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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Living with Courage

"What makes a King out of a slave? Courage.
What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage.
What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk? Courage.
What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage.
What makes the Sphinx the 7th Wonder? Courage.
What makes the dawn come up like THUNDER?! Courage.
What makes the Hottentot so hot? Courage.
What puts the "ape" in ape-ricot? Courage.  
Whatta they got that I ain't got? Courage!   You can say that again..."

The Cowardly Lion
 Winston Churchill said,  
"The first of all human qualities is courage.
The reason is because it guarantees all the others."

In John McCain's powerful book titled, "Why Courage Matters" , he tells an unforgettable story about about the University of Alabama's legendary football coach, Bear Bryant.
Before the start of every game, Bryant would walk the quarterback along the sidelines in silence. Then at just the right moment, he would turn to the young man and give him just two words of advice: "Be Brave."

It is pretty obvious why that would be good advice to a quarterback.
-Be Brave because you will have 11 violent men wanting to do nothing but rip your head off of your shoulders.
-Be Brave because you will face coaches that have studied you all week.
-Be Brave as you listen to thousands of opposing fans that want to see you fail.

When we think of courage, often we think of physical abilities like, Strength. Power. Agility.

But there is another aspect of courage that a person must have at all times. That is moral courage.
Rare are the times when we will use our physical abilities to display our courage; Often will be the times when we will need to display our moral courage. John McCain said, "Have the courage to keep your virtue when facing unwanted consequences."
I would place a firm bet that John McCain knows a thing or two about what it means to have courage...

Time to open up:
I would like share a story that happened to me just this past weekend. My wife and I were in Pittsburgh for a concert and upon entering the parking lot the attendant said, "$20 please."
I handed him a 20 dollar bill, and he handed me back change and my ticket.

Later, I noticed that he gave me back $20.

All throughout the concert the moral decision weighed on my mind & heart. Do I go back to the attendant and tell him the truth? Or do I pass him by on the walk of shame to my car?

Right after the concert ended, I walked straight to the attendant, and told him that the person taking my money made a mistake and gave me my money back.

My wife asked me what was my motivation for telling the truth on the way home.
I told her the following:
1. Jesus said, "If you cannot be trusted with the small things, then you cannot be trusted with the larger things." So yes, you better sweat the small stuff, because the small stuff makes up the big stuff. Listen, my faith is defined not by what I do in the light, but what I do in the darkness.  Bearing that in mind, it takes a courageous person to live an integrated life.

2. My integrity costs way more than a mere $20. It was Saturday night, and all I could think about was Sunday morning and facing the congregation.  I could not get up in front of the church and be a phony-baloney.

How did I feel afterward?
To be honest, I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I could stand a little taller, breathe a little easier and walk a little prouder.

This is what courage does for a person.
This is what courage will do for you.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Knitting the face of Jesus

A Story:

As I faced my Maker at the last judgment, I knelt before the Lord along with all the other souls. Before each of us laid our lives like the squares of a quilt in many piles; an angel sat before each of us sewing our quilt squares together into a tapestry that was our life.

But as my angel took each piece of cloth off the pile, I noticed how ragged and empty each of my squares was. They were filled with giant holes. Each square was labeled with a part of my life that had been difficult, the challenges and temptations I was faced with in every day life. I saw hardships that I endured, which were the largest holes of all.

I glanced around me. Nobody else had such squares. Other than a tiny hole here and there, the other tapestries were filled with rich color and the bright hues of worldly fortune. I gazed upon my own life and was disheartened.

My angel was sewing the ragged pieces of cloth together, threadbare and empty, like binding air.

Finally the time came when each life was to be displayed, held up to the light, the scrutiny of truth. The others rose, each in turn, holding up their tapestries.. So filled their lives had been. My angel looked upon me and nodded for me to rise.

My gaze dropped to the ground in shame. I hadn't had all the earthly fortunes. I had love in my life and laughter. But there had also been trials of illness and wealth, and false accusations that took from me my world, as I knew it. I had to start over many times.. I often struggled with the temptation to quit, only to somehow muster the strength to pick up and begin again. I spent many nights on my knees in prayer, asking for help and guidance in my life. I had often been held up to ridicule, which I endured painfully, each time offering it up to the Father in hopes that I would not melt within my skin beneath the judgmental gaze of those who unfairly judged me.

And now, I had to face the truth: My life was what it was, and I had to accept it for what it was.

I rose and slowly lifted the combined squares of my life to the light. An awe-filled gasp filled the air. I gazed around at the others who stared at me with wide eyes.


Then, I looked upon the tapestry before me. Light flooded the many holes, creating an iMage: the face of Christ. Then our Lord stood before me, with warmth and love in His eyes. He said, 'Every time you gave over your life to Me, it became My life, My hardships, and My struggles.

'Each point of light in your life is when you stepped aside and let Me shine through, until there was more of Me than there was of you.'


May all our quilts be threadbare and worn, allowing Christ to shine through.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Look who's in the news! Rely Local.

One more reason to pick up Rely Local in New Castle. Pa. 


Rely Local highlights local events, buisnessnes and people.



Each week Rely Local will feature one of my blog posts!

Smile!
People all over the area were coming up to me with the Rely Local in hand
and a big smile on thier faces...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Anthony's Rant: "Jesus and a BIG wheel of Cheese."



Christian's get a bad wrap. Sometimes unfairly. 
BUT sometimes we like to expedite the process by producing things like this video.
This video is so bad, KRAFT foods tried to use this video on a commercial to promote their cheese.

Listen, if you are going to attempt to make a music video displaying your faith, my suggestion is at least try and add some relevance.  This Sesame Street-ish, galactic blast of horrible(ness) doesn't really work for ANY body.

And for those of you that think I'm coming off a bit too harsh, well then, I'd bet that the life your living isn't all that attractive for the Gospel to begin with. (It's just a guess, but I'm probally right).

So, without further adieu ... walk to your fridge, and pull out the biggest wheel of cheese possible OR just hit the play button for a cosmic slice of Parmesan. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

An Idiots guide to Calendaring

How sad that many of us only live for the future and never really consider the present.

"Where am I going on vacation next year?"
"What am I going to wear to the party next week?"
"How should I prepare for next month's strategy meeting?"


Please don't get me wrong people.
I am huge into planning and preparation; a glance at my calendar will give you insight beyond normal comprehension, as my calender is planned out daily for the next four months. But one thing that I have noticed, is that our society in general really only emphasizes what's going to be happening tomorrow.

Why is it that most people overstep today like they are trying to avoid Fido's doo-doo in the grass?

This attitude has even crept into our little ones lives...
Have you noticed how grown-up children are these days? 12-year-old girls look, act, and dress like they are 21 and 13-year-old boys are discussing which colleges they are going to attend; including their major, how much money they're going to make and what their monthly payment is going to be on their new red Toyota Corolla.

Again, I know that there are some of you out there that just cannot comprehend what I'm trying to communicate here. So let me be as clear as possible. I am certainly not against thinking about our future, I'm just making an argument that we should enjoy each day as God presents it to us.
I think that there is something beautiful in sitting down on your front porch, listening to the birds, watching kids playing, and soaking up the moment.  After all, aren't our lives made up of millions, if not billions of tiny moments that will eventually define us?  And when you and I look back, let us not regret one of those moments.

Today, I will end with a quote that I read years ago. To this day I have never been able to get it off my mind.  May it serve as a challenge and a reminder to enjoy this day.

"To-morrow! oh, that cursed word to-morrow! How has man made it cursed! I find it not in the almanack of the wise; it is only in the calendar of fools. To-morrow! there is no such thing except in dreamland, for when that comes which we call to-morrow it will be to-day, and still for ever to-day, to-day, to-day.
There is no time but that which is."

C.H. Spurgeon
Application:
"Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, That's why it's called the Present"

Yo, Adrian! The Italian Stallion on Perseverance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Anthony on "My Country, My Choice"



Does anyone actually believe this juvenile argument?

Just look at these women in the video making the statement, "It is my body and you can't tell me what to do with it."
Really?

First off, you bozos are standing nude in a public park with a sign covering up your private parts. Number two, if you had any brain cell (or moral fiber) you would understand that no one is telling you to do or not do anything to YOUR body.


-A baby is not part of your body.

This argument defies reason. When the unborn child's heart beats, whose heart is it? Fact check: Every pregnancy involves 2 people... a mother & a child.

Respect the rights of both.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Everybody wants to be an expert.

Today's post is from one of the most inspiring people I know, Nick Cerda. Nick writes an excellent blog titled, "Nick Cerda.". Please go to his blog (www.nickcerda.org) to read all of his insights on leadership and life.I encourage you to follow Nick's blog & follow him on Twitter.

Everybody wants to be an expert.

Why?

Nobody listens if you’re not. We gain and maintain credibility by being knowledge about any given field. Leadership, management, athletics, etc all have one thing in common- nobody listens to you until you have something worth saying and they know you have something worth saying because you’ve done or are doing something significant.

We all have a story to tell. We are all responsible to tell it. How do we get people to listen?

It’s simple. Do something significant and somebody will listen. Do quite a few significant things and more people with listen. So in short…be significant. Go ahead, get started.

Good luck with that.

Maybe there’s a better way?



Anything worth doing is worth doing. I know that sounds silly. It might not even make sense. Let me explain.

We often wait to start a new habit until we have time. We never tell our story because we don’t think our story is worth telling… yet. We don’t write because we aren’t ready. We don’t lead because we aren’t ready. We don’t take the next step because we just don’t feel ready.

We don’t feel ready because we aren’t prepared. We haven’t done enough research. We’re afraid we’ll fail.

Stop waiting.

Start doing.

Anything worth doing is worth doing, even for a short amount of time. How do you think these “experts” get good at something in the first place? They did “it” when no one was watching. They did “it” before they were ready. They did “it” before they felt prepared and long before they were certain they would ever be any good at “it”.

We want guaranteed success before we venture out and take risks. That’s never going to happen.

Stop waiting. Start doing.

Being Punched in the FACE by your Best Friend

When I was little, I remember walking into the kitchen to find my father running cold water over his hand.  During his nightly "walk-through" (this is when dad would check every door, every lock, every window, all the burners on the stove, the oven and every light in the house)  he had discovered that one of the stove burners had been left on. 

This is why he was running the cold water on his hand.
And this is why he had told me to avoid touching the burner.

You guesssed it, I open-palmed the burner as soon as the "er" had left his mouth.
That night, both of us were shoulder to shoulder, sharing the cold water.


The above story reminds me of something that the wise author of Proverbs communicated centuries ago.

"Better is an open rebuke, than love that is concealed. 
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy."
(Proverbs 27: 5-6)

The basic point is something we all need to grasp:  Withholding the truth is not the loving thing to do.  By today's standards, the author of Proverbs would be shunned.  The reason is because our society is so thin skinned and politically correct, that we all walk around afraid to open our mouths -even when our words can help someone.  And I get it, telling the truth can be tough.  Many times, we battle wanting to be liked rather than wanting to share the gravity of the situation with a person.  So you will have to ask yourself if being liked is more important to you than being an honorable person.

Check out the the Proverb again.
Notice the word, "wound?"  That word can also be translated as, "bruise."


The irony is thick in the verse, as the person delivering the wounds is considered a friend.  Yes, the friend is the one that just balled up his fist and hit you upside your hard head.
-Did you know that your best friends will be the ones that tell  you the most truth?
If you are honest, I bet you can think back to a time when someone that loved you had the courage to be honest with you. 
Henry David Thoreau has been quoted as saying, "Between whom there is hearty truth, there is love" and the humorous Oscar Wilde once said"A good friend will always stab you in the front."

How true.

The challenge of this Proverb is to love the people God has placed in your life enough to speak the truth to them.  Many are walking around with their hand hovering over red-hot decisions that will burn them if they just move a few more inches. 
Maybe you should help?
Ask yourself: Has God placed you in a person's life to help them avoid being scarred by a bad decision? 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Man's Bestie: A Dog's Tale

A dog wags its tail with its heart.
-Martin Buxbaum

Last Christmas we got Charlie this chew toy from L L Bean.
He loves it!

This may strike you as odd, but every night we go through a ritual.
It starts as Christen gets into the bed.
Then, Charlie jumps up in MY spot declaring me floor material.
Then, I kick Charlie off and explain to him that he is indeed still a dog.


After he runs down his toy, he plays "chase me till I let go" for the next 15 minutes.


OK.
Dogs are smart, but when it comes to Charlie, he is the Doggy-Howser of animals!


 
For some reason Charlie has always loved to destroy things.
You are witnessing the destruction of a softball...
As to date, this is # 103,309,930,939 balls destroyed by Charlie.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

― Josh Billings

Saturday, October 6, 2012

How to Save your Pastor's Life.

Go ahead and Google search this phrase, "pastors and depression" or "pastors and anxiety." You will find that being in the ministry ranks among the highest of all professions in terms of stress, pressure on one's family, and health issues.

So if you are the type that loves your pastor, and wants to do something to help protect and ensure that they stay a while in the ministry, here is some helpful advice.

Recently I read a book titled "Who's got your Back" by Keith Ferrazzi. In the book he highlights the fact that every professional person needs two people in their lives in order to be successful.

A mentor relationship and a lifeline relationship.


A mentor is important because it involves surrounding yourself with a person that is more seasoned in your area of business than you are. Usually a mentor is someone that is older, wiser, and has been around the block (several times). In short, they have the privilege of offering you seasoned advice from the vantage of hindsight.

The other important relationship, the lifeline relationship, is a bit different.
Again, the mentor is someone that is older and wiser; while the lifeline relationship is different because this person is your peer. A lifeline relationship is basically between equals. This could be other coworkers, old college friends that are in the same business or season in life, or it could be a wise friend that you dialogue with about your work.

Both are very important in the life of a pastor. Let me tell you with absolute honesty; if it were not for the mentors in my life there is no way that I would be the person that I am today.
Biblically speaking, think of how Barnabas in the book of Acts was a mentor to Paul or how Paul himself was a mentor to young Timothy. In both cases it took an older, wiser person to take under their wing someone less mature but at the same time eager to learn. If I were a betting man, I would bet that most pastors have had their share of mentors.

This is why in order to save the life of your pastor you need to find him a lifeline relationship. Your pastor needs to have a person that is a peer, a person that he can come and talk to and share his heart with. Put yourself in the shoes of the minister, who often times is put on a very high pedestal by his congregation. Many times this is precisely what leads to the anxiety, depression and stress in his life. Not having anyone to turn to, he keeps his struggles within his own heart.

The irony of it all is that he will spend much of his time sitting across people that share all their insecurities, hurts and personal struggles; yet after days, months or years, no one ever thinks that the person sitting across from them, the Pastor, has any needs.

The lifeline relationship is absolutely vital for the minister.

I wonder if you, reading this right now, would offer yourself as a genuine lifeline to your pastor? Someone that has no other agenda than to absorb some of his concerns, absorb some of his pain, and listen as he bears his heart.

Balloon launch for Baby Anthony


The balloon launch was initiated by Hannah's Oak.
As you can see, my car was filled with balloons.
Each one represented a son, daughter or grandchild no longer with us.

No one ever imagines that they would be standing in a field, holding balloons in honor of their child.
I was ready to let my balloon go, then the sun suddenly came out in full force and I looked down to see our shadows.  This is the reality that we now live in.  Anthony is not here with us, he is like a shadow, a memory, that we grasp on to, but cannot wrap our arms around...
Christen & her dad trying to rig the 50/50
Mom, dad & Aunt Julie showing their support.
Thankful for the hot coffee on this chilly October day!
Free cookies from Eat n' Park!


I couldn't write anything on my balloon.
I just put a heart on it becuase I knew that as I let it go, there would my heart go also.
 
They gave everyone pens to write a message.
This is Christen's to Anthony.
"Anthony, I miss you and love you my precious son.
I wish you were here!
Continue watching over all of us."
Love, Mommy

Dad & Aunt Lindsay trying their best to win a prize.
(They Lost)
Mom & Dad writing a message to their grandson.
I snapped this picture right before we left. I was trying get some balloons as they drifted away.
When I got home, I was disappointed that I totally missed them.
But what I did take is a bit unusual.
-Is it a Heart?
-Is it the back of an Angel?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Phony Faith

Before James Garfield became president of the United States, he was president of Hiram college. One day a father asked him about the curriculum, so Garfield began to list the courses the son would have to take to receive his degree.

The man, obviously irritated, interrupted and said, "Mr. Garfield, that is far too much work for the degree that he will get. Couldn't you make it easier?"

"Yes, I suppose I could," replied Garfield.

"But I am reminded that when God wants to build a tall, strong oak tree, he takes 100 years. But he only takes three months to make a squash.
What do you want your son to be an oak tree or squash?"

This story applies in a spiritual sense as well.
See, many people just scratch the surface in their faith walk. In a real way, they resemble a scratch lottery ticket. Take a nickel, scratch the surface with a light pressure ... and they are revealed for what they truly are --welcome to Phony Faith.
After the thin outer surface is brushed away, all that is left underneath is a puny list of do's & don'ts.

I have heard it said that it is better to have faith 2 inches wide and 2 miles deep rather than 2 miles wide and 2 inches deep.
The disciples themselves asked Jesus to increase their faith. I think they knew full well that they could not embark on the mission of spreading the gospel while being a squash.
-And neither can you or I.

Are you tired of just going through the motions?
I hate to break it to you, but Jesus did not come to this earth to modify your behavior, He came to transform your heart.
And this takes a faith that is substantial.