it. The thought keeps running through my mind, “My daughter, the reader, may not like this book either.” What I am thinking is that what a retired minister likes and what the rest of you like may not be the same.

So here I go recommending another book, and you may not like it at all. So let me just say, “Check it out. I like it a lot and want you to read it. But I want you to examine it first and then buy it if you want to." I agree with Scot McKnight who said, “No one simply reads or, worse yet, skims Peterson. One ponders Peterson.So if you are into pondering, this is the book for you.

Happy reading!


Monday, December 29, 2008

Guard Us, Guide Us – Divine Leading in Life’s Decisions is an excellent book.

In this book, J.I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom seek to free us from the fear of having to make daily decisions—some big, some small. We seek to submit the choices we make to God’s will. But many of us are fearful and confused because we do not know how God guides.

How will we know when God is guiding or when we are just making a mistake?

Beginning with an exploration of Psalm 23, they show that as our Good Shepherd, God has promised to both guide and guard us, his sheep.

We need not doubt that he will lovingly grant the guidance we need as we seek him.

In this rich study of divine guidance, Packer and Nystrom show the importance of cultivating a lifestyle of Bible-based wisdom and discernment.

Guard Us, Guide Us is a book I highly recommend as good reading for the new year.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Over a hundred years ago, a group of fishermen were relaxing in the dining room of a Scottish seaside inn, trading fish stores. One of the men gestured widely, depicting the size of a fish that got away. His arm struck the serving maid’s tea tray, sending the teapot flying into the whitewashed wall, where its contents left an irregular brown splotch.

The innkeeper surveyed the damage and sighed, “The whole wall will have to be repainted.”

“Perhaps not,” offered a stranger. “Let me work with it.”

Having nothing to lose, the proprietor consented. The man pulled pencils, brushes, some jars of linseed oil, and pigment out of an art box. He sketched lines around the stains and dabbed shades and colors throughout the splash of teas. In time, an image began to emerge: a stag with a great rack of antlers. The man inscribed his signature at the bottom, paid for his meal, and left. His name: Sir Edwin Landseer, famous painter of wildlife.

In his hands, a mistake became a masterpiece.

God’s hands do the same, over and over. He draws together the disjointed blotches in our life and renders them an expression of his love. We become pictures: “examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us” (Eph.2:7)


(Max Lucado told this story in his splendid book, Come Thirsty. He gave credit for the story to Ron Lee Davis and James D. Denny and their book, Mistreated. I now give credit to Max, Ron and James.)


I know. I know. It's below freezing where you live and you laugh out loud when you read my words, "It's cold outside."

But when it's only 38 degrees at ten in the morning, around here-- we think it's cold!

Last night my wife, daughter and I were over at Julio G's Mexican restaurant trying to break the turkey and dressing habit and I found myself eating the hot salsa trying to stay warm. It didn't seem like there was any heat in the place. Heck, they may not even have any heat. This is Arizona--for crying out loud. We were seated in this wonderful, over sized booth not far from the front door. Every time the big double doors opened, in rushed tons of cold air.

We noticed big, dark, black clouds hovering overhead and I thought, "Where are we"?

In snowed in Cave Creek and North Scottsdale. And although I can't prove this, I feel confident that hell froze over.

Hey, just take my word for it. It's cold outside.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

O, the wonder of it all!
The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God love me.
O the wonder of it all!
The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

These words by George Beverly Shea touch my heart every time I sing them, especially at this time of the year when I reflect on the grace he poured all over us at Bethlehem.

God born as a baby. He came to die that we might live. THE WONDER OF IT ALL!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Edward Fudge sends out an e-mail that I receive on a regular basis. I found the following simple yet profound words in his last mailing. Please read them, meditate on them and think about living them out in your life.

"Live simply, love generously,
care deeply, speak kindly, and
leave the rest to God."


Saturday, December 20, 2008

(I want to use my space today to share with you a touching, heartwarming story I read in my wife’s November/December issue of Victoria magazine. This is not religious, just an example of remembering others and caring.)

My Son, Peter, and I have always shared a warm and happy relationship. As a single mom, it was important to me that we have our own family traditions. One of our most cherished rituals is exchanging stockings, just the two of us on Christmas morning. He and I would make a little game of sneaking around in the middle of the night to fill each other’s stocking. When he was 20, he moved into an apartment of his own, and though he was only across town, it signified the end of a chapter in our lives. It was bittersweet for both of us. That year, Peter spent Christmas Eve with his fiancée’s family. Although I would see him the next day, I felt an emptiness that nothing could fill. I spent the evening with my sister, and we ended the festivities earlier than usual. I went home and went to bed feeling a little sad.

The next morning, I awoke early. As I was walking down the hall, something in the dining room caught my eye—something that hadn’t been there before. As I walked over for a closer look, I promptly burst into tears. There was my stocking overflowing with little wrapped packages and a card that read, “You didn’t think I’d forget, did you, Mom? Love, Peter.” He had sneaked into the house at 2:30 a.m.! I swear I felt my heart actually contract with emotion. We laughed later when he told me how long it took to ease open the front door so that I wouldn’t hear the bells on it. I’ll always hold that Christmas memory close to my heart. Coleen Hopkins, Redmond Washington


Macy’s one day sale attracted my wife to the mall.

Wanting to support her and protect what little I have in social security, I went with her.

I have shopped with her all over the world—Paris, London, New Delhi. If there were stores there—we shopped.

After a few minutes of shopping my back starts to hurt and I have to sit down. I walked all over the second floor of Macys looking for a chair to sit down in. There was one chair and it was in the lingerie department. It was surrounded, and I do mean surrounded, by panties and bras. I voted no!

I found a nice rest area on the first floor right in front of Macy’s. I had only been there a few minutes when I felt like a non-trucker at a huge Texaco truck stop. Young women driving huge semi strollers begin pulling in. Some seated only one but most of them were more of the huge tractor trailer type and carried a full load. The “trucker moms” were loud and barking out orders that nobody paid any attention to but me.

The truckers had barely left the rest stop when in came the cell-phone, Starbucks addicts group. They were a greater distraction than the “truckers”. I felt like I was an actor in the middle of a soap opera.

The undershirts I bought (the only thing I bought) were too small. They had to be returned. I hated for Charlotte to have to go back to Macys today. I don’t think she will be there too long. My shirts? Me return them? Go back to Macys the Saturday before Christmas?

You have got to be kidding!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh how we all need to receive this gift—the gift of God’s grace upon us.

Read Psalm 32 and let the wonder of God’s grace fill you with joy.

Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—

you get a fresh start,

your slate’s wiped clean.

Count yourself lucky—

God holds nothing against you

And you’re holding nothing back from him.

When I kept it all inside,

my bones turned to powder,

my words became daylong groans.

The pressure never let up;

all the juices of my life dried up.

Then I let it all out;

I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to


Suddenly the pressure was gone—

my guilt dissolved,

my sin disappeared. (Psalm32:1-5 MSG)


Thursday, December 18, 2008

There was a time when we could be embarrassed.

There was a time when our faces would have turned red.

Jeremiah said: "Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush." (Jeremiah 6:15)

Santa shouldn't be the only one with rosy red cheeks.

There are some acts that are shameful and we need to say so--even at Christmas time.

Maybe, especially at Christmas time. Santa Claus is coming to town!

If your conduct makes your face turn red when you think about Santa--what about the giver of ALL GIFTS?


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Most of the connecting we do with others at Christmas is in the happy times.

But many are not happy. Many are suffering for one reason or another.

We need to remember the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 1:3-4 when he reminded us of one of the reasons we suffer, “[God] comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”

Being there for others—that’s what it’s all about.

Betsie ten Boom reminded her sister Corrie just before her death in the Ravesbruck concentration camp: “[We] must tell people what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.”

“Because we have been here.” Ah yes, most of us have. Let’s reach out together to help those who are going through hard times. Let’s say, “Merry Christmas” and mean it!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:1-2

The apostle Paul is telling us to offer ourselves to God as a sacrificial act of worship. Instead of embracing the world we are to embrace God. This is one way we discover the will of God for us and we can then respond to it


We are not perfect but we are marching toward maturity. Stop saying, “If I knew the will of God in this matter I would do it.” Instead start living your life—your whole life, for him and you will discover his will for you.

If you do what is right, it will be alright!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Many decide that life is a meaningless investment. No matter what they say or do, tomorrow will be the same as yesterday. So they eat, drink and try to be merry.

When time and our choices become meaningless, so does life.

What we need to do is to seize life one day at a time. We will find that when we make the right choices, at the right time, we can give meaning to our life and the lives of everyone around us.

We all have been given a series of moments through which we can seize the day and have the kind of life we long for.

We need to wake up and become all we were meant to be.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Need help finding a gift for that special guy?

Look no longer. I have come to your rescue.

It’s a book! “He doesn’t like to read,” you say? It doesn’t matter. He will read this book!

Beyond Belief, Finding The Strength To Come Back by Josh Hamilton is one of the best books I have read in a long time and I read a lot of books.

Josh Hamilton was destined to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time before he lost everything in a four-year nightmare of drug addiction, and despair. But his story doesn’t end there. His story is one of spiritual redemption and triumph.

I love the fact that when asked how he made such a change, which is beyond belief, Josh always says, “It’s a God thing.” There is absolutely no other answer. His change is beyond belief.

(I was given this book by a dear, blogging friend. I can’t give each of you a book but I can give my copy to someone, and suggest that the rest of you buy the book and give it to someone you love and care about, and then ask them to pass it on.)


Many times--in fact most of the time, anticipation of an event brings more joy than the actual event--even Christmas.

We get excited about a tasty meal, a movie, a sporting event, Christmas. But all such joys are fleeting.

The apostle Paul prays for the Romans, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13).

Real joy comes when we find and accept Jesus Christ and His kingdom by faith in Him.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Have you been watching and listening to all the news about the automobile manufactures and their financial problems?

Cal Thomas says that ignorance is a greater threat than terrorism.

Thomas Jefferson warned: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free…it expects what never was and never will be.”

I have lived a long time and I have never seen such appalling ignorance from people who are suppose to be our leaders. I see this from those who are suppose to lead their families, the church, the schools, state and federal government and just about every place.

What is lacking is not just what we call formal education—it is mainly plain old common sense or as some would say, “horse sense.”

Whatever happened to it?


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ginger surprised me this morning with this funny picture of me dancing. I don't drink but I must have been "juiced" on something because i don't even remember this day and dance at all. I'm as surprised as anybody to see that I'm quite a dancer.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You are no accident. God not only gave you life, but he also invested you with promise and potential.

What an opportunity you have. You can join with God in a great adventure.

However, you are not required to fulfill your purpose. But know this—God’s purpose will be fulfilled, with or without your involvement.

I love what Mordecai said to Esther: “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place…[yet] who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

I want to work toward fulfilling God’s dream. What about you?


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Every year around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years I start thinking about old friends.

I’m not talking about acquaintances or just friends—but intimate friends!

The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” The word used here for “lives” is the Greek word for soul.

It happens every year—not just at this time of the year, but especially at this time.

I get very emotional when I start thinking about these special soul brothers and sisters.

We all have them—or should have, and if you do, you should be thankful!


Monday, December 08, 2008

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus, but it’s not the one I have been seeing in the Phoenix area the last few years.

If it’s a matter of benevolence and they want to give this poor guy a job, why not a job as a custodian or even a greeter—but not Santa!

Yes, I know there are more than one of these guys. There is absolutely no way he could always be found at Fashion Square in Scottsdale, Paradise Valley Mall in Phoenix, Chandler Mall and several others all at the same time. Whatever! Give them all jobs.

If the only job available is being a Santa Claus, then for goodness sake hire them early in the year and give them a few good meals before the holiday season hits. And if these guys come from where I think they do, you may have to give them a sack with a bottle in it to keep by their big chairs. They absolutely have to have a big smile on their face, rosy cheeks and feel like letting out with, “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas!”

Walking through our mall this morning, my wife said, “Dear, you would make a good Santa. You would need a little padding but you have the right face and kind eyes.”

Thanks, but no thanks. As Dirty Harry would say, “A man has to know his limitations.” I never drink but a brown bag and one bottle would never get me through the day—I would need a whole case.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

(The following story is told by Dr. Richard Selzer from an incident in his practice of medicine. I read it in James Emery White’s excellent book, Life-Defining Moments)

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face post-operative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on…to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed…The young woman speaks.

“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.

“Yes” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”

She nods, and is silent. But the young man smiles.

“I like it,” he says. “It is kind of cute.”

…Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I so close I can see how he twists his lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works… I hold my breath and let the wonder in.


If I had only known

I’d never hear your voice again

I’d memorize each thing you ever said

And on those lonely nights

I could think of them once more

Keep your words alive inside my head

If I had only known

I’d never hear your voice again

You were the treasure in my hand

You were the one who always stood beside me

So unaware I foolishly believed

That you would always be there

But then there came a day

And I closed my eyes and you slipped away

If I had only known

It was my last night by your side

I’d pray a miracle would stop the dawn

And when you smiled at me

I would look into your eyes

And make sure you know my love

For you goes on and on

If I had only known

If I had only known

The love I would’ve shown

If I had only known

(Song “If I Had Only Known,” words and music by Jan Stanfield and Craig Morris)


Thursday, December 04, 2008

This morning I’m heading over to the library. It’s time to get my card renewed.

I don’t know why I’m doing this. I don’t check out too many books anymore.

Our library has changed. It used to be one of the biggest and best in the area. It was a delight to go there. Today it is just a fraction—a small fraction of the size it used to be.It’s called downsizing. I don’t like it. Let them downsize something else. Leave my library alone.

I got my first library card when I was in elementary school. I have been checking out books ever since. Except I have cut back the last few years. The library is not as much fun as it used to be.

I’ll head on over there in a few minutes. It just seems like the right thing to do. Everybody should have a library card.

Reading is a basic tool in the leading of a good life.”


For many years around the first of every month the mail carrier placed a lot of magazines in our mailbox. Not anymore!

We still receive a few magazines in the mail and our daughter provides us with several more every month.

Now, there is only one that I always look forward to with great excitement: Southern Living.

No I wasn’t born in the South. I didn’t grow up in the South. And even though I live in the Southwest, I don’t consider myself a southerner.

But I do enjoy Southern Living magazine. The December issue is a double issue and it is packed with good stuff. Oh, there is not as many of the great comfort food recipes that I like in this issue, but there is still 149 good recipes. The picture of the Big White Cake on the cover is enough to make me drool and I’m not especially fond of cake.

Some of the people at Southern Living have spent a year infusing them selves with Christmas. All that time and energy resulted in a great December issue.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

One Messiah is enough!

Jesus can walk on water. He can perform miracles. We don’t have to.

Mike Cope, Minister in Abilene, Texas and professor at Abilene Christian University wrote an interesting post based on Matthew 14:22-23.

He points out that Jesus did not walk on water to teach his disciples that they needed to do this but he did it for them to recognize who he is and to respond to him.

Again, one Messiah is enough. He can walk on water and he is coming to us.

I still like John Ortberg’s book, If You Want To Walk On Water You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat. It’s about faith, courage and risk-taking. But let’s not get to thinking we have to be miracle workers. We just need to recognize who the real Messiah and miracle worker is and respond to him.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Doctors tell us that they see a lot of people with heart problems.

If you have lived very long you know that there is more than one kind of heart problem.

In Scripture the heart is often used metaphorically to represent the inner person, the seat of motives and attitudes, and the center of personality.

Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

Proverbs 4:23 reads, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

As we come close to the end of another year, maybe this is a good time for a checkup of motives and attitudes.


Monday, December 01, 2008

The test of love

is that it gives

even when

there is no

expectation of a


John Ortberg -Love Beyond Reason