BABY IT'S COLD OUTSIDE

Thursday, December 30, 2010

At 8:45 A.M. it is 48 degrees here in Scottsdale, Minnesota. Oops, Scottsdale, AZ.

I know. I know. This is not cold at all. It's freezing where you live. You walked ten miles to school in freezing weather when you were a kid. I know. I know.

My point is: This is Arizona! ARIZONA!

Tonight I will be covering up plants and trees in an effort to keep them from freezing. You know, those plants that were stupidly brought over to the desert from California. They don't belong in the desert and Mother Nature (Whoever that is) is trying to cull them out.

Yes, I am well aware of the fact that covering plants doesn't compare to trying to dig your car out of the snow. I know that giving up the sheet off your bed to cover a plant is not like sleeping on an airport terminal floor without a sheet. I know.

Still--it's cold to me baby.

I'm old and cold in Arizona.

DELAYING GRATIFICATION

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Many of us, when we have a hard job to do, work on the more gratifying half of the work first and then get around to the objectionable part last. M. Scott Peck,M.D. author of The Road Less Traveled said it seemed to him that one hour of pain followed by six of pleasure was preferable to one of pleasure followed by six of pain.

He went on to say, "Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live."

"While many have a well-developed capacity to delay gratification some fifteen-or sixteen-year-olds seem to have hardly developed this capacity at all; indeed, some seem even to lack the capacity entirely....Despite average or better intelligence, their grades are poor simply because they do not work."

"Why is this?...The answer is not absolutely, scientifically known....But most of the signs rather clearly point to the quality of parenting as the determinant."

"It is not that the homes of these unself-disciplined children are lacking in parental discipline of a sort. ...But this discipline is meaningless. Because it is undisciplined discipline."

"One reason that it is meaningless is the the parents themselves are unself-disciplined, and therefore serve as undisciplined role models for their children."

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

Monday, December 27, 2010

LIFE IS DIFFICULT.

M. Scott Peck, M.D. began his popular and powerful book The Road Less Traveled with those three words: Life is difficult.

And it is. And the sooner we learn this, the better.

Peck goes on to say: "This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult--once we truly understand and accept it--then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters."

Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy.

I began thinking about Peck's words this morning while watching the news coming from our east coast. Blizzard conditions have messed up flights all across the nation. People are stranded all over the place.

You can go home again--just not today. Life is difficult.

Understanding this you apply the first discipline for dealing with the pain of the problem: DELAYING GRATIFICATION

It would be gratifying to crawl into your own warm, cozy bed at home. But you can't.

Try curling up on the floor there in the airport and taking a nap.

LIFE IS DIFFICULT.

BE LIKE CHRIST

Friday, December 24, 2010

I have give you an example to follow.
Do as I have done to you. I tell you the
truth, slaves are not greater than their
master. Nor is the messenger more
important than the one who sends the 
message. Now that you know these
things, God will bless you for doing them.
John 13:15-17 NLT

ASK YOURSELF, "Is the way I'm living attractive and contagious? Will my attitudes, the words I speak, my expressions, the way I handle challenges and setbacks, cause anybody to want what I have?" In other words, are you drawing people to God because of your joy, your friendliness, your enthusiasm, your attitude of faith? Or do you alienate people turning them away because you're perpetually negative, discouraged, caustic, or cynical? Nobody enjoys being around a person like that. If you want to point people to God, or simply to a better way of living, have some enthusiasm and be excited about life.

(From Joel Osteen's YOUR BEST LIFE Begins Each Morning.)


WORDS, WORDS, AND MORE WORDS

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Looking back on years of preaching, I wonder how many words I used.

What words did I use over and over again?

What word or words did I use so often that the congregations I spoke to thought: "If he says that one more time I'm going to scream"?

For the last few years I have written a daily blog post. Words, words, and more words!

Ah, and then there's Facebook.  Dear old word filled Facebook.

One Christmas I received as a gift a book compiled by Robert Greenman, WORDS that make a difference---and how to use them in a masterly way. Did I? Of course not!

Merriam-Webster's top ten words of the year are: 
1. Austerity
2. Pragmatic
3. Moratorium
4.  Socialism
5. Bigot
6. Doppelganger
7. Shellacking
8. Ebullient
9. Dissident
10 .Furtive

Are these really the top ten words of 2010? I don't know.

Are these ten good words? How would I know. I don't give value to words. I just use words and lots of them.

What's my favorite word? Probably LOVE. Or maybe HOPE. Or maybe GRACE.

I don't know. What's yours?

OLD MOVIES--OVER AND OVER---AM I THE ONLY ONE?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Meandering from channel to channel the other night I came upon the final minutes of one of my favorite moves: Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

I have seen it many times but I was delighted to see it again.

When it ended I went back to meandering. When lo and behold I came upon the concluding minutes of Sleepless In Seattle.

I watched it for the umpteenth time with a smile on my face.

I especially like the musical sound track from Sleepless In Seattle. Except for the fact that when I get one of those songs in my head I can't seem to shake it.

I've been going around singing Stand By Your Man and thinking in my head that I sound like Tammy Wynnette.

My question is: Am I the only one that likes to see a favorite movie over again even if I just watched it recently?

It doesn't really matter. I am going to do it regardless. I guess I would just feel better knowing that I am not alone in this.

COMFORT FOOD

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Charlotte and I have been cutting back on eating big meals, going to the gym four days a week, and getting ready for big Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals.

It's working. We feel better. Our clothes fit us better. And my blood sugar readings are much better.

And now, just a few days before Christmas, we are breaking from this rigid routine.

We did go to the gym yesterday and today and we will go again Thursday. 

But this morning I put a pork roast in the slow cooker and left it to cook on high for seven hours. Tonight we will have pulled pork sandwiches and Memphis style cole slaw.

It is overcast today. Rain is moving in from California. It's a great day for staying inside by the fireplace and reading a good book.

There is one big problem---the smell of barbecue pork.

There are still four hours to go. Pray that I make it.

GIVE THE WORD BIBLE CONTEST AND GIVEAWAY

Monday, December 20, 2010

Enter to win NLT Study Bibles, A Grand Prize Trip to Orlando, FL., $250 in resources and more. Plus your vote will help three ministries give the Word of God to those who desperately need it. Go to this link: http://www.facebook.com/NewLivingTranslation?v=app_28134323652&ref=ts

BOOK REVIEW

CHAZOWN by Craig Groeschel

OVERVIEW: Define Your Vision. Pursue Your Passion. Live Your Life on Purpose. You were born with your own Chazown (pronounced Khaw-ZONE). Do you know what it is? In this book you are invited on a most unusual odyssey---to find, name, and live out your personal chazown. It's a journey you'll never forget because it's impossible to return unchanged. Practical, fresh, and biblically sound, Chazown is a one-of-kind life-planning experience. Craig Groeschel will help you get under the surface of your life to discover your life purpose in three often overlooked areas: your core values, your spiritual gifts, and your past experiences.


AUTHOR: Craig Groeschel is the founding and senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv, recently ranked the nation's second largest church. LifeChurch.tv currently hosts more than eighty weekend worship experiences at fourteen campuses. Craig and his wife, Amy share a passion to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. They live with their children near Edmond, Oklahoma.


MY REVIEW: This is a powerful book that will change your life. The title of the book is extremely difficult to pronounce but the book is easy to understand. Easy to understand, but not so easy to obey. And yet Craig Groeschel communicates his God-sized dreams in such a down-to-earth way that it gives you hope, courage, power and faith. You, too,­ begin to dream big dreams. Author and speaker, John Maxwell said, "Craig Groeschel is a leading voice among the new generation of communicators. He knows how to articulate people's deeply felt needs, and−even better−to help them identify and pursue their God-given dream with passion and purpose." Chazown is from the Hebrew, meaning a dream, revelation, or vision. I honestly believe that when you read this book you will not only believe that you were born with your own chazown−but you will also know what it is. That's one of the most important things in your life. This book will change your life. Get a copy and read it soon. As Robert Cupp, teaching pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Arkansas said, it will give you "a clear vision for life's journey.

CHANGING THE FARCE TO A FORCE

Friday, December 17, 2010

Too many today feel that the story of the Saviour's birth, peace on earth, good will to men is nothing but a farce. But Christians see it not as a farce but as a force.

Donald Barnhouse was being interviewed on television about an article he had written about putting Christ back into Christmas. The program hostess said to him, "Of course we all want Jesus! Everyone wants Him as an example." Dr. Barnhouse replied, "That is exactly what many people do not want. If they really did they would listen to Him. They would learn that first they need not Jesus the example, but Jesus the Saviour, for in the sight of Almighty God all men are lost." After waiting a minute to let that sink in, he continued: "Let us suppose that a plane is flying to a base in Antarctica, and that suddenly it splashes into those frigid waters. Three men are thrown into the sea, and the plane sinks at once. Nobody is near the spot, and New Zealand is 1000 miles away. One of the men can swim for ten minutes; the second, for two hours; the third is the world's champion long-distance swimmer. Suppose that this third man swims up alongside the ten-minute swimmer, and says: 'Take me as your example.' What nonsense! Those drowning men do not need an example; they all need a rescuer. The only difference between them is that one man will drown in ten minutes, another in two hours, and the champion a few hours later."

"Oh, men do not merely need an example. They need One to save them! This is the true message of Christmas, for this is what Jesus Christ came to do."

(These thought are from a sermon by Donald Barnhouse, God's Peace on Earth: A Farce or a Force)

FAMILY CHRISTMAS NEWSLETTER --ERMA BOMBECK

I like this by Erma Bombeck:

I regard the family Christmas newsletter with a mixture of nausea and jealousy---nausea because I could never abide by anyone organized enough to chronicle a year of activities: jealous because our family never does anything that I can talk about on a religious holiday.

For years I have been assaulted with Frieda and Fred's camping adventures. Marcia and Willard's bright children (their three--year--old has a hit record) and Ginny and Jess's kitchen table version of "The Night Before Christmas."

"You know something?" I announced at dinner the other night. "We're a pretty exciting family. This year, instead of the usual traditional Christmas card, why don't we make up a newsletter?"

"What would we say on it?" asked a son.

"What everyone else says. We could put down all the interesting things we did last year. For instance, you kids tell me anything you did in school that was memorable." Silence. "This is no time for modesty. Just spit out any award or recognition you received throughout the school year."

Finally, after five minutes, one son said, "I passed my eye examination."

"See?" I said excitedly. "I knew if we just thought about it a bit--now, where have we been that's exciting?

(Note: there's more but I am editing it because of time and space.  Clif)

They all sat there silently contemplating their year. Finally, I brought out a box of Christmas cards.

"What are you doing? We though you were going to send out a family newsletter for Christmas."

"No sense antagonizing the poor devils who sit around and do nothing all years."

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER

Thursday, December 16, 2010

SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder affects thousands of people--70-80% are women.

Well, I'm not a woman but I have often thought I must be a victim of this disorder.

The symptoms of this disorder are a sense of sadness, loss and lethargy. 

It is brought on by the lack of light or sunshine like on a dark, murky, winter day.

Thank goodness we don't have many days like that in Arizona or at least the part of Arizona where I live.

Just now I'm sitting where I can look out over the top of an orange tree loaded with fruit and on past my neighbor's wet, red tiled roof. The sky is dark and gray.

But guess what? I don't feel sad at all. I am thoroughly enjoying this!

It may be because we have so few days like this that I am just glad to see the rain and think about the cool, refreshing air outside. Maybe.

Earlier I stood with one arm around Charlotte, looking out our kitchen window, watching the rain fall gently into our pool. I said, "Aren't we blessed to have a nice home. To be inside out of the rain and not out on the street someplace."

Maybe I'm growing up, coming to my senses and maybe, just maybe I am grateful for all the blessings God has bestowed upon us. I hope that's it.

We'll find out as we go on and move into winter. Am I truly mature and grateful or will I be fickle and SAD?

WHERE HAS ALL THE JOY GONE? ---SCHOOL BOARD SHOOTING

If you as a parent have ever attended a school board meeting, I'm sure you have thought of shooting somebody.

But of course you didn't because you are not crazy.

We have been seeing it over and over again on television. A crazy man goes into a school board meeting and starts shooting. We know he was crazy because he forgot to take shooting lessons and practice before going in. He missed everybody!

The big news is that everybody is shocked that this happened. I'm not. I understand it and expect it.

What I don't understand is why somebody—anybody, hasn't gone in and opened fire on congress. Not with a hand gun but a machine gun.

You say, "Nobody's that crazy."

I think nobody's that smart!

(Now that I have written this for everybody to read, guess who will be one of the first people dragged in for investigation when and if this ever happens.)

BECAUSE OF JESUS WE SEE PEOPLE DIFFERENTLY

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Because we belong to Jesus, we can no long judge others independent of Jesus. We must see them through the eyes of Jesus. "No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards," says the apostle Paul. "Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come."

We cannot even look at ourselves in a detached way, as if we can judge ourselves to be good or bad independent of Jesus. Jesus says we only fool ourselves when we become certain of our own goodness. It's a devilish thinking that leads us to look down on everybody else.

Jesus' Objective---To teach us that seeing what God sees
in others is more important and helpful than judging
them according to appearance or performance.

(The above thoughts are from Jon Walker's excellent book, Costly Grace--A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship.)

VICTIMS?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It seems to me that the whole world is trying to find someone else to blame--anybody but ourselves.

Don't look at me. It's McDonald's fault or God's fault. But it's not my fault.

McDonald's fault that you're fat? "The truth is that in the vast majority of cases we just eat like pigs."

After Susan Smith pushed her car into the water with her children in it, she ran after it screaming, "Oh God! Oh God no!--Why did you let this happen?"

God is to blame?

"God let's us choose, and we do, and when our choices bring pain we blame him."

G.K. Chesterton was asked "What's wrong with the world?" He replied---"I am."

Amen!

Too fat? Don't blame McDonalds.

Your poor choices bringing pain to your life? Don't blame God.

Who's to blame?  "It's me, it's me, O Lord..."


(The idea for this post and some of the thoughts are from James Emery White's excellent post on his blog, Church and Culture Blog, Vol. 6, No. 45)

TIME CHANGES MANY THINGS---EVEN CHRISTMAS TREES

Monday, December 13, 2010

My views on food, religion, politics and many other things have changed over the years. But when I was younger I  thought my views on Christmas trees, like my feelings about girls, would never change. Hey, a Christmas tree is some variety of a pine tree and it is suppose to be a real tree. Right?

When we lived in northern California it was a tradition for Charlotte, Carol, Allen and I to visit almost every tree lot in town, and there were many. Carol and Allen would scurry around all the way to the back of the lot and come back with excitement. They had found the perfect tree. Not in Charlotte's eyes. She always wanted a much smaller bettered shaped tree. The children and I usually convinced her and we drug the big tree home.

It was almost always misting just a little. Not raining hard. Just a little damp. Some how this made the outing just a bit more exciting and gave the feel of Christmas. I loved this time of the year and buying that live tree was a tradition that I didn't intend to let die. One year we ventured out and cut down our own tree. Long live the tradition of Christmas tree searching, selecting and buying---a live tree.

Moving from northern California to Arizona changed many things. Oh, we still have a Christmas tree and it is beautiful because Charlotte decorates it. But it's not a live tree. It's a big tree but not a live tree. My son helped me set it up Thanksgiving Day. We didn't spend any time selecting it. It was packed in a box in the garage. It had been there all year just waiting for us. It wasn't snowing or raining outside. It wasn't even misting rain.

It will be 80 degrees here today. But I will not have to put water in a container under the tree to keep it green. It is not a live tree. Allen was over for dinner a few nights ago and he smiled and mentioned how many presents were under the tree. Carol would have been with him but she was enjoying herself with friends at Disneyland. We smiled as we told Allen about the standing room only crowd that attended the Christmas program at church. We are a happy family here at Christmas time. I hope that never changes. But our tree has changed.

I now like girls (females) boiled okra, coffee and feel differently about many, many other things that I didn't like at all when I was a kid. Our Christmas tree is not a live tree---but I like it. I like it a lot!


I WONDER WHAT I WILL GET FOR CHRISTMAS

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I wonder what I will get.

I wonder how many of those presents under the tree are for me.

Could the one that's so big it's leaning against the wall be for me?

We live in one of the most affluent cultures in the world. Yet, we are one of the most dissatisfied cultures on record.

As long as we think more is better, we'll never be satisfied.

It's not necessarily bad to want things. But it seems that whatever we get--it's never enough.

We need to develop a new appreciation for the blessings we already enjoy.

There are only a few days left before Christmas. We can spend that time wanting more and chasing after happiness or we can make up our minds to want less and give more.

"You'll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, 'You're far happier giving than getting.' "  Acts 20:35 The Message

COFFEE

Friday, December 10, 2010

Some people know all about coffee.

I know almost nothing about coffee.

If I remember correctly, I started the drinking habit when I was a young, ignorant college student. Somebody probably told me it would help me stay awake for those late night cramming sessions before a Greek exam. Or maybe it was after the Greek exam and I was trying to dull the pain.

As young marrieds, Charlotte and I didn't drink much coffee. We were probably too lazy or too out of it in the morning to fool with it. But as the years passed we began to drink more and more and now I wouldn't say we are addicted but we do want our coffee in the morning. But that's about it---coffee in the morning.

We drink flavored coffee with exotic names. I like the names more than the coffee. I think I prefer just regular coffee with nothing added. Just dark and fairly strong. Charlotte knows this but she continues to buy the flavored kind. Oh sure, she cares about what I like--just not that much.

As I stated in the beginning of this post, I don't know much about coffee. I would like to know more about it and if I ever find time (small chance of that) I think I will investigate and study the subject.

How about you? Are you are big coffee drinker? Do you have a head full of knowledge about coffee?

Do you care about coffee at all?  Do you wish you hadn't even wasted time with this post?

Tell me about it. Whatever it is. You will feel better.

WHITE BREAD AND BOLOGNA

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Man, I ate a lot of bologna and bread when I was a kid.

Seems like when we didn't have much else we had bologna.

I don't remember grabbing snacks like cookies or potato chips, etc. but I sure remember grabbing one slice of bread and one slice of bologna and continuing "on down the road" with what I was doing.

Of course we had many sandwich meals too. A selection of "cold cuts" would be spread out on the table for lunch and we would calm down, sit down and "build" a sandwich. That's when we did most of our communicating with each other.

I loved bologna. When I worked in a grocery store I helped out behind the meat counter. I liked it when a customer ordered sliced bologna and I would get the big, round tube of bologna out of the case and put it on the slicing machine. I especially liked it when they wanted it sliced thin. I was a strange kid.

My wife doesn't like bologna at all---especially the kind she thinks I try to feed her on occasion. I am also a  strange man. 

I still like bologna but only eat it occasionally. I know this is a betrayal to all things southern---but I don't like white bread anymore. If fact, I haven't eaten any white bread in years. Oh, and I don't like sweet tea either! I know what you're thinking. I have already said I was a strange kid and I am a strange man.

We are getting ready to go to the gym in a few minutes. When we return it will be lunch time.

I will be having one slice of bread and plain tuna. No bologna!

OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Well not really. We are not off to see any Wizard and certainly not the Wizard of Oz.

We are on our way out to the Anthem outlets.

Why are we going there? Because we can. I wish I had a better reason--but I don't.

It's a beautiful day. The sun is shining and the temperature is just right. It will be a great day for walking. The outlets just go on and on and on.

We have all of our Christmas shopping done. We are just going for a walk---a long walk.

Am I worried about wasting time? Not really. There was a time when I felt every minute, every moment of every day had to be filled with great value--eternal value. Now---today, I just feel like hangin' loose. As an old deacon I used to know would often say, "I'm just feelarkin' around." Sounds bad. Doesn't it? It may be. I don't know. But today that's what I'm going to do: JUST FEELARK AROUND!

NOT TOO BUSY TO READ

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Even in retirement I am finding my schedule getting a little crowded this time of the year.

My Tai Chi class is on a holiday break. But we still go to the Health Club three days a week.

We are doing most of our Christmas shopping sitting at the computer---but it takes time.

But I am never so busy that I have no time for reading.

I am reading three books right now that I am excited about:

HOW TO BE PERFECT by Daniel M. Harrell
This is about one church's audacious experiment in living the Old Testament Book of Leviticus. This is really an interesting book and has made Leviticus have meaning for me which it never did before.


LOVE FOOD & LIVE WELL by Chantel Hobbs
Chantel's book will help you lose weight, get fit and taste life at its very best.


CHAZOWN by Craig Groeschel - This book arrived late yesterday afternoon and I can hardly put it down. Chazown (pronounced Khaw-ZONE) from the Hebrew, meaning a dream, revelation or vision. You were born with your own Chazown. Do you know what it is?

Busy? Yes. But not too busy to read.

PAUSE FOR POWER

Monday, December 06, 2010

During my years of ministry and studying for sermons and teaching Bible classes I never did a daily devotion as such. I was constantly in the Word and didn't feel the need for a devotional guide.

In retirement I have continued to study the Scriptures but last year I developed the habit of reading devotional books. In fact, last year I used three. But now those have been placed further back on the book shelf and I will only refer to them on occasion.

In the new year I will begin a 365 day journey through the Scriptures reading Pause for Power by Warren W. Wiersbe.

I  have scanned the pages of this devotional guide and it is good--very good.

We all long to read more of God's Word. Yet our world never seems to give us time for a quiet moment with Scripture. We need to "make" time for these important moments.

I would like to encourage you to spend a few minutes each day exploring biblical truth. Pause for power and experience an unforgettable year of spiritual growth and discovery.

JESUS LOVES ME

Saturday, December 04, 2010

"Jesus loves me this I know."

I am loved by God and His Son Jesus---one and the same.

John Ortberg in his book, Love Beyond Reason tells the story of a father with an out-of-control two-year-old walking through a grocery store, repeating in a calm voice, "It's okay, Danny. You can do this, Danny. We're almost done, Danny."

Somebody asked him, "Is your Danny having a bad day?"

"My son's name is Nathan," the man said. "My name is Danny."

Richard Foster writes about a father with a cranky son who adopts another strategy. he scooped up his little two-year-old grumbler, held him tight to his chest, and began to sing an impromptu love song. None of the words rhymed. He sang it off-key, but as best he could, he shared his heart: "I love you. I'm so glad you're my boy. You make me laugh."

From store to store the father kept going, words not rhyming, notes off-key. His son relaxed, captivated by this strange and wonderful song.

Finally, when they had finished, the dad went to the car, buckled his son in the car seat, and his son raised his arms and lifted up his head. "Sing it to me again, Daddy. Sing it to me again."

We never tire of hearing that the Father loves us. It brings joy and peace.

Sing it to me again!

BOOK REVIEW

Friday, December 03, 2010

THE WALK
By Shaun Alexander

OVERVIEW: This is a book that gives clear direction and spiritual power for your life. Shaun Alexander writes about our tendency to run ahead of God or lag behind. He helps us learn how to walk with God through the stages of spiritual maturity that will transform our lives with biblical wisdom, God's direction, and the power of the Holy Spirit. He shows us that with God on our side, we will have an unprecedented impact on others.

AUTHOR: Shaun Alexander was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks after a standout football career at the University of Alabama. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, in 2005 he set an NFL record by scoring twenty-eight touchdowns. In the same season, he set a team record by gaining 1,880 rushing yards and leading his team to the Super bowl. Today, Shaun travels the country speaking to business and military audiences, at sports camps, and at churches and Christian conferences--appearing in front of thousands of people He is a gifted communicator and Bible teacher who points listeners toward exceptional achievement by aligning their lives with God's perfect will.

MY REVIEW: This is a good book. This is a powerful book. This would be a great book to give to seekers and to new converts. There are six parts: The Unbeliever, The Believer, The Example, The Teacher, The Imparter and Walking the Walk. I like this book because it is easy to understand. But we have to do more than understand God's directions for our lives--we have to follow them. Shaun is not perfect of course, but as you read his book you get the feeling he is a good example. He practices what he "preaches." There is a discussion guide in the back of the book which makes this a good book for class or small group discussions. So if you are looking for a book that will help you with your own walk or if you want to help someone else, I recommend The Walk.

ADDITIONAL REVIEW NOTE: I feel the need to write a few words of explanation about one part of Shaun's book that I am still thinking about and studying. Hopefully this will not take away from my recommendation. I just feel the need to explain that I do not feel "comfortable" with a couple of stories that Shaun tells about miracles. I must say quickly that I do believe in miracles. I believe God can do anything He wants to. I have never experienced instant physical healing or someone raised from the dead. Shaun says he has. I'm not saying he hasn't. I'm writing this so you will not think that I am teaching this. I want you to study and decide for yourself.

STAY OFF MY TAILPIPE

Thursday, December 02, 2010

We are blessed with many big, wide streets in Phoenix and the surrounding area.

It should be and can be a joy driving down these beautiful thoroughfares.

But alas, many times the joy is taken away by those who are determined to push and shove their way through life. In this case, to ram their bumper up your tailpipe.

Not content to ride on your tailpipe as soon as they see a few inches of  space between you and the next car---you got it, they shoot through like being shot out of a cannon.

They slide through, move quickly up to press their bumper against another tailpipe and then "shoot" into the next lane. They are gone and out of sight for a few minutes until you quietly and slowly move up beside them at the next stop light.

Yes, I wish I could stop these bullies of the byways. But they are not my main concern. My main concern is ME!

Yes me. I need to get me under control. There is nothing I can do about how others drive. But I can do something about the way I think about it. I can calm down. Smile and say a little prayer for them when I pull up beside them at the next stop light.

BUT WILL I? THAT'S THE QUESTION AND IT'S A GOOD ONE. WILL I?


GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

She didn't mean to do it. I know she didn't. My darling wife would never do anything that cruel.

I had poured all my emotions into it. I had chosen my words well. I had closure.

Yesterday was the morning after and although I have never been drunk I had a hang over and was trying to sober up.

The Arizona Cardinals had gone down to defeat being beaten in every way possible. They would have looked like a bunch of clowns running around on the field accept they were dressed in black and clowns don't usually wear black.

By late afternoon I had started to climb out of my disgust and depression and I wrote this brilliant piece about how we learn great lessons from our failures. 

I had asked Charlotte to read it and then post it for me. She read it. Declared it "good" and then
it happened.

P O O F!

IT WAS GONE!

She was trying to take away some extra space at the bottom of the page, hit the delete button and POOF, IT WAS GONE, ALL OF IT!

No, I didn't cry. I didn't get mad (Which for me is a miracle). I took Charlotte out to dinner.

I learned a lesson from failure: Don't be too hard on the Cardinals. They did have 13 yards of rushing to show for their "efforts." I didn't have anything but a blank page.


HOME SAFE AND SOUND

Monday, November 29, 2010


I hope this Monday morning finds all my friends home safe and sound. Although I'm not sure what home "sound" means for sure. Were you "sound" when you left home but now you may not be---or what? I don't know. Let's just forget that part. I surely do hope you made it back home safely.

When I say "back home" I am referring to those of you who left home for some other place, like over the hills and through the woods to Grandma's house and especially the shopping malls on Black Friday.

Charlotte and I are up and about now after breakfast and sitting around the fire for a while. It's about 42° out right now and is not going to be over 56° today. That's cold for us. So we are looking around to see if we even have any cold weather clothing.

After we bundle up we are heading out to Costco, Trader Joe's, Sprouts and Fry's Super Store. So we are hoping and maybe even praying that many of you are back home safe and sound and staying there.

MEALTIME IS MEMORY MAKING TIME

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's now two days later and most Americans are still thinking about the "big meal."

Memories are made at meals like that. Most of us can look back over years of memories made around the Thanksgiving Day table.

Meal time is memory making time and it isn't just big "special day" meals. It's every meal shared with one or more friends and loved ones. Traditions usually center around Thanksgiving, Christmas and other special days. But memories are also made from other meals because they all are special.

As  struggling college students paying our own way, as often as possible a few of us would "pool our nickels and dimes," drive to a favorite Mexican restaurant and "feast" on refried beans and flour tortillas. Memories.

Every Sunday around the Lord's Table with brothers and sisters in Christ is special. Eating the Lord's Supper with hundreds of Christians just outside the garden tomb in Jerusalem made for lasting memories.

The Scriptures are filled with references to meals that produced memories.

Make the most of meals.

Events of the past provide resources for reflection and current decision making.

The turkey and dressing with friends and loved ones was great and is not to be forgotten. But when you eat that burger and fries with a dear friend you are also making memories that will last a life time. Treasure them.

Meals and memories are important. At least God thinks so!

THE MORNING AFTER

Friday, November 26, 2010

Our neighbor across the street and a relative just came home from shopping with many, many bags. Going out in the wee hours of the morning after Thanksgiving to stand in long lines for a few bargains is not my "cup of tea." But some love it and I say, "More power to them."

I chose to sleep in a little longer than usual and got up to a breakfast of ham and eggs and sat around reading the newspaper and watching the news on television. The early shoppers would ask, "Where is your spirit of adventure old man?"

A friend of mine will be out with her chickens as soon as it warms up a little more. We had a cold night here in the desert. About the only thing I want to do with chickens is to eat their eggs if they lay eggs--or the chickens themselves if they are the right kind.

People come in all shapes and sizes with different mindsets and interests. I'm glad. What a boring world this would be if everyone was like you---I mean me!

The day before Thanksgiving I posted a prayer of thanksgiving for others. Here it is the morning after Thanksgiving and I am still thankful for people.

Hey, that's all we got. Just people. You, me and all those others.

A THANKSGIVING FOR PEOPLE

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The following is a prayer by William Barclay
 
PRAYER


For those who are an example to us, and those who in their lives show us what life ought to be;

For those who are an inspiration to us, and who fill us with the desire to make of life a noble thing;

For those who are a comfort to us when life has hurt us;

For those who are a strength to us, and in whose company we feel fit to tackle any task;

For those who, although we do not know them personally, have by their words or by their writings 
   influenced us for good;

For those whose love and care and service and understanding we so often take for granted;

For those who give us loyal friendship and for those who give us true love:
             We this night thank you, O God.

And most of all we thank you for Jesus to be the pattern of our lives, the Companion of our way, and the Saviour of our souls.

MUSIC AND MUSCLES

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My little IPod is perfect for exercising at the health club.

It is loaded with music.

Looking around today while exercising I thought to myself, "I bet nobody here has the selection of music that I have.


While grunting and groaning I'm listening to Elvis,Celine Dion, Placido Domingo,Andre Rieu, Neil Diamond, Josh Groban, Lynda Rydell, Susan Boyle, Christmas music and much more. When the music gets going I get going!

The one thing that has me puzzled is this: There are women all over that gym. And yet in all these weeks of pumping iron, not one young woman---or old woman either for that matter has tried to hit on me.

WATCH WHAT YOU SAY

Monday, November 22, 2010

Words, words, words. 

They come flying at us from all directions.


We're suffering from verbal bloatedness.

Words matter.


There is power in words.

Most often, words that build up are expressions of encouragement.


Words can bless or profane.

Those who show respect for others are sensitive about these things.


It is so easy to be careless with language. We need to watch what we say. Let's resolve to encourage, not discourage.

I'm so thankful for all the encouraging, uplifting words I have heard over the years. They didn't just make my day---they made my life!

DEPENDENCE ON OTHERS

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Say Thank You!

This time of the year, close to Thanksgiving Day we tend to be more grateful. That's good.

We need to be thankful every day. And one thing we need to acknowledge is our dependence on others. As I look back over my life there are so many that I have depended on and am grateful for. How about you?


From the moment we come into this world until they unplug us from the machines and monitors in the intensive care unit, we depend on others.

How many things have you accomplished completely on your own? 


One of our problems, it seems to me, is our sense of entitlement. We feel we deserve the blessings of life. And when things don't work out we feel cheated.

When we understand that all of life is a gift it changes our perspective.


Pause for just a moment and think of all the ways you are dependent on others. 

So often I begin my prayers with confession and asking for forgiveness. What I need to do is to begin with a prayer of thanksgiving. When I do express gratitude things just keep coming to mind. It's hard to stop, but good.


Regardless of how bad things are there is always something and somebody to give thanks for.

BOOK REVIEW

Friday, November 19, 2010

UNDER THE OVERPASS
A Journey Of Faith On The Streets Of America
By Mike Yankoski


OVERVIEW: Ever wonder what it would be like to live homeless? Mike Yankoski did more than just wonder. By his own choice, Mike's life went from upper-middle class plush to scum-of-the-earth repulsive overnight. With only a backpack, a sleeping bag, and a guitar. Mike and his traveling companion, Sam, set out to experience life on the streets of six different cities: Denver; Washington D.C.; Portland; San Francisco; Phoenix; and San Diego. For more than five months the pair experienced firsthand the extreme pains of hunger, the constant danger of living on the streets, exhaustion, depression, and social rejection--all by their own choice. They wanted to find out if their faith was real, if they could actually be the Christians they said they were apart from the comforts they'd always known...to discover what it feels like to be homeless in America. Mike and Sam's story is gritty, challenging, and utterly captivating. What you encounter in these pages will radically alter how you see your world--and may even change your life. (Note: This updated and expanded edition contains added stories, an interview with the author, and a "five-years-after" bonus chapter.)


AUTHOR: Mike Yankoski and his wife, Danae, are graduate students at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. Mike serves on the board of directors for World Vision U.S., and is a frequent speaker on a Christ-centered response to our world's great needs.


MY REVIEW: In his forward to this book, Francis Chan wrote: "I am a very skeptical person, and I struggle with cynicism. Like most people, I have heard so many lies that now I have a hard time trusting. I even struggle when reading a good book, because in the back of my mind I'm wondering if the person who wrote it is for real." As I approached Under The Overpass I felt the same way. But after reading the book and seeing all the sacrifices Mike and Sam made. I now believe they are for real.

During a ministry of forty-seven years I struggled with how to respond to people like the ones you will read about in this book. It's taken me a life time of living and adjusting to come to any kind of meaningful relationship with them. I continue to struggle with my mindset and how I regard them. But after reading this book I think I have a better understanding of how to live out in my life what Jesus taught on this subject.

Shane Claiborne said, "The Scriptures are filled with images of a God who is casting down the mighty and lifting up the lowly, of the last becoming first and first last. ...Here is a story of the downward mobility of the Kingdom. It is a story that dares you to move closer to the margins, to the suffering, to the pain...and to meet Jesus there--in His many disguises."

I recommend this book and close with the words of Ryan Dobson: "Under the Overpass is a captivating, terrifying, encouraging, motivating, saddening, amazing account of a young man who died to self with the assurance that God knows best. Rarely does a book move me this much. Mike Yankoski doesn't have a little liquid fire in his heart; he is consumed by it. Let his book ignite your heart and soul."

You may purchase this book at http://www.randomhouse.com/

BOOK REVIEW

Thursday, November 18, 2010

COSTLY GRACE 
By Jon Walker
A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship


OVERVIEW:  In 1937, on the threshold of Nazi Germany's war on the world, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote what turned out to be one of the most influential books of the century, The Cost of Discipleship. In it, he challenges the flabby faith and compromises of German Christians, famously writing, "When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die." Now seventy-three years after the book was published, Jon Walker brings to a new generation and a different social environment the timeless teachings of Jesus that stirred Bonhoeffer to address the "cheap grace" of his time. Grace is a foundational doctrine for Christians, yet one of the most misunderstood. In a fresh engagement with this Christian classic, Walker explains what Bonhoeffer meant when he taught that grace is free but will cost us everything. Focused around a study of the Sermon on the Mount, Costly Grace is an excellent resource for small groups and congregation-wide study.

AUTHOR:  Jon Walker has worked closely with Rick Warren for many years, first as a writer, editor at Pastors.com, later as vice-president of communications at Purpose Driven Ministries, and then as a pastor at Saddleback Church. He's also served as editor-in-chief of LifeWay's HomeLife magazine and founding editor of Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox. His articles have appeared in publications and Web sites around the world. 


MY REVIEW:  I agree with Rick Warren who said: "I believe Costly Grace may be one of the most important books published during this time of economic uncertainty and world turmoil. It strips discipleship down to its essentials, where we discover again that, when we face uncertainty our only certainty is in Jesus." If you are looking for a book that you can feel comfortable reading--this is not it! When the mailman dropped this book into my mailbox I was deep into reading Eric Metaxas's  excellent book, Bonhoeffer Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I am still reading it. It is a big book! I paused in my reading of it long enough to read Costly Grace and I am glad I did. Ron Walker gave me new insights into the heart and mind of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Twenty-five out of the twenty-eight chapters are titled: Becoming Like Jesus. We are encouraged to become like Jesus in obedience, suffering, righteousness, loyalty and many other ways. This is tough stuff. You will be made to think and challenged in every way possible. Mark Tabb said, "Costly Grace is an uncomfortable, but oh so necessary, read. Jon Walker not only brings Bonhoeffer's timeless message of costly grace into the twenty-first century, he awakens the soul's desire for intimacy with Christ that will change every single bit and piece of our lives." I recommend this book to every person serious about being a Christian.

THANKFUL

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Up in the morning, out on the job, work like the devil for my pay, but that lucky ol' sun's got nothin' to do, but roll around heaven all day..."

Ah yes, that lucky ol' sun. Well, I'm a lot like that lucky ol' sun right now. I've worked like the devil for many years. Now, I can just roll around beautiful Arizona all day, every day if that's what I want to do.

You see, the key to all this is being able to do whatever you want to do---and really wanting to do it!

Let me emphasize---really wanting to do it!

This morning, like yesterday morning I rolled out of bed a little after six. I made myself a delicious breakfast smoothie, Charlotte made a pot of coffee. I read the newspaper and then sat down in front of a warm fire to watch the news. In a few minutes, just like yesterday morning we will head out to our health club. They says it's our health club though I have yet to see any income statements or deposits to our bank account.

On the way to the health club I will remark to Charlotte about what a beautiful day it is. And then I will describe the scene as if she were blind and had never seen it before. The beautiful sky with it's billowy white clouds, the tall palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze, the purple mountains.

While I'm riding my two to three miles on the stationary bike I will be quietly thanking God for many, many, many things. Being grateful is not for just one day of the year you know.

Doing what you want to do--AND REALLY WANTING TO DO IT!  BE THANKFUL!

EVERY BUSH IS BURNING

Monday, November 15, 2010

PAY ATTENTION: EVERY BUSH IS BURNING is the title of chapter one in Leonard Sweet's excellent book, NUDGE.

And that is all I want to say today --- PAY ATTENTION: EVERY BUSH IS BURNING.

WHO CARES?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

When they scraped together his belongings, they found a ragged, dirty coat with thirty-eight cents in one pocket and a scrap of paper in the other. All his earthly goods. Enough coins for another night in the Bowery and five words, "Dear friends and gentle hearts." Almost like the words of a song, someone thought. But who cared?

Why in the world would a forgotten drunk carry around a line of lyrics? Maybe he still believed he had it in him. Maybe that derelict with the body of a bum still had the heart of a genius. For once upon a time, long before his tragic death at age thirty-eight, he had written the songs that literally made the whole world sing, like:  "Camptown Races," "Oh! Susanna!," "Beautiful Dreamer," "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair," "Old Folks at Home," "My Old Kentucky Home" and two hundred more that have become deeply rooted in our rich American heritage. Thanks to Stephen Foster, whom nobody knew. And for whom nobody cared.

Makes me think of a few lines out of and old poem preacher's once quoted:

And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
Much like the old violin.

A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine;
A game--and he travels on.
He's "going" once, and "going" twice,
He's "going" and almost "gone."

Almost, Almost gone. Until someone cares. And steps in. And stoops down. And, in love, rebuilds a life, restores a soul, rekindles a flame that sin snuffed out, and renews a song that once was there. As Fanny Crosby put it:

Touched by a loving heart,
Wakened by kindness
Chords that were broken,
Will vibrate once more.




(Taken and adapted from Charles R. Swindoll's splendid book, Come Before Winter...And Share My Hope)