For Those Who Don’t Make Resolutions

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, primarily because I’m not great at planning ahead. I used to drive my boss crazy when he asked what I was planning to do at a particular meeting. My reply was usually something like, “Planning is what you do on the way to the meeting.”

Since I don’t do resolutions, I don’t have any suggestions for resolutions you should make. However, I am good at giving advice. Consequently, I have some advice that will serve you well in the coming year. Since I am getting old, you can consider it advice from an old man who has seen much of life already.

  1. Learn to laugh more—especially at yourself. In other words, don’t take life, or yourself, so seriously. Lighten up and enjoy life. If you can truly laugh at yourself, you will not be so offended when someone else laughs at you (and they will).
  2. Don’t get upset or offended at every little thing. To be honest, there are few things that are worth our anger.resolutions
  3. You will survive every near-death experience except the last one. In other words, stop worrying about dying. It will happen someday. Prepare for it, if you have not already, and then get on with living.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be willing to question everything, even your basic religious beliefs. If you beliefs are valid, they will withstand the inquisition.
  5. Live with the awareness that the past world was probably not as good as the present and the present world is not as good as the future. Simply put; things usually improve over time.
  6. Trust God in every circumstance–even when He doesn’t seem trustworthy and especially when it doesn’t make sense.
  7. Strive to be loving toward others, especially those who are unlike you. Jesus understood this when He told us to love our enemies. By the way, this is also a good way to reduce the number of enemies in your life.
  8. Realize that you might be wrong before assuming that someone else is wrong.
  9. It’s ok to disagree, but it’s not ok to be mean and ugly.
  10. Don’t allow traditions to prevent you from appreciating new experiences.
  11. If you try and fail, it’s not the end of the world. Just try again.
  12. Make sure you have someone in your life who will pick you up when you fall. By the way, this person is usually found when you are busy picking up
  13. Understand that it would be an incredibly boring world if everyone was just like you.

I’m going to end my list at thirteen for two reasons. First, I have run out of ideas, and second, I want to demonstrate that I’m not superstitious.

The past year has been a good one for me. In fact, even though I have had some challenges in my life, I can honestly say that every year of my life has been good. That is not because of anything I have done, but because God has been especially good to me. Most of all I pray that you will see what He is doing in your life and experience the joy of walking with Him, even when it seems you can’t walk any further.

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The Human History of Building Fences

There are only two things you need to know about Luigi – he lived in a small seaside village, and he was a painter. Not a house painter but an artist. He spent many days sitting on the hill outside his cottage, gazing into the ocean, and painting what he saw. One day it all came together for Luigi, and he painted the most amazing landscape ever seen.

Being proud of his accomplishment, Luigi hung the painting in the front room of his small house and invited his neighbors to view his work. They did, and they were amazed. The picture looked as real as if they were gazing out the back window toward the real ocean. They couldn’t keep quiet and kept inviting friends to see the amazing painting. It was apparent that Luigi could not keep the painting in his small front room, so he wrapped it up and carried it into town to the local museum.artist

The curator was not interested in Luigi at first, but once the painting was unwrapped, he immediately grabbed it and hung it in the prime spot in the museum. Soon there were long lines of people waiting to see the painting. But there was a problem. The painting was so real that people were tempted to touch it just to make sure they weren’t looking out a window or that the water wasn’t real.

The curator couldn’t have people touching the artwork, so he positioned a small fence to keep people back. Yet the attraction was so great that many would stretch across the fence and touch it just to make sure. So he moved the fence back a few feet but still folks would climb on top of the fence and stretch just to touch. The curator had to build a taller fence, and eventually, he put a clear Plexiglas shield in front of the painting. Eventually, he even put a cover over the top to make sure people wouldn’t try to throw a coin or something else into the picture of the ocean.

Now people could not actually see the painting, so the curator printed brochures that described the painting and provided it for the people to read as they stood in line. The painting was just as beautiful as ever, and people came to the museum from all over the land, but all they ever saw was a nice brochure and a good fence. Continue reading

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Our Church Adventure Continues

The adventure that Sharon and I began a couple of years ago continued today at a Lutheran church. We have attended Catholic, Methodist, Assembly of God, Presbyterian, Independent, non-Denominational (although not sure the difference between those last two) and of course Baptist churches during that time. In fact, this was the second Lutheran church for us.

The first was somewhat unusual. It is the closest Lutheran congregation to our house, just a few blocks up the street. Although I have studied a great deal about Martin Luther in college and seminary, I knew little of the Lutheran church today. I expected to encounter a formal, liturgical style of worship, which is something I typically enjoy.

However, this particular Lutheran church was no different than any other church we have visited that is enamored with what is known as contemporary worship. It began with the first beat of the worship team. The base was so loud and the pounding so strong that Sharon almost had to leave.jesuscommunion

The most unusual thing that morning was the announcement that the men’s Bible study group would be meeting next week at a nearby brewery. If you attend and pay the twenty dollar entrance fee, you will not only be able to participate in Bible study, you will also receive two pints of their finest brew. That part does sound like something Martin Luther might have enjoyed, but it is not something I have ever encountered in church before.

But the Lutheran church we visited today was nothing like that. It was extremely liturgical, which I had deduced from their website, and I was looking forward to the experience. Although the liturgy was a little different than what I expected that was not the most noticeable thing about our church experience this morning. Continue reading

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Hanging On to a Prize

While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”  Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”   Mark 5:35-36

One of the best experiences is living in a neighborhood where there are lots of other kids to play with. At age eleven, our family moved to Thornton, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. It was a nice middle-class community filled with kids. On top of the fact that there was always someone to play with was the added bonus that the Lily boys, who lived two doors down, were avid baseball fans.

It is impossible to calculate the number of hours we spent playing imaginary games of wiffle ball and home run derby.  The best arrangement was to make our front sidewalk home plate and the home run marker was the big elm tree in the Carabello’s front yard. If you made solid contact with the plastic ball, it could be lifted over the top branches for a score. field-goal

There was an added mystique about the Carabello house. It was the residence of the neighborhood hero, Bob Carabello. He was only a few years older than other kids but he was a regular on the high school baseball team. That automatically qualified him as someone special.

It was an exciting day when Bob qualified for his driver’s license. Shortly afterward he got his first car, a Chevrolet Corvair (notice I said Corvair, not a Corvette). As I recall, the Corvair was a box shaped car that looked like it had a tumor growing in the middle. The engine was in the back which automatically qualified it as a novelty. It has been listed by Time Magazine as one of the worst cars of all time. In spite of the unpalatable nature of the vehicle, at least it was a car, so we were all envious.  Continue reading

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My Attempt to Offend Everyone

Since the middle of summer I have been suggesting that it is a good option to not vote for either candidate in this year’s presidential election. I have not changed my mind.

However, I have paid careful attention to the campaign for the past year and a half and I do have some observations to make. I will strive to be an equal opportunity offender so if you make it to the end of this article without being offended you might want to reread it because you might have missed something.

First, I have noticed there seems to be three groups of people who support Donald Trump. The first group, and perhaps the largest, is those who hate Hillary. This group has been organizing and planning for two decades, and I’ll be honest, I have never understood the hate and vitriol they possess. These folks will vote for anyone else but Hillary, regardless of the character, qualifications, or politics—Trump has proven that to be the case.

voting-boothThere is nothing that can be said or done to change their opinion. If God Himself wrote with his finger on the side of the Lincoln Memorial and told us to vote for Hillary, these people would not do it. The only way for these people to be happy is for Hillary to lose the election and disappear from public service. However, since it appears this is not going to happen, we are in for at least four more years (or possibly eight) of anger.

The second group of Trump supporters is those who tend to be single-issue voters and that issue is abortion. Trump is the only candidate who is opposed to abortion, although such was not the case just a few years ago. Their hope is that a pro-life President will appoint Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate abortion.

However, these folks need to put a little more thought into their position. It is time to reevaluate the idea that government and the legal system is going to solve the abortion issue. I wrote about this four years ago and you can read it here if you wish (nothing has changed). This is a complex issue that has been around a long time and there is no reason to believe that Donald Trump is going to contribute to clarity or resolution. Continue reading

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Celebrity Preachers

Perhaps you heard about the young pastor recently who preached a twenty-four hour sermon. This was not a case of the Holy Spirit falling upon the preacher and inspiring him to keep at it. It was a planned event. He actually designed and advertised the sermon as a means of promoting his new book. By all accounts, he has been a successful pastor, starting and growing a rather large congregation. He had just finished writing the book and felt like the message would “change lives.” Speaking as a writer who has published a few books myself, I agree that if you do not have something important to say that needs to be heard, don’t bother writing a book. To be honest, when I heard about this twenty-four hour sermon, my first thought was that I am glad I have lived long enough that people have forgotten all the dumb stuff I did in my twenty’s. Hopefully this young man will live long enough as well.

The underlying issue of this whole business is preachers performing some kind of stunt in order to attract attention and draw a crowd. It raises the question of celebrity preachers. The basic definition of celebrity is quite simple. A celebrity is someone who is widely known. We have raised the idea of being a celebrity to new heights. There are magazines, websites, and television programs that exist for the sole purpose of revealing insights about celebrities. preacher

It is a viscous cycle–do something that get’s noticed, appear in a magazine or newspaper, other magazines notice, people follow you around, do something else, everyone notices, get on more magazine covers, do something stupid, one last burst of notoriety, loose all your friends. The amazing thing is that so many folks are striving to be celebrities it is almost like a chosen profession for some – What do you want to be when you grow up? A celebrity!

I do not have a problem with celebrity preachers. The issue that concerns me is preachers who strive to be celebrities without realizing the cost. I think it is safe to say that Billy Graham was a celebrity preacher. He is very well-known all around the world. However, he became famous by preaching. His celebrity was a by-product of his work. I don’t know him personally, but I never felt like he sought out the celebrity status, although he certainly knew how to utilize it. There have been many celebrity preachers throughout history – Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield. It might even be correct to say that Jesus was a celebrity preacher in his day.  Continue reading

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Falling In Love

I wrote the following words several years ago and included them in my book “Intermission.” I share them again on the occasion of my 42nd anniversary. As you read these words you will better understand how 42 years is possible. 

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.  (Proverbs 31:10-12)

Finding the right person to marry can be one of the most foreboding tasks in all of life.  In fact, it is such a difficult decision that many young people give up and settle for less than the best.  The acceptable approach to marriage today is to try it for a short time and if the relationship fails, bail out and try someone else.

Fortunately, I was spared the difficult process of striving to locate the perfect mate.  I sometimes wonder if God knew I did not have enough sense to make a good choice so He made it easy for me.  I share how I found a wife with some apprehension.  It is an experience that is not normative for most people.  In fact, I would discourage anyone who thinks they might have a similar experience.Wedding pic0001

Sharon and I met at church.  Although I was already a freshman in college, I still participated in the youth group.  The youth program was led by Sharon’s parents and was built around a musical group called the “Proclaimers.”  We traveled to churches around the state of Colorado and even a couple of trips to churches in Texas.

It was a grand experience for all of us involved.  I knew a little music and played a couple of instruments, but it was in this singing group that I learned how to harmonize.  Sharon’s mother played the piano in the style of Jerry Lee Lewis.  She developed the skill as a very young girl as she played for church.  Elva assigned everyone in the group a part to sing on each song.  During practice, if you could not find your note, she would beat it out extra loudly on the piano until everyone was back on key.  She could lead an entire congregation in singing without ever saying a word or leaving the piano bench.

We learned how to sing from the heart.  Although the music might not have been award winning caliber, the presentation was always meaningful and many people were moved by the sight and sound of committed young people singing about the love of God.  We all developed some great friendships within the group.

When Sharon graduated from High School she moved across the state to attend college.  Although we were friends, we did not date nor did we consider any type of long-term relationship.

In the providence of God, Sharon and I both transferred to Wayland Baptist College in Plainview, Texas, at the beginning of the spring semester in 1973.  We arrived at the Texas campus in the middle of January and neither of us knew anyone else.  Continue reading

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