Archive for the 'Christian' Category

23
Jun
08

The Eyes of Ms. Welch

As part of my church fellowship, I serve as a deacon.  (Usually when I say that, it either elicits one of two responses: First, no response – as to comfortably ignore it, thinking about whether or not I’m judging every contrary word that’s been said before.  The other reaction is respect for the calling.)  Truthfully, I didn’t want to do it.  I’d be comfortable just sitting in the back row, doing whatever was required to make things easier on the fellowship.  Having entered into my second year (after three years of intense training), it is different than what I imagined it would be.  I attend meetings.  I try to avail myself for events.  I sit closer to the front of the church.  But overall, the responsibilities are far from overwhelming.  There is one area where my willingness is sometimes tested…

As part of the diaconate responsibilities, every month set aside a time to deliver communion to members of our fellowship who desire it but cannot physically come to church.  (For those who don’t know, communion as we practice it is very simply put this: we give bread and wine (usually a wafer and grape juice) as it is symbolic of the dinner before Christ’s sacrifice where he asked that we do this in remembrance of him.)

There is one lady that we visit who looks around forty-two years old or so.  She can’t speak, but she smiles so brightly when she sees us and through moans, we understand her feelings.  She can’t walk and you can tell that she isn’t quite in control of her muscular functions.  I don’t know what she suffers from, but her presence alone shames me for any time that I’ve ever felt ‘tired’ or ‘too busy’ to help out the fellowship.  Her ability to smile, as if she had just heard the sixth number called out in the lotto drawing and looked up from an arm attached to a hand holding the matching ticket, is a tribute to Christ’s desire for us to live more abundantly (regardless of our infirmities.)  She doesn’t get served communion, but our fellowshipping with her and singing makes her heart glad almost as much as it does ours.

There are a few others that have unfortunately become regulars.  One gentleman that we visit used to stand almost a foot taller than me when I used to see him in church services (and that’s not hard to do).  Now he stays in a veteran’s hospital and he’s lost his sight.  I remember how he played the harmonica for our congregation a few times.  Now he’s in a wheelchair — head hanging down as if it weighed a hundred pounds.  He probably doesn’t recognize my voice even though I took him home once.  What I notice most about seeing him unfortunately isn’t the man in the wheelchair himself.  The fact that he’s in a veteran’s hospital causes my mind to go back to all of the footage of Saving Private Ryan and other such movies as I pass the faces on the way to see him.  I wonder about what each man must have seen with eyes that gaze back at me as if to say, “If you only knew, son.  If you know knew.”  Most of them kind of smile and nod when you greet them in kind with a showing of the teeth.  But some are just staring off into the abyss.  Thankfully these men all appear to be living in the twilight of their lives.  However, I shudder to think that the average age of the men in those chairs will start to decrease if we continue on our current course as a nation.

Continue reading ‘The Eyes of Ms. Welch’

14
Oct
07

Joel Osteen – A Gift, Not to Be Mocked

(There have been few things recently that have moved me to write. Watching 60 Minutes tonight was certainly one of those things….)

I remember about a year ago hearing my mother ask me if I ever listened to Joel Osteen. My first response was,

“Joel who?”

“You know….the caucasian pastor on BET…smiles a lot….”
“Ohhh. That guy. Nah.”

It wasn’t anything against Joel…. I just feel a loyalty to my own pastor. He’s not on television. He doesn’t draw large crowds (yet.) But he guides me spiritually and nourishes my soul to do the things that I need to do. He’s not perfect, but he always manages to show me his best side. More than anything, his love isn’t just filled with positive thoughts. Real love is being able to tell someone when they have spinach in their teeth….or when they need to consider changing their attitude about some things to be more like Christ wants us to be. (But enough about my assigned man of God right now….)

I say that there wasn’t anything about Joel — but in a small way, there was. Something about me distrusted the way that he smiled so often. Something made me uneasy about the fact that the church was so large given all of the negative reports that I’ve heard over the years about others who have spent money exhorbently and bought excessively. I don’t have anything against mega-ministries, but I don’t encourage new Christians to join them. I feel that they definitely have their place. If more souls are brought to Christ, and more people are inspired to join smaller group where they learn more about the scripture, then they’ve certainly done their job. But a part of me feels like people join mega-ministries to become a part of something bigger….like the guy in Idaho who becomes a Yankee fan. Attaching yourself to success often makes you feel successful.

What church do you belong to?”

(Standing tall) “I belong to Joel Osteen’s church.”

But this isn’t to say that those are places where a person living for Christ can’t be fed. Just like my church isn’t the only place in the world where Christ dwells, I’m sure He can dwell in the mega-ministry as well. I just feel as if people often get “lost in the sauce”. Part of what makes me a bit more accountable is the fact that there aren’t quite so many people to hide behind. It’s quite possible on any given Sunday (no pun intended) that I can be called upon to do something. Church, to me, is at its strongest when people are intermingling with other believers who they wouldn’t normally associate with. It’s about getting to fellowship and stand on common ground with others who share your faith as well as sharing your experiences and being a beacon of light to draw others to Christ. Continue reading ‘Joel Osteen – A Gift, Not to Be Mocked’

23
Mar
07

Rocky Balboa & Rocky: A Dual Review/Retrospective

About two months ago I picked up the original Rocky film on a special edition DVD. It sat on my shelf of “movies to be watched” for about….well…. two months. Surprisingly, as many times as it’s aired on TNT and other channels, I’ve never taken the time to real sit down and watch the entire film as it’s meant to be seen. Like everyone else, I had seen so many scenes of Sly hitting meat in a frozen locker or yelling for Adrian after the fight in a pool of blood and tears. And who could forget the most famous scene in a sports movie ever — the morning run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Actually, I probably had seen the entire film — just in pieces. Like my own Tarantino director’s edition of Rocky.

As I watched Rocky for the first time — I mean, truly watched the film — I was amazed at how much I had seen before, but didn’t actually see. The film opens on a shot of an image of Christ. OK, so no big revelation — lots of folks would get that trivia question right. But there’s something very significant about that opening image of Christ. In my eyes, there is a lot of Christ in watching Rocky in that early movie. For one thing, Rocky would bring honor and dignity to the city of Philadelphia, but much like Christ the savior who came to make all things new, those who saw Rocky before he entered into a rigorous training regiment didn’t see him as anything more than the tough guy in the neighborhood with the good heart. Never did they think that this would be the guy who’d go to Russia and for one moment get the world to stop thinking about the nuclear arms race and the U.S. vs. Russia and instead to focus on our humanity and what makes us alike as opposed to our differences.

More than this, I see a strong parallel between Rocky and the Christ spirit that lives in him in the way that he relates to other characters. When most of us see the first shot of Talia Shire in the pet shop, I’m sure we all saw the same homely woman that the director wanted us to see. But Rocky saw something more. The same applied to the way that he saw beauty in pets and animals that interacted with. There was something compassionate about the spirit of a guy who would listen to some of Pauly’s hurtful statements, yet wouldn’t take advantage of his obvious size advantage. Not to mention the compassion he showed to the debtor whose fingers he was supposed to break, but couldn’t bring himself to do so. Rocky’s not perfect. He’s a tough guy who works for the neighborhood loan shark (and, although we didn’t see him do so, probably had to hurt a few people to pay the rent.) But despite these things, when you watch the dichotomy of his character — the big tough boxer who’s tough enough to track down loans, but so soft in heart that he has to mull over what he should say the next time he sees Adrian — you can’t help but fall in love with his spirit. Continue reading ‘Rocky Balboa & Rocky: A Dual Review/Retrospective’

13
Jan
07

In Honor of Martin King

“Early morning,martin-luther-king.jpg

April 4,

Shot rings out,

In the Memphis sky,

‘Free at last’, they took your life,

They could not take your pride….”

.

– U2, Pride (In the Name of Love)


19
Sep
06

Inspiring Lyric of the Day – P.O.D. – Alive

b00005mb1i01lzzzzzzz.jpg And all this time you thought this was only an anthem for extreme sports?!?! 🙂 P.O.D. came out with this gem back in 2001 and the video was released on that fateful Tuesday in September of 2001. Not only is the song uplifting, but the lyrics are inspiring. The group’s name, “P.O.D.” stands for ‘Payable Upon Death’.

The meaning becomes clearer if you read 1st John 4:8 and then substitute that for the word, “love”.

You can check the song out by clicking here: P.O.D. on Napster (They’ll make your register, but it’s free.)

“And now that I know You, I could never turn my back away.” I hear you, fellas. I hear you loud and clear.

Alive – P.O.D. (from the album, “Satellite”)

Everyday is a new day

I’m thankful for every breath I take

I won’t take it for granted

So I learn from my mistakes

It’s beyond my control

Sometimes it’s best to let go

Whatever happens in this lifetime

So I trust in love (So I trust in love)

You have given me peace of mind

. Continue reading ‘Inspiring Lyric of the Day – P.O.D. – Alive’

18
Sep
06

What’s So Wrong With "Jesus Camp"?

Some friends forwarded me information on an upcoming film called “Jesus Camp”. (I don’t want to comment much on the film since I only saw snippets — there may be balance within the film when viewed in its entirety.) From what I understand, the film shows a camp in North Dakota that is focused on Christian teachings and was probably chosen for the movie because they have practices that some may consider somewhat radical.

Here is a clip that is circulating around on Digg.com:

When I first saw the above video clip, I watched it within a frame on someone’s page (as I presume you are doing here.) However, when I clicked on the actual YouTube link and look at the comments, I was pretty disappointed at what I saw. I already understand that people become really strong and brave when they are behind a keyboard and they express thoughts that they would never dare to express in your face. But I thought that to balance out the 25 comments to this movie that I’d find at least one Christian voice among them that would try to make some sense to the non-Christians of the video. But I didn’t see one. Not one among them. And so, naturally, I was persuaded to write my own comment.

So, what exactly is so wrong and threatening about the video? I saw one image of children holding hands and praying. But of course that came at the very end of the video. Other images showed much earlier were of children crying against abortion and doing their own form of praise dancing — expressing themselves in an outlet that isn’t threatening to anyone.

I do have a few concerns about the video (and probably will share the same concerns about the movie). For one, non-Christians that view this out of scriptural context may receive this as “a bunch of crazy folks.” And that does the exact opposite of what we seek to do as Christians. No, our mandate as Christians isn’t to make the gospel attractive. (The good news of Christ and the promise that he makes is attractive enough on its own.) But hopefully this wouldn’t dissuade folks from learning more about Christ (which would help them to gradually understand why these children are this passionate.) Continue reading ‘What’s So Wrong With "Jesus Camp"?’

11
Sep
06

September 11, 2001 – My New Beginning….

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/35/Wtc-2004-memorial.jpgI was riding home from church today listening to a radio spot in between innings of the Mets game. A bunch of random people were each quoting one line about where they were when the events of September 11, 2001 took place in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and, of course, New York City. “I was walking to class in Minneapolis”. “I was sleeping.” “I was taking my children to school.” Fortunately, I was a lot closer to the attacks myself. (Yes, I said fortunately.) I was about 6 blocks down the street. Walking distance. And although I went through periods of fear and post-traumatic shock (“Gee, I almost went to take a closer look. I could have been crushed“), I realized that I was right where God wanted me to be when those terrible attacks took place.

To understand my story, you need to understand a bit about me first. Even though I’ve only been living for about thirty years, I’ve had a remarkable life. I think anyone who is blessed enough to be born in a country where you have access to education, an abundance of food, running water and all of the necessities (and some luxuries) of life has probably lived a remarkable life. (As someone I greatly respect always says, “It could have been the other way!”). Anyhow, with all that I had been blessed with, I didn’t necessarily grow up in a home where we knew God. Sure, we said grace when it was time to eat and we made our way to church for special occasions, but I would come to learn that we didn’t really rely on God the way that we really should.

One other thing that you’d need to understand about me is that, despite all that I try to do to counteract this behavior, I have a tendency to be…. well, how would you say…. “a bit behind schedule”? I struggle with being on time. (Although I’m getting a lot better now.)

Every business day for five years since I had been working at my former company I generally didn’t reach the office before nine. Not necessarily because I was late. Working in technical help desk support, I was able schedule my time with a certain degree of flexibility. My first schedule was 12pm – 8pm (not by choice.) Later I would work a 10am – 6pm schedule for the majority of my nine plus years of service. There were only a few days when I would wake up earlier. Special meetings. Presentations. Client visits. But considering the stress and the rush of commuting in New York City from Queens to Manhattan, I enjoyed the flexibility and the lighter pressure of a shifted schedule.

The client that I was servicing was due for a laptop upgrade. Each of that company’s sales reps would send in their machines and my staff would upgrade them. My client contact was from Chicago and she choose the week of September 3rd – 7th to do the upgrade. For some reason, she called me in late August and notified me she was moving the scheduling one week — from September 10th -14th.

She flew in on Sunday and in an e-mail she agreed to meet me at 8:45 on Monday morning. I made it in at 8:40. But somehow she had already been to our office and was in our rollout room. I felt an incredible sense of disappointment in myself. Sure, I came earlier than we agreed, but business etiquette should have taught me to be waiting for her at 8am. It bothered me the entire day. Even though we agreed that day to meet at 9am, I made a personal commitment to myself that I would be there every day for the rest of the rollout no later than 8:20.

I remember the next morning as any other. I got a good night’s rest. I felt no fatigue. Just took the bus to the train like any other day. When I came up from taking the J-Train, I saw a bunch of people crowding around and looking north in the direction of the towers. Fire was emitting from the side of the building. Selfishly, all I could think of was, “Oh boy. A fire. As if it isn’t crowded enough down here already. Now we’re going to have scaffolding all over the place while they try and fix the building.” I heard murmuring throughout the street about “a plane”. Other murmurings mentioned a “blown gas leak”. I stood there with the rest of the crowd for about 8 minutes or so before I realized that I was far past 8:20… I had a rollout to complete. And so I turned and walked south….with my back facing the towers. Continue reading ‘September 11, 2001 – My New Beginning….’

10
Sep
06

Where the Heck is James Brown? (No, not THAT James Brown.)

I tuned in today to watch the kickoff of the 2006-2007 NFL Season. I wasn’t quite as hyped as I used to be — the game has truly changed. But nonetheless, I appreciate what it does to push summer along and move fall colors and cold weather back into our lives with a bit more ease (than if we had to do it without football.)

Growing up, I remember the battle of the NFL pre-game shows. There was the NBC show, The NFL 83…. then 84, 85….(name changed seemingly every year until they settled on the NFL on NBC) and then, there was the premiere pre-game show, The NFL Today. Brent Musbuger, Jimmy the Greek, Irv Cross and a few others seemed to capture my attention much more easily on CBS. As the years moved on, John Madden and Pat Summerall would set the standard at CBS for game coverage and when NFC coverage moved over to Fox, they assembled probably the most enjoyable pre-game show (at least for me) ever. Fox NFL Sunday to me was just perfect. The balance between Terry Bradshaw, Jim Brown, Howie Long and the ever changing fourth sport of Collinsworth, Ronnie Lott and Jimmy Johnson, was great. Even the theme music was infectious. When I watched James Brown tease Terry about his “country hick” ways and Terry tease Jimmy about his hair and then Howie and Terry tease each other about the current status of their old teams, it was a special kind of fun that made me want to be there.

So it was much to my surprise this evening after coming home from church that I tuned to the Fox post-game show and saw….. Joe Buck? Now don’t get me wrong — I like Joe Buck. I like his voice for baseball. He’s definitely a sports scholar and he’s got broadcasting greatness in his blood. My heart went out to him when his dad died and he had to suck it up and finish the baseball season on Fox. He’s a great talent. But James Brown was something extraordinary.

Apparently James has moved over to do the CBS pre game show in a throwback to the NFL Today, perhaps of old. I’m not sure how I’ll receive this new pre-game show. (I probably won’t get to see much of it since I’m in church by the time they get started — I know my priorities). But I do know that the end of a pre-game show pairing James Brown, Howie Long and Terry Bradshaw is definitely the end of an era.

Upon finding this clip of Jim Brown on YouTube, it made me like him just a bit more. Watch it and understand that James Brown has his priorities straight as well — and isn’t afraid to explain them to us.

23
Aug
06

Biiible – A Great Resource for the Word

Biiible - Bible search for the Google freakWho says that Christian web sites aren’t hip? (Well, actually, I used to say that.) But not any more. I’ve seen some great uses of technology to spread the word of God. There are a few online Bibles that have been great resources for studying or researching, but probably the greatest example is Biiible.com. (That’s ‘Bible’ with three (3) “i”s.)

Biiible‘s tagline is, “Bible Search for the Google Freak”. (I hope Google lawyers don’t come after these folks). Just like Google, it has a very simple, uncluttered homepage. But don’t let the simple interface fool you. You can use the search window to find a verse of scripture in one of sixteen different translations, including the King James Spanish translation. This is an excellent resource for those times when you know the verse, but can’t recall where it’s found. For instance, I was looking for the scripture in an earlier post where Paul advises that we should “pray without ceasing”. And so I entered that text in the search window and came up with not only the verse, but links to other verses with similar sentiments. The search results will tell you the number of instances that a word appears. For instance, I typed in the word “love” and it came up with 546 hits. However, keep in mind that it finds all words with that root. So, words like “beloved” are included. (I’m sure there’s a way to search for a word alone.)

Searching is not limited to a word or a verse. If you enter “Acts 10”, the site will bring up the 10th chapter of the Book of Acts. And even better, you can click on the “Compare Two Versions” link and see a side-by-side comparison of two translations.

The site also has a dictionary/lexicon for most generic terms as they apply to the scripture.

Best of all, under the “Downloads” section of the page are PDF and even Microsoft Word copies of all sixteen of their translations! I downloaded the MS Word copy of the King James version — it looks great. Beautifully formatted (although the files are understandably large in size. The King James versions in MS Word and PDF formatting are 6.6 and 7 megabytes, respectively. That’s a pretty big size for a document, so be patient if it takes a few seconds to open.) If you have a laptop but no Internet connection, these folks even have a JavaScript version of the website that you can search without being connected.

For all of the great information that’s available on Biiible.com, understand that there is no substitute for cuddling up with a well-thumbed, leather-bound copy of the scripture. However, for those times when we are doing research or studying in front of our computers, this is an excellent alternative.

God bless the good folks at Biiible.com. They’ve done a great job in making the Word of God available and accessible to everyone on the web. Check out the site — it’s a great resource.

23
Aug
06

Assignment: Prepare for Disaster

Over the past two days, like many others I’ve been watching parts of the Spike Lee documentary, When the Levees Broke, on HBO detailing the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Initially I didn’t have a strong desire to see it — not because I was disinterested. Rather, it was because I had a strong indication about what I might see….and I knew it wouldn’t be good.

Well, I was wrong. It was much worse than I could have imagined. Often we see so many of the same images that we’re desensitized to the actual event. The film brought new images to my eyes. And even worse, the film began to put more detailed images of people’s last Earthly moments in my mind. Families trapped in attics thinking that the water wouldn’t reach that high…. as they gasp for their final breath. Bed-ridden and wheelchair bound people who couldn’t have created a mock-raft even if their life depended on it (and sadly, in this case, it did.) Children floating face down with backpacks. It was a depressing look at a dark period in American history. (This is the one time when I wish I didn’t have a high-definition television.)

Rather than focus on the emotions that the film stirred up (and I could easily go on), I think we should use the Katrina example as an opportunity to prepare for disaster near our own homes. This week in church one of my friends gave a great presentation on things that we should be doing to prepare for disaster. It’s true, we don’t plan to fail — but often we fail to plan. And everything she said was key. Designate a meeting place where you and your family agree to meet, if separated. Identify a family member out of state who everyone should contact and who would serve as the central point of information. Keep water and canned foods in the house…. just in case. All great precautions.
Since this is a tech-focused, site, I thought it might be a good opportunity to share another strategy. In the event that tragedy strikes my home (either via fire, flood, hurricane…. or worse) I can live without all of the “stuff” that’s in the house. Everything is replaceable. Every DVD, gadget, computer, mobile phone….heck, even my MacBook Pro is replaceable. However, there are some things that you can’t just go to EBay or Amazon and buy new versions of. The pictures of a deceased loved one. The photos of your son’s first birthday party. Death certificates. Identity cards. Tax returns. Banking information. Property deeds. In the time of disaster, I can’t take my file cabinet along with me. But there is an alternative. Continue reading ‘Assignment: Prepare for Disaster’