Thursday, December 28, 2006

Choose Your Own Adventure

I love to read. I think I always have.

When I was in grade school I was that dorky, chubby kid that looked forward to going to the library for reading time. There was a series of books called the “Choose Your Own Adventure Books” (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choose_Your_Own_Adventure) that I was always drawn to.

In the CYOA books when the main character of the story had a decision to make the reader made the decision for him by turning to a certain page. “If you think Spiderman should join forces with Batman to fight crime turn to page 12. If you think Spiderman should fight crime alone turn to page 15.” I enjoyed these books because it was as if you were writing the story as you read. It was a fun experience for a 10 year old.

As I was reminded of these books I thought about how DVD’s have brought the same concept to film. Now, some DVD’s come with a bonus feature that allows the viewer to choose an alternate ending to the movie. A September 12th, 2005 USA Today (
http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2005-09-12-dvd-alternate-endings_x.htm) article declared it to be one of the most popular features on DVD’s.

I seems as if people like to have choices. In fact liberty, the freedom of personal choice, is the most fought for commodity in all of history.

There is an interesting custom that we entertain around the first of a new year. We make New Year Resolutions. It seems at New Years people realize that the ending year, and the balance of our lives for that matter, are made up of the choices we make.

What a profound realization.

While we are bound to the ebb and flow of tragedy and triumph that enter a life, how we choose to deal with those defeats and victories often will determine the balance of our experience on this earth and thereafter.

A family member was recently accused of being the reason the children of another member of her church weren’t living for God. “It’s because of you they’re not living for God” she was told. The child himself told her, “Because of you I’ve got a one-way ticket to hell.”

I beg to differ.

If a man goes to hell, he goes there because of choices he made. No one has the luxury of blaming another for the loss or ruin of their soul. If an individual’s spirit falls into ruin it can often be traced to choices that were made, full of free will and void of thought.

Disclaimer: Am I saying that people with good lives always make good choices and people with bad lives always make bad decisions? No. I believe there is a God-element at work in our lives as well. Some people make bad decisions, but if their lives are touched by the grace of God all things can “work together for good” (Rom. 8:28
http://bible.cc/romans/8-28.htm). Many times things can happen that are out of our control and we must simply “play the hand that’s dealt us”. These are unfortunate times. However, the majority of things we encounter in our life do not fall into this category.

The overwhelming majority of events we wrestle with are the direct result of choices we have made.

Facing a New Year is a refreshing feeling. It carries the implication of a new start. A chance at change. An opportunity to be better.

What a great time to take advantage of an opportunity and begin a habit of making better, Godly choices. Have a Happy New Year as you choose your own adventure!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

23. If I had a favorite number that would be it. It was Ryne Sandberg’s uniform number as well as Michael Jordan’s number. However, this year, 23 is not so good of a number.

That’s because 23 is the number of Christmas cards we’ve received this year and we’re depressed. Usually we get about 30 or 40 Christmas cards in the mail. My wife has an un-official contest with her sister to see who can accumulate the most Christmas cards. Her sister is winning this year.

It’s been eating at us for the past week that we only have 23 cards. It’s all we’ve talked about. We keep hoping the next day will bring a Christmas miracle and there will be 20 cards in our post office box. But, alas, no such miracle.

As I was thinking of these things I began to feel somewhat ashamed that my greatest disappointment at Christmas time is my lack of greeting cards.

When I consider that half the world, nearly 3 billion people, live on less than $2 a day, I am ashamed.

When I consider the number of homeless in the USA, though difficult to pinpoint (Some 13.5 million in the USA have experienced "literal homelessness" at least once in their lives - forced to live with friends, sleep in cars, stay in tents at state or national parks, or take the occasional room at a flophouse.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/spotlighthealth/2002-12-18-spotlight-health_x.htm), is somewhere between 2.3 million and 3.5 million people during an average year, I am ashamed.

We have so much.

We have a roof over our heads. We have clothes on our back. We have food on our table. We have a warm place to sleep at night and a few dollars in the bank. We have people who care about us and a family with which to spend Christmas. We are blessed.

It seems amazing that we want more and feel bad that we don’t have as much as the person next door when really, we have so much.

On Friday I dropped a young man from our church off at the Greyhound station. The church bought him a ticket to go see his sister for Christmas.

His father kicked him out of the house several years ago. He hopped buses and relied on the generosity of strangers to bring him to Chicago. In Chicago he was homeless, living on the streets, eating and sleeping in shelters and missions and night. He took a train from Chicago and ended up in Toledo earlier this year. The church in Toledo has taken him in with open arms. He has a one bedroom home of his own, a job and some friends. He has a church family.

As I took him to the Greyhound station I was struck with the sheer greatness of God’s goodness in our lives. He has given us so much. While we may not have all the material possessions we want the things that really matter are what God has given us in abundance.

He was going to see a half-sister that he hasn’t seen in years and spend Christmas with her family. However, all he could talk about was getting back to go to a friends house for a Christmas meal. The church has become his real family.

James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (
http://bible.cc/james/1-17.htm ).

On Christmas Eve I realize, now more than ever, I have every good gift I could ever want. I have a wonderful, faithful wife. I have a beautiful daughter, a family and a church that loves us all.


Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

WANTED: Parents

I’m upset. I’m upset with selfish people. People who value their own wants and pleasures over anothers.

I’m mad at Britney Spears for thinking that it’s more important for her to party with Paris Hilton than to be at home with her children, recently divorced from their father.

I’m upset with Mary Cheney, daughter of Vice-President Dick Cheney, and her lesbian partner Heather Poe, who have recently began preparing for the arrival of a child. A baby that was artificially inseminated in the womb of Mary Cheney.


The news was welcomed by the president of the largest national gay-rights group, Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign.

"Mary and Heather's decision to have a child is an example that families in America come in all different shapes and sizes," he said. "The bottom line is that a family is made up of love and commitment." (http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/12/06/cheney.daughters.ap/)

I picked up a book at a used book store a few months ago called “The Role of the Father in Child Development” (
http://www.amazon.com/Role-Father-Child-Development/dp/0471117714/ref=ed_oe_h/102-3419377-9900911 ). It was full of psychological research as well as cultural and sociological anthropology all related to the impact a father makes in the development of a child. Their startling conclusion the researchers came to was no less than that a father is, equal to a mother, profoundly vital to the developmental health of a child in all cultures and all civilizations.

Sorry Joe, A family is made up of a mother and a father.

Every child deserves a mother and a father. It is unfortunate and very sad that many children are raised without their father present in their life. However, just because it is possible for a child, by God’s great grace, to grow healthy and happy without a father does not legitimize intentionally depriving a child of a father. I find it selfish for people to bring children into the world without being able to provide that child the things that child deserves and needs.

My wife and I have a friend who is raising a child alone. Her boyfriend was interested in nothing more than an evening of pleasure. Now her son, produced from that selfish encounter, will have to grow into a man without the guidance of a father. My heart breaks for the boy every time I see him. My fist balls up every time I see his father; unconcerned and totally disconnected from his son. She will have to do her best to both provide for and raise the boy alone.

Is it possible? Yes. God’s grace has smiled on many single mothers and allowed them to raise their children in the fear and admonition of God. Through the strength of a community of faith and a vibrant relationship with God many mothers have produced warm, loving and caring homes, raising healthy, happy children.

I know. I am one of those children. It is because of that I pray no child has to grow up without a father or a mother. I believe it is the task of the church to care for these weakest of souls. The government shouldn’t have to step in. The church should be leading the charge in the care for children.

Let’s hear the conclusion of the matter from the Word of God. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27 KJV)
http://bible.cc/james/1-27.htm .

Your children need their father Britney. Mary Cheney, your child will need a father. When you chose to have a child you gave up your right to put your own happiness first. That child became your first priority.

Amen.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Moral Authority And Christmas

The phrase “Moral Authority” has been invoked with passion in recent months. Moral Authority is having the capital of experience to support your worldview. Someone asked me a few days ago, “If a liar tells you, ‘Lying is wrong.’ should you trust them ?” In one sense, Yes. They’re right, even if they don’t practice what they preach. However, they have not earned the trust needed to possess the moral authority to say what they said.

There is more to being a person of influence than just ability. Relational experience is a vital component. You must have, more than just the right message, the moral capital to preach said message. There is a great inequity in being instructed in an arena by someone who has never competed in that arena. They may be right but they’re hard to listen to. There is something found in common experiences that binds the teacher and listener. When you’ve “been there and spent the night” it gives you the moral authority to address a particular issue.

When I would teach or preach on parent/child issues before I had a child I was always met with some resistance. “You don’t understand…you don’t have children.” However, after I had a child my opinions and insights were met with interest and acceptance. What made the difference? I joined the Daddy club.

After having endured some great disappointments in the past few months I have learned a lesson in compassion. The most comforting of counselors are those who have shared experiences and shared defeats.

It seems as if the ministers that are greatly used to bring healing and peace to those in turmoil, men of great anointing, are those who themselves have experienced great trouble in their lives. The anointing oil, after all, was produced by the crushing of spices. The crushing released the fragrance sealed inside of the cinnamon, the cassia and the olive. It seems as if adversity really can produce greatness in a life.

On the surface it seems incredibly unfair to limit the degree of importance a persons opinion is given based on their experience. Or does it?

Think of all the clich├ęs that follow the same logic: Walk a mile in a man’s shoes, Birds of a feather flock together, Misery loves company, Blood is thicker than water and It takes one to know one. In other words, no one likes a cowboy who is “all hat and no cattle”.

Even Jesus has the testimony that “He was in all points tempted like we are…” (Heb. 4:15)
http://bible.cc/hebrews/4-15.htm . There is great value in shared experiences.

Jesus possesses the moral authority to address the issues of the heart and soul of mankind. He’s been there and “spent the night”. If anyone can help, He can. It seems that is a great comfort of His incarnation.

That is what Christmas is about. God walked a mile in our shoes.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Found this stuff on the web. I thought it better explained what the phrase "Don't take any wooden nickels!" means:

First recorded in about 1915, this expression was originally a warning from friends and relatives to rubes leaving the sticks in the great migration from rural areas to the big cities at the turn of the century. It was a humorous adjuration meaning beware of those city slickers, for no real wooden nickels were ever counterfeited - they would have cost more to make than they'd have been worth. Ironically, country boys were the ones who possibly did succeed in passing off wooden objects as the real thing. Yankee peddlers as early as 1825 allegedly sold wooden nutmegs, which cost manufacturers a quarter of a cent apiece mixed in with lots of real nutmegs worth four cents each." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

: : A second source says, the expression means: "Don't let yourself be cheated or ripped off. Originated in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. Money that has no real value is sometimes called 'wooden'.Probably stories about wooden nutmegs, wooden hams, and wooden pumpkin seeds contributed to the later use of the phrase 'wooden nickels' in American or even to the use of 'wooden rubles' in Russia." From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

: : Another source adds: "The United States minted five-cent pieces from the earliest days of the Union, but they were not known as nickels until 1866, because in that year the first five-cent coins containing nickel were minted. The practice of making commemorative tokens out of wood as centennial souvenirs developed and we assume that wooden nickels actually were made during the nineteenth century for this purpose. Frequently such coins are accepted as legal tender while the celebration is in progress, but of course they cease to have value when the show is over. So the expression 'Don't take any wooden nickels' became the popular equivalent of 'Don't be a sucker.'." From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).

First Wooden Nickel

On December 5, 1931, the Citizen's Bank of Tenino, Washington (pronounced 10-9-OH) failed and created a shortage of money. This left the merchants of the area unable to get change without traveling about 30 miles over mountainous roads in automobiles ill suited to that purpose, on roads that were built for horses and mules to traverse. The average round trip was about four hours. Much too long for merchants to be gone from their stores. A meeting of the Chamber of Commerce resulted in the local newspaper printing up the first issue of wooden money in the United States.

In 1933, Blaine, Washington issued round wooden coins when their bank failed. These were the first issues of wooden money in the U.S. Several other places, mostly in the Pacific North-West, issued wooden money after that. Some followed the flat format of Tenino and others used round pieces.


The Century of Progress in Chicago in 1933 was the first place to use wooden money pieces as souvenirs. Several issues were made - all round. Some are the size of a silver dollar and others are about three inches in diameter. In 1934 a new use for wooden nickels was found-a combination of advertising for civic celebrations and providing souvenirs of the celebration. Binghamton NY was one of first places to embrace this concept. Wood continued to be used to enhance civic celebrations such as centennials through the mid 1930’s and really started to be cranked out in 1938 when the J. R. Rogers Company of Fostoria, Ohio obtained a copyright on their design for wooden money. While the Rogers Company had competition and the competition also issued wooden money, woods produced for Rogers continue to be the most readily found.
Just when the adage "Don’t take any Wooden Nickels!" was added to the American language is unclear, but the reasons are easy to understand. First of all, each wood had an expiration date and generally even a specific final redemption time. If you were in a possession of a handful of wooden nickels that expired at noon today and your best customer came through the door at five minutes to noon, it would be difficult to get to centennial headquarters to cash them in. Many Wooden Nickels also said they had to be unbroken, and the rectangular "Flats" were pretty fragile.
So, a wooden nickel was something that didn't amount to much and had little practical value outside of the owners own sentimentality. My father in law is fond of saying, "Don't take any wooden nickels!"
I offer here my thoughts and limited insights; wooden nickels if you will. You can take one if you want!
*History of wooden nickel found at www.wooden-nickel.net/history