Friday, December 30, 2011

Namaste: Acknowledge the Beauty Around You in 2012

~Please watch this video, it will brighten your day~

I would like to thank Michael Schwalm for sharing this beautiful video with me. We are about to journey into a new year, a year that will bring beauty to those who seek it. To those who choose to squander all or some of those 365 days, they will miss beauty. I know there is a great deal to be concerned or frightened about. The economy is still broken, as I write, the Iranian Navy and the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet are sparing in the Strait of Hormuz. According to the Mayan Calender, 2012 will be the last year we will be around. I don't believe that to be true, but imagine if it was. How would you live your last year, month or day?  Would your end times be filled with fear or beauty, wonder and gratitude?

We all seem to try and make resolutions for the new year. I have a suggestion--look for beauty. Look for beauty in the faces you see, the clouds above us, the touch of a loved one. Beyond that look for love. At the beginning of one of my favorite movies, Love Actually, (Yes, I know it is a chick flick), it starts at the arrival gate at Heathrow Airport in London. In many ways Hugh Grant says what I am attempting to communicate:

2012 gives each of us a choice on how to move forward. I would suggest that we live 2012 as if it is going to be our last year. Relationships need to be mended, children need more hugs - as do we all and maybe make yourself a "2012 Bucket List". Who do you wish you could apologize to? Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to love? All of us have an intrinsic need to love and be loved. If this was your last time around the Sun, what would be on your "2012 Bucket List"?

Lynn Anderson, who has done so much to shape my view of the world, posted his list on Facebook:
"Lord, 2012 is almost here. I have no idea what it will bring.
But it is in your gracious hands, so I am willing...
- To receive what you give
- To lack what you withhold
- To relinquish what you take
- To suffer what you inflict
- To be what you require"

I believe what God requires is that we start to see the world and the people we come in contact as He does. We need to strive to find beauty and love. Embrace it with unencumbered gratitude. Then share that beauty and love. Paul put it this way:
"Finally, brothers, 
whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable 
--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy
--think about such things"
Philippians 4:8 - (NIV)

So, as we face 2012 together, let us face it looking for beauty and love.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Peace on Earth

~You Might Want to Listen to this Song as You Read~

As Luke records the appearance of a great company of the heavenly hosts along with the angel announcing the birth of Jesus, he writes:

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men 
on whom his favor rests"
Luke 2:14 - (NIV)

Above all else the message of Christmas is simply peace. Peace with God and with one another. As with most things in the Bible, this has been distorted into a carnival. Scholars have no idea of the exact date of Jesus' birth. In fact, there was no "Christmas" until the Fourth Century. It, like many other holidays was assimilated into the "Christian" calendar. Most likely, it was a substitute for the Winter Solstice celebrations that were celebrated by many pagans in Northern Europe. The early church was very adept in this assimilation process, as it made conversion a less dramatic change to the people's culture.

Now with that being said, what about Christmas? As I mentioned earlier, Christmas has become a carnival. Americans are projected to spend $450 billion dollars on Christmas. It is all about colored lights, Santa Claus, presents, parties and above all STRESS. People all over the world are attempting to have the "perfect" Christmas. We have all seen the movies, television programs and Norman Rockwell paintings depicting this "perfect" Christmas. HERE IS A NEWS FLASH! There is no such thing as a perfect Christmas! By adding all of this stress to your already busy life, you are setting yourself up for a tough time.

If you are willing to listen I have some advice for Christmas:
  • This is a time to be with friends, family and loved ones.
  • Hugs should take priority over the perfect gift.
  • This is NOT the time to "Work Out" issues you may have with a relative. (Unless it is unconditional forgiveness)
  • Know this up front - there will be glitches, some things you cook will not turn out well and you may not get what you wanted for Christmas.
  • Alcohol is NOT your friend. It makes you think you are wise, a good dancer, a great singer, God's gift to the opposite sex -- It only makes you STUPID or MEAN.
  • Invited guests will be late or uncomfortably early.
  • Dressing up your pet pit-bull in a Santa suit may be cute, but it could turn out badly.
Let's go back to what I was saying at the beginning. The real meaning of Christmas is peace. It is not a carnival, it is peace. It is a time to thank God for giving His Son and if the world would just accept his teachings, (Maybe start with the Sermon on the Mount - Matthew 5-7) - there would be peace. 

So for this Christmas, I wish you a Merry Peace-Filled Christmas.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


There is a poem that often comes to mind - Bits and Pieces. When I look back on my life, I can see the bits and pieces that have combined to make me who I am.

"Bits and pieces, bits and pieces.
People important to you, 
People unimportant to you cross your life, 
touch it with love and move on.
There are people who leave you and you breathe a sigh of relief
and wonder why you ever came in contact with them.
There are people who leave you, and you breathe a sigh of remorse
and wonder why they had to go and leave such a gaping hole.
Children leave parents,
Friends leave friends.
Acquaintances move on.
People change homes.
People grow apart.
Enemies hate and move on.
Friends love and move on.
You think of the many people who have moved in and out of your hazy memory.
You look at those present and wonder.
I believe in God's master plan in lives.
He moves people in and out of each other's lives,
and each leaves a mark on the other.
You find that you are made up of bits and pieces of all who
have ever touched your life.
You are more because of them, and would be less 
if they had not touched you.
Pray that you accept the bits and pieces in humility and wonder,
and never question and never regret.
Bits and pieces,
Bits and pieces"
~ God is No Fool
Lou Cheney

Along with people who have made me who I am, there are also the gifts and wounds that have shaped me. In many ways our lives are all unique. We have all had various bits and pieces that have made us who we are today. This process will continue throughout our lives. I am now 59, I am nothing like I was at 19, 29, 39 or even 49, as so many more bits and pieces have been added to the mosaic of my life. I am the composite of all the bits and pieces that have touched my life. While at Abilene Christian University, in the early 1970's, I would sit every Wednesday night with nearly a thousand people listening to Landon Saunders. Landon seemed to have his finger firmly planted on the pulse of what people, in general, were feeling. He is still around today and I would recommend you explore his website, and get to know him. He and Mike Cope may be helpful to some of you.

So, where do we go from here? I would say we should embrace and reflect on our gifts, wounds, failures, successes and all the people who have touched our lives -- All of those combined made you who you are today. I could look back and wish I had been born into a wealthy family, outside of the inner-city, with ideal parents, a wonderful education and not made all of the screw-ups at which I excelled, BUT - I wouldn't be who I am today. I am thankful I grew up in Richmond, California. I am thankful I had to read more to catch up with those kids in the suburbs. I am even thankful for the failures in my life. If I had been raised in a wealthy family, etc... I wouldn't be able to empathize with people who are truly in pain. I have known pain and I have come out of it stronger than before. I have seen the bottom of what my life has shown me, (so far), and I know the exhilaration and joy of crawling out of that hole.

These are tough times and they call for tough people.

J.K. Rowling spoke at the Harvard Commencement in 2008. She spoke as a successful author of the Harry Potter series and the richest woman in Great Britain, (Even richer than the Queen). Yet, when she started writing about Harry, she was on welfare. Below are some excerpts followed by part of her address (Video at the bottom):

"You might never fail on the scale I did, but sometimes failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.

'Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.

'The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won and it has been worth more than any qualification I have ever earned."

So, I leave you with bits and pieces. The bits and pieces that have made up your life. Embrace who you are and look deep within to find the uniqueness that sets you apart. Take the things you have learned in your successes and failures and move forward. It time time for you to seize the day! 


Sunday, December 4, 2011


~Please Take a Break and Listen to this Video~

Joy is one of those words that we think we know the definition, but we often do not. It reminds me of when the Supreme Court was discussing the question of pornography. One Justice said, "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." For you more conservative readers out there - I am not writing on the joy of pornography; but rather that joy is difficult to define. Joy is far deeper than happiness. Joy persists through times of pain and hurt. Happiness is fleeting and is often replaced with sadness - joy is within us and is tied to our view of life. I picked a picture of joy carved in stone to reinforce the stability of joy.

For Christians, joy is tied to our view of Heaven and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ - the parousia:

"For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown of boasting before the Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy." 
1 Thessalonians 2:19- 20 - (ESV)

It was this joy that allowed early Christians to endure terrible suffering, torture and even martyrdom. Their view of life was that even though everything in and including their lives was being torn away, they were still loved and by faith would see God in the next life.

Additionally, while writing the Letter to the Philippians, Paul was in a Roman prison awaiting his trial and eventual execution. Yet he speaks of joy throughout this letter. His reason is found in:

" What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes by faith. 
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship in sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attain to the resurrection from the dead
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, 
but I press on to take hold of that 
for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."   
Philippians 3:8-12 - (NIV)

The idea of having a fellowship, (koinonia - commonality), with Jesus' suffering in addition to the hope of eternity with God; allowed early Christians to see past the present struggles to a bright future. Now before a skeptic decides I am advocating some sort of masochistic ascetic lifestyle - I am not. 

What I am saying is that whatever your view of life, it has to see hope on the horizon. Joy is an inner contentment that survives all of the garbage this world throws at us. We are currently on the verge of a serious monetary meltdown. People have lost jobs, homes and families. The Tea Party people and the 99% have one thing in common - they are angry. This too will pass. In the midst of pain, from unemployment, divorce, death of a loved one, foreclosure, bankruptcy or the general global unrest - you need joy to sustain you.

Joy allows you to get up each day and put one foot in front of the other because there is somewhere you are headed. In that, you are content. Hurt, pain and struggles will always be with us. However, so will sunsets, children laughing, love, faithful dogs, grandchildren,  and something in your life that makes it worth living. Even if you are at the bottom of the darkest hole in your life, pull yourself up to the edge and look to the horizon - I hope you see joy.

Peace & Joy

P.S. Shortly after the Berlin Wall was torn down a combined choir made up of those from East and West Germany sang Beethoven's, Ode to Joy. It was conducted by a Jewish conductor. Now admittedly, this is not that version, but I thought I might bring a smile to your face.