Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lost And Found

Have you ever lost something that you considered valuable?... And then, when you've found it, it becomes even more precious?... Something you thought was gone forever...and then, suddenly it's back in your possession?

My mother-in-law and father-in-law both died a few years ago. They left behind a house full of memories. Decades of raising a family, friendships, struggles, love and laughter.
My wife and I had to put a lot of their stuff in storage, especially since she wasn't ready to deal with all the memories...yet.
So, as we're unpacking stuff the other day, we run across a couple of old paintings. Paintings that had been hanging on the wall of her folks house ever since she could remember. Old watercolor paintings. No particularly "beautiful" (in my limited artistic estimation), but nice. We considered taking them to the thrift store along with a few other things that didn't hold any particular sentimental value.
As I was looking at them I noticed that they were "original".... not your common art-store knock-off....and that the artwork was signed by the artist,... someone I didn't recognize.
So... I decided to do an Internet search, just to see who this artist was. Was he still living?...and, if so,...where?
It took me a while on the Internet to track him down.....but, eventually I did. He was still doing art and lived in a city just a few hundred miles from where we lived. He was now in his late 80's....and there was a telephone number. So I called.

"Hi, is this Mr. __________, who is an artist/painter?...
(I hear the voice of an elderly gentleman)...
"Yes, this is he.... who am I speaking to?"....

I told him who I was and that I thought I might have a couple of his paintings. Did he remember them?..... He didn't.
But, his wife suddenly got on the phone. She said, "Who is this calling?".... So, I explained to her the situation. I told her that I thought I had a couple of her husband's watercolors paintings, but wasn't sure. She said she didn't think that was possible....
I told her I would take a few pictures and email them to their email address. I did...

The next day I received an email response:.... "Yes, these are my husband's paintings! It's been years since he painted in watercolor!..... He painted stuff like this before we were married....60 years ago......
60 years.
And it just happened to be their 60th Wedding anniversary on THAT DAY!.... Amazing!
I told her I would love to mail her the paintings and she was ecstatic about it....even more than her husband.
Anyway, it's an interesting chain of events that lead to my mother-in-law having these paintings in her possession for the past 60 years. She had lived in the same city as the artist, had worked in a grocery store just down the street from his parents. To this day, my wife and I will never know, this side of heaven, the details of how she came to own them....for the artist says he never remembers selling any paintings "back then"......
Perhaps they were a wedding present when they were married in 1945?...

Things that were thought "lost".... are suddenly... "found".....

I know these paintings will mean more to him and his wife than anything he's done over the last few decades. That's just the way life is.. We lose things. Sometimes we find them and are overjoyed...sometimes they are lost forever and we mourn their loss. In this case, interestingly, they didn't even know they had "lost" something....something of sentimental value.
Well... now they do.
It's a story with a happy ending. Their own daughter is an artist also....and she will inherit something that her dad painted, even before she was born.....

Jesus said that "people" are like that. That HE came to seek and save the "lost"... (That would be us).....
Most people don't even realize that they're lost. That God has lost something of value that HE would love to have And, through Christ, He has provided the opportunity to get us "redeem" us. That makes all of us valuable....whether we acknowledge it or not.....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Famous Last Words

I have come to believe that when a person is dying, the thing that is foremost on their mind is (usually) the subject which interests them most in life. For most people I think, if they had the time to chose their last words it would be something like, "I love you".... or "tell my wife/kids /parents.... that I love them."

Recently I heard about the famous last words of P.T. Barnum (of Barnum And Bailey Circus fame), who was mostly interested in making money: "How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?"......
Those were his last words before he was ushered off into eternity.
It got me to thinking about other folks we might all have heard of and how they chose to utter their final thoughts in this world. Here are a few I found interesting...

"Is everybody happy? I want everyone to be happy? I know I'm happy". (Ethel Barrymore, actress) June 18, 1959......

"Go away! I'm alright." (H.G. Wells, famous author 1946

"I have a terrific headache." (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President 1945

"I've had 18 straight whiskies. I think that's the record." Dylan Thomas, poet 1953

"Why not. Yeah." (Timothy Leary, famous for his psychedelic drug use) 1996

"Let's cool it, brothers" (Malcolm X, right before he was assassinated)....1966

"Nothing matters. Nothing matters." (Louis B. Mayer, film producer)...1957

"I've never felt better!" (Douglas Fairbanks Sr. actor)...1939

"I've had a hell of a lot of fun and I've enjoyed every minute of it." (Errol Flynn, actor...1959

"Yes, it's tough. But not as tough as doing comedy." ( Ed Gwenn, actor)...1959

"That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted." (Lou Costello, comedian)...1959

"My God, what happened?".... (Princess Diana)...1997

"I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis." (Humphrey Bogart, actor).. 1957

"Either that wallpaper goes, or I do!" (Oscar Wilde, writer)... 1900

"Damn it!. Don't you dare ask God to help me." (Joan Crawford, actress)...1977

(One of my personal favorites)..."They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist....."... (General John Sedgwick, Union Army General... 1864 (during the Civil War)...

"I'm not the least afraid to die." (Charles Darwin)....1882

"All my posessions for a moment of time." (Queen Elizabeth The First)...1603

"Do you hear the rain? Do you hear the rain?" (Jessica Dubroff, seven-year-old pilot, minutes before her plane crashed)...1996

"I'm about to...or I am going to...die. Either exprssion is correct. (Dominique Bouhours, French Grammarian)...1855

"Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit."... (Jesus Christ, Savior and Redeemer, Jewish Messiah) Three days later resurrected....still living.... 2011....and counting....

Sunday, June 12, 2011


There is an older gentleman in our church who wears a lapel pin with simply the word "DONE" on it.
Webster's definition of the word "done" is: Quite finished and relegated to the past. To have done with, to put an end to, to have finished with.

One of the great satisfactions in life is to have a task completed, especially it's completed in a way that makes you proud of the accomplishment. It seems we humans are always "doing". We always have a list of things we want to get done. The same is true of how we think about things in the Spiritual realm, especially in our service to our Creator. If we are sensitive to our relationship to God we are constantly making promiese to ourselves and to "Him" that we are "going to DO better." Perhaps that means we're going to try to be kinder to our fellow man, more loving to our family, more active in our Church, Synagogue, Mosque, etc. I think all of us would agree that there is always room for improvement, that we could always do things better than we are doing at the present time.
Did you ever consider that when Jesus lived His life here among us that He had a task to accomplish also? Even though the Bible records that he spent the last three years of His life teaching about the things of God and healing the sick, even raising the dead back to life, the main message of the Gospels is that Jesus' primary task , or objective, was to... "die."
A lot of people will tell you that the death of Jesus Christ on a Roman Cross was one of history's greatest mistakes, one of life's greatest tragedies. The Bible, and Jesus Himself, would disagree with that conclusion.
Jesus said, "I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him (God the Father) who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me. That everyone who looks to the Son of God and believes in Him shall have eternal life." (John 6:39-40)...
He also said, concerning the time immediately proceeding His death on the cross, "What shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour." (John 12:27)....
You see, Jesus' primary purpose on earth was to die. The Bible teaches that the death of Jesus was of utmost significance because, through His death, Jesus was paying the penalty (punishment) for all the sins you and I have ever committed in our lives. He died in our place so that the justice of God could be accomplished and that by simply believing in what he did for us, we could be saved from facing judgment for our sins. Jesus was able to do this because He was uniquely God in human flesh. HE was (is) the Creator, Who died on behalf of His creation (you and I).
Jesus said an interesting thing as He was dying on the cross. He said, "It is finished."

What was finished?....

The sacrifice for our sins. He had paid the price for our sins once and for all. He had DONE it all on the cross...and then confirmed it three days later when he arose from the dead.

What do we have to "DO" to be in a right relationship with God? Simply believe what Jesus has already done and accept it by faith on our behalf. The Bible says, "It is by GRACE you have been saved, through FAITH, (believing what Jesus has already done),... it is the GIFT of God, not by "works"... (Ephesians 2:8-9)....

The elderly gentleman in our church realized that he had found something very profound in believing the good news of the Gospel, ... and it could be summed up in the one little word "DONE".
It is a profound message....and a life-changer....

Sunday, June 5, 2011


One of my favorite Geico commercials is the one where "honest" Abe Lincoln's wife asks him this question: "Does this dress make me look fat?"... And Abe, not wanting to lie, says, hesitatingly... "Maybe just a little". And his wife gets real mad and storms off....

(Actually my FAVORITE Geico commercial is the one where the woodchucks are throwing chunks of wood into a creek and the farmer pulls up on his tractor and says, .. "YOU DANG WOODCHUCKS QUITE CHUCKING MY WOOD!").... That one's a hoot....

Anyway, Abe Lincoln was known as "Honest Abe"..... Not sure why exactly, but it's not a bad thing to be thought of, ....being honest.

A couple weeks ago a gas-station owner lost 20,000 dollars in one day. There was some sort of mechanical malfunction which didn't allow the pump to tally up the actual price of gas that was being pumped. Instead of registering 3.75 a gallon, when folks filled their cars up, it registered something like 1.75 a gallon, thereby saving each customer about 60 bucks. The amazing thing is that this went on all day long without one customer going in and saying, "Hey, your pump is messed up. It's giving the wrong price!".... It was at least 7 hours before the station owner realized what was going on and was able to realize he was having one of his busiest days ever.

1....2....3...4...5...6....7..... hours...

What were all these people thinking? They were thinking: "I gotta call my wife/cousin/brother/mother/sister-in-law/boss/babysitter/baby sitter's cousin twice removed/...and get them down here to get in on some of this!"....

I'm sure there were a few who filled their tanks and said: "Thank You JEEEZUS!...I just KNEW God wanted to bless me today!"

(And all the while Jesus is chasing down the street after them saying: "WAIT!... Come back!... That wasn't from ME!... The guy's gas pumps are broken!".....WAIT...COME...baaaacccckkkk!)


It seems to be sorely lacking today as our society collapses into a "me" oriented society. When that happens we fail miserably to watch out for one another.... to be our "brother's keeper" as the Bible states we should be.

It's an easy place to slide into for some of us. I've been just as guilty as anyone in trying to justify my actions. Honesty isn't easy.

Sometimes we just do dumb things and we want to cover our tracks by being evasive.

"Is that YOUR Twitter picture, congressman Weiner?".... or..."Mr. President,...Did you have sex with that Lewinsky woman?"...

These would appear to be questions with a simple "yes" or "no" answer....don't you think?

Every once in awhile we hear stories about folks who go out of their way to return something that doesn't belong to them. A mistake had been made in their favor or they found a bunch of cash lying by the side of the road and turned it in to authorities. Stories like this. We admire those folks for their honesty, and,... somewhere down in our heart of hearts, we really DO want to be like them.

I think Jesus said it best when he said the second greatest commandment was to "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you". (Actually, it was "Love your neighbor as you love yourself", which is basically the same thing).....

I'm sure the gas station owner would have appreciated an honest person coming along sometime during those long 7 hours when he was being, literally,... robbed.

So...if my (or your) wife one day asks you the question: "Does this dress make me look fat"?...You should do the right and proper thing...which, in that case, would be.... lie like crazy and say..... NO!....

But...aside from that... we should strive to treat others the way we would want to be treated. It's a pretty good rule to try our best to live by.

Hope you all have a great week.
I mean that. .....I really do....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

You're Gonna Miss This

She was starin' out the window of their SUV

Complain'in saying "I can't wait to turn 18"

She said, "I'll make my own money and I'll make my own rules."

Momma put the car in park out there in front of the school

And she kissed her head and said, "I was just like you"


You're gonna miss this

You're gonna want this back

You're gonna wish these days

Hadn't gone by so fast

These are some good times

So take a good look around

You may not know it now

But you're gonna miss this

Before she knows it she's a brand-new bride

In a one bedroom apartment, and her daddy stops by

He tells her it's a nice place, she says "It'll do for now"

Then she talks about babies and buying a house

Daddy shakes he head and and says, "baby just slow down"

(repeat chorus)

Five years later there's a plumber working on the water heater

Dogs barking, phones ringing, one kid crying, the other one screamin'

And she keeps apologizin'

He says, "They don't bother me"

I've got two kids of my own

One's twenty-six, one's thirty-three

Huh,'s hard to believe

But you're gonna miss this....

(from "You're Gonna Miss This" by Trace Adkins)

Peter was a boy who was strong and able, yet sadly flawed by an attitude of impatience. Always dissatisfied with his present condition, Peter spends his life daydreaming about the future.

One day while wandering in the forest, Peter meets a strange old woman who gives him a most tantalizing opportunity...the chance to skip the dull, mundane moments of life. She hands Pater a silver ball from which a tiny gold thread protrudes. "This is your life thread", she explains. "Do not touch it and time will pass normally. But if you wish time to pass more quickly, you only have to pull the thread a little way and an hour will pass like a second. But I warn you, once the thread has been pulled out, it cannot be pushed back in again."

This magical thread seems the answer to all of Peter's problems. It is just what he has always wanted. He takes the ball and runs home.

The following day in school Peter has his first opportunity to put the silver ball to use. The lesson is dragging and the teacher scolds Peter for not concentrating. Peter fingers the silver ball and gives the thread a slight tug. Suddenly the teacher dismisses the class, and Peter is free to leave school. He is overjoyed!. How easy his life will now be. From this moment, Peter begins to pull the thread a little every day.

But soon Peter begins to use the magic thread to rush through larger portions of life. Why waste time pulling the thread just a little every day when he cal pull it hard and complete school altogether? He does so and finds himself out of school and apprenticed in a trade. Peter uses the same technique to rush through his engagement to his sweetheart. He cannot bear to wait months to marry her, so he uses the gold thread to hasten the arrival of his wedding day.

Peter continues this pattern throughout his life. When hard, trying times come, he escapes them with his magic thread. When the baby cries at night, when he faces financial struggles, when he wishes his own children to be launched in careers of their own. Peter pulls the magic thread and bypasses the discomfort of the moment.

But, sadly, when he comes to the end of his life, Peter realizes the emptiness of such an existence. By allowing impatience and discontentment to rule him, Peter has robbed himself of life's richest moments and memories. With only the grave to look forward to, he deeply regrets ever having used the magic thread.

The moral to the story?..... Don't be so quick to want to rush through life. Whether the times are tough and disappointments arise, or whether the times are exciting and exhilarating.... it's all just a part of the journey...and the journey is the gift we have in this life here on earth. Take it all in, might just miss something you'll regret....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Great Evil... Part 2

Last week I talked about the Ten Boom family. A family who suffered greatly during the Nazi regime for their stand against the evils of Nazi-ism and German Socialism.

After World War 2 many of the German S.S. high command (military leadership) went into hiding. They were harbored by many nations. Most thought that they had escaped the world's wrath against them for their atrocities. Most were also hunted down and captured. War crimes trials were held in Nuremberg. Adolf Eichmann, one of Hitler's top henchmen, was allowed to speak and defend his actions.

His words: " I have broken no laws. I was simply following the laws of war and my flag."

Eichmann was correct.

German "law", in 1935, had deprived the Jewish people of German citizenship. There were also laws forbidding them to marry or have sexual relationship with anyone of the Aryan, "Germanic" Race. There were thirteen administrative regulations against the Jews that would later outlaw them completely, and, eventually, through intense propaganda, they were given the status of "non-human".

With Hitler's ability to make arbitrary "laws", there was no opposition, or at least, no opposition without the threat of severe punishment or death. Even pastors could be arrested for treason for resisting the new "laws" of the new German Socialist Government. Since they were "breaking the law" by resisting, they had no recourse.

It's hard, almost impossible, in our day, to imagine that a law could actually be imposed which would strip a person of his or her status of being "human". It's unfathomable, isn't it?

If such a law were passed, then the taking of a human life could be easily justified and rationalized. If it's resisted, then it must be a flaw on the part of the person who is not willing to validate the law of the land. They must be "subversive" in some way. If it's "legal", then it must be correct. Case closed.

At least that's the way the Nazi Party saw it. That's the way the German citizen accepted it without much opposition. (There were other, economic reasons also).

A pastor of a German church tells the story that, on Sunday, when the church would gather for worship, at a particular time, every Sunday, they would hear a train go by the back of their church during the service. They could hear the cries of the Jewish people as the train passed. It was a horrific sound. So, what did they do?

At that time, every Sunday, when they knew the train was to pass by, they made that time their "hymn singing" time. They would all sing just as loud as they could as the train passed by. That way they couldn't hear the cries of those "non-humans" barreling down the tracks towards Auschwitz.... and the ovens. It worked. They didn't hear them at all after that.

There's a saying, "If you want to see a Nation's God, then look at that Nation's Laws."

Eichmann's argument, although valid, succumbed to the decision of the War Crimes Tribunal. They weren't going to argue that what they Nazis did were "illegal" according to the laws of Germany. They were going to insist that there was a "higher" law in which to ultimately yield. There was a natural law that superseded the arbitrary laws of any particular nation. Although they couldn't exactly explain it, they knew that, just because something was "legal", it didn't make it "moral", and the hideous nature of the crimes stood in start contrast to human decency and sensitivity.... and morals.

Anyway, that's my rambling for this week. What does it all mean?

You decide.... Only as individuals can we decide when to resist and when to sing louder....

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Great Evil

In the introduction to Corrie Ten Boom's amazing book, "The Hiding Place" she writes a snippet about her brother, Willem. He was a seminary student in Germany. In the year 1927 he wrote his doctoral thesis. In it he said, "A terrible evil is taking root in the land....seeds are being planted of a contempt for human life such as the world had never seen.

The few who read his paper had laughed.....

Few people could foresee the rise of Adolf Hitler and The Third Reich...and the systematic genocide of 6 million European Jews. It was unthinkable.

Several years later Corrie Ten Boom, her father and her sister were rounded-up, placed in railroad cattle-cars and shipped off to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, where Corrie watched thousands die of malnutrition, the firing squad, or placed in ovens. She witnessed her sister die of malnutrition. She only learned of her father's death after she was released, years later.

Corrie Ten Boom and the Ten Boom family weren't Jewish. They were Dutch. They watched helplessly as Nazi troops stormed into their quaint village in Holland in 1938. They had many friends, neighbors and business acquaintances who were Jews. One of their Jewish neighbors was, like the Ten Booms, a clock-maker. One day he didn't open his business. They thought he was ill. The next day he didn't open his business,... or the next. He simply "disappeared"....

They started noticing people on the street wearing yellow stars stitched to their clothing. It was the Star of David, with the word, "Juden" (the German word for "Jew") splashed across it. If you were Jewish you were required to wear it. If you didn't, then you were executed on the spot.

The Ten Booms lived in a large house that was actually two houses connected to each other. A house with a lot of strange twists and turns and mis-shapen rooms... an architectural nightmare. They were approached by a Jewish friend. Would they be willing to hide Jews? There were several who knew they were next to be rounded-up by the S.S. Would they be willing? There were risks.

They didn't hesitate. They said, "yes", of course, these are God's People. We'll do whatever we can.

Shortly they were visited by a nice older gentleman who went through their house and picked out a special "hiding place",... a small, narrow space behind Corrie's bedroom wall. It was perfect. He spent the next few days "remodeling" Corrie's room and turning it into a safe place to hide the Jews. Several came. There was room for approximately ten, if they didn't mind being stuffed like sardines while the Nazi soldiers tried their best to ferret them out.

The never could find....The Hiding Place.

But Corrie and her family members were identified as being those who were sympathetic to Jewish people. The Germans "knew" she and her family were hiding Jews,...whether they could be found or not.

So.... that's how Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, Betsie, and their elderly father found themselves arrested and imprisoned. They were physically beaten...but they never gave up their friends, the Jews. They were well aware of the evil that had overtaken their nation...the evil, as Willem had said years earlier,....which was a contempt for human life unlike the world had ever seen.

It's called "Antisemitism". It's defined as a hatred towards a particular people group based on nationality or religion.

You may be asking yourself..... "Why is Bob writing about something like this?"....

I had just completed reading this book, "The Hiding Place". I read it probably 25 years ago and it had made a lasting impression on my mind. Twenty-five years ago.....

Then, I just happen to turn on the television and I saw this video that came out just a few days ago. It was a video from Germany. An Islamic cleric was giving a hate-filled speech and a rant against Israel and "The Jews".
The link to the video that was placed on Youtube is on my original email to you. A new Corrie Ten Boom perhaps? We should all ask ourselves.... "Could I do this?".... "Would I be brave enough to stand up to the hate and violence of evil?".... "Could I, at least, "try" to keep history from repeating itself?"

There's an old saying: "Those who won't learn from history are bound to repeat it".

That saying is so true,...and, I believe, especially relevant for the days in which we live.

"When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent: I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists, I remained silent: I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I was not a Jew.

When they came for me.... there was no one left to speak out."...... Martin Niemoller