Another State of The Manofesto Address

A little over a year ago I began this adventure in blogging. I am not vain enough to think these things I write have had any sort of significant impact on society, but hopefully they have made a few people laugh, given others pause for reflection, and inspired some to dig further into a thing or two or three that piqued their interest. In the introduction to The Manofesto (found on The Welcome Wagon page) I made mention that this is a work in progress. To some degree I am “stuck in my ways”, in some cases to my detriment and in others to my everlasting relief. However, I am all for growth and progress, and the time seems right for The Manofesto to evolve, to take that next baby step. To that end, I want to address a few changes on the horizon.

First of all, in the 10th edition of Random Thoughts, published nearly one year ago (7/11/2009), I wrote “I seriously doubt if I will ever get into Twitter…..but never say never.” I am glad I put the “never say never” stipulation in there, because it has been laid upon my heart that now is the time to become a part of Twitter Nation. I am not sure why I have been so reluctant. I suppose I figured that anything I had to say could be said here or atleast on my Facebook page. Plus, when an entity’s most renown supporter is Ashton Kutcher it is underwhelming at best. But two thoughts occurred to me. First, Jesus commanded his disciples to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”, and He also said “come…follow Me…I will make you fishers of men”. Now I know that it is highly unlikely that Christ was referring in any way to Twitter, but I also am open to new ways to spread The Good News and if I at some point tweet a thought or a scripture that touches even one person and points them down the correct path then hey…why not??

The second thing that occurred to me was that Twitter is a good fit for Random Thoughts. In fact, it seems like the perfect marriage. Therefore, beginning on July 4th 2010 I will be utilizing Twitter for my pithy comments & quick jabs and will be closing the Random Thoughts section here at The Manofesto. I will transfer all archived Random Thoughts to the Potluck section. This will enable me to react quicker to events rather than having to wait sometimes several days or even weeks until I have enough thoughts to justify a blog entry. It will also allow me to use the blog to focus on lengthier, more substantial subject matter, something I feel is a necessary step. We’ll still have some fun writing about movies and sports and other pop culture minutia, but I feel like the majority of what I write needs to be a bit meatier.

The final new development (for now) that I want to address is a possible talk show version of The Manofesto. Now this is not something that is going to happen soon, like the Twitter thing. This is something that I am in the process of pondering and exploring, but something that I feel strongly will happen in the not-too-distant future. My college pal Deb, whose blog Real Widows is linked here, has recently gotten together with a fellow “widster” and started a show on BlogTalk Radio. I have done a cursory assessment of what BlogTalk has to offer and it seems user friendly enough and something I could manage easily. Also, I have been talking with my friend The Owl for awhile now, encouraging him to do his own podcast. Whether we will end up doing something together or separately remains to be seen. I know we both have a lot of opinions about things and share a similar desire to spread Jesus’ teachings to the masses, so we’ll see what happens. I may even talk some other friends into joining in or atleast contributing on occasion. Much more prayerful consideration needs to be put into this particular idea, but I feel confident in saying that eventually there will be yet another outlet through which I unleash my unique perspective.

Please be sure to start “following” me on Twitter beginning 7/4/10, and stay tuned for more information down the line about how plans for the show on BlogTalk Radio are progressing.

 

The Fruits of the Spirit – Joy

joyLast summer I began a series on the Fruits of the Spirit, but did not get very far before getting distracted with other things. The truth is that those other things are usually either easier or more fun to write, or spur of the moment musings brought on by something that has inspired me in my daily life. Something like a close examination of a lengthy and important Biblical passage takes a bit more research and prayerful consideration and therefore becomes a bit more of a task. However, circumstances have converged in a way that has aroused my desire to pick up the mantle. A general malaise and feeling of dissatisfaction with my life has somehow coincided with the writer’s block that hits me on occasion lifting. So rather than write a bunch of stuff that would only be of interest to disciples of Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, and Kurt Cobain, I have decided to write about joy. Oh how I dig irony.

 

Most may assume that we have a firm grasp on what joy is, but do we really?? Joy is defined as great delight, gladness of heart, keen pleasure, elation, glad feeling, and festive gaiety. Oftentimes the terms joy and happiness are used interchangeably, but is that accurate?? I think not. The author CS Lewis pondered the question thusly: “I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy. Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is”. We can follow that up with this musing from another author, Ralph Waldo Emerson: “You shall have joy, or you shall have power, said God; you shall not have both”. I think one would be correct in stating that happiness is much more akin to pleasure, and therefore happiness and joy are not the same. Lewis is right…happiness is usually within our power. It doesn’t take all that much to make the average person happy. The possibilities are endless and depend on one’s own individual preferences. Personally I am happy reading a good book, when my favorite sports teams win, playing with my puppy, eating good food, and whenever I catch a favorite old movie on television…just to name a few. Others have spouses and children that make them happy. Some folks travel. Others play music. The problem, however, is this…as easily as we can be happy we can also quickly become unhappy. Anger, bitterness, and frustration are byproducts of being fallible human beings and dealing with others just like us. Happiness is all too temporary. Those things that make us happy may only last mere minutes or hours, and then it is right back to the inherent unhappiness in a world fraught with sin.

 

We spend our entire lives in the constant pursuit of happiness and pleasure. “The pursuit of happiness” is even written into the United States Declaration of j2Independence as an unalienable right endowed to men by God. The Founding Fathers almost had it right…but not quite. What we tend to find is that this pursuit of happiness is exhausting and ultimately empty. At the very least we are limited by time, money, and other responsibilities. In extreme cases we see people who tried to find happiness via alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, and other assorted illegal or unhealthy activities have their lives destroyed or even ended prematurely. St. Thomas Aquinas once stated “man cannot live without joy; therefore when he is deprived of true spiritual joy it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures”. Now I am not saying that we should stop having good clean fun. To be honest I get aggravated with Christians who unwittingly put a bad spin on the faith because they are uptight wet blankets that will not allow themselves to loosen up. However, what I am suggesting is that we put fun/happiness/pleasure into its proper perspective and understand its fickle nature. What we truly need to pursue is joy, and that cannot be found in a bar, as an ingredient in any drug, on television, at the mall, in any food we eat, or in the seemingly intimate embrace of another human being.

 

Romans 14:17 tells us that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”. At the end of the day the pursuit of happiness will always leave a void remaining within us, but true joy in The Lord is eternal. That joy will enhance the highs of life, but it also assists in riding out the low points…and there WILL be low points. One of the problems we run into is that we don’t like feeling sad, lonely, angry, disappointed, etc. In order to avoid those bad feelings we pursue more happiness, which in turn eventually lets us down again. We are like a cat chasing its tail, and it’s a game we cannot win, a most vicious cycle. What we need to do is change the game. Life does not have to be like golf or tennis…us against the world. Life is a team effort, but we not only have to accept the help of our teammate, but we have to make Him the captain of the team. Psalm 16:11 says “You will show me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy. At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore”. The only way we can grow from the meaningless, vacant pursuit of happiness into having joy is to put our ego aside and let Him lead.

 

Now one thing we do have to understand is what I mentioned about those low points. I truly believe that the closer we draw to God the more it ticks off Satan and the more he tempts us in an effort to force us into sin. And while it is a certainty that we will still sin on occasion, we can lessen the impact if God is our team captain. I don’t want to plunge too deeply into the topics of salvation and grace, not only because it is straying from the purpose at hand but also because those subjects deserve their own focus. Suffice to say that if we are covered in the blood of Christ our sin is washed away and we are assured eternal life. But more germane to the present issue, if we have full joy in God then we can better weather the storms of life that are sure to come along. Habakkuk 3:17-18 says “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation”.

 

Also, if we are experiencing true joy in our life then we are better equipped to witness to others. Mother Teresa once said ““joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” And isn’t that part of our mission?? We are to be “fishers of men”. I am certainly not an expert fisherman, but I know enough to understand that it is a lot easier and one will catch more fish with a net.

 

for_joySo how do we find joy?? I am not sure I am qualified to answer that question, as I am still figuring it out myself (and, to be quite honest, not doing such a great job lately), but I know a few things. I know that we are to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. One needs a personal relationship with Jesus Christ…that is the foundation for everything. I know the basic rules, i.e. The Ten Commandments, and other teachings of Jesus and that we are to strive to be Christ-like. I know that I am “in the world but not of the world” and that we (Christians) are to be “peculiar people”.  And I know that, as Ecclesiastes tells us, everything else is vanity. But there is a difference between knowing and doing. Famed 19th century minister and author Henry Ward Beecher said that “There are joys which long to be ours. God sends ten thousands truths, which come about us like birds seeking inlet; but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, but sit and sing awhile upon the roof, and then fly away.” We are so busy pursuing temporary, meaningless, and sometimes carnal and sinful pleasures that we overlook the eternal joy within our grasp. Stopping the cycle of futility is an ongoing battle. Much like an alcoholic is never truly “cured”, we need to fight for our joy every day, resisting empty temptations and turning instead to our Father in heaven. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Let your gentleness be known to all men. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” – Phillipians 4:4-7.

 

 

 

 

Blessed Are They Who Mourn

For those who don’t know me personally, a significant thing to note is that I am a paraplegic, having been born with a condition called spina bifida. I JesusDoves_mediummention that fact only to lay the foundation for a bit of fatherly wisdom imparted to me long ago by…well, my Dad. He told me many times as a small child, that even though someone might come up to me, pat me on the head (people do that to handicapped kids long past what is typically regarded as an appropriate age), and express sympathy for my plight, they likely haven’t gotten out of sight before they’ve forgotten all about me because they have their own issues and problems and don’t have time to worry about me and mine. That lesson taught me much…a healthy cynicism, a sense of self reliance (because sometimes no one else can be counted on to truly give a darn), the realization that the world owes me nothing, and…for the purposes of this adventure in blogging…the understanding that sincerity can be quite shallow and not always all that sincere.

 

Jesus tells us that to be happy we must mourn, which doesn’t sound like much fun. Mourning is what we do at funerals, and really…who wants to do that all the time?? But let’s put aside preconceived notions and approach things from another perspective. Just as being poor in spirit means that we must be humble enough to realize we need God and should not try to live life on our own terms without His guidance, so does this passage require us to shun our prideful nature and submit ourselves to God’s grace. Allow me to reference James 4:1-10, which says:

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”


This is where sincerity…and our lack of it…comes into the picture. Let’s be honest…we’re human beings, every last one of us…which means we’re not perfect and we’re occasionally going to royally screw things up. And even though God is just and we will all eventually face judgment, God’s grace is a free gift available to us right now. He desires a relationship with us and wants us to turn to Him in times of joy, times of tumult, and everything in between. However, along with being screw-ups we’re also pretty stubborn and prideful. How many times have we wronged someone and apologized, but done so only half-heartedly and for selfish, specious reasons?? God knows when we’re not really sorry, and that kind of lackadaisical faith is not what He seeks. When we go against the will of God we need to sincerely seek forgiveness, not with a prideful heart but with a heart full of genuine sadness, a heart in mourning because of the sin we have committed. God will not accept a flippant, disingenuous apology. It is only when we ask for God’s mercy in an authentic fashion that He will give us true comfort.

 

I won’t even pretend to be a religious scholar and know all the idiosyncratic differences between every major religion or especially every denomination within those religions. But I do have a basic yet growing understanding of The Bible and the ways of God. I have difficulty believing that doing a few hand gestures or ducking into a booth and glibly telling another human being about one’s mistakes is a ticket to Heaven. I mean no disrespect to anyone’s religion, but on the other hand I think “religion” is sometimes the problem instead of the solution. We get too caught up in meaningless rituals and just go through the motions. When we sin we brush it off and try to work our way out of it. That may work in a health & fitness situation, where a brisk jog around the neighborhood or an intense workout at the gym can legitimately offset that hot fudge sundae we had for lunch, but God requires more. He wants intense anguish to pierce our hearts when we go against His will. Does that mean God wants us to be in a constant state of misery?? Of course not. But there’s an easy way to avoid that misery – don’t sin!! Easier said than done?? Sure. Believe me, I know all too well. Does that mean we just give up and quit trying?? No. And when we do mess up, forget the hand gestures or telling some fellow human being that isn’t any more special than you just because he wears some fancy duds. Get on your knees (or not…not even THAT is a necessary rule) and cry out to the Lord in prayer, asking for His forgiveness expressing true repentance.

 

 

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

The first edict Jesus gives in The Sermon on the Mount is be poor in spirit. Now this is a little confusing. Why would anyone want to have a poor spirit as opposed to a wonderful, great, fantastic spirit?? How is having a poor spirit supposed to make us happy??

 

Well okay…a poor spirit, by that definition, does not make us happy. But let’s look at it from a different angle. Think about it monetarily. We all probably know psfolks on nearly every level of the economic scale…extremely poor, lower middle class, well-to-do, rich, and super wealthy (those are not officially sanctioned terms, just my spin on things…I’m confident you get the idea). At any rate, those on the upper end of the scale are doing just fine. They don’t need any help from anyone. It doesn’t really matter where their wealth comes from…the point is that they have it. They also tend to have more stuff…bigger houses, fancier cars, more toys. That’s not a criticism just an observation. On the flip side, the lower down on the scale you go the less stuff people tend to have and the more help they need. Our world tends to put wealth on a pedestal and look at the poor with a mix of pity, disgust, and disregard, so that frame of reference also makes this particular directive somewhat difficult to accept. None of us desires to be poor.

 

Jesus’ point though doesn’t really have as much to do with money directly as it does our tendency to put money (among other things) higher on the priority list than a relationship with Him. He is trying to tell us that no matter what we do for a living, how strong we are mentally and physically, or how much stuff we have, we are nothing without God and we are to always, always, always rely on Him. Those who never lose sight of the fact that God is to be the foundation of our lives will ultimately be happy…if not in this life then most certainly in the next one. Jesus said “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. This statement follows the Parable of the Rich Young Ruler, a story in which a man was willing to do whatever it took to have eternal life…except give away his earthly possessions, status, and influence. Jesus goes on to teach that “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (i.e wealth, riches, worldly gain).”  1 Timothy states “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, Godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

 

When it comes to our relationship with God we need to always be as humble as the underprivileged masses who can’t allow themselves to be too proud to ask for help. They need help to survive, so they must swallow their pride and accept assistance. In the same way we must put aside vanity and ego and enter into a relationship with Christ with humility and submission to His will.

 

 

The Sermon on the Mount

Let me begin by lowering expectations. I am not a Bible scholar and won’t pretend to be something I’m not. However, what I am is just an average guy, a person who screws up on a daily basis, doesn’t always say the right thing, and sometimes espouses opinions with which others do not agree. In other words, I am human. That being said, I am a child of God who, at the age of 26, at a time in my life when things weren’t really going my way and I was not the happiest camper in the universe, gave my heart to Jesus Christ and accepted his free gift of salvation. A lot of times things still don’t go my way and there are too many times when I do not react as I should, but my life is so much better than it was a decade ago because I have come to understand what matters and what doesn’t. Even when I choose the wrong path it is now a much shorter turnaround…sort of like missing your exit on the freeway but immediately realizing it and getting back on track quickly versus driving for a hundred miles before it dawns on you that you are completely lost. I provide this preface simply as a way of saying that my intention is not to teach anyone anything as if I know something that you do not. I would rather look at this (and other things I write) as an opportunity for us to walk side by side and explore together so that we all can learn something or take a moment to reflect on what we think we already know.

 

186-The-Sermon-on-the-MountSo…on to the task at hand. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is found in the 5th chapter of the book of Matthew and continues through the 7th chapter. Like The Fruits of the Spirit that we have been examining as well (and we will be getting back on track with that soon), it’s another example of a highlight within The Bible where several important precepts are laid down in a very succinct listing. If a person were to never read a word of The Bible except The Sermon on the Mount they would atleast get a cursory idea of who Jesus is, what He is all about, and the type of person we all should strive to be. Even if you’ve never drank a cup of coffee in your life you have a general notion of what it smells and tastes like if you have ever been in the vicinity of a Starbucks. In the same way The Sermon on the Mount is a pretty strong indication of the foundation of Christianity and living a Godly life.

 

As most with even a passing familiarity of Scriptures know, verses 3-11 are commonly known as The Beatitudes. Now that is not some sort of new age British rock band that covers Beatles songs with an attitude. Beatitude is a word that in Latin means “blessed” or “happy”. That is important to note, because it tells us that what this set of principles are…Jesus telling us how to be happy. When you are reading The Beatitudes try substituting the word “happy” for the word “blessed” and see if things make a little more sense or give you a fresh perspective.

 

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”


After The Beatitudes, The Sermon goes on to cover a variety of topics, such as divorce and adultery, judgment and condemnation, materialism, false prophets, and The Lord’s Prayer. My original intent was to do one writing on The Sermon, but while studying and in the early stages of writing it became clear to me that there is just too much to cover. One could literally write a book on just these few chapters, and my objective is always to keep these posts concise and readable. Therefore I will happily break things down into more palatable portions. For now I will just encourage my readers to dig into The Sermon on the Mount independently. The Lord has laid it on my heart to write about this section of Scripture, and I welcome interaction from all points of view.

 

 

 

 

The Lenten Sacrifice

I’d be willing to guess that in any poll that would ask the question “what is the most important Christian holiday??” Christmas would be the overwhelming winner. Now I love Christmas as much as the next guy…maybe more. But what is it that we appreciate about it?? Is it the fact that it celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ (Yes…I know all about how Christians abducted the pagan celebration of Saturnalia and that it is unlikely that Jesus was actually born on December 25th, but let’s just roll with it, shall we??), or is it because we love all the secular trappings like the food, the music, the movies and TV specials, the decorations, and the gifts?? The exploration of that dispute can wait until December. For now I would like to suggest that, though the birth of Christ is certainly of supreme significance, it would not mean much of anything without His death and even more importantly, His resurrection. To that end maybe we ought to give a little more love to Easter. The candy folks have given it the old college try, but let’s face it…The Easter Bunny vs. Santa Claus is about as good of a matchup as Barney Fife vs. Mike Tyson. Peeps, Cadbury Eggs, and frilly bonnets are no match for Silent Night, “You’ll shoot your eye out!!”, and twinkle lights. But maybe that secular smackdown is a good thing, because it leaves Easter more pure and properly focused. I will likely have more to say about Easter in the next several weeks, but for now let us concentrate on where it all begins…Lent.

 

For the heathens among you, Lent is the season of preparation encompassing the 40 days before Easter. This is meant to symbolize Jesus’ time in the desert where he was tempted by Satan. It is traditional to make a sacrifice during Lent…to give up something one enjoys, a genuine vice. I always joke around about what I’m giving up for Lent…walking (I am a paraplegic), sex (I am sadly a serial loner with no love life), vegetables (my eating habits are far from healthy). However, this year I am on a mission. I have decided to take the whole Lent thing seriously. This is a byproduct of the past few months, as I have been going through a spiritual awakening, realizing just how superficial most peoples’ religiosity really is, including my own. I am seeking a deeper connection with my Heavenly Father and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and I suppose Lent is a good place to start. I am as much of a stumbling bumbling fool when it comes to all this as anyone, but my Dad always said this: “I want you to be the best but sometimes that won’t be possible…If you can’t be the best then be one of the best, but even that won’t always happen…So if you can’t be one of the best then atleast try your best…you can always do that”. I am trying my best.

 

To that end what I have decided to do is give up Facebook for Lent. Again for the benefit of the uninitiated, Facebook is a social networking site. In the past year on Facebook I have reconnected with literally hundreds of old acquaintances from all aspects of my past and present…grade school, high school, college, church, family, every job I’ve ever had. It really is very cool to see what people are into, where they live and what they do for a living, see photos of their families, etc. It’s a great way to stay in touch. All of those whom I considered my friends live far away from me…Dallas TX, Columbus OH, Charleston WV, and many other far flung towns across the map,  from Montana to Georgia to Florida New York to California. So I am grateful that technology allows me to maintain some form of contact. However, Facebook is also rather addicting. There are countless games, quizzes, polls, and other applications that one can mindlessly get lost in for hours. I’m not against some pointless fun on occasion, but I do feel like I waste a lot of time that could otherwise be spent on more consequential activities like prayer, studying The Bible, reading a good book, or even getting the proper amount of sleep.

 

I am just a couple days in right now and it’s tough. But I am embracing the challenge. I am looking forward to what I can accomplish during this time, and definitely looking forward to drawing closer to The Lord, which after all is kind of the whole idea. When Easter arrives I will reactivate my Facebook account…those relationships and friendly interactions are important to me and I don’t want to give them up permanently. But I am sure I will have gained a new perspective and hopefully will have opened some doors to be able to witness to the masses about my faith. We’ll see.

 

 

 

Random Thoughts 18

Congratulations to the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. The game did not play out like most expected, as Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning looked quite average instead of like one of the greatest field generals of all time. The victory is good for the beleaguered city of New Orleans and I sincerely hope many benefits are reaped.

The re-entry sequence near the end of Apollo 13 deserves to be ranked right up there with the baptism scene from The Godfather and the “Dad” scene at the end of Field of Dreams as among the greatest movies moments of all time.

I have come to a spiritual crossroads. My faith and belief in God and in my Savior Jesus Christ is still there, but my patience with superficial Christian clichés has run out. I no longer desire church to be a shallow social gathering. At the same time, I see no value in being a humorless Bible thumper who can’t loosen up and have fun…others too easily disregard that person as an uptight, unhappy killjoy. I am on a journey seeking an authentic & devout relationship and I am not sure it is available in the places one would normally assume it can be found. Something inside me has either broken or been awakened (I’m not sure which) in the past few months, and my BS meter when it comes to religion is on high alert.

Even as a diehard conservative I am not really sold on Sarah Palin as a legit Presidential candidate, but the outright vitriol aimed in her direction by histrionic shit stirrers on the left is puzzling. Palin and former President George W. Bush have their flaws for sure, but how some can so completely eviscerate them almost daily while at the same time putting Barack Hussein Obama on the largest pedestal mankind has ever known is completely beyond all logical comprehension.

I would like to nominate ESPN’s Skip Bayless as the worst sports journalist in history. His arrogant and condescending attitude is off the charts, and his opinions are so often dead wrong that he has become a joke. I recently saw him trying to justify the possibility of 13-11 North Carolina being chosen as an at-large team for the NCAA tournament. He was dead serious about the Tar Heels being selected merely due to their history and pedigree over lesser known teams with better records. Not only did the debate prove him to be a complete fool, but it highlighted what can be very wrong with collegiate athletics when so much credit is given to a reputation and a perception instead of actual performance. Call it The Notre Dame Fallacy.

Valentine’s Day has to be the worst holiday on the calendar.

I love it when people act like they understand something when in reality they have absolutely no clue. It really makes them look silly. Mark Twain famously said it is “better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt”. More people should follow that advice. And yes, I see the irony in a guy who writes a VERY opinionated blog espousing that philosophy.

Can we please dispense with the term “pro-choice”?? People who are pro-choice only believe in a woman’s right to choose if she ultimately chooses to have an abortion.

Speaking of BS…..

I accepted long ago the fact that it is very possible that I may someday be one of those people who is dead for several days and whose body is only discovered because the neighbor’s begin to notice a stench. This is because at some point it became very clear to me that very few people legitimately give a damn whether I live or die, which does not in any way make me special or unique…..it’s just the way we human beings treat each other nowadays.  So armed with this awareness, I have very little patience for petulant, bratty adults who act like whiny children in a desperate attempt to have their ego validated. Encounters with so-called adults make me ever more determined to fade into the background in a concerted effort to not draw attention to myself.

I like Nascar and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

 

Top 25 Christmas Carols…Part 1

I love Christmas. Love it. I enjoy the movies, the food, the lights, the aromas, and the general overall buzz around the holiday season. Now I grant you, commercialization has become an issue, and I sometimes feel that many of us get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that it all becomes one big pressure cooker instead of the sublime delight it always should be. And in an increasingly amoral society where Christianity has become an unlikely villain the true reason for the season is not only oftentimes lost, but sometimes overtly censored. However, be that as it may, I cannot control how others’ live their lives and I won’t let them spoil my joy.


A vital component to ones’ pleasure during this time of the year is the music. Christmas carols are just splendid. Some are soft, sentimental, and full of spiritual reverence. Others are amusing and frivolous. Our modern catalog of carols run the full width and breadth of an extensive range of genres and styles, but they all have one thing in common…they are beloved by the masses. And because of their popularity and flexibility most Christmas tunes have been covered by a plethora of artists over the course of the decades. So any particular song you like has probably been performed by everyone from country superstars to crooners to rockers to full orchestras. What I am presenting here is a two part special …my Top 25 Christmas carols.


When making this list I took several factors into consideration. Some songs are just so ubiquitous that one either loves them or hates them…period. Sometimes one particular version of a song is extremely memorable and has made it a holiday staple. I’m not discriminatory when it comes to subject matter. In other words, you will see some religious songs and some fun songs. There are particular artists that I tend to gravitate toward, and certain genres I like better than others. I like jazzy, bluesy versions of songs. I like big band or orchestral arrangements. I like crooners like Sinatra, Dean Martin, Harry Connick Jr., and Michael Buble. I like people who can actually sing…so it’s unlikely that any kind of post-modern rap, alternative, or bubblegum pop will frost my cupcake. I am also very fond of simple, stripped down instrumental interpretations…lyrics can be important, but not always necessary. Most of these songs have been around for many many many years, and I’m a huge advocate of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. I suppose I’m either old fashioned or a traditionalist, depending on the spin one chooses to utilize. At any rate, this is my list…one can either agree or disagree. Enjoy.

 

 

 


25 The Chipmunk Song

The Chipmunks were created in the late 1950’s and have enjoyed an on again-off again, intermittently successful career over five decades. As a child of the 1980’s I fondly recall the Saturday morning Chipmunks cartoon. But their first success is still their best…an almost too simple tune about being anxious (as most kids are) for Christmas to arrive and wanting toy planes and a hula hoop.

 

 

24 God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

This is one of the oldest carols, having been written in the fifteenth century. Unabashedly and overtly delivering the message of the birth of Jesus and the gift of salvation to the world, it’s a tune supple enough to be energetically sung by a choir or congregation, or solemnly played by any manner of instrument.

 

 

23 It’s Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas

Maybe this should more accurately be categorized as a pre-Christmas song, one intended to set the mood and prepare us for the onslaught. Most 21st century parents would give anything if all their kids wanted were hopalong boots or dolls that can talk as opposed to the mega-expensive video games, computers, and various other electronic toys today’s children demand, and a lesson in economics can be gleaned when pondering a “five-and-ten” in comparison with their modern counterparts, dollar stores. I dig almost anything that hearkens back to a less complicated time, even if, in reality, those times weren’t much less complicated. Perry Como and Johnny Mathis did the two best covers of the song.

 

 

22 I’ll Be Home for Christmas / Home for The Holidays / Please Come Home for Christmas

I made this a tie for one reason. These three songs have a common thread…home. However and wherever one defines “home”, it’s where we want to be for Christmas. I’ll Be Home for Christmas was written and recorded during World War II and was extremely significant to soldiers and their families. Bing Crosby was the original artist, but I’m not married to that particular version per se…countless artists have done perfectly wonderful covers. Perry Como said it best in Home for The Holidays when he sang “no matter how far away you roam, if you want to be happy in a million ways, for the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home”. Please Come Home for Christmas has a couple things going for it in my universe. It was originally a blues carol, and its best covers have been done by two of my favorite bands, The Eagles and Bon Jovi. The Eagles version is especially popular and usually in heavy rotation on your local radio station. These are melancholy songs, but that’s okay…Christmas is often a bittersweet season.

 

 

21 Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! / Meli Kalikimaka

Another tie, another reason. Both of these songs have attachments to movies. Let It Snow is played at the end of my favorite action flick, Die Hard, which I consider a Christmas movie even if no one else does. Meli Kalikimaka (Hawaiian for Merry Christmas) is prominent in Chevy Chase’s classic Christmas Vacation. Bing Crosby does the definitive version of Mele Kalikimaka, while Let It Snow is done best by original artist Vaughn Monroe but a viable alternative is the Dean Martin cover. Let It Snow is technically a winter song and makes no references to Christmas at all, but it has become so closely associated with the holiday season that it qualifies as a Christmas carol.

 

 

20 O Come All Ye Faithful/ Adeste Fideles

This isn’t a tie. It’s the same song in two different languages. Adeste Fideles was originally written…maybe…in the 13th century. No one knows for sure. It was translated into English as the more familiar O Come All Ye Faithful in the 19th century. The words of the song exhort us to celebrate the birth of Christ, to adore and behold The King. However, I have to say that the best versions of this song are audacious, grand, thunderous ensemble pieces by orchestras like The Boston Pops or the Mannheim Steamroller.

 

 

19 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

In the opening I spoke of some songs being ubiquitous during the Christmas season. This is a perfect example. With lyrics written in the 1700’s by Charles Wesley (brother of John, the founder of Methodism) and paired with music composed by Felix Mendelssohn a hundred years later, this is just one of those songs that IS Christmas. It speaks of everything Christmas should encompass: glory to The King (Jesus Christ, not Elvis), peace, mercy, joy, triumph, and righteousness. Like other songs it speaks about the birth of Christ and what that means to the world, and since that is the whole point of Christmas it’s fine with me if the message is rehashed in as many songs as possible. Off the top of my head I cannot think of one singular cover that stands out…they’re all great since it’s a pretty difficult song to mess up. It lends itself well to orchestral or instrumental versions, but choral versions with the words are probably my favorite.

 

 

18 Santa Claus Is Coming to Town / Here Comes Santa Claus

As we grow into adulthood our thoughts about Christmas begin to evolve. Those of us whose faith is extremely important understand and revere the fact that the birth of Christ is the centerpiece of the holiday. Adults who don’t consider themselves to be particularly spiritual appreciate things like home, family, and sentimental memories. But for kids Christmas is all about The Big Guy, the Jolly Old Elf, the fat man in the red suit…Santa Claus. So it makes sense that there would be a plethora of Christmas carols dedicated to Kris Kringle. The two most pervasive of these have been covered by an endless array of artists with mixed results, but they are so wonderful because they are so descriptive. They paint such a vivid picture of the mythology of Santa that anyone who doesn’t know the story can have it re-created in their mind just from these songs. Here Comes Santa Claus was written in 1946 by cowboy Gene Autry, who also sang the definitive version. About Santa, the singer sings  “he doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, he loves you just the same…Santa knows that we’re God’s children, that makes everything right…fill your hearts with Christmas cheer cause Santa Claus comes tonight”. What a great message. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town was written in 1934 and is a sort of cautionary tale for children. It warns them that Santa knows when they are sleeping and awake, knows when they’ve been bad or good, and will be making a list and checking it twice so he can divide it into two categories: naughty and nice. Call it gentle discipline or call it mind games…but it works and has scared millions of kids into being good little boys and girls. Bruce Springsteen might have the best known cover of the tune, but I think that’s simply because it’s so odd to hear such a gruff and tough rocker singing a children’s Christmas carol.

 

 

17 Away in a Manger

One of the seminal moments of the Christmas season for me is sitting in church during midnight service with nothing but the soft glow of candles in the window to light the sanctuary as the congregation softly sings. This moment usually encompasses three songs, one of which is Away in a Manger. Published in the late 1800’s, it has been credited by some to famed 16th century theologian Martin Luther, but there seems to be a lot of disagreement on the facts. At any rate, it’s a beautiful song that takes us back to the night of Jesus’ birth, the night He was born in a stable because there was no room at the inn. The best covers of the song seem to be by country artists, possibly because the majority of them still seem to have some virtue remaining and are therefore capable of singing songs of faith with some sense of authenticity.

 

 

16 Joy to the World

Joy to the World is another song that have been adopted as a Christmas carol but wasn’t originally written as one. As a matter of fact, it’s actually about Christ’s Second Coming, not His first. Nevertheless, it is such an ingrained part of the holiday season that we won’t quibble over details. It’s a tune best performed in as loud and energetic a fashion as can possibly be mustered…afterall, the book of Psalms directs us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. So I tend to like boisterous choral or booming orchestral versions of the song. As a matter of fact, when it comes to Joy to the World I am not sure any singer or band could be subtle and hushed, although I am sure some have tried.

 

 

15 Carol of the Bells

I’ve seen the words, and they are quite lovely and appropriate. However, the best way to enjoy this one hands down is a strictly instrumental version. Carol of the Bells is a Ukrainian carol written early in the 20th century. I’m not sure where it ranks in general popularity since even if you do know the words (and most don’t) it’s not really something you sing as you trek thru the neighborhood on your annual church singalong…the pace is rather quick and not caroling friendly. But I like the tune a lot. It’s kind of a Christmas theme song, one of those tunes that you hear in commercials, in bumper music during talk radio shows, at the mall on the loudspeakers, etc. It’s everywhere, yet not so overdone that it grows tiresome. Plus I think I may have learned to play it in high school as part of the concert band’s holiday show.

 

 

14 Angels We Have Heard On High

You know this one…the one where the singer bellows out at the top of their lungs “Glo-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-ri-a in Ex-cel-sis De-o!”. When sung by a great choir it’s absolutely beautiful, but even in just a commonplace group of worshipers or carolers it is usually sung with such fervent spirit that it doesn’t matter if not everyone can actually carry a tune. The aforementioned refrain is Latin for “glory to God in the highest”, which pretty much sums up what Christmas is, or atleast should be, about. I love orchestral versions of the song as well. The music lends itself well to things like French horns, cornets, and trombones. It doesn’t seem to get as much love as a lot of other carols, but I’ll take Angels over Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer or I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus any day.

 

 

13 Holly Jolly Christmas

A friend of mind in college once told me I looked like Burl Ives. I’ve always had an…ample…midsection, and at the time I was sporting a goatee.

Anyway, Burl Ives, as some may or may or may not recall, was a folk singer/actor/entertainer from the 1940’s through the 1970’s. But he is most likely best known to most, especially anyone under the age of 35, as the voice of Sam the Snowman, narrator of the perennial Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Even as an adult I cannot wait each Christmas season for that TV special. And even though Burl’s performance of the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer isn’t at the top of the list (more on that song later), he did contribute two other tunes…Silver & Gold and Holly Jolly Christmas. Holly Jolly Christmas could probably best be described as…catchy. It’s just got that kind of beat. And while some carols are melancholy, many show reverence to Christ, and others are plainly meant for kids, Holly Jolly Christmas is uplifting, positive, and fun without being the least bit childish. It talks about things like “the best time of the year”, “mistletoe”, “cup of cheer”, and “friends you know”. This is the kind of song that should put you instantly in a good mood no matter what’s going on in your life.

 

 

12 The Twelve Days of Christmas

First of all…yes…it’s not by accident that The Twelve Days of Christmas just so happened to end up at number 12. I’m poetic like that. Sue me. Secondly, a little refresher for those who might not know what in the world the 12 days of Christmas actually means. After all, we live in a world where we start celebrating” Christmas almost before Halloween is over and these days almost certainly before Thanksgiving has even arrived. Of course by “celebrating” I mean retail stores and anyone else who has figured out a way to make a buck off of the birth of Jesus Christ. Anyway, originally the 12 days of Christmas were December 25-January 5, followed by Epiphany on January 6 (this is the day that the Magi, aka The Three Wise Men, arrived to visit the baby Jesus…not on Christmas as so many Christmas plays portray). Encompassed within this timeframe is Boxing Day on December 26. Contrary to what some may think, Boxing Day is not the day Canadians and Englishmen come bearing gifts to Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, and Floyd Mayweather Jr.  January 5 was known as Twelfth Night and was the conclusion to the holiday season. The entire 12 days was a long festival of gift giving & merriment. So basically in the Middle Ages folks in England did what we do today, only they did it in 12 days instead of 2 months and they did it later. December 25 was the actual beginning of the season for them, whereas in modern times most of us are exhausted and ready for the whole ordeal to be over by the time the actual holiday arrives. What we call New Year’s Eve/Day was when they were really into the swing of things. By January 6 we’ve already moved on with our lives and those crazy cats were just winding down. Personally I’d LOVE to see our country revert back to this old fashioned way of doing things, but that and $2 will almost buy me a cup of coffee.

As far as the song, there is a modern folktale that says it was written in code to teach Catholics about their faith at a time when Catholicism was illegal. Supposedly the True Love is God, the Partridge in a Pear Tree is Jesus Christ, the Two Turtle Doves are the Old & New Testaments, the Three French Hens are The Trinity, the four colly birds are the Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John),  the Five Golden Rings are the Pentateuch or first five books of the Old Testament, the Six Geese-a-laying are the six days of Creation, the Seven Swans-a-swimming are the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord), the Eight Maids-a-milking are the Beatitudes (see Matthew 5:3-12), the Nine Ladies Dancing are the Fruits of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:19-23), the Ten Lords-a-leaping are The Ten Commandments, the Eleven Pipers Piping are the 11 faithful Apostles, and the Twelve Drummers Drumming are The Apostles’ Creed. Whether or not this story is accurate is unknown and quite honestly to me is irrelevant. Especially in an era when anything pro-God is treated dismissively the story is treated with a complete lack of respect. Even if the song wasn’t originally written for this suggested purpose I think it’s a great way to interpret it.

 

 

11 Silver Bells

How come the only time we hear bells is around Christmas?? Bells are quite charming and should be heard more often. However, the other 11 months’ loss is the Christmas season’s gain. Silver Bells was written in 1950, and unlike a lot of other Christmas carols that emphasize rustic, old-fashioned, pastoral settings this tune recognizes the hustle and bustle that overcomes a city during the holiday season. What’s funny is that a half century later even that description sounds quaint and charming. This song holds a special place in the hearts of millions of us who grew up watching the annual Bob Hope Christmas Special, which ran on NBC for over 40 years. Three traditions were a huge part of the Hope Christmas show: the introduction of the All America College Football Team, Hope closing the show with his theme song Thanks for the Memory, and a duet featuring Hope and a much younger, very attractive starlet singing Silver Bells. I didn’t realize until I was actually writing this how much of an indelible mark those specials made on me. The last one aired over 15 years ago and Bob Hope himself has been gone for about 6 years. Thanks for the memories indeed Bob.

 

 

 

 

 

The Parable of the Lost Wallet

I can be absent minded and scatter brained. Sometimes I wonder with a certain level of concern what I might be like when I get older. When I leave my apartment every day there are certain things I try to make sure are with me…cell phone, home keys, wallet, truck keys, the keys I need to infiltrate the guarded fortress where I work. I have to make sure I have both sets of glasses…if it’s sunny outside and I’m wearing sunglasses I need to make sure my actual glasses are with me as well, and if it’s not sunny at the moment but may be later I need to plan for that contingency. I have an air pump for my wheelchair cushion that I always need to have access to because the cushion tends to randomly go flat for no real reason. If I am going to the bank I need the proper paperwork. If I’m headed to church or Bible Study I need my Bible. It’s a lot of pressure!! And quite frankly, sometimes I fail in my mission. What usually happens is I leave my apartment and somewhere between entering the elevator on the fifth floor and departing it on the first, or maybe between the elevator downstairs and my parking lot it dawns on me what I’ve forgotten. This seems to be a case of “like father like son”, as I recall many times as a child it would take my Dad 2 or 3 tries to actually leave the driveway successfully without forgetting something. The apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree.

 

I bring this up because I recently lost my wallet, or so I thought. I was working a swing shift and upon departing my workplace at midnight I gathered my stuff up and headed home. When I got home I needed my wallet for some reason. I forget exactly why. Anyway, I looked in my man purse (more formally known as a messenger bag) and couldn’t find it. I emptied the bag of its contents…a Bible, a book or two, my IPhone, keys…..but no wallet. I suddenly became concerned. But I thought for sure that I’d just left it on my desk at work, so I called. I work at a 24/7-365 hotline so I knew the lady working midnight shift would answer, which she did. I asked her to look for my wallet. No wallet. Now I was really beginning to freak out. I’m not a wealthy man and rarely carry much cash, so that wasn’t really a big deal. The bigger issue in my mind was the possibility of identity theft. I was overwhelmed at the thought of all the hassles involved with cancelling credit cards, having to get a new drivers’ license and social security card, and trying to replace various other things I carry, some of which might not seem all that vital to most but they are meaningful to me.

 

I only live about a mile away from my job, so I made a swift decision to hop in the truck and come back down to look myself. Upon arriving in the parking lot and getting out of the truck, wheelchair and all (and those who know me realize it’s not an easy process) I realized I’d made a slight error…I’d forgotten the previously mentioned keys to the fortress. I couldn’t just call and have my co-worker come down and let me in because she was alone and not allowed to leave her post…plus I hadn’t bothered to bring my phone either. So I returned home and by this time I was an odd mix of manic and exhausted. It’s not a good combination. I got the fortress keys (and my phone) and once again came back to the office. I came, I saw, and I did not conquer…still no wallet. I returned home resigned to the fact that the next day was going to be a hellish effort of phone calls and trips to the DMV and whatever else needed to be done. And then, when I was at that point where all I could think about was sleep, I had a revelation. I reached for the man purse and took a peak into the rarely used back compartment. I had a slight inkling, a miniscule recollection of possibly having placed the wallet there earlier that afternoon. I never ever put anything in that compartment. But this time I had put something there. Words cannot express the feeling of relief I had as I clutched this wallet…this meaningless, insignificant object…in my arms like a baby and literally said, out loud, “thank you Jesus!!”.

 

And that’s when it hit me. I was reacting this way in regards to an inanimate possession, something completely replaceable and, in the grand scheme of life, not all that important. That’s when I began to think. I began to ponder people who come out of the mall or the grocery store and realize their car has been stolen. I began to contemplate folks who come home to find their home ransacked and pillaged, or worse…burnt to the ground. Then my mind wandered to parents who take their eyes off their child for just one second and all the sudden they’re gone. If I was so relieved to find something as relatively irrelevant as a wallet how must it feel to have that automobile found or realize that the thieves didn’t take anything of real value out of the home?? What must a parent feel like at that moment when a child who has been lost returns home safe and sound?? And then my mind began to zero in on Jesus.

 

I’d read the parables in the new testament about lost sheep, a lost coin, and the lost son. But now they had come to life in a very real, very personal way. The relief and dare I say joy I felt at the moment I found my stupid wallet can’t even begin to compare to the thrill Jesus  must get when one of his lost children decides to reclaim their relationship with The Father. I believe God speaks to us if we’re smart enough and open enough to hear what He is saying, and I believe that He was teaching me a very valuable lesson the night I didn’t lose my wallet but was convinced that I did.

 

 

 

Hall of Influence – The Inaugural Class

It didn’t take long to decide who the first inductee into The Hall of Influence should be or to settle on making Him the one and only person in the inaugural class. It would just feel wrong to include any other human being, be it actor or writer or purveyor of the public good, no matter how immense their accomplishments and influence upon my life may be. Sometimes a being is so special, so unique, so remarkable that they deserve the spotlight all to themselves. I can think of no one who fits that description better than Jesus Christ.

 

He is known by many names…..Jesus of Nazareth, The Alpha &Omega, Messiah, The Son of God, Our Lord & jesus-christ_3153Savior, Lamb of God, and The Way, The Truth, & The Life. Whatever particular verbage one chooses to utilize though cannot possibly capture who He is and what He has meant to the world. I am hesitant to even write about Him because there is no way I can even come close to doing Him justice. But I suppose I’ll give it a whirl.

 

I am by no means intolerant or arrogant, something that we Christians get accused of often in 21st Century America. However, I’m not a big fan of the term “tolerance” because I believe it to be a politically correct buzzword that means much more than just its surface definition. When folks talk about being “openminded” it often has a subliminal meaning. I consider myself to be pretty flexible and understanding, but on the other hand I believe what I believe and know what I know. Some things are black and white. There is right vs. wrong, good vs. evil. When being openminded in essence means “anything goes” and “whatever feels good do it” then I begin to no longer have an open mind. If that makes me bigoted or insensitive in some peoples’ eyes then so be it. When it’s all said and done I know how things will end.

 

I was a simple churchgoer for the first 25 years of my life. I sat in Sunday school, I listened politely to the sermons, I sang the songs. But after church…in the 6 ensuing days…I lived life pretty much how I darn well pleased. I think most folks perceive me as a nice guy…friendly, raised by a good family, a lifelong church member. But believe me…I’ve done a lot of things wrong in my life. I’ve done things and acted in ways that I’d be ashamed for anyone to find out about, especially family and friends who have that “good person” perception. There is a vast difference between now and about a decade ago though…..and that difference is Jesus Christ.

 

I wish I could say that I was one of those that was instantly transformed, that a warm feeling overtook me, a heavenly light glowed, and I have been a perfect person and not done anything wrong since I accepted the free gift of salvation. However, that would be a lie. And to be quite honest, I am not sure that very many people actually see such instantaneous change. The Bible talks about justification and sanctification. In the simplest terms possible justification is that moment when we ask Jesus into our heart and we are washed in the blood of The Lamb, while sanctification is the growth that takes place afterward. The first part is pretty easy and effortless.  It’s the sanctification…the growth…that is a lifelong process. I am learning more and more and it’s becoming clearer every day that the process, if it is to be successful in the long run, requires today’s subject – Jesus Christ.

 

We live in an interesting world. It’s a world of instant gratification, of having answers to almost anything at our fingertips via the Internet and other technology, of experts (atleast in theory) on almost any subject. Isn’t it odd that many will turn on Oprah every afternoon, bounce from doctor to doctor, keep Barnes & Noble in business by spending loads of cash in the self help section, or try to alter their state of mind through alcohol and drugs, all in an effort to seek elusive answers to complex questions?? I am not casting aspersions on everyone else because I too have been guilty of embarking on fruitless quests for a quick fix. What I have learned though is that even though some of those things aren’t all bad…doctors have their place and occasionally one will find a book with some unique and helpful insight…ultimately there is only one answer to every question, one path to true peace, one entity who will be there without fail and who is more faithful and reliable than the most cherished family member or the closest friend. That answer, that faithful and reliable being, is Jesus Christ.

 

As I mentioned, I’m still not the person I want to be. I still make mistakes…..daily. But the difference now is that I have the sincerest desire to improve, and also when I do head down the wrong road I know it a lot quicker than I used to. In many cases I realize it almost immediately, or atleast soon enough so that my error in judgment doesn’t actually turn into anything tangible. It’s called the conviction of The Holy Spirit. I am a sincere believer in The Trinity…..the three pronged being of God, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Spirit. The conviction of The Spirit is that little voice inside one’s head…or heart…that says “don’t do that”, “don’t go there”, “this is wrong and you know it”, and various other related messages. It also works in a more proactive way, pushing us toward knowing the right thing and actually doing that right thing, regardless of whether it’s the easy thing (which it usually isn’t). I will never be perfect, but being Christ-like is something I desire and work toward.

 

The voice, the connection with The Spirit, grows stronger by developing a relationship with Christ. It wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t really understand what that meant. It was just some fancy language that the preacher spouted off about on Sunday morning. But like a lot of the things related to being a Christian it’s really a lot simpler that we realize. Think about your parents and grandparents, your best friends, your co-workers, your spouse, your children…..all of which you have some sort of relationship with. What does having a relationship mean?? A relationship is a significant bond or an emotionally close camaraderie. By definition there is involvement. You know things about one another…..likes, dislikes, desires, what makes someone happy, what makes them sad. You hang out together, spend time together, do things, and engage in activities. That’s what Christ desires with us…a relationship. How do we develop a relationship with Jesus?? Pray, study The Bible, communicate with Him. If you’ve got a problem don’t read your horoscope, write to Dr. Phil, play the lottery, take every newfangled prescription medication that comes down the pike, or visit a psychic. Matthew 7:7 says “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

 

Now does that mean that Jesus is Santa Claus and He will grant your every wish?? No. Sometimes we, in our humanity, cannot see the big picture. Satan tempts us with a lot of things that look good, taste good, feel good, and seem…well…good. However, as the old saying goes, looks can be deceiving. The only way we can develop the power of discernment is to have an open line of communication with The Holy Spirit. Communication is a reciprocal process. Too often we don’t develop our relationship with Christ, only calling on Him when we’ve really stepped into something deep and have exhausted all other options. But isn’t it a little selfish to only call on someone infrequently and only when we have no other choice?? I know a lot of polite folks who wouldn’t dream of bothering or using a family member, neighbor, or co-worker like that…..yet many of us don’t hesitate to use The Lord like that without giving it a second thought. I am thankful that He doesn’t treat me like I treat Him sometimes, otherwise I’d be in big trouble. What I am learning as I travel the pathway of life is that it is much better in the long run…and so much more fulfilling…to have an ongoing relationship with Jesus. And I am quite sure He would agree.

 

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Suffice to say that Jesus should be the most influential person in my life, and that’s coming to fruition more each and every day. Therefore He is far and away the obvious inaugural inductee into The Hall of Influence.