Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thoughts on "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Last night my family and I sat down to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I suppose I have seen this every year since my birth. I love this show! And I love sitting down to watch it with my family like my parents used to sit down to watch it with my brothers and me.

As I was watching it this year, something struck me that I had never noticed before. Of course the show is about Charlie Brown trying to find the true meaning of Christmas. Lucy decides that he needs “involvement” and makes him director of the Christmas play. The next several minutes of the show is chaos. No one wants to listen, everyone is going their own direction, and bickering and arguing ensue. Think about that, the first ¾ of the show is chaos.

Finally, Charlie Brown asks the million dollar question: “CAN’T ANYONE TELL ME WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT?” Linus answers, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about… Lights please!”

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

“That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown” Linus concludes.

Now this is what I noticed: Prior to Linus’ speech, there was Chaos! But as he concludes his speech, Charlie Brown simply picks up his little tree and walks away. His friends follow him and decorate the tree singing “Hark the Herald Angels sing.” Prior to the announcement: CHAOS. After the announcement: PEACE!

Maybe this is a bit simplistic, but if you have Chaos in your life the recognition that “God is with us” can bring a sense of peace that no other announcement can bring.

Friday, September 11, 2009

8 Years Later - Still Undivided?

You know where you were. I know where I was. I was laying on Dr. Rick Brown's Chiropractic table in Eustis. Rick was one of my elders at the time. The word came on the radio and from that point on, everything else that day is kind of a blur.

But what I remember in the following days are actually good memories. America was praying again. America was back in church. God was being prayed to and Jesus was being exalted on National TV. Our petty differences were viewed as exactly that: petty. And as a result those differences were placed on the back burner for something that mattered even more: ONE NATION UNDER GOD.

In the months that followed, many artists wrote and recorded songs that paid tribute to those lost on 9/11/01. One of those songs was "Undivided" by Bon Jovi.

That was my brother lost in the rubble
That was my sister lost in the crush
That was our mothers, those were our children
That was our fathers, that was each one of us
A million prayers to God above
A million tears make an ocean of

One for love
One for truth
One for me, one for you

I found spirit, they couldn't ruin it
I found courage in the smoke and dust
I found faith in the songs you silenced
Deep down its ringing out in each of us

One for love
One for truth
One for me, one for you

Where we once were divided, now we stand united
We stand as one... undivided.

How many hands? how many hearts?
How many dreams been torn apart?
Enough, enough... the time has come to rise back as

One for love
One for truth
One for me, one for you

Where we once were divided now we stand united
We stand as one... undivided.

I went back and watched the video today. I even watched the live performance of it from two months after and I heard him say "let's not let this feeling fade away." Sadly, for many, it has. We are once again divided over so many things: War, The President, health care, and the economy just to name a few. More walls of division are being constructed everyday and no one takes credit for building them. It's always the other side. And our differences are no longer petty.

I don't ever want another 9/11. But I long for the feeling of a unified nation that we had afterwords. I think of the words of David when he said in Psalm 133, "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" I pray we will all have that feeling again and that it will not take another 9/11 to make us "One Nation Under God."

If you would like to watch the video for Undivided, the link is:

The live version that was recorded a couple of months after 9/11 is:

Friday, July 31, 2009

Two Sets of Joneses

I have been doing a lot of marriage counseling lately. Actually, more than I ever have before. I don't know if it's because we are not equipping young couples as we used to or if there is just so much more to deal with today, but even in the church we see marraiges struggling and failing on a regular basis.

As I was struggling with this thought and what we can do about it as a church, an old song came to mind that sums up what I believe to be the core of the problem.

TWO SETS OF JONESES by Big Ten Revival

This is a song about two sets of Joneses
Rothchild and Evelyn - Ruban and Sue
Just for discussion through random selection
We've chosen two couples who haven't a clue

Rothchild was lucky to marry so wealthy
Evelyn bought him a house on the beach
Ruban and Sue they had nothing but Jesus
And at night they would pray that he'd care for the each

And the Rain came down - it blew the four walls down
And the clouds they rolled away
One set of Joneses was standing that day

Evelyn's daddy was proud of young Rothchild
He worked the late hours to be number one
Just newlyweds and their marriage got rocky
He's flying to Dallas - She's having a Son

Ruban was holding a Gideon's Bible
He screamed "It's a boy" so that everyone heard
And the Guy's at the factory took a collection
Again God provided for bills he'd incurred.

And the Rain came down - it blew the four walls down
And the clouds they rolled away
One set of Joneses was standing that day

What is the point of this story?
What am I trying to say?
Is your life built on the Rock of Christ Jesus
Or a sandy foundation you've managed to lay?

Well, Needless to say Evelyn left her Husband
Sued him for every penny he had
I truly wish that those two would find Jesus
Before things get worse than they already have

And the Rain came down - it blew the four walls down

And the clouds they rolled away
One set of Joneses was standing that day
There's two sets of Joneses - Which ones will you be?

That may sound simplistic, but I just can't seem to get the tune out of my head. The problem with most couples I see is the focus of their marriage. The focus is self. "I really wish those two would find Jesus."

If you have never heard it, here is the video link.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Celebrity Death's and Our Need for God

The death of a celebrity is an amazing thing to me. We have had several lately. Ed McMahon, Vince Young, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Mays, and, Michael Jackson all died within just a few days of each other. Many of us saw the images of people putting up memorials outside of NBC studios for McMahon, and Outside of a restaurant for Young. I imagine most of us saw at least some of the images from the Michael Jackson memorial. It is estimated that over 1 billion people watched at least some of it.

As humans, we are not good with mortality. We don’t handle death well. I know I don’t. If someone close to me dies, I weep and morn just like the next person. But I guess I wonder why we mourn so much over celebrities. Don’t get me wrong, it’s sad when people die, but I find the outpouring over celebrities interesting. After all, we have soldiers dying everyday in the Middle East but rarely do you hear a name even mentioned. What is it about celebrities?

We as humans have built in within us the need to attach ourselves to something. God made us that way. Some choose to attach themselves to family, others to a job, and others even to a celebrity. God put the need to “seek” in each and every heart he created (Acts 17:26-28). But the ultimate goal of this is that we would find HIM.

People are seekers buy our very nature. God has put it in our heart to seek that we might find him. When we see people “idolizing” celebrities to the point that they almost look as if they are “worshiping” them (I saw one person at the Michal Jackson funeral with their hands raised), this is a reflection of our “need” to worship.

Yet there is only one way the need to worship will be fulfilled in anyone’s life, and that is through the true worship of our almighty God. Again, God created us so that “men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:26-28)

It’s easy to attach ourselves to what we can see. But in reality, Michael Jackson didn’t know any of those people who were “lifting him up.” When he was alive, those who followed him did not have any “real” access to him. “Idol worship” will never fulfill the need for relationship which we seek. BUT…God knows our names, he created us with the ability to find him, and “he is not that far from each one of us.” That’s Good News!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


This was Seth's first time ever going to camp. I got word that last night he had a "homesick moment." Luckily, his big brother Hunter was there to comfort him and let him know everything was ok. As his father, hearing he had a homesick moment made me want to go get him a day early and wrap my arms around him. But I know Hunter is there and can take good care of him.

As I begin thinking about that, I wanted to write it down because the paralels are amazing. As Christians, we often have "homesick moments." We have moments of tears, sorrow, and pain, and we long to go home to heaven where these things will be no more. (Rev. 21:4)

But God has surrounded us with spiritual brothers and sisters, so with those homesick moments get to be too strong, they can comfort us and let us know that everything will be ok. As our father, God longs to come get us early and wrap his arms around us, but he knows our brothers and sisters in Christ are with us and will take good care of us.

That anaolgy may be oversimplified, but it brought me comfort and I hope it does you as well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I have pretty much always been a fan of hard rock. But my affinity for a certain unnamed TV show has caused me to listen to some lighter music and some artists I may not have never listened to. One of those artists is Shawn Mullins. I don't know what it is about his music that captivates me. I just can't stop listening.

One of his songs that really touches me is "Shimmer." I'm not sure why, but every time I hear it I get teary. I guess it reminds me of how innocent we are when we are born, and the many things we come in contact with as we grow that take our innocence away.

The last verse is what really gets to me. I know my innocence is gone and I know this world is desperately trying to pull me down even further. But greater than the worlds desire, is God's desire for me to shine. Check out the lyrics:

Sharing with us what he knows
shining eyes are big and blue
and all around him water flows
this world to him is new
this world to him is new

he´s born to shimmer,he´s born to shine
he´s born to radiate
he´s born to live,he´s born to love
but we will teach him how to hate

and this thing they call our time
heard a brilliant woman say
she said you know it´s crazy
how I want to try to capture mine
I think I love this woman´s way
I think I love this woman´s

way she shimmers,the way she shines
the way she radiates
the way she lives,the way she loves
the way she never hates

sometimes I think of all this that can surround me
I know it all as being mine
but she kisses me and she wraps her love around me
she gives me love,she gives me time
and I feel fine

but time I cannot change
so here´s to looking back
you know I drink a whole bottle of my pride
and I toast to change
to keep these demons off my back
just get these demons off my back

Cause I want to shimmer, I want to shine
I want to radiate
I want to live,I want to love
I want to try to learn not to hate
try not to hate
we´re born to shimmer,
we´re born to shine,
we´re born to radiate,
we´re born to live,we´re born to love
we´re born to never hate

We were born to shine! I love that line. I think Jesus would agree. I know he would because he said it long before Shawn did. "Let your light so shine before men..." He said it even bolder in Luke 11 when he said, "See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you."

Here's a simple question for you: What have you done this week that "Shimmered?"

If you have never heard the song, here is a link for the video.

Friday, June 19, 2009


The other day at our church rummage sale, I saw a book called “Fatherhood” by Bill Cosby. I have a copy of the book in my office and began skimming through it. I would like to share with you two observations that Cosby makes about fathers.

He writes: “Now that my father is a grandfather, he just can’t wait to give money to my kids. But when I was his kid and I asked him for fifty cents, he would tell me the story of his life; how he got up at 4 A.M. when he was seven years old and walked twenty-three miles to milk ninety cows. And the farmer for whom he worked had no bucket, so he had to squirt the milk into his little hand and then walk eight miles to the nearest can; all for 5 cents a month. The result was that I never got my 50 cents. But now he tells my children every time he comes into the house, “Well, let’s see how much money old Granddad has got for his wonderful kids." And the minute they take money out of his hands, I call them over to me and I snatch it away from them. Because that is MY money!”

The other story Cosby tells is the difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. He insists that “Mother’s Day is a much bigger deal because Mothers are more organized. Mothers say to their children, “Now here is a list of what I want. Go get the money from your father and you surprise me on Mother’s Day. You do that for me.” For Father’s Day I give each of my five kids $20, so that they can go out and by me a present--a total of $100. They go to the store and buy two packages of underwear, each of which costs $5 and contains three shorts. They tear them open and each kid wraps up one pair, the sixth pair of underwear going to the Salvation Army. Therefore, on Father’s Day I am walking around with new underwear and my kids are walking around with $90 worth of my change in their pockets.”

Stories of fatherhood make us laugh. But the fact is, the role of “fatherhood” has been cheapened and overlooked by society. Most fathers you see on sitcoms are dimwitted and easily outsmarted by their kids. In the last few years there has been a trend among celebrity women to adopt children when they are not married, and the children will have no father. As if fatherhood is optional.

Fatherhood is not optional. Fathers, your children need you! And children, you need your fathers. No, we may not buy the some amount of gifts for our fathers as we do our mothers, (Cosby also said, “Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap on-a-rope.”) but this does not cheapen their role. Consider words even wiser than Mr. Cosby’s: “Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. (Proverbs 4:1)”

Friday, June 12, 2009

No Rest for the Weary

I’m sleepy today. Our neighbors have a dog that LOVES to bark until after midnight, and the crows begin their screeching at about 5:00 a.m. When you sleep with the windows open, this presents a bit of a problem.

I’m sure I am not the only one out there who is falls asleep at their desk from time to time. Of course, as a minister, I have a built in excuse: “I was praying.” (I know – that’s bad.) But to those of you who don’t have the built in excuse, here are some great excuses if your boss catches you asleep at your desk:
• They told me at the blood bank that this might happen.
• This is just a 15-minute power nap like they raved about in that time management course you sent me to.
• I was working smarter - not harder.
• Whew! I must have left the top off my sharpie.
• I wasn’t sleeping! I was meditating on the mission statement and envisioning a new paradigm!
• This is one of the seven habits of highly effective people!
• I was testing the keyboard for drool resistance.
• I’m in the management training program.
• I’m actually doing a Stress Level Elimination Exercise Plan (SLEEP).
• This is in exchange for the six hours last night when I dreamed about work!
• The coffee machine is broken.
• Someone must have put decaf in the wrong pot.
• Boy, that cold medicine I took last night just won’t wear off.
• Ah, the unique and unpredictable circadian rhythms of the workaholic!
• The mail courier flipped out and pulled a gun so I was playing dead to avoid getting shot.

What’s the point of all this? Our bodies need rest. God created the Sabbath for us to rest. Jesus said "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.(Mark 2:27)” In other words, God in his infinite wisdom knew we would need rest. I know we do not observe the Sabbath as Christians, but I believe the spirit of the Sabbath remains.

We need to take care of ourselves and not get so caught up in work and other things that we never rest. The wise words of Solomon would be good for us to remember: “What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. (Eccl. 2:22-24)”

Friday, June 5, 2009

A "Magical" Cure

I am a huge Orlando Magic Basketball fan. Of course I am a little down because of the result of last nights game, but I am also encouraged by a story my Mom told me about yesterday. According to, 4 year old Ryan Rodriguez, who suffered from an anxiety disorder called selective mutism, had never spoken more than a word or two. But that changed one night when Ryan caught a Magic game on television and started pointing, and saying "Me, me, play, play."

As a father, Izzy Rodriguez said he would do whatever to took to get his son to talk. So instead of paying the house payment, he payed $641 dollars for two premium seats to a Magic game. He says his son talked the whole time, the whole way home, and is still talking up a storm.

When Magic executives heard about Ryan, they gave he and his father tickets to every remaining playoff game, including the finals. Ryan's speech ability has continued to grow with each game.

This got me to thinking; I wonder how many speech therapists would have said, "If you take him to a Basketball game, he will be cured." Not likely. Yet whenever we face struggles in life or in our faith, we tend to go to the same supposed "cures."

Sometimes, we need to think outside of the box. Not that we need to give up on proven methods of dealing with life's challenges, but sometimes we need to take risks. Many fathers would have heard those words from little Ryan and said, "He talked a little, were getting somewhere, call the therapist." But Izzy wanted to know how far it could get so he took the risk and it paid off.

The moral of the story: Be willing to go outside of the box and take risks as you fight life's battles! And oh yea, Go Magic!!!

To read more or watch a video about Ryan, here are a couple of links.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Holiness By Grace

I guess I am one of these guys who likes many things that the mainstream does not like, and doesn't like many things that the mainstream seems to embrace. This is especially true with books.

You will not catch me reading a Harry Potter or Twilight book. Not because I think they are inherently "evil," I just have better things to do with my time than read a 7000 page book! I mostly read for information, but one subject I love to read about is Grace.

One of the best books I have read on the subject is "Holiness By Grace" by Bryan Chapell. The book came out about 10 years ago and didn't seem to create much of a buzz. Most of the time when I mention it, people have never heard of it. I looked on Amazon and saw that it has been reprinted recently. I highly recommend you read it.

One of the most memorable parts of the book is when he relates Christ’s parable in Luke 17:7-10 to a modern day scenario.

Luke 17:7‑10 - "Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'

Chapell compares this to a restaurant experience. Your waitress might give you the best service you have ever had but if she came and sat down at the table when she was done, you would question her. “Well, I did a good job serving you, so now I’m a part of your family.” That simply wouldn't fly would it? Service no more makes you a part of the family that buying your way in. The only way an outsider can become a part of a family is through invitation. God, through His grace, has invited us to be a part of His family. It is an invitation only affair.

I guess grace is a difficult concept to grasp because of our “humanness.” There are conditions on everything! Everything has fine print at the bottom. Even a relationship between man and wife has conditions. We call it unconditional, but in reality if you have an affair... The only relationship without fine print is the one with God. It’s not about us and our goodness, it’s all about God an his goodness. (Thank goodness!)

Another phrase in the book that jumped off of the page and smacked me in the face was this: "God is not moved by our works." WOW! Not that God does not expect us to serve him, but our works do not make us holy.

Hebrews 10:9-11 Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

God makes us holy by his grace. When we put our obedient faith in Jesus Christ, God takes our sinful lives and says "you're holy."

Does that mean we just sit comfortably in the "easy chair"of Christianity? Paul would respond by saying "God forbid." When we recognize the gift we have been given, the gift of holiness made possible by the grace of God, we strive to please him. We do not sit comfortably in the "easy chair" of Christianity, rather, we rest safely in the arms of Jesus. Can you think of anything that is a better motivation that that?

Buy the book. I think I'll read it again!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My First Blog

Well, I never considered myself a "blogger." I have actually said that I wouldn't, but here I am. (Much like the time in 2003 I said I would never own a cell phone. - No I did not join the cellphone generation until 2004) People have encouraged me to start a blog. I guess the reason I have resisted is because I wonder if my ramblings are worth reading.

I mean, no offense to other bloggers out there, but I have read some stuff that just made me wonder, "Should blogs be available to everybody?" I am reminded of the wise words of Solomon in Proverbs 17:27-28:

27 A man of knowledge uses words with restraint,
and a man of understanding is even-tempered.
28 Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent,
and discerning if he holds his tongue.

I pray that I will, unlike some, use words with restraint. But I also hope that my thoughts and ponderings will be helpful and interesting, and hopefully bring people closer to God. And so the journey begins...