Mashed Potato Sundae

I have a sweet tooth for ice cream. All it takes is a stroll through the ice cream aisle at the grocery store or a Dairy Queen commercial and all my defenses collapse. But several years ago I had a horrible ice cream experience that nearly changed my love for the arctic dairy treat forever.
Some friends of mine knew of my love for the cool creamy stuff and thought it would be funny to play a practical joke on me. They built the most beautiful caramel sundae the world has ever seen. OK, so that’s a little of an exaggeration, but you must picture in your mind a pretty doggone good lookin’ sundae. Just one look at the finished product made my glands jump into overdrive. So with spoon in hand, bib around my neck and my friends gathered round, I prepared myself for my journey to ice cream heaven.
I dug my spoon into the creamy caramel creation, pulled out the biggest scoop I thought my mouth could handle and thrust the spoonful into my mouth. I was instantly thrown into a state of confusion. Instead of finding myself on the Rocky Road to heaven, I was on a Mississippi Mudslide of misery. My taste-buds were expecting the cool, sweet, creamy flavors of an ice cream sundae but instead they were greeted with the warm, bland, pastiness of mashed potatoes and gravy.
I have nothing against mashed potatoes and gravy, but when one is expecting a caramel sundae I don’t know that anything could taste worse. Mashed potatoes and gravy may be able to be doctored to look like a real sundae but with the first taste there is no denying the combination is a counterfeit – just a poor reproduction of the real thing.
The joke, for my friends, was in the fact that they knew I was going to recognize the counterfeit just a little too late. Imagine the shock that would have ensued if, upon that first bite, I had really believed I was eating a caramel sundae and continued digging in, commenting on how cool and sweet and creamy the sundae was. The joke would have still been on me, but my friends may have brought my sanity, or at least my definition of a caramel ice cream sundae, into question.
Most of us would agree that humanity’s general orientation is toward ourselves. Whether it is conversations between parents and children or the advertising industry and the talk show circuit the connecting mantra is something akin to, “You’re worth it,” or “You deserve it.” Peruse the aisles of any bookstore and notice the growing self-help section. We want to feel good about ourselves and unlock our inner power, thereby contributing to the betterment of this giant blueberry. Then hopefully, we’ll be remembered for a generation or two as a good person. We even go so far as to scientifically prove that we are justified in focusing on ourselves because of the evolutionary processes that have put us atop the food chain. We are a people who are generally oriented toward ourselves.
Yet in the end all of this sounds about as pathetic as calling mashed potatoes and gravy a caramel sundae. And the truth is, it doesn’t settle all that well in our souls. We know this isn’t the real deal, but we’ve done our best to convince ourselves and everyone around us that it is as real as it’s going to get. And as long as the propaganda keeps playing in our ears, well, then it must be true. All the while we wonder why, if this is as real as it gets, all the pieces just don’t seem to fit together to make much sense. From marriages, to parenting, to worldwide peace it feels like we’re trying to fit square pegs in round holes.
Perhaps a shift in orientation is in order. Perhaps if we oriented ourselves toward God rather than ourselves we may find the pieces fitting together like they are meant to, not necessarily like we think they should, but like they are supposed to. And then suddenly when we sit down for that caramel sundae and put the first scoop in our mouth we would actually feel the rush of an arctic treat rather than some sculpted potato substitute. You can keep pretending the spuds are the real thing, me, I’m gonna get back to the real thing.

Consuming Fire

The American Film Institute
recently released their top 100 movies of all time.  Topping the list was the classic movie Citizen Kane.  The movie takes the viewer on a journey
through the life of fictional character Charles Foster Kane.  Kane accrues an incredible amount of wealth
and power and ultimately destroys himself.
As the movie moves along and Charles Foster’s desire for wealth, power
and pleasure grows there is a recurring shot of a wall with a fireplace in the
center of it in the home of Kane.  As his
wealth grows and becomes more destructive, the fireplace gets bigger and bigger
until near the end of the movie the fireplace is nearly as big as the
wall.  This fireplace is always burning
and consuming and by the end of the movie the fireplace has become and inferno
in which all of Kane’s earthly possessions are being burned up leaving nothing
but a lot of smoke.

Charles Foster Kane was a fictional
character that was rumored to have been loosely based on the life of a real
individual.  Whether or not that is the
case his story is one that is very familiar.
It is a story that has played itself out in some form or another
countless times throughout history.

The lure of
enjoying life is one that is great for all of us, and why not?  Life was made to be enjoyed.  We hear it over and over again pumped into
our brains through various forms of media and entertainment.  The entire marketing industry would be
bankrupted if they were to take an approach that didn’t capitalize on this idea
of enjoying life.  Parents encourage
their children to work hard in school and excel in some sport or hobby in hopes
that they will one day do well for themselves and maybe have all the things they
didn’t have.  And it is basically assumed
that any politician who wants any kind of legitimate shot at getting voted into
office will have a campaign filled with plans for making life better and better
during their term.

From every angle we are inundated
with the gospel of enjoying ourselves.
And we have bought what’s being sold hook, line and sinker.  The American Dream is entirely based on this
gospel and who doesn’t want to live the American Dream?  So we want to enjoy life, that’s a good thing
isn’t it?  Living life to the fullest is
a positive value, we don’t want people walking around with frowns on their
faces and miserable, that’s why our parents and teachers warned us that if we
frowned too much our faces would freeze that way.  People who enjoy life don’t frown and we
should all be enjoying life.  There is
enough pleasure and things to go around.

The truth is there is some measure
of enjoyment in the pursuit of pleasure.
We enjoy a good meal and a good movie or an exotic vacation.  There is also some measure of enjoyment in
the accumulation of things.  We enjoy the
smell and feel of a new car or the crystal picture of a new HDTV.  These things are great and they do bring a
smell to our faces and some enjoyment to life, but that enjoyment is always
short lived.  There is always something
else to experience or something better to buy.
And so our wants become needs and our short list of needs becomes a long
list of needs and eventually the fireplace is so big that it takes up the
entire wall.  Eventually the fireplace
consumes our lives and the things we thought would bring enjoyment ultimately
bring despair.

There is only one true source of
enjoyment in life that will not leave us despairing.  The world is not the only consuming
fire.  Nearly two thousand years ago a
wise man wrote that God is a consuming fire.
By pursuing Him and seeking to enjoy Him we find what it is we are
looking for.  Sure you can enjoy life and
experience short bursts of enjoyment here and there that end up resulting in
despair or you can pursue enjoying God and experience enjoyment that lasts far
beyond this lifetime.

The truth is we are all going to be
consumed by something.  Which fire would
you rather be consumed by?

Laughing at Ourselves

My wife and I are polar opposites when it comes to embarrassing moments. She is like an embarrassing moment magnet whereas I can count on one hand the number of embarrassing moments I’ve had in my lifetime. So when I do have an embarrassing moment my wife relishes the occasion and reminds me of it frequently, in love of course. That is why our Christmas tree excursion of 2006 will go down in the annals of history as one of the best for my wife.
The weeks leading up to Christmas were a bit cluttered for us that year so we didn’t have a whole lot of flex time to utilize as we went about the usual Christmas decorating preparations of hanging the outside lights, redecorating and rearranging the interior then purchasing and decorating our live Christmas tree. We’ve always been a little nostalgic when it comes to Christmas trees, seeking to make the whole ordeal a memorable experience and not just a purchase. So we’ve always sought out tree farms and went the ‘cut your own and drag it back’ route. That was our desire in 2006 as well and though we were unable to cut our own tree it still was a memorable experience and not just a purchase.
It was business as usual as we arrived at the lot. We carefully trekked through the rows and rows of pre-cut trees and narrowed it down to three or four of our favorites and then went about listing the pros and cons of each one. One was scarce on the bottom but had a nice full top, another was nice and full on the one side but the other looked as if someone had taken a pair of hedge clippers to it. Still another one was nice and full but quite out of proportion. We finally settled for one that wasn’t quite as full but was proportional throughout. We paid for our purchase, had the tree shaken and bundled and then I began the process of securing the tree for transport.
Maybe you’ve heard it said, “The best laid plans of mice and men,” well I’ve heard it too and all I can say is that my idea for securing our tree looked a lot different in my head than it actually turned out. Our vehicle did not have a luggage rack so I had to find a little more creative way to secure the tree to the roof. Though I was never a Boy Scout I’ve learned to tie a pretty mean knot and exercised my craft on the driver door mirror of our little SUV. Satisfied with my handiwork I flung the rope to the other side of the car and looped it around the mirror on the passenger side door. I’m sure many of you can see where this is going already. Fortunately for me, for reasons no more profound than I couldn’t tie the knot tight enough around the mirror on the passenger side I chose to go a different route and opened the door and tied the rope around a handle on the ceiling of the car. Satisfied with my efforts I tucked the excess rope under the passenger seat told my wife to jump in and proceeded around the front of the vehicle. As I did I noticed two employees watching me out of the corner of their eyes. It appeared they were smiling and their shoulders were bouncing a little. I shrugged it off and thought nothing of it until I reached the driver door and tried to open it. It came open about an inch and stopped. It was clear now the two employees were laughing at what they knew was coming and now my wife had joined them. I had secured the tree and it wasn’t going anywhere, but neither was I, at least not through the driver’s side door. I walked back past the laughing employees, asked my wife to collect herself enough to please step out of the vehicle then crawled through the car to the driver’s seat laughing a little myself as I did. Like I said, we may not have got to cut down our own tree but it certainly turned into an experience.
Whether you are an embarrassing moment magnet like my wife or more like myself we all need to laugh at ourselves every once in a while. I’ll be the first one to tell you we must take life seriously, but let’s not take ourselves too seriously. There was a time in my life when I would have wanted to let my wife and those two employees have it for making light of my mistake and not warning me about what I was heading into, but what would that have got me? A night on the couch and a black eye or two, instead I got a good laugh and a memorable family experience to cherish. I’ll take the embarrassment and the memorable experience any day.

Misery Meets Grace

            My eleventh Christmas started out as the worst Christmas experience of my life.  That was the year I had the bright idea that it would be fun to secretly find out what all my presents were before Christmas morning.  So, two weeks prior to Christmas I snuck into my parent’s room and spoiled the surprise. 

            Waking up that Christmas morning was worse than waking up for the first day back to school after Christmas break.  The guilt and shame were so heavy that I thought I would need the fire department to extract me from my bed. 

            As I trudged down the hallway to the living room that morning I was met by my overly enthusiastic little sister who was under strict orders to wait until I got into the living room before evening touching a single present.  She met me halfway and began dragging me down the hallway with the strength of two teams of firefighters.  Normally this would have been cause for evasive action, but this morning I welcomed the helping hand as I lumbered down my personal death row.  When we finally got to the living room I could barely look up at my parents.  Their smiles and excitement made my stomach convulse even more, a feeling that was further accentuated by the box that my sister thrust into my stomach with a giggle and a, “Merry Christmas Mark!”  I looked down at the box, “a lego set,” I thought.  You would have thought I was holding a king cobra.  In my mind I had dropped the box and stepped back screaming like a little girl, but on the outside I had mustered every ounce of willpower I had to keep hold of the box and forced a smile.  I had to do this for Mom and Dad.  I may have ruined my Christmas but I didn’t need to ruin theirs too.  Déjà vu resulted from each present that was placed into my hands; socks, coat, baseball glove, forcing me to fake surprise for the family.  It was miserable and as I came to the last present I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had a feeling my parents could tell something was wrong, so I hung my head and confessed every sordid detail right there in front of the Christmas tree. 

            I thought every present would immediately turn to coal.  Then I thought my parents would just gather everything that lay in front of me throw it in the trunk of the car and take it to some eleven year old who would really appreciate it.  Neither of these things happened.  Instead, my Mom began to cry and my Dad looked at me and said, “We already knew, we just wanted you to tell us yourself.”  It turns out I hadn’t been as covert as I thought I was.  Through her tears Mom explained to me how she had noticed something out of place in her closet a couple weeks ago but didn’t think much of it until she saw me getting more and more miserable.  She put two and two together and realized I had gotten into the Christmas presents.  My parents were disappointed over missing the surprise on my face as I opened the presents, but their hearts broke more over the misery I had inflicted upon myself.  Pushing aside their own pain they asked me if I had learned my lesson then gave me a hug and told me they loved me. 

What happened next turned my worst Christmas experience into my best.  While I was hugging my Mom and apologizing through the sobs, my Dad slipped something onto my lap.  I thought I was going to look down and see a present that would again prompt déjà vu but instead when I looked down my mind drew a blank.  Finally, I reflexively looked into my parent’s eyes with a face full of surprise, wonder, and a good measure of perplexity.  My parent’s faces beamed right back.  Maybe in spite of, maybe because of, maybe both my parents had secured one present for me they knew would be a surprise on Christmas morning.  As I tore into the present I didn’t care what it was and honestly I can’t remember what it ended up being.  I had already received the greatest present.  I knew I didn’t deserve this gift.  I knew I didn’t deserve my parent’s forgiveness and kindness.  I knew my parents were well aware of all this and still gave the gift. 

That Christmas, grace was the greatest gift I received, and as I look back now I realize how much my parent’s actions helped me understand the grace of God wrapped in a babe in swaddling cloths and lying a manger.  Its a gift we don’t deserve.  Its kindness and forgiveness we don’t deserve.  With full knowledge of this God still places the gift on our laps inviting us to receive it with wonder and maybe even a good measure of perplexity.

Spoiling Christmas

At the age of eleven I went through a phase in which I just needed to know what I was getting for Christmas before Christmas morning.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to know these secrets in my younger years; it’s just that my methods became a little less conventional.  In earlier years I would simply find out what my sister was getting for Christmas and then bribe her with the information.  For every two Christmas presents she would tell me I would tell her one, but her information was usually not very accurate and neither was mine really.  As my sister got older and wiser this method became less and less effective.  For some reason she didn’t want to know what she was getting before Christmas, if you can imagine that.  She mumbled some nonsense about ruining the surprise.  So I was forced to go it alone.

            As I look back on that Christmas season now I am amazed at how clever I was and how determined to uncover the secret wrapped in every last box displaying my name. 

Most of my operation took place on one night.  My family was headed to a friend’s house to make some hardtack candy, but I was unable to go with them because I had been in bed with a fever for a few days.  Although I was feeling much better I didn’t let on so that I would have the house all to myself for several hours.  The plan worked magically.  Mom kissed me good-bye then the family loaded in to the station wagon and drove out of sight.  As soon as they were out of sight I sprung into action.  I knew the presents were likely somewhere in my parent’s room so I slinked into their room and began my search.  There was no sign of presents under the bed.   Dad’s closet was empty too.  The storage trunk at the end of the bed was also a bust.  I was beginning to lose heart wondering if maybe the merchandise was being stored somewhere off site, but then I opened Mom’s closet and struck the mother-lode. (No pun intended)  There, staring me down from the corner of the closet was a stack of presents from floor to ceiling.  My pulse began to race as I checked the clock to see how much time it had taken me to find the stash and how much time I had left before the family arrived back home.  It had taken me much longer than I had hoped to find the plunder, but I still felt there was enough time to uncover the secrets hidden underneath the festive wrapping.

I quickly ran downstairs to the basement, grabbed the tools I would need from Dad’s workbench and ran back up the stairs.  I made a mental note of how everything was situated in Mom’s closet so I could put things back exactly as I found them, thereby leaving no trace of my presence, again, no pun intended, in the closet or the room.  Then I carefully unwrapped and rewrapped each gift with my name on it (I’ll leave out the detailed process so as not to corrupt any young and impressionable minds).  I was so excited as I came to the end of the stack and realized that I was getting everything I asked for.  My parents were great!  About two hours after the process began I was back in my bed grinning from ear to ear as much over my successful mission as the treasures that awaited in Mom’s closet.  But those feelings of elation quickly turned sour.

I got a lot more than I bargained for from that night of covert operations.  It was wonderful finding out what my presents were, but it just wasn’t the same as the wonder I had experienced on past Christmas mornings.  I was excited about what I was getting but I had no one to share it with.  I found out it’s not nearly as fun opening a present with no one around to share it with.  I was forced to hold all my excitement in and the longer I held in my excitement the less exciting it was.  Those two weeks before Christmas were miserable.  I got to the point that I could barely look my parents in the eye because I felt so guilty.  I went to bed on Christmas Eve with a pit in my stomach and woke up Christmas morning dreading the festivities.  It was the worst Christmas experience of my life.

            Though the curiosity about presents has never waned that was the last Christmas I sought to destroy the wonder before its appointed time.  I learned a valuable lesson that year; some things are meant to be enjoyed within certain boundaries and when they are taken outside those boundaries, there is still a measure of enjoyment but it pales in comparison.  The baggage that goes along with wonder outside of boundaries is far too heavy a load for me, or any of us, to carry.

Caught with Our Hands in the Banana Jar

            Perhaps you’ve heard the old story of the scientists who placed a banana in a jar and placed the jar inside a monkey’s cage.  The opening of the jar was large enough so the monkey could slip his hand down in the jar and grasp the banana but when the monkey tried to remove his hand with banana in tow the mouth of the jar was not large enough.  It is said that the monkey could be seen moving around the enclosure doing all the things the other monkeys did, all the while the banana clenched in his hand and hand stuck in the jar.  The monkey refused to let go of his prize even though in holding on he couldn’t enjoy it.

            This is one of those stories that show the superior intelligence and reasoning of humans over monkeys.  At least that is what we would like to believe.  Given the same scenario with a hand full of goodies stuck in a jar we would release the goodies and remove our hand.  Then we would just turn the jar over and dump everything out.  To my knowledge the monkey never figured that one out.

            Last Thanksgiving holiday I caught a news report that was like many other news reports I’ve seen in recent years.  It was an update on what has become known as ‘Black Friday,’ although now one analyst has renamed it ‘Red-eye Thursday.’  It seems that stores are seeking to begin the fiscal frenzy even earlier and shoppers are responding.  The report included several images of shoppers eagerly waiting in line for hours with sale circulars in hand.  One young man excitedly reported he had been in line since 8am Thursday morning, thereby missing Thanksgiving dinner and refusing to go to the restroom for fear he would lose his place in line.  As he closed the deal at the check out line he repeatedly sputtered with a smile as big as his fifty inch flat screen, high definition, plasma prize, “this is the happiest day of my life.”  Another woman was shown kissing the box of her technological treasure.  Still another image that flashed across the screen was of a store entrance that was simply too small to accommodate the shoppers wanting to get in and take advantage of the sales, kind of like the mouth of the jar and the monkey, but these shoppers would not be dissuaded.  They simply pushed from the back until the dam broke.  So what if a few ribs, arms or legs went with it, that’s a small price to pay for an unbeatable deal on a new digital camera that may be sold out by the time one gets there if one waits in a single file line.  This isn’t grammar school you know, which was further reinforced by another visual of a shopper tripping while in full running stride in the midst of a crowd.  I quickly watched as the surrounding shoppers stopped, dropped everything, and made sure the shopper was OK, even going the extra mile and helping him up from the floor.  Well, not quite, those are the kinds of things we hear about from the Special Olympics, but on ‘Red-eye Thursday’ it’s every man, woman and child for themselves.  As the man lay sprawled on the ground other eager shoppers were shown running around him, a few even jumped over him.    

            For two and half minutes I watched these images and a mass of similar ones, listened to accompanying sound-bytes and almost had to laugh.  Stores took their employees through mock scenarios of how things might be when the shoppers arrived.  Employees were treated as if they were a team getting ready to step out on the field for the championship game.  Management teams brought all employees together for a big pep talk complete with the old hands in the circle, “Let’s go” chant.  Oh it was heartwarming.  Almost like a bunch of scientists getting ready to try an experiment with a jar and a banana.

            Yeah, humans sure are superior to monkeys and other primates.  We would never stick our hand in a jar, grab what we want and not let go at the expense of enjoying it.  We’re much too smart for that.  You would never see us being driven to the point that we begin to act like animals with a total disregard for decency by a primal desire like greed.  Just ask that man sprawled out on the department store floor with shoe tracks up and down his back, he’ll tell you.

Beyond My Control

            The older I get the more and more I realize there are many things in life that are beyond my control.  Yet, I find myself trying on a regular basis to control many of them.  What I have also realized is this is a phenomenon that is shared by many of my fellow human beings.

            Take time for example.  We have zero control of time – nada.  I have yet to find an individual who has mastered the ability of slowing down, speeding up, rewinding or pausing time.  Though there have been movies and books that grant characters these special abilities the last time I checked all those movies fell under the classification of fiction and fantasy.  I have yet to see one that begins with the words, “based on a true story.”  There are those who would like us to believe they are living a true story in which they have slowed or stopped time through the wonders of cosmetic surgery. In reality all they have done is effectively masked the certainty we all face that time is no respecter of persons.

            Though all have at least a subconscious knowledge of the vainness of seeking to control time we still expend amazing amounts of energy on this effort in futility.  Year after year we chase after the proverbial fountain of youth, seeking immortality.  Why?  In large part because we want to live forever, we don’t want to see time run out on us.  We want to cheat death, beat death, laugh in the face of the Grim Reaper as he stands before us totally impotent. 

Imagine for just a moment the implications if someone did actually come up with a marketable way for people to control time?  What a precious gift for the family member who never got to say goodbye or reconcile with a loved one who passed away unexpectedly.  And how beneficial would it be for someone in danger to simply pause time in order to steer clear of the danger about to ensue.  This would be a great military weapon especially when our special forces find themselves hot on the trail of known terrorists who seemingly continue to slip through their grasp.  But not all the implications are good ones.  For every good result we can cite there are a handful of bad ones as well.  This epic struggle is what good movie plots are made of, keeping powerful tools meant for good out of the hands of evil tyrants with an insatiable lust for power, destruction and control.

Regardless of what we may see played out at the local movie theater and on our home entertainment centers there always has and always will be certain things outside the realm of our ability to control and time is just one of them.  Like it or not there are aspects of this life we live in which we are the drowning victim bobbing in the middle of the ocean in need of a rescuer to throw us a line.  It doesn’t matter how hard we try or how much effort we expend because all that will ultimately result from our efforts is a tired victim bobbing in the middle of the ocean hoping and praying ever more frantically for any sign of a rescuer on the horizon.  It wouldn’t matter if you were an endurance swimmer, a lifeguard, or the person with the longest running lucky streak in history, we find ourselves on equal footing when we’re alone hundreds of miles from a shoreline.  A hope for timely help is the only thing we have.

            As I’ve aged I would like to think I have become wiser, and as I ponder these things beyond my control I realize that instead of trying to shape reality to how I think it should be I should be living within reality as it is.  If I’m bobbing in the middle of the ocean it doesn’t matter how much I believe I am living a different reality, unless a rescuer shows up I am sunk.  I can think I’m on a tropical beach basking in the noonday sun all I want but in the end all I end up with is an empty fantasy.  The good news is there is a rescuer on the horizon who throws a lifeline to all who stop trying to control and shape their own reality and send out an SOS asking for His help.  The question is will we stop thrashing around and trying to save ourselves or will be accept reality and cry out for His help?

Time

            Life is busy. It seems there aren’t enough hours in the day to maneuver, better yet cram, everything in that is screaming for a slot on the docket.  And no matter who you are, no matter what you do, we all have the same amount of time allotted to us each day, 24 hours or 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds.  From the richest to the poorest, the CEO to the mailroom clerk we can’t buy, barter, beg or steal more.  Each minute is an irretrievable gif t, a non-transferable slice of eternity and once it is gone it’s gone forever.

            Each minute brings us face to face with a choice that must be made in the blink of an eye:  How will we spend…no invest, that moment?  Consider these statistics from U.S. News and World Report on the topic of how much time the average American will spend on the following activities in a lifetime.  We will spend six months sitting at stoplights, eight months opening junk mail, one year looking for misplaced objects, two years unsuccessfully returning phone calls, four years doing housework, five years waiting in line, and six years eating.  And most of these activities are not the kinds of things we hope to build our life upon.  So on top of these mundane chores we have the tug of war between spending time with family and friends, meeting work deadlines, attending our kid’s soccer games and PTA meetings, enduring some form of exercise, and spending time on a hobby or two, and I’m sure you could add several pages to this list of things that vie for your time.  Oh yeah, and somewhere in there it’s probably a good idea to pencil in an hour or two of sleep.

            But even on the best days as our head hits the pillow it is easy to find our minds racing to all the things we didn’t get done and have to transfer to the ‘to do list’ for an already overloaded tomorrow leaving us restless and unable to get a sound nights sleep so we can attack the moments placed before us tomorrow.  The truth is time flies and if we are not careful we will look back on the moments of our life to find all we have is a bushel full of wasted opportunities. 

Jonathan Edwards, former President of Princeton College and great revival preacher of the 18th century, summed it up like this, “Every part of [time] is successively offered to us that we may choose whether we will make it our own or not.  But there is no delay: it will not wait upon us to see whether or not we will comply with the offer.  But if we refuse, it is immediately taken away and never offered more…If we have lived fifty, or sixty, or seventy years and have not improved our time, now it cannot be helped; it is eternally gone from us; all that we can do is to improve the little that remains.” 

            Unfortunately it takes most of us far too long to realize the preciousness of time.  It is too little considered and too often lost in the hustle and bustle of this thing we call a rat race.  Our maturing view of time is well summed up in the following poem;

            When as a child I laughed and wept, time crept.

            When as a youth I dreamed and talked, time walked.

            When I became a full grown man, time ran.

            And later as I older grew, time flew.

            Soon I shall find while traveling on, time gone.

            We can accumulate more money and things.  We can work our way up the proverbial corporate ladder to greater power and influence.  We can commit to an endless pursuit of pleasure, but there is no secret to accumulating, working, or pursuing more time.  There has been no successful attempt at creating a time machine or a remote control for the universe.  So rather than bemoaning the futile pursuit of wishing there was more time in the day, which I find myself doing far too often, let’s recognize that each moment is given only once and when it is given it is pregnant with opportunity which will be squandered or embraced.  With that in mind how would your “squander to embrace ratio” change if you knew there was just a handful of moments left to your fleeting sojourn here on earth?  Why wait to make those changes and find yourself with nothing more than a handful of regrets and no time left.  As they say, “There is no time like the present.”

upcoming prayer series questions

question_mark3I am going to be doing a Sunday morning series on prayer in the coming months and was wondering if you could give me a hand. What are your questions about prayer? What confusions do you have? Do you pray? What have you found most effective in your prayer life? Basically just give me some feedback on what you would find helpful in the area of prayer.

Contagious Passion

I had the privilege of spending the day at the Billy Graham Library.  It was such a humbling and inspiring experience.  As I walked through each room and soaked in all the information my mind just kept going back to the singular passion of this man.  Billy Graham was all about winning souls for Jesus Christ and that passion is contagious.  barn-crowdIt is so contagious that just walking through the story of his life left me infected with an even deeper desire to join him in this passion.  I can’t speak for everyone who goes through this very special place, or spends some time at the Cove, or in some other way is touched by the ministries of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, but I don’t think I have to.  It was moving just seeing how many tear streaked faces there were exiting the “Journey of Faith” tour, a sight that I found out is a daily occurence.  It was equally moving to hear that 1 out of every 10 individuals who visit the Library actually make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  So in the days of fast spreading infections that threaten the well-being of society it is good to know that the gospel is still contagious, and still fast spreading those who are passionate and pure before the Lord and their fellow man.  What can I say, if you are feeling spiritually dry or deflated and struggling with the power of the gospel perhaps a trip to Charlotte, NC is in order for a spiritual shot in the arm.  Sure, you don’t need to go all that way, but I promise you it will be well worth it. 

But hey, don’t take my word for it check them out for yourself.  http://www.billygraham.org/BGLibrary_Index.asp