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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Life Management Skills


"Our struggle to put first things first can be characterized by the contrast between two powerful tools that direct us: the clock and the compass.

The clock represents our commitments, appointments, schedules, goals, activities -- what we do with, and how we manage our time.

The compass represents our vision, values, principles, mission, conscience, direction -- what we feel is important and how we lead our lives.

In an effort to close the gap between the clock and the compass in our lives, many of us turn to the field of "time management."

Stephen Covey

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Story of an UNcommon Office Visit

A question I get a lot from others is, "What do you do all day at your workplace?"  After telling them about preparing for Sunday school, the children's message and youth group.  And after I tell them about meetings, readings, and praying.  And after I tell them about moving chairs, tables and putting more toilet paper in the bathrooms.  When I start telling people about pre and post marital counseling, newsletter and bulletin information...people usually walk away before I can tell them about the anomalies. 

For instance, today from 2:00-3:30 p.m. I sat with Steven Lamm.  I did not know Steven, he just walked into the church and into my office and into my life.  Steven had on a white T-shirt with a hole in it, an over- sized jacket, and a pair of stain-filled pants.  He was carrying a plastic shopping bag with all of his belongings..including his Mad Dog 20/20. 

Steven was homeless and was drunk. 

I invited Steven to sit down and talk.  He did. For an hour.  We talked about everything from alcohol, to family, to Jesus.  Steven told me about how alcohol ravaged his own life and the lives of his family.  He told me about the many many cities and towns he had been roaming over the course of his life.  He talked to me about his two children and how he has not seen them in over six years.  Humorously, latter on in the conversation, Steven decided that I needed "a buddy."  He said I needed someone outside of the church that I can just talk with.  He then decided that he was that buddy.  I said OK.   

On our way out of the church, I ended up giving him a Bible and then we walked over to McDonald's for some food.  We both had a sandwhich and then I bought him one more to bring with him.  I also convinced the manager to give him a coffee on our way out the door.

When we left McDonald's, I asked if I could pray with him and he obliged.  Afterward, I asked him to imagine what his life would be like without the drink.  And how without the booze, he could use his life as a positive influence for others.  After Steven walked away, I hoped that God would get ahold of him and that Steven would turn his life around. 

All of this got me thinking: 
You never know who God is going to bring into your life.  The reason that I wrote about this is because something similar happened to me just last week. Maybe the reason God had entrusted these people to me is because I have shown myself faithful?  I am not sure, but what I am sure about is when you are faithful with the little things then you will be faithful with the bigger things

And this is about as BIG as you can get.  God sending a hurting person your way... is perhaps like Him saying, "Of all the people in the world, I am sending Steven your way. So Anthony, look at his heart more than his clothes."   

Jesus said:
"I say unto you, 'whatever you have done to the least of these you have done to Me.'"  Mathew 25:45
I know that a lot of people would have sent this guy out of their office faster than smoking gun.  And I know that a lot of folks would have bought Steven food too.   But the greatest part about our meeting was not the food or the things I gave him, but the time and the conversation that took place between us.  I wanted Steven to know that I was taking him serious.  I wanted him to know that I was someone that was not going to give him a Bible and tell him that God loves him -and then send him back out into the streets.  

Steven told me at McDonald's that he has been to literally hundreds of churches in his life -but he has only had this kind of encounter once. That made my day.  I was glad that for Steven I was someone who stood out from amoung the many and made a difference in his life. 

-May you be open to do the same-

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I KNOW WHO I AM

I am God's child (John 1:12)

I am Christ's friend (John 15:15 )

I am united with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17)

I am bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20)

I am a saint (set apart for God). (Eph. 1:1)

I am a personal witness of Christ. (Acts 1:8)

I am the salt & light of the earth (Matt 5:13-14)

I am a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27)

I am free forever from condemnation ( Rom. 8: 1-2)

I am a citizen of Heaven. I am significant (Phil 3 :20)

I am free from any charge against me (Rom. 8:31 -34)

I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Cor 5:17-21)

I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18)

I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6)

I cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39)

I am established, anointed, sealed by God (2 Cor 1:21-22 )

I am assured all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28 )

I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16 )

I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph.. 3: 12 )

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13 )

I am the branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15: 1-5)

I am God's temple (1 Cor. 3: 16). I am complete in Christ (Col. 2: 10)

I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).. I have been justified (Romans 5:1)

I am God's co-worker (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1). I am God's workmanship (Eph. 2:10)

I am confident that the good works God has begun in me will be perfected. (Phil. 1: 5)

I have been redeemed and forgiven ( Col 1:14). I have been adopted as God's child (Eph 1:5)

I belong to God.


Do you know who you are?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Who Am I? A 3 Step Process


Have you ever spent time with someone that was truly unique?
Even if you did not think it at the time, there was just something about that person, wasn't there?
-How the heck did they get that way? 
-Where they born that way?  
-Did they read something that I missed? 

Truth is, many times a person of influence goes through a process in life that had 3 stages.  Many are not aware of the process, while some others are; nonetheless, there are 3 phases that you will go through to find yourself.

Stage One:  Looking OUT
Generally, in this first phase, you spend a lot of time learning about great people.  You pick up books about inspirational men and women, you pay attention to those admirable people around you and you start mimicking the qualities in them that you admire.  I can remember in seminary watching many of my classmates mirroring our homiletics (fancy word for the guy that taught us how to preach) professor.  The interesting thing is that the students did not even know that they were doing this.  Over time, his voice became their voice.  His emphasis because their emphasis and so on.  There is nothing wrong with this, and is very appropriate during this stage.  Great men and women are admired and worthy of our modeling.

Stage Two:  Looking IN       

Somewhere along the line, time passes and you start looking at yourself.  You notice that you do not want to sound just like your seminary professor.  You want to sound like you; like the distinct person that God created.  So you start looking within, and begin the painful and long process of discovering who you uniquely are.  During this stage, you realize you have to grow in all aspects of your life if you want to be successful and develop in to the man or women God intended you to become. 

Stage Three:  Moving ON
This is the point in your life where you develop your own voice. 
You are your own person.  You express yourself in your own way.  People know your style and more than this, people can identify it as yours alone.  People stand back and say, "Anthony just preached a sermon that only Anthony can preach."
Unfortunately, for many people, their development stalls in the 1st stage.  The reason?
It is easy to remain there.  Don't kid yourself.  In order to get to the 3rd stage, it will take all of your resources.  And when I mean all. I mean ALL.  Time, energy, money, family, friends, Etc.

I have seen this process in my own life.  I can remember downloading and listening to every great preacher.  I can remember reading all the homiletics books that I could get my hands on. 
But over time, a funny thing happened. 

-I shed my skin-

Today, I couldn't tell you who was the greatest or most famous preacher.  All I could tell you is if you come and listened to Anthony preach on a Sunday morning --- you'll hear a sermon delivered in the tradition of Anthony Kladitis. 

"And they were glorifying God because of me."
-Galatians 1:24

Bruce Springsteen - Long Walk Home

-Watch and Listen to "Long Walk Home" by Bruce.

How to Build Your Credibility: DWYSYWD





Do What You Say You Will Do

This is how you build credibility with those you lead. 
At the end of the day, people look to see if your talk matches your walk. 

And nobody was better at this than the greatest leader of them all.
Jesus

For instance, in the Gospel of John, Jesus was interacting with some of His new disciples.  After some time, two of His disciples asked Jesus, "Where are you staying?"   Jesus then invited them to stay with Him at His house. For an entire day.  (John 1: 35-39) 


Why did Jesus do this? 

By Jesus inviting His followers into His house ... He was inviting them into His LIFE.

He knew by inviting His followers into His life that they would be able to see into a part of His life that an outsider would never know.   Think about it, you could of had friends all of your life in school, but when you slept over their house, you experienced elements about them that you could have never learned outside of that one sleepover. 

Jesus was the greatest leader because of the fact that what he said He would do -He did!

Sadly, many leaders today forget about this principal.  Instead of leading by example, they bark orders and look down from their "lofty" positions.  They forget that leading by example, will set the tone for the group that they lead.

I wonder the last time you were intentional about being consistent with your words and deeds?  And don't come up with fancy excesses like, "Of course Jesus can do this...he was perfect! ... if I spent time with those I lead, I will surly mess up."  If these are your thoughts, then you are correct.  You will mess up.  So it is important to keep in mind that people follow someone that is dedicated to this principal of having your words and deeds match.  I have found that even in the face of scrutinity, it is far better to just admit your faults and apologize.  You can always remind the folks that you are indeed human, but your desire/goal is to lead with credibility. 

So keep in mind that your deeds and your words will not always match.  That is OK.  People are looking for authentic, humble leaders, not phonies...who act as if they have everything together. 




Friday, October 22, 2010

5 Essential Elements for Leading

In the excellent book, Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner, is a plan that every leader should use as a guide if they want to be effective. 

-Above is chart that summarzes the main ideas and below are some of my thoughts- 

Model the Way: 
Before you can truly be a model for the team, it is vital that you first believe in what you are doing.  This may seem elementary, but far too many people are just punching into a "job" and hold no conviction about what they do everyday.  I believe there is a big difference between someone that has a CALLING verses someone that finds a CAREER.  And if you think about it, this means that leadership is not always about position either.  Let's face it, we both know far too many elected officials that have a position or a title -but are the quintessential follower. 

When you find a calling, then from that will spring a love for your job and you most likely will be a great model and enthusiastic about what you are doing.  Watch out, this will be contagious for your followers! 

Inspire a Shared Vision:
Leaders are people who can see a preferred future and then get others to see that same future.  This means that as a leader you will spend a great deal of time talking about that future with your key leaders. The idea here is to get your belief about the future -their belief- about the future.  This vision has to be SHARED or else you will have major difficulties.  A really important point is to take your time here.  Being enthusiastic is wonderful, but it can lead you to be too rash with others...getting "buy-in" may take some time.  So be patient. 

Challenge the Process:
This is one of the key differences between a leader and a manager.  According to John Kotter, a manager and a leader are both vital, but carry out different functions.  A manager's main role is to "control and keep things in order" while a leaders main role is to "challenge the status-quo, look to the future, and get obstacles out of the people's way." 

Think about it, how do people talk about war-time Generals?  During peace, they are busy mico-managing the troops, keeping everything in check, but on the battle-field they always lead the men into battle.  Why?  Because during the actual battle, nothing is predictable.  The General has to be ready to trust the men he maneged during the time of peace. 

As a leader, you must continually keep the "preferred future" in front of your people AND look for ways to accomplish that future.  This oftentimes, calls for change.  Whether it is in the staff or the organization itself, sometimes you simply cannot go forward with the same old same old.  So go ahead, and provoke thought and prod your team a bit.

Enable Others To ACT:
As you lead, it is imperative that you free up your team for action.  Thinking about the General analogy above, can you imagine if he took the approach that many leaders/managers do today?  Which is to talk about accomplishing goals and then micromanaging and stifling your workers.  This is one of the main failures of most leaders.  As stated above, as a leader, you MUST be intentional about REMOVING ROADBLOCKS out of the way of your workers. 

This means, you have to get out of your office and next to the people you lead.  Schedule a time to sit and listen to them.  And them DO something!  Whether it is one person that continually bring the team down or a computer that makes sending an email a ten minutes task...remove the problem and allow your group to work with maximum efficiency.

Encourage The Heart:
At the end of the day, it is one's belief in what they are doing that will be the underlying factor that separates a good worker from a great one.  As a leader, you must always keep in mind that leading is and always will be about relationships.  And here is something that I learned along time ago. People do not care how much you know -until they know how much you care.   A leader has to encourege the people they lead. 

So go ahead, Be intential.  Be creative.  Buy a card, send a flower, bring in doughnuts, treat the team to lunch, publically praise them...you get the idea.  



*I hope you found this helpful, as always comments are welcome and if I can help in anyway possible -just ask.



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nehemiah's Leadership Example


In the Bible, there is this great man who was chosen to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. 


To fill you in quickly with what was happening around the time of Nehemiah, I will try to keep things real simple. 
War and Destruction left Jerusalem in shambles. And after some time passes, the people who once lived their came back and found everything in rubble. 
 See, told you I could keep things simple. 

As you can imagine, Nehemiah has a HUGE undertaking when he sets out to rebuild the walls that surrounded Jerusalem.
-Just an FYI:  the walls in the ancient times were to serve as a protective barrier to outside threats.  Today we have our walls, they just took on a different shape and are called something different...Nuclear Bombs. 

 Vital areas that Nehemiah utilized when Rebuilding/Leading are as follows...

  
1.  He acquired an understanding of the problem (1:2-3):  Nehemiah was smart enough to gather other people's insights and ask questions.  This may seem simple, but when leading, you should not be the type of person that is so far out in front of your people that they lose sight of you.  Gathering "buy-in" will be vital -especially from key leaders.

2.  He identified with those who were suffering (1:4): Nehemiah's heart broke for his people and this problem.  Many people will tell you that emotions do not belong in business -but they are wrong.  We are created with emotions and they can serve us.  They key with emotions is to control them instead of the other way around.

3.  He prayed (1:4-10):  Nehemiah knew that this would be a very difficult task so he bowed his knees to the Father.  He understood that without God moving in the hearts of the people, he was left leading an unworkable task. 

4.  He waited for the best opportunity to act (2:1-10):  Nehemiah was no fool, he waited 4 months from when he first received the terrible news that the walls were destroyed in Jerusalem.  This again, is genius on the part of Nehemiah.  Just because you, as a leader, find out about an issue, does not mean it needs dealt with in that second.  "In the abundance of counselors there is victory" says the Proverbs.  Get your team together. Put on your thinking hats.  Sure there are times for quick decisions,, but I have found that often times my rash actions have lead to an outcome that could have been ever better if I waited.


5.  He quietly investigated the situation:  (2:11-16):  Upon his arrival in Jerusalem, Nehemiah didn't announce his arrival with a circus, rather he got first hand information.  He did this by studying the condition of the wall and this is an element that needs underscored.  Not only did Nehemiah, gather his team and get information from them, he went to the actual scene and walked around and observed first hand the destruction and the moral of the people.  If you remember the events of 9/11 then you will recall Mayor Rudolph Giuliani doing the very same thing. 


 6.  He assembled the right players (2:17-20):  Jim Collins, in his excellent book, Good to Great, writes about a leadership principal that I believe is one of the most simple yet important facets of leading.  He says that a great leader does the following: 
(a) Get the right people on the bus
(b) Get the wrong people off of the bus
(c) Get the right people into the right seats on the bus. 
Nehemiah does exactly this.  As a leader, you must know your team.  You have to get the right people on the right tasks in order to complete a successful mission. 



*Source, Leadership Bible, Pg. 557

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Just Some Things I have Been thinking About



1.  Is it possible that these political adds can be any dumber?  And have you noticed the faces of the candidates in them?  Next time they are on TV, notice how everyone looks angry and dumb at the same time.
2.  Wearing dress pants with "short" athletic socks...please stop. When you sit down and/or walk, we can all see this, and it makes you look silly. 
3.  When guys wear polo shirts and shorts and then tuck in the shirt. 
4.  When guys do #4 and then wear sneakers.
5.  People on college campuses wearing flip-flops.  We get it, your free of your parents and you are really cool.  But when I look down and see your feet and mangled toes...it immediately makes me think that your not cool anymore. 
6. OK, this is a big one, Jean shorts.  If you are a girl, your OK here.  If you are a guy, please go home and burn them. I Effectually call them, "jorts"  and they in no way are appealing and if you are the type that wears them longer than your knees,...then you are now wearing "Ja-prees."

7.  When you are at the GYM and you are wearing head phones and people still insist on talking to you.  Seriously, are you blind?
8.    People who are "slow turners."  You know the types.  When they turn right.  They STOP first.  Then turn.  I cannot continue on my with my thoughts with this one...
9.  When I drive up to see my mom  and dad and my mom asks me if I want some tuna.  "Yes," I respond.  Mom then goes into the house and comes out with a bag that has been pre-prepared before I even got to their house. 
10.  As I pull away, I dig into the bag, mind you there are things in this bag that just do not logically belong in this bag (that is for another time).  I find the tuna....Wait for it...
I unwrap it.  I then stop and stare at it.  And the Tuna sandwich is in a HOT DOG BUN  that happens to be packed so full of tuna that when I pick it up from the one side, the other side rips in half.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Van Dam Dancing Steve Angello Knas Swedish House Mafia.

If you are having a bad day, watch this and you might forget about your problems.

BTW: Something that I just cannot shake...his outfit.

"O Holy Night" By David Phelps (FULL)

I know it is not close to Christmas, but this song and this guys voice is off the charts. Listen to this...!

The Pharisee: Missing the Vital Ingredient



Christen and I were getting ready for dinner one day, and as we were in prep mode, I discovered that we did not have one ingredient that gives this specific dish its umph.  After the usual husband and wife talk (Anthony go to the store and get it!  Anthony just walk over to the neighbors and ask to borrow some!) I elected for the dumbest solution....just make it without that ingredient.  It will be fine!  I promise!  (An optimistic life I lead -but at times- I really need to be grounded...). 

An hour latter, everything was ready.  We sat down to eat.  And everything was BLAH.  "If I just had that one ingredient" this meal would have been marvelous"...I thought to myself. 

Did you know that their is one ingredient in the Christian faith that if left out will make things...BLAH?  That ingredient would be Humility. 

Think about this...
Being outwardly religious can be an inward evil.  Change just for change sake -without a heart change- will only lead to Pharisee(ism).  And if you do not know who these folks were, the Pharisee's were a group of men who lived when Jesus was on earth and they really liked to emphasize the external. 

If you have ever read your Bible, you will quickly find that these men and Jesus did not get along. (Think Yankee fans and Boston fans).  See, Jesus was all about the heart.  He knew that people can do the right things for the wrong reasons.  So motives were important for Him.  On one occasion, after Jesus ministered to a person that was down and out, the Pharisee's just could not accept that someone like Jesus would hang out with and be concerned with someone that was a social outcast.  So the Pharisee's brains burst open and were spewing hate at Jesus and then Jesus says to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."  Nice one.

As I think a bit more about that statement, it also reveals something else about those Pharisee's.  They did not see themselves as sick.  Now lets be clear, I am not talking about a sinus infection but a spiritual sickness I affectionately call:  SIN.  They thought they had it all together.  In other words, they did not comprehend their need for God. There is this really great Bible verse that says, "Humble Yourself in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you."  It seems to me that people who just focus on the outward and forget about the inward are forgetting the most important ingredient of the Christian faith.  HUMILITY.

The Pharisees' forgot that when you reach out to God -you start by being on your knees- in humility, acknowledging your sin and crying out for the grace and mercy of God.  It is then that the "Lord exalts" you, not the other way around. 

One last thing:
-Before you get all "humble" on me and everyone else. Remember that if you were to ask the Pharisees if they were humble, they would say YES!  So it is important to keep in mind that there is a litmus test to this humility. 

Ready?  Here it is... A healthy understanding of yourself only comes when you see yourself for who you really are -and this is only done by looking to God.  Comparing ourselves with ourselves (a Horizontal approach) gives us a contrived understanding of who we really are.  It lowers the bar and we merely end up comparing ourselves with our friends or what we believe to be socially acceptable. 

A Vertical approach will reveal that we fall short of God's glory and will also reveal our need for God. 

The way to gain a proper perspective is to gaze upwards, and get a true glimpse of God.  This can be done by a healthy reading of God's Word or by a Bible preaching church.  When you genuinely seek God, watch out!  His Spirit just might grab hold of you and breathe life into you and you will be a changed person. 

                                 "God, You do not delight in sacrifice or else I would give it...
    But the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a humble heart...
                                                   This, Oh God, You will not turn away."
                                                                    -Psalm 51: 16-17



Monday, October 18, 2010

Going Home: A story of embracing the run away

FallA season I love to hate.  I love it because it is the time of year when the greatest painter of all, God, gets out His brush and paints the most beautiful landscapes.  I love it because this is the time of year I can thrown on my LL Bean boots, a pair of old jeans, a sweater, and go outdoors.  I love it because it always reminds me of football season, pumpkin flavored everything, and Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday). 

Fall. A season I love to hate.  I hate it because just after it, comes the dreaded Western Pa Winter.  A cold that starts and then likes to hang around far too long...like company that will just not leave!  I hate it because after the leaves turn all pretty, they fall to the ground...and I have to pick them up with an over sized fork. 

Speaking of raking leaves, just last week I got all psyched up to get in my "fall gear" and do some yard work.  As I was raking, Charlie Brown was in the house (for those of you new to this blog, Charlie is my co-dependent Lab).  Now Charlie is no fool, and he KNEW I was just outside the house working.  So about an hour into this chore, my wife comes out to check on me and I hear her yell, "CHARLIE GET BACK HERE!!!" 

Charlie escaped.










If your reading this and you (1) have a dog (2) ever had a dog (3) seen a dog, even if it was your neighbors or on TV...  You have never seen a dog quite like Charlie.   When he escapes, he runs.  I think he thinks it's a game where I chase him and he runs away, and then he stops and waits until I get about 2 feet behind him and them he runs again.  This goes on quite awhile and I am sure the neighbors really enjoy watching this.  

Anyway, Charlie's initial pressure was to get outside by me. But after his jailbreak, it turned into his favorite game of tag. 

Here is what happened in "real-time" in that moment:  After Christen yelled, I walked around the house and I see CharlieCharlie sees me.  Charlie starts running away from me.  I start running toward Charlie

I stop. 

I think real fast.

I get down on my knee,  I clap.  I yell, "Charlie, good boy!  good boy!  Come on!  good boy...come here!!"

Charlie stops. 
Charlie runs to Anthony.  
I take Charlie in my arms and hug him.   I pet him and tell him how much of a good boy he is. 

I then get the leash and put him on it and leave him outside right next to me as I finish the raking. 

The Point:
Why would Charlie ever choose to run toward me when I represent someone that is angry and/or hostile toward him?  If anything, I only ensure that he will notThink of how many times as a child, you wanted desperately to go to your parents and talk with them about issues in your lives but were just too scared.  It is just like a dog that escapes and runs away knowing that the one place that is safest -actually is the most dangerous at the moment. 

As a parent, you have to always be thinking about leaving the lines of communication open with your child(ren).  If not, your child will find lines of communication, it will just not be with you.  And you and I both know, that could be scary.  Lunch table advice at the school cafeteria can often lead to some bad outcomes.

To take this a bit further, I think that there is also something to learn about God in the above analogy.  Why is it that when we sin, we always want to run away from God?  When we do this, we are following the same pattern that Adam and Eve set for us in the garden.  Remember?  They took leaves and made some clothes and then hid from God.

What you and I have to remember is that when we sin and mess things up, it is always better to run TOWARD GOD and NOT AWAY from Him.  Running away from God is a sure way to stay in the mess and then even get messier!  While stepping toward God is our first step to forgiveness and reconciliation. 



Today, if you are running from Him, STOP.   Let today be the first day of healing.  Let today be the day where you let Him grab you and tell you how much He loves you and how glad He is that you finally came back home.

"We were merry and rejoiced, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found."  -Luke 15:32

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Speaking the Truth in Love

A lot has been said about bullying lately in the media.  Whether you are aware of the suicides that have taken place by young men and women or not...someone should offer some advice on how to tread these types of issues from a Christian perspective.  Let me say up front that it is shameful that people have such hate in their hearts towards people.  So what I hope to offer below is hopefully clear, gentle, and thoughtful...
Now before you run and form a conclusion about where you think this is going, let me clear some things up:
1.  Since I am a believer in Christ, I try my best to adhere to His teachings...which are found in the Bible.
2.  That means I use the Bible as my source of ultimate truth and guidance.
3.  This being true, to my knowledge and study of God's Word, I have come to the conclusion that homosexuality is sin.
4.  That being said, there are many many other sins in the Bible that I have come to the same conclusion about. 

Whether you agree with the above or not, it is OK with me.  I just hope you can be as gracious with me as I am with you.

Personally, I try to live to the standard set by the Scripture's when dealing with difficult issues like the one above.  So I turn to the Apostle Paul who says to, "speak the truth in love." 

Notice that there are two very important parts to this. 
1.  Speak the Truth:  Go ahead and share what you have to say. 
2.  In Love:  But do not forget how you are going to say/communicate it. 

When you combine Truth and Love, you will have two important factors intermingling with each other keeping the other in check.  Communicating this way will give grace and display humility to others.  It actually wins people over...not pushes them away.  Have you ever noticed how if you divorce the two, Love and Truth, that ugliness only gushes forth?  It is easy to see how the Apostle's words are timeless and still ring true today.

Turning my attention to the Bullies:-When, and why in the world, would you think that beating, hitting, calling hurtful names is going to prove your case?
The only case you are proving is that your are not following the Leader.  When you follow Christ, you are called to follow Him. Not the parts of His teaching that you like most.  And yes, Jesus was and still does call people to change.  He calls people out of their sin...ANY sin.  Which includes your hate.  So remember to ADD love to your message or you will resemble Luigi. 

Finally,  as for my stance on bullying:  We should focus on the bullies behaviour and not the specific groups that are being targeted.  Meaning, people have been made fun of for as many reasons as you or I could ever list...being too fat (me for the first 21 years of my life), too skinny (I wish), ugly, dumb, your race, your economic class, Etc... The point is, it is important not to go to the extreme in what is considered "worse" to bully than what is acceptable.  If so, you will open the door to hypersensitivity that borders on insanity.

Let me conclude with a prayer: May God grant us wisdom for times like these.  Amen.

"Like Apples of Gold in settings of silver, so is a word spoken in the right circumstances."
-Proverbs 25:11 

-I hope that you found this thoughtful, gracious, and balanced.  I would like to hear your thoughts on this.  Feel free to leave them in the comments area.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Meeting my Destiny part III: Jesus

It has been said that a person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it. Life is like that. Even now as I write this, I can think back to times in my life where something totally unplanned changed it.

Three examples come to mind: Bruce, Christen, Jesus. Over the next week, I'll choose one and write about it. I hope you join me!

Destiny encounter number three:  Jesus

The challenge so far has been filtering what to say, what not to say, where to start and where to end.

This one may be the biggest challenge of all...

On the one hand, I could say that this journey started out when I was a little boy staying at my Nonnon's house.  In the morning, she would sit at the dining room table; grab an old pair of glasses, and a Bible.  Most times, she would already be up, and when I would walk downstairs, I would see her reading.  Nonnon would invite me to sit next to her and she would start reading the Bible out-loud to me

...In Italian. 

See, Nonnon's Bible was not in English, so I did not understand a word she was saying.  But I did feel her love for Jesus.  It just oozed out of her.  As the day turned into night, and bedtime approached, the final part of her day was kneeling in prayer right in front of a lit picture of Jesus. In this picture, His arms were open and I got the feeling from the picture that He was ready to embrace anyone at anytime, for anything.  Again, if you were to ask me to repeat her prayers, I could not.  They were in another language...But I was fully aware that the person she was praying to was no stranger to her.  She loved Jesus and it showed in the way she would talk to Him.

Years latter, I found myself a Senior in high school.  The time in between was filled with the stuff of everything a boy does from the ages of 13-18.  Sports, hanging out with friends, thinking that everything I/we did was the most important event in the history of the world...

Then one day, I was invited to a church camp called Mahaffey and it was there I met a fellow named Pastor Dave Glass.  His impact was felt immediately....literally his introduction was a tackle.  Soon after, I started attending youth group and became interested in this "Christian life." Youth group was filled with fun, fellowship and a hearty dose of preaching.  Most people complained about the preaching and wanted more fun, but I never really cared about the games.  I had the idea that church is where the Bible is preached, so if you wanted fun and games  --join the basketball team. 

Anyway, some time passed, and I was seeing my friends dedicating their lives to Jesus. The really powerful element about this was that their lives were being changed.  I saw new commitments, new lifestyles, and new passions arise in them.  This made a very big impact on me. 

Soon after, I started going to church and youth group and on one Sunday night in October, a man named Pastor Don Jones stood up and preached a message that has changed my life.  He talked about sin, its consequences, and how to have a right relationship with God.  I found myself broken inside.  I remember sitting in the back of the church and just wanting to run up front, and give my life to this Jesus.

But I didn't.  I didn't know how. 

After the service, I talked with some trusted people, and I made my mind up that the next week, I was going to ask this Jesus in my life.  As the next week rolled around, I made my way to the church and walked into the service with 10 minutes remaining.  I had my Jerry Rice jersey on and just walked up front to the alter.  There I was met by Pastor Dave and there I embraced Jesus. 

That was over 10 years ago. Since that time I have went on to Bible College to major in Youth Ministry, received a Master of Divinity, and currently am working on my second Master's degree, which is Organizational Leadership.  I say this not to brag, but to bring up the point that before Jesus, I had no plan, no direction, no real purpose. 

David says in the Psalms that "God took him from the miry clay and put his feet upon a rock."  (Psalm 40).  In a real way, I was drowning in the mire and did not even know it.  My life was filled but it was empty with anything of substance. 

Sometimes I sit and I wonder...
-Where would my life be without Jesus? 
-What would I be doing today?

You see, I was drowning, not in water, but in something else.  A purposeless life. 
The Apostle Paul says that "He considers everything a loss compared to knowing Christ."  I have a feeling that he would understand just what I am saying here about an aimless life. 

In the end
My Destiny was to meet the One who sets Destiny in motion. 

The One that is responsible for all my other meetings with destiny. 


Is it time you met your Destiny? 
Is it time for you to stop trying to keep your head above water and fighting the waves?
Embrace Jesus.  His arms are open wide. 
For You.
Any time  Any place  Any person

"Come to Me, all who are heavy of heart and I will give you rest." 
 -Jesus

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Destiny: The Road You Didn't Even Know Was There

It has been said that a person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it. Life is like that. Even now as I write this, I can think back to times in my life where something totally unplanned changed it.


Three examples come to mind: Bruce, Christen, Jesus. Over the next week, I'll choose one and write about it. I hope you join me!

Destiny encounter number two:  Christen 

At church, we have this particular Sunday called, "Bible Sunday" where we give all the 3rd graders Bibles in front of the church.  In order to get ready for this one year, I called around to find the best prices on Bibles and found a place in Boardman.  Like any good youth pastor, on the day that I set out to pick up the Bibles, I called a few youth to come along. 

After picking up the Bibles, one of the guys asks if we can run through the mall.  "I said OK, just as long as we make this quick...no dilly dally'n"   On our way through the mall, we cut through what was then a store called, Kaufman's.  On our way through, a girl with the longest eyelashes and the whitest teeth stood smiling at us.* 

-We all looked at each other and panic set in-

I knew I had to do something, so to buy time, I pretended to look for cologne.  I told the two guys to scram and I gathered my thoughts....

Take a second a peer into my mind at that moment:
-She smiled at me...that means she LIKES  me!!!!!!  pretty much all of my thoughts in a nutshell.
-Hmmm....but how do I get her phone number?  Time for the silver tongue to work some magic.

I then walked right up to her and acted like I was interested in the products that she was selling. Which was...makeup for women!  I had to think fast so I pulled out the mom card and played on it.  "My mom loooooves this stuff!  Can I have your number and then she can call you to set something up?"  (I know, I am sad and it is OK to have pity on me...but remember, this actually worked and Christen is now my wife.  So now who is laughing). 

Anyway.  She refused to give me her number BUT she gave me her work number.  [Mistake].  I said thanks then asked a string of random and unnecessary questions about church and whatnot.  When she said she was a churchgoer, I knew she'd be mine.

On the way home, I thought of a great first date, that is, if she was ever going to go on one with me.  So I called her at work and over time convinced her to go to Barns and Nobles to meet me for coffee.  My plan was to meet there, and if things were going well to ask her if she would like for us to go through the bookstore and pick books that best represent us.  She liked that idea and in 10 minutes we got back together with a stack of books. 

I suggested that we should go from least important to most significant.  As we swapped books, we were learning about one another.  I remember picking books that included:  Chocolate Lab's (Charlie Brown, my dog), Italian/Greece (my Heritage), James Dean (my general cool demeanor), and a Bible (my foundation).  Christen had similar picks:  Butterfly's (her tattoo), Greece (Heritage), Bible (her foundation).

The Bible was the last books that we had taken out.  As we did, we talked about how Jesus transformed both of our lives at one point and that the Bible is our foundation for living.  If I only had come prepared with a diamond because at this point, it was the only thing missing!  I can even remember a lady stopping us in the middle of our date asking us how long we have known each other.   When we said over an hour, she almost fell on the floor.  See, the thing about Christen and I is that we are the type of people that when you meet us for the first time you just met who we are.  We are basically just two open people who live life out loud.  What you see is what you get...no phonies here.

A few months after this date, I pulled out my cell phone and scrolled to the calender to let Christen know of the good possible dates to get engaged and then married.  Time quickly passed and on Christmas Eve we got engaged and in August we were married. 

Since our first date, we have been basically inseparable.  Later on, Christen told me that she knew on our first date that she was going to marry me. 

Today, we do almost everything together.  And I love it.  She is my love.  She is my friend.  She is my wife. 
She is my destiny.  

"A good wife who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels or gold."
-Proverbs 31:10 

*The reason Christen was smiling at us?  Well, she was actually laughing at all three of us.  She says that the two guys I was with where wearing all red.  Red basketball jersey's and red hats.  And I was wearing an ALL jean outfit. Yes, from head to toe.  So basically, what she saw was 2 Bloods with 1985 Springsteen.  I would of laughed too.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Destiny: The Road You Didn't Even Know Was There

It has been said that a person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.  Life is like that.  Even now as I write this, I can think back to times in my life where something totally unplanned changed it. 

 Three examples come to mind: Bruce, Christen, Jesus.  Over the next week, I'll choose one and write about it. I hope you join me!
Destiny Number One,  BRUCE:

-In the 10th Grade of High School, many of my friends somehow ended up at the Mall in Boardman , Oh. during school hours.  On this fateful journey, I walked into a store that sold Cd's and quickly grabbed Bruce Springsteen's Greatest Hits album.  I thought he was the guy who sang, "Born to be Wild"  which me and my friends definitely were at the time...or at least I thought.  After a trip to the food court it was back to the school to brag to our obedient friends about our adventure.  On the way home, Bruce found his way into the Cd player.  My first thoughts were:  "Um, this song Born to Run in no way reflects Born to be Wild" 
I hit the eject button. 
Put the Cd into the case and put it on the floor. 

Over time, that Cd found its way back into the Cd player and caused something inside of me to start my Bruce-a-holic journey.  Soon afterward, I found myself going to Wal-Mart to buy all of Bruce's albums.

Two years latter, the Twelfth grade rolled around and I graduated high school with Bruce.

I then was on my way to Georgia with Bruce for college. Now if you have been to college, this was a major make or break time for me and Bruce.  As a freshman, you want to fit in.  And listening to a guy in his 50's usually is the way NOT to accomplish this.  Anyway, I started my freshman year with Bruce and four years latter and many converts latter, I graduated with Bruce.

The next part of the journey only re-enforced my Bruce-like vigor.  First job out of college and a Boss from the Abyss...Bruce was really was hitting home with me.  Then came Christen, and my job to convince her that all other musicians where phonies and to only pledge allegiance to Bruce.  (which she does now,  but only cause she loves me)

Many concerts latter, road trips, broken Cd's, and tapes from garage sales that my mom just will never stop buying me (even if they are Rick SPRINGfield!) ... there just is not anyone out there like Bruce. 

Destiny struck me that day when I was in the 10th grade like a high jacker in downtown New Castle. 

Tomorrow: Destiny Tracker number two, Christen 


Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Movie 'Baby Mama' and Abortion

Posted by my friend Jay Scharfenberg on Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 10:49am.

*I read this on Jay's facebook and thought it was very insightful...I hope this makes you think.



I saw the movie 'Baby Mama' a couple weeks ago, and it raised an interesting question in my mind. In the movie, Tina Fey wants to have a child but, due to health reasons, could never get pregnant. Therefore, she hires Amy Pohler to be the surrogate mother. It's Tina Fey's egg (artificially inseminated) but Amy Pohler is carrying it.


As I watched this movie, a thought crossed my mind. What if Amy Pohler decided to have an abortion? Even though she's carrying Tina Fey's egg, it's still 'her (Amy Pohler's) body', so she has a right to do what she wants with it -- as the pro-choice argument goes. Yeah, there might be legal ramifications because of the contractual nature of being a surrogate mother, but, when push comes to shove, would Amy Pohler have a right to an abortion? If not, what should she be charged with if she does get an abortion--murder or destruction of property?


Now let's look at this from the other angle. What if, in the first trimester, Tina Fey changed her mind and decided she wanted an abortion? Would she have the right to demand that Amy Pohler go through with an abortion? What if Amy Pohler refused?


The first scenario raises an interesting question for me as a guy. Men are in the same situation as Tina Fey in this scenario. If my wife gets pregnant, she will be carrying my child, just as Amy Poher was carrying Tina Fey's child. But according to law, if my wife were to decide to have an abortion (thankfully this is a completely hypothetical situation), I would have no say in the situation. So if Tina Fey does have a veto vote in the first situation, does this mean fathers should have a veto vote if the mother decides to get an abortion?