Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Am What Is Wrong With The World

There's a story I read about the trial of a Nazi prison guard following the Jewish emancipation from the horrendous prison camps during World War 2.

An elderly Jewish man attended the trial. When a former prison guard was led into the courtroom, the former war prisoner broke down. He wept uncontrollably and was ushered from the courtroom.

His friends and family were trying to comfort him. "I know you must be terribly upset to see this Nazi SS Officer, after you suffered so much mistreatment at his hands."

The old man looked up at them and said, "No, that's not the reason I'm crying. The reason is, because, when I saw this man, dressed in regular civilian clothes, I realized, for the first time, that he was just an ordinary man... like me. He was.... just like me. I could have been that man!.... and it terrified me to think of myself as a monster, the way I had always previously envisioned... him."

G.K. Chesterton was a Christian writer in England in the early twentieth century. One day the local newspaper ran an article decrying the state of the world. (This was almost 100 years ago). The article sighted some of the world's problems and asked it's readers to answer this one question: What Is Wrong With The World?

Mr. Chesterton wrote back his short answer.

Dear Sirs: I am


G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton's simple answer to this age-old question inspired me to write the song, "I Am What Is Wrong With The World".... and I included it on an album I recorded, "Every Road Leads Me Home", in 2006.

I've had people tell me that they love the song. I've had people tell me that they hate the song, ... and I've had many who said they didn't understand the song and it's message.

The Bible says that we have "all" sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. I must include myself in this "all"...

Given the right (or wrong) circumstances in life, what are we indeed capable of?

Are we the oppressed or the oppressor? Or both at the same time?

Anyway, this week I offer up the controversial song for your consideration. Agree or disagree, I think it's something to consider...

You can click on this link to hear it and read the lyrics.....

I would love to hear your opinions... good, bad or indifferent.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jesus, Take The Wheel

Jesus, take the wheel
Take it from my hands
'Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I'm on
Jesus, take the wheel...

From the song, "Jesus Take The Wheel" by Carrie Underwood

I had an acquaintance ask me recently, "Does Jesus run your life?"

Pretty direct question, but I like those types of questions,... the brutally, let's cut to the chase,... honest ones....

"Yes, well.... I would have to say He does. I mean, I try to turn everything over to Him every day and pray for the sense to pay attention to what's going on around me,... you know, just in case He's trying to steer me in a particular direction."

Then this fellow says to me: "Well, that's the way I use to feel, ... but now... I'm thinking about taking the wheel back. I think I could do a lot better job of running my life than He is. If Jesus is driving then He's doing a poor job of it."

Interesting..... But, in all candor, I think this is the way most of us might "feel" at some given point in our lives. After we've let Jesus take the wheel.. (Or, as they say in recovery, our "Higher Power"... take the wheel...)...

In our Western culture I think most of the time we have this view of Jesus, "Taking the wheel"...

We will "let' Him take the wheel, perhaps even "beg" Him to take the wheel (because the car is headed for a cliff). Then, what we expect is this:

Jesus drives us to the beach. It's a beautiful, sunny day, the ocean waves roll soothingly back and forth. Then, He sets up the beach umbrella, lays out a nice "blankey" on the smooth, white sand..... and says something like, "I'm going over the the Tiki Hut. Can I bring you back a nice, cool drink, maybe one of those ones with the little umbrella in it,... on the rocks?.... Anything else?... Lobster roll?... Something from the souvenir stand? Just let me know."

That's the impression we get from a lot of t.v. preachers. You know the ones. I like to refer to them as the "Amway" gospel preachers. "You too can be a Diamond Direct!"... Just send me money and people below you (whoever "they" are) will send YOU money, and the people below them will send THEM money!"
What a racket....not that I would mention any names... Joel, Creflo, Benny, Kenneth/Gloria....

But I digress...(or do I)?

I have, over the years, gotten a bit different picture of "Jesus, Take The Wheel"...

My scenario goes something like:

"Uh,... Jesus.. I know I said "take the wheel", and don't think I don't appreciate all You're trying to do.... but, did You realize where we are?!!!!.... I mean, ... take a look around. We're in the BAD part of town for God's sake!... Oh sorry, didn't mean to say that.... I mean, "WE'RE IN THE BAD PART OF TOWN... for (Pete's) sake!"....

And Jesus says:... "No, you were right the first time. We ARE in the bad part of town... for "God's" sake. There's people here I want you to meet. Where did you "think" we were heading.... to the beach?".....

Then He sort of chuckles.

"Well, yes, the beach does sound nice."
I pound on the dash.
"I think our GPS must be broken".

Jesus: You mean the "God Positioning System?"....

God Positioning System?........ What?

I suddenly realize (or, more accurately, over time... realize) that when God takes the wheel He has a tendency to travel in areas I don't necessarily want to go, goes to places I don't want to see, hangs out with people I don't want to meet, gets me into circumstances that I try, on my own, to avoid. (I should have know this was going to happen just from reading the Gospels. Jesus always seemed to hang out with the "wrong crowd"...)

Anyway, this "take the wheel" question was posed in a great book I just read called, "Flirting With Faith" by Joan Ball. Joan, an avowed atheist, finds herself on a remarkable journey of faith and gives Jesus the wheel. It looks like it's going to be a great ride....for awhile. Then, some things start to unravel. There's an unexpected illness,... a death in the family... an unwanted career problems. Jesus is taking her places she doesn't really want to go.... and she asks the question: "Is it time to take the wheel back?".....

Then, she answers her own question, .. with a question. "Where would I be today if I hadn't turned everything over to HIM?"....

What kind of person would I be today?

Would I be a kinder person? More sensitive? A gentler person? A more compassionate person? A more loving individual? Most importantly, would I have this supernatural inner peace that, no matter what happens, everything's going to be O.K.? Would I be able to have an eternal perspective on life?

Or would I have continued to keep driving... straight off the cliff?

It's a good honest question. I don't think God minds us asking it. Should I give HIM the wheel? Should I "trust" HIM? CAN I trust HIM?....

Is where He taking me to a good place... for God's sake....? For MY sake?...

Only you can answer that question.......

As for me... when it comes to "steering" my own course... I've always been a terrible driver....

Just food for thought as we travel down this road of life....

Have a great week....

And texting and driving...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

5 Stages of Grieving


This is a subject that I don't like writing about....don't necessarily "want" to write about; But, it's been a rough year. We've seen our share of losses this year.... deaths, near-deaths,, health, marriages....
Elizabeth Kubler Ross wrote a book in 1969, "On Death and Dying". It was the first time someone attempted to put into words the emotions that one goes through in the grieving process.
She basically categorized five stages:

1. Denial
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

All of these stages don't necessarily follow in a direct order. They can vary with the individual and the emotions can shift back and forth from one to the other over an extended period of time. This should just be thought of as an "overview" of the subject.

Most people think of grieving only when a loved-one dies, and I believe this has to be the hardest of all losses to cope with. But, everyone does grieve to a certain extent over any loss. It could be the loss of a job, the loss of a pet, the loss of health (one that does or doesn't result in death), the loss of a marriage....etc.
For the addict, there is grieving over the loss of a particular addiction, that "something" in their life that gave them the ability to avoid "pain". That is how we humans basically function.... our goal is: "Avoid pain".... "Pursue pleasure". Really, this is what it mainly comes down to, how we try to live our lives.

Denial: "This can't be happening to ME".... "I'm not really facing this issue." There is a saying in Addiction Counseling that "Denial.... is not a river in Egypt". For the addict, this is the first hurdle. Overcoming denial. It often involves family intervention, or, hitting rock-bottom, where the evidence is so overwhelming that denial is no longer an option.

Anger: Seems that this is most of the time directed at "God". After all, isn't HE supposed to intervene and keep these things from happening?... It's a question that has come to the forefront every time there is a tragedy. (I don't have an answer for you... neither did JOB... (you can read his struggle in the Bible in the book of the same title).

Bargaining: This usually involves God also. "O.K. God, if you will get me out of this, then I will do something special for YOU!".... Let's cut a deal.

Depression: The realization that the loss isn't going to be recovered. The marriage isn't going to be fixed, the person isn't going to come back to life (for now), the "self-medication" of the addicted isn't going to be available anymore and now we have to face life on life's terms.

Acceptance: The place where we seek comfort. Accepting the loss but not letting the loss keep us from moving on in our life, keeping us from continuing to see our lives as a series of "turning points" where we can learn and grow from our experiences, whether we view them at this particular time as good or bad.

Grief counseling is a relatively new phenomenon. Just as in A.A. or N.A. or S.A. (for sexual addiction), there is comfort in being with those who can relate to your particular loss on a deeply emotional and spiritual level.
There is too much to cover about this subject in a simple blog. There is a lot of information on the internet and I encourage you to check it out if you are going through a time of loss in your life.
The most important thing in any loss is: Don't try and face it alone. Seek support from friends and family and, if necessary, outside counseling. You might think it's the end of the world,... but, it isn't. There's good help to be found and there are a lot of compassionate people available to walk you through the process.
I know this is a heavy issue. I wish none of us had to deal with it. Just remember, for now or for future reference,.... none of us have to deal with it alone... This should be one of our greatest comforts.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Living Vicariously

Vicarious: Experiencing something through another person by imagining rather than first-hand.

I remember when my two sons were young boys, playing baseball. My wife and I and the kids grandparents would go to their games to cheer them on.... win or lose.

I was always struck by the intensity of some of the other parents. They would get sooooooo upset when their kids struck out at bat or missed catching a fly ball, or simply didn't play well.

Back then I couldn't understand why they were so upset. Now, I think I know....

Some parents, (and I believe they are in the minority), seem to want to live out their dreams through their children. Haven't you ever seen a dad who was determined to see "his son" become the next Roger Clemens.... or Joe Montana? It doesn't even have to be sports. The guy (or gal) who had his/her dream of being the next "big thing" dashed to pieces by this tidal wave we call "real life". Now, with their dreams quickly fading into the sunset, their only grasp of hope is in the success of their offspring. It's a sad thing to observe.... for the kids... and, the parents.

I think that is one of the things that is so amazing about "Team Hoyt". (I hope you watched the video from last week)....

Rick, the son of Dick and Judy Hoyt, was diagnosed as a baby as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. They were encouraged to have him "institutionalized". Instead, they worked with him, taking him swimming and sledding and even taught him the alphabet and some basic words. Eventually, through the use of new technology, Rick was able to "communicate" to his parents. He told them he would like to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Dick, his father, agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They finished all 5 miles.... coming in next to last. When the race was over, that night, Rick told his father, "Dad, when I'm running, it feels like I'm not handicapped".

So began an amazing journey for father and son. Since 1977 they have participated in over 1,000 races (no this is not a miss-print)...... over a THOUSAND races, ....including marathons, dual-athlons and tri-athlons. Dick and Rick biked and ran across the United States in 1992, completing a full 3,735 miles in 45 days.

Yes, Rick is living, in a real sense, "vicariously" through his father. The father has set aside "his" dreams so that his son can.... live. It's just the opposite of what we see played out so much of the time in this self-centered world... and that is... amazing...

I received some really good feedback from some folks that watched the video. Every person said it brought then to tears. It is truly one of the most inspiring stories I think we will get the opportunity to see.

The most striking observation came from a couple of my readers. They said it was The Gospel, that it was a metaphor for what Christ has done for us. He sacrificed Himself so that we, (the ones crippled with sin and guilt and shame), could have life. When we surrender to Him, He picks us up in all our broken-ness and carries us all the way through this race we call life.... carries us lovingly... all the way, through to the finish line,.....HOME...

Here is a link to see and read more of their story:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Inspiration.... part two

Thanks to the myriad folks who wrote to comment on last weeks blog about inspiration
.... (O.K., maybe not "myriad"... but to the two or three who did..... thanks!....

One wrote: "Had to stop and think about what inspires me. Different things inspire me in different ways. For example, uplifting music inspires me to get up and get moving. Sad music inspires me to cry. Reading scripture inspires me to believe and to act on that belief. Most t.v. shows inspire me to be disgusted and to turn them off. Your blog inspires me to think about people and life."....

Another person challenged what I had said about the dictionary definition: "Inhaling, taking a breath, the act of breathing." I had said that I didn't understand that definition.
Here's his take on it....

When a person dies it is said that they "expire".... the opposite of "inspire", in that God "breathed" into the first man, Adam, the "breath of life". God "inspired" Adam to life through this divine act. Adam, "breathed-in" and became a living soul. When Adam "expired" he breathed "out" his last breath.... he died, at least in the physical sense. When all of us die, it is said that we "expire". We have an "expiration" date, sort of like a gallon of milk, except that you can still drink the milk "after" the expiration date (maybe)... When we "humans" expire.... well, no more milk....period. (Did I just explain this great or what?)...:-)

I think this is what is meant by the dictionary definition. I only wish the dictionary had gone into a more adequate explanation.... define itself, so to speak.

Anyway, thanks for the comments.

My last comment was interesting. The writer said that if I wanted "inspiration", that I should go to this website and watch this video.. So I did. It was a video I had seen before, several times actually, and every time I watched it, it brought me to tears. (I'm sort an emotional person anyway). I even cry at movies. My wife always looks at me funny and says something like, "Are you O.K.?" She usually never cries at movies... but you know, when Old Yeller dies at the end, you just gotta let it out. :-) Heck, I even cry watching the Food Network. I think I need help, actually. But that's for another blog....

I think this video is one of the most outstanding things I perhaps have ever seen. I would like for you to watch it, perhaps comment on it. How did it make you feel? And, .. WHY do you think it made you feel the way it did? I would love to hear you comments on it and I will try to put them on the next blog. I feel the video deserves a blog all to itself... so, next week I am going to write about it at some length. So... go, .. watch... cry, ... don't cry... be inspired,... don't be inspired,... whatever. And, I will see you "myriad" folks back here next week.

click on this line or cut and paste this into your browser:

P.S. for you "younger" readers, Old Yeller was a dog. (And you thought it was just some old guy who stood on his front porch and yelled at people as they walked by)......