Monday, December 24, 2012

Those New Zealand Kids Sure Know How to Tell the Christmas Story!

Need a refreshing retelling of the original Christmas story? Look at how the kids from New Zealand pull it off....very refreshing!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Really Small Church with a HUGE Impact

Salem Methodist Church near Hilda, SC
This church reminds me of Bethlehem, birthplace of our Savior.  We read in Matthew chapter two,  the story of the wise men looking for the baby Jesus. King Herod, a local ruler (under the thumb of Rome) , heard about this and wanted to destroy this child who he perceived as a threat to his throne.

Beginning in verse 3 we read: When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel. '"

God picked a tiny town in Judea to have a HUGE impact on the world. Salem Methodist Church reminds me of Bethlehem and of God's immense power to impact the world. This church building is located about six miles from Denmark, SC, where I live. I like this church a lot. I have taken many pictures here because this is one of the most encouraging churches I know. Most people drive by without thinking anything about its impact on the world.
Historical Marker at Salem Methodist Church

I never stopped until, quite by accident, I discovered an important bit of history.  Holland McTyeire was born on a farm near Govan, SC, and was brought up in the love and nurture of this church. Holland went into the ministry and became a Methodist bishop in Nashville, TN, where he dreamed of establishing a Methodist university. 

In the wake of the Civil War, there was not much money available for his dream, but in 1873, he got sick and had to go to New York City for treatment where he stayed with his wife's cousin and her husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was so impressed with McTyeire, his character and his dream, that he gave him just short of a million dollars (this was in 1873 mind you!)  to establish his dream college. Vanderbilt gave the money under the condition that McTyeire would be President of the Board of Trustees for the rest of his life. McTyeire selected the campus and the faculty for the school which eventually became Vanderbilt University. This university (and its medical school) is known for excellence, and its graduates (including, at last count, EIGHT Noble Prize winners) have impacted the world in immeasurable ways.

This church now only has a handful of members (and I heard was in danger of closing), but its lasting impact on the planet shows how just ONE life impacted for Christ can alter the world. I wonder how many of those saints whose bodies are buried in the church's cemetery taught Holland McTyeire the Bible in Sunday School, and taught him the value of Jesus Christ through their examples.

Why do I like this church so much? It reminds me that each conversation I have with someone could yield eternal results. So small churches take heart! You may not have huge budgets, and massive worship services with spectacular videos, wonderful orchestras,  and amazing praise bands (mind you, God uses those churches, too!), but each life that is influenced by your ministry and witness is powerful in the hands of our amazing Lord and Savior.

I'm glad our Father chose little Bethlehem as the entry point of His Son into our world. I'm glad He gave us the gift of little Salem Methodist Church to impact the world in great ways through the life of Holland McTyeire. And I'm also glad He's giving me opportunities every day to put my tiny, little life in His hands so He can surprise me in Heaven one day, with all the impact I had for His glory and didn't even notice.

Do NOT measure the quality of your life by the standards of the world. Instead remember little Bethlehem and Salem Methodist Church. Remember that we know and serve a loving, powerful Father Who specializes in taking tiny things and using them to accomplish MASSIVE good!!!!

(NOTE: I just submitted a picture of the church to which includes a link for more of the history behind it!)

Monday, December 03, 2012

My Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

A year or two ago I bought a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree for $5 as an after-Christmas clearance bargain. I thought about giving it away as a gag gift, but then I decided I could use it for something else. Every year a handful of dedicated ladies in our church (plus a couple of men to be wreath-lifters and tree-constructors) do an excellent job of decorating our sanctuary for Christmas. I added my "tree" to the decorations! 

Sure, it looks a little out of place, but it's supposed to. I told the church yesterday that I was keeping it out to remind us that one gift we can give to Christ (year round) is to take care of the poor.

It's amazing how often throughout scriptures, our Father tells us to take care of the poor. Jesus reminds us in Luke 14:12-14: Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

So remember the poor during Christmas (and through the year); it's a gift that our Savior will really like! Remember what that brilliant philosopher Linus Van Pelt said about this little tree in the original Charlie Brown's Christmas special: I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It's not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love. The gang then takes decorations from Snoopy's doghouse and transfers it to the tree for an amazing transformation. All it really needed was love, just like you and me, and just like the poor.

The Bible gives us VERY little wiggle room with regards to our obligation to love those in need. One of my all time favorite passages that sums it up is 1 John 3:16-18: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Once again I owe a lot to one of my seminary professors, Dr. Rick Yount, who told our class over thirty years ago, "love is acting in the best interest of another PERIOD!" I've never forgotten that, and I never will. I hope you won't either! So if you want to give Jesus a Christmas present He'll really "love," then love others, especially those in need! 

Sunday, December 02, 2012

My Wish for Your Advent Season...That Christ Will NEVER Be Just an Heirloom!

I'm going to try and be true to blogging more, and what better time than Advent. I spent some time this morning browsing the Kindle Store at Amazon for Henri Nouwen books. Here's part of the reason why....a quote from Nouwen's book, Making All Things New: "The beginning of the spiritual life is often difficult not only because the powers which cause us to worry are so strong but also because the presence of God's Spirit seems barely noticeable. If, however, we are willing to live a life of prayer and practice the disciplines of solitude and community, a new hunger will make itself known. This new hunger is the first sign of God's presence. When we remain attentive to this divine presence, we will be led always deeper into the kingdom. There, to our joyful surprise, we will discover that the power of our worries is weakening and all things are being made new."

My prayer is that the presence of God's Spirit this Advent season will NOT be "barely noticeable," but that you will experience Him more and more. One way is to commit yourself to meeting with Him daily meditating on His Word. As you experience Him, I assure you that the "power of your worries will weaken." I also pray for us all that we will hunger for more and more of God's presence as He leads each of us deeper into His amazing and wonderful Kingdom where ALL THINGS ARE BEING MADE NEW!

Jesus died to be more than just a memory or an heirloom. Here's a pretty old Christmas song by Amy Grant that drives home the truth that the most important "things" in our lives are NOT "things" at all!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How's Your Christmas FOCUS?

I am going to TRY to get back into blogging. I have appreciated the comments from two of my followers that they miss it. Sorry I've been gone so long....a bit of blog-burnout plus the busyness of the ministry have made it easy to let the blog slip. So here's my first Advent blog entry.

A couple of months ago I took two pictures of a rose in our church sanctuary. The rose was in celebration of a new baby. In the first shot, I had the camera on automatic so it did what any decent camera should "averaged" the amount of light in the scene and made an electronic best guess. Though it is a high-tech camera, it is not equipped with a mind-reading sensor so it did not know what part of the picture was the most important. Its "averaging" approach washed out the rose.
I then made one simple adjustment. I set the camera to "spot" metering which means it only measures the light in the small area I point to, in this case, the rose. Basically I set it to "ignore" the rest of the room, and to only consider the light reflected from the rose. You can see the difference....
The lesson here is to learn how to use spot metering on your camera; it comes in very handle when photographing your kids in school plays, award ceremonies, graduations, or in any situation where there is a spot-lighted stage surrounded by lots of darkness.

The REAL lesson here is that Christmas is what you make it. You can focus your attention on everything, and end up "averaging" your time, commitments, and participation between the culture's idea of the holidays, and God's idea. In doing this, you may find your focus on Jesus lacking detail, like the washed out rose in my first picture. A better solution for Christ-followers is to focus on Him first, daily, and, yes, even on Dec. 25th. If you do that, an amazing thing makes the whole picture of Christmas more beautiful.

Can people tell by looking at the picture of your life, what you're truly focused on? I hope so. That's why we're here; to point people to the beauty of a Savior's love, born in a manger, slain on a cross, and risen to be our Lord. May you have a Christ-focused Christmas, and a Christ-focused life from here on out!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I'm Back! On 9/11 No Less!

I have been horrible about blogging...lots of busyness and excuses....but here it is September 11, 2012 on a Tuesday, like September 11, 2001. I was in a conference that morning and I didn't' find out until after lunch (we were at a rural church with no TV) while visiting some very seriously ill church members in a nursing home the scope of the tragedy. It was in the lobby watching the video of the towers' collapses when I realized how horrible this day was....I had never seen that many people die at one time. We all know how much it changed everything. Every year, however, I have tried to remind people that even in the shadow of such horrible hatred and devastation, some amazingly wonderful things were happening, too. Perhaps my favorite example is what happened in the little town (10,000 pop) of Gander, Newfoundland where 6,700 travelers from all over the world were loved by a bunch of Canadian strangers who were to become their hosts, their friends, and their inspiration. Here is one of many clips you'll find about Gander on YouTube:

These "regular" people are an example of how to apply Romans 12:21: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." That is our basic choice...everyday! The thing about Gander is that their love was "seeded" among those 6,700 travelers who left to re-enter a world changed forever by a devastating act of evil. Those seeds, however, contain a force more powerful than evil, a force empowered by the One who created us in the first place...the force of love and compassion and kindness. So what kinds of seeds are you sowing in a post 9/11 world? I hope you're sowing the same kinds of seeds a little town in eastern Canada sowed eleven years ago on a day when evil was met with an even greater!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hey! Can't You Guys Get Along?

I was visiting a church member a few days ago who has six hummingbird feeders under her carport. At the end of my visit, we chatted as I took some video of the "drama of survival" in slow motion. (Note: the resolution stinks because the camera (a point-and-shoot wonder, the Panasonic Lumix ZS20) takes 220 pics a second to catch the action. All this to say, DON'T view it in FULLSCREEN...just IMAGINE it in fullscreen. So, go ahead, and watch the drama. If you're in a hurry, move ahead to the four minute mark for the climactic battle! 
The point: these birds remind me of how senseless it is when Christians fight each other in ways that do not bring Christ glory. Those little, and I mean little birds are so territorial and aggressive, like, well.... like some of us. If their brains were bigger (they have to be tiny to fit in those little bird skulls), I wonder if they would get tired of all the fluttering, and diving, and squawking, and pecking that characterizes so much of their lives. One article describes them as more Tasmanian Devils than Tinker Bells.  They don't pause to thank their great feeder provider; resting in the fact that season after season, their needs are being met by some massive creature who looks menacing, but is not. Instead of living in gratitude, they are fighting and fussing to defend their natural, powerful state of THIS IS MINE! Hey, it's nature, right?

Sure it is, even with humans, but our human nature has an alternative to a lifetime of fighting and fussing and protecting one's territory. That alternative is to get serious about following Christ, and being transformed from the inside out BEFORE you go and attack someone else for invading your space. 

Paul writes in Romans 12:1,2: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." 

Before you go pecking somebody's eye out because they are threatening your territory, maybe you should pause and ask Father if there is anything in your thinking patterns that needs renewing. Surely with a brain as big as yours, there are SOME thoughts that need to be replaced and renewed. So stop pecking and squawking and fighting; embrace the renewed life Christ seeks to give you every day!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Kids Teach Us About America!

I really, really like this Fourth of July video. I liked it so much I even bought it for use this past Sunday at church. Used it with my children's sermon. What a great, quick look at our history, and I really liked the ending. Enjoy and THANK GOD FOR AMERICA!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Anniversary of D-Day! The Invasion of Normandy - 1944

On this day, June 6 in 1944, Allied Forces (including over 73,000 American soldiers) invaded Europe at the beaches of Normandy.  June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end on June 6, the Allies gained a foot- hold in Normandy. The D-Day cost was high -more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded -- but more than 100,000 Soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.... from the official U.S. Army website ( You can also go to this website for another video about D-Day! Don't ever forget: FREEDOM ISN'T FREE! So don't use it selfishly!

I have posted the following video before, but it's still so appropriate as we remember this day in our history!

We are VERY Tiny, but LOVED!

I took this photo on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. That green ball is the sun (it was taken through a piece of welding mask glass), and the little black dot is the planet Venus. It won't pass between the sun and the Earth again until 2117. That little dot is about the same size as our planet! Which reminded me of Psalm 8:3-5:  When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly being and crowned him with glory and honor.

We are really, really, REALLY tiny people living on a tiny speck in a vast, vast universe yet our Fathers cares about us! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Looking for the Positive, the Beautiful, and Finding It!!

Life for the first three weeks of May has been filled with lots of meaningful events. Along the way, I've taken more photos than usual, and was amazed at how many "photo opps" I had. As I looked back over hundreds of pictures, I was grateful for how much "significance and beauty" my Father had allowed me to experience in three short weeks.

First, a few notes:

Except for the photos with me in them, I took all of these pictures between May 3rd and May 20th.

The major events include:

A couple of trips to the Edisto Rose Gardens in Orangeburg, SC, to test out my new Panasonic Lumix ZS20 Camera (hence the flowers and birds!).

The wedding of Matthew and Elizabeth Jones on Sullivan's Island. Matthew is the oldest son of Joel and Patty Jones...wonderful friends for over 35 years (Joel and I were at Clemson together)!

Baby dedication service at our church on Mother's Day with two families, the Huttos and the Brelands. I took group shots as part of the worship service. Hey, we're family aren't we!?

A trip to Wake Forest, NC, to visit Randy and Kittie Trail (again lifelong friends of over 30 years since seminary days), and to help out with things as Kittie had surgery while I was there. (It went well.)

I ended up with shots from my climb up on old fire tower (with permission from the owners!)! So this is just to remind folks that there is beauty all around us, if we'll take time to notice!

So here are just a few of the reasons I can say "Thank You Lord" over and over and over again!
Even in difficult days, we can find good if we look for it! If we can't see it, maybe that means it's our turn to do something good for others to take pictures of! Our Father wants us to focus on the good stuff. How do I know? Well, Philippians 4:8 for one: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

So look around...take a picture...if you're not having a good day, then find a way to make it a good day!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hungry, Hungry Heron...and I Got Him on Video!

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Edisto Rose Gardens in Orangeburg, SC, and was amazed at how calm, cool, collected, and calculated a blue heron was. As children threw bread in his vicinity, and turtles approached, he remained unmoved, focused on the water, or, should I say, on what was under the water. After I videoed him the first time, I return a week and a half later to find him in the same stance at the very same location with "similar" results.

I've been playing around with iMovie, so this is what I came up with...

So what's the object lesson here? The heron lived by focusing on that which would sustain his life, not being distracted by that which would not.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wow! What an Update on Caine's Arcade!

Here is a follow-up to my previous post about "Caine's Arcade."

Just a quick recap:
  • A 9 year old spend last summer at his dad's auto parts store in L.A.
  • He makes an arcade out of cardboard boxes using his old toys for prizes.
  • He works hard, tries to get people to play, and they don't.
  • He doesn't give up.
  • His first customer (looking for a door handle for his car) is intrigued by his creativity and "spunk." He also happens to be a film-maker.
  • He plays the games; he makes an eleven minute short film on Caine's arcade.
  • He invites people to surprise Caine by showing up on a Sunday afternoon.
  • They do, they play, and they give Caine "the best day of his life."
  • The short film goes viral (4.5 million views).
  • A website collects money for a scholarship fund. The film-maker (Nirvan Mullick)thought $25,000 was too high a goal. Well, here's the rest of the story...and it keeps getting better!

Oh, and a pinball company gave him a vintage pinball game, too! PLEASE, PLEASE don't forget the power of love, compassion, generosity, and kindness! Is there a Caine in your life who needs encouragement? Well, go and encourage! Today!!!

I loved what one article said about Nirvan. It was something like, "Nirvan set out to make Caine's day, and he's ended up making Caine's LIFE!" Never underestimate the exponential power of LOVE expressed in simple, sometimes LIFE-CHANGING.....KINDNESS!!!!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Have You Ever Made Somebody's Day?

When was the last time you intentionally made someone's day? What if you didn't even really know the person? Nirvan Mullick, a young film-maker in Los Angeles did that for a nine-year-old kid named Caine Monroy, who spent last summer making his own arcade out of cardboard boxes at his father's car parts store. Nirvan came looking for a door handle for his '96 Corolla, and found Caine inviting him to play. He did, and then Nirvan asked Caine's dad if he could make a short film about Caine and his arcade. Here's the video (that has been seen by almost 4,000,000 people!):

After the flashmob, at the end of the day as Caine and his dad drove home, Caine turned to his dad and said, “Dad, this was the best day of my whole life.

All because I guy looking for a door handle, found a smart, little kid waiting on a customer to play some games he made out of cardboard boxes from his dad's stockroom.

Nirvan had a simple idea: tell Caine's story and invite people into it. The result? EVERYONE was blessed! EVERYONE....Caine, Nirvan, the flashmob, oh, and the folks who have donated (mostly a dollar at a time) over $150,000.00 to Caine's college fund!

All because a complete stranger had an idea to bless a little kid, and ACTED ON IT!

So, again, I ask you: have you ever made somebody's day? What are you waiting for?

For more information on this story go to:

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Christ's Death Tears the Veil in the Temple

"With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and[a] saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:37,38

Don't Rush Through Good Friday

Every year I find some pretty good videos to remind me (and hopefully others) of the significance of Christ's death and resurrection. This one focuses on "scars."

Friday, March 16, 2012

My Ultimate Coat? Unfortunately...uh...NO!

I saw this coat advertised on the net recently...You can find details by clicking on the picture! Will I get one? Well, I might have until I found out something very, very important. Here is a picture I took recently with my beloved Panasonic Lumix ZS7 camera which I use for 95% of my photography these days. Do you see that ugly hair-like smudge in the middle of the picture? Well, I thought it was on my lens, so when I saw this, I cleaned the lens. It was then that I found the little hair was not ON my lens, but IN the lens!! Now think about it...a $300 camera rendered almost useless (Okay, at least SERIOUSLY flawed) by a little hair fragment!

Getting it removed may cost as much as a replacement, or at least enough to justify updating a three-year-old camera. (Wait, is that a bad thing? Oops...let me get back on track!) So here's the deal. I take a lot of pictures, and one reason I can do that is that I often carry my camera in my coat pocket. As I researched this problem (that other people seem to have frequently), I found that while the camera is in my pocket it is collecting all manner of dust, lint, and, yes, hair fragments!

When I switch it on, it automatically extends its impressive zoom lens (16x optical from your photo buffs!) which makes it ready to capture reality with stunning clarity. Unfortunately, the extending of the zoom lens tends to suck in all the aforementioned dust, lint and hair fragments!

The spiritual moral of this situation! Small things can mess up bigger things! Up until now, I never notice the collection of filth lurking in my coat pockets. Now I notice!

We don't tend to notice the small things we let collect in our relationships. Look at some marriages. Little comments, sarcasms, criticisms go unanswered. Without even realizing it, couples can slowly arrive at a place with nothing positive is said. Friction, though not noticed at times, slowly wears down the harmony/intimacy that once existed.

Garbage collects and somewhere along the way, in the stress and busyness of life, the negative emotional lint and dust gets sucked into our psyche, messing up the picture of our relationship...pushing us apart. The picture of love we started with is now marred, and though there is still much good in "the picture," our attention is eventually drawn to that ugly hair that is suddenly so noticeable. If not corrected, this situation can make each partner easy prey for looking elsewhere for affirmation/satisfaction like porn, affairs, etc. They may simply opt for mediocrity. This is not the picture of marriage our Father intended for us.

Some couples wisely get busy cleaning the lens of their relationship. Smudge cleaning is NOT done by jumping into blaming each other first. True cleaning should begin with each realizing his or her responsibility in the situation; confessing his/her contribution to the breakdown of communication; and then by each partner renewing his/her commitment to the marriage. It is so easy to jump to the BLAME stage, bypassing the "lens cleaning" we each need to do first. (Did you see the blog post I did yesterday on getting the plank out of your eye, before looking for the speck in someone else's eye?)

The same process occurs between friends, too. Oh, and it also occurs in our relationships with our Father (except He's never at fault!). We dabble in little sins, not realizing the damage they do when we let them get sucked into our lives as habits that mess up the picture of our witness and ministry to others.

So whether it involves your relationship with someone else, or with your Heavenly Father, don't neglect the dust and lint of your own sin. Deal with it! Scripture promises that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) Nothing cleans the smudges that ruin the pictures of our lives like forgiveness!

In The Mood for Quality Entertainment? Good Luck with That!!

I like to check out the website ROTTEN TOMATOES for movie reviews because it gives scores based on a lot of movie critics. If a movie receives over 60% positive reviews, it is certified as "fresh" and worth considering.

If the movie receives under 60% positive reviews, it is certified ROTTEN. This week (3/16) I thought it funny (and a bit telling of Hollywood's ability to produce films of consistent quality) how the current top grossing films at the box office rated with Rotten Tomato critics.

Here is the list and their ratings:
Well, "The Lorax" almost made it into the fresh category!

Check out what some are calling the lowest rating movie of all time: Eddie Murphy in A THOUSAND WORDS: OUCH!

Philippians 4:18 reminds us: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. From this week's list of top grossing movies, doing this might prove difficult in your local theater.

What's a discerning person to do? Hmmm...what about a good book!? Hey, what about picking up THE GOOD BOOK!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Be Care About Speck Obsession!

I was humbled this a most unexpected way. I was in Charleston visiting with Joel and Patty Jones, very dear friends for over three decades. Patty has been battling lung cancer for two and half years, and has responded to a number of chemo therapies. She has been in a trial for a new drug that her doctor thought held promise, and I went down to be with her and Joel as they would get a report about whether or not the new chemo was working. They got good news that her cancer was stable and not spreading. This meant she could continue immediately with another round of chemo.

While waiting with Joel for Patty to get situated with an IV, I decided that a little humor would be in order. I noticed Joel was wearing a pair of sandals and socks and I commented that I thought that footwear was only appropriate for grandfathers. He smirked and said it didn't bother him, and that was that...until we went back to keep Patty company as she received an hour and a half of chemo.

As I sat down in the well-lit alcove with Joel and Patty, I looked at my feet, and noticed something I had not noticed all shoes! Here is what I saw:
I knew I should have replaced that burnt out light bulb in my bedroom! Yes, I showed them to Joel and Patty, and yes we had a good laugh (as did her sister later when we told her; and my church Wednesday night at Prayer Meeting when I told them!). In an instant I was reminded of Matthew 7:1-5: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

Thankfully, my object lesson was relatively painless, but it did remind me of how often I'm tempted to criticize someone prematurely without considering my part in whatever issue is at stake. To be a little more pointed let me remind you to pause before criticizing anyone in a particular situation.

In that pause, consider your words. THINK!!! Is what you are about to say:
God-INSPIRED? (Would He approve?)

We are all flawed. I'm not saying (and I don't think the Bible is saying) to never comment on another person's failings. I am saying to pray for the wisdom to be "redemptive" in your comments in such a way that the person realizes you are speaking with a sincere desire to help them have a better life. We need to SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE (Ephesians 4:15) with a sincere commitment to be part of their journey of change (if, in fact, they are the ones (and not us!) needing to change!).

It is so easy to become obsessive about specks in the eyes of others while being totally unaware of our own "plank blindness!" Better tend to your plank first, before you go hunting for eye specks in others, while being totally oblivious to the unmatched shoes you are wearing!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Elephants - Another Lesson in Love

Did you know that it has been documented that elephants grieve the loss of others in their herd? Did you know that they are among nature's smartest creatures? (Check out more on "elephant cognition" here: )

What fascinates me is how they take care of others in the herd. Here is a video of several elephants "rescuing" a baby elephant in danger of drowning. If you're too busy to see a minute of gentle "trunk-assisted" attempts to bring the toddler to shore, skip to the halfway point.

I continue to be amazed at the beautiful complexity of nature our Father has engineered. I'm a big fan of "benevolent" species, with dogs, dolphins, and now, elephants topping my list of favorites. I'm equally amazed, however, at how quickly (and frequently) humans can forget basic levels of kindness and compassion. We may be on the "endangered list" of benevolent species.

Such a loss of basic human concern has been evident in so much of the media's treatment of the death of Whitney Houston. I understand the public's fascination with celebrities, but I also know at the heart of this media frenzy, is a grieving family who does NOT need to be the opening segment of "Entertainment Tonight."

Her death was tragic, but she was still a human being deserving of some kind of dignity immediately after her passing. Instead, she becomes the subject of scores of entertainment, news, and news magazine programs, not to mention the rest of the media world (i.e. internet!). That would be fine if the focus was on her contributions to the entertainment industry (which are mentioned, of course), but the media goes far beyond that. Even before her body can moved to her hometown, headlines talk of "a life of squandered opportunities," "Whitney's appearance at a club the night of her death," "exclusive photos of the bathtub where she died," etc.

I realize there are lessons to be learned from Whitney's life and death, but is it too much to ask that people wait until after the funeral to begin that process? I know it's too much to ask of the media to "behave" appropriately so soon after a celebrity's death, but it does remind me how Christ-followers can be "media outlets" of their own, with lives publicizing compassion, understanding, caring, and above all else...LOVE. How desperately the world needs the good news of Christ's love, and most won't go to the Bible on their own to find out. First they must "see" there's love to be found, and they are looking at the qualities of our lives as a reason to investigate a different path than the one they're on.

So don't let elephants show us up as a species! Find some way today to be genuinely compassionate and helpful to someone in need! You may be just the stimulus someone needs to find out Jesus really does love them, too!

You can be loving right now, by pausing to pray for Whitney Houston's daughter and the rest of her family who are trying to grieve with 100's of photographers and media vans sitting outside their house.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Love Like Jesus Loved

Just saw this video at Hyper Pixels Media. Pretty important reminder of how important it is to respond to Christ's love by loving Him and others! (Go here for more videos:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Are Humans Earth's Best Species? - Sometimes I Wonder!

I'm a fan of dolphins (especially the bottlenosed variety!). I saw Dolphin Tale recently and enjoyed it much more than I had anticipated. It's been a long, long, LONG time since I've seen an episode of FLIPPER so it was a reminder of just how remarkable these mammals are. During the opening titles of the movie, there were shots of dolphins in the wild blowing air rings and playing with them. I thought, "hmmm, nice CGI special effect, but not very realistic. Why did they show something like that anyway?" Well, I found out that they put those shots in there, because they really can blow those rings and play with them. See for yourself...

Few animals in the wild have as powerful a reputation of being "playful and benevolent" as these noble creatures.

They are smart. They are highly social, living in family units called "pods." They can fish together. They care for one another, staying with an injured or ill individual, helping them to breathe by bringing them to the surface. Dolphin attacks on humans are extremely rare, but there have been documented cases of dolphins circling swimmers to protect them from nearby sharks, and of dolphins chasing sharks away. They can teach each other behaviors, as in the case of female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins who teach their offspring how to cover their snouts with sponges to protect them while foraging for food.

All in all, as a species, they seem to get along better than we do. We know they communicate with each other. I wonder if they lie to each other? I wonder if they tear each other down with their clicks and whistles? I wonder if they worry? Maybe they do, but if they do, I don't want to find out. I like having a species sharing our planet that inspires me to act like a better human being.

Paul reminds us of the life Christ came to manifest in each us in Romans 12:9-18,21: 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.... 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

If dolphins can get along so well with each other, and us, then shouldn't we be able to? Our Father hasn't only made it plain in the scriptures as to the best life possible, but He's given us all we need in Christ to make that life possible...TODAY! So go and have a "dolphin-like" day...TODAY!

Oh, here's a trailer for the film (From the folks who made "The Blind Side!")

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What Should We Fear - Death or Distractions?

It's hard to argue with a kid like Clayton McDonald concerning his observations on life and death and distractions. Click on the video link to hear his word of warning for us all to beware the power of distractions!

Clayton's Story from Jacob Lewis on Vimeo.

Clayton reminds us all not to waste life; not to waste opportunities to be grateful for those you love (and to tell them so!); and to love and talk about our Savior to those in danger of be distracted to death.

The parable of the rich fool in Luke 12 could have been called, the parable of the distracted fool! Jesus was clear to his listeners then and now when He responded to someone in the crowd who said to him “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Luke records in verses 14-21: Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.'"

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Beware the power of distractions. Unless Christ comes back while you are alive, you will die. Now is the time to think about it; to look at the power of distractions in your own life, and to make the most of the opportunities you have to love God and others. Now is the time to spend your life on what matters....Jesus Christ...including worshiping Him, obeying Him, and sharing Him!

For more about the extraordinary story of Clayton McDonald go to:


This has got to be one of the more classy yet effective public safety commercials I've ever seen. It's from the U.K.

Now you could do a commercial that just yells at the guy, "HEY, WEAR YOUR SEATBELT, STUPID!" I like this way better. It reminds me that we can still communicate the wonder of Jesus Christ to others in beautiful ways, kind ways, and even, loving ways. It's hard for folks to hear us when we're yelling at them.

Paul reminds us of the power of gentle love when he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:6-8:
We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

Like the mom and daughter in this ad, may the lost know we really care about them and their destinies far beyond merely trying to convince them that we're right! If we don't care and love them with sincerity, they'll know it. We want them, as the ad says, "to embrace life" through Christ, but they probably won't do that if we are unwilling to "embrace" them!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Here is a picture of Ian and his mom. Ian goes to my church. Ian is a bright kid. How do I know? Well...
This past Sunday morning during our worship service, Ian quietly asked his mom, "Is Mr. Andy a grown-up?" His mom's answer, "sometimes." (Okay, that might not have been her answer, but it would have been justified.) A friend said it was a compliment so I'm going with that!

I must admit it does remind me of Christ reminding His followers in Matthew 18:3: I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Bonus remembrance: Years ago another astute young man, Thompson, asked his mother while riding in the car, "Does Mr. Andy have a job?" I'm so glad my Father has given me such wise children and young people to keep me humble!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Another Christmas Gone - Now What?

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas with family and friends. Christmas 2011 is over so the question comes to mind, "now what?" Click on the video for a reminder of the importance of what comes "after" Christmas!

What comes after Christmas? I hope that what characterizes 2012 for us all is simple, daily, joyful obedience to the truth our Father gives us in Ephesians 5:15-20: Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • May we all "make the most of every opportunity" to be "intentional" about making 2012 a fantastic year, not merely for ourselves, but for every human being we interact with over the next 366 days! That's right....we get an extra day in 2012 to combat the evil of the world by being an outlet of God's goodness!
  • May we all "make the most of every opportunity" to know and worship our amazing God, Who, through His Son has given us the gift of calling Him, "Abba Father"as His adopted children!
  • May we all "make the most of every opportunity" to understand His will for us (Hint: if whatever you're focused on, whatever you spend your time and resources doing do not involve loving God and others, you are most definitely not understanding God's will!).
  • May we "make the most of every opportunity" to encourage each other with "music from a Spirit-filled heart!"
  • May we "make the most of every opportunity" to display to the world our thanksgiving to our Father for adopting us, for giving us others to love, and for walking with us through whatever circumstances await us, promising to bring good out of whatever the world throws at us!

New Year Resolutions? Alternate Strategy: Try Daily "Small Steps" Instead

So often we suffer from the "all or nothing" phenomenon when it comes to personal growth. If, however, we are to experience sustained growth over a lifetime, we need to learn the value of taking small steps in what might otherwise seem an overwhelming journey! The good news is, that our Father is with us every step of the way! Check this video reminder out...

How to Best Get Through 2012 - Follow the One Who Knows the Way!

What's the best way to say "thank you" to our Father Who has given us so much in Christ? This video gives us a gives us the answer! If you love our Father, then you will follow His Son!

Jesus said in John 10:27: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I hope we're all listening to that voice that still calls us daily..."follow me!" There is NO better way to navigate life in 2012!

Strategy for 2012 - BE A THANKFUL PERSON

If I had to come up with a bumper sticker for this video it would be: THANKSGIVING: NOT A HOLIDAY - IT'S A LIFESTYLE!

What makes for a great life strategy in 2012? ! Thessalonians 5:16-18 is a pretty simple, yet profound way to start... 16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Make no mistake, however. These are not mere "tips" for better living; it's a description of the kind of life our Father wants to give us...a life surrounded by joy, communion with the Father, and gratitude which gives others a reason to investigate the good news of Christ for themselves. What characteristics does your life display to others that would make them curious to find out more about this God we get to call "Abba Father?"