Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Central Park Artist, NY, NY
A New Day, a New Year!
Hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete and
refresh your life
with a clean canvas!
Jesus is the
Reason for the Season.
Sins are forgiven
and lives are restored.
"I forget about the things behind me
and reach out for the things ahead of me".
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Green Pastures & Blue Waters, Central Flint Hills, KS
Most of us understand which comfort foods can give us consolation in times of stress such as warm garlic mashed potatoes, chocolate anything, cool vanilla ice cream, etc. But many of these comfort foods can ultimately cause their own type of stress for our bodies. Fortunately, there’s also an abundance of zero calorie comfort words in the Bible that can provide an immeasurable amount of stress reduction in our lives and they’re actually good for our soul.
The opening lines of Psalm 23 written by King David are perhaps the ultimate classic comfort Word. David’s youth as a shepherd helped to verbalize the meditative image of our Creator leading us through a beautiful pastoral scene beside quiet waters and green pastures. We know that the shepherd used his staff to protect his flock from harm’s way and that image also gives us comfort. David’s inspired words assure us that if we follow in the true path of our good shepherd, goodness and love will be with us and we will dwell with Him forever after fearlessly walking through the darkest valley. We’re promised that His Light will brighten our path to help us walk without stumbling along the way.
In Philippians 4 the apostle Paul assures us that we should not be anxious about anything. If we present our requests to God, He will give us peace. Paul reminds us that Emanuel is always with us, He is in control of the overall destiny of this world, and our own ultimate destiny has been secured to provide us with the ultimate joy in life. There are many times in life where circumstances are beyond our control, with the exception on one thing--our response to them. Paul reminds us that this one thing can be to turn our concern over to our Creator and trust in Him to be with us as we walk through the unknown dark valley, one day at a time, until we emerge out into the soft white Light of still green pastures and quiet blue waters.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Dallas, Chicago, IL
When viewed through the lens of eternity, Jesus taught us not to store up our treasures on earth where moths and rust can destroy and thieves can break in, but to store our treasures in heaven. All through his teaching, He cautions us not to make wealth our god, because where we devote our time and energies is the same place where our heart resides. Just about anything in this world can become either our master or servant. Wealth can be used for all manner of good in this broken world, but the love of wealth can be eternally destructive. When viewed through the lens of eternity, God is much more concerned with our spiritual character that is everlasting in our heart and not what is temporary in our 401K. Status and wealth mean nothing to God so the poor should not be concerned about being unworthy any more than rich folks should be complacent with material wealth that can be lost overnight. Wealth can create a heightened sense of self-sufficiency which can be used to our advantage, but also our disadvantage. We’re cautioned not to lose sight of the divine presence that enables these blessings and Emanuel who is always with us in case life suddenly goes south and we’re confronted with circumstances beyond our control.
The apostle Paul encourages us in 1 Timothy 6:18 to do good, be rich in good deeds, and be generous and willing to share. In Luke 14:12-14, Jesus taught us about the true attitude of generosity. He suggested that when we invite folks to dine with us that are in a position to repay us, our generosity is essentially canceled out—we simply exchange hospitality and breaking bread together is a nice way to be in relationship. However, Jesus’ illustration of true generosity involves inviting the disenfranchised—the poor, the paralyzed, the lame, and the blind. Why? Simply stated because “they cannot pay you back”. That can also be an acid test of our motives, since God can see into our heart. And when He looks through the lens of eternity and sees that if your heart is in the right place, you will be blessed and rewarded “when his people rise from death”. Sometimes this can be accomplished with direct offerings of time, talents and treasures and other times it can be through donations to an organization that can administer the aid in our community or half way around the world.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Addresss Book, Jamestown, NC
I’m still using and revising the Address Book that my wife refreshed seven years ago. After forty years of marriage, more than a few household moves and a few career moves, it seems to be one of life’s little recurring maintenance chores. Sadly, hand written address books are now being replaced by electronic records. An electronic file leaves no erasure trails. If you delete a record or a partial record, the new entry looks as fresh as a newly opened rosebud. But hand written records leave behind traces of memories not soon forgotten.
It’s always prudent to use a pencil in one’s Address Book to facilitate changing the records of people’s lives. Whole records are erased when the relationship connection is either abruptly or slowly severed due to any number of reasons as life happens. Then there is the nomadic lifestyle of today’s American society as we move along to new opportunities, cities and homes. Marriage and divorce always have a major life change effect on names and addresses. Death too is part of the human experience and faint erasures are still reflective reminders of those who influenced us and many who have departed all too early. Two first names you know all too well are reduced to one and an empty space now remains on the page and in your heart. But then there are the first name additions of new births and new life to remind us of the reason for the Christmas season each year. Even there, erasure marks are shadowy reminders of children that have grown to adulthood and moved away, beginning their own address books. And some of them with their new families are then added to blank pages as the Book of Life continues to relentlessly change and evolve, mirroring our own existence as we brace for the challenges and opportunities of the New Year.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Little Pond, Greensboro, NC
Would you rather be a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond? Malcolm Gladwell in his book David and Goliath tells the story of a very bright young student that was accepted in one of the country’s smaller and most prestigious universities. This young lady totally excelled in her classes all the way through high school. However, once she began studies in organic chemistry she started to question her abilities for a much dreamed of science degree and eventually changed her major. Other brilliant students around her were seemingly able to grasp the course’s concepts much better than she was able to comprehend them. Gladwell also compared the suicide rates of citizens in countries such as Switzerland and Canada that declare themselves to be very happy against countries such as Greece and Portugal whose citizens declared that they are not very happy. Ironically, the folks in the less happy countries had the lower suicide rates.
So what’s the connection? Psychologists attribute these human responses to a concept coined as “relative deprivation”. As it turns out, how you feel about your “self-concept” matters very much in relation to those people immediately around you. The bright young scholar was swimming in a small university with students that were even more brilliant. She would have probably excelled in a larger institution and gone on to a long and prosperous career in science. Educators term this the “Big Fish-Little Pond Effect”. Depressed citizens in happy countries experience a higher suicide rate when they see so many happy people around them. The poor in Chile have twice the income as the poor in Honduras. But the poor Hondurans feel happier because their income is relatively closer to Honduras’ middle class than in Chile which is too far removed for comparison.
The income of the average American positions us in the top five per-capita of the world. Jesus talks about the “rich” having difficulty entering the Kingdom of Heaven. He teaches that much will be demanded of those to whom much has been given. Many folks in America don’t see themselves as rich. We live in unprecedented times of wealth and material possessions in this country. If you live in this country, the majority see you as among the world’s rich, even though you do not, given your ostentatious surroundings. Compared to the world as a whole, we’re big fish in a little pond. We’re challenged to care for all of our brothers and sisters in the world’s big pond. And we need to count our blessings and take responsibility for what God demands of us.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
December Moon Risin', Jamestown, NC
A quiet winter’s night with a full moon rising can be a very graceful experience. Whenever we attempt to describe a human emotion that’s elicited by the sensory overload of the ways we perceive our surroundings, the words never seem adequate. Sometimes we’re simply left to use word images that we and others can relate to in our common life experience. Bright sunlight and sunbeams can be a great analogy for the love that The Light of the World directly imparts on His creation. Moonlight, on the other hand, is a subdued reflection of that light in the form of divine grace that is gently showered upon creation.
There are two primary ways of spreading light into this world—from the source or as a reflection of that source. The Light of Love came into our presence to demonstrate the depth of His love for each of us on that cold winter’s day in Bethlehem. His teachings and the language of His life showed us all how to reflect the Light of His grace to others. Although it seems like the events of those times are ancient history, they’re as relevant today as they were two thousand years ago. And the very same moon which rose on that first Christmas evening and shined down on a humble family with a newborn child is the very same moon that graces our presence tonight.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Christmas Lights, Jamestown, NC
Suddenly, bright lights are beginning to shine through the darkness all around the neighborhood as the Christmas season draws near once again. It’s the season of light as people everywhere celebrate the coming of the Light of the World! The apostles writing in the New Testament books could only resort to poetic analogy to describe the birth of a child that was the Word made flesh. And they compared this mysterious and momentous event to a great light coming into a dark world and the darkest corners of men’s hearts. John expresses the sentiment precisely when he writes in the opening chapter of his book that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it”.
Now it’s up to us to keep reflecting the Light—the Light of Peace, the Light of Hope and the Light of Love that the Creator brought into His creation. If we allow the true Light to guide our life’s path, we’ll never again stumble in the darkness. And it’s no mere coincidence that this redeeming Light came into the world just after we experience the shortest and therefore the darkest days of the year!
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Radiant Sunrise, WB, NC
At this holiday season of Christmastime, we’re bombarded with television and print ads that promote the “spirit of giving”. Marketers in our consumer driven culture of unabashed materialism are very good at exploiting our weakness for all manner of stuff. But it’s not all bad. There are lots of examples of people giving their time and resources to help those that are less fortunate. It’s a time of the year when if there ever is a glimmer of hope for all mankind to exhibit generosity and good will, now’s the time!
It all began over two thousand years ago, possibly in a cave behind a traveler’s inn where farm animals were housed. A child was born. Not just any child of all the billions of births on earth. The conception and birth of this child was announced by angels. This child was the ultimate gift of self. This child was Emmanuel, God with us. This child was the manifestation of our Creator and was the Word in flesh. When we speak we’re expressing who we are, our likes and dislikes, etc. This child was an expression of the divine presence. This child was both human and divine. This child was God without beginning and man with a beginning. This child was creation’s Creator. This child was invisible in His own nature, but visible in ours. This child entered into a human existence to experience our joys and our suffering to assure us of His empathy as we too experience this earthly life. This child was the very definition of self-sacrifice, as God affirmed His righteousness and offered himself to atone for mortal humanity’s shortcomings and light the way to an eternal spiritual life. This child would soon deliver the woman who delivered Him. This child’s name means “Savior”!
The dawn of that first morning following this divine birth could only have been bathed in radiant, ethereal sunlight. For a people walking in darkness, a perfect light had dawned. This child was the Light of the World who would teach us of love and how to live. This child would grow up to show us all how to reflect his light into the darkest corners of men’s hearts. He left no meaningless material part of his life, as the Word became flesh to leave a legacy of words to restore life for all who would listen. And most importantly, this child showed us that the most precious gift a parent can offer sons and daughters is the priceless gift of self.
Friday, December 6, 2013
Love, London, England
There’s an interesting comparison of how opposites relate in the physical world versus the emotional. Laws of thermodynamics show that cold is not only the opposite of hot, but actually the absence of it. Likewise, darkness is not only the opposite of light, but actually the absence of it. Hate is considered the opposite of love, but does not necessarily result as a consequence of its absence. However, if there is no love, a void exists and there is a better climate for the growth of hate in the environment. We understand that God is the essence of love and we were created in His image. His Son taught that there is one basic guideline to live a good life: to love God and others. As the world celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela, many are revisiting the legacy of his life and his words. Perhaps the following quote encapsulates why:
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
11:02, Chicago Art Institute
The clock of life is wound but once
and no man has the power
to tell just when the hands will stop
at late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
The world paused for an instant at 11:02 in Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945. The image above is from a special exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute. The scared remains of this wrist watch were found in the rubble after the devastating atomic bomb blast that hastened the end of WWII just days later. Hiroshima had been the first nuclear war target just three days earlier. Nagasaki was a secondary target that day as Kokura was the primary. But cloud cover diverted the B29 superfortress bomber “Bockscar” to a fateful divergence with history that morning. An inoperable fuel pump also limited the plane’s range. Because of many earlier air raids, the people below had actually become somewhat complacent about the sirens and many were not taking shelter. The unfathomable energy released by that single weapon killed seventy thousand people below in an instant. And no one understandably knew how to treat those survivors exposed to radiation poisoning.
Malcolm Gladwell notes in his new book on David and Goliath that forty thousand Londoners were killed over a period of eight months during the German Blitz of 1940. We all have a fear of fear, but after so many near misses, human beings actually begin to conquer it. The Blitz actually resulted in the exact opposite effect of instilling hopeless fear in the British people. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 about this theory of “desirable difficulty” which actually strengthens us. Unfortunately for the people of Nagasaki, this new weapon raised the bar of human warfare to the top of the post. It did leave the United States with a surplus of 495,000 Purple Heart medals, as Japan unconditionally surrendered five days later.
These hands of time serve as a mute reminder that humankind can never remain with a feeling of complacency in this nuclear world. Could it be that the ethereal being in the image above was wearing that watch almost seventy years ago and is desperately trying to convey its apocalyptic message even more fervently today? And remind us to always live, love and toil with a will as no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop.