Wednesday, February 25, 2009
It has taken me three days to process what happened.
It was 7:00 am and I walked into McDonalds to grab a quick cup of coffee. I had a one dollar bill and two quarters.
I have done this a thousand times and I knew that I had plenty of money.
The lady behind the counter poured the cup of coffee and turned to ring up the sale.
Yes, that's right...$.67.
I cleared my throat and said, "is that the right price?"
She grinned and said, "I gave you the senior price."
I struggled for breath.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
I thought to myself, "that lady needs to have her eyes examined."
I gave her my dollar and she gave me change.
I took comfort in the thought that you used to be able to buy a hamburger, french fries and a soft drink for less than a dollar.
Then it hit me.
You have to be a certain age to remember that fact. I paid my $.67 and left.
And by the way...I am OK with my age and the price I paid for my coffee.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Last night we made a quick trip to the airport to pick up our daughter.
Her flight came in late and we headed to Detroit.
The traffice was normal. It was cold...around 7 degrees.
We were coasting along at 70 mph and out of the corner of my eye I saw a huge sign that said,
"Drive Carefully, Please Avoid Distractions."
The sign was flashing with high intensity lights.
I found myself focusing on the "avoid distractions" sign while cruising down the highway at 103 feet per second.
What's wrong with this picture?
A sign that says "avoid distractions" actually is a distraction.
Seems paradoxical to me.
There are a lot of distractions every day. Some hold our attention momentarily while others hold us by the throat.
Last night while heading to Detroit I was reminded that I am easily distracted. So much so that I am reflecting on it tonight nearly 24 hours later.
I need some reminders periodically to keep me focused. Some of those reminders come in the form of people like you who help me to remember that some things are important and some things aren't.
Some come in the form of readings that trigger an alarm that alerts me to the fact that I am majoring on minors.
Some come in the form of promptings which help me to discern His voice in the midst of clamoring voices.
Last night's trip to Metro Airport was a great diversion, and the sign came at just the right time.
Drive Carefully. Please Avoid Distractions
Friday, February 20, 2009
They finally arrived.
I ordered them several weeks ago. I tend to go overboard when I order but I enjoy supporting the organization.
Girl Scout cookies....yessir, I love Girl Scout cookies!
The young girl who sells them loves to come to me and make her pitch. The first time she approached me she went through her spiel and was hoping to sell me at least one box. To her surprise I ordered 12 boxes.
I couldn't stop. Everytime she thought I was done ordering I would order another box. Everytime I ordered she giggled with glee. It was worth every box I ordered.
When she tallied my bill she announced the huuuuuge sum. I whispered,"please don't tell my wife."
What I told her next shocked her. I cupped my hands and whispered, "go ask my wife if she would like to order some Girl Scout cookies."
Off she went. Sure enough my wife order a "courtesy box."
When we got home my wife told me, "I ordered some Girl Scout cookies for you."
I said, "Funny, I ordered some too." I couldn't bring myself to announce that I ordered 12 boxes.
Finally, I told her, "I ordered some as well."
On the front page of USA Today the headline read, "Girl Scout Cookie Sales Crumble."
Hey, I am doing my part. How about you?
Thursday, February 19, 2009
"A woman who lived with a chimpanzee"
"A thirteen year old boy who is now a father"
"A brawl erupts at a high school basketball game in Alabama"
"A man commits suicide in front of the altar in the Crystal Cathedral"
"Mom accused of poisoning baby food"
Is it just me or has our world gone crazy? These are the headlines from today's news cycle. I am not sure my grandmothers would recognize our culture or the world in which we live in.
Both of my grandmothers led simple lives and would be appalled by the images and sounds of what goes on in America.
Where did the culture begin the slide into insanity? Where did the motion toward commotion orgininate?
I am not sure how to answer either of these questions. But I do know that things are changing and they seem to be changing for the worse. I am not sounding the "panic alarm" but there are things happening today that twenty years ago would have never happened.
Perhaps they would have happened but they would never have been flaunted on the front pages of newspapers and magazines.
Today everything is reported and we have become anesthetized to things that would have shocked us just a few years ago.
What is the solution? Here are several options:
1. Ignore it and perhaps it will go away.
2. Engage in a dialogue with the insanity
3. Panic and express cynicism
4. Yearn for the "good old days"
5. Be still and recognize that God is in every situation and circumstance.
The reason I know about these options is because I have exercised all of them at different times.
Today I am saddened by what I read on the pages of USA Today and recognize that I have my work cut out for me if I am going to be a genuine Christ-follower.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I was reading an article and ran across this word.
Recently I ran across a quote from the story Snow White.
"Oh I wish there were some words in the world that were not the words I always hear!" I can identify with that sentiment.
Today's generation uses a phrase that has several words in it. Perhaps you have heard it. They say,"That is so annoying!" They use that phrase frequently to describe their feelings about people, situations and circumstances.
"She annoys me!"
"You are annoying."
All of these phrases can be summed up in one word. Rebarbative.
It means "causing annoyance or irritation."
By now you are already thinking about rebarbative people, rebarbative situations and rebarbative moments.
Here are a couple of thoughts....There will always be plenty of rebarbative (fill in the blank) and secondly we don't have to succumb to them.
Forgive me if I annoy you with these thoughts, but I learned a new word today and I couldn't wait to use it.
If I overuse the word it will be rebarbative.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I retrieved my plastic debit card from my wallet and slid it through the machine on the counter.
After a brief moment the word "approved" popped up on the screen and the cashier handed me a slip of paper which I dutifully folded and put in my pocket.
I have performed this ritual hundreds of times, all with the same results.
But today was different.
The liquid green letters flashed "approved" and I stood there thinking about the power of that word.
There are people seeking the approval of co-workers and supervisors. There are children seeking parental approval. There are people chasing the approval of others and are willing to sacrifice all to get it.
My mind went back to powerful words, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." II Timothy 2:15
Standing in line today and seeing the word "approved" reminded me that God is more quick to approve His children than we are to receive His approval.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I ran across this phrase in a news article describing one of the reasons for the crash of Continental flight 3047.
That is an interesting phrase.
Here's what I think it means. It means anything that prevents or impedes forward progress.
This morning I was sitting in McDonalds having a #3 Breakfast meal and the TV was on over the counter. The reporter was describing the crash of flight 3047. He said the flight "failed to make adequate forward progress." Say what? He is probably a rocket scientist.
I remember Howard Cosell describing a low extra point attempt on Monday Night Football many years ago. He said the football "had no immediacy of trajectory." Say what? Cosell was not a rocket scientist.
I have met a lot of people who "failed to make adequate forward progress" because there was "no immediacy of trajectory."
Some of it is their own making and some of it is because of circumstances beyond their control.
Here are two thoughts that have been rambling through my brain.
"Forward progress" doesn't come naturally. It requires effort. That might be why some people find it easy to "go with the flow."
Secondly, expect "aerodynamic impediments." Some people call these experiences "life."
Here are some encouraging words by someone much wiser than I am.
Psalms 25:15"If I keep my eyes on God, I won't trip over my own feet." (The Message)
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Today I showed a graphic picture in church.
After sharing a message on David & Goliath I showed a picture of David's final triumph over the giant.
It was an illustrative picture portraying the decapitation of the giant's head.
I have heard the story of David and Goliath all of my life and realized that it was a small smooth stone that brought Goliath's life to an abrupt end. Usually that is where the story ends. Seldom do storytellers continue beyond the "thud" of a giant falling to the ground.
Today I went ahead and talked about David pulling the giant's sword and cutting Goliath's head off.
The picture showed David holding Goliath's head over his head.
I know all of this sounds gory and morose, but something struck me about the narrative found in I Samuel 17.
At the end of this busy day, there are two thoughts that have lingered throughout the afternoon.
First, David in his own strength was no match for the giant.
Second, David conquered the giant in a very simple way.
What if these two thoughts are connected? What if conquering the "giants" in our lives is simpler than we make it? What if the view of our "giants" obscure our view of the One who enables us to conquer?
Just a couple thoughts at the end of the day...
Saturday, February 14, 2009
The most recent headlines on the cover of Time Magazine caught my attention.
How Faith Can Heal
The Trouble with Talking to Iran
Why Boomers Hijacked Facebook
25 People to Blame for the Economic Mess We're In
I understand the concept.
Editors put "teasers" on the front page of their magazines to lure prospective readers inside the pages.
I quickly glanced at the article on the 25 people on pages 20-25.
You will have to look for yourself to see who made the list. That is not the point of my thoughts this evening.
The word that I am focusing on is the word,"blame."
We live in a world that easily looks for other people to blame for our plight. We often assign blame to others for the circumstances that we find ourselves in. Sometimes we blame others when we know that we are the reason for our situation.
Here is my thought....what if more people took responsibility for their actions? It is not easy to say, "my bad!" and really mean it. I do know that it takes more effort to shirk responsibility than it does to accept responsibility.
The 25 people in the article probably have something to do with the economic mess that we're in, but there are certainly more people and more reasons that can be contained on the pages of Time Magazine.
After skimming the article and recognizing who to blame, I still didn't see any markable change to my economic conditions.
Then it hit me....blaming others doesn't change my circumstances.
When was the last time you blamed someone or something for a situation you found yourself in?
In the words of Dr. Phil, "how's that workin' for you?"
Hey did you notice? The Boomers hijacked Facebook? Now we know who to blame!
Friday, February 13, 2009
Tomorrow I will conduct a wedding.
I have conducted lots of weddings over nearly 25 years. Some have been weddin's while others have been weddings. Usually the difference between the two is based on how much money daddy has.
Both are great.
Tomorrow I will conduct a wedding.
I first met the groom four years ago. It was several months before I knew that he had someone else in his life. When I met her I knew that they were perfect together.
They talked about getting married. They talked about not having enough money to get married. They talked about how much they loved each other.
I talked about how they could get married at the church. They weren't sure.
I talked about how everything would work out. They became interested.
I talked about how exciting it would be. They agreed.
Tomorrow I will conduct their wedding.
Their friendship has been a gift to me. My gift to them will be to conduct their wedding.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Tonight my son and I went to a local high school basketball game downtown.
He is doing his student teaching at the oldest high school in Flint. It is a school that is in the throes of transition and change.
So this evening we went downtown to watch some of his students play basketball.
It was a great evening. Not only was I with my son, but I had the privilege of walking around in his world. Usually he spends a lot of time walking around in my world, but tonight I was following him around. He was being greeted by staff, students and others in the gymnasium.
When we got to the ticket window, he flashed his faculty badge and got in for free. I paid $5.
He got free popcorn at halftime and he shared the bag with me.
He knew everybody and I knew only him. It made me feel important being seen with him.
The strangest thing happened when we looked at the program with all of the team rosters. The first name on the Junior Varsity roster was the exact same name as my son.
We laughed and then it hit me. I was sitting beside my son who is a young professional adult watching a kid play basketball that reminded me of him when he was in 8th grade.
We laughed some more and shared a bag of Skittles. We laughed all the way home.
I am glad that he is my son, and I am proud of him! He's a great teacher!
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I love words...
I love sentences, grammar, syntax and everything else that goes with the English language.
I love looking through dictionaries, thesauri and lexicons.
Words have meanings...they have the ability to convey meaning and prompt action.
Recently I ordered a book entitled, Tell it Slant, by Eugene Peterson (translator of The Message). The subtitle of the book is "A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers."
Peterson has written several books that have captured my attention recently. Two of particular importance are, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading and Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology.
Back to Tell it Slant...
In the opening pages, Peterson builds a case for "watching what we say." He says, "Give us our daily bread" and "pass the potatoes" come out of the same language pool.
If I understand what he is saying then there are no "secular" words and no "sacred" words in the English language. Words are words and they are important. Don't get me wrong there are words that we use to describe the sacred and holy, but these are the same words that can be re-oriented to describe the everyday stuff of life.
Here's the quote that stunned me when I read it. I had to go back and re-read it. I had to let it sink into the crevasses of my pre-conceived ideas and notions.
"Everytime we open our mouths, whether in
conversation with one another or in prayer to our Lord,
Christian truth and community are on the line."
Peterson leads me to re-evaluate the words that I speak. He makes me want to be very careful before I open my mouth. If in fact, "Christian truth and community are on the line" when I speak I need to make sure that the "words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart" are pleasing in his sight.
Just a thought....
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I can't resist...
Every once in a while I read a story that makes me laugh. I try to include others who I think would find it funny.
Let's see if I can tell it in a way that you would find amusing.
What made me think of all of this is a recent visit to a nursing home. You hear all kinds of conversations.
Here's the story....
At a nursing home in Florida the activities director gathered the residents together. After a few moments the meeting disintegrated into a myriad of complaints about ailments, aches and pains.
"My arms are so weak I can hardly lift my cup of coffee in the morning."
"Yeah, I know my cataracts are so bad, I can't even see my coffee in the morning."
Another spoke up and said, "I can't turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck." Others nodded in agreement.
"My blood pressure pills make me dizzy."
Across the circle someone said, "I guess that's the price we pay for getting old."
Heads nodded in agreement.
A moment of silence followed and one woman spoke up..."Well, its not that bad, thank God we can still all drive."
Monday, February 9, 2009
Tonight was the first prime time Presidential news conference for President Obama.
It interrupted regularly scheduled television programming and allowed the President to lobby for his "economic recovery/stimulus" package.
The bold confidence he exuded during the campaign seems to be tempered by the realities of serving as President.
I am not sure his "answers" in the campaign match the "questions" being asked today.
He used a lot of "buzz words" that had meaning at one time, but have recently become over-used.
These observations are not "anti-Obama" sentiments, rather it is an inquiry into whether or not rhetoric will ever make a difference in the world.
It is amazing to me that people are looking to government to resolve the economic, social and educational issues. I am not sure that the answers will come from government solely. My suspicion is that the response will come from people like you and me.
While the government is trying to figure out what to do, everyday citizens must continue to demonstrate responsibility.
My thoughts this evening are not political. They are merely observations from a person who is interested in seeing "change we can believe in."
Sunday, February 8, 2009
I have been chided....cajoled...and coaxed to join and use Facebook.
Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook. At its inception it was designed for Harvard students only. Soon students in the Boston area connected through Facebook. Other colleges began to be connected through Zuckerberg's creation. High School students soon signed on and signed in.
Young adults were next. Middle adults followed. And now people of all ages are on Facebook. There are over 150 million people who "facebook" on a daily basis.
This is a virtual on-line community of people who get acquainted and renew acquaintances.
I have friends and family who keep in contact with each other every day.
But I have resisted adding another demand to my schedule. I admit to having a Facebook account but I do not use it. My wife has an account and is connected to friends old and new. My kids are connected, but I have lived vicariously through their facebooks.
Here is the question....Can I survive without Facebook? I mean can I really exist without regularly checking in to the virtual community?
Do my friends still care about me even though I don't talk to them everyday through Facebook? Does everybody else in the world need to see what I say to my friends?
Have I failed to "keep up with the times" when I neglect Facebook?
What do you think? Stay tuned. Watch for me on Facebook? Maybe....
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Yesterday I had a luncheon appointment at one of my favorite restaurants.
I arrived a few minutes early and was seated. A few minutes later I was drinking a large glass of sweet tea and relaxing before my meeting.
My cell phone dinged and I looked down and noticed that the people who joining me for lunch were running a few minutes late.
I looked across the restaurant and noticed a party of about twenty co-workers who were saying farewell to one of their fellow employees. It was a rather subdued event.
Finally, the time came for presenting farewell gifts. There was a ten gallon hat, a large silver belt buckle and a couple of other gifts that were obviously not meant for public display. There was lots of laughter and the party began to pick up.
A few of his co-workers make some obligatory remarks.
The party's host eventually said to the honoree, "well, we want you to say a few words."
The fellow stood up and here's what he said.
"Well, ummm, we have worked together for 20 years, and we have had our share of fights. Sorry. I'm gonna miss y'all. Thanks for the party."
And he sat down. That was the extent of the speech. Nothing more. In less than 20 seconds he summarized a 2o year career.
It made me wonder what kind of work he did. It made me wonder where he worked. It made me wonder if it was more of a celebration party for his departure rather than a farewell.
How can you work with people for 20 years and only come up with 26 words (if you count "ummm" as a word?)
My friends arrived and we began our meeting. It was a great conversation and time flew by. This morning I woke up and thought about the speech given at the table across the room and I am still puzzled by the whole thing.
Here's a thought...."May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight."
Friday, February 6, 2009
Hushed tones of melodious singing filled the auditorium as Garrison Keillor regaled his fans with stories and songs from Lake Wobegon. Last night I went to see Garrison Keillor.
I sat in awe as he plied his storytelling craft.
I was amazed as he brought characters to life and made you believe that they existed in real life.
I was out of breath as Keillor massaged the intellect of those gathered in The Whiting.
For two hours he sang, told stories, laughed and whispered anecdotes that warmed my heart.
Looking over the crowd there were three things that struck me....
First, this was an NPR crowd for sure. Second, they recognized a great story when they heard it. Thirdly the crowd seemed thirsty for something beyond an evening of entertainment. Garrison Keillor didn't disappoint.
Every Saturday evening Keillor gathers "believers" into the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota for an evening of "worship." Now, I know some of you are thinking that those words are being wasted on an evening of secular entertainment. But hear me out....
Shouldn't our "gatherings" be filled with stories and songs that point to One who is real? I wonder if "believers" recognize the Story when it is told? I wonder if when we gather we look for something beyond entertainment?
Say what you will....last night I worshipped as I sat in The Whiting.
I was disappointed to hear that Lake Wobegon isn't a real place. I was sad to learn that Guy Noir is a figment of Keillor's imagination. Oh, well...for a few moments I realized that stories have the power to change hearts and minds.
I have one prayer...God, help me to be the kind of storyteller that accurately portrays the power of your Story. Help me to do it in a convincing way...in a way that satisfies you. Thank you for entrusting me with your Story.
Stay tuned for more stories.....
Thursday, February 5, 2009
I could not believe it when I read it.
She failed the Driver's Test 771 consecutive times. She was taking it for the 772nd time and you guessed it. Failure.
I couldn't resist.
I had to do some further investigation.
Here is what I found.
Her name is Cha and she is a 68 year old grandmother. She lives in Wanju, North Jeolla Province according to the Korea Times. Apparently she took the exam for the first time on April 13, 2005. She failed the first time she took it, but undaunted she went the next day to re-take the exam.
She has continued this process daily with the exceptions of holidays and weekends.
If you look in Oxford English Dictionary for the word "tenacity" you will find a picture of Cha. (Just kidding....you will find the definition, but her picture should be there.)
How many times do you attempt something before you give up and say, "that's not for me!" Once? Twice? Thrice? How 'bout the sevenhundredseventyonenth" time?
Hey, I would have given up somewhere before the tenth time.
But then I began to think about Winston Churchill's speech to the graduating class where he simply said, "Never give up, Never give up, Never give up." Not only was it perhaps the shortest graduation speech on record, it could be the most profound.
Cha took Churchill's words seriously.
What's on your plate today?
What are you facing?
Cha would say, "don't give up...."
I wonder what kind of driver she will be when she eventually gets her license? Some of the drivers I meet on a daily basis drive as though they have failed the test several times themselves.
Keep at it Cha! Don't give it up...there will be much shouting and celebrating when the examiner grades her test and says, "You Passed!"
By then she may be to old to drive, but at least she will have her drivers license!