Monday, September 27, 2010
Top to bottom: Crystal River the Homestead, drying off in the sand after a swim, a few minutes of fun and relaxations on a catamaran.
This past week Shirley and I took our annual Fall trip with my mom , my sisters and brother in-laws . We have been doing this since 1999 and all but one year have gone to Michigan, where we usually rent a condo on Lake Michigan at the Homestead in Glen Arbor. This year we especially enjoyed a family or a group of six otters that were in the Crystal River near the outlet to Lake Mich. Part of the reason the otter were there were the large quantity of salmon coming in to spawn. This was my first opportunity to observe otter in the wild and during 4 days of seeing and filming them I learned a few admirable characteristics they display .
** FELLOWSHIP: High level of social interaction they thrive on the need to be together and stay together. When separated they could often be heard calling the members of the group with a whistle like noise.
** TEAMWORK: They worked together in rounding up fish in the water and in grooming themselves.
** SHARING : They shared with the others in the group the food they caught from oldest to youngest (biggest to smallest).
** POSITIVE ATTITUDE: They seem to never have an attitude of we can't accomplish this task. Even when the fishermen chased them off they would regroup and do something else for awhile then resume with the task.
** JOY: They display a real zest to enjoying life every minute of each day. Everything I observed them do they seemed to go about with a sense of enjoyment, this is definitely tied to having a positive attitude.
** EFFICIENCY: They seem to make wise use of time and whether on foot or in the water they move very quickly. I'm sure they take time for rest but they were always in motion of doing something.
I have heard some of my friends talk about a profile test where your leadership characteristics are given the designation of 4 different animals and if I remember the otter is one of them. I'm not personally familiar with that profile test but from what I observed we could all take some pointers on how to live life from the otter.
In God's love , steve
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
SALT AND LIGHT !!
The following thoughts in today's blog have only come to me recently. Several factors have played an interest in shaping my thinking in the months since the Earthquake, here are my thoughts.
First I ran across this short little paragraph in a book I'm reading, it is a quote from the Los Angeles Times by writer/columnist Joel Stein: " Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring, Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can't wait to go , like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but Heaven has to step it up a bit. They're basically getting by because they only have to be better than hell."
I don't know what your thoughts are after reading that but possibly somewhere between angry and offended to slightly amused, after all it is what I first thought as a 5-6 year old starting to learn about Heaven. Of course as an adult I know there is no Biblical support for Mr. Stein's view. I don't even know if he researched his facts, if he is a Christian, Jewish, Muslim or even a believer at all. The problem I have and Mr. Stein isn't alone in this, is that we the people of the church are letting others tell our story. The news media right or wrong , conservative or liberal , even those supposedly who portray themselves in the middle have hijacked our message the greatest story ever written and twist it to gain reader / viewership, political support or whatever the latest attention grabbing need is at the time.
Secondly June 12th marked 6 months since the disaster and Haiti was revisited by the national news media. One of the things they tried to imprint upon their viewership was the lack of planning, cooperation and progress made since the Jan. 12th disaster. Once again we are letting those with an agenda that is usually tied to gaining the most media attention paint a broad picture of ineptness, corruption and self centered actions of a few indict the vast majority who have accomplished a great story that doesn't get told. Many of my best friends and even strangers who know I work for a large organization in Haiti ask me what is happening there. They want to know if progress is being made. What have we been doing , what are our future plans and often how can they be a part of it? Usually they have heard , read or seen the media present the Haitian government as inept, unprepared, lacking a plan of action and a history of corruption. My response is I can't defend or denounce the Haitian government as I'm not involved in their decisions. I'm too busy to be concerned about what they are doing or not doing other than how it pertains to the plans of our organization. What I can tell is the success stories of Project Help-Haiti and so many other organizations who mobilized so quickly to make a difference in the days and weeks after. Now our organization and others are moving into new ministry areas for the next phase of recovery and that story isn't getting told near enough .
The third thing that has impacted my view is that my home church in the states has just embarked on a new ministry series for this Fall entitled "be one make one" based on the Beatitudes in Matthew . In particular for this blog post Matthew 5:13-16 more commonly know as the salt and light verses are on my mind. They start by reminding us that we are the salt of the Earth and if we lose our salty taste we are worthless in fact it says " we are worth nothing and must be thrown out for people to walk on." It goes on to say we are "the light that gives light to the world." Further more a light shouldn't be hidden it should "shine for all people in the house that they may see." The best part is we as Christians are called to be "a light for other people," to live so they can see the good things we do. "Live so that they will praise your Father in Heaven", that is a story each and everyone of us should be distributing everyday!! Now that gets me back to where I started "WHERE IS GOD?" Well He should be shining in you and me each and everyday for all to see and praise Him in Heaven. I will be the first to admit it isn't always easy and sure it is tempting to say to ourselves that there is enough other people out there speaking but if we as Christians don't speak up others will take our message and portray it wrongly. When we no longer have a salty taste we run the risk of our message being trampled under foot . When we hide our light we run the risk of it being extinguished and many may be lost in the ensuing darkness. I have memorized a little verse by St. Francis of Assisi as to how easy this process can be " Go and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ everyday and if necessary use words." In God's love, steve
Friday, September 10, 2010
HEAVEN and EARTH
The theme of this post actually came to me back on Jan. 10th as I was traveling back to Haiti. It is somewhat ironic that many of the thoughts I'm sharing now came to me just 2 days before the devastating earthquake struck Haiti. I intended to write this blog sometime after I got to Haiti but circumstances intervened and I forgot about it till just recently as I flew home from Texas through some beautiful cloud cover again. Maybe it was intended that I should wait 8 months to give more thought to what I was thinking about that morning in Jan. My thoughts back then about what I wanted to post were probably more light hearted than provocative.
I'm not one who likes to read or do computer work when I fly, so I usually either sleep, get into a conversation if I have a talkative seat mate (sometimes my wife) or often gaze out the window in deep thoughts. That day we were flying 32-35,000 feet over some beautiful clouds high above the Earth. So as we passed through those clouds I got to thinking about visions of Heaven and how as a young boy I would lay on my back out in the yard gazing up at the billowing white clouds high above in the sky .I don't know about your thoughts as a youngster but mine were shaped by visions of winged angels resting on clouds possibly singing and playing harps watching out for us humans far below. Somewhere up there was Heaven filled with friends and relatives residing with God in a city filled with many mansions. Much of this was imparted to me as a young boy at Sunday school and week long summer VBS classes. I'm also sure that some of my thoughts were molded by my grandfather passing away when I was seven years old and the comforting reassurance of my parents and grandmother who stayed with us for awhile after his death.
Those reassurances in my young mind about Heaven were quite welcome as were also those of Santa Claus at the North pole and the Tooth Fairy. Somewhere in those years of course I out grew those childhood images we form in our minds about life and replaced them with mature Christian ones. Now as an adult I have a different perspective, for one thing my job requires flying quite often each year. Those flights often allow me to look at those clouds not as before from down on Earth but high above in the sky. Many many times I have flown over them and through them in state after state and even out across the oceans. I have yet to see one angel nor a glimpse of that great city full of mansions in Heaven I imagined up there as a youngster, ( this is the light hearted part).
Yet just because the image I had of Heaven as a youngster was reassuring then and that I can now visibly see my image was compromised that doesn't at all deter my faith that I will be joining God in Heaven someday wherever it is. The fact is I see God and He is with me all the time. I join him each day and He works through me as He does through so many others at home and around the world. He doesn't distinguish between whether we are doing little acts of kindness and love or doing huge Kingdom building ministries by proclaiming the "good news", by planting the seeds, bringing in the harvest, bearing fruit that lasts, taking care of the lost and hurting peoples. He loves us and He calls us to love others by making an "eternal difference" in their lives. As a youngster I of course put faith in my parents reassurances about all things, they didn't steer me wrong as they explained things in a way a child could understand. As an adult Christian I depend on God to expand all aspects of life,death and eternity as I grow closer to Him through Faith and empowerment of the Holy Spirit as I follow His will. So far what I have written is what I intended to share in my blog 8 months ago. In my next blog I will continue with my thoughts that have been expanded over these months as things have unfolded after the earthquake. In God's love , steve