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Faith Reflections: The Fiddler
« Reply #45 on: November 28, 2009, 11:30:24 AM »

The Fiddler
28 November 2009, 10:25 am



The fiddler played his fiddle at the top of the escalators, standing by a wall of the indoor arcade, his open violin case at his feet for any donations.  Wearing jeans and a baseball cap he fiddled away forty-five minutes.  In that time 1,104 people walked by him on their way to somewhere.  Seven stopped, at least for a minute, to listen.  Twenty-seven dropped a total of $32 into his violin case.  1,071 others rushed past on their way to where they were going.

The informal forty-five minute concert was staged by the Washington Post.  The fiddler was 39 year-old Joshua Bell, an internationally famous virtuoso.  He was playing the violin he always plays at concerts where many of the seats cost $100, a 1713 handcrafted instrument by Antonio Stradivari that Bell reportedly purchased for $3.5 million.

What was amazing about the experiment was how few stopped to appreciate the free concert by a world famous violinist on a Stradivarius as he played some of the most beautiful and difficult music you can play on a violin.  Bell said, “At a music hall, I’ll get upset if someone coughs or if someone’s cellphone goes off.  But here, my expectations quickly diminished.  I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up.  I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change.”

I don’t think you can fault everyone for rushing buy.  After all, most were heading to work and many were probably running late.  Still, it’s amazing how few appreciated what they were hearing. Gene Weingarten, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning article on the experiment (and from which I have drawn heavily for this piece) wrote, “If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music every written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that – then what else are we missing?”

In Thorton Wilder’s play Our Town Emily’s spirit comes back to her home town after dying will giving birth.  She observes life as it was lived on her twelfth birthday and laments, “Do human beings ever realize life while they live it? — every, every minute?”  The narrator replies, “No.  The saints and poets, maybe they do some.”

Wayne Dyer writes, “Go on a rampage of appreciation for all that you have, all that you are, and all that you observe.” (The Power of Intention, p. 200)  It sounds like a piece of sound advice to me!  Shakespeare prayed, “O Lord that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.”  Dido for me, Lord!

The world walked by as the fiddler played.  They missed something beautiful that was hiding in plain sight.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  We can heighten our awareness of all that’s around us which is good.  The world God’s made and sustains is brimming over and busting forth with so much for which we should be appreciative!

Let the people give thanks to the Lord for His limitless love and His wonderful way of working!” (Psalm 107: 8,15,21,31 my translation)

(A link to the performance on youtube)


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Faith Reflections: 1st Week in Advent — The Candle of HOPE
« Reply #46 on: November 29, 2009, 05:45:02 PM »

1st Week in Advent — The Candle of HOPE
29 November 2009, 4:32 pm

This is the first week in Advent, the four weeks of spiritual preparation for Christmas.  Our church has never really put a focus on Advent in the past.  This year, however, we’re having a different family light an Advent candle on our church’s Advent wreath before each of the worship services.

I just had a series of four images accepted by iStockphoto that represent the four weeks.  The first photo has one of the four candles lit, the second photo has two candles lit, the third has three and the fourth all four.  Layout artists and web designers will find them useful in representing the weeks of Advent.  I’ll be using the four images in this blog, with the first one pictured to the left.

Each of the four candles representing the four weeks before Christmas have their own theme.  The first candle, for the first week, is usally calledl the candle of hope.  There was much prophecy about the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, giving the people hope.  Christ’s coming has now happened, and His hope keeps coming!  Because God has come to us as one of us, died for us, and is ALWAYS for us, we have hope!  Life is never hopeless when we have a firm faith in God.  The apostle Paul writes that we have faith, hope and love in Christ.  Here’s how I look at it — we have HOPE in Him because of our FAITH in His LOVE.  So, we can always hold on to hope because God’s intentions for us are alwas good!

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Faith Reflections: Great Expectations
« Reply #47 on: November 30, 2009, 07:50:59 AM »

Great Expectations
30 November 2009, 6:22 am

I’m thinking you can define the word “faith” in a variety of ways. I usually think of the word “trust” early on, when thinking what faith means. I think another way to understand faith in God is to see it as expectation. What do I expect of God, from God?

I like how the psalmist put it. “The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.” (29:11) He will give me strength and will bless me with peace — Hmmm, pretty good expectations to possess! Life is, in a large measure, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Expect the best and your day seems to go better, expect the worst and often it seems we aren’t disappointed. When it comes to God I’m expecting the best! You too?

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Faith Reflections: Kathryn’s Fountain — a Great Gift Idea!
« Reply #48 on: November 30, 2009, 07:59:06 PM »

Kathryn’s Fountain — a Great Gift Idea!
30 November 2009, 6:04 pm

OK, so I’m being shamelessly self-promoting, but why not consider giving my novel, Kathryn’s Fountain, as a gift this Christmas?  Just click on this Kathryn’s Fountain page link and order it on line from your favorite source for books.  Better yet, for those of you in the Toledo area, they have several copies for sale at the LIFEWAY Bookstore on Talmadge Road.

Kathryn believes life’s opportunities are gone forever and is resigned to living out her last days uneventfully as a resident of Victorian Manor.  The fountain in the manor’s garden changes all of that.  Kathryn finds herself involved in a plan to rescue a street child named Jasmine who is often left alone by a neglectful mother.

Through what appears to be a series of miraculous events that begin at the fountain, Kathryn finds her life spanning three generations as she enters the world of Jasmine and a young bachelor detective named Ben.  A murder and a newly developing romantic relationship forces Kathryn to make the most difficult choice of her long life.  Love and sacrifice take on new meaning as she struggles to understand what she is called to do.  In bringing hope for a better life to those of other generations, Kathryn discovers new meaning and purpose for her own life.

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Faith Reflections: God’s Control/My Control
« Reply #49 on: December 01, 2009, 07:48:33 AM »

God’s Control/My Control
1 December 2009, 7:06 am

Who’s in charge of our lives, God or us?  It’s the age-old question between the sovereignty of God and the free will of people.  If God is ultimately in charge then do we have any say at all?  If we’re in charge then where does God fit in?

I like how one author put it.  It’s sort of (no analogy is perfect) like taking a cruise on a cruise ship.  You have a lot of choice of what you do on the cruise (shop, swim, nap, eat, etc.) but you have no control over where the vessel is going, that’s in the captain’s hands.

Yes, God’s given me free will in my life. I have choices to make, and must take responsibility for those choices.  But, God’s in ultimate control and His plans will not be thwarted!  “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)   My goal is to have my plans for me fit in with His plans for me!

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Faith Reflections: On the Radio Tomorrow
« Reply #50 on: December 02, 2009, 07:03:13 AM »

On the Radio Tomorrow
2 December 2009, 6:58 am

I’ll be on WPOS radio tomorrow (Thursday) morning from 8-10 am.  The station is doing their sharathon where they raise money to operate the station.  Our church has supported them for years and years so they asked me to help out.

I did radio in college, including being student manager of the station in my senior year.  In fact I was the “boss” of Harry Smith of CBS Morning Show fame!  He was a student at Central College and was interested in radio, so he had a jazz show for a couple of hours a week.  He stayed in broadcasting and I didn’t.  But, I still enjoy being on the air.  A broadcast studio still gives me a thrill every time I walk in.

WPOS is on the dial at 102.3 FM.  To listen over the Internet click HERE.

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Faith Reflections: Dispensers of Hope
« Reply #51 on: December 03, 2009, 02:38:40 PM »

Dispensers of Hope
3 December 2009, 2:18 pm



This past weekend we lit the first of four candles at each of our weekend services.  The four candles represent the four weeks in Advent, the time of expectation and preparation for Christmas.  Traditionally each week’s candle has been assigned a meaning.  The first candle, the one representing this first week in Advent, is often called the candle of HOPE.

We all need hope.  When we feel hopeless in a situation we’re pretty much helpless in that situation.  Without hope whatever we’re facing will undoubtedly get the best of us.

One of the most wonderful of gifts we can give people we meet each day is the gift of hope.  When people leave our presence feeling they’ve been listened to, affirmed, and encouraged then they’ve received the gift of hope from us.  All around us and around every corner we’re going to encounter people who need to feel hopeful.  One of the best ways to live each day is to be dispensers of hope.

“But,” you may want to argue, “I need hope myself.”  True enough. I do too!  How can we have hope so we can be a dispenser of hope?  I like to keep three key points in mind.

First, my ultimate hope comes from God.  The psalmist declared, “But now, Lord, what do I look for?  My hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:7)  I remind myself that God’s intentions for me are good.  It is often my inattentiveness to God’s presence in my life and His purpose for my life that leaves me feeling hopeless.

Second, I have to be open to receiving hope from others.  I can allow myself to be in such a foul mood that I’m insensitive and resistant to the word or gesture of encouragement that God sends to me through others.

Third, I have to give hope to others if I want to feel hopeful myself.  Tossing hope in the direction of others boomerangs!

It’s the first week in Advent, the week of HOPE!  Why not start handing out Christmas gifts early?  Be a dispenser of hope!

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Faith Reflections: The Posture of God
« Reply #52 on: December 04, 2009, 07:09:13 AM »

The Posture of God
4 December 2009, 6:52 am

God stoops while we walk with Him!  I gather this from something the great military leader and great king David wrote in one of his psalms after a successful battle.  He said to God, “You stoop down to make me great.” (Psalm 18:35)  I’ve always liked this verse.  I picture a parent leaning over, a parent stretching an arm downward, to lend a helping hand to a child.  This is the posture of God!

So often I interpret my sense of inadequacy, ineptness, and weakness as a liability.  It is, when I’m inattentive to God.  But when God has enough of my attention that I, in a sense, am reaching out my hand to Him, then my sense of personal vulnerability becomes an asset, not a liability!  Yes, He stoops down to make me great!  It makes walking through my day and entirely different experience.

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Faith Reflections: 2nd Week in Advent — The Candle of PEACE
« Reply #53 on: December 07, 2009, 07:32:18 AM »

2nd Week in Advent — The Candle of PEACE
7 December 2009, 7:20 am

This is the second week in Advent, the four weeks of spiritual preparation for Christmas.  The second candle in the Advent wreath traditionally has symbolized peace.

In speaking on this theme at our three weekend services I emphasized how God has already provided us with the way to have peace, and that’s peace with God.  We celebrated Communion, as many churches do sometime during Advent.  The practice of remembering Christ’s death when we’re celebrating His birth makes perfect sense.  The truth is, we wouldn’t be celebrating His birth in a stable if He had never died on a cross.  He came to live among us so that some day He could die for us.  We had the plates containing the bread and cups for Communion on the Lord’s table, with the two Christmas trees positioned on each side of the table.  Communion ware and Christmas trees together — I like the symbolism.

I also talked about how the Prince of Peace keeps bringing us peace each and every day.  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,” Jesus says. (John 14:27)   If I practice the presence of Christ, a continual attentiveness to Him, then peace is going to be a significant part of my daily experience.

Finally, I reminded us that if we follow the Prince of Peace we are to be peacemakers ourselves.  We can’t claim to follow the Prince of Peace if we are not willing to work at establishing peace in the human relationships we have.  Christmas is a time to make peace in an alienated relationship.  “Be at peace with each other,” Jesus said (Mark 9:50)

That’s some of what I shared with my congregation.  May you experience His peace in a fresh way this Christmas season!

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Faith Reflections: Conversing with God about Our Concerns
« Reply #54 on: December 08, 2009, 07:48:39 AM »

Conversing with God about Our Concerns
8 December 2009, 6:28 am

I’ve always found the following verse from the apostle Paul to be helpful when life’s filled with stress — “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.” (Philippians 4:6)  It reminds me that I’m to talk over with God that which concerns me.

Why wouldn’t I want to do that?  Yet, there’s times I’ll focus on worrying myself into a tizzy instead of focusing on talking to God about it.  Sometimes we can be so inattentive to God!

The other suggestion of this verse has also proved helpful and that is to get in the practice of finding reasons to thank God.  Our confidence in God addressing our current concerns is bolstered when we recall and give thanks for the times He’s addressed our past concerns.

There’s an old hymn with the line “take it to the Lord in prayer.”  Sounds like good advice for today!

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Faith Reflections: God’s Good Intentions
« Reply #55 on: December 10, 2009, 06:36:50 AM »

God’s Good Intentions
10 December 2009, 6:28 am

I’ve been using a new word (new for me) over the last few months when describing God’s love for us.  “Intention” is the word.  Talking about God’s love for me can fail to impact me the way I know it should, but when I think of the fact that God’s intentions for me are good, then I can better grasp what His love for me means.The hills overlooking Refugre Ranch in Mexico where our daughter Julie land her family live.The hills overlooking Refuge Ranch in Mexico where our daughter Julie and her family live.A verse that I, along with many others, have clung to is Jeremiah 29:11.  “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

The prophet Jeremiah is delivering to us a message from God that essentially has God saying, “My intentions for you are nothing but good.”  Could it be any other way?  Not if God is a God of love and of goodness!

Reflecting on this verse of hope and love I’ve come to understand that it doesn’t guarantee a moment-by-moment bed of roses.  God takes the long view of things.  In the short run I may face all kinds of problems, set-backs, and disappointments.  In the long run it’s a different story!  By the time I get to heaven’s gate, and many times before that happens, I can know His intentions for me are nothing but good!

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Faith Reflections: Destination Addiction
« Reply #56 on: December 11, 2009, 07:52:22 AM »

Destination Addiction
11 December 2009, 7:00 am



“I‘m dreaming of a white Christmas…”  OK, you may or may not want snow during the Christmas season.  I’m guessing, though, that most of us are dreaming of something concerning Christmas, that we’re looking forward to some aspect of the Christmas season.  This is as it should be, but there’s the temptation to look forward to Christmas so much that it’s a let down when it’s over.  We do the same at other times of the year too.  We keep thinking tomorrow will be better.  My daughter-in-law Teri calls this “destination addiction” in a recent blog she posted.  I’m reprinting her blog post below.  Teri is a licensed therapist. You can check out her blog at http://www.imaginehopecounseling.com/tcblog/ .  Here’s her thoughts…

_______________________________________

We ask the question often, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” We dream about the future. We plan for retirement. We play the “if only” game and wish the grass was greener. When my son asks to do something that is beyond his age, and I say no. He replies with a sighing, “Someday.” In high school I was in the musical “Annie” and sang the lyrics, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow. I love you tomorrow. You’re only a day away.” All of these are examples of destination addiction. This is when people focus so strongly on the future that they miss out on TODAY. When we get lost in our vision and dreams, we tend to forget about the reality right before our eyes. I am not saying we shouldn’t dream. We just need to be careful to not loose sight of the life we have right now. Enjoy today…Live today. Don’t get addicted to your destination. You might miss out on some amazing experiences on your way there!

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling.  Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.

_______________________________________________

Thanks, Teri, for the insight!  Yes, God is not just in our tomorrows but He is in our TODAY. “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.  They rejoice in your name all day long…” (Psalm 89:15-16a)  Let’s not be so fixated on tomorrow that we stumble over today!

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Faith Reflections: Nothing Gets Past Him
« Reply #57 on: December 12, 2009, 07:21:16 AM »

Nothing Gets Past Him
12 December 2009, 7:05 am

A crowd I photographed at Erie Orchard, Erie, MI“People to see, places to go, things to do,” is how I often describe my day.  Going here, there, and back again is how we live out most of our days.  God is watching all of this?  God is in ultimate control of all of this?  Yep!  According to reference after reference in His Word.  Case in point, Psalm 121:8.  “The Lord will guard you as you come and go, both now and forever.”

It doesn’t always seem like God’s guarding what happens to me, because I often can’t see the good in what happens.  Sometimes some pretty bad stuff happens, and He’s guarding me all the while?  According to His Word, He insists He is!

Because God is all wise and knows what’s going on (and its ramifications), all loving and has good intentions for me, and all powerful (which means He can do whatever He wants with me), then His purposes must be unfolding no matter what’s going on with me!  I want to live today with the confidence that nothing is going to happen to me that has not first passed His approval. Nothing gets past Him!  Many times it’s beyond my understanding why He approves some of the stuff that happens, but that’s where my faith and trust in Him has to come into play.

Lord, I have faith in You, but help me to have more faith! Yes, Amen!

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Faith Reflections:
« Reply #58 on: December 13, 2009, 04:20:27 PM »


13 December 2009, 4:19 pm

This is the third week in Advent, the four weeks of spiritual preparation for Christmas.  The third candle in the Advent wreath traditionally has symbolized joy.

This past weekend I in all three of our services I emhasized how our greatest joy needs to be found in God.  There are many things we can enjoy (”in joy” – finding  joy in…).  We can enjoy good food, our work, a hobby, and certainly the people God’s put in our lives.  The problem arises when we try to make anything other than God our greatest joy.  These become “joy substitutes” as I called them in my message.  They can never completely deliver the goods.  In fact, the happenings of life rarely ever provide sustained happiness.

Our greatest joy is to be found in God and God alone.  The old saying says, “Happiness depends on happenings, joy depends on Jesus.”  I find great truth in that.  We can’t always be happy with what happens to us but we an always find joy in Jesus!

At Christmas time we are reminded that one of Jesus’ names is Immanuel, which means “God with us.”  No wonder the angel declared to the shepherd, “I have good news of great joy…”  I want to find my greatest joy in God who came to Earth in Jesus.  It’s the way to put the “merry” into Christmas!

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Faith Reflections: Tiger Woods Endorses the Book of Ecclesiates
« Reply #59 on: December 15, 2009, 07:10:40 AM »

Tiger Woods Endorses the Book of Ecclesiates
15 December 2009, 6:08 am

This past couple of weeks we have watched the larger-than-life world of Tiger Woods implode.  It’s been a shock to everyone.  Tiger Woods seems to have had it all; a beautiful wife, two adorable children, wealth of over a billion dollars, a large home, a private jet, and a yacht.  He’s the greatest golfer of all time, one of the greatest athletes of all time.  He is world famous and much admired.

Then it became public knowledge that he’s been unfaithful to his wife.  He  states on his web site, “I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children.”

It’s a mystery to many why he felt he needed something more than what he already had.  If Tiger Woods couldn’t be satisfied with what he had then is there any hope for the rest of us?

In his great fall Tiger unknowingly endorses a conclusion reached by the ancient writer of Ecclesiastes, perhaps King Solomon,centuries ago.  “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired. I refused my hart no pleasure.  My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for my labor.  Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)   For his unwitting endorsement of this observation by the writer of Ecclesiastes Tiger has experienced a cataclysmic reversal of bein paid handsomely for his endorsements.  This is one endorsement which has cost him dearly!

In Tiger’s fall from the pinnacle of success to the pit of failure we are reminded that to have it all is not enough!  We are never satisfied with what the world can offer.  What Tiger needs, and what we all need, is to find our deepest satisfaction outside and beyond what this world can offer.  The writer of Ecclesiastes summarizes his experiment at trying to find satisfaction in the horizontal plane of the world’s pleasures.  “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (12:13-14)

No one is certain who made the statement, “When a man goes knocking at a brothel door he is looking for God” but I believe it’s true.  We possess a God-shaped vacuum and nothing can fill that space but God.  There’s no ultimate satisfaction on earth’s horizon.  The horizontal search ends in frustration.  We need to go vertical!  My prayer is that Tiger Woods will come to this conclusion, the same one to which the writer of Ecclesiastes arrived, and the place in life to which we should all come.

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