Monday, February 27, 2012


~Please Watch This Short Clip From Shawshank Redemption*~
*For those with sensitive ears, it does have one "bad" word in it

I have made it so you will be directed to You Tube so you can see it in full screen. Please come back and read below.

Hope. The Christian hope is not a wondering if something will happen, but the confident anticipation of what we know will surely come to pass. Some might find it ironic that I would use Stephen King to define hope. As Tim Robbins says, "Hope is within us". In today's vernacular, hope and wish have become synonymous. I hope it snows becomes, I wish it would snow.

Hope is deep within us, it is at our center, as a Christian I would say it is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Hope is what sustains us when the world is falling in around us. It is the True North Star that gives direction to our inner compass. We, and we alone decide if we will embrace hope or give in to fear.

In the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, their primary method of control was to destroy hope. "The Red Cross is delivering blankets in two weeks." Then nothing would come. "We are looking for skilled carpenters and plumbers." Then they would be gathered up and exterminated in the showers. You see, if you can build hope and then rip it away, you have a shot to get the person to give up - to lose hope. This was described in,  Man's Search for Meaning by Vicktor Frankl, as he recounted his days in the Death camps. During 1942 - 1945 he slaved in four different camps including Auschwitz.

A great deal of us are facing troubles in our lives. We are uncertain about our jobs, homes and the economy in general. Hope tells me that I will preserver through these tough times. I have been through tough times before and I always wind up through them. I may not be where I wished I would be, but I am definitely where I hoped to be -- That being through the trouble. The passage in the New testament that gives me the most peace is in Romans 5: 2-5. Again I will share from The Message translated by Eugene Peterson:

"We throw open our doors to God
and discover at the same moment that he has already
thrown open his door to us.
We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand
-- out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory,
standing tall and shouting our praise.
There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise
even when we are hemmed in with troubles,
because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us,
and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue,
keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.
In alert expectancy (hope) such as this,
we're never feeling shortchanged.
Quite on the contrary--
we can't round up enough containers to hold everything
God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!"

All I can say is, do not let anyone or any set of circumstances rob you of the hope that is within you. Ask for help in your troubles. Ask God to help you see beyond them. Look to your North Star and plot your course - then launch out in faith that this too shall pass.


Monday, February 20, 2012


~Please Listen to my Short Introduction~

What do you do when you feel all of the depressing darkness around you? If you have spent any amount of time on this planet - you have screwed up. Yes, you can intellectually know that you are forgiven. You can know that you are doing your best to be at peace with those around you. Yet, in the midst of knowing those things, those mistakes and failures of the past have a tendency to pop up.

Darkness is a season. Darkness is Winter. It is a time to gather with those you love and feel the warmth of their love. Seasons are seasons, they pass. Knowing that it is just a season can help you know that Spring comes next. No matter how deep the Winter, it will eventually turn to Spring.

I get through darkness by getting up each day and I decide to put one foot in front of the other. Now you can stay in bed and have a royal "pity-party". Or you can get up and get on with your life. That is not an easy thing to do - every emotion in your mind is telling you to pull the blankets over your head. You have to make a conscious DECISION to get up. When you think that darkness will always be around, you have lost the battle. Albert Einstein theorized that there is no such thing as darkness, there is only the absence of light. There isn't enough darkness to extinguish one candle.

I shared my regrets that my kids do not share my faith. Yet, at the same time I am so thankful they are smart, critical thinkers. They have come out OK. They have faced divorce and even the death of their Mother. They are resilient and most importantly, they are young. When I step back and look at my regrets, I realize I am not being patient. I am not trusting the hand of God nor am I trusting my kids.

Darkness is a trickster. It makes you think that it is the only game in town. Darkness may have a hold of you right now. It is saying all is lost, you have failed -- give up! It is trying to mask all of the things in your life that are good. Even at the worst of times there are still things to be thankful. Go back to a time in your life where you actually felt the happiest you have ever felt. Picture that time in your life, see if you can even feel the emotions you felt then. Now focus on that time and only think of that. If you practice, you will start to feel those same happy emotions. When the darkness starts to wash over you, go back to that memory of happiness. One of the things I think about is hearing my kids laughing. There is no better sound to my ears than the laughter of children.

If you are a parent or are in a relationship - you have made mistakes. You also did some great things. Life isn't all or nothing. It is a lifetime that goes through season after season. Yes, Winter is here, but Spring is coming.

I hope you can see the beauty of seasons changing. All of the season we pass through are essential for us to become what God wants us to be.


Monday, February 13, 2012


~ This is one of the most moving songs I have ever heard. ~

I heard of yet another death this week, not a relative but a co-worker's family member. 2011 was a tough year for death in our family. I am at that age where I seem to know more people who are passing away than are getting married or having babies. I was talking with my son, Nathan, about this and told him, 

"When you have more days behind you than in front of you, 
you seem to reevaluate life."

So, as I sit and look at life I realize that hurt and pain comes in many forms. We do feel the sting when someone we love passes. We attempt to reassemble our lives and go on. If we are people of faith, we know that this life is temporary and a greater life awaits us on the other side of death. 

However, in many ways that is a pain that fades over time. When we are hurt by a person or an institution, we are left with not only hurt but a gaping hole in our ability to trust. We are hesitant to trust people around us. 

I know people who had some sort of conflict with someone years or even decades ago. Even after all this time they still carry within themselves the pain as if it were still happening. All it takes to bring it to the surface is a random memory or some other trigger. When at the surface, it is as though it was happening all over again. Military families see something similar to this when a loved one comes home from a war zone. Psychologists call this Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD.  Many people today are still wounded by some pain or hurt and are haunted by a form of PTSD.

Over my life I have had my share of hurt and pain, in my humble opinion, more than my fair share. I was trapped in the ever spiraling descent into hatred. When I heard that something horrible had happened to one of the people who hurt me - I was glad. Then, I heard the person who had hurt me more deeply than words can describe was diagnosed with ALS. Surprisingly, I was not glad, I started crying. I made the call to my ex-wife and apologized for anything I had done to hurt her and she did the same. I truly believe God touched my heart. All of the bitterness and hatred for her was gone. Along with her husband and our two children I spent much of late 2010 and early 2011 at her bedside. When she passed away in May of 2011, her husband and I sat on each side of her deathbed holding one of her hands. Since that time I have tried to rebuild relationships that were broken. Was the hatred worth it? - NO!

This carried over to me attempting to heal relationships that I had caused the hurt. Again, to my surprise, I found that to be the more difficult. When you have hurt someone, going to them and asking for their forgiveness is a difficult task. My tongue is a very effective weapon. I have used words as weapons for years. I was always very good at removing the issue from the argument turning it into a personal attack on the person with whom I was arguing.

I remember the old preacher story about the farmer, Josephine shared it with me this morning.

There once was a boy who had a bad temper.
His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he 
lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the boy has driven 37 nails into the fence,
Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger,
the number of nails he used began to dwindle down.
He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive
the nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the 
boy did not lose his temper at all. He told his father about it, and
the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each
day that he was able to hold his temper.

The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father
that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand
and led him to the fence. He said, "You have done well my son,
but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same.
When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.
You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It will not matter how 
many times you say you are sorry, the wound is still there."

A verbal wound can, more often than not,
cut deeper than a physical wound.

I truly believe that the only way a person can be healed from these wounds is by the touch of God. Jesus continually told his disciples to forgive as God has forgiven you. In Jeremiah 31:34b, Yahweh says,

"For I will forgive their wickedness
and remember their sins no more"

I can still remember things that have hurt me, but the pain is gone. It is over, it was in the past and I know it is over. I don't have to relive that pain over and over again - that is gone. Yes, the wounds are still there, but they are just scars that have helped to shape me into the person I am today.

I am reminded of King David. He saw a man's wife bathing and sent for her. Being the King, he could have anything he wanted. He committed adultery with her, plotted her husband's death and eventually married her. As he was convicted of his sin by the Prophet Nathan, he wrote the 51st Psalm. You might read it. I am particularly moved by verse 4.

"Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight"

Ask God to help you forgive. Ask God to help you to seek the forgiveness of those you have hurt. God knows you better than you know yourself and he knows that this kind of pain and hurt destroys people on both sides of this equation. 


Below is a song made famous by Leonard Cohen. Listen to the words about David.

I am available to speak at churches and groups, I can be contacted at

Monday, February 6, 2012


Over the past few weeks, I have been talking about the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul talks about what should be the by-product of our faith. Today, it will be patience. I would like to share these verses from a translation by Eugene Peterson entitled, The Message:

"But what happens when we live God's way?
He brings gifts into our lives,
much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard --
things like affection for others, 
exuberance about life,
We develop a willingness to stick with things,
a sense of compassion in the heart,
and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.
We find ourselves in loyal commitments,
not needing to force our way in life,
able to marshal and direct our energies wisely."

As the title suggests, today we are talking about Patience. Peterson translates the word as "We develop a willingness to stick with things." I would add to that, "We develop the ability not to give up."

Of all the topics I have written, this may be one of the most difficult. Here in the U.S. we are almost hard-wired for instant gratification. We are bombarded on our computers and phones with instant text messages, emails and calls. When we watch TV, we see difficult situations resolved in 30-60 minutes. There are more and more people who do not have the time or patience to read a book. What we want - WE WANT IT NOW! As an old man I remember writing letters and waiting the days for it to be delivered and the days for an answer. This would drive most people insane today. Our kids grew up on MTV which was a barrage of 3-4 minute videos. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. We get our news in sound bites and just want people to give us "the bottom line". If you don't value your life, drive the actual speed limit in the fast lane. Road rage has taken on almost epidemic proportions - "GET OUT OF MY WAY, I AM HEADING TO STARBUCK'S!"

I watched the Super Bowl yesterday, admittedly I was ambivalent regarding the game, Both teams are 3,000 miles away. I did record it and then replayed it, stopping for the commercials, which are amazing. There was a commercial that aired during half-time. It was by Chrysler and featured Clint Eastwood. As it turns out, it was one of the more controversial commercials aired. Politicians and Talk-Show Hosts are politicizing it. Yes, I know Chrysler received bail-out money from the government. I have heard the arguments both pro and con. I was more interested in the content of what Clint Eastwood said than about all of the political hullabaloo. What he said was powerful and it speaks directly to this discussion. We are facing difficult times. We have faced difficult times before, yet we have always found a way out. To a country that demands instant gratification, it is time to learn patience. Here is the spot: 

As I write this short blog, it can't be too long or people won't have the patience to finish it. People all over our country are hurting. We have seen our neighborhoods ravaged by foreclosures and unemployment. We see a rising resentment to people who are successful, to our institutions and even the government. From the Tea Party to the Occupy Movement - people are angry and afraid. In the early 1960's I had neighbors that were building bomb shelters in their backyards, in case the U.S.S.R launched a nuclear attack. Now people are hoarding food, water, guns and ammunition. People have run out of patience. Patience is not some Casper Milquetoast response of putting our collective heads in the sand. It, like love, joy and peace comes from within us. It is knowing that we are citizens of the Kingdom of God before anything else - He will not abandon us. Patience does not expect instant gratification - rather preservers knowing our best days are ahead of us. Patience says we should pray, but not only pray, we need to roll up our sleeves, stop the pity party and find a way out.  


If these traits are within us, we will have a bright future.