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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

That Old Saying

Have you ever quoted an old saying, only to ask yourself afterward, "I wonder where that originated?" For some reason, which I do not yet understand, the saying "if you don't have something nice to say about someone, don't say anything" has been burning in my heart. 

I do not subscribe to the conventional "wisdom" of the original saying. It doesn't call you to a place of maturity or action. It doesn't challenge you to make a difference. It says that if you don't like someone, hang on to those feelings, just don't verbalize them. Harboring negativity about people is unhealthy. This doesn't mean that you start hanging out with people of questionable character. This doesn't mean you start dating the neighborhood crack dealer.

The other day, I posted my own twists to the saying on Twitter. First, if you don't have something nice to say about someone, ask God to let you see them as He does. Gaining a godly perspective is an instant reality check. We need to humble ourselves. We need to allow God to give us wisdom, laced with compassion. Compassion, rooted in wisdom. Rather than hold on to, but stifle your words of negativity, pray for them. Pray for blessings in their lives. Pray that God would do whatever it takes to get a hold of their lives and turn them around.

Second, if you don't have something nice to say about someone, would friendship with you be a positive influence in their lives? In a spirit of humility and honesty, really consider this question before you answer. Again, I'm not suggesting you put yourself in harm's way if the person is dangerous. The question is more of a challenge to be introspective of your condition. Are you in a place in your life where you are a positive influence to people who so desperately need a good example? 


We are often quick to hold others to high standards, while giving ourselves a pass for some glaring inconsistencies. Be humble. Be honest. Be wise. Put on your God goggles and start seeing things from His perspective. It will change you, and you will make a difference in the lives you touch.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Schadenfreude

No, I didn't sneeze. Thankfully, this is a written blog, so I only have to spell words correctly. I don't have to pronounce them. 

Schadenfreude, as you can probably guess, is German in origin. It means taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others. As is well documented, I love sports. Right now, I am in the throes of the San Jose Sharks playoff run, as well as the opening weeks of the San Francisco Giants season. Sports is a common incubator for schadenfreude. A good day for me is when the Giants win and the Dodgers lose. A perfect day for me is when that happens, combined with a Sharks win and a Detroit Red Wings loss. In good fun, I take great pleasure in the misery of my sports rivals.

But how true is it in other areas of my life? Recently, I was made aware of a group on Facebook based on the philosophy of karma. Out of curiosity, I checked it out to see what kind of stuff the people were posting there. I was surprised to see how many who espouse this eastern thinking were less concerned with the positive attributes of doing good in order to attract good. Instead, a majority of comments were about people's eagerness to see others get what they deserve for being jerks. They didn't care about being good for goodness sake. They just wanted some kind of mystical vengeance. 

What a sad way to go through life. We get so caught up in worrying about what others do. Some people are just mean. Some people are self centered. Some people are spiteful. Some people are vindictive. This is all true. But when their actions distract or even derail you from your pursuits, you have empowered them. People cannot take anything from you unless you give it to them. You give them your time. You give them your energy. You give them the keys to your emotional condition. 

Stop it!

Life is short. Life is precious. Life can be difficult. You only make it more complicated by wasting your time allowing others to dictate how your day is going to go. Today is the day the LORD has made. Rejoice and be glad! Focus on what is ahead of you in your own journey. Let God take care of those people. Pray for them! Read the first 14 verses in Matthew 5

Take an honest look inside yourself. See if there is any schadenfreude in you. If so, deal with it. You may even need to ask for forgiveness. You never know, you just may see something very special and transforming happen. Maybe or maybe not in them. That's between them in God. But something powerful will happen in you.    

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lessons From Drummers

OK, I was pretty much a slacker last week, so it's back to the blogging grind this week. I missed you guys!

I was recently having a conversation with some fellow musicians. We were discussing some of the off stage personalities consistent of those who play particular instruments. I shared this observation of drummers. 

One thing I've noticed about most drummers I know is that they are always drumming! I have traveled in some music groups, and I have found this to be very common. The rest of us are trying to sleep as we travel from one city to the next, and the drummer pulls his sticks out of his back pocket, and begins tapping out a rhythm on the back of the seat in front of him, commonly, my seat. The one place you didn't want to sit was directly in front of the drummer. They would play anything. The dash board, the seat in front of them, a book, you name it. The first 90 seconds of this fun video demonstrates what I mean.











It's true! Drummers can do what they do pretty much anywhere! They don't need a band. They don't even need drums! This got me to thinking that the same should be true for me as I practice my faith. There is no situation imaginable where it is impossible for me to practice what I believe. I don't need a band to worship. I don't need to be in my church to apply the gifts God has given me. Just like Buddy Rich in this video, we can apply our gifts and practice our faith no matter where we are.

Thank you drummers for reminding me that no matter where I am, I can and should be putting my faith into practice.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Photo Phriday: New York City

Most of my life, I've had a strong fascination with New York City. I literally had dreams of being in NYC. I love movies set in New York. I even love the accent. It wasn't until January of 2006 that I was able to go there for my first (and so far, only) time. Here are some pictures from my excellent adventure.







Monday, April 19, 2010

Lessons From A Rivalry

As you may know about me, I am a major baseball fan. I just love everything about the game. I love the history, I love the time of year when it's played. I love the ballparks, the crowds. This past weekend saw the renewal of a rivalry which goes back 120 years. The Giants and the Dodgers. The rivalry started when both teams were only 8 miles apart in New York City. The hatred between the teams was fierce. In 1956, the legendary player, Jackie Robinson, rather than accept a trade from the Dodgers to the hated Giants, retired! 

In 1958, both teams moved to the west coast from New York, and the rivalry continued. I want to focus on one of the more infamous moments from this rivalry, from August 22, 1965. If you're not a baseball fan, please hang in there. There is a non-baseball point I'm going to make, so bear with me.

The Giants and Dodgers rivalry was fueled not just by geography, but by competition. The teams often were fighting, literally and figuratively for supremacy on the field. In late August, the competitive fire escalates as the regular season draws to a close, and teams are vying for the post season. One such season was 1965. For the first of only three times in their storied careers, future Hall of Famers Juan Marichal for the Giants, and Sandy Koufax for the Dodgers, pitched against each other. It was a Sunday afternoon, and all eyes in the baseball world were on Candlestick Park in San Francisco. 

Some bad blood between the two teams had built up between them earlier in the series, and Sunday's game would reach the boiling point. In the picture to the right, you'll see the culmination of this inevitable eruption. Juan Marichal, #27, took exception to a throw from the catcher, Johnny Roseboro, that grazed Marichal's ear when he was at bat. Marichal was widely regarded as one of the nicest guys in all of baseball. Mild mannered, but a fierce competitor. In this moment, he snapped. He hit Roseboro over the head twice with glancing shots, drawing blood. This incident marred Marichal's reputation, and lives to this day as a dark cloud over his head. 

However, this is where the story gets good. 

Marichal was very remorseful and repentant over this incident. He was quick to offer public apologies, but Dodger fans would not forgive Marichal for his actions. Their reaction to him was vitriolic for many years. But during this time, Roseboro had forgiven Marichal. He chose not to let it affect him. It was over and done with.

In 1975, Juan Marichal's contract with the Giants had expired. He was free to sign with another team if he wanted. Of all the teams, he wanted to play for the Dodgers. It was a personal obstacle he felt he needed to overcome. He needed to wipe this incident from his reputation, and this was the way he felt he could do this. Dodger fans would have none of it. They were violent in their reaction to the signing. But it wasn't until the then-retired Johnny Roseboro publicly announced his forgiveness of Marichal that things started to change in the hearts and minds of the fans. Not only did Roseboro forgive Marichal, but he took responsibility for the incident, admitting that he purposely threw the ball back to the pitcher close to Marichal's face. He provoked Marichal, not expecting to be attacked with a bat. 

In the years to follow, Marichal and Roseboro became close friends. After their playing days were over, Roseboro would fly to Marichal's native Dominican Republic to participate in a charity golf tournament hosted by Marichal. They played together at Old Timers games where the soft spoken men were more than comfortable having pictures taken of them smiling and showing off their deep friendship. 

In later years, Roseboro suffered from heart problems, and had two strokes. Marichal regularly kept in touch with Johnny and his family, offering his friendship and support. Finally, in 2002, Roseboro died from prostate cancer. The first person Roseboro's wife called was Juan Marichal in the Domincan. She asked him if he would be kind enough to speak at the funeral, and Marichal didn't hesitate.  

In this story, we see the redemptive power of forgiveness, humility, honesty and personal responsibility. As the most bitter of rivals, fueled by intense competition, people can be prone to doing terrible things. But forgiveness released both men from the infamy of that moment. Instead, that horrific incident served as a catalyst to a friendship and a connection that could only come through a mutual passion. Even though they were on opposite sides, they had something greater that served as a bond. 

I know there have been people in my life I've had silent rivalries with. I know many people who have had them with me. Sometimes they're only one way. Sometimes it's mutual. There comes a point when you have to let it go. At the funeral, Juan Marichal said Roseboro's "forgiving (me) was one of the best things that happened in my life." 

You hold the keys to releasing someone, and yourself from the bondage of unforgiveness. Learn the lesson from this baseball experience. It's not too late. Even if the other person isn't living anymore, you can forgive them. Other people may hold on to negativity because of the wrong that happened to you. You can release them from their unforgiveness by being forgiving, just as Roseboro did. You can bring peace.

The only way to go from rivalry to friendship is through forgiveness. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saturday Rerun: October 3, 2008

This post is a year and a half behind me, but the message is just as true to me today as it was then.

Putting Yourself In Position

Being in the right place at the right time is one of those maddening, impossible-to-quantify truths of life. So many times, it just happens without any forethought. In other cases, people go to great lengths of study and analysis to determine when the perfect confluence of where and when that place and time will occur.

I believe that I have learned something of great value over the last couple of months. As I write these words, I don't think that what I'm expressing is actually some new thought for me, but something that has become more of a day-to-day way of life. Being in the right place and right time is a partnership between man and God. The "right place" is pretty much all on us. I truly believe God is always willing and eager to bless us. But more often than not, at least in my life, I'm not in the right place in my heart to receive the things I truly want in my life.

This season, this move that I've made, though physical, was more spiritual than anything. It was an outward manifestation of my heart's unyielding desire to grow to a place, and at a rate I had never experienced before. This has nothing to do with the city and church I was in, or am in. It was solely due to my own stagnancy in my heart.

Being willing to move to a new town, a new church, new job, new friends and so on, was both overwhelming, and exhilarating. I knew deep in my heart that I was putting myself in a position where I had no choice but to depend on God for my very survival. Every single day has required of me things that I could go months without doing before. There is something about being stripped down to nothing which causes us to instinctively return to the fundamentals of life. In my case, the fundamentals of my Christian life.


As I am taking care of the "right place", I am seeing God begin to take care of the "right time" things. As I was sharing with my friend last night, I am striving to be the man He
wants me to be. As that happens, I have faith that He will release blessings to me. I don't expect that to mean that life will be easy. That's unrealistic. But He has been faithful as I have worked to draw nearer to Him, and putting myself in position to receive from Him, I'm confident He has good things in store for me, and the lives of those I touch.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Photo Phriday: A Night At The Tank!

Last Saturday night, I had the great experience of attending the San Jose Sharks regular season finale...in a suite...with my dad and some very special friends. It was a really great night. The Sharks won, and a good time was had by all. Here are some pictures to commemorate the evening, and a link to the entire gallery for you.

Click here for the gallery.



Thursday, April 15, 2010

Marriage and Lawn Care



This is a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. It doesn't really serve a purpose for this post, but I thought it was a light way to enter into the topic I want to discuss.

I know this is a bit of an odd topic coming from a guy who has never been married. While I can't claim to be qualified by personal experience, I was raised by a married couple, and most of the friendships I've had for the past 20 years have been with people who are, or had previously been married. What I'm about to share is just an itty bitty piece of what I have learned from them, tempered by what I believe God intends for us. Maybe someday I'll get to put it into practice.


I'm simple minded, so I like to take the complex and put it in a context which is easy for me to understand. With that being said, I believe marriage is very much like gardening. Yards take a lot of work to get healthy and beautiful. If you let it go, some stuff dies, some stuff gets overgrown, and weeds infest the landscape. When you let a marriage go, love dies. Trust dies. Respect dies. In their place pop up resentment, impatience, negativity, jealousy, distrust, and so many other weeds. 


When a yard gets to this condition, it takes a lot of backbreaking work to restore. When I was a kid, I was given the task of clearing the dirt pathway along the entire side of the house of the weeds that had grown there over a period of several years. It was a stretch of the yard we never used. It was behind a fence, so no one ever saw it, either. But it was ugly, and actually, a fire hazard. I spent several weeks of my summer vacation battling the nastiness of that part of the yard. I had to battle the heat, contend with my allergies, and overcome my fear of the insect world which made a home in the tall and tangled web of weeds. After I had finally cleared this area of the ugly growth, I watched over it like a hawk to make sure it stayed clear of anything that would undo all the hours and sacrifice I put into it.

I know that marriage takes a lot of work. But performing daily maintenance is certainly much easier than trying to get rid of all the ugliness that overwhelmed the beauty that once was. Even if people can't see it because you've got it hidden behind a fence, it's still a hazard. You've got to pay attention. You've got to work together. Spend time together reading and discussing the bible. And one last commonality with gardening. You already know this if you've spent any significant time doing yard work. You have to spend a lot of time on your knees.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Inheritance or Entitlement?

When I was in the reverse mortgage business, I came across many horrifying stories of greedy adult children who saw their elderly parents as little more than temporary stewards of their entitled inheritance. In so many cases, the adult children were concerned less about their parents wishes and comfort because they felt that the more that Mom and/or Dad needed to get by would mean less for them after the parents were gone.

What made these stories particularly sad was that the parents would gladly exchange their own comfort and desires if they could have a healthy, loving relationship with their children. But instead, the children only came around when they needed something. In other cases, the parents would be ignored almost entirely.

A recent situation has come up relatively close to me. In this case, a family member is the last living adult child of parents who owned a home in San Francisco. He came to the funeral of his mother several years ago, but not his father, or either of his sisters, all of whom passed away within the last three years. He has not been part of this family in any way other than a technicality. But now, he feels he is entitled to whatever has been left behind, rather than the surviving family members who had active relationships with those who have passed on.

When I heard of this development, it got me to thinking of so many people who believe that by simply being a good person, by not killing anyone, and by giving to charities, that they will go to heaven. They believe in God, but they don't know Him. Just like the man to whom I referred in the previous paragraph, they are a child of the Father, but there is no relationship at all. 

God has an inheritance prepared for those who enter into a personal relationship with Him. Heaven and eternal life is promised to those who walk in relationship with Him. There will be many very disappointed people who will find out that simply believing in God is not good enough. I believe Donald Trump exists, but we don't have a relationship. I can't show up at the reading of his will expecting to inherit a hotel or millions of dollars.

There is a difference between inheritance and entitlement. An inheritance is a privilege, a gift that comes as a benefit of relationship. Entitlement comes by way of law or contract. If you work, you are entitled to a paycheck. God is not obligated to us in any way, except to be true to His word. God loves us whether we love Him or not. But God has prepared a place for eternity which is exclusive to those who chose Him in this life. 

Don't be like the estranged family member who feels they are entitled to all the rewards when they went a lifetime avoiding a relationship with the One who lived, died, and rose again to provide it. The benefits of a relationship with Him is available to us today, as well as for eternity.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday Rerun: September 6, 2008

The following post was inspired by Barack Obama's acceptance speech for the presidential nomination of the Democratic party. There was one particular portion of his speech that really caught my attention, so I wrote this post.

Created Equal, Not Equally

During election season, you will almost always hear the arguments between members of both political parties accusing the other of significant flaws in their philosophy of government. I watched Senator Obama's speech at Invesco Field at the culmination of the Democratic National Convention. During his speech, he declared the Republicans have a "you're on your own" philosophy. His words:

For over two decades -- for over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the "Ownership Society," but what it really means is that you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck, you're on your own. No health care? The market will fix it. You're on your own. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don't have boots. You are on your own. Well, it's time for them to own their failure.

This got me to thinking. Is that really the way I think? Am I that heartless? Is Obama right?

As I began to really analyze my beliefs, and those of the leaders for whom I tend to vote, a light turned on in my head. I remembered these words from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

You'll notice that the founding fathers said that we are created equal
, not equally. As Americans, we are afforded the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. But this also means that we have the right to fail and underachieve. It is not the responsibility of those who have achieved to carry those who have not. The fact is, there are churches and agencies all over our great country available to assist people in need. That is where this belongs, not in government. We are born with "certain unalienable rights". From that point on, we're the responsibility of our families or guardians until we're adults. Then...it's up to us.

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus shares a story of a man who was going on a journey. Before leaving, he left some money to his servants, "according to their ability". His point in doing so was essentially a test to see what they'd do with it. You'll notice in this story that none of the three men to whom he gave this money were given equal amounts. To one he gave five talents, another two talents, and to the other, one talent. When he returned to them after his journey, the men with the five and two talents, respectively, each doubled the amount they were given. The third man literally buried what was given to him, doing absolutely nothing with it. What he was originally given was then taken away and given to the man who now had ten.

Well that seems hardly fair, doesn't it? I mean, that guy already has ten. How can you take away from the guy who only had one? Shouldn't the guy with ten give up some of his to help the poor dude with only one?

Justice can be harsh.

Notice the reasoning given by the man who buried what was given to him. He blamed his master saying that he was harsh and cruel. He didn't take personal responsibility. He was given free money, but did nothing with it because he had a knot in his boxers over his boss.

And you thought class warfare was something new.

With all this being said, I come to this conclusion. These three men had developed their own resumes. They had their own personal histories and reputations based on their own abilities and work ethic. Not based on their parents, where they were born, where they went to school or anything else. They were each servants of the same master. The first two men were given different amounts. They each doubled what was given to them. Their master's response to them was identical. He was not more pleased with the man who now had ten than the one who now had four. He was pleased with their results and their integrity. And to them, he gave more.

When we're "on our own", what is in our hearts will be revealed. Had the third man doubled his money, though he would have had only two, he would have pleased his master equally. Heck, maybe he could have tripled it and changed the story completely!

But he did nothing with it.

I commend Barack Obama for coming as far as he has considering the family life and racial confusion he must have felt and endured while growing up. That's very impressive and inspiring. However, I still subscribe to the ideal that we are on our own to pursue those unalienable rights described by our country's founding fathers. I do not expect or want government to be my great equalizer. I do not have the same abilities as others. To whom much is given, much more is required. I have to look in the mirror when I consider my own personal journey.

There are many who are born with disabilities. For one reason or another, and to one degree or another, they are dependent upon others. Poverty, underprivileged, lack of motivation or intelligence...these are not disabilities. These are obstacles. To one with resolve, they are opportunities.

God is my equalizer. In cooperation with Him, I can do "all things". That is, as long as I don't bury what HE has given me.

 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Photo Phriday: Take Me Out To The Ballgame!

In honor of Major League Baseball starting up again this week, I dedicate this edition of Photo Phriday to a couple games I attended last year. One was a game at AT&T Park in San Francisco to see my beloved Giants. The other pictures are from a Sacramento River Cats playoff game at beautiful Raley Field. Some of the pictures even include actual baseball action! But you can tell, when I have a camera in hand, I enjoy capturing the surroundings which make baseball so special to me.

Click here for the gallery of 14 photos from these games.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

They're Watching Us

I'm not a very confrontational guy by nature. This is especially true when it comes to people I don't know. But I'll share with you two examples where I did confront people I didn't know, and then I'll get to my point.

One evening as the sun was disappearing in the western sky, I was driving down a relatively major street on my way to my church for a rehearsal. Because it was a densely populated part of town, the street was four lanes wide, and cars were known to drive rather fast up and down it. About 50 yards from the light-controlled intersection, a woman and her small child were crossing the street from the grocery store, across the four lanes, to the apartments on the other side. They had gotten as far as two lanes, and she stopped in the middle of this busy street because cars were zipping around the corner from an even busier street. Had she just gone down to the corner, she could have pressed the button and crossed in the crosswalk, controlled by a light. But no. With child in tow, she decided to play real life Frogger. I was driving down one of the lanes she had already crossed. I slowed down, rolled down my window and gave her a firm drive-by lecture. If you're going to be stupid with your own life, that's one thing. But when you endanger a child, that's absolutely criminal.

The next story was again involving my being in my car. I was circling a parking lot outside a very crowded movie theater. I noticed some people were getting in their car to leave, so I patiently waited for them to back out. They were to my left, so I stopped and put on my left turn blinker. I waited a minute or so. Just before they began backing out, another car was approaching from the opposite direction, facing me. As the parked car began backing out, it became clear they wanted to go the same direction I was going, so they were backing out in front of me. As they did so, I was effectively screened out from being able to move into the spot until after they put it in Drive to move forward. The car that had just showed up had a free shot at the newly vacated parking stall, so he took it. He was there long enough and without obstruction to see that I was there first, with my turn signal activated. Yet, he took the spot and violated parking lot etiquette. I sat there stunned. I waited for him to get out of the car, when I noticed he had a little girl with him. I said to him, "Nice. You've set a real nice example for your little girl."

I have a real problem with people who take lightly their responsibility as a role model. Kids, whether they're your own or just children you know, are watching you. I recently saw an exchange on Facebook where a woman from a large church had updated her status to communicate, "Let the drinking begin", followed by another which indicated how much she was needing "lots of drinks". That could mean anything, but the following back and forth comments made it clear she meant adult beverages because she was stressed out. Then, a teenager from the church, her son's age, innocently, perhaps naively, asked if she meant energy drinks.

Whether we like it or not, we live our lives in front of an audience. Facebook, Twitter and all that only make the world smaller, and our influence greater. What are we communicating to those who are watching us? Are we sending mixed signals? Are we one way when we see people in church, but something very different when we think no one is looking? Or when we forget that they can see us?

As an adult, I understand we all have the desire and the freedom to cut loose on occasion. But we need to be mindful of the message we are sending to those who see us as role models. Are the things we are doing consistent with the message we preach? If you want to get a little wild and crazy with your own life, that's between you and God. But if you do it in plain view of children who look up to you, the stakes are higher.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Aren't We On The Same Team?

Last week, my church came under some criticism after it was featured in the Sacramento Bee. The paper did a piece about the amazing renovation to our children's ministry area unveiled just before Easter. It underwent an incredible makeover in order to draw children and excite them about being in and coming to church. Before the actual Children's Church service, there is an activity center where they can play Wii games, air hockey and other fun activities. The younger kids enter their area through a pirate ship, and the 4th and 5th graders enter a Tahoe ski lift themed area. On the Bee's online edition, readers could leave comments. So many who represented themselves as Christians ripped us for our effort:
  • "How utterly pathetic is this? Pagan idolatry masquerading as Christianity, perfect."
  • "What ever happened to just preaching the Word of God? It's very sad that nowadays churches are trying just about anything to get people "in the door". It's a generation of church going people but ones that don't really get taught the Word of God. It's based on emotions and not Biblical truth."
  • "I'm appalled that you all have the nerve to say your [sic] Christians. Where is the book, chapter, verse that says worshiping God is suppose to be fun" 
  • "Entertainment is not what a real church is about. The gospel preached from John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples revolved around repentance and the forgiveness of sins, and nowhere do we have them resorting to entertaining people in order to present that message."   

Let me remind you. This is the children's area! Why is it so horrifying to people that the children have fun on Sunday mornings? People get so uppity and critical when someone dares to be innovative. The article clearly stated that the kids have their own worship service, and parents and children were quoted about the kids' enthusiasm in learning about Jesus in a way they can understand and retain. But people who have never seen it miss that and instead, criticize the manner in which people are being reached.

Last Saturday night, I attended an Easter service at the area's largest church. The praise and worship portion of the service was reminiscent of a rock concert. Lights, smoke machines, guitar solos, a charismatic front man. It had it all. Then the pastor came out in his boots, jeans, and untucked casual shirt, sat down on a stool and shared a great message. The place was packed out with thousands of people, and probably 100 people raised their hands for salvation. 

Isn't THAT what it's about? 

If a church like that, or like mine isn't your cup of tea, fine. Go somewhere else. That's OK. But we're on the same team! If a hundred people in a single service at another church ask Jesus into their hearts, rejoice! If even one family gets out of bed and goes to church on Sunday because they heard of a dynamic children's ministry for their kids, rejoice! You're missing out on the celebration if you get all huffy over how it's getting done, and that grieves God.

If your church is growing, active in the community and people's lives are being changed, awesome! If your church isn't growing, but you're criticizing the ones that are, perhaps you ought to reexamine your motives and your tactics. If you're not culturally relevant in your community, you're not going to win many people.


19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 

~1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Heaven; My Destination, Not My Goal

Have you ever done something for someone out of the kindness of your own heart, only to have them give you something for your effort anyway?

Several years ago, a lady in my church lost her husband suddenly from a massive stroke. Just like that, he was gone. She called me the next day and asked me to sing his favorite song at his funeral. What an honor. He was a particularly special man, and I was humbled to be part of his celebration. The song I was asked to sing was one of my favorites as well, In Christ Alone. 

After the beautiful and inspirational service, the widow approached me with a look on her face I'll never forget. I struggle to put into words what she said to me in her expression. But I could tell that what I provided for her was something completely invaluable to her. For me, being part of this special day, and the honor of being asked personally by the widow was absolutely sufficient for me. But that look on her face was my goal. As she hugged me and said thank you, she stuffed some money in my coat pocket. I quickly grabbed it and tried to return it to her. She looked me straight in the eye and, without saying it this way, she convinced me that the only way she knew to tangibly appreciate my effort was in this way. Had I rejected her, I would have extinguished what was burning in her heart.

There is something particularly profound when we are rewarded for something we do when we are filled to satisfaction by simply doing it. 

I have often told people that if there was no such thing as heaven, God is still deserving of my love, my devotion and my life. Heaven is not my motivation. It is not my goal. It is, however, my destination. I live the life I live because I am filled beyond satisfaction by merely being a Christian. The joy I have in serving God, in being active in ministry, in blessing others, in exploring the bible, in prayer, in worship...it's a reward unto itself. But the fact remains, heaven is promised to me.

I am of the belief that while I am rewarded with the promise of eternal life in perfect fellowship with God, heaven isn't primarily for my benefit. Instead, I believe that God prepared a place where He could spend eternity with His greatest love of all. 

Us. 

While the money the woman gave me was a blessing, it meant much more to her than it did to me. Believe me, heaven will be a place I will appreciate in ways which are too great for my pea brain to process. But with a facial expression I've seen before, from the widow that day, I can imagine the heart of God reaching out to me in a manner which says how priceless it is to Him that I chose to live my life for Him, and that we will spend eternity together.

THAT is my motivation.

Monday, April 5, 2010

What Happened To Personal Responsibility?

There seems to be a trend developing in our culture these days which I'm hoping people will see through for what it is. I can't keep up with all the causes that make their way to our society. Most are legitimate and worthy of attention. However, I believe that others are merely man-made diversions from personal responsibility.

Just last week, we learned that there is a watchdog group out to rid our world of the scourge called Ronald McDonald. Why? Because they feel he is personally responsible for child obesity. I remember Ronald McDonald when I was a kid, and I can assure you he had nothing to do with my McInterest in McFood of any McKind. My parents were definitely the biggest influence on my diet as a kid. Not a TV clown. The next thing you know, the guy with the giant ping pong ball for a head with the yellow cone hat will be the target. What about the cartoon leprechaun who wants you to buy his marshmallow laden breakfast cereal? I grew up watching the Three Stooges, and never once poked any of my friends in the eyes or dragged a handsaw across their scalp.

Then you have serial philanderers Tiger Woods and Jesse James. The extramarital exploits of these men have made the headlines over the past few months. Sure, each of them issued their own public apologies accepting the blame for their troubles and the anguish they caused their loved ones. But they did so practically on the steps of their respective rehab centers for sexual addiction. On one hand, they accept responsibility, on the other, they're victims of a disease.

Rather than blame a cartoon character, and rather than waiting to take steps to overcome our foibles until after we're caught, we have become a culture seeking scapegoats for bad behavior. In doing so, we circumvent personal responsibility.

At the root of all this is sin. The bible says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Some of you old fogies like me may remember the comedian Flip Wilson. One of his most famous characters he created for his self-titled variety show in the 70s was Geraldine Jones. Her famous catch phrase was, "the devil made me do it." This tactic of blameshifting is nothing new. In fact, it dates back to the first humans. In Genesis 3:12, when confronted by God as to why he ate of the forbidden fruit, Adam not only blamed Eve, but blamed God himself! "The woman you put here with me..."

It is time we own up to our responsibilities. If you don't want your kids to eat themselves into obesity, "train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6. If you have moral weaknesses which will blow up your life and family, fix it now! You don't need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in a trendy rehab center. Get on your knees before God. Humble yourself. Surrender yourself to Him. Hunger for the things of God so that your hunger for the things of the flesh will be overwhelmed. If you're not already part of a good church, find one today. If you need help finding one in your area, feel free to contact me and I'll personally help you.

We are all sinners. This isn't about blame. This isn't about excusing our behavior by creating a disorder to mask our sin. This is about admitting that as humans, we are weak and vulnerable. But if we tap into the power, mercy and grace of God, there is nothing we can't do! (Philippians 4:13)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Saturday Rerun: August 26, 2008

The following is a post I wrote roughly one month after I moved from San Jose to Rocklin. If you've ever taken a gigantic step of faith, you rarely experience the payoff immediately. If you're anything like me, (God help you), you go through a period of time asking yourself, "are you SURE you did the right thing?" The following post was in the midst of one of those moments, and God once again calmed me and assured me that no matter what it is, no matter where it is, obeying God is always the right thing.

Amazing Love

You know, I really have to apologize to God sometimes. I'm not talking about asking for forgiveness for some horrible act. What I'm talking about is the ways I seem to forget about His nature and underestimate him. One thing that drives me nuts is being underestimated. When someone who I think ought to know me better just doesn't get me when I think they should. That hurts me personally.

I've been a Christian now for 25 years. You'd think stuff about God just wouldn't surprise me anymore. You'd think I'd simply come to expect Him to meet me where I am when I stop and put myself in a position to have such a meeting.

Today marks one month in Rocklin for me. As I sit in my office, I looked at my bookshelf and noticed my Oswald Chambers book, My Utmost For His Highest. I've had this book for many years. I used to read it every single day, but I must confess, it's been quite awhile since I've cracked it open. I silently challenged God to defy the odds and have today's entry be somewhat relevant to where I am in my life today. I mean, c'mon...it's probably going to be something about loving your wife, tending sheep, running a marathon or some other equally irrelevant thing when looking at my life.

Psst, here's a tip. When challenging God at something, the smart money is on Him.

Click here to read today's entry for yourself. This is one of those cases where not only did God give me a word that speaks directly to me, I'm almost convinced this entry applies to me only. I mean, everyone knows this stuff, right? Heck, I'm pretty sure I know it. But at the same time, I really needed to read this today.

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, and it's only been going since July 8, you probably sense that I'm in this intense faith phase. But faith isn't really faith if it comes with worry and stress. Do you really trust someone when you hand them the keys to your car and they have to pry them from your white-knuckled kung fu grip? Faith must be accompanied by peace. There are times when I'm completely surrendered and at peace. Then there are other times when I'm clenched up in my spirit.

This is yet another example of how good it is for all of us that I'm not God. If I were Him, I would have made one significant pillar of salt out of someone like me.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Photo Phriday: CONTEST TIME!

I have been very fortunate enough to obtain several tickets to next Saturday night's regular season finale of the San Jose Sharks. But these are no ordinary tickets. These are not nosebleed seats. No. These are seats in a luxury suite! It's an awesome place from which to watch a game, and it even has its own bathroom! That's right, you don't have to stand in some horrible line waiting for your turn! How 'bout that? 

The game is next Saturday night, April 10th at 7:30 at the HP Pavilion in downtown San Jose. The Sharks will be taking on their division rivals, the Phoenix Coyotes. This will be a very important game, as the Coyotes are right on the Sharks heels for first place in the division, and this game could decide who has the home ice advantage throughout the entire playoffs!

You'll be joining my dad and me for a fun night. Here's how the contest works. The first three people to correctly answer the question below will win one ticket each. The first TWO with the correct answer will also get a parking pass! If you have the answer, please send me a private message via my personal Facebook page. You do not need to be one of my Facebook friends to do so, but if you're not already, please add me as a friend anyway! 

Only current members of the Crossing Paths Facebook fan page can win. You can easily join the group here. It's FREE!


OK, all that mumbo jumbo is now done. Here's the question! Within the last two weeks, I wrote a post listing comments I received on Facebook from friends. Only two of the people who wrote me knew each other. What relationship do they share with one another?


A) Husband/Wife
B) Brother/Sister
C) Brother/Brother
D) Mother/Daughter


Remember, only the first three correct answers sent privately to me via my PERSONAL Facebook page, by Crossing Paths members, are eligible to win. Good luck!


Now, in Photo Phriday tradition, here is a picture which shows you your view from the suite we'll be sitting in. And if you click here, you'll open up a slideshow of 12 photos I've taken from Sharks games I've attended. I hope to see you at The Tank!!




Thursday, April 1, 2010

Counting The Cost: A Friend

It seems that the stance I took this week here on Crossing Paths has cost me a friend on Facebook. On one hand, I'm saddened. On the other hand, I don't take it personally. It's nothing big. A disagreement on tactics. I don't apologize for the stance I took, or how I took it. I don't regret it. If someone feels that I'm arrogant or judgmental for calling all Christians, myself included, to live our lives by a higher standard...I can live with that. I'm certainly not out to lose friends, but I am not willing to hold back just so people won't be uncomfortable. We ought to be a little uncomfortable when we measure our lives by God's standard.

Jesus saved His harshest words for those who professed to be religious. A great example of that was the woman caught in the act of adultery. The religious leaders set up a sting operation to catch the woman, then dragged her to Jesus. But their plan to put Jesus between a rock and a hard place backfired on them. Rather than condemn the woman, who clearly was in the wrong and subject to the law of the day, Jesus used the situation to shine the light of truth on those who claimed to be righteous. He extended grace to the sinner while putting a divine smackdown on those who sought to cause Jesus to compromise. You can bet they were more than a little uncomfortable.

I will not be so audacious as to compare myself to Jesus in any significant way. But I will say that, like Him, I will speak bluntly and boldly to my fellow believers when it comes to us living our lives appropriately. I do not do so in a manner that says I have arrived at a higher level of maturity or accomplishment because I am the least among us. I speak from my heart based on what God is burning into it. We are co-laborers. If we are each working out our salvation daily, if we are each striving toward the same thing, we can learn from each other. If we are humble enough to see ourselves for who we really are, we can edify and exhort, and receive such from one another as we pursue greater depths of faith, and greater heights of blessing.

A former pastor of mine once said, "If you feel like I'm stepping on your toes, maybe your toes are in the wrong place." If we are offended when someone challenges us to live by a higher standard, we really ought to examine ourselves to see if we have given the gospel a 21st century makeover.   

12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to
the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

Philippians 3:12-16