Heaven’s Little Morsels

Now for something important; I’d like to say a few words about candy.

My Official Position

Officially, I hate candy. It’s bad. It’s the sugar, just processed, refined, granulated sugar. The kind that kills lab rats when they are pumped full of it for weeks, months, or even longer.

Candy has no real value. It contributes to all kinds of ill-health. It’s bad.  

My Unofficial Position

Unofficially, I love candy. It’s great. It’s the sugar, just copious amounts of wonderful, delicious, sugar. The kind that keeps me coming back for weeks, months, or even longer.

milk-chocolate-caramels-with-sea-salt_1Really?

Actually, there is a whole thing about candy. Its personal, people are as selective about their candy as they are about other things they crave.

Some Observations

  1. Some like penny candy, individually wrapped little pieces.
  2. Some like the fruit based, high fructose candy.
  3. Some enjoy just about anything on a stick, even corndogs.
  4. Others crave heaven’s little morsels: milk chocolate.
  5. Some serve an evil master: dark chocolate.

Personally, I love milk chocolate, it’s the only chocolate that should be made; and the only candy that should be eaten.

Dark chocolate is just wrong. It is bitter, has a horrible aftertaste, and should be outlawed in all 50 states. I don’t get why so many women prefer dark chocolate. But then, I don’t get why women prefer a lot of things. Mars and Venus I guess. I’m from Pluto.

The Daily Discipline

I try to refrain from sugar and candy, and do so almost all the time. But yesterday, I was thinking a small piece of milk chocolate would make me happy. I found some and it did.

But I had to scrounge for it. I asked around the office but all they had was the cheap, empty, meaningless candy. Then I found something fantastic. It was just a tiny square, but it was awesome. I was so happy.

To Close

So keep your hard candy, your taffy, your candy on a stick, and all your interloping gummy based, chewable want-a-be’s suitable only for raccoons and children’s vitamins. And cast all your dark chocolate into a fiery pit.

I’ll have a milk chocolate with caramel and sea salt, thank you!!!

Please: No disagreements, debates, texts, tweets, phone calls, messages, or emails.

Thank you.

The Management.

The Burning Fires

I noticed something interesting at my coffee place.

What Was It?

The coffee house has two seating areas separated by a large, double-sided brick fireplace. At a table on one side were four people who happened to be Jewish. At a table on the other side were four people who happened to be Muslim.

jewish-coffee-house

Some Observations

  1. One table spoke Hebrew and the other Arabic.
  2. Some wore Yamaka’s and some wore headscarves.
  3. Both groups were laughing and having a good time.
  4. Neither seemed aware of the others.
  5. Would they have cared?

muslim-woman-having-coffee

I couldn’t stop thinking how both groups, existing historically in mutual hatred, were separated by fire. Fire can be a symbol for God. But can also be a symbol for judgment, wrath, and destruction. As well as for light, warmth, and fellowship. I wondered which symbol for fire would they have chosen for the other?

Enemies?

I don’t live in mutual hatred with anyone, as far as I know. But over the years there have been people who didn’t like me, or disliked me a lot. We certainly had barriers separating us. What symbol for fire would we have chosen for one another?

Would it be the fire of hatred and vengeance; the fires of wrath and judgement? Or could the flames become fires of warmth and mutual fellowship?

The World

Is the whole world locked in a cycle of hatred and violence? Is it cool to hate? Humanity fights over many things. Differences are settled through war, terrorism, trade and monetary sanctions, and the capacity to dominate. Actually, the differences never really get settled.

The fires keep burning.

Answers?

I can’t control how others think, feel, or act. I can only control me and I sometimes I lack self-control. My fires can burn too.

Paul spoke of a wall dividing Jews and Gentiles, but that Jesus came to destroy the wall, for he was the Prince of Peace.

Christianity won’t end world conflict, hatred, and violence.

It can only end those things in me. And in you?

Shalom

A David & Goliath Thing?

Great game last night. Clemson prevailed 35-31.

A Competitive Contest

  1. Alabama was favored to win.
  2. Clemson scored three TD’s in the 4th quarter.
  3. It was competitive to the last second of the game.

Some Observations

  1. Alabama seemed to be the better team: faster, larger, and stronger.
  2. But they made some key mistakes.
  3. Still, it felt like Alabama would win, until the last 2:00 minutes.

It was a come from behind victory. Another example of don’t give up, don’t give out, and don’t give in. Clemson just refused to lose. 

An Unlikely Player

The winning touchdown came with only 6 seconds on the clock. It was a two-yard pass play from Clemson’s QB to the smallest player on the field, a kid named Hunter Renfrow.

unknown

Lots of people told Hunter that he would never play Division 1 football, that he shouldn’t get his hopes up. He was a walk-on player, just 5’10” and 155 pounds. But his family believed. His Dad, a HS football coach in South Carolina, endlessly encouraged his son. His mom threw hundreds and hundreds of passes to him in their back yard. He made the team, with a full scholarship.

He wasn’t big enough, strong enough, or fast enough. The college scouts didn’t notice him. But last night, with multiple millions watching, he scored the touchdown that crowned his team National Champions.

He was David and Alabama was Goliath. David won.

To Close

David was an unlikely hero. He was too small, too young, and wasn’t even a soldier. It was absurd for him to fight the giant, but he did.

David knew something Goliath didn’t, that some battles are fought by God, and size, strength, and weapons won’t make a difference. A huge sword over a small stone? Really?

When the Lord does the fighting, nothing else matters.

Shalom

My Plant Died

A plant died in my yard. It was green and now it’s not. What happened?

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Not My Dead Plant, But Close, Very Close

Here’s What Happened?

It froze to death. I woke up and it was 26 degrees. Not cold by some standards, but cold for me, and for my plant.

We bought this house in August. One of the attractions was the mature landscaping, especially in the backyard, it was green and charming. It’s a bit less charming.

Something To Think About

  1. I knew the cold was coming.
  2. There was time to cover the plants, but I thought, “I’ll get to it later.”
  3. Green things require some attention to live.

Something Else To Think About

Life has cold fronts too. Severe temperatures can threaten us. Maybe it’s our marriage or family. It could be our career or financial well-being. Sometimes it’s our health. 

Question: When is the best time to deal with a hard freeze, after the plant it dead?

Consider This

  1. Most of the time we feel the threat, we sense something is coming.
  2. We need to address it; if we wait too long, we may wake up to a dead marriage, a lost family, and a ship-wrecked career.
  3. Marriage, family, and even our faith, are like green things, they require some attention to live. 

In Closing

I pray your days are sunny and warm. But if the arctic air is headed your way, then don’t be proud, stubborn, or lazy.

Keep your eyes open, your heart soft, and your mind attuned to what matters.

Some things require attention to live.

Shalom

It’s A Jesus Thing

Yesterday I helped put away some Christmas trees and decorations.

Not At Home

It wasn’t at home; it was at church. It wasn’t just me; but several of us. How did it happen? Well, one of the several asked if I could help. I said, “Sure.”

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Not Us And Not Our Tree

Did I Mind?

I didn’t really mind. It was a team-effort with a team-load of work. There were trees and decorations in the Worship Center and throughout the building, including a huge tree in the main lobby. It was all beautiful and festive and contributed to the joy of the holidays. But it was time for it all to come down, so it could all go up.

Go Up?

Yes, as in up in the attic and upstairs in a large mechanical room. Several trips up and down. The climate control systems were working fine, it was comfortable when I started. But with each trudging of stairs I experienced genuine climate change.

It’s The Way of Things

The trees go up and the trees come down; it  just goes in circles. The calendar, the holidays, and our routines, just around and around. But that shouldn’t discourage us, for life is full of purpose.

Living With Purpose

Do you live with purpose? I do, at least most of the time. Personally, I’m married and have adult children, that has purpose. Professionally, I preach two services each Sunday, manage the ministry staff, and work closely with our church leaders. I teach, counsel, and mentor throughout the week. I’m a vision caster, an evangelist, and an officiant of funerals and weddings and events. There are 1145 members in my church and life is busy. But my life has purpose; and I’m deeply blessed.

Occasionally

But occasionally, I also schlep trees up stairs, and other things too. It isn’t part of my compensation or job description. It isn’t part of my ministry, nor does my leadership expect me to do it.

So why do it, why should I help? Well, because I was asked. And guess what, the people that asked, that were already working, it wasn’t in their job descriptions either.

big-tree-ornaments
I Love Christmas

To Close

It’s the nature of Jesus to serve, and we seek his nature, it’s a Jesus thing. I think he would have helped had he been asked.

Actually, I think he wouldn’t have had to be asked.

Shalom

Solving It Isn’t The Goal

How do you define homeless? Is it defined by shelter? Or by how much or how little someone owns?

Occasionally

I occasionally help homeless people. I don’t cook, prepare, or supply anything. I just arrive, wear the gloves, and put food on their plates. Others do the hard work. 

The homeless aren’t necessarily without a place to stay. No, they don’t own or rent a home, but they stay somewhere, even if it’s under an overpass. 

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One man in the food line was talking about the boat he lives in. I asked about it and he showed me a picture, on his cell phone. I thought,”How can he own a boat, have a cell phone, and be in a food line?” He lets another homeless guy stay on his boat too. He’s proud of his boat; I think it’s all that’s left of his former life.

A Thousand People

If you listened to the stories of a thousand people, you would hear a thousand different stories. Some would be affluent and some would be struggling financially. Some would be busy building exciting careers and some would be stuck in dead-end jobs. Others would be wrestling with disabilities, a few would be fighting cancer. Some would be depressed. And some would be losing the game of life and be homeless. 

Solving It

Some have part-time dish washing jobs. Some work when they can. Some stand on a street corner with a sign. Some have a boat and some have a car. Some have a grocery cart and some have a tarp. None have very much. None are able to sustain anything good for very long. 

homeless

I don’t’ have the answers for homelessness.

The answers seem easy and the solutions obvious when the poor are someplace else. It’s when you spend some time with poverty that it gets overwhelming, and vexing.

To Close

The coat I gave today will get traded tomorrow for a night in a car.

Survival is daily, hour by hour, it’s made harder by cold fronts and easier by funded programs. The debilitating nature of homelessness is lessened, at least a little, and for a little while, by dedicated people with hearts of gold. Solving it isn’t their goal, they only wish to ease its pain. 

And me? Well, I occasionally put food on a plate. 

And you? 

Playing to Win

Here’s the thing about sports.

There Are Winners & Losers

Someone is going to win and someone is going to lose. It doesn’t matter if you lose by 30 points or by 1 point, it’s still a defeat. In the weekly television show, The Wide World of Sports, the opening gambit to the show included this phrase,

      “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat.”

Anyone who has played on a competitive level understands. Winning was just as important in Jr. High basketball as it was in my senior year of football.

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I’ve won more than I’ve lost. But I’ve lost plenty and the bigger the game, the bigger the agony and the thrill. 

You Have To Suit Up

Sometimes defeat came from the other side being stronger and faster, or just having better athletes. It wasn’t a matter of effort, skill, or commitment. My Jr High football team, as good as we were, were never going to defeat Alabama.

Still, you have to suit up, no matter what. Which means that mentally, emotionally, and physically you go out and give it all you’ve got, for four quarters, for every play. It’s how winners compete.

Here’s a quote from Wayne Gretzky:

        “I miss 100% of the shots I don’t take.”

Well said, thanks Wayne.

Here’s Another Quote

    “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

Do you know who first said that? It came from an American sports writer who died in 1954. His name was Grantland Rice and his sports article was published in newspapers all over the country.

I agree with him, sort of. His sentiment was that win or lose the athlete needs to play with class, to play within the rules, and to reflect the best interests of his team, his sport, and his school.

But having competed on a basketball court, a football field, the track, and other venues, it absolutely mattered whether I won or lost.

The Bowl Season

I watched several recent bowl games that were won by teams who came from behind. Some were down at half time by 20-30 points. But they came out in the 2nd half, fought back, and emerged victorious. One finished thrilled and the other in agony.

Yes, I’ve seen players throw fits, start fights, and take cheap shots. I’ve seen athletes dishonor their sport, their team, and themselves. It does matter how you play the game. But it matters just as much whether you win or not. Nobody competes to lose. Nobody joins the team so they can have a winless season.

To Close

Paul’s letters included metaphors from the games to illustrate the spiritual disciplines, such as competing to win, finishing the race, and running with perseverance. 

When it comes to faith, it matters whether we win or lose. Paul said the path to spiritual victory came from competing whole-heartedly, and according to the teachings of Christ. Paul would say that we need to suit up, play to honor him, and win.

Wayne was right, we miss 100% of the shots we don’t take.

Shalom

Calendar Power, Really?

Welcome to 2017. Did you stay up to ring in the new year?

Here’s What Happened

Got a text message last night that said, “Happy New Year Rick.” I had actually forgotten it was New Year’s Eve. I went to bed after the Clemson/Ohio ST game but I did hear some fire crackers.

Making The Most

Some of us will use the calendar change as an opportunity for making improvements. It’s called a resolution. 

A Resolution

A resolution: “a formal intention, a reflection on the changes we need to make.”

Top Ten Resolutions (according to an internet source)

  1. Spend more time with family
  2. Get fit
  3. Lose weight
  4. Quit smoking
  5. Enjoy life more
  6. Quit drinking
  7. Get out of debt
  8. Learn something new
  9. Help others
  10. Get organized

How do you feel about the list? Anything resonate?

Being A Believer

Being a Christian influences my choices, habits, and behaviors. As it should for any believer. I always begin the new year with good intentions, but I rarely succeed. Why is that?

Anything the New Year spurs me to pursue is invariably something I should already be doing, thinking, or pursuing. In point of fact, shouldn’t my devotion to Jesus be all the resolve required? If devotion to God won’t cause me to change, I’m not sure how much a new calendar is going to help.

A Few Verses

“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates both body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” 2 Cor. 7:1

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves…” 2 Cor. 13:5

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12, 14

The Holy Spirit

I don’t think the Holy Spirit’s ministry revolves around New Year’s. The resolve to improve should come from him, it should be daily, and I should be listening.

It’s always right to do right. Each day is an excellent day to grow and improve. If I’m waiting for an external influence to motivate me, then I’m probably grieving the Spirit.

In Closing

I set goals. I have a focus for each new year. I think its good. But let’s not confuse the power of God with a flip of the calendar.

2017-blank-yearly-calendar-templateHappy New Year