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Surviving Trials

No one gets through this journey unscathed. A song I default to when walking through valleys is from singer/composer Rich Mullins. The song “Hold Me Jesus” is from his CD called Songs. Well, sometimes my life Just don’t make sense at all When the mountains look so big And my faith just seems so small Right now I am in a pretty good place in my life and journey with Jesus. But then I start thinking about the many friends and loved ones who can relate completely to those lyrics. The words do not exaggerate the agony of going through dark valleys. And I wake up in the night and feel the dark It’s so hot inside my soul I swear there must be blisters on my heart I remember how I used to respond. I would deduce it must be my fault. God must not be pleased with me. I would decide that I had to do something to bolster my faith. I needed to
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A Leadership Trait That Changes Everything

I am a lifetime, avid Cleveland Browns fan. I know. Thank you for your prayers. I am more optimistic now than I have been in many years. Part of that hope is some great young players. But another factor is the new head coach. Freddie Kitchens is a down to earth and positive influence on the field. He asks each player what plays they like to run and then implements their ideas into the game plan. The players were blown away by that level of personal involvement. My first reaction was “why is that deemed unusual”? Why wouldn’t a leader want buy-in and ownership of the game plan? Why wouldn’t a leader create a culture of affirmation? As General Dwight Eisenhower wisely observed. “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.”  A recent book entitled The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton concluded that appreciation might well be the missing accelerator for
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Finding My Way in a Confusing Culture

Joni and I live in a racially diverse city. Even with that disclaimer my recent morning errand run was unusual. I made four stops, interacted with at least a dozen people, and not one of them looked like me. Every encounter I had was friendly, upbeat, and kind. Not one black, Hispanic, or Asian person seemed to notice or care that I was not like them. I reflected on that experience versus the America the media and politicians portray. According to the inflammatory headlines we are a country of hatred, racism, and greed. I am not naive. We are far from a perfect union because our nation is made up of imperfect people like me and you. People who want freedom. People who want to be able to enjoy friends and family. People looking for acceptance by others and forgiveness for mistakes. People who want to believe they are a part of something more significant than just getting through the
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A Cure for the Post-Christmas Letdown?

Greeting cards have all been sent The Christmas rush is through But I still have one wish to make A special one for you     Lyrics from ‘Merry Christmas Darling’ – The Carpenters During my caffeinated quiet time today I reflected on the odd way we celebrate Christmas. We rush pell-mell to Christmas Day with intensity that would make a Marine drill instructor proud. The build up to Christmas goes on for weeks and then, before you can assure everyone that Mary did know, it is over. Maybe the idea of the Twelve Days of Christmas is a good one if we can overhaul the confusing and messy gift list. The cost to fulfill the 12 Days of Christmas shopping list inflated to $39,094.93 this year. Labor costs have driven up the price for the Lords a leapin’ and the Pipers piping by over 3 percent. The good news is the price for the gold rings declined 9 percent. Let’s concede that
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There are NO Misfits on the Island of Grace

Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. I love the music, the memories, the traditions, and the chance to annually think about Burl Ives. His memory returns with the annual airing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Ives is the voice of Sam the Snowman who narrates the “enhanced” story of Rudolph. Rudolph and his elf buddy Hermey don’t fit in with the others. Rudolph looks different than his peers. Hermey is not interested in making toys. In an odd plot twist, Hermey wants to be a dentist. Not surprisingly, his elf supervisor is upset with the unproductive Hermey. So the two outcasts set off to find their purpose and a place to be accepted.                                                       The part of the story that resonates with me these days is when Hermey and Rudolph find their way to the Island of Misfit Toys. All of the toys on this island are castoffs because they are flawed and deemed worthless. There is a
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The Healing Power of that Silent Night

One of my favorite Christmas stories happened during the horrors of war. The Christmas carol “Silent Night” was actually responsible for a wartime Christmas truce. The year was 1914 and soldiers were having to spend Christmas Eve night on the World War I battlefields of. After only four months of fighting, more than a million men had already perished in the bloody conflict. The bodies of dead soldiers were scattered between the trenches. Enemy troops were dug-in so close that they could easily exchange shouts. On December 24, 1914, in the middle of a freezing battlefield in France, a miracle happened. The British troops watched in amazement as candle-lit Christmas trees began to appear above the German trenches. The glowing trees soon appeared along the length of the German front. Henry Williamson, a young soldier with the London Regiment wrote in his diary: “From the German parapet, a rich baritone voice had begun to sing a song I remembered my German nurse singing to me…. The grave and tender voice rose out
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The Cattle Were What?????

One of my contributions with these modest little musings is to continually ask the tough questions. While listening to  “Away in a Manger” my inquiring mind kicked in. You likely know verse three of the song. The cattle are lowing The poor Baby wakes But little Lord Jesus No crying He makes As I listened an important series of difficult and probing inquiries popped into my head. What noise, exactly, were the cattle making when they started lowing? Was this normal cow talk? Did lowing just sound better than mooing in the lyric or is lowing a more spiritual and reverent cow sound? And then the most important question came to mind. What is wrong with me? I can’t answer the last question but I can help with the others. Lowing is defined at dictionary.com as “the characteristic sound uttered by cattle; a moo”. So little baby Jesus was awakened by the characteristic sound uttered by a cow. That would not have flowed well
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