Annoying Air Bags

BlowhardDue to safety and environmental concerns, Toyota has recalled 3.37 million cars.  The recall involves 2.87 million cars due to faulty emissions control units. Another 1.43 million vehicles are included to repair air bag inflators that could be ineffective.  Of the 3.37 million, Toyota thinks 930,00 of them may be affected by both defective units.

Several years ago I witnessed an event that led me to a conclusion:  Most defective air bags have faulty emissions control units.

While I was in college, I was a frequent spectator at the Texas Rangers games.  At one of these games, a rude air-bag-of-a-man strutted by me, and He was wearing a shirt with an imprint that was much too vulgar to be worn in public.  This defective airbag had some real problems with his emissions control system, and he turned the air blue with his profanity.

Before the second inning started the security guards were recalling this air bag.  He was ushered out of the stands with blood gushing from a gaping wound that was the result of a frustrated father’s attempts to preserve the innocence of his son.

Defective air bags are characterized as a person who is foolish or boisterous:

  • The woman of folly is boisterous, she is naive and knows nothing (Proverbs 9:13).
  • A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son, heartache to his mother (Proverbs 10:1).
  • The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness (Proverbs 15:2).

The need for emissions control predates the advent of the auto.  Paul admonished the church at Ephesus to manage their manners and to watch their words: “Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29).”

I’ll leave you with a thought that might help you with your emissions control: Profanity is the weapon of the witless and a weak device to support an even weaker argument.

When the Stars Shine Bright

sky2_1552774iI’ve been told that the English language can be difficult to comprehend due to the multiple definitions a single word can have.

As an example, think of the word “light.” It can be used in many different ways:

  • The speaker shed some light on the subject.
  • Her suitcase was heavy, and she wanted to lighten her load.
  • He turned on the light switch, so he could see.

Light can also:

  • Bring comfort when a person is frightened
  • Be discomforting when it reveals a secret
  • Guide us or help to give direction: Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).

Many years ago, I had a conversation with Richard Gregory concerning his time in the navy. When the ship was sailing under a “lights out order,” an officer would summons Richard to the deck. Richard could look at the stars at night and tell the officer what time it was.

Richard could do this because he was a student of astronomy, and he had memorized four important landmarks in the night sky:

  • The 0-hour circle
  • The 6-hour circle
  • The 12-hour circle
  • The 18-hour circle

Richard’s ability to comprehend the night sky was a benefit to his shipmates. It not only told them the hour of the night, but it also helped to guide the ship.

In I John 2:5, John used a word that is meaningful to our discussion: “Whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected.” The word “keeps” was a nautical term. Sailors in John’s day, would speak of “keeping the stars,” or charting their course at night by the stars.

The Star that shines more brightly than any other is the one that Peter referred to as the “morning star,” and He is the one to follow:

We ourselves heard God’s voice from heaven when we were with Jesus on that holy mountain. We have a fuller confirmation of the message of the prophets. You would do well to pay close attention to this word; it is like a light that shines for you in the darkness of night until the day dawns when the morning star rises in your own hearts.

~2 Peter 1:18-9

Think about it: You can lighten your load, brighten your path, and find your way through the darkness when you chart your course by the light of the Morning Star.

The Him Line

bill-cunningham-citra-embedFashion is not my forte, and I’m certainly not the model image of a fashion model from GQ.  I do, however, know enough about fashion to know that Bill Cunningham, the legendary photojournalist for The New York Times, died on Saturday.

Cintra Wilson paid tribute to Cunningham in a timely article in GQ when she described the white-haired octogenarian on a Schwinn bike as a man who, “seemed to have a kind of quantum-mechanical ability to suddenly be at any location in New York City where an act of fashion was being committed, and to witness it at any point in the space-time continuum. His camera was the all-seeing eye of New York City fashion; his documenting of the infinite variations of city fashion were as close to something like omniscience as a mortal with a camera can get.”bill-cunningham-citra-embed-2

Cunningham’s sharp eye captured the rise and fall of fashion’s hem line for nearly 40 years, and he’ll be remembered in part for the him- line that was his life motto: “If beauty is what you seek, you will find it every day.

The essence of Cunningham was captured by Jacob Bernstein: “He wanted to find subjects, not be the subject. He wanted to observe, not be observed.”

Even though He might be out of fashion with some, I still see immense beauty in the Him-Lines of another person; I see it, in these words of Jesus:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~Matthew 5

Grumpy or Gracious?

grumpyWhenever I read the opening verses of Psalm 92, the number 1,440 flashes through my mind.  1,440 is the number of minutes in a day, and Psalm 92 is a positive motivator on how to manage these precious moments:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and sing praises to Your name, O Most High. It is good to tell of Your loving-kindness in the morning, and of how faithful You are at night, with harps, and with music of praise.  For You have made me glad by what You have done, O Lord. I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands (Psalm 92:1-4).

Think about the words you spoke yesterday; was your vocabulary more grumpy than it was gracious?  How would your life be different if you would spend more time counting your blessings than tallying your slights?  Would you be happier and healthier?

Barbara Fredrickson, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, has examined the power of positive and negative thoughts. She has found that positive emotions enhance your sense of personal potential; opens your mind to new possibilities; and, they allow you to develop new skills and resources that add value to your life.

Fredrickson’s premise is a conformation of a principle from the Proverbs: Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. ~Proverbs 16:24

Over the next week, I encourage you to use some of the 1,440 minutes of each day to put Psalm 92 to practice:

  • Focus on the blessing of God, and give thanks.
  • Whistle a tune, hum a favorite hymn, and sing a song of praise to God.
  • When you get up in the morning, start with a God is Able thought, and end your day by rehearsing the history of God’s faithfulness.
  • Begin and end each day with the following prayer:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~Psalm 19:14

Motor Mouths and Idle Chatter

 

ConfidentialWhen I purchased a new computer several years ago, Best Buy packaged it with a copy of a virus protection program called Kaspersky.  I liked the program and would have renewed my subscription except for the fact that it was a Russian company.

I was a bit puzzled by my reluctance to re-subscribe and wondered if it was due to living through the Cold War era. It just didn’t make sense to purchase a virus and spyware program from a country noted for its spying and corruption.

Kaspersky is making news again this week, and guess why—it’s for spying.  The company has developed a program that allows a government or an employer to eavesdrop on your mobile calls. InfoWatch, a subsidiary of Kaspersky, is using technology originally developed for the Soviet KGB, and, they’re trying to market it to businesses and government agencies around the world.

The Russian software company isn’t the only one who has been listening to confidential conversations.  God has been doing it for quite some time, and Jesus issued a warning to motor mouths and their idle chatter: I say to you that for every idle (careless or irreverent) word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36).

In his classic work, Matthew Henry offers an interesting commentary on the words of Jesus: The heart is the fountain, words are the streams. A troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring, must send forth muddy and unpleasant streams. Nothing but the salt of grace, cast into the spring, will heal the waters, season the speech, and purify the corrupt communication. An evil man has an evil treasure in his heart, and out of it brings forth evil things. Lusts and corruptions, dwelling and reigning in the heart, are an evil treasure, out of which the sinner brings forth bad words and actions, to dishonour God, and hurt others. Let us keep constant watch over ourselves, that we may speak words agreeable to the Christian character.

Which is more unsettling to you: the eavesdropping of Big Brother Kaspersky, or the thought that God hears every word you say?  As you think about this, I’ll leave you with two other statements for your consideration:

  • 2 Timothy 2:16: Avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness.
  • Proverbs 14:13: Idle chatter leads only to poverty.

A Tribute to Mom

IMG_0539Three years ago today, I walked into my mother’s room and said:  “Mom, today is your birthday.  Do you know how old you are?”  She thought for a moment and said:  “No Stan, I don’t think I do.”  “You’re 101,” I said.  My statement revived her spunky and independent spirit, and she informed me that, “I might not know how old I am, but I know I’m not 101!” 

Mom died about a month later form the ravages of Alzheimers. Since today is her birthday, I’m re-posting this blog as a tribute to her. . .

Times were tough in 1930. The stock market crash in 1929 had knocked the economic wind out of the United States and left it gasping for survival. Some 1,350 banks would fail and close their doors. The newspaper headlines reported on financial failures as well as world leaders like Mussolini, Stalin, and Herbert Hoover.

This was a time in our nation’s history when the price of bread was 9 cents a loaf, gas was 10 cents a gallon, and a movie ticket was 35 cents.

On Friday, June 20th, about half way through 1930, Buzz Aldrin was born. At the time of his birth, the idea of space flight was just science fiction; however, Aldrin would join Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969; and, they would be the first two people to walk on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin wasn’t the only person born on June 20, 1930. A baby girl, who would never experience his fame and notoriety, was also born. Her family had little money but a lot of love. Her fragile world was shattered a few years later when her mother died. She quit school in the 8th grade because her dad needed her to help work the fields—the fields of a farm he would later be forced to sell.

As a young lady, she married, but heartache found her again. At the age of 35 she became a widow when her husband was killed on the job, and she was left with three young sons. A short time later she married again. Five children came with her new husband. His 5 and her 3 made for an interesting life that could be as harried as it was happy.

Then it happened again—one of their children died an untimely death. Her family would adjust to the loss and she and her husband would lean heavily on each other as they moved forward as a cohesive couple. The two of them retired, traveled, and grew old together.

When her second husband died, the truth was exposed: She was weaker than any of her family knew. Her cognitive skills were becoming cobwebs; Her sense of direction failed her; and, she was often lost.

On Monday of last week, my siblings and I had to stand toe-to-toe with the toughest woman we’ve ever known and break the news: “Mom, you can’t live by yourself any longer—we’re moving you into assisted living.”

Mom’s independent spirit has served her well for most of her life. She kept going and remained positive when she had every right to be negative and quit. It’s that same spirit that keeps saying: “I’m not staying here. I’m going home.” But with the next sentence, it’s very clear that Alzheimers has a befuddling grip on her once vibrant mind and spirit.

Buzz Aldrin may have walked on the moon, but he stands in the shadow of my mother, Evelyn Lou Lacy–the girl who was also born June 20, 1930. She’s been a loving and loyal daughter, a faithful wife to two fortunate men, and a sometimes fearsome force who molded the life of her children.

Thanks for reading this annual tribute that I share to honor the memory of my mother.

A Parade of Smiles

doggyWith the exception of Sunday, my morning routine includes a little java and journalism.  On Sundays I still drink the coffee, but I skip the newspaper.

Tuesday morning, I was enjoying my morning combo, when a stranger engaged me in some meaningless banter.  As he rose to leave he said, “Well, you know we all look alike.” Then he smiled and left.

As he walked out the door, I quickly concluded that I looked nothing like him:

  • He was covered in tattoos, but I have none.
  • He had a full head of hair that glistened with grease, and my head looks like a hairless Chihuahua.
  • He didn’t have a tooth in his head, and I still have most of mine.

I smiled to myself, but before I could shake my head in disbelief, I had a Kodak moment of comprehension: I got the picture.  I saw how much “we all look alike,” and I realized the similarity is in the smile.

Your face is the canvas on which your attitude and emotions are painted.  Is your face painted with the broad strokes of angry red, the depressing colors of a frown or with the bright hues of an inviting smile?

Solomon captured this thought when he said: A person’s anxiety will weigh him down, but an encouraging word makes him joyful. ~Proverbs 12:25

Is it easier for a person to see Christ in you when you’re smiling or frowning at them?  Think about it:

  • Paul said, “I am filled with joy, and I share that joy with all of you (Philippians 2:7).”
  • The Psalmist said, “Smile on me, and teach me your laws (Psalm 119:135).”
  • David said, “When I trust your mercy, my heart finds joy in your salvation (psalm 13:5).”

When Paul prayed for the Christians at Rome, he said, “I pray that God, the source of all hope, will infuse your lives with an abundance of joy and peace in the midst of your faith so that your hope will overflow through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).”

When your life is abundantly infused with God’s joy and peace, you can’t help it—you just have to smile!

An Adventure in the Land of Why

maliLife is an adventure.  Some people seem to stumble their way through it, while others have the ability and agility to bob and weave their way through its obstacles.  Some people have the knack to fall face first into every mud hole that dots their path in life, while others can transform the sourest moments of life into a sweet experience.

Even though he could float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee, there were a few times Muhammed Ali felt the brute force of a punch that was akin to the kick of a mule. On March 24, 1975, Chuck Wepner introduced Ali to one of the universal laws of life:  Sooner or later you’re going to get hit by a punch you never saw coming!

Suffering is a thread that’s woven into the fabric of life, and it’s the sucker punch that can drop you to your knees.  

Peter said you should not, “be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you (I Peter 4:12).”

Even though suffering is anything but pleasant, James said to, “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2–3).” 

It’s important to note that James did not say that the suffering or trial is a joyful experience; instead, he said the joy comes in acknowledging the end result of the trial—steadfastness.  The situations that shake your faith are the ordeals that form a faith that’s unshakable.

Your faith is like your muscle tissue—to get stronger, it must be stressed.

In hindsight, Paul could see the boldly colored thread of hope in the tapestry of heartache.  He could see God’s purpose in the suffering he had endured: “We want you to know, Christian brothers, of the trouble we had in the countries of Asia. The load was so heavy we did not have the strength to keep going. At times we did not think we could live.  We thought we would die. This happened so we would not put our trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).”

“This happened”, so Paul would know that God is able and that He would enable him.

A Peak Behind The Clouds

double-rainbowTuesday morning, I was driving west towards Wichita and I was blessed with the beauty of a double rainbow. As the dazzling colors shone brightly against the distant backdrop of dark and menacing clouds, I was reminded that life is much like that storm.

Throughout a person’s life, he will experience the highs and lows; the sunny days and the threatening storms; and times of crippling sorrow as well as abundant joy.  Through all of these moments, there is always a rainbow: the promise of God’s presence and providence.

It was the promise of God’s presence and the hope of His providence that sustained the Apostle Paul in the many heartaches and trials that he endured:

I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong. ~2 Corinthians 12:10 The Voice

When the tough times come, and they will, remember to peak behind the clouds—God has a rainbow-full of promises just for you.

. . . when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll remember my covenant between me and you . . .

Genesis 9:16 The Message

Monumental Moments

timewarpQuintus Horatius Flaccus was a poet who lived during the reign of Caesar Augustus, and he’s credited with saying: Exegi monumentum aere perennius.  This phrase is found after the final poem in Horaces third book, and it means: I have made a monument more lasting than bronze.

Horace seems to have been pleased with his poetic powers and the many lines of lyrics he had written.  Notoriety, however, begins to fade about as quickly as bronze starts to tarnish.

The words of Horace make me wonder:  What in this world enjoys a life of longevity? Are there monumental moments that last beyond the tick of a clock?

The memory of some actions are more lasting than bronze, and I have this on good authority; Jesus confirms it: “By pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she has prepared Me for burial.  I assure you: Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what Mary has done will also be told in memory of her (Matthew 26:6-13).”

The kind, compassion-filled, and sacrificial act of Mary was a monumental moment that’s been recounted a countless number of times.  Notice what Mary did:

  • She looked for an opportunity to honor Jesus (Mary recognized Jesus as Lord, but Judas saw Him as a ladder to help achieve his selfish ambitions).
  • She gave of herself (To wipe the dusty and dirty feet of Jesus with her hair was an act of devotion and reverence).
  • She paid the price (The ointment she used came from the Himalayan mountains and the cost was equal to the average man’s annual salary).

How do you use your moments in time to build monumental memories? Do the actions of Mary’s suggest why she anointed Jesus?  Could it be that Mary wanted Jesus to know how much she valued Him?

Monumental moments are born when people perceive they are valued.  As Solomon said, “Perfume and incense make the heart glad, but the sweetness of a friend is a fragrant forest (Proverbs 27:9).”

What can you do to sweeten the sense of value among you, your family, and your friends?