Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mitch "Harry" Jones, The Gecko, Has A Close Call

My niece Amanda has been driving over the past couple of days, with Michael and Helen, from Florida to Chicago. On Friday morning, Amanda, Michael and Helen pulled over at a rest stop in Illinois and when she opened the car door a gecko fell to the ground.

She did a double take upon noticing the little critter. “Huh!?!”

The poor guy was half frozen. He had been hiding in some space in the car door and had managed, somehow, to survive up to this point in time. They were astonished he had made it this far.

Geckos live in warm weather climates… (and prefer sandals to work boots). Amanda and her friends had already been on the road for hundreds of miles and many of those hours were in cold weather. How did he do it? Unfortunately, he wasn’t looking well and it was questionable whether he would even survive.

When he fell to the ground, Amanda said, "Oh my goodness!"

Initially, her traveling companions couldn’t see him and asked, "What is it?"

Amanda said, "It's a gecko!" And she picked him up.

"Is he alive?" they asked with some disbelief.

"Barely," said Amanda.

So she held him in her hands for a while allowing him to warm up. Then they got a box, poked holes in it and placed him in the box keeping him in the heated car.

They named him Mitch “Harry” Jones. I don’t remember exactly why but three names seems like a pretty sweet deal for a lizard, doesn’t it? Most reptiles are dying for even one name.

Mitch continued with them on the trip through Illinois all the way to our house, stopping a few times for McDonald’s drive-thru and an occasional decaf latte from Starbucks. (Geckos will usually try to avoid caffeine.)

When they arrived at our house, we found an old aquarium in the garage and Mitch is making himself at home. He appears to be doing alright. In fact, this morning they went out to buy him some crickets for lunch. (Jealous, aren’t you?) Just a few moments ago, Mitch looked up at me with thankful eyes and said, "I won’t lie to you, dude, that was a close call!"

I nodded my head sympathetically as I tossed him another cricket dipped in barbecue sauce. (We’re sharing.)

I’m not sure about this but I think there is a possibility Mitch might be part cat. If I’m right that would mean he now has 8 lives remaining.

Debating The Issues In Civil, Reasonable and Respectful Ways

A friend sent me a message recently about a matter over which there has been a long history of debate within Christianity.  At the end of his message—after writing some thoughts in which he considered both sides of the debate—he offered the opinion that Christians should learn to put aside differences and focus on the basics of the faith. It was a good thought.

I happen to believe there can be value in debating different points of view. I even enjoy this give and take of ideas from time to time. I find it to be fun. (Come to think of it, this may be why I am not known as the “life of the party” in most social circles.) But I have discovered sometimes people are so invested in their position on a matter that they have difficulty hearing the expression of other points of view.

Occasionally, what happens is these folks cannot engage in the debate without becoming unreasonably angry. It can even get to the point that the angry party launches a verbal attack on the person with whom they disagree.

FYI:  A theological discussion should almost never involve someone jumping up and down, rolling around on the ground, and throwing chairs or other pieces of furniture.

It is a mark of maturity when people learn to talk about matters over which they disagree in civil, reasonable and respectful ways.

Friday, December 19, 2014

E-Flash From Dan, 12/19/14

Dear E-Flash Friends;
The brilliant thinker and author C.S. Lewis referred to the Incarnation (God becoming man) as the “Grand Miracle.” According to a C.S. Lewis website he called it the Grand Miracle because he saw “every other miracle of Scripture as preparing for, demonstrating, or resulting from, the Incarnation.”
In other words the Incarnation had to happen first in order for every other miracle that Jesus performed here on earth—including the Resurrection—to occur.
We will be talking about this wonderful Grand Miracle at the services this Sunday, December 21st, as we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus.
Lisa has planned our worship time for the Christmas services and in a memo she sent the team earlier this week she expressed her feelings this way: “I... CAN... NOT... WAIT! :) So looking forward to worshiping with you all!”
I agree completely. You won’t want to miss this one!
I really hope you can join us. Service times are 9am and 11am.
Love and blessings,
P.S. We also have a great service planned for Christmas Eve. Why not make plans to bust away from the pumpkin pie for a few minutes and join us for our beautiful candle-lit service this Wednesday, the 24th, at 9pm? I truly believe your heart will be blessed.
P.P.S.  Click on the link to watch a very brief video invitation to the Christmas services.

First Church of God
4600 W. 111th Street
Oak Lawn, IL

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Press And The Politicians Getting A Little Too Cozy

Former NBC news anchor, Tom Brokaw, was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Now, Mr. Brokaw seems like a very nice man and I am not opposed to him receiving accolades for his work. I, also, realize he is not the first person in the news media to receive this type of recognition. However, I’m not sure it’s a good idea for people in the press to be given highly prestigious honors by politicians.

You say, “Stop being a negative, whining, killjoy.”

I do not mean to be a negative, whining, killjoy. But the specific role of the press in our culture is to be a watch dog. The press is a critically important part of the process of keeping the citizens informed and making sure those in power know that their actions are being monitored and reported. The press is, almost by definition, supposed to have a somewhat adversarial relationship with those who wield political power.

If high-visibility people in the news business realize they might just be awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom someday if they behave themselves and don’t stir up trouble, that realization can have an influence—even if it’s a subtle influence—which may not be very healthy to the process. The possibility of receiving these kinds of awards has the potential of creating relationships between the watch dog and the ones who are supposed to be watched that is a little bit too cozy.

Monday, December 15, 2014

We Should Not Make It Hard For People To Turn To God

Occasionally, I run into religious people who believe their task is to create barriers that make it difficult for people to connect with God. They seem to think they are protecting God if they make it difficult for people to turn to Him.

I understand people may be concerned that God’s wonderful love and grace could be misunderstood as something cheap and insignificant.  That concern is valid.  God’s love and grace are not cheap, they are extraordinary, beautiful, lavish and of priceless value.

However, the truth is God does not want to make it difficult for people to find Him.  It is God’s own Word that calls the salvation He offers to us a “free gift.”  It is God’s own word that tells us if we seek Him we will find Him.

The Apostle James made a point of instructing some people not to make it difficult for others to turn to God by imposing lots of religious rules.  Here is the passage…

“And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”  Acts 15:19  (If you take a moment to read the entire 15th chapter of Acts you can get a little more of the context for this comment.)

God greatly desires that people would find Him.  So, we need to present the Gospel honestly and not make it anything less than what it really is.  Likewise, however, we do not need to create any unnecessary barriers. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Long Strange Search For A Song

For the past two days the melody of an old song had been playing in my head.  It’s not even a song I particularly like that much but I could not stop hearing it.  I don’t know if this happens to everyone but it happens to me from time to time.

It became a problem for me because I could not remember the name of the song or the artist.  I was pretty sure it was from the 60s and I thought it was part of a movie soundtrack but I was not even positive about these aspects of the matter.  It is one of those instrumental songs that became “elevator music” and I remember hearing it many times—like when I listened to the Muzak in a doctor’s office.  But again, I did not know the song title or the artist.

(Some of the young people reading this will have no idea what “Muzak” is, and it’s probably better that way.)

Part of me thought, “Forget about this song.  Who cares what the title is?  Who cares who recorded it?”

But it kept playing on the little turntable in my head.

So, I began searching on YouTube putting in all kinds of desperate search criteria such as: “easy listening + 60s,” or “movie soundtracks + 60s,” or “instrumental hits + 60s,” and many others. I knew I would recognize the song if I heard it but I listed to dozens of old tunes and could not find it.

I thought, “Do I know someone who would recognize an old instrumental piece from the 60s if I did a bad job of humming it?”  I couldn’t think of anyone.  (Plus I thought, “This would definitely qualify as wasting a person’s time over an incredibly petty matter.”)

But the song continued to play in my head although now it was accompanied by some other old 60s instrumental tunes after all the searching on YouTube.  (There is a Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass song playing in my head as I type these words.)

Today, I went to an internet site called “Midomi.”  Midomi provides a tune recognition program that allows the user to hum a melody and then search for the song based on the tune that has been hummed.  I hummed the song several times and the search results came back with old Italian songs and, a few times, it identified a Lady Gaga song that apparently has some melodic similarity to the song for which I was searching.

My frustration continued.

Finally though, I held my guitar up to the microphone on my computer and played the melody of the song rather than humming it.  Sure enough, one of the search results came back with these words: “The Midnight Cowboy Theme.”

A big smile came to my face!  “I’m pretty sure that’s it,” I thought.

I typed that title into the search field on YouTube and the song began to play.  Yep, that was the song that has been pestering me for two days.  I found it!

Now that I found the song and listened to it, however, I have confirmed that, “It’s an okay song, but I am really not that thrilled about it.” 

It sure involved a lot of effort to figure that out, huh?

                             Click here to listen to the song!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fighting Against Reality Is Futile

We send the message in a number of subtle and not-so-subtle ways in our culture that it is possible to live in immature and irresponsible ways and, yet, avoid negative consequences. This is not good, it is not compassionate (though it often pretends to be) and it is not helpful.

It does not matter if we dress up immature and irresponsible behavior in academic jargon or fancy-sounding cultural buzz-words because the behavior will ultimately bump up against reality.

This is a certainty which I encourage you to believe: Whenever a person tries to “pull-one-over” on reality the person, ultimately, pays a difficult price.

Likewise, whenever a culture tries to “pull-one-over” on reality the culture, ultimately, pays a difficult price.

“For we are each responsible for our own conduct.”  Galatians 6:5

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”  Galatians 6:7

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Do We Want The Truth Or Do We Want To Win The Argument...In Spite of The Truth?

Sometimes when people are debating an issue it becomes clear, at a certain point, that they are not interested in understanding the truth. Instead, they are interested in arguing for the position they currently hold—whether that position is correct, or not.  In fact, I have literally seen people admit that their position is logically false and yet insist they will continue to hold the position, anyhow. (I’m not kidding. I have experienced this, firsthand.)

Followers of Jesus should be more interested in understanding the truth than we are in winning the argument. This way of behaving may sound like I am being idealistic or, perhaps, even unrealistic however it is not unrealistic.  It is achievable, with God's help.

For those of us who are Christians, consider this: we claim to follow the One who says He is “the Truth.”  So, recognizing and embracing the truth should always matter to us more than winning the argument matters to us.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Creepy Doll Is In My Office Looking At Me

Andrea came into my office last night as we were closing up the building and she had a doll wrapped in a blanket in her arms.

She said, “We’re going to be using this for the nativity scene at Yia Yia Palooza.  Do you mind if I keep it in your office until then?”

I said, “No, I don’t mind.”

Chuckling, Andrea set the doll in one of the chairs on the other side of my desk.

I did a double take and said, “Is that Rachel’s creepy doll I wrote about last year—the one that frightened several people on the plane?”

Now, she was laughing, “Yep, that’s it.”  And she adjusted the doll so that it was sitting up in the chair.

So, this creepy doll has been sitting in the chair across from my desk staring at me today.  Every now and then, out of the corner of my eye, I get the impression that it’s moving.  But I’m pretty sure it isn’t. 

If I wind up missing sometime over the next few days it will be reasonable to request that the police put out an all-points bulletin initiating a search for this doll.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Inner Peace In The Midst of Life's Storms

We often think of peace as a state of being that involves freedom from physical violence or discord. This is a correct understanding of peace. However, peace can also be understood to involve a state of being that has more to do with inner calmness, serenity and harmony.

Part of the nature of our world is that trouble and problems happen—in fact, they are a regular part of life. Every adult knows this is true from firsthand experience. So, if we are going to live with a consistent and reliable sense of peace it will have to be a type of inner peace that can be experienced even in the midst of life’s storms.

This inner peace is a gift. It is a gift that brings freedom from fear as well as renewal and hope to our hearts. It is the state which is being described in the book of Philippians chapter 4, vv. 6&7. The passage says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

This is an inner peace that defies our ability to completely understand, but it is real and it is available to those who will place their trust in the one we celebrate as the Prince of Peace during this time of year.

I pray for this peace for you and for me.

Friday, November 28, 2014

High Expectations Are A Sign of Respect

One of the most disrespectful and demeaning things we can do to people is expect very little from them.  Low expectations often communicate this to a person:  “I don’t think you are capable of much.”  Even if that is not what is said, that may be what is subtly communicated by low expectations.

On the other hand, high expectations may push us to a place of discomfort, however, it is an indication of respect when we communicate this type of message to a person:  “You can do better than this.”

I know this can be a sensitive and delicate move in a relationship—and I will admit, I’m not particularly good at doing this—but sometimes we need to lovingly push people by expecting something more, something higher, of them.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Much To Be Thankful For

Research has shown that gratitude and thankfulness are good for us emotionally and even physically.  They have an effect on things like energy levels and alertness.  It has been shown that gratitude and thankfulness affect a person’s willingness to help others.  And so, not surprisingly, it turns out that the old idea which encourages us to “count your blessings” really is good advice.

I am a person who is extraordinarily blessed.  In fact, sometimes when I really consider it honestly it’s surprising for me to recall all the good things that have been given to me.  God is good, kind and gracious. 

(By the way, this doesn’t mean I’ve come to the point at which I never complain anymore, it just means I really shouldn’t complain anymore.  But I do, once in a while.  I’m working on being more mature. I should be there any day, now.)

I can, however, say that I am genuinely thankful.  I pray you have much for which to be thankful today, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!