The Bedrock Of America

On this past Thursday, May 4th, 2017, which was also the National Day Of Prayer (first established by President Harry Truman…a Democrat…and later designated to be the first Thursday of each May by President Ronald Reagan…a Republican), President Trump signed an Executive Order that is in line with what most previous Presidents and the Founders of our nation have done for over two hundred and thirty years now, protecting “religious freedom and free speech” in this country.

This order overturned the Johnson Amendment of 1954, which prohibited churches, clergy and religious organizations from engaging in political speech, under the threat of losing their tax exempt status if they did not comply (talk about the federal govt. limiting the Constitutional rights of individual Americans, WOW). This amendment followed the Supreme Court ruling of 1947 that changed the understanding of the Constitution, in particular, the understanding of the Establisment Clause, from what was the historic understanding that “government should not be involved in matters of the church” to the modern twist, “the church should not be involved in the matters of government.” This new interpetation was given the deceptive name of “separation of church and state”, as if there were some sort of invisible wall there, keeping the two sets of ideals and precepts completely separate and free from the influence of the other. 

Of course, the Founders never created such a wall and to be honest, it would be impossible to keep the two complete free of each other, since the laws of the land often deal with moral and ethical issues (so how do you keep God out of those discussions) and churches are governed by many laws, state, local and, of course, federal statutes. The Bible, itself, says that “all authority is from God” (even government) and that we are to “submit to all governing authorities”. So to expect the governement to function well and in the best interest of the people they represent, without the blessing, providence and guidance of a benevolent and just God is really quite unrealistic, if you ask me.

On the other hand, it was the federal government that provided for the legal protections for the right of religious freedom (and the right to freedom of expression), so since government allowed for it, people of faith and faith-based organizations are dependent on government to keep those protections in place. So to suggest that the two were intended to be independent of each other, that would be a view that was considered out of the question, prior to the SCOTUS decision from seventy years ago.

Now, at the risk of dating myself, here (a little late for that I’d say..lol..I’ve been pretty much dated for awhile now), I grew up watching the Flintstones, the most famous residents (along with the Rubbles) of the city of Bedrock. They were and are probably still the “poster family” for all things pre-historic. Pebbles and Bam-Bam were the cool kids on the block, and who didn’t love Fred’s car? I still would have loved to try one of those Brontosaurus burgers. Wouldn’t you?

The reason I bring up the Flinstones and the fabled city of Bedrock is because the whole idea of redefining the Constitution and the especially the Establishment Clause, started with the likes of Woodrow Wilson (almost exactly 100 years ago), who believed the Constitution was outdated (or pre-historic, if you will) and needed to be revised from time to time to reflect the changes in society. This was part of what was called “The a Progressive Movement.” Those sentiments grew over the next thirty or forty years, resulting in the SCOTUS decision and not long after that, the Lyndon Johnson Amendment came to be in 1954. 

I think this idea of an ever-changing Constitution, one that reflects a more modern society, became the tool that enabled attacks on religious freedom and led to horrific decisions that delivered severe blows to our life and liberty like, removing prayer from schools, legalizing “abortion on demand” and legalizing “same sex marriage”. If this movement has been progressive at all, I would say, “Sure, progressively worse.”

A belief in God was instrumental in the first settlers coming to America from Britain, as they sought relief from the Church Of England (which is why they felt is was so important to keep the government out of the matters of faith). They knew the damaging effects of the heavy hand of government having too much say on what the church believes and practices. They firmly wanted to keep the government out of church matters and religious freedom in the New World, not the other way around. And of course, that is what the Constitution reflects. It was not something they wanted to see being tinkered with everytime an ambitious new President and Congress got elected. That is why there was such a high bar for adding Constitutional Amendments. The Founders worked very hard to come up with language that would stand the test of time, not be marginalized and reconfigured every so often like the body style of a new Chevrolet. No, the Constituion was made to last. It was made to endure change and still be relevant.

What President Trump did today, was speak up for Americans who had been muzzled by their own government. Other groups who receive tax dollars from the govt. can speak politically without retribution. Planned Parenthood does it. Community organizations do it. Unions are non-profit and they certainly speak out politically. Heck, the political parties do it and they receive tax dollars to help fund their campaigns. So why should a church or religious organization not have the same right to free speech? 

You know, back when I first started watching the Flinstones, I really didn’t know what “bedrock” was. I thought it was just a funny name for a pre-historic city. Bedrock. It just sounds cool!! But I now believe that our core belief in God and our right to pray, worship, obey and serve the God or belief system we choose (including “none at all..thank you very much!!”) is the bedrock, the solid foundation on which our American society was founded and built.

For almost 100 years now, our religious freedoms have been under attack. And both Republican and Democrat Presidents have allowed it to happen on their watch (some more than others, of course). I am just thankful that President Trump said, “Enough is enough. It stops right here and right now.”

Let’s take a look at what some of our earliest Presidents had to say about our dependency, as a nation and a people, on God and religion:

“Whereas it becomes us humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God, with gratitude and praise for the wonders which his goodness has wrought in conducting our forefathers to this western world…and above all, that he hath diffused the glorious light of the gospel, whereby, through the merits of our gracious Redeemer, we may become the heirs of his eternal glory.” [from George Washington’s General Orders, November 27, 1779]

”Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean Hell.” [ from John Adams, a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Apr. 19, 1817.]

“If God is just, I tremble for my country.” [Thomas Jefferson]

“Heaven has given to every human being the power of controlling his passions, and if he neglects or loses it, the fault is his own, and he must be answerable for it.” [John Quincy Adams]

And there are many, many more quotes like that from almost every one of our Presidents.

The involvement of God in government and politics is not new. It has been there from the beginning. Why would you want to limit the free speech of any good and law-abiding Americans? 

What is there to be afraid of?

Belief in God is our foundation, our bedrock. 

Without it we will collapse.

BOB PALUMBO

(author of “Unlocking Creation”)

You Are A “TOP PICK”

I am writing this post on the morning of the first night of the 2017 NFL Draft. Ok, I admit it. I am a total “draft geek.” But in fairness, I live in Northeast Ohio and have been a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan. So to us, the NFL Draft every year, is our SuperBowl. I kid you not. In Cleveland, “draft fever” usually starts halfway through the previous season and continues to ramp up until Draft Day, when the excitement of the hopes of a brighter day for Browns fans and the stress level from the anticipation of another blown opportunity by the Browns decision-makers both reach the point of “boiling over.” This year you can add to the usual excitement the fact that the Browns have the #1 pick and that comes with the nervousness that they will screw it up yet again. In Cleveland, “hope springs eternal” because that is possibly how long it will take for the Browns to win a SuperBowl, if ever.

The NFL Draft, for those who do not follow such things, is not only a great example of how complicated it has become, these days, to field a winning professional sports team. But it also has become, for some, a total “sports season” unto itself. Think I’m kidding? There is baseball season, football season, basketball or hockey season and, yes, NFL Draft season. The NFL Network has a show, every year, called “Path To The Draft” and it runs for sixty days prior to the actual draft. And that is not the only programming sports channels like the NFL Network and ESPN crank out to keep NFL fans buzzing, even in the offseason.

The other part of this annual juggernaut, especially for the teams and the athletes themselves, is all the poking and prodding that takes place and how every measurable from these players is scrutinized almost down to the microscopic level. Height, weight, speed, jumping ability, wingspan, hand size (I am not making this stuff up), lung capacity, eyesight, hearing and who your mommy and daddy is. Then, it is all charted and documented and compared, in great detail, with the files of hundreds of other perspective players. And of course, these players get worked out over and over again. There is the Senior Bowl, the Scouting Combine, Pro Days and lastly, individual team workouts. I would be exhausted just from the travel required, leading up to the draft, let alone the workouts.

So as I sit here, chomping at the bit, with another nine hours to go until the first pick is made, my mind has wandered a bit…past the many looming decisions with real life-changing impact potential…such as “Garrett, Trubisky or trade down and gather more picks,” to wondering if there might be a spiritual illustration that can be drawn from all of this. I don’t know why my mind goes where it does. It just goes there and then I drag you folks along for the ride. Lucky you, right?

Jesus said the following words, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain..” [John 15:16]

Well, that is pretty interesting. Most of us, if we were asked, would probably say that we are the ones to whom God granted “free will” and that is up to us to come to a decision to follow or believe in God or not, not the other way around. But Jesus reminds us, here, that He has already chosen us from before the foundations of the Earth and our decision to turn from our own ways and follow Him is very much like getting an invitation to a wedding and then sending in your RSVP.  You have already been chosen. God is just waiting for your response. 

One more thing, before we move on, God is not choosing you or me so that we can produce some good things for a couple of years before the effects of age take over and we have “diminishing skills” (Cleveland fans know what I am alluding to, there). Jesus is saying that, yes, He wants us bear fruit, in other words produce good results. But He is also telling us that He wants us to produce the type of fruit that remains long-term, eternally speaking of course. What NFL team would not love to pick players that performed many great things for years to come? Unfortunately, that is extremely rare.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:10]

The difference, of course, with the way God goes about choosing those who are His, is that there is no need for all of the poking and prodding, forty yard dash times, bench press or long jump results. He, Himself, uniquely created each and every one of us in His own image. He knows us far better than any set of athletic tests or medical measurables could possibly reveal. As it says above… “that we should walk in them” (good works). So the Apostle Paul is saying, that even before we began to walk spiritually (or physically for that matter), the invitation was already in your “inbox.” You had already been chosen.

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates (Israel), or the gods of the Amorites (Israel’s enemies), in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” [Joshua 24:15]

“If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you…” Whoa. If we truly slow down long enough to allow this statement to soak in, it is not just baffling , but downright scary. This is not like, “Oh, it’s OK honey. If you don’t like broccoli, you don’t have to eat it. No biggie.” The verse above was actually God, Himself, speaking prophetically through Joshua. Saying “No” to this invitation was, in essence, turning down God Almighty. Can you imagine standing before God’s throne, seeing Him face-to-face, and hearing Him say, “Hey, if you have no desire to play on My team, so be it. But I would not advise signing up for the opposition. Oh, by the way, not accepting My invitation IS signing up for the opposition. There is no neutral ground. Everyone is “in the game.” To not play for one team, means you choose to play for the other. 

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods!” [Joshua 24:16]

It certainly didn’t take the Israelites long to figure out that saying “No” to God was probably a really bad idea. And it is not a good idea for you or I, either. So what does all of this mean? Is there some applicable correlation between the NFL Draft and our ability to connect with a living God, one who loves each and every one of us more than anyone on this planet ever will or ever could? Well, OK, here are a few things to think about:

1) Usually, to join an NFL team, you are either selected via the draft process, traded, or you sign as a free agent (in this scenario….the player chooses the team he wants to play for). God said that He has chosen us, we did not initially choose Him. We are basically “high draft picks” and since God does not play favorites, we are all #1 picks. SWEET!!!

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. [Isaiah 55:9] 

Hey, if God is willing to map out a better course for my life, I believe I would be foolish to say, “Nah, thanks God, I got this!!”

2) Again, if there is no neutral ground and “not playing the game” is not an option for any of us, if we are all going to stand before our Maker, one day, to give an account of what we did with our life, would you be comfortable saying, “Well, I tried my best to use the brain You gave me, Lord, and although I’m sure some of my decisions were not good ones, I hope the good out weighs the bad. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way. Doesn’t that count for something?” 

Or would you prefer to say, “Lord, I know I have sinned. I know I have screwed up, plenty of times. But based on the precious blood of Jesus Christ, I ask You to forgive me. I accept Your invitation of redemption, knowing I could never have earned it on my own. I am humbled and thankful that You loved me enough to choose to be with me, and me with You for all eternity.

I would just hope that all of us could realize one thing. Know that He has chosen you (whoever you are and no matter what you have done) and that in His eyes, you are without blemish, spot or wrinkle. You are perfect in His sight, all because of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, and that will never change, no matter what.

You are a “Top Pick”….made by God, Himself, and that is so much better than being a free agent could ever be.

Thank You, Lord!!!

And….GO BROWNS!!!

BOB PALUMBO

The Push Pull Predicament

My wife, Lauri Lee, and I are big fans of the hit TV show, “The Big Bang Theory.” For me, there is a lot to like about this sitcom, including the fantastic theme song written and performed by The Barenaked Ladies (the band…not real ladies without clothes). BTW..if you have not heard the full song..check it out..it’s really quite clever!! The interaction of the four main characters, all geeky brainiacs led by the two “chief geeks,” Sheldon and Leonard, and the women who love them (ok…maybe tolerate is a better word), make for a fun and witty brand of humor that offers the scriptwriters endless geeky questions to be explored, not unlike the universe we exist in, physically.

One of the other fun tidbits that add to the allure of the show is the episodes titles. They all sound very scientific or “tekkie-like” in that they sound like the name of a type of experiment or theory. Some of my favorites were “The Comic-Con Conundrum” “The Hawking Excitation”and “The Maternal Combustion.” So, naturally, I felt as compelled as a rock floating through outer space to choose a name for this post that could have easily “fit the mold” as one of their episode titles. Who knows? If the scriptwriters read this blog, it could be one for next season. I can already see, in my brain, how it might play out. Sheldon is apparently being pushed by some of his peers in the scientific world to take a position with more noteriety, probably at a university on the East Coast (maybe MIT?), while the gang tries to pull him back towards staying in California. In the end, he finally tells them it was all a joke with his signature snarky outburst….BAZINGA!!!

The storylines, of course, come mostly from a “scientific mindset” leaving little or no room for any plot points regarding questions of a Creator God or Intelligent Design. But that’s OK, it’s just a TV show. However, I would not jump too quickly to the conclusion that the concepts of “science” and “intelligent design” are somehow unconnected or “polar opposites.” There are actually far more “common threads” between the two than you might expect. For instance, this whole subject of “pushing and pulling” is one area where you might think the two fields of study were reading from the same book. Both are filled with plenty of examples of opposing forces working in concert, together, to achieve a greater good…crazy as that might seem.

One of the things that is happening more and more, nowadays, but is not being widely reported (for obvious reasons), is that many of the recent discoveries, due to technological advancement and the hard work of real research, have strengthened the case for intelligent design, not weakened it. Even Stephen Hawking (who actually has a reoccurring cameo role on this show, playing himself of course) now admits that Intelligent Design is “highly probable,” although he won’t go as far as suggesting what the source of the intelligence might be..be it a god, a alien life form or whatever. But, at least, he now concedes that “something cannot appear out of nothing” and that is a big step, for sure.

One of the more popular chapters in my book, “Unlocking Creation,” centers around a discussion about the two main forces that exist in the universe which have held things like suns, moons and planets in place and in a fixed orbit for as far back as we can measure time and beyond. And it appears that these two forces need to oppose one another in proper proportion for things to work as they were designed to. Say what? 

Here is what I wrote in Chapter Two of my book…a chapter called “Starry, Starry Night”:

So, we have a universe consisting of many galaxies. These galaxies have solar systems orbiting around inside them, each with a sun (which we would call a star) shining in the sky. Then each star, or sun, has planets rotating around it and each planet may have one or more moons orbiting around it. And all of these orbiting entities are on a pre-determined and constant path around the next bigger space rock. If you are like me, right about now, your head is spinning like a planet. In fact, I am getting a little dizzy!

Say “Hello” to gravity, which has now become the sworn enemy of dieters and folks who are aging everywhere. Gravity is what causes two masses to be drawn toward each other, or in the case of Earth’s gravitational pull, it causes things to be measurably drawn toward the center. It is why we can say some things weigh less or more. And you thought it had more to do with caloric intake or lack of exercise. Not so much, in the bigger picture of things.

We are not done here. Oh no, the equation also requires an equal and opposite effect, known as centrifugal force, that repels masses away from the center while gravity draws them toward the center. Push and pull. Isn’t it just like God to require two completely opposite powers to offset or balance one another, for things to work as they should?  “Oh, I don’t know, marriage comes to mind (he said, with a smile).” Remember that crazy comparison I made between the solar system and the atom? It should not be surprising that the same interaction between gravity and centrifugal force that keeps protons, neutrons and electrons offsetting each other, in a useful and orderly manner inside an atom, is the same interaction that keeps Saturn from smashing into Earth and sending us careening into the Sun, like an eight ball into the corner pocket. No assembly required. No tracks needed. And apparently no skyhooks available (to hang the planets from). But nothing is impossible with God, and He surely found a way to “Git R Done”, as Larry the Cable Guy would say. 

May the forces be with you.

There you have it…a real life, real time “Push Pull Predicament”. And it is one that not only has a scientific explanation to help make sense of it all, but a spiritual one, as well. I have said this before, many times, that if someone were to ask me to define what science is, I would say, “The analytical study of the things God has made.” Yes, there are natural and physical laws that govern the universe and everything in it. And they are more precise and reliable than the finest timepiece ever made by human hands. But who…or what made it so? 

As Mr. Hawking and others now agree, on both sides of the debate, something cannot appear out of nothing. So we can all be rest assured that someone or something caused it all to snap into place and has kept it “tick…tick…ticking along” for thousands of years that we know of, at least. If in fact there was a “big bang,” who or what lit the fuse (or made the fuse…for that matter)?  

Take a look around…we see day and night, waking hours and sleeping hours, food intake and waste elimination (hey..it’s all part of it), hot and cold, male and female, life and death (which some might say is a byproduct of male and female..just sayin’), faith and fear, angels and demons…and last but not least…good and evil, itself (that’s a biggie!!).

All of it leads to one giant question, in my mind. If God truly exists and if He, Himself, was the “intelligent designer,” why did He have to make everything so difficult? Why all the pain and suffering? Was all of this struggling and constant “pushing and pulling” necessary? My answer to that is, “Umm, yes and no.”

God’s original plan for us did not include all the anguish and opposing forces we now deal with in our lives. We have all heard of the Garden of Eden, I’m sure. The weather was great (heck they ran around naked all the time…it couldn’t have been too cold). The animals were friendly, not predators, and there was plenty of fruit and vegetation to feed on. Oh yeah, there was no sickness or death. So I would say God’s “Plan A” was pretty sweet and struggle-free. It does not appear that the Lord wanted His little ones to suffer.

But all that changed, of course, once Adam and Eve disobeyed Him and ate the forbidden fruit. But have no fear. God was not surprised by this at all and already had “Plan B” ready to roll. However, some nasty consequences came with it. Disobedience allowed “sin and death” into the picture and allowed for God’s enemy, Satan, to be permitted to become the tempter and persecuter of all mankind..for all generations…until the fullness of time had passed and the day of judgement arrives and God redeems those found to be worthy, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The payoff, here I’d say, is God desires for us to seek Him and love Him deeply, and He always has. But once sin got a foothold through the deception of God’s enemy, there were now two opposing forces at work….one pulling us towards God..and the other trying to push us in the opposite direction…away from God. Giving into either force has it’s consequences. One offers eternal life with God. The other results in eternal death (or separation from God).

Not surprisingly, the Bible actually comments on this predicament:

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” [James 4:8] 

Yep, you guessed it. More push and pull going on there. So it seems, as with Adam and Eve, the Creator has given us a choice. 

Truth be told, I believe that is why we are brought into this world in the first place.

To “seek Him while He may yet be found.”

TWO DOORS (Opportunity Knocks)

Last week, I told the story about how my wife and I were pursuing a dream of purchasing a vacation home to enjoy during our twilight years and I told you of how we were sensing that the Lord might be opening “a door of opportunity” unto that end. Of course, I also explained how that door was resoundingly closed when the bank denied our request for financing. It was a story that did not seem to have a happy ending, at the time. But both Lauri Lee and I believe that this story is far from over. 

God’s Word says, “Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of Your heart.”  [Psalm 37:4] That, of course, also means if we “Delight in the Lord,” first and foremost, the desires of our heart may change over time. And that is OK with us, too. Thy will, not my will, be done…Lord. We trust you.

Life pretty much is a series of doors, with or without God’s guidance. Some are open. Others are closed. And many times, we see doors that appear to be open, suddenly close (as we saw with Casa de Myrtle Beach). And it is not uncommon, as well, to see doors that seem firmly closed, even locked, suddenly open to us. Our part, in all of this, is to make wise choices regarding these doors. Just because a door is open, it does not mean we should proceed through it. I am sure you’ve found some open doors that led to very bad choices. I actually have had a knack for that, at times..LOL. And on the other side of the coin, we all have heard stories of doors that were clearly closed with seemingly little hope of them ever opening to us, suddenly opening after much persistence on our part (and likely…God’s help..of course). Life is made up of endless choices, countless doors. Some wide open. Some firmly shut. Nothing new there.

This week, I would like to tell you a story of another door that has suddenly flung open for me. It is not one that, at this moment, I have decided to enter through or walk away from. Right now, it is an simply an open door, one that looks pretty inviting. But is also not a door without consequences. In fact, I am not sure those doors even exist.

As most of you know, last summer I wrote and self-published my first full length Christian book, “Unlocking Creation.” That was a big decision, a door I thought and prayed a lot about before entering. But once the decision was made, I bolted through it to the best of my abilities, knowing the deck was stacked heavily against me. Most Christian authors, with the exception of those who write novels, are either pastors, professors, TV or radio preachers, or at least someone with a built-in following or audience. Publishers look for that. I had none of the above. I’m just a man who felt led to write down what God had shown him over the years and share it with those who may find it interesting or inspiring, even if that meant it would only be read by a couple hundred folks, mostly friends, family and friends of family. 

William Paul Young, author of “The Shack”, originally wrote that beautiful story for his kids. He only printed fifteen copies at OfficeMax, for his family and a few friends, at first. He was not looking down the road much farther than that. It was a small door, but he walked throught it and the rest is history…20 million copies sold and a hit movie now seen by millions. He never dreamt of such a thing, and he has a pretty vivid imagination. Likewise, with the writing of my book, I felt the same way. I frequently said, “My hopes are high, but my expectations are low.” I applied myself to write the best book that I possibly could. What would happen after that…well, that was up to the Lord. Totally.

So here we go, for the past couple of months I have been contemplating my options going forward. The book has only sold a couple of hundred copies, so far, and so now I only have a small amount of money left (from that which I allocated to this project) to promote it further. Promotion is necessary, but very expensive, to say the least.  Plus, I have already begun work on a second book which may or may not ever get published, depending on how this one ends up. What would be ideal, at this point, would be for my book to fall into the hands of a traditional publisher like, “The Shack” eventually did. Once a traditional publisher agrees to publish a book, they pay the author an advance (for writing it)…and then royalties on the sales, later. 

With self-publishing, as both Paul Young and I did at first, you pay the full cost of publishing, yourself, up front and hope to make it all back once you sell millions of copies (that is not how most self-published books end up…btw). I had no problem with making that investment, even though I had to take it out of our retirement savings. If I wasn’t willing to believe in this book, by putting some of my own “skin in the game,” how could I expect someone else to, right?

This past Tuesday, the phone rings, and the man begins to tell me they are a company that links new authors with traditional publishers and that my book was brought to their attention by their “book scouts” who look for new books by unknown authors that they feel have potential. They offered me the opportunity (an open door) to be a featured author, by their company, at one of the biggest book shows in the world each year, the Frankfurt International Book Fair (in Germany). Last year, over 140,000 publishers, book buyers and booksellers attended this show. These folks would be promoting my book (and any that might follow) to publishers, investors and booksellers from around the world. It is a huge opportortunity (open door), for sure. But, like everything in life, it is not a “free lunch.” There is a cost involved, just as with any type of promotion. So this is not a door I can run through without considerable thought, prayer and counsel. 

As a songwriter for many years, I have seen these types of “opportunities” before. Many times, they are “chocolate covered rocks.” They look inviting, but if you bite into one, you may break your teeth off. They don’t always end well. Open doors do not always lead to “gravy trains”, and to be honest I am not really looking for one. I would just like to be able to afford to keep writing, as the Lord leads. 

So here’s what I know for sure:

Lauri Lee and I are members of a local church, here in Northeast Ohio, called “Church Of The Open Door.” We obviously prefer open doors over closed ones. But we also know we also must be careful to choose wisely, before entering any door of opportunity.

Jesus said, “I am the door,” [John 10:9] and I believe that nothing good comes our way unless He chooses to provide it for us. It is through Him, that all blessings come.

He also said, “I have put before you an open door which no one can shut.” [Revelation 3:8] So, if it is indeed a door that God is opening, no one can shut it. The Myrtle Beach condo turned out to NOT be one of those at this time…and that is fine.

Then there was this promise, “Ask and it will be given give to you; knock and it shall be opened to you.” [Matthew 7:7] Well, I have certainly been asking for Him to grant opportunities, should He see fit to do so.  And this is the type of opportunity I have been praying and hoping for.

But it is it the right one, or just another “chocolate covered rock.” As I write this today, I do not know. Lots to consider. But at least it is an option to consider. I’d rather have one…than not have one. We’ll see. Time will tell.

But if I do decide to walk through that door, it will be a big step of faith like so many we all have to take at one time or another in our lives. They don’t usually hand out all the answers before a test, right?

The same is true of the more eternal questions of this life and the next one. These also require a step of faith…which is “hope in things yet unseen.”

Jesus said this, as well, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him…”  [Revelation 3:20] Talk about a major league opportunity, one that requires a choice to be made on our part. Jesus, the Lord and Creator of all things, is standing outside the door of each of our hearts….and He is knocking. He wants to come in and have a relationship with you and I. 

What will you do? Are you willing to open that door and ask Him in? He is waiting, but He will not wait there forever. At some point, we do not know when, we all run out of time. GAME OVER. To quote Noah, “This is one boat you cannot afford to miss.”

So, what am I going to do with this book opportunity? I do not know yet. But compared to the ultimate door, the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all of eternity opens, the book is “small potatoes.”

Let me take a moment, if I may, to wish you and yours a safe, happy and blessed Easter Weekend. 

HE IS RISEN……..HE IS RISEN, INDEED!!!

WHEN GOD SAYS “NO”

If you have been following this blog, over the last month or so (Thank You…BTW), you would know that my wife, Lauri Lee, and I were in Myrtle Beach last month for a few weeks looking at some condos that could be a nice place for our “winter getaways” and a vacation destination for family and friends. It is something we have been considering doing for five or six years, since I retired from full-time employment. We have looked at numerous places in Florida, as well as places in South Carolina like Lake Marion, Hilton Head and of course, Myrtle Beach.  We liked many of these locations, but Myrtle Beach seemed to “check all the boxes” for us and our family….one day drive…oceanfront…pleasant weather and lots of fun things to see and do. We thought it would be a great place to retreat and refresh..and cultivate some great family memories.

During this trip, we looked at a number of oceanfront condos, and we found two that we liked well enough to put an offer on. The first one was owned by someone with very serious health issues (in fact he was in the hospital at the time of our offer), so we never got a response to our offer. After waiting nearly a week, we looked at the second one which turned out to be really nice. We put an offer on that one, too, and after a few back and forths, we agreed on a sale price. So we headed home to get the funds together and we talked to a numbers of lenders who gave us their conditional “pre-approval”. We settled on putting an application in with the bank we have done business with for over twenty years. We were just going to increase an existing credit line (home equity) to make up the difference. Again, we were told it would most likely be no problem. We were excited.

On Sunday, Lauri Lee gets an email telling us our application has been denied. What??  I thought everything looked good, so did Lauri.  The bank just decided that since we were both retired now, we did not have enough income to justify that amount of increase. And sadly, they refused to include Lauri’s income from her rental properties, which we thought was unfair. But OK..fine..whatever. There you have it, the story of why the deal for the condo in MBSC fell through, at least that is the physical side of it.

But, of course as believers in God, we do not base our life just on the physical. There is also the spiritual ramifications to consider. We do our best to always “Commit our ways to the Lord…” and do “nothing of our own initiative,” just as Jesus does with His Father. We know God gives good things to His children. And, of course, we believe that He is a sovereign God, one who created all things and to whom all things belong, even you and me. So, it would be literally unthinkable for us to pursue something of this magnitude without first putting it in God’s hands and trusting Him with the outcome, no matter what.

Here is one of my favorite Bible verses, written by King David, a “man after God’s own heart”:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains; The world, and those who dwell in it.” [Psalm 24:1 NASB]

That seems pretty clear to me. Of course, I grew up in a home where my father often said, “Well, as long as you are living under my roof, you will abide by my rules.” So it is fair to say that I understood the concept of living within the boundaries set by a higher authority. That’s not to say that I never crossed them, but when I did, you bet there were consequences. LOL 

But of course, living under the authority of a “higher power” is not just about following or breaking rules. That is only one side of the coin. There are also great blessings and protections that come from being in relationship with a higher authority…be it a parent, a boss, the government, a pastor or even God, Himself. And that is the part that I am most thankful for.  

God blessed me with great parents. I have had some great teachers, some great bosses and some amazing “men of God” in my life…all of whom looked out for me and had my best interest at heart. They listened to my questions and complaints, at times, and had great advice for me while at the same time, setting positive examples for me to emulate. I honestly do not know where I would be, today, without them. And that is without even mentioning how blessed I was to be born in the greatest country in the history of the world. May God Bless America…and speaking of God, Himself…none of us would be here in the first place had He not desired to create a universe and a world for us all to live in. In fact my entire first book, “Unlocking Creation,” was all about that. So I won’t spend a lot of time on it here.

So OK, back to the subject at hand. If God was leading us towards buying this place in Myrtle Beach, why would He not allow the financing to go through? If we have been praying through all of these decisions for the last five or six years, why would we hit a wall now? Did God suddenly change His mind? Does He maybe know something that we don’t (there’s a “laugher”…ya think)?  Was He not involved in our searching and planning? Did He not hear all of our prayers? We thought we were looking to Him for direction in all of this. Why is He “tapping the breaks” now, just as we were about to arrive at our destination?

I am a long-time country music fan and when I have these kinds of questions, I tend to agree with so many other country music lovers who say, “In Garth We Trust” (just kidding, not getting sacreligious here). So many of his songs have such great messages. That is what I love most about country music, the words.  In 1990, Garth released an album called “No Fences,” and on this album was a song that actually was made into a movie some years later called, “Unanswered Prayers.” 

Here are the key words from this country classic:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers

Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs

That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care

Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

Sure, when we pray, we do not always get answers…at least not the ones we want. The song is about a guy who goes to a high school football game with his wife and he bumps into his old girlfriend from “back in the day,” and he instantly realizes how thankful he is now, that God did not grant his wishes back then. Even though at the time, he wanted it more than anything in the world. He realized that although he did not see it then, God had something much better in store for him. Had God answered those teenage prayers, which were sincere and fervent, he would have missed out on something much, much better (and his wife agrees…lol).

Our pastor, Dr. Jim Mindling, has a really great way of explaining the problem of unanswered prayers, or even what I might call “wrong-answered prayers”. He says it this way, “When God says ‘No’ or even ‘not yet,’ it is because He has a greater ‘Yes’ in mind for us.” I believe that with all my heart. If we say we believe in God, we need to trust that He knows best. He sees parts of the puzzle that we cannot see. He’s looking at the bigger picture and I am thankful for that. I believe it’s best to defer to His will in the matters of this life. Why wouldn’t we? He sees all. We don’t. I think we call that “having faith.”

So while it is true that God said, “No,” to our plans at this time, we truly believe there is a greater “Yes,” in the offing…..even if we do not see it at this time.

We trust You, Lord…Thy will be done.

And in that, there is much comfort, much peace.

It is so much better than trying to do it all on our own.

Been there, done that…..NO, THANK YOU!!!!!

WHY I WRITE

If you had talked to me exactly one year ago, today, I would have expressed no desire to write a book. Jump ahead just twelve months and I have a full length Christian book, “Unlocking Creation”, that’s been on the market now for six months. I started this blog, by the same name, where I have been cranking out a weekly post for about 8 months. Plus, I have already started writing a second book, title forthcoming, and I am about seven chapters into that one. So that is roughly 100,000 words of writing in about nine months. Surprised? Me too!!

Now, I am not saying any of that in a bragging or haughty way, not at all. But I think it leads to an obvious question. What would make a man or a woman, seemingly overnight, go from having no desire to commit to this amount of literary output, to writing all the time, almost daily, on various topics and a wide array of experiences. I can only think of one reason, and we will get to that a little later.

But before I let the “cat out of bag”, I should probably rewind the tape a bit. For most of my life, over forty years worth, I have been a musician and, more specifically, a songwriter. Like so many other musicians and songwriters, I can point to The Beatles appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 as “the accelerant” that caused the creative fires to ignite within me. What made The Beatles so unique, other than the cereal bowl haircuts and lapelless suits, was the fact that these guys wrote their own songs, both the words and music. That was very rare in those days. You had singers, and you had songwriters. Very few did both. 

I was nine years old at the time and I had already shown an interest in music. My parents talked about how I would often try to sing along with the TV or the radio. And two years before that, thanks to a door-to-door music lessons salesman (imagine that), I began taking accordion lessons, which later led to switching to the organ and piano and, later, guitar and bass. Accordion just was not cool enough, OK?

By the time I was sixteen, I was bound and determined to learn how to write songs. Like most songwriters, as with most skills really, my first fruits were a far cry from “Yesterday” or “Help”. You could say my early songs actually needed a lot of “help.” But there was one piece of advice I seemed to stumble on, over and over, as I read books and magazines on “songwriting,” and talked to others who had done it before. That advice was, “Stick with it, kid, just keep writing. The more you write, the better you’ll get at it.” 

Over those forty-plus years, I have written and recorded roughly two hundred songs in a bunch of different styles and genres, Pop, Rock, Country, Contemporary Christian and even worship music. I have recorded two full albums, years ago of course, and I have had two singles released to radio. And yes, they did get some airplay (not much), but most of it was overseas in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It’s true, I never had a lot of commercial success or got that “big break” I had hoped for. But I had a life full of exciting experiences and memories, I even met my wife through my music. So without that, the kids and grandkids I have today, they would likely not exist. I guess Rascal Flatts was right, “God Blessed The Broken Road” that lead me straight to my wife and my family. They are my “gold records” (although they refuse to let me hang them up on the wall…what’s up with that?). They are my earthly rewards, for sure. But, as life marched forward and the opportunities for my music and songwriting began to evaporate (for obvious reasons if you have seen my picture lately), those creative juices were still there and I began to look at other ways to keep writing and be creative. 

A couple years ago, the Men’s Group at my church asked me to start a Facebook page for the group, which I did. Some of the guys said they wish we had a Bible study so they could  get a better grasp on God’s Word. So I offered to take one chapter of the Bible each day and post a short commentary on it, which hopefully would lead to discussion. The guys seemed to enjoy it and we are now two years into it. That has been a lot of fun and a great learning experience, not just for the guys, but for myself, as well, because it forced me to dig deeper to find some gems to share with the men. It’s been great.


And I believe, more than anything else, that the Facebook page was the springboard the Lord used to propel me towards a decision to write “Unlocking Creation.” Through the Bible study, I discovered that I seemed to be able to take a variety of topics and find a few nuggets to share, hopefully, in a fun and engaging way. Are you feeling “engaged” right now? Hope so.

At the same time, I began to see God’s creation a little differently. I started wondering if, built into the designs of the things the Lord had made, like light vs. dark, hot vs. cold, even male and female….were there spiritual truths, or aspects of God’s true nature hidden right before our eyes that we could discover only if we chose to look close enough. As I found more and more of these “hidden truths”, I began to think, “You know, this might make for a really interesting book.” Not just one that believers would enjoy, but maybe someone who was curious and wanted to know more about God and the Bible would find it interesting, as well.

So, of course, I began to pray about it and I talked to a few pastors I’m friends with who had written books themselves. It would be a pretty big step for me, I thought, since I had never written anything of that size or scope before and I have never been a pastor or had formal education on this subject, or the Bible in general. Plus, I really had no “built-in audience” or followers to help me get off to a good start. I was completely unknown, as a writer, so I would be totally starting from scratch. But everywhere I looked and from everyone I talked to, it was “green lights as far as the eye could see.” Only one minor hurdle remained, I had to sit down and actually write a book worth reading. Gulp.

A few short months later, a finished and edited manuscript (thanks to some dear friends who helped with the editing) was off to the publisher and a month later, the book was released. As I look back at it now, everything happened very quickly once I decided to “go for it.” Isn’t that always the biggest hurdle, taking those first few steps?

So the answer to the question, “Why do I write?”, is probably twofold. The first is really, “Because I can.” All the things that have happened in my life have afforded me opportunities and experiences that I can draw from (I think they call it “old age”). And secondly, and most importantly, this is a place where I believe God was leading me. “How do I know that for sure?”, you ask. Well, no one can be 100% sure of this stuff, although I believe God confirmed my decision through a “multitude of counsellors,” as the Bible says. But beyond that, you have to know what you believe in your heart. Then, when a big decision needs to me made and you have “bathed it in prayer,” you step out in faith with confidence and passion and give it your best shot. 

Singer and evangelist Keith Green sang a song, years ago, with these words… “You just do your best…pray that it’s blessed…and He’ll take care of the rest.” And those words have stayed with me for over thirty years, and they sort of became a motto for for me.  And if Keith had not obeyed God, stepped out in faith and penned that song back in the 70s, who knows, my life might look very different today. The actions, or inactions, of one person almost always affects others, either positively or negatively.

That’s “Why I Write.” My book is not on any “best seller list” and I am pretty sure it will never be made into a movie, like “The Shack.” But that is not what it is about for me. Even if it only ends up selling twenty or thirty copies (OK…it is sold a few more than that…just sayin’), the potential is there for it to touch peoples’ lives and hopefully inspire them.

Many people have inspired me over the years, my parents, relatives, teachers, friends, pastors, authors and songwriters and musicians. I am very thankful for all of it. I am just doing the best I can to return the favor and “pay it forward.”

Doin’ my best, praying it’s blessed……and trusting Him to take care of the rest!!!

Beyond “The Cloud”

I am sure we all remember the images of what we would perceive to be an angel or angels, hanging out on a cloud (which was meant to imply Heaven…I guess). Usually the angel was playing a harp (not a blues harp….that’s a different picture) or shooting arrows of love at someone’s heart. While I am quite sure that is part of what angels actually do (Ok…not really…just funnin’ a bit)…for this week’s post, I want to focus more attention on that cloud, not the angel.

One of the things I find amusing with the passing of time, is how the meaning or general perceptions of certain words change over the years. I talked about this in my book, “Unlocking Creation.” The word “bad”, for instance, used to mean “not good.” Now it can actually mean “really good” in some settings and circumstances. “Cold” and “hot” were generally considered references to the weather or the temperature of food. Now “cold” can imply someone is “mean” or “evil” and “hot” can mean someone is really good looking or that a certain person or subject is very popular at the moment. And “love”, well that word used to be major league to the point that people (especially men…I get it) were actually afraid to say it until they were absolutely sure, because once you said it, everything changed from that moment forward. Now the word has been reduced to what it actually means in tennis, where “love means nothing,” and people now use it for everything, their favorite tv show, a movie, a band, a good book, a pair of shoes, a hat, you name it. Love has been reduced to what “like” used to mean, a certain fondness or something pleasurable. Is it any wonder that marriages, then, are failing at record rates? I know I’m not surprised.

The word “cloud” is another one that has taken on a drastically different meaning in recent years. Now when you hear it, you don’t think of angels playing harps. You generally think of a place, which for all we know could be in mid-air somewhere or out in space, where all of our digital information and communications are being stored…aka “cyberspace”.  Right now, I am writing these words on a cloud. If and when you read this post, you will be reading it from a cloud. Hopefully that will be on a relatively clear day, not a rainy day, because it is much easier to read black print on a white background, rather than a grey one…..just sayin’.

The world was quite different back in 1975 when the first “personal computer,” the MITS Altair 8800, came out. Then, a year later, an upstart company named Apple introduced the Apple I (both of these were kits you had to build yourself). And then five years later, in 1981, IBM came out with the first IBM PC…and it was off to the races. Of course these early machines were basically electronic typewriters and adding machines. They really did not do too much, other than that. Ok..there were a few games, but nothing to skype home about. There was no personal internet access to be had back then. That didn’t really catch on until about ten years later, in the early 90s, when programs like AOL (which was really “America On Line”…remember that?) became popular. Then it was another decade and a half until the first iPhone hit the market in June of 2007 (hard to believe it has only been ten years, right)? From that moment on it was “Katie bar the door.” By the time a new product was released to the public, it was already obsolete. That is how quickly technology was changing.

Also, in the beginning stages of personal computing, our digital information was stored right on our computer’s hard drive. Once the interent became popular, we could transmit our data via a modem connected to our telephone lines. But, the data was merely being sent from our computer to another. As we stepped into the 21st century, the world took another giant leap from using home computers with larger and larger hard drives needed for storing larger and larger amounts of personal digital information, to what we now all “cloud-based computing” where more and more developers are creating apps (i.e. programs) that allow us to connect directly to a huge computer, called a server, and we can do the same work and store it all online. This has made us less dependent on software and the available memory space inside of our own personal computers and phones. And this allows us to work and save our work on these massive servers. I like to think of it as “tapping into a higher power.”

I’m sure, by now, you have probably guessed where I was heading with all of this computer chatter. Back at the dawn of creation, as God was speaking the universe into existence, He already had intended human beings to be able to interact with “a higher power” and believe it or not, even way back when, it was via a wireless connection. How about them apples, Mr. Jobs and Mr. Gates?

From Day One, we were created with tons of “built-in apps” programmed to be able to both transmit and receive data from a “Master Server” (yep..I went there). It was not just possible to rely less and less on our own “internal intelligence” to solve problems and make decisions, it was also strongly suggested that we do not go it alone, if we know what’s best for us. Not only does interacting with this “higher power” we call God protect us from our own internal errors and memory crashes, in the present, it helps us with our past and future endeavors, as well.  I think that King Solomon may have actually forewarned us about these things, thousands of years ago:

Proverbs 3:5-6, 8 Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones. [Proverbs 3:5-6, 8]

And not unlike the words of Solomon, I believe it brings healing to our bodies and refreshment to our bones (at least, less stress, anyway) to have our digital information stored safely “in the cloud” and always there when we need it, even if our computer or phone crashes and we need to get a new one. That’s valuable progress, I’d say.

So, how much more comforting should it be, then, to be able to place all of your past, present and future realities into the strong and secure hands of the One who designed it all and knows how it works best, in the first place. 

If you were in the process of making  a critical “life or death” medical decision for yourself or a loved one, and you had a chance to counsel with doctor or surgeon who was highly regarded and greatly qualified to give advice based on decades of experience in this area of expertise, wouldn’t you want to?

In addition to all of that, if 24/7/365 customer support was available to help you interact with and get the most out of this “cloud-based life application,” wouldn’t that be another great source of comfort and make you more willing to put your faith in it (or Him)? Well actually, there is. Here is what the Apostle John wrote about this, quoting  Jesus, Himself:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” [John 14:26]

There you have it. God not only offers us His wisdom, His advice and His help, He has given us a part of Himself, the Holy Spirit, as our personal mentor and helper. And to get connected, all we have to do is ask, just as Jesus promised us two thousand years ago:

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” [Luke 11:13]

Folks, what God is offering you through Christ is far beyond what any cloud (physical or electronic) or computer can offer. He is offering everyone of us the opportunity to become a child of the living God and to have a real and permanent relationship with Him that is far greater than any parent-child relationship the world has ever known.

Why anyone would not want that is beyond me….or should I say….beyond “the cloud.”