What’s So ‘Happy’ About the New Year?

It’s 2016 and to be totally honest, I’m having difficulty with the “Happy” part of the New Year.  Sure, I have a LOT to be thankful for.  I’m into my 8th year of transplant, I have a wonderful family, God has preserved and protected us for another year and there are many other reasons to be extremely grateful.  However, the more I think about it gratitude and thankfulness are choices and being “happy” is a byproduct of making those choices, it does not generate or create them.

New Year 2016

The dictionary defines ‘happy’ in these terms:

happy |ˈhapē| adjective (happier, happiest) feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.

I don’t want to feel or show pleasure or contentment, I want to BE content and I don’t want to find pleasure in things but in pursuing God and loving people.

 (happy about) having a sense of confidence in or satisfaction with (a person, arrangement, or situation)

Yes, but the only person I want to place confidence in or have satisfaction with is Jesus.

 (happy with) satisfied with the quality or standard of.

Satisfaction vs. contentment here.  For me satisfaction is settling, contentment is choosing, no matter the circumstance.

2016 will be a year of choices.  There is SO much happening in the world today that would give us ample reason to NOT be happy.  Worry about the future, or what the next catastrophic event might be, or the ever-increasing worldwide violence, political and social issues and a host of other reasons to be unhappy with the prospect of a new year.

In 2016 I choose…

  1. Faith over worry
  2. Prayer over fear
  3. Gratitude over whining
  4. Facts over feelings
  5. Love over hate
  6. Work over idleness
  7. Understanding over distrust

In 2016 I want to…

  1. Read more, speculate less
  2. Give more, complain less
  3. Help more, hurt less
  4. Study more, assume less
  5. Ask more, judge less
  6. Walk more, sit less
  7. Discover more, gaze less

Bring it on 2016!  Yes, this year will bring challenges.  Yes, this year will bring heartache and loss.  Yes, this year will bring tragedy.  Yes, this year will feature the unexpected.  Yes, this year will bring good things. But  no matter what this year may bring, my happiness will not come from circumstances or any external event.

The ‘happy’ part of my new year will be from me choosing that which won’t depend on my happiness, but on my choices!




In Defense of Self Defense

I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent wave of shootings where police have shot and killed a suspect.  While the airwaves, websites and the print press have been filled with opinions, op-eds, blogs, talking heads, political and social pundits espousing their thoughts on the subject, not much has been mentioned regarding one of the key factors in involved a shooting, police, military or otherwise.


Along with adrenaline comes a plethora of associated issues such as, reaction time, training, psychological and emotional trauma and many other topics that are rarely, if ever mentioned by the press.

I was listening to a ‘progressive’ news station online the other day and the subject of police brutality was the topic. This news commentator was berating the officer in Chicago, and other officers who shoot supposedly unarmed suspects.  This one host made a less-than-educated attempt at portraying all police officers as wanting to just shoot and kill.  The host obviously had NO clue about any kind of police training or what actually goes into the decision to shoot and potentially end another human beings life.
Police Car lights
So, I decided to do some research, and while I’m no expert, by a LONG shot, I am somewhat aware that firing a weapon in any kind of circumstance is not something anyone takes lightly, especially those who are highly trained to do so.  Years of training, both hypothetical and situational are required prior one serving as a police officer or military personnel.
There were three subjects that quickly jumped out at me while reading material on the subject of using weapons in a confrontational setting.

Reaction time, the psychology and physiology involved in shooting and the accuracy of firing a weapon.  Again, ALL three of these have adrenaline at the core of their effects and affects.

I’ll summarize in the vernacular, to avoid technical jargon.

Reaction time.  Basically, its been proven by scientific study that police officers have a slower reaction time than their subjects and this happened 60% of the time!  With those kind odds, who would blame police officers from reacting BEFORE it’s too late?  In fact the article stated in its conclusion, “This study does reinforce the notion that you cannot react quick enough to beat an act.”  (Blue Sheepdog, Reaction Time – Police Shooting Study)
Psychology.  Won’t go into a lot of detail here, but we are all quite aware of PTSD both in combat and law enforcement.  The study I read stated, “Killing is normally a difficult thing to bring someone to do.”  Well, duh, but we have developed ways to kill that lessen the affect on one’s psychological and physiological condition, the study says.  However, one also experiences drastic reactions to killing another human being, including but not limited to, nausea, guilt, loss of bowel or bladder control, PTSD, distance and depth-perception distortion, plus you experience things in slow-motion, and the list goes on and on.  Suffice it to way, when a policeman, or anyone, makes the decision to pull their trigger it is never a ‘pleasant’ or ‘enjoyable’ moment.  It is also never un-calculated.  (From, Beyond Intractability, On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace)
police office shooting

Accuracy. And finally, a lot has been made of how many shots were fired when taking down a subject.  It was interesting to me to read about the accuracy rate of police when they do fire their weapon.  A New York Times article, focused entirely on the New York City Police Department, stated, “In 2005, officers fired 472 times…hitting their mark 82 times, for a 17.4 percent hit rate. They shot and killed nine people that year.”  

Raymond W. Kelly, the New York Police Commissioner at the time went on to say, “When you factor in all of the other elements that are involved…the adrenaline flow, the movement of the target, the movement of the shooter, the officer, the lighting conditions, the weather…it is a high rate when you consider all of the variables.”  (From, New York Times, December 9, 2007,  A Hail of Bullets, a Heap of Uncertainty)

Basically, the New York Times article is supporting the argument that you must factor in a host of factors when you look at the number of times an officer might fire their weapon in a given situation.

One article I read also mentioned that a police officer is not just protecting themselves in an aggressive or hostile situation with a suspect, but he is protecting the whole of society, innocent bystanders, and others who might be in harms way.

My simple conclusion in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, and a host of others who stand in opposition to police brutality is this; let’s stop berating and start educating.  It does not do any good to attack those who protect us.  They have families to go home to just like you do, and no one could ever know how many lives they’ve saved by using lethal force.

Facebook Epiphany

Today I deactivated my Facebook account.  This wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction, I put some time and prayer behind my decision and decided it was time to ‘cut the cord’ to what I realized had slowly been becoming a Facebook addiction.  For me however, it was more than an addiction, it was beginning to effect my thinking and shape my perspective.


Facebook was becoming my source of identity.  I was gathering opinion and then spewing my own take on a thought or subject without a lot of thought or research.  It also gave me a platform from which I could speak my mind, and heart, with not much fear of recourse from anyone.  After all, I could ‘defriend’, or block anyone who disagreed with me or was rude, or ugly toward me.  Kind of cowardly, don’t you think?  I could hide behind my Facebook mask.  It was making me appear to be something I was not!

But the real crisis point came when I realized I was using Facebook to espouse some rather harsh views which were birthed out of my own fears.  Fears of the future, fears of the world’s upheaval, fears of the actions of certain individuals or groups, and the fear that others weren’t paying enough attention to all that is transpiring in the world today.  I guess I thought it was up to me to sound the alarm and expose the truth.


You could say I was transferring my fear on everyone else through my posts and seeking out approval for the way I was thinking and responding.  I’ve come to realize this WAS NOT healthy for anyone, especially me. There was so much that had been swirling around in my mind lately, regarding the state of the world, eschatological events, terrorism and other things that were, in reality out of my control.  Yes, they were frightening and real to me,  and I took it upon myself to let everyone else know how real my fear was.  I was also expecting them to be just as alarmed, that wasn’t working either.

I desperately needed to find a better way to relieve this fear, angst, and inward turmoil.  I desperately needed to re-focus myself on what IS important.  I needed to learn to trust and keep quiet and listen.


That’s when my mind was drawn immediately to Scripture, Philippians Chapter 4 to be exact.  Paul is writing to the church at Philippi which was experiencing persecution.  They were afraid, scared and in fear for their lives.  In an effort to encourage them to remain faithful to the faith, he offers this portion of his letter to help center them.  To help them battle unbelief and center their hearts and minds.

I needed this passage!  And what I’ve found to be so beautiful about what Paul writes is that it is a multi-stage process.  In verse 4 he exhorts them to rejoice.  Rejoice?  When fellow believers were being killed?  In verse 5 he exhorts them to be gentle.  Gentle?  When those who were persecuting their number were anything BUT gentle?

Then, in a two paragraph section (verses 6-9) he lays out how they are to accomplish all of the above.

First he tells them to not be anxious.  The words “be anxious” (Greek, merimnao), can refer to being unduly concerned about anything.  That was me!  I was concerned about things I could not control and fearful because I couldn’t.

Then he tells them to pray and through that, let the peace of God rule, or guard, their hearts and minds. (v. 7)  The term “guard” (Greek, phroureo) is a figure drawn from the arena of conflict and is frequently used to refer to the action of a military garrison stationed inside a city.  In other words, there wasn’t anything that was going to disturb their peace of mind!


And next the beautiful admonition;  “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

The impact of this admonition is probably best explained in an NIV commentary I read, which states;

He (Paul) tells the Philippians to look for the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy everywhere around them and to ponder the things in which these qualities are exemplified. Perhaps Paul knows that since the Philippians are being persecuted by the society around them, they will be tempted to reject everything outside the church as indelibly tainted with evil. If so, then this list, with its admonition to look for the virtue (arete; niv “excellent”) in the wider world, reminds the Philippians that, although society sometimes seems hostile and evil, it is still part of God’s world and contains much good that the believer can affirm.

I’ve decided to focus on things that reflect the above qualities and as the Psalmist said, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth!”  (emphasis added)

90 Years a Life

Today my mom would have been 90 years of age.  Last year she passed; a little over 3 months after her 89th birthday, following a diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer.  My mom was no ordinary mom.  I know everyone says that but it was driven home to me once my family and I started going through her belongings following her passing.

We had over 60 years of family treasure to dig through in her house.  No, she never had a lot of money, just a lot of memories.  Every piece of the past we found spoke of family, events, love, joy, hope and were testaments of a life that treasured the little things that really matter in this breath of a life we have on earth.

old attic-rocking chair

I’m an adopted child, an only child, and my mom’s propensity to hold onto EVERY piece of schoolwork, artwork, hand-scribbled drawing or whatever I did was evidence of that fact!  There were literally boxes of my stuff we had to go through.  We knew she had many miscarriages before deciding to adopt.  We found record after record of the pre-adoption and adoption process.  We knew my mom, and dad, wanted a child to the point of sacrificing a good slice of their life, time and money to find the one God had for them.

I’ve always been grateful for the gift of adoption and forever thankful that God had placed me in such a loving, caring and nurturing family.  I knew my parents loved me. I never realized the depth of that love until I started unearthing ALL of the ‘artifacts’ of my mom’s life.  It was then I saw, and read, her deepest thoughts and desires.  She literally poured her life into mine and probably to a fault, set me on a bit of a pedestal; at least in her mind.

But it didn’t stop there.  My mom was a frugal and WELL organized person.  My dad passed in 1976 and for that time period, left her fairly well off; at least enough to not have to worry about her financial situation.  My mom worked several full-time jobs following my dad’s death.  She worked at K-Mart, a theme-park bakery and other miscellaneous places.  Once she stopped working full-time she began helping prepare meals for elderly or handicap people who couldn’t cook or get out for themselves.

My mom was always giving to others.  She gave to Disabled Veterans, the Humane Society, her church and a myriad of other organizations; all while living on a minascule retirement income and Social Security.  She had NO credit card debt and always paid her bills on time.  Her finances were in good order, very detailed and she kept good records!  She even had all but $1000 of her funeral expenses covered.

But her life was about more then fiscal integrity, sacrifice and organization.  Her life was, and will continue to be, a testimony of a life that finished well.  Not a luxurious life by ANY stretch.  Not a lavish life.  Not a frivolous life.  Not an eccentric life, but a life of love, joy, peace, perseverance, faithfulness, patience, self-control, kindness, goodness, gentleness.

Hmmm, sound familiar?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  

(Galatians 5:22-24 NIV)

Happy Birthday mom, the legacy of your life still lives on.  You are a wonderful example of a mom and shining example of how we should live our lives.

You finished well, are loved and greatly missed.

A Query Of Queer – Does Love Really Win?

The recent SCOTUS decision regarding gay marriage in the U. S. lit up the blogosphere this past month!  If you follow any bloggers, like I do, you saw it for yourself.  I think what happened last month has had more words written about it than anything I’ve seen recently.  Maybe Ferguson, MO, Charleston, SC for sure, but not by much.  This is most certainly a hot button issue.  So, here goes my ‘two cents’ worth, for whatever it’s worth.

LGBT_FlagSeveral thoughts have been buzzing through my head, some as questions, others as commentary regarding the specific subject of gay marriage.  I’ll steer clear of the broader subject of homosexuality as others have eloquently and brilliantly written on the subject from the theological perspective MUCH better than I could.

Here’s a scenario for the LGBTQ community at large (although somewhat rhetorical, I’d LOVE to engage in conversation over coffee with someone from the LGBTQ community about this.)

If the LGBTQ community is ultimately convinced that the homosexual lifestyle is paramount to the heterosexual lifestyle and that it should be ‘the norm’ not the exception, then what do we do with procreation of the human race?  For example, let’s say that over 5000 years ago there was no Adam and Eve.  Or, it you are not into creationism, there was no mechanism in place for cellular reproduction of any kind.  Then what happens from then to now?  To men, or two women, or two male species, or two female species appear in time.  They die, THE END.  That’s it, NO procreation, NO regeneration of the human race, period.  What do you do with that?  There would nothing.  No other animal species, no human race, no ‘us’.  THE END.adamandeve

So why then does the LGBTQ community push so hard for their lifestyle to be accepted as normal?  Why do we see so much negative aggression from the LGBTQ community to push their agenda on those of us who are heterosexual?  Don’t get me wrong, if you’re gay and want to marry by all means I think you should be able to.  But don’t go to a minister who you know opposes your desires and refuses to perform your wedding and then take him and perhaps the church to court to sue them, etc.

gayweddingIf I wanted an minister to perform my wedding ceremony and they said, “No, I can’t” I’d move on to someone else.  Not pitch a little fit about the fact they can’t and then proceed to drag them through the mud.  It’s because the LGBTQ community is about more than just ‘fitting in’ to society.  They want to make as much noise as possible regarding their cause and belittle and discredit anyone who stands in their way.

And the issues of wedding cakes, photographers, churches that will not host a homosexual wedding.  Here’s an idea for LGBTQ community, go to a business that will actually CATER to you.  (no pun intended).  Lawsuits against those who won’t serve you?  Can you be serious?  What is your true intent?  Again, it’s not about equality, it’s about a social agenda, a radical one at that which attempts to alter your morals and chosen lifestyle and have them conform to the homosexual communities practices.

If you’re member of the LGBTQ community ask your self this question, “If “love wins” then what am I doing to live that out in a predominately heterosexual world.?”  From where I sit, I see more hate from the LGBTQ community when it comes to their agenda.  They say “love wins”, but I think in the end they want their agenda to win.

The Church and Cheers

If you grew up on TV in the 80’s and early 90’s you are most likely VERY well familiar with the sitcom Cheers.  You remember the lovable and quirky characters, Sam Malone, the bar’s owner, chief bartender, former baseball player and ladies’ man, who had an on-and-off again relationship with Diane, the grad student.  Then there was Rebecca, Cheers owner/manager after a buyout by the company she worked for.


There many ‘wacky’, yet affable characters that filled the bar on a regular basis,  as both employees and patrons.  There was Carla, the sarcastic waitress, beer-loving accountant Norm, know-it-all postman Cliff.  Then there was small-town, and sometimes clueless, Woody Boyd,  Frasier Crane, the psychiatrist, Lillian Sternin, an incredibly cold and placid psychiatrist and Coach, who eventually dies.

Cheers was a microcosm of society.  Losers, ‘wannabes’, misfits, has-been’s and those who were in search of their true identity and place in life.  The theme song for Cheers expressed the feelings of everyone who was caught up in this fish bowl of a bar.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. 
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. 

Wouldn’t you like to get away? 

Sometimes you want to go 

Where everybody knows your name, 
and they’re always glad you came. 
You wanna be where you can see, 
our troubles are all the same 
You wanna be where everybody knows 
Your name. 

So, what can we learn from Cheers that we could apply in the church today?  What lessons could we take from the way the characters in the bar related to each other?  What might be missing in the church today that one kind readily find in a bar like Cheers?


I think some of what we could take away is found in the lyric of the Cheers theme song.

Here are what will hopefully be some thought-provoking questions that you could ask of your church, or ministry.

Is the church really a place that folks go to escape the worries of this world, the pressures of every day life, or do people see the church as a place that is full of judgmental and even hateful individuals who are not accepting of someone that thinks differently, dresses differently, or is an outcast of society?

Is the church a place where ‘everybody knows your name’, or are you just a face in the crowd?  

Is the church a place where people are ‘really glad you came’?

Is the church a place where we sit down and talk about our troubles?  Or, do we come and go and never really dive into life with each other?

It seems that there is more of life that was shared around the bar in Cheers that EVER gets shared within the wall of our churches.  Sure, have fellowships, we have programs, we have events and BIG services, but we never just pull a chair, grab a drink, and make people feel like they’re glad they came.  We don’t seem to share life the way the characters in the Cheers bar did.  They loved each other, they got involved in one another’s lives.  When one person hurt, they all hurt.  When one person was down, everybody tried whatever they could to cheer them up.  They were a family, a close-know family that were well of each others faults and shortcomings, yet loved even still.  

They cried together, they celebrated together, and did as Scripture exhorts us to do in Galatians 6:2-3, Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”  Or Romans 15:1-2 says, We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”

One thing you quickly notice about the characters in Cheers, they do share in each others lives and are genuinely concerned for the welfare of others.  Do we do that in our churches today or do just shuffle in and out of our building never

2014 in review

Hoping to make 2015 an even better and more productive year for blogging!  Thank you, this is very humbling and I am grateful.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 22 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Hump Day, New Year’s Eve and Change.

Started thinking that if Hump Day is the beginning of the end of the work week, that it’s the day of the week that catapults you into the weekend, then maybe New Year’s Eve is synonymous to Hump Day in that it’s THE day of the year that catapults you into the New Year.  My analogy probably breaks down at some point, or maybe it already has, but for me, Hump Day is to the week, as New Year’s Eve is to the year; they represent days that are agents of change.
They each represent a shift, at the least a shift in perspective, perhaps a shift in thinking.  I do realize that New Year’s Eve IS the penultimate day of the year, and that Wednesday is not the penultimate day of the week, but stay with me.  This post is more about the change that each of these days represent, not where they are positionally.
To being further exploration, let’s get into some formal definitions of the word ‘change.’
Change -noun.  the act or fact of changing; fact of being changed; a transformation or modification; alteration.
Change – verb. to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc.,
of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.
I would like to focus more on the noun change, rather than the verb, although both definitions will come into play.  Found this great quote, that I will base some of my thoughts on.  Just like Hump Day, or our annual New Year’s ritual of making resolutions, we hang the things we want to change on some kind of external affect, or some external force.
But according to Socrates, true change won’t come through that kind of influence.
Socrates quote on changeInstead of looking at the ‘now’, or looking over our shoulder to the past, look ahead.  Sure, the old is gone, the new has come, and it is only human to think, “Whew, I’m glad this or that is behind me”, but we tend to base our forward progress on where we’ve come from, not where we’re heading.
A verse in Scripture says it like this, “And Jesus said unto him, “No man, having put his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62.
There is a passage in Isaiah 50 that talks about “setting your face like flint”, while this is speaking of Christ and His determination to fulfill his purpose by dying for us, I think it also speaks to how resolute we should be in all things we feel compelled to accomplish.
Sure, change can come from external forces, such as things that come into our lives unexpectedly, or unwontedly.  Death, illness, some catastrophic event, loss of finances, divorce, loss of a job, and other things will change us, that is a given.  It’s how we react to these things that determines what kind of person we are and what kind of change these things will affect.
“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”  – John Green, The Fault In Our Stars.
I heard someone say once that people will not judge you by your actions but by your reactions.  So very true!  Our reaction to unwanted change, or any change for that matter, will reveal who we truly are.  Socrates quote on change
But I believe there is a true change that is also brought about by some kind of catalyst that pushes us to discover who we really are, or pushes us to explore things we’ve never explored, desires we’ve never followed, or to become the person we’ve always wanted to be.  We can easily be lulled into the complacency of who we are, or what we do and never take the dive into something new, something that deep down we’ve always desired to do, or be.
It’s often change that IS the catalyst, whatever, or whenever it invades our lives.  It’s the upheaval in our life that literally pushes into change and it too often happens when we are most unaware.  And that’s what I believe makes it SO great!  If we sat around thinking about the change, or changes, we wanted to make in our lives and never acted upon them, then we would most likely find ourselves exactly at the same spot in our thinking a year, or two later.  The catalyst for change is many times change itself!  Wonderful irony!
change quote-if you want something you've never had
So take this double-whammy of Hump Day and New Year’s coinciding and use that as the impetus for your change.  Don’t focus on it as the motivating factor, take it as a motivating factor.
Set your face like flint, keep your hand to the plow and DON’T look back!

The Weight of Waiting

I usually find myself creating a couple of blogs this time of year, and since I’ve been laid up from some end-of-the-year surgery, I thought I’d go ahead and get started.  You’ll have to forgive me if all of this sounds a bit melancholy, dark or depressing, I guess that’s where my mind and heart are right now…who knows why.  It’s always this time of year, the whole classic ‘out with the old, in with the new’ part of each year, that sends my soul searching, wondering, and experiencing a bit of forlornness that I don’t experience the rest of the year.


This final week of the year, the cusp of a New Year and the dregs of the old, is a span of time that seems to almost stand still for me.  Not sure why, but I think some of it has to do with the weight of the past year that is heavy upon me and the anticipation, waiting and expectation of the New Year.

It’s this time of EVERY year, I think about the things that weren’t accomplished during the course of the year.  The setbacks, the missed deadlines, lost opportunities, times of illness, loss of a loved-one, loss of a friend; lethargy and even some despondency, are all crushing in on me.  In fact, I find myself thinking back not just through this year but at times, my WHOLE LIFE during this time of the year!  Then the weight presses in on me even more.  I will break free from this captive way of thinking eventually but for now, it’s where I am.

Emerson asks the question, “How much of human life is lost in waiting?”  And I wonder about how much of our ‘lost life’ we spend time contemplating?  I know, I know, you can’t live your life looking backwards, or wondering about what ‘might have been’ but I feel it’s more like taking stock, or making an inventory of things in our lives.  And if it makes you better for it, then I see no harm.  It can, and usually will, make us better AND stronger.


The Bible certainly speaks to taking an account of our lives. Galatians 6:4 “But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.”  You’ll also find lots of Scripture in regards to perseverance, and patience, too many to list here.  I believe it’s a combination of allowing ourselves the ‘dark times’ of contemplation, and observing, that we can then step into the light of a life that is better lived and perhaps, richer.

Waiting?  Can’t stand it.  A sober assessment of all things?  Bring it on!

But could someone get this elephant of waiting off my chest please!