2006...it was a good year....

WOW, it's almost over...and I'm just now getting the hang of writing "2006" on everything.

It's been a decent year. Let's see if I can recount some of the highlights for me, personally:

1) Caffeine Free. Up until December 30, 2005 I was a huge Mountain Dew man. And I decided that I need to "kick the habit" for 2006. I have been very successful in kicking the caffeine habit. I've had nothing with caffeine in it, except for a couple pieces of chocolate.

2) Flu/Cold Free. I need to count my blessings on this one. I almost always develop bronchitis, or a cold or some other upper respiratory ailment at least once every year. I've managed to avoid that this year. I'm thankful. My wallet is also.

3) Reconnecting with friends. I've done quite a bit of traveling this year--more so than in recent years. I've been to:

Huntsville, Alabama
Birmingham, Alabama
Tomah, Wisconsin
Belleville, Illinois
Lexington, Kentucky
Atlanta, Georgia
Greer, South Carolina

Getting away from the hustle and bustle of the Windy City is a necessity sometimes. I've been very fortunate in the fact that I've gotten to visit friends and family that I've not seen in many years--some of them as long as 20 years ago. It's been great.

4) Sunday School at The Moody Church. I've gotten involved in the Moody Business Network (MBN) Sunday School Class at The Moody Church (www.moodychurch.org) where I worship regularly every week. This has been so encouraging and refreshing for me, after having been away from Sunday School for more than three years.

These "things" may seem little to alot of folks who will read this post. Yet, these "little things" are very, very important to me, and what God is doing in my life.

And I will look forward with great anticipation to 2007.


I'm beginning to wonder why we all have so much "stuff."

While I'm very appreciative of every gift I've ever received, I often muse about how much "stuff" I have, and why I really have it.

I have plenty of clothes, and lots of friends. The first will eventually wear out, while the latter is eternal.

I have good health, and a good strong mind (and there are views to the contrary on the latter, I'm sure).

I have the promise of a home in heaven, and the grace of Jesus Christ while traveling here on this side of eternity.

So what about all this "stuff"?

What do you think?

Thanks a million!

This is the first time I've had the opportunity to thank my good friends Pastor Byron and Cindy Morrell in Greer, South Carolina. I was their house guest for the Christmas holiday weekend.

It was wonderful!

Byron and I have been pals for more than 26 years now--we met when we were college freshmen in Cleveland TN in August, 1980.

We've been "buds" ever since.

He pastors a wonderful congregation in Greer--and they love him dearly. I can see why. I had the great privilege of sharing God's Word with this congregation last Sunday morning. What a precious group of people!

Byron and Cindy are two of the kindest and most gracious people that I know.

It was joy to be with them, and their two sons Zachary and Ezekiel.

It was a delight to be with Byron's family on Christmas Eve (all 20+ of them), and to be with Cindy's family on Christmas Day. I ate way too much, and received such warmth and kindness--far more than I deserved.

I just wanted to say "Thank You" publicly.

What will you bring to Christmas? Part II

Yes, we have worshipped Christ, the newborn babe in the cattle stall. But He didn't remain there...

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus grew in stature, and in favor with both God and man. God the Son became a fully grown man! That boggles the mind for most, if not all of us. I often wonder if He had to "take out the trash" or "do his own laundry..."--after all HE was a man, huh?

Some thirty-three years after this wonderful birth in Bethlehem, we see a different gift that requires our response.

Jesus has quite a reputation now. He has:

Turned water into the BEST vintage of wine at a wedding
Healed the sick
Raised the Dead
Told a Samaritan Woman everything she had ever done
Paid His taxes from the mouth of a fish
Feed thousands with five loaves and two fish
Walked on water

Just for headliners. But now, He offers us another gift. He rides into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey. He cries over this city. He overturns the moneychangers in the temple, and instructs His disciples to prepare a meal in an Upper Room. This meal would be the last one the Twelve would have together. Jesus explains exactly why this meal was necessary. He describes the "Cup of His blood"...and insists they all drink from it. This was a common cup--and it represented the communion that Christ wanted to have with them, and that Christ wanted them to have with one another. The Gospels of Luke and John both tell us as much.

After this event, we know that Christ went into Gethsemane's Garden, and prayed "If It be Thy will, let this CUP pass from Me....Not my will, but Yours." In other words Jesus "prayed through."

He prayed through to the place where He (fully God and fully man) could say, "Father, Your will, not Mine." He knew the suffering that He was about to endure. He knew that it would be bitter, but He also was ready to do whatever His Father saw fit to happen.

So, we must ask, now that we are seeing this gift of "His Cup"--what do we need to bring to our Garden of Gethsemane? What do we need to look deeply within ourselves and find--and then bring it to the "Garden"?

Maybe it's that disappointment of someone betraying you. Maybe it's the unreasonable family member whom you just don't know how to reach? Maybe it's a wayward child, or a person that is far too distant, and you were once close. Maybe, just maybe it's a financial situation, and you just can't seem to gain clarity on it?

Are you ready to pray through..."Father, Not my will, but Yours"?

We are partaking of this CUP of His surrender to the Father's will. Every time we partake of the Lord's Supper (Eucharist), we are saying, when we drink the fruit of the vine, "Lord, not my will, but Yours."

This too, is a gift of Christmas.

What will you bring to Christmas? Part I

One the things that has always bugged me about going somewhere, particularly to the family, for the holidays is that someone will always ask "Well, what are you bringing?" Well-meaning though they are, I am just annoyed that we automatically assume that someone MUST bring something...

When the angel appeared to Mary, and later to Joseph, they both knew what this "baby boy" would bring: Salvation. Matthew 1:21 tells us "You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins."

So, now we will come to Christmas....that most blessed of all nights, when God took the form of man, and came to live among us. We first come to the "cradle" and see a tiny baby, in a barn with straw in his hair, laying among the cattle that surrounded him. We hear a different announcement now: "Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward all men." That "goodwill" would be GOD'S will toward the sinful creatures who had rebelled against Him. It's important to remember that GOD lay in that cattle stall...Fully God and Fully Man. We can sing with the legions of saints who have gone before us:

O Come Let Us Adore Him!
O Come Let Us Adore Him!
O Come Let Us Adore Him!
Christ, Our Lord!

Now this is funny.....

Or at least I thought so. My friend Tim (a pastor in Florida) passed it on...

This is the time of year when we think back to the very first Christmas, when the Three Wise Men -- Gaspar, Balthazar, and Herb -- went to see the baby Jesus and, according to the Book of Matthew, "presented unto Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh."

These are simple words, but if we analyze them carefully, we discover an important, yet often overlooked, theological fact: there is no mention of wrapping paper.

If there had been wrapping paper, Matthew would have said so: "And lo, the gifts were inside 600 square cubits of paper. And the paper was festooned with pictures of Frosty the Snowman. And Joseph was going to throweth it away, but Mary saideth unto him, she saideth, 'Holdeth it! That is nice paper! Saveth it for next year!' And Joseph did rolleth his eyeballs. And the baby Jesus was more interested in the paper than the frankincense."

But these words do not appear in the Bible, which means that the very first Christmas gifts were NOT wrapped.

This is because the people giving those gifts had two important characteristics:

1. They were wise.
2. They were men.

Men are not big gift wrappers. Men do not understand the point of putting paper on a gift just so somebody else can tear it off. This is not just my opinion, this is a scientific fact based on a statistical survey of two guys I know. One is Rob, who said the only time he ever wraps a gift is "if it's such a poor gift that I don't want to be there when the person opens it." The other is Gene, who told me he does wrap gifts, but as a matter of principle never takes more than 15 seconds per gift. "No one ever had to wonder which presents daddy wrapped at Christmas," Gene said. "They were the ones that looked like enormous spitballs."

I also wrap gifts, but because of some defect in my motor skills, I can never completely wrap them. I can take a gift the size of a deck of cards and put it the exact center of a piece of wrapping paper the size of a regulation volleyball court, but when I am done folding and taping, you can still see a sector of the gift peeking out. (Sometimes I camouflage this sector with a marking pen.)

If I had been an ancient Egyptian in the field of mummies, the lower half of the Pharaoh's body would be covered only by Scotch tape. On the other hand, if you give my wife a 12-inch square of wrapping paper, she can wrap a C-130 cargo plane. My wife, like many women, actually likes wrapping things. If she gives you a gift that requires batteries, she wraps the batteries separately, which to me is very close to being a symptom of mental illness. If it were possible, my wife would wrap each individual volt.

My point is that gift-wrapping is one of those skills like having babies that come more naturally to women than to men.

That is why today I am presenting: Gift Wrapping Tips for Men:

* Whenever possible, buy gifts that are already wrapped. If, when the recipient opens the gift, neither one of you recognizes it, you can claim that it's myrrh.

* The editors of Woman's Day magazine recently ran an item on how to make your own wrapping paper by printing a design on it with an apple sliced in half horizontally and dipped in a mixture of food coloring and liquid starch.

They must be smoking crack.

If you're giving a hard-to-wrap gift, skip the wrapping paper! Just put it inside a bag and stick one of those little adhesive bows on it. This creates a festive visual effect that is sure to delight the lucky recipient on Christmas morning:

YOUR WIFE: Why is there a Hefty trash bag under the tree?

YOU: It's a gift! See? It has a bow!

YOUR WIFE (peering into the trash bag): It's a leaf blower.

YOU: Gas-powered! Five horsepower!

YOUR WIFE: I want a divorce.

YOU: I also got you some myrrh.

In conclusion, remember that the important thing is not what you give, or how you wrap it. The important thing, during this very special time of year, is that you save the receipt!

Abusing this drug....

I was watching an interview with someone on public television two nights ago, and the person being interviewed mentioned a phrase that immediately "drew me in." He's somewhat famous because of the family name, but he has had a real battle with drugs, alcohol, and depression.

The phrase he used was "the narcotic of being noticed." It seems that many people have developed a habit of "abusing" this drug....the "narcotic" of being noticed.


I guess I have my theories...since I've been guilty of such abuse. Not too many years ago, I desperately wanted to be "noticed" for all the "stuff" that I had accomplished, or the talents which I thought I possessed, etc.

Folks are constantly thinking they will be "discovered" or "noticed" for whatever it is they feel themselves worthy of being noticed or discovered.

Time and experience has taught me that being "noticed" isn't so important, in the eternal scope of things. God requires me to do the very "best" that I can do in everything I do, and that HE alone keeps an accurate account of my life. HIS account is far more accurate than the one that I or anyone else can record.

He doesn't miss a thing.

Fame and fortune...or recognition can be a good thing.

But life has to consist of more than just fame, fortune, recognition.

I remember Jesus telling a group of people "A man's life doesn't consist of the abundance of things he possesses."

What happens so often is that we get "noticed"--and being noticed once is never enough.

Never. Then we have to make sure that we are "noticed" again and again.

But then we must ask the question: "How much is enough?"

And a very smart man once answered: "Just a little bit more."

That's greed. Plain and simple.

Sure, I'd love to be recognized as a smart, generous, gracious, and solid person. I'd love to see my name in "lights" or in "print" once or twice...

But in the scope of eternity, what would it matter?

Am I doing all this "stuff" just so I can be noticed?

What about you?

"I Will Go On"

Bill and Gloria Gaither are two of the most prolific songwriters of our time. Their music always speaks to the real "issues" of life for me.

I remember hearing this powerful piece more than twenty years ago, and I've been wanting to post it for a long time. Now is that time:

I repent for moments I have spent
Recalling all the pain and failures of my past.
I repent for dwelling on the things
Beyond my power to change
The chains that held me fast.

I will go on
My past I leave behind me
I gladly take His mercy and His love.
He is joy and He is peace
He is strength and sweet release
I know He is, and I am His
I will go on.

I give up the bitterness and hate
And blaming men and fate
For all my discontent.
The guilt and pain I empty from my cup
So God can fill it up
With peace and sweet content.

I will go on
My past I leave behind me,
I gladly take His mercy and His love!
He is joy and He is peace,
He is strength and sweet release.
I know He is, and I am His,
I will go on!

Many thanks to this legendary duo for reminding us of how great our God really is, and that He is and I am His....

There are days..sometimes many of them, when I have to be reminded of this powerful, powerful truth.

I will go on.

And a Happy Holidays it is!

I have every intention of celebrating CHRISTmas...realizing that without the Birth of Christ, there would be no need for this holiday, or any other holiday for that matter.

But I refuse to get my "nighties in a knot" over how people use the season to issue greetings of one type or another.

The word "holiday" is actually derived from the phrase "holy day"--so no reason to be all paranoid and cantankerous.

I honestly believe that far too many CHRIST-followers get their blood pressures elevated when "lost people" behave like "lost people."

We want everyone to be "Christian-ized" whether they really do follow "Christ" or not. Or at least that's the impression I've been getting lately.

There are certain societal mores that should, need to be, and must be respected.

However insisting that everyone say "Merry Christmas" isn't one of them.

Unless I now live in the Vatican City.

And I don't.

The day I've waited for....

The Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by Former Secretary of State James A Baker III, and Former Congressman Lee H Hamilton (Indiana) released their 142-page report to the President of the United States today.

I've even downloaded it, so I can read it tonite. I watched the national press conference this morning. I was impressed by the depth of their 79 recommendations, and also the seriousness with which the report was issued.

Now, if the President of the United States will get equally serious, and realize all the blunders that have been committed in the last 3+ years since our invasion of Iraq, maybe we can see something productive take place.

This commission was bi-partisan and consisted of some of the great minds in the political life of our nation:

James A Baker III
Lee Hamilton
Lawrence Eagleburger
Leon Panetta
Vernon Jordan
Dr William Perry
Edwin Meese
Sandra Day O'Connor
Bob Gates (until he was nominated as the new Secretary of Defense, at which point he resigned the Study Group).

It's time for all the ballyhooing of both major political parties to cease, and for the "hard work" to either start or at least be accelerated. Our United States House of Representatives works less than 150 days a year, and needs to be held accountable for their "slack."

The same can be said for the United States Senate.

This Study Group did the job they were assigned.

I only wish our elected public officials would follow their lead.

Stubborn Obstructionism, oh really?

So President Bush now has to nominate a new United States Ambassador to the United Nations, since the newly minted Senate (come January 2007) will absolutely refuse to confirm John Bolton as the American representative to the U.N.

Anyone surprised?

The Republican-controlled Senate refused to confirm Bolton some 18 months ago, and the President insisted on giving him a "recess" appointment anyway.

So who is the "stubborn obstructionist" in this matter?

It's not the Senate, that's for sure. Those fine men and women did their job in refusing to advise and consent to a nomination in which they vehemently disagreed.

I said it then, and I say it again now, "Mr President, send a worthy nominee to the Senate for confirmation." It's time to stop playing the ideological games, and to send a qualified, confirmable candidate to the United States Senate for confirmation as Ambassador of this great nation.

There are plenty of qualified people out there.

And, even though he did an admirable job in his time at the U.N., Mr. Bolton, overall, was not one of them.

Send a good candidate, and please hurry.