Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

A Christmas Blessing

For some, Christmas is a time for more than usual busyness, marked by exhaustion and a sigh of relief when it has passed. Evidenced by crowded shops, crowded parking lots, traffic jams and unfortunate behavior it is easy to miss some of the more precious aspects. If I have learned anything at this stage of life, it’s truly the things that cannot be bought that have the most value. Time spent with family is what does it for me. We begin with the family tradition of attending Christmas Eve service together, two full rows spanning four generations, now that’s truly a rare sight to behold in the time that we live in. From 82 to 8 years of age, that’s legacy. Each year as we come together at our former church, I have been graciously invited to participate in the service. I feel honored by the outpouring of love received by us from our former church family. This year was a particular blessing as my daughter went forward to read scripture with me and as always our oldest son lead the church in Christmas worship. It’s the one time of the year when we can come together as an entire family and share the blessing of the true meaning of Christmas. The best part of this is that it is free. Jesus already paid for my Christmas. Unfortunately, there was still room to park, no one was busting through the door to get in or standing in line for hours for that special gift available inside. Christmas at the mall costs hundreds and thousands of dollars. Christmas at the church was pricelss.


A Father’s Day Reflection

Who was Dad? That’s the question many men will be reflecting
upon this week as we celebrate and approach the day we have set aside to honor
our fathers. For some the reflection will be reassuring as the figure is
remembered for his character, strength, wisdom and tenacity. For some the
reflection will be painful as the brokenness and failures of the past are
remembered along side the regret of what might have been. Yet for others the
day will be empty as there are no good or bad memories, only a vacuum that was
left where no man stood.

One of God’s greatest creations was to create a man of character; a man who keeps his
promises and stays the course no matter what. He realizes the power of keeping
his word and knows the meaning of a covenant. His word is his bond and he isn’t
easily thrown by the circumstances that surround him. Such a man has vision and
forward thinking. He provides for his family and marries till death decides
differently and his children can depend on him always. The legacy left behind
him is a kind reflection to be emulated by those who knew him. He loves his
neighbor as himself, serves others selflessly, pays what is expected of him and
goes beyond, rights his wrongs and forgives those who err against him. He does
all of this not because he is super-human but rather because he is aware of his
humanness. Faith in God moves him and empowers him to persevere.

“Today, fully one-third of American children live apart from their natural fathers.
Over fifteen million kids are growing up in homes without any father. Seventy
percent of men in prison grew up without a father.”* This statistic written in 2002
may be more dramatic today. Some of those children are now adults, many having
been damaged for life. Their reflections this week will be painful and empty.
The power of a promise kept is like the eye of calm in the middle of the storm.
When all else is in chaos it offers certainty and hope for those it’s intended.
Its reflection ripples on the waters of life for all eternity.

Character is the essence of real manhood. It is not inborn but developed. It is passed on
from generation to generation. Its absence is unsightly and destructive.
Destroy the character of the nation’s men and you will destroy the nation. We
need only to watch the daily news to see the blight of this disease manifested
in the leadership of our country. Shameful men who lack honesty, integrity and
character yet cling to their self-centered desire for power and glory. Please
tell me that the American man of character is not an endangered species.  Our God is a God of character, a promise
keeper. Jesus set his path steadfast on the cross and did not waiver. He
modeled character for us and has come to give us the power to live the same
way. Our hope for the future of our nation rests squarely upon the men of
character who will be willing to stand in the gap and fill the voids created by
those who are clueless about such things. Praise God this Fathers Day for Godly
men of character.

*Stu Weber, “The Heart of a Tender Warrior”; Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2002. p.29

Do You Know How to Give “Good Gifts” to Your Children?

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13)

          Certainly none of us ever want to give gifts to our children that are harmful. This scripture assures us that our heavenly Father only gives good gifts to us, by means of His Holy Spirit. His gifts are meant to help us as we journey through this life to live it more abundantly and to have a life that is marked by joy and peace in the midst of whatever mess we may be facing. His gifts have a purpose and direction behind them and empower us to be the person He created us to be.

          With that in mind shouldn’t we as parents think wisely about the gifts we give our children? While not excluding the material gifts I wish us to consider the more intangible things that we are likely to pass on, things that develop character. I am struck today by the enormous disregard for truth that is so prevalent in our society. The victim mentality has all but taken over many who live in and around us. The victim mentality says that the world owes me and even when I find myself in an unfortunate situation I can feel free to put a spin on it so that I am not ultimately responsible. Many of the leaders of our country as well as popular sports figures, movie stars, singers and actors fail to own their own mess. We have become a society that enables bad behavior by constantly calling it something other than what it is followed by worldly solutions such as a week in rehab or the latest pill (which by the way has more side effects than the original problem).  So one “good gift” among many that I can think of is a respect for the “truth” and the character to own your own mess.

          If you want to view a blatant example of deception in place of the truth, go to the following link for an explanation of the GM payback. (I forgot to include some of our corporate leaders in the above list.) This is “smoke and mirrors” at its zenith. There’s a popular mindset floating around our culture today that truth is whatever one perceives it to be. The corporate leaders as well as their political counterparts would like us to believe that GM paid back the multi-billion dollar bailout when in fact they received additional taxpayer dollars, TARP money, to use for the payback. Take it from one pocket and put in another. Is this really a payback? See if that will work for your mortgage or your car payment. Is this integrity and what does it say about their opinion of the American public?

          Our culture is in dire need of leadership with moral fiber. Our children are the next generation to lead and we must pass on some standard of character and honesty for them to operate by. We must guard against allowing the culture of our times to mold our thinking and our behavior.  Good gifts include a legacy of values, respect, standards and priorities. Look around and ask, are we better off with than were a decade or two ago or have these precious commodities eroded? The proof is all around of us.

Do You Have A Sense of Community?

ShareIt occurred to me while considering the New Year how impersonal our world can be or may have become. I had the occasion to call Verizon the other day to try and implement a program on my computer. First I received the automated message regarding the potential use of their website as opposed to annoying them with my phone call (the last part is my inference). Next I was routed to the menu selection where I was presented a number of options for proceeding to the next level. With great trepidation I selected what sounded like the closest option to my concern fearing that I may be lost forever in another loop of options that would deliver me no closer to the sought after solution. Eventually I had to re-dial and start all over again utilizing the wisdom gleaned from round one.  After completing all the hurdles the program finally gave up and placed me on terminal hold waiting for a human to answer. However helpful the person was trying to be it was difficult to understand what he was telling me as I was unsure what continent I had reached. We all have had this experience and unfortunately it has become more the norm than the exception. The world is becoming more impersonal.

I sincerely believe that God created all of us to be there for one another and to relate to each other personally. Most of us can count our close friends on one hand and some need no fingers at all. As a person who has transitioned from a hectic business life to my next career of building community in the church, I have gained not only a major understanding of the value of relationships but also I have learned to respect the investment of time that is required to truly connect. Good friends and acquaintances rarely develop quickly but rather require time for interaction. You have to make an investment of your time to get to really know someone. Often we are quick to mentally dispose of people based upon  a surface analysis without holding out hope for the unknown possibilities. Many people will surprise you given half the chance.

In a society that runs on a microwave mentality we need to make a serious effort to make room for others and to allow them to honestly know who we are. We all have opinions and would love to convince the world around us of them but before we can persuade anyone of anything we must first let them know that we care for them personally. Of course we must begin by sincerely caring. I find no easier place for getting to know others than the church. Unfortunately that microwave thing has convinced us that church is an hour on Sunday and we need not relate with each other in between weekly services. If you dial back the clock you will find a time in our history when we needed each other and were interdependent. It would have been unheard of for someone not to know your neighbor. People had a sense of community. Big business and the electronic age have robbed us of our sense of community. Perhaps a great New Year’s resolution would be to begin attending church and become a part of the community and while we’re at it let’s get to know our neighbors. Who knows, the time may come when once again we need each other.

Grace or Greed?

imagesYou may recently have received a change of terms notification from one or more of your credit card vendors. This comes as the result of recent changes in the law and “unprecedented market conditions” as one such notification put it. If you are like me you probably discard this type of information when received as it usually is written in a very complex and legalistic manner. However, if you are notified of a change in your card’s agreement I strongly suggest you take the time to try and understand the new terms. While this writing is not my usual fare, I felt duty bound to create some awareness of the potential pitfalls that may be awaiting credit card holders. If you are searching for the Biblical connection in this message you may certainly find under the heading of stewardship.

          First let me spout off regarding the “unprecedented market conditions”. I believe what is being referred to here is, (Rodger’s opinion) after decades of encouraging consumers to indulge in credit card spending up to eight times their ability to repay the debt (the principle) the recent downturn in the economy has caused an unprecedented amount of bankruptcy’s. The credit card lenders aren’t receiving their normal 18 to 24 percent interest from these people nor the repayment of the borrowed amount. While I don’t condone the overspending and ravenous consumer appetite of many of the people who now simply can’t pay, I find it hard to muster sympathy for the corporate greed mongers who have perpetuated this financial atrocity. The reason they allowed people to get in beyond their ability to repay in the first place is their usurious desire to collect loan shark type fees from consumers (again my opinion).

          Fear not but applaud the government and the banking industry for figuring out a way to make their world right once again. The new rates going into effect, for example in the case of Sears, is 25.24% plus prime rate. By today’s standard that would be approximately 28.49% APR. What a marvelous deal. (Let me throw out one more opinion.) Those who carry a balance on their credit card and have not gone down with the ship will have the privilege of paying more interest to make up for those who could no longer afford to stay in the game. Hold on, that’s not all. In most cases this is not the sole change in the terms. The additional new twist in some cases comes by charging interest as of the date of the purchase. (Previously, interest only began to accrue after the start of the new billing period.) If I read the new terms correctly some will not charge this immediate interest if you have paid the entire new balance by the previous due date. They refer to this as the “grace” period. If you carry forward a balance you will receive no grace.

          Words escape me for describing the employment of such lop-sided business practices mixed in with the word grace. There are much better methods for manging one’s finances at far less cost. Grace would best be defined as forgiveness extended by consumers toward those who devise such insidious methods of making money from the everyday consumer. After all we are called to forgive those who “trespass against us”.

          On the encouraging side the news reported a definite sign that the economy is recovering. The sale of men’s underwear is up! While it isn’t financial rocket science we need all the good news we can get. If you have been riding out the tough times wearing your well worn boxers and things are looking more positive, then by all means help build the good news and buy some undies. Just don’t charge them!